Colossians 3
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Chap. 3:1-4:6.] Second part of the Epistle. Direct exhortations to the duties of the Christian lifefounded on their union with their risen Saviour.

1-4.] Transition to the new subject, and grounding of the coming exhortations.

1.] If then (as above asserted, ch. 2:12, 20: the εἰ implies no doubt of the fact, but lays it down as ground for an inference, see ch. 2:20, and cf. Xen. Mem. i. 5. 1) ye were raised up together with Christ (not as E. V. ‘are risen:’ the allusion, as above, ch. 2:11-13, is to a definite time, your baptism. And it is important to keep this in view, that we may not make the mistake so commonly made, of interpreting συνηγέρθητε in an ethical sense, and thereby stultifying the sentence—for if the participation were an ethical one, what need to exhort them to its ethical realization? The participation is an objective one, brought about by that faith which was the condition of their baptismal admission into Him. This faith the Apostle exhorts them to energize in the ethical realization of this resurrection state), seek the things above (heavenly, spiritual things: cf. Matthew 6:33; Galatians 4:26; Philippians 3:20) where Christ is (‘se trouve,’ not merely the copula. If you are united to Him, you will be tending to Him; and He is in heaven),—seated on the right hand of God (see Ephesians 1:20. Here, as every where, when the present state of Christ is spoken of, the Ascension is taken for granted): care for the things above (φρονεῖτε, wider than ζητεῖτε, extending to the whole region of their thought and desire), not the things on the earth (cf. οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες, Philippians 3:19: i.e. matters belonging to this present mortal state—earthly pleasure, pelf, and pride. There is no reason, with Thl., Calv., Schrad., Huther, to suppose him still aiming at the false teachers, and meaning by τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ περὶ βρωμάτων κ. ἡμερῶν (Thl.): in this part of the Epistle he has dropped the controversial and taken the purely ethical tone). For ye died (ch. 2:12: ‘are dead,’ though allowable, is not so good, as merely asserting a state, whereas the other recalls the fact of that state having been entered on. That being made partakers with Christ’s death, cut you loose from the τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: see Romans 6:4-7), and your life (that resurrection life (which is “your real and true life” as Ellic., objecting to this explanation. The only real life of the Christian is his resurrection life in and with Christ. The fact is, Ellic. has mistaken my meaning in this term: see my remarks on it below), which you now have only in its first fruits, in possession indeed, but not in full possession, see below, and cf. Romans 8:19-23) is hidden (οὔπω ἐφανερώθη, 1John 3:2: is laid up, to be manifested hereafter: that such is the sense, the next verse seems plainly to shew) with Christ (who is also Himself hidden at present from us, who wait for His ἀποκάλυψις (1Corinthians 1:7, 2Thessalonians 1:7. 1Peter 1:7, 1Peter 1:13; 1Peter 4:13), which shall be also ours, see ver. 4, and Romans 8:19) in God (with Christ who is εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρός—it is in Him, as in a great depth, that all things concealed are hidden, and He brings them out as seems good to Him. Notice the solemnity of the repetition of the articles: and so all through these verses).

When Christ shall be manifested (shall emerge from his present state of hiddenness, and be personally revealed), who is our (no emphasis—ἡμῶν applies to Christians generally—see on ὑμ. below) life (not as Eadie, ‘shall appear in the character of our life’ (ὅτ. χρ. ἡ ζωὴ ἡμ. φανερωθῇ): Christ is personally Himself that life, and we possess it only by union with Him and His resurrection: see John 14:19), then shall ye also (καί takes out the special from the general—ye, as well as, and among, other Christians: with the reading ἡ ζ. ὑμῶν, the καί would mean,’ as well as Christ’) with Him be manifested in glory (see on the whole, the parallel 1John 3:2. Though the completed life of the resurrection seems so plainly pointed out by this last verse as the sense to be given to ἡ ζωή, this has not been seen by many Commentators, who hold it to be ethical; hidden, inasmuch as inward and spiritual—ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ, Romans 2:29 (De W.), and ideal: or, inasmuch as it is unseen by the world (Beng., similarly Storr, Flatt, Bisping, al.). The root of the mistake has been the want of a sufficiently comprehensive view of that resurrection life of ours which is now hidden with Christ. It includes in itself both spiritual, ethical, and corporeal: and the realization of it as far as possible, here, is the sum of the Christian’s most earnest endeavours: but the life itself, in its full manifestation, is that perfection of body, soul, and spirit, in which we shall be manifested with Him at His appearing. Cf. Thdrt.: ἐκείνου γὰρ ἀναστάντος πάντες ἠγέρθημεν· ἀλλʼ οὐδέπω ὁρῶμεν τῶν πραγμάτων τὴν ἔκβασιν. κέκρυπται δὲ ἐν αὐτῷ τῆς ἡμετέρας ἀναστάσεως τὸ μυστήριον).

