Colossians 1
Vincent's Word Studies
The Epistle to the Colossians

For Colossae, see on Colossians 1:2.

The Gospel was first preached in the cities of the Lycus by Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12; Plm 1:23), who may also have founded the churches there. The theory that the church at Colossae was founded by Paul has no sufficient foundation. The church had never been personally visited by Paul. Though his missionary journeys had carried him into the Galatian and Phrygian country (Acts 16:6), the indefinite usage of these terms, the absence of all hints of a visit in the epistle itself, and the notices of his route in the Acts, go to show that his path did not lie through the valley of the Lycus. Colossians 2:1, appears to indicate that the Colossians were personally unknown to him.

The occasion of the letter was the visit of Epaphras to the apostle in prison, and Paul's communication with Colossae in the matter of the restoration of Onesimus. Whether Epaphras shared his captivity or not (see on Plm 1:23), he did not return to Colossae with this letter, but remained in Paul's company (Colossians 4:12); and his stay in Rome was long enough to put the apostle fully in possession of the dangers which menaced the Colossian church. Paul took the opportunity of Tychicus' journey to Colossae with Onesimus, to send this letter.

Phrygia was a favorable soil for the development of error. "Cosmological speculation, mystic theosophy, religious fanaticism, all had their home there." The leading worship was that of Cybele, the great Mother of the Gods, which was spread over Asia Minor generally, and especially prevailed in Mysia and Galatia. It was orgiastic, accompanied with frenzied dances, howlings, and self-mutilations. Phrygia was also the home of Ophitism, or serpent-worship. Montanism, with its ecstasy and trance, its faith-cures, its gloomy asceticism, its passion for martyrdom, and its savage intolerance, owed to Phrygia its leader; and the earlier name of the sect was "the Sect of the Phrygians."

Under Antiochus the Great, two thousand Jewish families had been transplanted into Phrygia and Lydia; and while the staple of the church was Gentile, the epistle distinctly recognizes the presence and operation of Jewish influences (Colossians 2:16-21).

The form of error which prevailed at Colossae included three elements: Jewish formalism; speculative mysticism, representing the germs of what afterward developed as Gnosticism; and Essenism, the medium through which the Jewish and Gnostic elements came into combination.

Though Gnosticism, as such, had not developed itself at this time, a knowledge of its principal features is necessary to an intelligent reading of this epistle.

It took its name from gnosis knowledge, since it claimed for a select few the possession of a superior acquaintance with truth. Its tendencies were thus exclusive and aristocratic. The Gnostics denied the direct creation of the world by God, because God would thus be shown to be the creator of evil. God's creative energy was thwarted by the world of matter, which is essentially evil, in eternal antagonism to God, and with which God could not come into direct contact without tainting His nature. Hence creation became possible only through a series of emanations from God, each successive emanation being less divine, until the point was reached where contact with matter became possible. These emanations were called aeons, spirits, or angels; and to these worship was rendered with an affectation of humility in approaching the lower grades of divinity, instead of venturing into the immediate presence of the Supreme. The evil of matter was to be escaped either by rigid abstinence from the world of sense, or by independence of it. The system therefore tended to the opposite extremes of asceticism and licentiousness.

Essenism, in the apostolic age, had established itself in Asia Minor. The Essenes combined the ritualism of the Jew with the asceticism and mysticism of the Gnostic. They rigorously observed the Mosaic ritual, except in the matter of slain sacrifices, which they refused to offer, regarding their ordinary meals as sacrificial rites. They discountenanced marriage, and foreswore oil, wine, and animal food. Their theology revealed traces of sun-worship. Holding the immortality of the souls they denied the resurrection of the body. Their also held some mystical doctrine of emanations, as agents in creation, akin to that of the Gnostic aeons. Like the Gnostics, they maintained the evil of matter.

In this epistle Paul strikes at the intellectual exclusiveness of the Colossian heretics with the doctrine of the universality of the Gospel (Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:11). Their gnosis - the pretended higher, esoteric wisdom - is met with the assertion of the Gospel as the true wisdom, the common property of all believers. The words wisdom, knowledge, full knowledge, intelligence, occur frequently in the epistle. Γνῶσις knowledge is used but once, while ἐπίγνωσις full knowledge, occurs four times, emphasizing the knowledge of God and of Christ as the perfection of knowledge. Divine wisdom is offered and prayed for as the privilege of Christians (Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:10, Colossians 3:16). The pretended wisdom is denounced as deceitful philosophy, founded in tradition, and both its Gentile and its Jewish phases are characterized as mere elements or rudiments, unworthy of men in Christ (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20). It is presumptuous and arrogant; a mere show of wisdom (Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:23).

The doctrine of angelic mediators in the creation and government of the world is offset by the truth of the Eternal Son, begotten before the creation, by whom all things were created and are maintained, and who is also the only and absolute head of the Church (Colossians 1:15-18). For a succession of angelic emanations, each less divine than its predecessor, is substituted the Son of God, in whom dwells the sum-total of the divine powers and attributes (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). An angel or spirit, who is neither God nor man, cannot reconcile God and man. For the haziness which invests the personality and character of these intermediaries, we have the sharply defined personality of Christ, the Word made flesh, uniting in Himself the human and the divine, human even unto death, divine unto the eternal life and power of the Godhead, and thus reconciling and bringing into perfect unity all things in Himself (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 1:22; Colossians 2:9, Colossians 2:10).

The person of Christ is thus exhibited in two aspects, the cosmical and the theological, in its relations to the universe and to the Church. On the one hand, Christ is supreme in the creation and administration of the world (Colossians 1:15-17). "He is the beginning, middle, and end of creation." On the other hand, Christ is supreme in the spiritual economy. "If the function of Christ is unique in the universe, so is it also in the Church." In Him alone man is reconciled and united to God. In Him alone the individual children of God are compacted into one body, propelled and guided in their several activities, and each placed and held in due relation to the whole (Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:22; Colossians 2:10-15, Colossians 2:19).

