For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea…
The second Colossian prayer is the sequel of the first (Colossians 1:9-14), inasmuch as it shows at once the end of all practical obedience and the ground of all practical knowledge. The words that introduce it show it to be a supplement, and also that the apostle's request now deepens into a "great agony" which is akin to our Lord's. The matter of his supplication is expressed in the form of the end which its answer would obtain, the full assurance of their understanding of Christ, the mystery of God.
I. HOW THIS IS TO BE OBTAINED.
1. It is hardly possible to separate the "full assurance" from the process by which it is reached. It is a branch, together with the "knitting together in love" of the one common trunk, "the comfort of the heart." This last root principle of all religious establishment is the full work of the Paraclete, and the "heart" is the inner man in which the Spirit carries on His renewing work. Hence from this common principle spring two developments — one of charity, the other of knowledge — and these are united. The love of God strong in the heart of each, the bond of perfectness, is as "brotherly love," the bond of union in which all are edified. Thus while carnal knowledge "puffeth up," and makes a hollow fellowship, love "buildeth up" both the individual and the community. They have the riches of the knowledge of God imparted to them in the radiations of Divine light through the Word, by the Spirit. These riches are the common heritage of the sacred Treasury; but every one's individual knowledge is His own.
2. This "full assurance" is the clear, deep, unclouded confidence in the reality of the objects of knowledge which the understanding grasps, excluding hesitation and fortifying against error. This grace comes from the "comfort" of the Spirit, through the diligent study of the mystery hid in Christ. St. Paul speaks of three kinds of assurance.
(1) The full assurance of faith — the deeply wrought conviction of the reality, and the possession of the present object.
(2) The assurance of hope — the full conviction of the reality of its objects as our own in reservation.
(3) The full assurance of understanding is more general in its object, including all the truths of the common salvation, of the unity, harmony, and practical consequences of which the understanding is fully assured. So far as the individual truths of this knowledge are embraced for salvation, the soul exerts its faith in full assurance; so far as they belong to the future, its hope; but so far as they are independent of present and future, and are the possession of the mind and not of the experience, the soul delivers them to the care of the understanding.
II. WHAT IT IS IS ITSELF. The mystery of God which is Christ. This being the precise sentence which St. Paul wrote, we are taught by him that the Person of Christ, God-man, is the central and all-comprehending mystery.
1. The secret as it has been expounded in the previous chapter is impenetrable to human intellect. It is the mystery of God, and He alone can understand it.
2. But it is shown forth in such a manner that we may have a full and distinct knowledge, for this is the word, not acknowledgment. There is a difference between penetrating a mystery and beholding and knowing it. In the richness of its full assurance the understanding collects all the elements that go to the conception of the Divine-human Person, and unites them in one supreme object of knowledge, certitude, assurance.
3. Yet this object contains all other objects. In this are hid "all the treasures," etc. To the riches of full assurance correspond the riches of the truths of which it is assured. All other intellectual treasures are of phenomena and time, and must pass away. If the vast fabric of things be destroyed or reconstructed, all extant physical science becomes obsolete. Bus the knowledge of Christ is always becoming richer. As the individual grows daily in it, so also does the Church behold more and more the development of "the manifold wisdom of God" in Christ.
III. WHAT IT EFFECTS. The apostle's reason for the prayer was his deep desire to defend the Colossians against "oppositions of science," etc. The full assurance of understanding in the mystery of Christ would be their effectual safeguard. The mind once raised to this region of cloudless certitude would not easily be seduced to descend into the region of scepticism, where doubt chases doubt in never-ceasing restlessness of caprice. Gnosticism under other names is still darkening the counsel of the hypostatic union. Hence the necessity of this prayer to-day.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;