5-17.] General exhortations: and herein (5-11)—to laying aside of the vices of the old man,—(12-17) to realizing the new life in its practical details. Put to death therefore (the οὖν connects with the ἀπεθάνετε of ver. 3: follow out, realize this state of death to things on earth—νεκρώσατε—notice the aorist implying a definite act:—cf. ἐσταύρωσαν Galatians 5:24, θανατοῦτε Romans 8:13, in the same reference) your members which are on the earth (literally, as to τὰ μέλη: your feet, hands, &c.: reduce these to a state of death as regards their actions and desires below specified—as regards, in other words, their denizenship of this earth. With this you have no concern—they are members of Christ, partakers of His resurrection, renewed after His image. The metaphorical sense of μέλη, regarding πορν. &c., as ‘membra quibus vetus homo, i.e. ratio ac voluntas hominis depravata perinde utitur ac corpus membris.’ Beza,—‘naturam nostram quasi massam ex diversis vitiis conflatam imaginatur.’ Calv.,—seems unnecessary. And the understanding of φρονοῦντα with τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, as Grot., after Thdrt. (τουτέστι τὴν ἐπὶ τὰ χείρω τοῦ φρονήματος ῥοπήν), is certainly a mistake: cf. τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς above, ver. 2),—fornication (these which follow, are the carnal functions of the earthly members. It is one instance of that form of the double accusative, where the first denotes the whole, the second a part of it, as τὸν δʼ ἄορι πλῆξʼ αὐχένα, λῦσε δὲ γυῖα, Il. λ. 240,—ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἕρκος ὀδόντων; Od. α. 64 See Kühner, ii. p. 230), impurity (reff.), lustfulness (see Romans 1:26, whence it would appear that the absolute word need not be understood of unnatural lust, the specifying genitive ἀτιμίας giving it there that meaning. We may understand it generally as in Plato, Phædr. p. 265 b, τὸ ἐρωτικὸν πάθος,—‘morbum libidinis,’ Beng.), shameful desire (more general than πάθος: as Mey. remarks, π. is always ἐπιθ., but not vice versa. The relation is the same as between πορνεία and ἀκαθαρσία), and covetousness (τὴν πλ. as Beng.—‘articulus facit ad epitasin, et totum genus vitii a genere enumeratarum modo specierum diversum complectitur.’ On πλεονεξία, see on Ephesians 4:19, and Trench, N. T. Synonyms, § xxiv.), for it is (‘quippe quæ, sit’) idolatry (the πλεονέκτης has set up self in his heart—and to serve self, whether by accumulation of goods or by satiety in pleasure, is his object in life. He is therefore an idolater, in the deepest and worst, namely in the practical significance. τὸ μαμωνᾶ, κὺριον ὁ Σωτὴρ προσηγόρευσε, διδάσκων ὡς ὁ τῷ πάθει τῆς πλεονεξίας δουλεύων, ὡς θεὸν τὸν πλοῦτον τιμᾷ, Thdrt.), on which account (on account of the πλεονεξία, which amounts to idolatry, the all-comprehending and crowning sin, which is a negation of God and brings down His especial anger) cometh (down on earth, in present and visible examples) the wrath of God: in which (vices. Mey.’s remark that the reading διʼ ὅ makes this ἐν οἷς necessarily refer to the ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τ. ἀπειθ. which he reads after θεοῦ, does not apply if διʼ ὅ be interpreted as above to refer to πλεονεξία. There does not seem to occur in St. Paul any instance of ἐν, after περιπατεῖν absolute, referring to persons. Cf. 2Thessalonians 3:11 (περιπ. ἀτάκτως), John 11:54, Ephesians 2:3, which last, if the clause ἐπ. τ. υἱ. τ. ἀπ. were inserted here, would certainly go far to decide the matter) ye also walked once, when ye lived (before your death with Christ to the world) in these things (the assertion is not tautological: cf. Galatians 5:25, εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν. When ye were alive to these things, ye regulated your course by them, walked in them. “Vivere et ambulare inter se differunt, quemadmodum potentia et actus: vivere præcedit, ambulare sequitur.” Calv.):