In this rigorous insistence upon the person of Christ as alone solving the problem of God's relation to the world, Paul strikes not only at the Colossian error, but also at the later error of Arius, whose Christ is of a different essence from God, His participation in the divine attributes partial, and His revelation therefore limited and imperfect. Arianism furnishes a principle of conduct, but not a basis of communion between the divine and the human. "The supernatural being whom Arius sets forth as a mediator between God and man, does not unite, but separates them, for He serves to reveal the infinite, impassable gulf that lies between them."

Bishop Lightfoot most truthfully remarks: "Christ's mediatorial function in the Church is represented as flowing from His mediatorial function in the world. With ourselves this idea has retired very much into the background. Though in the creed common to all the churches we profess our belief in Him as the Being through whom all things were created, yet in reality this confession seems to exercise very little influence on our thoughts. And the loss is serious. How much our theological conceptions suffer in breadth and fullness by the neglect, a moment's reflection will show. How much more hearty would be the sympathy of theologians with the revelations of science and the developments of history, if they habitually connected them with the operation of the same Divine Word, who is the center of all their religious aspirations, it is needless to say."

The doctrine of Christ as the true and only medium of union between God and man is fatal to the voluntary humility which substitutes the worship of angels for that of Christ. Christ is presented as the legitimate object of adoration, the refusal of which is a rupture of the connection between the members of the body and their Head (Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:19). All things must be done in His name. The intercourse of the Church, the relations of the household, are to take their impulse and character directly from the indwelling word of Christ (Colossians 3:16-25). The Essene view of marriage is thus assailed (Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19). Asceticism, legalism, ritualism are condemned as fixing the mind upon mere external things. Their precepts are the merest rudiments of an earthly and sensual economy - "shadows of things to come." The imposition of these precepts is a moral tyranny: "mere legal obligations are a part of a dead compact, a torn and canceled bond, which is now nailed to Christ's cross." They do not lift the life into the higher moral and spiritual plane; they do not protect it against the temptations of the flesh; they furnish no efficient remedy for sin (Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:20, Colossians 2:23). Reconciliation with God through the blood of the cross will set the thoughts on heavenly things, will strangle unholy passions and indulgences, and will create a new man in the image of Christ (Colossians 1:20; Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:14; Colossians 3:1-10). By this; asceticism and licentiousness are alike branded (Colossians 3:5).

The genuineness and authenticity of the epistle were universally acknowledged by the early Church, and not seriously questioned until the attack of Mayerhoff in 1838, followed by Baur and Schwegler. Holtzmann (1872) held that it was partly spurious, though containing a genuine epistle, which he fancied that he could extract. Dr. Davidson denies the Pauline authorship, and thinks it was written about 120 a.d. The assaults are, in part, on the same grounds as those against Ephesians - textual and grammatical departures from Paul's style, unique forms of expression, and differences of idea. Against Colossians in particular it is urged that the errors it attacks are later than Paul's date.

The Pauline authorship cannot be overthrown by any of these considerations. As to the errors treated in the epistle, it has already been shown that they contained the germs of later Gnosticism. The variations in style are no greater than those which appear in different writings by the same author. They are easily explained by difference of subject, and by the mental changes in the writer himself. Many of the unique words are echoes of the vocabulary of the heretical teachers (see especially in ch. 2. and notes), and every epistle of Paul contains numerous words which are found nowhere else. Not counting those which occur in the Septuagint, there are over a hundred in both Romans and First Corinthians; over ninety in Second Corinthians; thirty-three or four in Galatians; forty-one in Philippians; over thirty in the two Thessalonian letters, and above one hundred and fifty in the three Pastorals. The absence of peculiarly Pauline words and phrases it is only necessary flatly to deny. Any Greek student may satisfy himself on that point by means of a Concordance.

The Christology of the epistle is that of the earlier epistles, only more fully developed. Notably the preexistence of Christ is emphasized. The doctrine of Christ's person is more fully and precisely stated than in any other of Paul's letters.

The style lacks the richness and rhythmical sonorousness of Ephesians. This arises in part from its more controversial character, which betrays itself in Paul's style, here as elsewhere, by his employment of unusual words and long compounds. The earlier chapters especially are marked by a certain stiffness which is imparted by the rarity of the ordinary connecting particles, and the connection of the sentences by participial constructions and relative pronouns, or by "causal and inferential conjunctions" (see ch. 1). Bishop Lightfoot observes that "the absence of all personal connection with the Colossian church will partially, if not wholly, explain the diminished fluency of this letter. At the same time no epistle of Paul is more vigorous in conception or more instinct with meaning. It is the very compression of the thoughts which creates the difficulty. If there is a want of fluency, there is no want of force.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The form of the name appears to have been both Kolossai and Kolassai, the former being probably the earlier.

The city was in Phrygia, in the valley of the Lycus, about ten or twelve miles beyond Laodicaea and Hierapolis. The region is volcanic, and the earthquakes common to large portions of Asia Minor are here peculiarly severe. The tributaries of the Lycus carried calcareous matter which formed everywhere deposits of travertine, said to be among the most remarkable formations of this character in the world. "Ancient monuments are buried, fertile lands overlaid, river-beds choked up, and streams diverted, fantastic grottos and cascades and arches of stone formed by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently and relentlessly through long ages. Fatal to vegetation, these incrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveler at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness" (Lightfoot).

The fertility of the region was nevertheless great. The fine sheep, and the chemical qualities of the streams which made the waters valuable for dyeing purposes, fostered a lively trade in dyed woolen goods. All the three cities were renowned for the brilliancy of their dyes.

