The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2019

ANALYSIS OF COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

The Apostle had made a twofold assertion in the preceding chapter (Col 2:12-13), viz., that the Colossians were buried with Christ in baptism, and had also risen with him. This twofold assertion he makes the ground of a twofold conclusion. Having already pointed out the conclusion to be drawn from their death in baptism from the preceding chapter (Col 2:20), he points out in this, the moral conclusion to be drawn from their spiritual resurrection, viz., that they should devote their entire thoughts to the things of heaven, and despise the things of earth (Col 3:1-2). They should despise earthly things, because dead to them, and love heavenly things, because raised to a heavenly life (Col 3:3). He points out the glory which is to be the reward of this life of sanctity (Col 3:4). In order to secure this heavenly glory, they should, therefore, mortify all the members of the old man of sin, all the vicious inclinations of the flesh, the heart, or the tongue, in one word, they should strip themselves of the old man with his deeds (Col 3:5–9).

They should, after putting off the old man, put on the new with all his virtues, which relates to God, their neighbour, and themselves. With reference to God, they should conform to his image, by being renewed in the knowledge and love of him, in which spiritual renovation there is no distinction whatever of persons, or, conditions in life recognised by the Lord (Col 3:10-11). With reference to their neighbour, they should exhibit the new man in the most tender feelings of mercy—in bearing with his infirmities, in pardoning offences, and above all, in cultivating charity and peace (Col 3:12–15). With reference to the duties they owed themselves, they should, by sedulous attention to the word of God, fill their minds with true wisdom; they should express their inward joy and preserve spiritual unction, by piously singing canticles and spiritual songs, rendering thanks to God, and referring all their actions to his glory through Christ (Col 3:15-17).

He concludes by pointing out to several parties—viz., wives, children, and slaves, the duties of obedience which devolve upon them; while on husbands, parents, and masters, he enjoins also their correlative and reciprocal obligations (Col 3:18-25).

COMMENTARY ON COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

Col 3:1. Since, therefore, by baptism you have risen with Christ to a spiritual resurrection, seek and love the things that are above, that appertain to heaven, where Christ, after rising from the dead, is sitting at the right hand of God.
Col 3:2. Have your minds and your thoughts fixed upon the things of heaven and not upon the things on earth.

“If you be risen,” means: whereas, you are risen with Christ. In this verse, the Apostle draws his moral conclusion from their spiritual resurrection out of the grave of sin, of which their emersion from the waters of baptism was a type. It is this: that they should bestow their entire care and affections, and all their thoughts, on the things of heaven.

“Where Christ is sitting on the right hand,” &c. These words simply mean, that whereas Christ, as God, is equal to the Father; as man, he holds the most honourable place in heaven, being next to God in honour and glory, which is expressed by the Scripture, in accommodation to human conceptions, in the words—“Sitteth at the right hand of God.”

Col 3:3. You should have no concern about earthly things on the contrary, you should undervalue them, because you renounced all connection with them in baptism. But you should regard heavenly things, because by baptism you have received a heavenly life—a life now indeed unperceived by men, and hidden with Christ in God; but, it shall be seen at a future day.