8.] but now (that ye are no longer living in them: opposed to ποτὲ ὅτε above) do ye also (as well as other believers) put away the whole (τὰ πάντα seems to have a backward and a forward reference—‘the whole,—both those things which I have enumerated, and those which are to follow.’ The mistake of rendering ἀπόθεσθε, ‘have put off,’ which one would hardly look for in a Commentator, occurs in Eadie here—cf. Ephesians 4:22),—anger, wrath (see on Ephesians 4:31), malice (ib.), evil speaking (ib.), abusive conversation (the context makes this more probable here, than ‘filthy conversation’ (so E. V.; Clem. Alex., περὶ αἰσχρολογίας, Pæd. ii. 6, p. 198 P.; he however himself uses αἰσχρολογεῖν for to abuse in words, Pæd. iii. 11, p. 296 P.: Chrys., who calls it ὄχημα πορνείας), for these four regard want of charity, of kindness in thought and word, rather than sins of uncleanness, which were before enumerated. And the occasional usage of the word itself bears this out, cf. Plato, Rep. iii. p. 395 end, κακηγοροῦντάς τε καὶ κωμῳδοῦντας ἀλλήλους κ. αἰσχρολογοῦντας: Polyb. viii. 13. 8, ἡ κατὰ τῶν φίλων αἰσχρολογία) out of your mouth (these words most naturally belong to the two last specified sins, and must be constructed either with ἀπόθεσθε, which seems best, or with ‘proceeding,’ implied in αἰσχρολογίαν),—lie not towards (εἰς the indifferent general preposition of direction: so κατά with ψεύδομαι in a hostile sense, James 3:14. Plato, Euthyd. p. 284 a, οὐδὲν κατά σου ψεύδεται. We have πρὸς ἐκεῖνον ψευσάμενον, Xen. Anab. i. 3. 5) one another,—having put off (the participles contain the motive for all the preceding, from ἀπόθεσθε—so Thdrt. (τοῦτον ἀπεκδύσασθε ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι), Calv. (postquam exuistis), Mey., al. Vulg. (exuentes), Luth., Calov., Beng., Olsh., De W., Conyb., al., understand them as contemporary with ἀπόθεσθε,—putting off,—or, and put off. But surely this is very flat, and besides would, if it is to answer to the foregoing, contain a superfluous member, the ἐνδυσάμ. κ.τ.λ. there being no exhortation to graces in the former sentence, only dehortation from vices. Besides, as Mey. remarks, the objective description in ver. 11 belongs to an assignment of motive, not to a hortative sentence: and the hortative figure begins ver. 12) the old man (i.e. as Mey., ‘die vorchristliche Individualität;’ the nature which they had before their conversion: see on reff.) with his deeds (habits, ways of acting: see reff., and cf. Demosth. 126. 21, ἔπραττον ὅπως ἡ πόλις ληφθήσεται, καὶ κατεσκευάζοντο τὴν πρᾶξιν), and having put on the new (the other was the negative ground: this is the positive. See on Ephesians 4:23, and 2:15), who (the two are personal: not ‘which,’—except in its old personal sense) is continually being renewed (notice the present participle. “The new man is not any thing ready at once and complete, but ever in a state of development (by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5), by which a new state and nature is brought about in it, specifically different from that of the old man.” Mey.) towards perfect knowledge (which excludes all falsehood, and indeed all the vices mentioned above) according to the image of Him that created him (the new creation of the spirit unto fulness of knowledge and truth, the highest form of which would be the perfect knowledge of God, is regarded by the Apostle as analogous to man’s first creation. As he was then made in the image of God, so now: but it was then his naturally, now spiritually in ἐπίγνωσις. Some join κατʼ εἰκ. with ἀνακαιν., some with ἐπίγνωσ. The sense will be the same; but grammatically it is far better to join it with ἀνακαιν. Thus the norm and method of the renewal is, κατʼ εἰκ. τ. κτίσαντος αὐτόν (the new man),—i.e. God, who is ever the Creator, not as Chrys., al., Christ. To understand the whole passage as referring to a restoration of the image of God in the first creation, as Calov., Est., and De W., is to fall far short of the glorious truth. It is not to restore the old, but to create the new, that redemption has been brought about. Whatever may have been God’s image in which the first Adam was created, it is certain that the image of God, in which Christ’s Spirit re-creates us, will be as much more glorious than that, as the second man is more glorious than the first): where (viz. in the realm or sphere of the new man) there is not (on ἔνι see Galatians 3:28) Greek and Jew (difference of nation; with special allusion also to the antiquation of the Abrahamic privilege as regarded his natural seed), circumcision and uncircumcision (difference of legal ceremonial standing),—barbarian (having as yet specified by pairs, he now brings forward a few single categories, which in the new man were nonexistent as marks of distinction; see below. The proper contrast to Βάρβαρος would have been Ἕλλην, which has been already expressed), Scythian (the citations in Wetst. sufficiently shew, that the Σκύθαι were esteemed, as Beng., ‘barbaris barbariores.’ It is remarkable that in one of those citations, from Polyb., they are classed with the Galatians; εἰρήνης οὔσης παρεσπόνδησαν, Σκυθῶν ἔργον κ. Γαλατῶν ἐπιτελοῦντες), bond, free (he perhaps does not say ‘bond and free,’ because these relations actually subsisted: but the persons in them were not thus regarded in Christ—no man is, quoad a Christian, δοῦλος, nor (see also Galatians 3:28) ἐλεύθερος): but Christ (emphatically closes the sentence) is all (every distinctive category of humanity is done away as to worth or privilege, and all have been absorbed into and centre in this one, χριστοῦ εἶναι, yea χριστὸς εἶναι—His members, in vital union with Him) and in all (equally sprinkled on, living in, working through and by every class of mankind).

