A Sample Passage from the Comments on Colossians:
1. Paul, one sent with a mission pertaining to Christ Jesus (or: an envoy of [the] Anointed Jesus; an emissary who has his origin in Christ Jesus) through God's will, and Timothy, the brother (or: = fellow believer; or: the brother Timothy),
In verse 1, he identifies himself as "one sent with a mission pertaining to Christ Jesus (or: an envoy of [the] Anointed Jesus) through God's will..." This was his personal mission statement, the life-path which God had chosen for him. The Greek word apostolos is normally transliterated into the word "apostle," instead of being translated: one sent off with a mission (or: an envoy; an emissary). The institutional church made this word a technical word signifying an "office" in their hierarchy, but as Paul elsewhere styled himself as a "slave of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:1), and even though he elsewhere presented his credentials in defense against those who would repudiate him (e.g., Phil. 3:5-6; 2 Cor. 11:5), I doubt that he was describing himself with this word in any way other than the function which it indicates. Through God's will he had become a person with a mission that had its origin in Christ Jesus [cf John 15:16, "You yourselves did not choose Me, but to the contrary I, Myself, selected and picked out (or: chose) you folks and placed (or: set) you ..."]. He was mandated by Jesus, on the road to Damascus. Each of us can likewise receive direction from God to perform some function in His reign.
2. To the set-apart folks (the holy ones; the sacred people) within Colossae – even to ones full of faith (or: to faithful and trusting people) – to [the] brothers within Christ (or: and to loyal fellow believers [who are] in union with [the] Anointed [other MSS add: Jesus]):
Grace and joyous favor (or: The act that produces happiness, which was granted [to all] as a favor), as well as peace and harmony [= shalom], to you folks from God our Father [other MSS read: from God, our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ].
Note that Paul speaks on behalf of the Father, sending God's grace, favor, peace and harmony to the set-apart folks in Colossae. I suggest that this was not just a nice formality, or a well-meaning wish, but an impartation to those folks, and now to us who read this – for it is God's Word, to them and to us. The Spirit of those words brings the content into our spirits. We should speak to others in the same way. Our words should also be spirit and life (John 6:63). The parenthetically inserted definition of grace/favor derives from Jim Coram, writing in "Unsearchable Riches" vol. 102, number 5, p. 201. I appreciate that he has designated grace as an act, which we understand to be the Christ event of His death, resurrection and now the giving to us of His life. Through his words, Paul is extending this life, the Word, unto the folks in Colossae.
In regard to the phrase "within Christ," Lohse suggest that this is a reference to the Christ-event, and describes those whose existence in "in the dominion of the exalted Lord" (ibid., p. 10). This would tie them to the historical event, as well as point to the new spiritual-political realm of this covenant community.
Now look at Paul's and Timothy's relationship to them, and his affirmation of them in vs. 3-5:
3. We habitually express gratitude for the goodness in grace, and give thanks to God, the Father [other MSS: to the God and Father] of our Lord, Jesus Christ, at all times continually thinking and speaking goodness and well-being concerning (or: praying about) you folks,
4. upon hearing of your faith, loyalty and trust [being, resident, or having its source] within Christ Jesus (or: in union with [the] Anointed Jesus) and the love which you folks habitually have and hold [which is extended and given] into all the set-apart folks (or: holy ones; saints; sacred people)
5. because of the expectation (or: expectant hope) – the one continuously lying stored away as a reserve – resident within the atmospheres (or: heavens), which you folks already heard (or: heard before) within the word (message; discourse; or: Logos) concerning the Truth (or: the word of truth; the idea belonging to and having its source in Reality; the message which is truth and reality) which originates in and pertains to the message of ease, goodness and well-being (or: which belongs to the good news).
In vs. 3 I have expanded the phrase normally rendered "give thanks" to show the literal meaning of the Greek from its elements: to express gratitude for the goodness in grace. Grace and God's goodness were the heart of the good news which Paul proclaimed. The plural verb shows the solidarity between himself and Timothy. The word normally rendered "praying," in the latter part of this verse, means literally to "think and/or speak goodness and for having things to be well." Consider Paul's attitude toward the folks to whom he was writing: goodness and grace (or: favor), peace and harmony. What better context is there from which to speak? What better forces to send forth, from his spirit, toward those folks?