Colossae stood at the junction of the Lycus with two other streams, on a highway between eastern and western Asia, and commanding the approaches to a pass in the Cadmus mountains. Both Herodotus and Xenophon speak of it as a prosperous and great city; but in Paul's time its glory had waned. Its site was at last completely lost, and was not identified until the present century. Its ruins are insignificant. Paul never visited either of the three cities. The church at Colossae was the least important of any to which Paul's epistles were addressed.

To the saints

A mode of address which characterizes Paul's later epistles. The word is to be taken as a noun, and not construed as an adjective with faithful brethren: to the holy and faithful brethren.

And faithful brethren in Christ

Or believing brethren. Compare Ephesians 1:1. There is no singling out of the faithful brethren from among others who are less faithful.

Our Father

The only instance in which the name of the Father stands in the opening benediction of an epistle without the addition and Jesus Christ.

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
And the Father

Some of the best texts omit and. So Rev. The form with and is the more common. Compare Colossians 3:17.

Praying always for you

Rather connect always with we give thanks, and render we give thanks for you always, praying, or in our prayers. According to the Greek order, praying for you (as Rev. and A.V.), would make for you unduly emphatic.

Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
For the hope (διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα)

The A.V. connects with we give thanks (Colossians 1:3). But the two are too far apart, and Paul's introductory thanksgiving is habitually grounded on the spiritual condition of his readers, not on something objective. See Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15. Better connect with what immediately precedes, love which ye have, and render as Rev., because of the hope, etc. Faith works by love, and the ground of their love is found in the hope set before them. Compare Romans 8:24. The motive is subordinate, but legitimate. "The hope laid up in heaven is not the deepest reason or motive for faith and love, but both are made more vivid when it is strong. It is not the light at which their lamps are lit, but it is the odorous oil which feeds their flame" (Maclaren). Hope. See on 1 Peter 1:3. In the New Testament the word signifies both the sentiment of hope and the thing hoped for. Here the latter. Compare Titus 2:13; Galatians 5:5; Hebrews 6:18; also Romans 8:24, where both meanings appear. Lightfoot observes that the sense oscillates between the subjective feeling and the objective realization. The combination of faith, hope, and love is a favorite one with Paul. See 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 12:6-12.

Laid up (ἀποκειμένην)

Lit., laid away, as the pound in the napkin, Luke 19:20. With the derivative sense of reserved or awaiting, as the crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. In Hebrews 9:27, it is rendered appointed (unto men to die), where, however, the sense is the same: death awaits men as something laid up. Rev., in margin, laid up for. Compare treasure in heaven, Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:34. "Deposited, reserved, put by in store out of the reach of all enemies and sorrows" (Bishop Wilson).

Ye heard before (προηκούσατε)

Only here in the New Testament, not in Septuagint, and not frequent in classical Greek. It is variously explained as denoting either an undefined period in the past, or as contrasting the earlier Christian teaching with the later heresies, or as related to Paul's letter (before I wrote), or as related to the fulfillment of the hope (ye have had the hope pre-announced). It occurs several times in Herodotus in this last sense, as ii. 5, of one who has heard of Egypt without seeing it: v., 86, of the Aeginetans who had learned beforehand what the Athenians intended. Compare viii. 79; vi. 16. Xenophon uses it of a horse, which signifies by pricking up its ears what it hears beforehand. In the sense of mere priority of time without the idea of anticipation, Plato: "Hear me once more, though you have heard me say the same before" ("Laws," vii., 797). I incline to the more general reference, ye heard in the past. The sense of hearing before the fulfillment of the hope would seem rather to require the perfect tense, since the hope still remained unfulfilled.

The word of the truth of the Gospel

The truth is the contents of the word, and the Gospel defines the character of the truth.

Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
Which is come unto you (τοῦ παρόντος εἰς ὑμᾶς)

Lit., which is present unto you. Has come and is present. Compare Luke 11:7, "are with me into bed."

In all the world

Hyperbolical. Compare Romans 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Acts 17:6. Possibly with a suggestion of the universal character of the Gospel as contrasted with the local and special character of false Gospels. Compare Colossians 1:23.

And bringeth forth fruit (καὶ ἔστι καρποφορούμενον)

Lit., and is bearing fruit. The text varies. The best texts omit and. Some join ἔστι is with the previous clause, as it is in all the world, and take bearing fruit as a parallel participle. So Rev. Others, better, join is with the participle, "even as it is bearing fruit." This would emphasize the continuous fruitfulness of the Gospel. The middle voice of the verb, of which this is the sole instance, marks the fruitfulness of the Gospel by its own inherent power. Compare the active voice in Colossians 1:10, and see Mark 4:28, "the earth bringeth forth fruit αὐτομάτη of herself, self-acting. For a similar use of the middle, see show, Ephesians 2:7; worketh, Galatians 5:6.

Increasing (αὐξανόμενην)

Not found in Tex. Rec., nor in A.V., but added in later and better texts, and in Rev. "Not like those plants which exhaust themselves in bearing fruit. The external growth keeps pace with the reproductive energy" (Lightfoot). "It makes wood as well" (Maclaren).

As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

Used by Paul only here and Colossians 4:7.

Minister (διάκονος)

See on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35.

For you (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν)

Read ἡμῶν, us as Rev., on our behalf: as Paul's representative.

Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
Declared (δηλώσας)

Or made manifest. See on 1 Corinthians 1:11.

In the Spirit

Connect with your love. Compare Galatians 5:22.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
We also

Marking the reciprocal feeling of Paul and Timothy with that of the Colossians.

Pray - desire (προσευχόμενοι - αἰτούμενοι)

The words occur together in Mark 11:24. The former is general, the latter special. Rev. make request is better than desire. The A.V. renders indiscriminately ask and desire. Rev. alters desire to ask. Desire in the sense of ask occurs in Shakespeare and Spenser.