12.] Put on therefore (as a consequence of having put on the new man, to whom these belong) as the elect of God (see reff. and 1Thessalonians 1:4), holy and beloved (it seems best to take, as Mey., ἐκλεκτοί for the subject, and ἅγ. and ἠγ. for predicates,—1) because ἐκλεκτοί is a word which must find its ground independently of us, in the absolute will of God, and therefore cannot be an adjunctive attribute of ἅγιοι (καὶ) ἠγαπ.—and 2) because ἐκλεκτοὶ θεοῦ is used in reff. and ἐκλεκτοὶ in several other places, as a substantive), bowels of compassion (see reff., and Luke 1:78. The expression is a Hebraism: and the account of it to be found in the literal use of σπλάγχνα as the seat of the sympathetic feelings: cf. Genesis 43:30), kindness (see on Galatians 5:22), lowliness (towards one another—see on Ephesians 4:2), meekness (Eph. ib.: but here it is primarily towards one another; not however excluding but rather implying meekness towards God as its ground), long-suffering (ib.), forbearing one another (see ib.) and forgiving each other (ἑαυτοῖς is not = ἀλλήλοις, as De W., al.: but the mutual forgiveness of the Christian body is put in marked correspondence to that great act of forgiveness which has passed upon the whole body, in Christ. ‘Forgiving yourselves,’ did it not convey to our ears a wrong idea, would be the best rendering: doing as a body for yourselves, that which God did once for you all), if any have cause of blame (the phrase is a classical one—cf. Eur. Orest. 1068, ἓν μὲν πρῶτά σοι μομφὴν ἔχω—Phœn. 781; Soph. Aj. 180, and other examples in Wetst.): as also (καί; besides, and more eminent than, the examples which I am exhorting you to shew of this grace) the Lord (Christ: in Ephesians 4:32, the forgiveness is traced to its source, ὁ θεὸς ἐν χριστῷ. Mey. compares the expression ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν) forgave (see on Ephesians 4:32) you, so also ye (scil. χαριζόμενοι—do not supply an imperative, by which the construction is unnecesarily broken. Chrys. carries this χαρίζεσθαι to an exaggerated extent, when he says that it extends not only to τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν θεῖναι—τὸ γὰρ ‘καθὼς’ ταῦτα ἀπαιτεῖ—καὶ οὐδὲ μέχρι θανάτου μόνον στῆναι δεῖ, ἀλλʼ εἰ δυνατὸν καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα; thinking perhaps on Romans 9:3):