The term "Father" was a frequent term for God, even in Hellenistic writings. Israel was called Yahweh's son in Hos. 11:1, so Paul may here be placing Jesus as into Israel's story, as its representative figure, and also be combining the referents of both Jew and Gentile into one new history of a new humanity. The alternate MSS readings which insert "and" may have derived from a copyist's desire for clarification, or may have come from a different MS tradition.
Consider what is said in the first clause of vs. 4: the faith and trust which they had was faith and trust that existed within Christ Jesus. It had its source or was resident within (the meaning of the preposition en) Christ Jesus. Another way of rendering this phrase is: in union with Christ Jesus. The source of their faith was Christ, and the actualization of it was union with Him. Lohse rightly mentions that the faith mentioned here "does not refer to the content," but rather to the realm of existence within which they live (ibid., p. 16). Compare Acts 17:28-29a.
Paul has also heard of the love which they constantly had and which was continuously extended into all the set-apart folks (vs. 4b). This was "because of the expectation [that was] resident within the atmospheres (or: heavens)," and this was an expectant hope which had come to them within the words, or message, concerning the Truth (Christ) and Reality (the New Being that was brought through Christ). This Word is a new revelation from God to humanity.
The location of this expectation also speaks to "the kingdom, reign and sovereign activities of the atmospheres/heavens" of which Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a higher realm of existence, and points to the risen Christ as the enthroned Ruler and Lord of this new reality that has invaded the earth. This was the good news, or literally: the message of ease, goodness and well-being (vs. 5).
The message that Paul (presumably) had proclaimed to them brought them trust (or: faith), love and an expectation concerning Truth and Reality. It was not the message of a heavy burden, as brought by the Pharisees – of all the things which must either be done, or not done. It was a message of ease, goodness, and well-being. It was in their "bank account," continuously stored away as a reserve, resident within the atmosphere which surrounded them: the realm of God's Spirit, also known as "heaven."
So look at the next verse, and what Paul stated as fact:
6. This [Word; Logos] is being continuously present alongside [and proceeding] into you folks, just as it is also continuously existing within all the ordered System (within the entire world of culture, secular society, religion, economics and government; or: in the entire universe; or: = the entire Roman Empire), repeatedly bearing fruit of itself and constantly being grown and caused to be increasing, just as also within you folks, from [the] day in which you heard and at once fully experienced – in intimate knowing and accurate realization – the grace of God, within Truth (or: God's favor resident within [the] truth; God's grace in the midst of reality; or: the favor which, in reality, is God).
That word, or message, "is being continuously present alongside [and proceeding] into you folks." What a wonderful thing of which to be aware! But look at the next clause: "just as it is also continuously existing within ALL the ORDERED SYSTEM (or: within the entire world of culture, religion, economics and government)"! The Word, Christ, His message, is continuously existing in our atmosphere (resident, with expectation) – alongside us. It is available for us and for the whole world.
Not only this, it is "repeatedly bearing fruit OF ITSELF (middle voice), and [is] constantly being grown and caused to be INCREASING," and it is "the grace of God, within Truth (= Christ)," or, "the favor which, in reality, IS God!" Lightfoot says concerning this verse, "The Gospel is essentially a reproductive organism, a plant whose 'seed is in itself'." (ibid, p. 133) Lohse sees in this clause a reference to Gen. 1:22, 28. He also cites 4 Ezra 9:31, "Today I sow my law in you and it shall bring forth fruit in you..." (ibid., p 20). The message of goodness, this Logos which they heard and experienced with intimate, full and accurate realization, was the favor from God and the Grace which is God. It exists within the new reality where He dwells within us!
What an opening for his letter! And Paul says that they had heard it and at once fully experienced it, in intimate knowing and accurate realization. They realized that the new creation had come in the New Being that was in Jesus Christ, and that they were a part of it.
7. Just in this way, you folks [were taught and] learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-slave, who is full of faith and loyal, an attending servant of the Christ on our [other MSS: your] behalf (or: who is a faithful dispenser of the Christ [who is] over us [or: you folks]),
8. the person also clearly showing and making evident to us your love in spirit and attitude (or: your love within [the] Breath-effect; your love in union with [the] Spirit).