Knowledge (ἐπίγνωσιν)

See on Romans 3:20; see on Plm 1:6. Full knowledge. See Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 13:12, where Paul contrasts γινώσκειν to know γνῶσις knowledge, with ἐπιγινώσκειν to know fully, ἐπίγνωσις full knowledge. Here appropriate to the knowledge of God in Christ as the perfection of knowledge.

Wisdom and spiritual understanding (σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ)

Rev., better, applies spiritual to both - spiritual wisdom and understanding. The kindred adjectives σοφός wise and συνετός prudent, occur together, Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21. For σοφία wisdom, see on Romans 11:33, and on wise, James 3:13. For σύνεσις understanding, see on Mark 12:33, and see on prudent, Matthew 11:25. The distinction is between general and special. Understanding is the critical apprehension of particulars growing out of wisdom, which apprehension is practically applied by φρόνησις prudence, see on Luke 1:17; see on Ephesians 1:8. Spiritual is emphatic, as contrasted with the vain philosophy of false teachers.

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Walk worthy (περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως)

The phrase occurs Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12. Rev. gives the correct adverbial rendering worthily.

Unto all pleasing (εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρέσκειαν)

So as to please God in all ways. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Ἁρέσκεια pleasing, only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek it has a bad sense, obsequiousness, cringing. Compare men-pleasers, Colossians 3:22.

In the knowledge (εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν)

Lit. unto the knowledge. The best texts read τῇ ἐπιγνώσει "by the knowledge:" by means of.

Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
Strengthened (δυναμούμενοι)

Only here in the New Testament, but found in Septuagint. The compound (ἐνδυναμόω to make strong) is frequent in Paul, Romans 4:20; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13; 1 Timothy 1:12.

Power - might (δυνάμει - κράτος)

See on 2 Peter 2:11; see on John 1:12.


See on Romans 3:23.

Patience - long-suffering (ὑπομονὴν - μακροθυμίαν)

See on 2 Peter 1:6; see on James 5:7.

With joyfulness

Compare Colossians 1:24; James 1:2, James 1:3; 1 Peter 4:13. Some connect with giving thanks, Colossians 1:12, and this is favored by the construction of the previous clauses: in every good work bearing fruit: with all power strengthened: with joy giving thanks. But Paul is not always careful to maintain the symmetry of his periods. The idea of joy is contained in thanksgiving, which would make the emphatic position of with joy inexplicable; besides which we lose thus the idea of joyful endurance (Colossians 1:24) and of joyful suffering expressing itself in thanksgiving. Compare Romans 5:3.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Made us meet (ἱκανώσαντι)

See on 2 Corinthians 3:6.

To be partakers of the inheritance (εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου).

Lit., for the portion of the lot; that is, the portion which is the lot. Compare Acts 8:21, where the two words are coordinated.

In light (ἐν τῷ φωτί)

Connect with inheritance: the inheritance which is in light. This need not be limited to future glory. The children of God walk in light on earth. See John 3:21; John 11:9; John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:10.

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Power (ἐξουσίας)

See on Mark 2:10.

Translated (μετέστησεν)

The word occurs five times in the New Testament: of putting out of the stewardship, Luke 16:4; of the removal of Saul from the kingdom, Acts 13:22; of Paul turning away much people, Acts 19:26; and of removing mountains, 1 Corinthians 13:2. A change of kingdoms is indicated.


Hence God's kingdom is in the present, no less than in heaven. See on Luke 6:20.

Of His dear Son (τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ)

Lit., of the Son of His love. So Rev. The Son who is the object of His love, and to whom, therefore, the kingdom is given. See Psalm 2:7, Psalm 2:8; Hebrews 1:3-9. It is true that love is the essence of the Son as of the Father; also, that the Son's mission is the revelation of the Father's love; but, as Meyer correctly says, "the language refers to the exalted Christ who rules."

In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Redemption (ἀπολύτρωσιν)

See on Romans 3:24. Continuing the image of an enslaved and ransomed people. Omit through His blood.

Forgiveness (ἄφεσιν)

See on remission, Romans 3:25; see on forgiven, James 5:15. Forgiveness defines redemption. Lightfoot's suggestion is very interesting that this precise definition may convey an allusion to the perversion of the term ἀπολύτρωσις by the Gnostics of a later age, and which was possibly foreshadowed in the teaching of the Colossian heretics. The Gnostics used it to signify the result of initiation into certain mysteries. Lightfoot quotes from Irenaeus the baptismal formula of the Marcosians "into unity and redemption (ἀπολύτρωσιν) and communion of powers." The idea of a redemption of the world, and (in a perverted form) of the person and work of Christ as having part in it, distinctively marked the Gnostic schools. That from which the world was redeemed, however; was not sin, in the proper sense of the term, but something inherent in the constitution of the world itself, and therefore due to its Creator.

In the following passage the person of Christ is defined as related to God and to creation; and absolute supremacy is claimed for Him. See Introduction to this volume, and compare Ephesians 1:20-23, and Philippians 2:6-11.

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
The image (εἰκών)

See on Revelation 13:14. For the Logos (Word) underlying the passage, see on John 1:1. Image is more than likeness which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype. Compare in the form of God, Philippians 2:6 (note), and the effulgence of the Father's glory, Hebrews 1:3. Also 1 John 1:1.

Of the invisible God (τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου)

Lit., of the God, the invisible. Thus is brought out the idea of manifestation which lies in image. See on Revelation 13:14.