14.] but (the contrast lies between ταῦτα πάντα, which have been individually mentioned, and ἐπὶ πᾶσι τούτοις, that which must over-lie them as a whole) over (carrying on the image ἐνδύσασθε—see below. Calvin’s ‘propter omnia hæc’ is every way wrong:—‘in addition to,’ as Eadie, al., falls short of the fitness and beauty of the passage, weakening what is really the literal sense into a metaphorical one. The E. V., ‘above all these things,’ looks ambiguous, but by repeating ‘put on,’ it seems as if our translators meant ‘above’ to be taken locally and literally) all these things (put on) love (the article gives a fine and delicate sense here, which we cannot express—ἡ ἀγάπη is not merely love, but ‘the (well-known) love which becomes Christians:’ the nearest rendering would perhaps be ‘Christian love,’ but it expresses too much), which thing (reff.: there is a slight causal force,—‘for it is’) is the bond of perfectness (the idea of an upper garment, or perhaps of a girdle, as Calov. supposed, seems to have been before the Apostle’s mind. This completes and keeps together all the rest, which, without it, are but the scattered elements of completeness: πάντα ἐκεῖνά, φησιν, αὕτη συσφίγγει παροῦσα· ἀπούσης δὲ διαλύονται κ. ἐλέγχονται ὑπόκρισις ὄντα κ. οὐδέν, Thl. Wetst. cites from Simplic. in Epictet., p. 208, καλῶς οἱ Πυθαγόρειοι περισσῶς τῶν ἄλλων ἀρετῶν τὴν φιλίαν ἐτίμων, κ. σύνδεσμον αὐτὴν πασῶν τῶν ἀρετῶν ἔλεγον. The genitive after σύνδεσμος is not the genitive of apposition, as in Ephesians 4:3, but of that which is held together by the σύνδεσμος, as in Plato, Rep. x. p. 616 c, εἶναι γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ φῶς ξύνδεσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, οἷον τὰ ὑποζώματα τῶν τριήρων, οὕτω πᾶσαν ξυνέχον τὴν περιφοράν. Those who, as some of the Roman Catholic expositors (not Bisping), find here justification by works, must be very hard put to discover support for that doctrine. The whole passage proceeds upon the ground of previous justification by faith: see ch. 2:12, and our ver. 12, ὡς ἐκλ. τ. θ. Some render σύνδεσμος ‘the sum total,’ or inclusive idea, ‘Inbegriff:’ so Bengel, Usteri, De W., Olsh., al.: and it appears to bear this sense in Herodian iv. 12.11, πάντα τὸν σύνδεσμον τῶν ἐπιστολῶν,—but not in the N. T.; and besides, the sense would be logically inconsistent with ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τούτοις, implying that Love does not include, but covers and supplements all the former. Still worse is the wretched adjectival rendering of τῆς τελ. as = τέλειος, ‘the perfect band,’ as Grot., Erasm.-par., Est., al.): and (simply an additional exhortation, not an inference, ‘and so,’ as Beng.; compare Ephesians 4:3, where peace is the σύνδεσμος. It is exceedingly interesting to observe the same word occurring in the same trains of thought in the two Epistles, but frequently with different application. See the Prolegg. to this Epistle, § iv. 7) let Christ’s peace (the peace which He brings about, which He left as his legacy to us (ref. John), which is emphatically and solely His. This peace, though its immediate and lower reference here is to mutual concord, yet must not on account of the context be limited to that lower side. Its reference is evidently wider, as βραβευέτω shews: see below. It is the whole of Christ’s Peace in all its blessed character and effects) rule (sit umpire—be enthroned as decider of every thing. Cf. Demosth. 3. 6, 7, ἐξὸν ἡμῖν κ. τὰ ἡμέτερʼ αὐτῶν ἀσφαλῶς ἔχειν κ. τὰ τῶν ἄλλων δίκαια βραβεύειν. ib. 1231. 19, τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον ὑμῶν ταῦτα βραβευόντων: and in the later sense of simply to rule, Polyb. ii. 25. 3, ἅπαν τὸ γιγνόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν Γαλατῶν θυμῷ μᾶλλον ἢ λογισμῷ βραβεύεται, al., in Schweigh. Lex. Polyb., also in Jos. and Philo. It is foreing the passage, to introduce the idea of a combat and a prize, as Chrys., &c.: and philologically wrong to render, as Calv., ‘palmam ferat,’ explaining it ‘superior sit omnibus carnis affectibus.’ As much beside the purpose is Grot.’s ‘dijudicet, nempe si quid est inter nos controversum:’ similarly Kypke and Hammond (‘componat omnia vestra cum aliis dissidia’): against this is ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, which makes the office of the peace spoken of not adjudicare, but prævenire lites) in your hearts,—to which (with a view to which, as your blessed state of Christian perfection in God—sec Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 57:19: Ephesians 2:14-17) ye were also (the καί marks the introduction of an additional motive—‘to which, besides my exhortation, ye have this motive: that,’ &c.) called (reff.) in one body (as members of one body—oneness of body being the sphere and element in which that peace of Christ was to be carried on and realized. This reminiscence refers to the whole context from ver. 8, in which the exhortations had been to mutual Christian graces. διὰ τί γὰρ ἄλλο ἐσμὲν ἓν σῶμα, ἢ ἵνα ὡς μέλη ὄντες ἀλλήλων ταύτην τηρῶμεν, κ. μὴ διϊστώμεθα; Thl.): and be thankful (to God, who called you: so the context before and after certainly demands: not ‘one to another,’ as Conyb., which though an allowable sense of εὐχάριστος, breaks the connexion here, which is as Chrys. on ver. 16—παραινέσας εὐχαρίστους εἶναι, καὶ τὴν ὁδὸν δείκνυσι. The ἐκλήθητε was the word which introduced the exhortation—all conduct inconsistent with the ‘calling in one body’ being in fact unthankfulness to God, who called us. Jer., Erasm.-not., Calv., al., render it ‘amiable,’ ‘friendly,’ against which the same objection lies. See Ephesians 5:4; and ib. 19, 20: where the same class of exhortations occurs).