Epaphras was a Colossian who was currently under arrest with Paul (ch. 4:12), and it was he who had brought the message of the Messiah to Colossae. Note that Paul put him on a par with himself, a "fellow-slave" – they both having the same Owner/Lord. Epaphras was not just Paul's assistant, but "an attending servant of the [Messiah]." Conflating the MS readings, he was obviously serving Christ in those there with Paul, and also in the Colossians, and because of this, even serving Him now, in us who read this witness.
I amplified the Greek pistos into "full of faith and loyal" so as to color in the semantic range of this word which Paul applied to Epaphras. Vs. 8 shows us that he had brought the witness regarding the Colossians to Paul.
Consider the possible renderings of the phrase first given as "in spirit and attitude." This can mean "in the sphere or realm of spirit/attitude," or "within/in-union-with [the] Spirit/Breath-effect" – this latter referring to God's Spirit. The Greek pneuma literally means the effect or result of a breath, or of breathing. Normally rendered "spirit," I have chosen in my translating to also render it "breath-effect" in order to present the Greek way of thinking in this word that can also mean "wind."
9. And because of this (or: So that is why) we, from the day on which we heard, are not ceasing constant praying (thinking and speaking toward having things being well) over your [situation] and asking (or: making a request) on behalf of you folks, to the end that you may (or: would) be filled full with the entire contents of the accurate, full, experiential, intimate knowledge and insight of His will (His design, purpose, plan and intention; or: so that you may know and experience all that He wants you to know and experience) within the sphere of all wisdom and spiritual understanding (comprehension; a junction of that which is sent together; discernment; being able to make the pieces fit together).
Here we see that this new creation involves a process, in solidarity with which Paul was not ceasing to constantly think and speak with a view to having things go well for them: "to the end that [they] may (or: would) be filled full with the entire contents of the accurate, full, experiential, and intimate knowledge and insight of His will..." Then he expands this thought, praying that this knowledge and insight would be "within the sphere of all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
Paul did not want them to just know the basics, and be satisfied with a simple knowledge of the Christ event. Consider those words: "all wisdom and spiritual understanding!" He did not want them to be satisfied with the milk of the message (1 Cor. 3:2). This may seem beyond us, but recall that Paul also said in 1 Cor. 2:16 that "we have the mind of Christ." It is important to have insight into His design, purpose, plan and intention. The Greek can also read, "so that you may know and experience all that He wants you to know and experience," viewing the meaning of "His will" on a personal level. We need insights into both: His will for us and what He wants us to know, as well as His plan of the ages – understanding where He is leading humanity. All of this spiritual understanding is resident within Christ, into whom we have been placed. The immediate goal of which Paul is speaking is our being "filled full with the entire contents of the accurate, full, experiential, intimate knowledge (epi-gnosis)" concerning His will and intention. As to the word wisdom, Lightfoot says, "Sophia is mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense," while understanding implies "a tentative, partial approach to sophia" (ibid, p. 136-7).
The next verses continue his thoughts with a further end in view:
10. [Thus we pray for you] to walk about worthily (i.e., to live your life with corresponding value) with regard to the Lord (the Owner; [= Yahweh or Christ]) [progressing] into all pleasing (or: into every desire to please; into the midst of entire pleasure) within every good work or virtuous action, while habitually bearing fruit and constantly being folks [that] are being progressively caused to grow and increase in the full, accurate, experiential and intimate knowledge of God (or: with God's full experience of intimate knowledge and insight; or: by the added insight and experiential knowledge which is God),
11. being continuously empowered in every ability (being ones progressively enabled within all power) corresponding to the strength of His glory
(or: down from and in the sphere of the might pertaining to and having its source in His reputation or His manifestation of that which calls forth praise; or: = the strength coming from His manifested presence [= His Sh'khinah]) [leading] into every [situation of] persistent remaining under [difficulties] to humbly give patient support (or: unto all relentless endurance) and long-waiting before rushing into emotions (or: long endurance; a long time before breathing violently with passion; or: perseverance; tolerance towards others), accompanied by (or: together with) joy.