The first born of every creature (πρωτότοκος πασῆς κτίσεως)

Rev., the first-born of all creation. For first-born, see on Revelation 1:5; for creation, see on 2 Corinthians 5:17. As image points to revelation, so first-born points to eternal preexistence. Even the Rev. is a little ambiguous, for we must carefully avoid any suggestion that Christ was the first of created things, which is contradicted by the following words: in Him were all things created. The true sense is, born before the creation. Compare before all things, Colossians 1:17. This fact of priority implies sovereignty. He is exalted above all thrones, etc., and all things are unto (εἰς) Him, as they are elsewhere declared to be unto God. Compare Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:2.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
By him (ἐν αὐτῶ)

Rev., in Him. In is not instrumental but local; not denying the instrumentality, but putting the fact of creation with reference to its sphere and center. In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the creative will and the creative energy, and in that sphere the creative act takes place. Thus creation was dependent on Him. In Christ is a very common phrase with Paul to express the Church's relation to Him. Thus "one body in Christ," Romans 12:5; "fellow-workers in Jesus Christ," Romans 16:3. Compare Romans 16:7, Romans 16:9, Romans 16:11; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 4:15, etc.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

The article gives a collective sense - the all, the whole universe of things. Without the article it would be all things severally.

Were created (ἐκτίσθη)

See on John 1:3. The aorist tense, denoting a definite historical event.

Visible - invisible

Not corresponding to earthly and heavenly. There are visible things in heaven, such as the heavenly bodies, and invisible things on earth, such as the souls of men.

Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers (θρόνοι, κυριότητες, ἀρχαὶ, ἐξουσίαι)

Compare Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Romans 8:38; Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15; Titus 3:1. In Titus 3:1, they refer to earthly dignities, and these are probably included in 1 Corinthians 15:24. It is doubtful whether any definite succession of rank is intended. At any rate it is impossible to accurately define the distinctions. It has been observed that wherever principalities (ἀρχαὶ) and powers (ἐξουσίαι) occur together, principalities always precedes, and that δύναμις power (see Ephesians 1:21) when occurring with either of the two, follows it; or, when occurring with both, follows both. The primary reference is, no doubt, to the celestial orders; but the expressions things on earth, and not only in this world in the parallel passage, Ephesians 1:21, indicate that it may possibly include earthly dignities. Principalities and powers are used of both good and evil powers. See Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15. The passage is aimed at the angel-worship of the Colossians (see Introduction); showing that while they have been discussing the various grades of angels which fill the space between God and men, and depending on them as media of communion with God, they have degraded Christ who is above them all, and is the sole mediator. Compare Hebrews 1:5-14, where the ideas of the Son as Creator and as Lord of the angels are also combined. Thrones occurs only here in enumerations of this kind. It seems to indicate the highest grade. Compare Revelation 4:4, θρόνοι thrones, A.V. seats, and see note. Thrones here probably means the enthroned angels. Dominions or dominations, also Ephesians 1:21. Principalities or princedoms. In Romans 8:38, this occurs without powers which usually accompanies it.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

Recapitulating. Collectively as before.

Were created (ἔκτισται)

Rev., correctly, have been created. The perfect tense instead of the aorist, as at the beginning of the verse. "The latter describes the definite, historical act of creation; the former the continuous and present relations of creation to the Creator" (Lightfoot). So John 1:3. "Without Him did not any thing come into being (ἐγένετο, aorist) which hath come into being" (and exists, γέγονεν, see note).

By Him and for Him (δι' αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν)

Rev., better, through Him and unto Him. See on Romans 11:36. Compare in Him at the beginning of the verse. There Christ was represented as the conditional cause of all things. All things came to pass within the sphere of His personality and as dependent upon it. Here He appears as the mediating cause; through Him, as 1 Corinthians 8:6. Unto Him. All things, as they had their beginning in Him, tend to Him as their consummation, to depend on and serve Him. Compare Revelation 22:13; and Hebrews 2:10; "for whose sake (δι' ὃν) and through whose agency (δι' οὗ) are all things" Rev., "for whom and through whom." See also Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:28. The false teachers maintained that the universe proceeded from God indirectly, through a succession of emanations. Christ, at best, was only one of these. As such, the universe could not find its consummation in Him.

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
He is (αὐτὸς ἔστιν)

Both words are emphatic. Ἔστιν is, is used as in John 8:58 (see note), to express Christ's absolute existence. "He emphasizes the personality, is the preexistence" (Lightfoot). For similar emphasis on the pronoun, see Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:11; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 19:15.

Before all things

In time.

By Him (ἐν αὐτῷ)

In Him as Colossians 1:16. So Rev.

Consist (συνέστηκεν)

Cohere, in mutual dependence. Compare Acts 27:28; Hebrews 1:3. For other meanings of the verb, see on Romans 3:5. Christ not only creates, but maintains in continuous stability and productiveness. "He, the All-powerful, All-holy Word of the Father, spreads His power over all things everywhere, enlightening things seen and unseen, holding and binding all together in Himself. Nothing is left empty of His presence, but to all things and through all, severally and collectively, He is the giver and sustainer of life.... He, the Wisdom of God, holds the universe in tune together. He it is who, binding all with each, and ordering all things by His will and pleasure, produces the perfect unity of nature and the harmonious reign of law. While He abides unmoved forever with the Father, He yet moves all things by His own appointment according to the Father's will" (Athanasius).

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
And He

Emphatic. The same who is before all things and in whom all things consist.

The head of the body, the Church

The Church is described as a body, Romans 12:4 sq.; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 1 Corinthians 10:17, by way of illustrating the functions of the members. Here the image is used to emphasize the position and power of Christ as the head. Compare Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:4, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:30.

Who is the beginning (ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχὴ)

Who is, equivalent to seeing He is. Beginning, with reference to the Church; not the beginning of the Church, but of the new life which subsists in the body - the Church.

The first-born from the dead (πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν)

Defining how Christ is the beginning of the new spiritual life: by His resurrection. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23, and Prince of life, Acts 3:15 (note) See on Revelation 1:5, where the phrase is slightly different, "first-born of the dead." He comes forth from among the dead as the first-born issues from the womb. Compare Acts 2:4, "having loosed the pains of death," where the Greek is ὠδῖνας birth-throes. There is a parallelism between first-born of the creation and first-born from the dead as regards the relation of headship in which Christ stands to creation and to the Church alike; but the parallelism is not complete. "He is the first-born from the dead as having been Himself one of the dead. He is not the first-born of all creation as being himself created" (Dwight).