16.] See the connexion in Chrys. above. This thankfulness to God will shew itself in the rich indwelling in you and outflowing from you of the word of Christ, be it in mutual edifying converse, or in actual songs of praise. Let Christ’s word (the Gospel: genitive subjective; the word which is His—He spoke it, inspired it, and gives it power) dwell in you (not ‘among you,’ as Luther, De W., al.: which does not suit ἐνοικ. As Ellic. observes, St. Paul’s usage (reff., remembering that ref. 2 Cor. is a quotation) seems to require that the indwelling should be individual and personal. Still we may say with Mey. that the ὑμεῖς need not be restricted to individual Christians: it may well mean the whole community—you, as a church. The word dwelling in them richly, many would arise to speak it to edification, and many would be moved to the utterance of praise. And to this collective sense of ὑμῖν, ἑαυτούς below seems to correspond; see above on ver. 13) richly (i.e. in abundance and fulness, so as to lead to the following results), in all wisdom (these words seem to be better taken with the following than with the foregoing. For 1) ch. 1:28 already gives us νουθ … κ. διδ … ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ. 2) ἐνοικείτω has already its qualifying adverb πλουσίως emphatically placed at the end of the sentence. 3) The two following clauses will thus correspond—ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ διδάσκοντες … ἐν τῇ χάριτι ᾄδοντες. And so Beng., Olsh., De W., Mey., al.: the usual arrangement has been with E. V., all. (not Chrys.), to join them with the preceding) teaching and warning (see on ch. 1:28) each other (see on ver. 13) in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs (on the meaning of the words, see notes, Ephesians 5:19. The arrangement here adopted may be thus vindicated: ψ. ὕμν. ᾠδ. πν. must be joined with the preceding, not with the following, because 1) the instrumental dative is much more naturally taken after διδ. κ. νουθ. ἑαυτ., from the analogy of Ephesians 5:19, λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς ψ. κ. ὕμν. κ. ᾠδ. [πν.], ᾄδοντες κ.τ.λ. 2) ᾄδοντες here has already two qualifying clauses, one before and one after, ἐν τῇ χάριτι and ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. Meyer’s note here is important: “Notice moreover that Paul here also (see on Eph. ut supra) is not speaking of ‘divine service’ properly so called, for this teaching and admonishing is required of his readers generally and mutually, and as a proof of their rich possession of the word of Christ:—but of the communication of the religious life among one another (e.g. at meals, at the Agapæ, and other meetings, in their family circles, &c.), wherein spiritual influence caused the mouth to overflow with the fulness of the heart, and gave utterance to brotherly instruction and reproof in the higher form of psalms, &c.; perhaps in songs already known,—or extemporized, according to the peculiarity and productivity of each man’s spiritual gift: perhaps sung by individuals alone (which would especially be the case when they were extemporized), or in chorus, or in the form of antiphonal song (Plin. Ep. x. 97).” How common religious singing was in the ancient church, independently of ‘divine service’ properly so called, see in Suicer, Thes. 2. p. 1568 f. Euseb., H. E. ii. 17, v. 28, testifies to the existence of a collection of rhythmical songs which were composed ἀπαρχῆς by Christians (ψαλμοὶ δὲ ὅσοι κ. ᾠδαί, ἀδελφῶν ἀπαρχῆς ὑπὸ πιστῶν γραφεῖσαι, τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν χριστὸν ὑμνοῦσι θεολογοῦντες, v. 28). On singing at the Agapæ, see Tert. Apol. 39, vol. i. p. 477: “post aquam manualem et lumina, ut quisque de scripturis Sanctis vel proprio ingenio potest, provocatur in medium Deo canere”); in grace (the grace—of Christ (see reff. for the absolute use of ἡ χάρις)—ἀπὸ τῆς χάριτος τοῦ πνεύματός φησιν ᾄδοντες, Chrys.: so Œc., διὰ τῆς παρὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος δοθείσης χάριτος: not as Erasm., Luth., Melaneth., Calv. (‘pro dexteritatc quæ grata sit’), and indeed Chrys. (alten.: ταῖς ἐν χάριτι ᾠδαῖς), Beza, Corn.-a-lap., al., ‘gracefully,’—which would be irrelevant as applied to the singing of the heart: see below—nor as Anselm, and De W., Conyb., al., ‘thankfully,’ which would be a flat and unmeaning anticipation of εὐχαριστοῦντες below. The article marks ‘the grace,’ which is yours by God’s indwelling Spirit) singing in your hearts to God (this clause has generally been understood as qualifying the former. But such a view is manifestly wrong. That former spoke of their teaching and warning one another in effusions of the spirit which took the form of psalms, &c.: in other words, dealt with their intercourse with one another; this on the other hand deals with their own private intercourse with God. The second participle is coordinate with the former, not subordinate to it. The mistake has partly arisen from imagining that the former clause related to public worship, in its external form: and then this one was understood to enforce the genuine heartfelt expression of the same. But this not being so, that which is founded on it falls with it. The singing τῷ θεῷ is an analogous expression to that in 1Corinthians 14:28,—ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, … ἑαυτῷ … λαλείτω κ. τῷ θεῷ. So the ἐν ταῖς καρδ. ὑμ. describes the method of uttering this praise, viz. by the thoughts only: τῷ θεῷ designates to whom it is to be addressed,—not, as before, to one another, but to God):