In the foregoing verses, the Apostle made two assertions—viz., that the heavenly things were to be cared for, and the earthly, undervalued. He now assigns a reason for both. The immersion practised in baptism was a type of their burial, and consequently death to sin and the passions, which it effected at the same time, after the model of Christ’s death and burial. They, therefore, should have no more connexion with “the things upon the earth,” i.e., either the “elements of this world,” or the vices of the earth, which he enumerates (Col 3:5), or perhaps both, than the living have with the dead.—Secondly, the emersion from the waters of baptism was a type of their spiritual life and resurrection, which it also effected, after the model of Christ’s resurrection from the grave; hence, they should mind the things of heaven. But this spiritual life received by them in baptism is “hidden” from the eyes of worldlings “with Christ in God;” it shall, however, be manifested when Christ shall come to judge the world. How calculated are not these words of the Apostle to stimulate us to labour and suffer for eternal life, and have our thoughts fixed on heaven! We are called to eternal life; to the things that are above: our final resting-place, our country is heaven, we are enrolled, as citizens of heaven, where our fellow-citizens are waiting for us. Why, then, keep our thoughts fixed on this earth, this place of passage!—why, mere travellers, centre our affections on this inn, in which we are for a short time to reside, during the time that we are tending towards the lasting habitation, reserved for us in the vast and magnificent palaces of the King of Glory? “O Israel! how great is the house of God, and how vast the place of his possessions.”—(Baruch 3:24). How frequently in our passage through life, during our sojourn in this land of banishment, should we not look forward to our lasting home, our true country in eternity, to which every moment brings us nearer, and how earnestly should we not labour to secure it!

Col 3:4. When Christ, in whom and of whom we hold this spiritual life, shall appear and shall manifest his glory, then, you shall appear glorious with him, and then this life, which is now hidden, shall be conspicuous to all.

Christ is both the efficient—the meritorious—the exemplary—and the final cause of our life of grace here, and of glory hereafter, and when he shall come to judge the world, then we shall appear glorious like him. “Your life.” In Greek, our life. The Vulgate is, however, supported by many manuscripts and Fathers, among the rest, by Saint Chrysostom.

Col 3:5. Mortify, therefore, the members, the depraved and wicked inclinations of your earthly and sinful man, which are, fornications, uncleanness, obscene passion, all wicked desires, and especially avarice, which is the worship of idols.

In order to appear one day thus glorious, “mortify your members which are upon earth.” In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle calls all sins taken collectively, the “body of sin” (Rom 6:6), and verse 11 of the preceding chapter of this Epistle (Col 2:11), “the body (of the sins) of the flesh,” as also “the old man,” because as man, or the body of man, consists of different members; so, is the body of sin made up of different kinds of sin, as of so many members. He calls them “upon the earth,” because they fix our desires on earth, and withdraw us more from God. To the same he refers in Col 3:2:—“Not the things that are on the earth.” “Uncleanness,” all kinds of unclean acts; “lust,” every kind of abominable passion; … “avarice.” There is the same diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of this word here as in the Epistle to the Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:6. On account of which crimes the heavy anger and vengeance of God is in store for, and will at a future day be inflicted on, those who have no faith and disobeys the commands of God, prohibiting such crimes.

See Ephesians 5:6.

Col 3:7. Which crimes you also committed formerly, when you lived in the habitual indulgence of your wicked passions.

“Walked,” and “lived,” differ in this, that the former refers to acts; the latter, to the habitual commission of such sins.

Col 3:8. But now lay aside not only these more grievous crimes, but also these others of lesser enormity, which you have also committed—viz., all angry excitement, all desires of revenge, all evil dispositions to injure your neighbour, all reproachful and insulting language towards him, all obscene and immodest expressions.

“But now lay you also away;” lay aside the following sins of lesser enormity, as well as the preceding more grievous ones; or “also,” may mean, lay aside these other sins in which you also lived. Both meanings are united in the Paraphrase … “Blasphemy,” here means, insulting and opprobrious language towards our neighbour. “Blasphemy,” strictly speaking, which is committed against God, is a most grievous crime, and would have been classed with the preceding.

Col 3:9. Lay aside all lies in your language, and all fraud in your dealings with one another. Entirely put off the old man with his wicked deeds.

Lay aside all lying in your words, all frauds and circumvention in your dealings with each other. “Stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds.” In the Greek, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, having stripped yourselves, &c., which may mean, cast away the foregoing vices which are members of the old man of sin whom you have put away at your baptism; or, as in Paraphrase, it may be the commencement of a new sentence, thus:—In a word, I exhort you to put off the old man with his acts.