In all things

The universe and the Church.

Might have the preeminence (γένηται πρωτεύων)

Lit., might become being first. Πρωτεύω to be first only here in the New Testament. Γένηται become states a relation into which Christ came in the course of time: ἐστιν is (the first-born of all creation) states a relation of Christ's absolute being. He became head of the Church through His incarnation and passion, as He is head of the universe in virtue of His absolute and eternal being. Compare Philippians 2:6, "being (ὑπάρχων) in the form of God - was made (γενόμενος) obedient unto death." This sense is lost in the rendering might have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell (ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι)

Εὐδοκέω to think it good, to be well pleased is used in the New Testament, both of divine and of human good-pleasure; but, in the former case, always of God the Father. So Matthew 3:17; Luke 12:32; 1 Corinthians 1:21. The subject of was well pleased, God, is omitted as in James 1:12, and must be supplied; so that, literally, the passage would read, God was well pleased that in Him, etc. Rev., it was the good pleasure of the Father. Fullness, Rev, correctly, the fullness. See on Romans 11:12; see on John 1:16. The word must be taken in its passive sense - that with which a thing is filled, not that which fills. The fullness denotes the sum-total of the divine powers and attributes. In Christ dwelt all the fullness of God as deity. The relation of essential deity to creation and redemption alike, is exhibited by John in the very beginning of his gospel, with which this passage should be compared. In John the order is: 1. The essential nature of Christ; 2. Creation; 3. Redemption. Here it is: 1. Redemption (Colossians 1:13); 2. Essential being of the Son (Colossians 1:15); 3. The Son as Creator (Colossians 1:16); 4. The Church, with Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18). Compare 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 1:23. Paul does not add of the Godhead to the fullness, as in Colossians 2:9 since the word occurs in direct connection with those which describe Christ's essential nature, and it would seem not to have occurred to the apostle that it could be understood in any other sense than as an expression of the plenitude of the divine attributes and powers.

Thus the phrase in Him should all the fullness dwell gathers into a grand climax the previous statements - image of God, first-born of all creation, Creator, the eternally preexistent, the Head of the Church, the victor over death, first in all things. On this summit we pause, looking, like John, from Christ in His fullness of deity to the exhibition of that divine fullness in redemption consummated in heaven (Colossians 1:20-22).

There must also be taken into the account the selection of this word fullness with reference to the false teaching in the Colossian church, the errors which afterward were developed more distinctly in the Gnostic schools. Pleroma fullness was used by the Gnostic teachers in a technical sense, to express the sum-total of the divine powers and attributes. "From the pleroma they supposed that all those agencies issued through which God has at any time exerted His power in creation, or manifested His will through revelation. These mediatorial beings would retain more or less of its influence, according as they claimed direct parentage from it, or traced their descent through successive evolutions. But in all cases this pleroma was distributed, diluted, transformed, and darkened by foreign admixture. They were only partial and blurred images, often deceptive caricatures, of their original, broken lights of the great Central Light" (Lightfoot). Christ may have been ranked with these inferior images of the divine by the Colossian teachers. Hence the significance of the assertion that the totality of the divine dwells in Him.

Dwell (κατοικῆσαι)

Permanently. See on Luke 11:26. Compare the Septuagint usage of κατοικεῖν permanent dwelling, and παροικεῖν transient sojourning. Thus Genesis 37:1, "Jacob dwelt (permanently, κατῴκει) in the land where his father sojourned (παρῷκησεν A.V., was a stranger). Perhaps in contrast with the partial and transient connection of the pleroma with Christ asserted by the false teachers. The word is used of the indwelling of the Father, Ephesians 2:22 (κατοικητήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ habitation of God); of the Son, Ephesians 3:17; and of the Spirit, James 4:5.

And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Having made peace (εἰρηνοποιήσας)

Only here in the New Testament. Having concluded peace; see on John 3:21. The participle is parallel with to reconcile, and marks peace-making and reconciliation as contemporaneous. The kindred εἰρηνοποιός peacemaker, only in Matthew 5:9. The phrase making peace, in which the two factors of this verb appear separately, occurs only Ephesians 2:15.

To reconcile (ἀποκαταλλάξαι)

Only here, Colossians 1:21, and Ephesians 2:16. The connection is: it was the good pleasure of the Father (Colossians 1:19) to reconcile. The compounded preposition ἀπό gives the force of back, hinting at restoration to a primal unity. So, in Ephesians 2:12-16, it occurs as in Colossians 1:21, in connection with ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι alienated, as if they had not always been strangers. See on Ephesians 2:12. Others explain to reconcile wholly. For the verb καταλλάσσω to reconcile, see on Romans 5:10.

All things (τὰ πάντα)

Must be taken in the same sense as in Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:17, Colossians 1:18, the whole universe, material and spiritual. The arrangement of clauses adopted by Rev. is simpler.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

To God, in the active sense.

Mind (διανοίᾳ)

See on imagination, Luke 1:51. The spiritual seat of enmity.

By wicked works (ἐν τοῖς ἔγροις τοῖς πονηροῖς)

Rev., better, in your evil works. In the performance of - the sphere in which, outwardly, their alienation had exhibited itself.

In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
Body of His flesh

Which consisted of flesh; without which there could have been no death (see next clause).

To present (παραστῆσαι)

Purpose of the reconciliation. Compare Romans 8:30. See on shewed himself, Acts 1:3. Compare Romans 12:1, where it is used of presenting a sacrifice.