Now Paul adds in a practical side of this new reality: that we should live our lives in a manner that is worthy (or, of equal value) with regard to the Lord, our Owner. In regard to vss. 9-19, Lightfoot says, "The end of all knowledge, the Apostle would say, is conduct" (ibid, p. 137). And he sets the bar high: it is to be walking into all pleasing (or: into entire pleasure) WITHIN every good work or virtuous action, while habitually bearing fruit. This sounds like a hard task, if you try to do it on your own, but read on, you will come to vs. 13, and you will see that all has changed – our position and standing has been transferred: we are in the midst of His reign, and vs. 16 tells us that the whole new creation is now within, and in union with, Him, and you will see that vss. 19 & 20 confirm the matter.
The phrase "into all pleasing (or: into every desire to please; into the midst of entire pleasure)" in vs. 10 can be taken to refer to God, to the covenant community, to the society at large, and/or to the sphere of the members existence. The next phrase, "within every good work or virtuous action," calls to mind the letter from Jacob (or: James). Lohse cites the Qumran Community Rule (1 QS I, 4f) as saying "cling to all good works" (ibid., p. 29). Paul gives more insight to this in Eph. 2:10,
" for you see, we are (we continually exist being) the effect of what He did (or: His creation; the thing He has constructed; the result of His work; His achievement; His opus; the effect of His Deed): people being founded from a state of disorder and wildness (being framed, built, settled and created), within and in union with Christ Jesus, upon good works (virtuous actions; excellent deeds) which God made ready (prepared; or: prepares) beforehand, to the end that we may walk about (= live our lives) within and in union with them." God prepared beforehand the excellent deeds and virtuous actions which we are purposed to do in union with Him, and within Him. These are not self-works. Their performance arises from Him.
Next, I want you to notice the voice of the verb "grow" in the second half of vs. 10: "... and constantly being folks [that] are BEING progressively CAUSED to grow and increase..." That is the passive voice, and it means that God is doing the work, causing the growth, so that we are able to live our life in an equal value, with regard to the Lord. Good news! Nonetheless, we should never forget or disregard His purpose for this growth: it is not to build the ego; it is to live a life worthy of Him, attended by good works and virtuous actions. It is His life in us that makes all this possible. We bear fruit and grow as a branch by remaining in the Vine (see John 15:1-13, and heed the warning, but also keep in mind that He said these things to make our joy full – it's all good news).
Notice that Paul again brings up knowledge: "the full, accurate, experiential and intimate knowledge of God (or: with God's full experience of intimate knowledge and insight; or: by the added insight and experiential knowledge which is God)." This is the epi-gnosis that is God's knowledge, as well as knowledge about God. I have also expressed the genitive as apposition in the phrase "knowledge which is God." No wonder Paul said, "to intimately and experientially know Him, and the ability – even the power – of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10).
As we look at vs. 11, note that this is a continuation of vs. 10, and that once more the passive voice is used, "BEING continuously EMPOWERED in every ability..." And this "every ability" is "corresponding to the strength of HIS glory." So it is by His power, His ability and by the strength of His glory. Still, again we see that Paul is not just loading us with blessings for nothing: it is "[leading] into every [situation of] persistent remaining under [difficulties] to humbly give patient support," and into "long-waiting before rushing into emotions (etc.)," but then we see that this is "accompanied by joy!" Recall that His joy is our strength.
Lohse point out the recurring use of "all/every" in vss. 4, 6, 9, 10 and 11 (ibid., p. 24). Paul sees the permeation of God's Spirit and the activity of His Sovereignty as affecting everything within this called-out community.
We now begin a passage that focuses on the Father and the Son, and which speaks to the work of the Father, to whom we constantly give thanks (vs. 12), and of the relationship of the Son to all of creation. Here Paul presents us with one of the most universal and all-inclusive pictures of the new Reality, the new creation that is within the Christ of the universe.