17.] general exhortation, comprehending all the preceding spiritual ones. And every thing whatsoever ye do in word or work (so far is a ‘nominativus pendens’) all things (do) in the name of the lord Jesus (not as Chrys., Œc., Thl., &c., τουτέστιν αὐτὸν καλῶν βοηθόν, nor as Thdrt., who treats it as a dehortation from the worship of angels, which they were to exclude by their always τὰ ἔργα κοσμῆσαι τῇ μνήμῃ τοῦ δεσπότου χριστοῦ:—but much as the common ἐν χριστῷ—so that the name of Christ is the element in which all is done—which furnishes a motive and gives a character to the whole) giving thanks to God the Father (where ἡμῶν is not expressed, the words θεὸς πατήρ must be taken as approximating in sense to that more technical meaning which they now bear, without exclusive reference to either our Lord or ourselves,—and should be rendered ‘God the Father’) through Him (as the one channel of all communication between God and ourselves, whether of grace coming to us, or of thanks coming from us. Cf. His own saying, οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ διʼ ἐμοῦ).

18-4:1.] Special exhortations to relative social duties: 18, 19, to the married: 20, 21, to children and parents: 22-4:1, to slaves and masters. Seeing that such exhortations occur in Ephesians also in terms so very similar, we are not justified, with Chrys., al., in assuming that there was any thing in the peculiar circumstances of the Colossian church, which required more than common exhortation of this kind. It has been said, that it is only in Epistles addressed to the Asiatic churches, that such exhortations are found: but in this remark the entirely general character of the Epistle to the Ephesians is forgotten. Besides, the exhortations of the Epistle to Titus cannot be so completely severed from these as to be set down in another category, as Eadie has endeavoured to do. See throughout the section, for such matters as are not remarked on, the notes to Eph_5:22-9.

18. ὡς ἀνῆκεν] The verb is in the imperfect—as ἔδει and χρῆν, conveying always in its form a slight degree of blame, as implying the non-realization of the duty pointed out—just as when we say, ‘It was your duty to,’ &c. See Winer, § 40. 3, end. The words ἐν κυρίῳ belong to ἀνῆκεν, not to ὑποτάσεσθε; as is shewn by the parallel expression in ver. 20: was fitting, in that element of life designated by ἐν κυρίῳ.

19.] See the glorious expansion of this in Ephesians 5:25-33. πικραίνεσθαι occurs in the same sense in Demosth. 1464. 18: also in Plato, Legg. p. 731 d,—τὸν θυμὸν πραΰνειν κ. μὴ ἀκραχολοῦντα, γυναικείως πικραινόμενον, διατελεῖν. Kypke illustrates the word from Plutarch, de ira cohibenda, p. 457, ‘ubi dicit, animi prodere imbecillitatem quum viri πρὸς γύναια διαπικραίνονται:’ and from Eurip. Helen. 303: ἀλλʼ ὅταν πόσις πικρὸς " ξυνῇ γυναικί, κ. τὸ δῶμʼ ἐστι (lege σώζεσθαι) πικρόν, θανεῖν κράτιστον.

20.] See Ephesians 6:1.

κατὰ πάντα, the exceptions not being taken into account: St. Paul’s usual way of stating a general rule. It is best to take εὐάρεστον, as Mey. absolutely, as προσφιλῆ, Philippians 4:8: the Christian qualification being given by the ἐν κυρίῳ: De W., al., understand τῷ θεῷ, which would render that qualification meaningless.

21.] See on Ephesians 6:4, for πατέρες.