Holy, unblamable, unreprovable (ἁγίους, ἀμώμους, ἀνεγκλήτους)

Holy, see on saints, Acts 26:10; see on Revelation 3:7. The fundamental idea of the word is separation unto God and from worldly defilement. Unblamable, Rev. much better, without blemish. Compare Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; and see on 1 Peter 1:19, and see on blemishes, 2 Peter 2:13. Unreprovable, not only actually free from blemish, but from the charge of it. See on 1 Corinthians 1:8, and compare 1 Timothy 6:14.

In His sight (κατεώπιον αὐοτῦ)

Rev., before Him. Him refers to God, not Christ. Whether the reference is to God's future judgment or to His present approval, can hardly be determined by the almost unexceptional usage of κατενώπιον before, in the latter sense, as is unquestionably the case in Ephesians 1:4. The simple ἐνώπιον before, is used in the former sense, Luke 12:9. Ἔμπροσθεν before, occurs in both senses. The reference to the future judgment seems the more natural as marking the consummation of the redemptive work described in Colossians 1:20-22. Compare 1 Thessalonians 3:13, and Ephesians 5:27, which corresponds with the figure of the bride, the Lamb's wife, in Revelation 21:9 sqq. This view is further warranted by the following words, if ye continue, etc., the final presentation being dependent on steadfastness.

If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Continue in the faith (ἐπιμένετε τῇ πίστει)

The verb means to stay at or with (ἐπί). So Philippians 1:24, to abide by the flesh. See on Romans 6:1. The faith is not the gospel system (see on Acts 6:7), but the Colossians' faith in Christ. Your faith would be better.

Grounded and settled (τεθελεωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι)

For grounded, see on settle, 1 Peter 5:10; compare Luke 6:48, Luke 6:49; Ephesians 3:17. Settled, from ἕδρα a seat. Rev., steadfast. See 1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 15:58, the only other passages where it occurs. Compare ἑδραίωμα ground, 1 Timothy 3:15. Bengel says: "The former is metaphorical, the latter more literal. The one implies greater respect to the foundation by which believers are supported; but settled suggests inward strength which believers themselves possess."

Moved away (μετακινούμενοι)

The present participle signifying continual shifting. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:58.

To every creature (ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει)

Rev, correctly, in all creation. See on 2 Corinthians 5:17, and compare Colossians 1:15.

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
Who now

Omit who. Now is temporal: in the midst of my imprisonment and sufferings, after having become a minister of the Gospel, and having preached it.

In my sufferings

Not as our idiom, rejoice in, as rejoice in the Lord, but in the midst of; while enduring.

Fill up (ἀνταναπληρῶ)

Only here in the New Testament. Lit., fill up in turn. Rev., on my part (ἀντί) Ἁναπληρόω to fill up occurs 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 16:17; Galatians 6:2, and elsewhere. The double compound προσαναπληρόω to fill up by adding, 2 Corinthians 9:12 (note); 2 Corinthians 11:9. Ἁντί on my part offsets Christ in the next clause. Lightfoot explains well: "It signifies that the supply comes from an opposite quarter to the deficiency, and so describes the correspondence of the personal agents," and not merely the correspondence of the supply with the deficiency.

That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ (τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Χριστοῦ)

Lacking, lit., behind. Used with different compounds of πληρόω to fill, 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 2:30. Of the afflictions of Christ. The afflictions which Christ endured; which belonged to Him: not Paul's afflictions described as Christ's because endured in fellowship with Him (Meyer); nor the afflictions which Christ endures in His Church (Alford, Ellicott, Eadie).

These afflictions do not include Christ's vicarious sufferings, which are never denoted by θλίψεις tribulations. That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ signifies that portion of Christ's ministerial sufferings which was not endured by Him in person, but is endured in the suffering of Christians in all generations in carrying out Christ's work. Compare 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:10. Hence those are mistaken interpretations which explain the filling up as a correspondence of the supply with the deficiency. The correspondence is between the two parties, Christ and His followers, and the supply does not correspond with the deficiency, but works toward supplying it. The point is not the identification of Paul with Christ in His sufferings (which is true as a fact), but the distinction between Paul and Christ. Hence the present tense, I am filling up, denoting something still in process. The full tale of sufferings will not be completed until the Church shall have finished her conflict, and shall have come up "out of great tribulation" to sit at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

In my flesh

Connect with fill up.

For His body's sake, which is the Church

Σάρξ flesh is never used of a metaphorical organism like the Church, but σῶμα body. See on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3. In Colossians 1:22, flesh was used with body in order to define the reference of body to the fleshly human organism of Christ. Compare John 1:14. Here σῶμα body only, defined by Church.

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
The dispensation (οἰκονομίαν)

From οἶκος house and νέμω to dispense or manage. Hence οἰκονόμος a house-steward. Here the meaning is stewardship - the office of a steward or administrator in God's house. See on 1 Corinthians 9:17, and compare Luke 16:2-4; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10. In Ephesians 3:2, the word is used of the divine arrangement or economy committed to Paul. In Ephesians 1:10 of the divine government or regulation of the world.

For you (εἰς ὑμᾶς)

Rev., more strictly, to youward. Connect with was given. The stewardship was assigned to me with you as its object. Compare Ephesians 3:2; Romans 15:16.

To fulfill (πληρῶσαι)

Fully discharge my office, so that the divine intent shall be fully carried out in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles no less than to the Jews. Compare fully preached, Romans 15:19.

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
The mystery

See on Romans 11:25. The kindred word μεμύημαι I have been initiated (A.V., instructed) occurs Philippians 4:12, in the sense drawn from the technical use of the term, denoting the induction into pagan mysteries. Ignatius addresses the Ephesians as "fellow-initiates (συμμύσται), or students of the mysteries, with Paul" (Ephesians, 12). In the New Testament the word implies something which, while it may be obscure in its nature, or kept hidden in the past, is now revealed. Hence used very commonly with words denoting revelation or knowledge. So, "to know the mysteries," Matthew 13:11; "revelation of the mystery," Romans 16:25; made known, Ephesians 3:3, etc. In Colossians and Ephesians it is used, with a single exception, of the admission of the Gentiles to gospel privileges. Compare Romans 16:25, Romans 16:26.