Col 3:10. And put on the new man with his virtues, I say, that new man, who by the knowledge of revealed mysteries and of spiritual things, is renewed according to the image of God his Creator.

“And putting on the new.” There is the same diversity is the Greek in this as well as in the preceding verse—“And having put on the new.” “Who is renewed into knowledge,” i.e., which new man receives a new existence, after the image of God, his Creator; for, as man was naturally created after the likeness and image of God, which consisted in his intellect and will; so, in his second birth, or creation by grace, he is formed after the image and likeness of God, which image of grace consists in sanctity and justice.—(Eph 4:24). For the meaning of “old man” and “new man,” and “putting on” the one, and “putting off” the other.—(See Eph 4:22–25)

Col 3:11. In which affair of spiritual renovation, there is no distinction of Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, of barbarian or—of worse than barbarian—of Scythian, of slave, or freeman, but Christ confers all Christian blessings, grace, sanctification, &c., on every description of men without distinction.

“Where,” i.e., in which affair of spiritual renovation, or, in which new man, there is no regard paid to the circumstances of birth, nation, dignity, &c.; because Christ is all in all; he is justice, sanctity, and everything good in all who are thus renewed. The only thing regarded in it is, how far you have communicated with Christ. In this new man, the circumstances of country and condition are confounded; in him Christ alone is to be attended to. “Nor Scythian;” the most barbarous of the barbarians. The antithesis between “Scythian” and “barbarian,” is not between barbarism and civilization, but between a lesser and greater degree of barbarism—the Scythians being reputed, in the days of St. Paul, the greatest barbarians. Others maintain the reverse, and contend that the Scythians were the most polished and civilized among ancient peoples. In this latter opinion, the force of the atithesis is quite clear.

Col 3:12. Wherefore, as men elected by God, sanctified by Christ, and loved by him from eternity—put on the most lively feelings of compassion for your brethren, gentleness and sweetness of disposition, humility, modesty, patience.

As Christ alone is to be considered in this new man, the Apostle shows the duties they owe each other, and the acts of the new man whom he wishes them to put on. “The bowels,” i.e., the most tender feelings “of mercy.” In Greek, of mercies. The Vulgate is, however, generally adopted by critics.

Col 3:13. Bearing with each other’s weakness and imperfections, pardoning and remitting to each other the injuries which you may have mutually to sustain, after the example of God, who has pardoned us our manifold sins and transgressions against him.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:14. But above all things, have charity or love for one another, which is the most perfect bond of union.

“Which is the bond of perfection,” i.e., the most perfect bond of union. All other bonds of human society are imperfect and easily broken by the slightest provocation; charity is eternal and indissoluble.

Col 3:15. And may the peace of God, to which you were called, when you became one body, victoriously exult in your hearts, and be ye grateful for the past benefits of God.

“Of Christ.” In Greek, of God. “Rejoice.” The Greek word for which, βραβευέτω, means either to gain the prize of victory, or to award it; in the former acceptation, it refers to the persons engaged in the contest; in the latter, to the judges, who are to decide the struggle and award the prize. Here, then, according to this twofold acceptation, the words may mean:—May the peace which Christ brought from heaven, and to which the unity of the Church, of which we are members, obliges us, obtain the victory over all the adverse passions in your hearts. This is the more probable meaning. They may also mean: In all your differences may the decision be, not according to the dictates of passion, but of the peace of God. “Be ye thankful,” besides the meaning in the Paraphrase, may also mean, according to some Expositors—Be ye kind, courteous, and civil to one another; as this contributes much to peace. The Greek word, εὐχάριστοι, will admit this latter meaning, which also accords with the context.

Col 3:16. Let the doctrine of Christ permanently reside in you, so as that you may be filled with the abundance of all spiritual wisdom, teaching and instructing each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing the praises of God with joyous and grateful hearts.