μὴ ἐρεθ.] do not irritate them—τοῦτό ἐστι, μὴ φιλονεικοτέρους αὐτοὺς ποιεῖτε. ἔστιν ὅπου καὶ συγχωρεῖν ὀφείλετε, Chrys. In ἵνα μὴ ἀθ., it is assumed that the result of such irritation will be to cause repeated punishment, and so eventual desperation, on the part of the child. It would be well if all who have to educate children took to heart Bengel’s remark here; ‘ἀθυμία, fractus animus, pestis juventutis.’ Wetst. quotes from Æneas Tacticus, ὀργῇ δὲ μηθένα μετιέναι τῶν τυχόντων ἀνθρώπων· ἀθυμότεροι γὰρ εἶεν ἄν.

22.] See on Ephesians 6:5 ff. The ὀφθαλμοδουλεῖαι here are the concrete acts of the -εία of Ephesians 6:6, the abstract spirit.

τὸν κύριον, Him who is absolutely, and not merely κατὰ σάρκα, your master. τοῦτό ἑστι φοβεῖσθαι τὸν θεόν, ὅταν, μηδενὸς ὁρῶντος, μηδὲν πράττωμεν πονηρόν. ἂν δὲ πράττωμεν, οὐχὶ τὸν θεόν, ἀλλὰ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φοβούμεθα, Chrys.

23.] ἐκ ψυχῆς, as Chrys., μετʼ εὐνοίας, μὴ μετὰ δουλικῆς ἀνάγκης, ἀλλὰ μετʼ ἐλευθερίας κ. προαιρέσεως. The datives may be taken as of reference, or commodi. In Ephesians 6:7 the construction is filled up by δουλεύοντες. Mey. observes against De W., that οὐκ is an absolute not a mere relative negative: ‘doing things unto men’ is to be laid aside altogether, not merely less practised than the other: “as workers to the Lord and non-workers to men,” Ellic.

24.] = Ephesians 6:8, but more specific as to the Christian reward. εἰδότες, knowing as ye do … The ἀπὸ κυρίου is emphatically prefixed—‘that it is from the Lord that you shall …’ ἀπό, as Winer, § 47. b, is distinguished from παρά, as indicating not immediate bestowal, but that the Lord is the ultimate source and conferrer of the inheritance—from the Lord—not ‘at the hands of the Lord.’ You must look to Him, not to men, as the source of all Christian reward. (Eadie, p. 265, has represented Winer as saying the contrary of that which he does say.) ἀνταπόδοσις occurs in Thuc. iv. 81, in the sense of a mutual exchange of places taken in war: in Polyb. vi. 5. 3, in that of a compensation, τοῦτο ἱκανὸν ἀνταπόδοσιν ποιήσει ἐκείνου,—and xx. 7. 2, ὥσπερ ἐπιτηδὲς ἀνταπόδοσιν ποιουμένη ἡ τύχη: and hence in that of ‘an opposite turn,’ xxvii. 2. 4, ἀνταπόδοσιν λαμβάνει τὰ πράγματα,—iv. 43. 5, ἀνταπόδοσιν ποιεῖται ὁ ῥοῦς πρός, &c. Here the sense would appear to be, with a marked reference to their present state of slavery, the compensation.

κληρ., genitive of apposition (reff). The very word κληρονομία should have kept the Roman Catholic expositors from introducing the merit of good works here. The last clause, without the γάρ, is best taken imperatively, as a general comprehension of the course of action prescribed in the former part of the verse: serve ye the Lord Christ. So Vulg. ‘domino Christo servite,’

25.] This verse seems best to be taken as addressed to the slaves by way of encouragement to regard Christ as their Master and serve Him—seeing that all their wrongs in this world, if they leave them in His hands, will be in due time righted by Him, the just judge, with whom there is no respect of persons. For he that doeth wrong shall receive (see, as on the whole, Ephesians 6:8) that which he did wrongfully (the tense is changed because in ἀδικῶν he is speaking of present practice—in ἠδίκησεν, he has transferred the scene to the day of the Lord, and the wrong is one of past time), and there is not respect of persons (= εἴτε δοῦλος εἴτε ἐλεύθερος, Ephesians 6:8). At His tribunal, every one, without regard to rank or wealth, shall receive the deeds done in the body. So that in your Christian uprightness and conscientiousness you need not fear that you shall be in the end overborne by the superior power of your masters: there is A judge who will defend and right you: ἐστὶ δικαιοκρίτης ὃς οὐκ οἶδε δούλου κ. δεσπότου διαφοράν, ἀλλὰ δικαίαν εἰσφέρει τὴν ψῆφον, Thdrt. Some, as Thl., Beng., al., suppose the verse spoken with reference to the slaves; but οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολημψία is against this, unless we accept Bengel’s far-fetched explanation of it: “tenues sæpe putant, sibi propter tenuitatem ipsorum esse parcendum.”

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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