From ages - generations (ἀπὸ - αἰώνων - γενεῶν)

The unit and the factors: the aeon or age being made up of generations. Compare Ephesians 3:21, where the literal translation is unto all the generations of the age of the ages. The preposition ἀπὸ from, differs from πρό before (1 Corinthians 2:7), as marking the point from which concealment could properly begin. Before the beginning of the ages of the world the counsel of God was ordained, but not concealed, because there were no human beings from whom to conceal it. The concealment began from the beginning of the world, with the entrance of subjects to whom it could be a fact.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Would make known (ἠθέλησεν γνωρίσαι)

Lit., willed to make known. Rev., was pleased. Hence the apostles who were called to make known the Gospel were such by the will of God (Colossians 1:1).


See on Romans 2:4.

Of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles

The mystery of the admission of the Gentiles to the gospel covenant, now revealed through Paul's preaching, was divinely rich and glorious. This glory is the manifestation of the kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles as their inheritance (Colossians 1:12; compare Romans 8:18, Romans 8:21; 2 Corinthians 4:17). The richness exhibited itself in the free dispensation of the Gospel to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. It was not limited by national lines. Compare "the same Lord is rich unto all," Romans 10:12; and beggarly elements, Galatians 4:9.

Which is Christ in you

The readings differ. Some read ὅς, masculine, which, referring to the riches: others ὃ, neuter, which, referring to mystery. The latter corresponds with Colossians 2:2, the mystery of God, Christ, etc. In either case the defining words are Christ in you, i.e., in the Gentiles; either as constituting the richness of glory in this mystery, or as being the essence of the myself itself. In you may be either within you, dwelling in your hearts, or among you. The latter accords with among the Gentiles, the former with dwell in your hearts, Ephesians 3:17. Compare Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 4:19.

The hope of glory (ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης)

Lit., of the glory. The Gentiles, in receiving the manifestation of Christ, did not realize all its glory. The full glory of the inheritance was a hope, to be realized when Christ should appear "the second time unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). Compare 1 Timothy 1:1. Glory refers to the glory of the mystery; hence the glory, but with more emphasis upon the idea of the same glory consummated at Christ's coming - the glory which shall be revealed. See Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:7

Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Warning (νουθετοῦντες)

Rev., admonishing. See on Acts 20:31. Compare νουθεσίᾳ admonition, Ephesians 6:4.


Thrice repeated, in order to emphasize the universality of the Gospel against the intellectual exclusiveness encouraged by the false teachers. For similar emphatic repetitions of all or every, compare 1 Corinthians 10:1, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 9:6, Romans 9:7; Romans 11:32, etc.

In all wisdom (ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ)

In every form of wisdom. Thus opposed to the idea of esoteric and exoteric wisdom represented by the false teachers; higher knowledge for the few philosophic minds, and blind faith for the masses. In christian teaching the highest wisdom is freely open to all. Compare Colossians 2:2, Colossians 2:3.


Compare 1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 2:7, and see note. There may be in this word a hint of its use in the ancient mysteries to designate the fully instructed as distinguished from the novices. Peter uses the technical word ἐπόπται eye-witnesses, which designated one admitted to the highest grade in the Eleusinian mysteries, of those who beheld Christ's glory in His transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:16. From this point of view Bishop Lightfoot appropriately says: "The language of the heathen mysteries is transferred by Paul to the christian dispensation, that he may the more effectively contrast the things signified. The true Gospel also has its mysteries, its hierophants, its initiation; but these are open to all alike. In Christ every believer is τέλειος fully initiated, for he has been admitted as ἐπόπτης eye-witness of its most profound, most awful secrets."

Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
I labor (κοπιῶ)

Unto weariness. See on Luke 5:5. The connection with the following ἀγωνιζόμενος contending in the arena, seems to show that I labor has the special sense of labor in preparing for the contest. The same combination occurs 1 Timothy 4:10, where the correct reading is ἀγωνιζόμεθα we strive for ὀνειδιζόμεθα we suffer reproach; and there is a similar combination, Philippians 2:16, run and labor. So Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp, 6: "Labor ye one with another (συγκοπιᾶτε); strive together (συναθλεῖτε, see Philippians 1:27); run together, suffer together, go to rest together, arise together" (the last two probably with reference to the uniform hours prescribed for athletes under training). So Clement of Rome: "Who have labored (κοπιάσαντες) much, and contended (ἀγωνισάμενοι) honorably" (ii. 7). See on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Striving (ἀγωνιζόμενος)

From ἀγών originally an assembly, a place of assembly, especially for viewing the games. Hence the contest itself, the word being united with different adjectives indicating the character of the contest, as ἱππικός of horses; γυμνικός gymnastic; μουσικός of music; χάλκεος, where the prize is a brazen shield, etc. Generally, any struggle or trial. Hence the verb means to enter a contest, to contend, to struggle. The metaphor is a favorite one with Paul, and, with the exception of three instances (Luke 13:24; John 18:36; Hebrews 12:1), the words ἀγών contest and ἀγωνίζομαι to contend are found only in his writings. See 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:25 (note); 1 Thessalonians 2:2.

Working (ἐνέργειαν)

From ἐνεργής ἐν in, ἔργον work; lit. being in or at work. See on 1 Corinthians 16:9. Ἐνέργεια is the state of being at work; energy, efficiency. Used only of superhuman energy, good or evil.

Which worketh (τὴν ἐνεργουμένην)

Kindred with the preceding. See on James 5:16.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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