He says that the doctrine and gospel of Christ should be engraved on our hearts, so as to dwell there and fill us with the abundance of true wisdom, which we may dispense to others. Hence, the word of God is to be read, not with hurry or precipitancy, but with reflection and meditation on its sacred truths, so as that it may “dwell” in us, and not rarely, but frequently, “abundantly.” Would to God, the meditation on the SS. Scriptures was substituted in place of those light and frivolous works of fancy, which poison and corrupt the mind! “Teaching … in Psalms,” &c. See thr Epistle to the Ephesians 5:19-20. “Singing in grace,” may either mean with thanksgiving, or in an agreeable, pleasing manner, so as to excite feelings of devotion “in your hearts.” In Greek, in your heart.

Col 3:17. Direct all your words and actions to the glory of God, invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rendering thanks to God the Father through him.

To God.” In Greek, to the Lord. This verse contains a negative precept prohibiting us from offering our actions to God through angels, according to the corrupt notions of the heretics, who prefer them to Christ, as has been already explained, or from giving thanks through them, and indirectly commanding us to do so through Christ. He is the meritorious cause of the benefits which we enjoy, and through Him thanks should be given; it also contains a positive precept of referring our actions, occasionally, by a direct intention to God. The practice of referring them as frequently as possible is very commendable. For the rest—see 1 Cor 10:31.

Col 3:18. Women, be subject to your husbands, according to the will of God, and as far as the law of Christ permits.

“To your husbands.” In the Greek, to your (own) husbands, as if to withdraw their attention from any other men.

Col 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and be neither morose towards them, nor provoking them to bitterness.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things; for such is the good will and pleasure of God.

“In all things,” not prohibited by the law of God. “For this is well pleasing to the Lord,” that is, this is pleasing to God as being his own precept.—(See Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 6)

Col 3:21. And parents, do not, by undue and untimely severity, provoke to anger or exasperate the minds of your children, lest, falling into despondency, they cease to perform anything good.

No commentary is offered for this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:22. Servants, obey your earthly masters in all things lawful, not merely serving to please them when they are present and their eyes are fixed upon you, as those do who merely wish to please men, but with good faith, with a sincere and upright mind, like men fearing God, whose eye is always upon us, and who sees the innermost thoughts of the heart.

He here addresses slaves, or those engaged in a state of slavery.—See Ephes. 6 where he uses the same forms of expression employed by him in this passage.

Col 3:23. Whatever you do, perform it with cheerfulness, as if it were the Lord and not men you were serving.

No commentary is offered in this verse beyond the paraphrase.

Col 3:24. Knowing from the unerring principles of your faith, that you shall receive a surpassing great reward, the inheritance of eternal life; therefore, in serving your masters, offer the services to Christ the Lord, who will bestow on you the recompense of eternal life.

“The reward of inheritance.” On this earth, slaves receive but a very trifling recompense from their earthly masters—the inheritance is reserved for the children. The Apostle, in order to render the slaves more prompt and willing in the performance of their duties, promises them, on the part of their heavenly father, an abundant reward, even the eternal, undying inheritance of children. “Serve ye the Lord Christ;” for which we have in the Greek, for, ye serve the Lord Christ, as if assigning a reason why they should receive this eternal recompense. They would receive it, because in serving their temporal masters in a pious and Christian manner, they were serving Christ himself. The Vulgate reading in the imperative is well supported by manuscripts and versions.

Col 3:25. But whosoever does an injury, whether it be the slave who is unfaithful to his master, or the master who is harsh and cruel towards his slave, will receive the punishment of his unjust conduct. For, God regards not the face or person of any man.

“For he that doth wrong.” In Greek, but he that doth wrong. Some understand this of the faithless slave; others, of the harsh masters; it may be better, however, understand it of both. “And there is no respect of persons with God.” God will not regard the person of the master any more than that of the slave; he will reward or punish both, according to their deserts. The words, “with God,” are not in the Greek: they are, however, found in several ancient manuscripts and versions.

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