12. [We are folks who are] constantly giving thanks to the Father: the One calling you [other MSS: us] – as well as making [you; us] competent (sufficient; qualified; fit; suitable) – into the divided share of the lot of the inheritance (or: into the part and portion of the allotted possession) of the set-apart folks (or: pertaining to the holy ones; belonging to the saints; from the sacred people) within the Light;
Note that it is the Father that calls us and that makes us competent, sufficient, fit, qualified and suitable. He is the Actor, the One doing the deed, in both vs. 12 and 13. These verses give the human no place in what is done: it is the work of God. The calling is for us to be a partaker of the inheritance that pertains to and belongs to His sacred folks, those set-apart unto Him. The location, or sphere of existence and relevance, of this allotted possession is within, and in union with the Light – a figure of Christ and the Life which brought knowledge and understanding to mankind (John 1:4-5) – but the inheritance itself is the ethnic multitudes, unto the boundaries of the earth (Ps. 2:8). This was given to the Son, but the Father invites us to have a part, to be God's fellow-workers (1 Cor. 3:9) in "enlightening every person" (John 1:9). In 1 Cor. 1:9 Paul phrases it, "through Whom you folks were called and invited into a participation (a common partnership; fellowship; a sharing) of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord (Owner; Master)." As the Levites had God as their inheritance, under the old arrangement (covenant), so we have His Son, Jesus Christ as our inheritance and enjoyment of the allotment.
13. He who drags us out of danger (or: rescued us) forth from out of the midst of the authority of the Darkness (from Darkness's jurisdiction and right; from existing out of gloomy shadows and obscure dimness; = the privilege of ignorance), and changes [our] position (or: transported [us], thus, giving [us] a change of standing, and transferred [us]) into the midst of the kingdom and reign of the Son of His love
(or: into the midst of the sovereign influence of the Son Who has the characteristics and qualities of His accepting love; into union with the sovereign activities of the Son Whose origin is His love; or: into the sphere of the reign of the Son of the Love which is Him; into the center of the kingdom of the Son, which is His love),
Recall what Paul said in Eph. 2:1, "And you folks [who were] continuously existing being dead ones by (or: to; with; in) the results and effects of your stumblings aside (offences; wrong steps) and failures to hit the mark (or: mistakes; errors; times of falling short; sins)." It is because we were dead that He had to DRAG us out of danger. And where were we? In the midst of the authority of the Darkness. Darkness represents ignorance, lack of Light. Mankind was like dead bodies that had to be dragged out of the lake of sin and death. He first breathed into us the breath of life, and then we truly became LIVING souls. He gave birth to us from above, and gave us faith and the ability to believe. Lightfoot states that Paul "regards them as already rescued from the power of darkness, as already put in possession of their inheritances as saints" (ibid, p. 140).
But what was this "authority, jurisdiction and privilege of the darkness" from out of which we had been existing? What had the authority over Israel and the Jews? The Law. It contained that which was a shadow (darkness) of the impending good things (Heb. 10:1). The religious beliefs and superstitions of the pagans held authority over their lives. In both cases it was ignorance of the Truth, of Reality – which is Christ – and absence of the Light (which also is Christ), vs. 12.
The Father changed our position, transported us, from out of the midst of Darkness's jurisdiction, into the midst of the kingdom and reign (the sovereign influence and sphere of activity) of the Son, which is His love (genitive of apposition). It is a kingdom of Love, which is God. Paul does not say that it was our decision, or the implementing of our wills, to do this. God just did it. That, my friends, is grace. The sphere of His kingdom and reign is the sphere of... the Son of the Love which is Him (an alternate translation of the last phrase of vs. 13). Lightfoot suggests that exousias (authority; jurisdiction; etc.) here implies delegated, but unrestrained or arbitrary tyranny, while basileia (reign; kingdom) describes "a well-ordered sovereignty," and states that Chrysostom also seems to have this idea (ibid, p. 139).
14. in Whom (or: in union with [which Son]) we continuously have and hold the redemption (the release and liberation procured by payment of a ransom) [which results in] the sending away of the failures (or: the dismissal of the errors pertaining to falling short and straying to the side of the target; the flowing away of the sins; the divorce from mistakes),
Now it is being within Him, by being placed in union with the Son, that we have and hold the redemption, which is the release and liberation which He procured for us. Now look at what this bought: the sending away of our failures (no more guilt); the dismissal of our errors (no more carrying the burden or the results of our lacks of attainment); the flowing away of the sins (we are now clean and turned in the right direction); the divorce from our mistakes (we are no longer bound to what we did that was wrong). This, my friends, is freedom! This is all because the Father transferred us into the Son, the Second Humanity (1 Cor. 15:47).
Lightfoot remarks that apolutrosis (redemption; ransom) has changed the metaphor "from the victor who rescues the captive by force of arms (vs. 13, erusato [drags out of danger; rescues]) to the philanthropist who releases him by the payment of a ransom" (ibid, p. 140).
15. It is [this Son] Who is the Image (portrait; the Exact Formed Likeness; the Figure and Representation; visible likeness and manifestation) of the not-seen God (or: the unable to be seen God; the invisible God), the Firstborn of all creation
(or: of every creature; or: of every framing and founding; of every act of settling from a state of disorder and wildness; or: pertaining to the whole creation; or: = the Inheritor of all creation Who will also assume authority over and responsibility for every creature),
Recall that Jesus said to Philip, "The one having seen Me has seen, and now perceives, the Father!" (John 14:9). And now we, too, can reflect the Father as we are changed from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). Lightfoot notes that eikon involves the idea of "manifestation," as well as likeness and representation (ibid, p. 143). Furthermore, Jesus is the One in whom God reveals Himself. But not only was Christ "the Exact Formed Likeness" of God, whom we do not see, but He is the Firstborn of all creation. This is an all-inclusive, universal statement.
Eikon is the word used in Gen. 1:26-27 (LXX), in speaking of God making humanity in His image. So here, Paul is reaching back to the creation story, associating Jesus with Adam as he does in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:45. But here, Christ is the end of that story (the last Adam) and the beginning of the next (the Second Human).
But what does it mean to be the firstborn? The first one? Yes. The preeminent one? Yes. But in the Hebrew culture, to be a firstborn son meant something more: he was the one who had the duty and responsibility to assume authority over and responsibility for the rest of the family, if need be to be the kinsman redeemer. He was also next in line to receive the inheritance, when the father died. Being "Firstborn of all creation/every creature" means that He has the duty and responsibility to redeem the whole creation; to set free every creature. And this He will do.
Lightfoot says that the "appellation, 'the first-begotten, the eldest son,' are given to the Logos, by Philo..." He further states that, "it is interpreted by R. Nathan in Shemoth Rabba 19, fol. 118.4,
'God said, As I made Jacob a first-born (Ex. 4:22), so also will I make king Messiah a first-born (Ps. 89:28).' Hence 'the first-born'... became a recognized title of Messiah" (ibid, p. 144). "God's 'first-born' is the natural ruler, the acknowledged head, of God's household" (p. 145).
As you see from the parenthetical expansion, the Greek ktisis (creation) can also refer to the "act" of bringing order out of chaos, and the "founding" of a society. Or, this phrase can speak of "every creature," either individually or as an "aggregate of created things."
In Prov. 8:22 (LXX) we read,
"The Lord created (formed) Me [= Wisdom] [as; to be] a Beginning (arche) of His Ways (Paths) [leading; injected] into His acts and works."
Lohse footnotes C.F. Burney, "Christ as the 'ARCH of Creation (Prov. 8:22, Col. 1:15-18, Rev. 3: 14)" JTS 27 (1926) where Burney gives the various meanings of the Hebrew reshith (used in Gen. 1:1) as meaning "beginning; head and first-fruits" (ibid., p. 46-47). The first two definitions are also the meanings of the Greek arche, which is used in Gen. 1:1 in the LXX.
16. because within Him was created the whole (or: in union with Him everything is founded and settled, is built and planted, is brought into being, is produced and established; or: within the midst of Him all things were brought from chaos into order) – the things within the skies and atmospheres, and the things upon the earth (or: those [situations, conditions and/or people] in the heavens and on the land); the visible things, and the unseen (or: unable to be seen; invisible) things: whether thrones (seats of power) or lordships (ownership systems) or governments (rulers; leadership systems; sovereignties) or authorities – the whole has been created and all things continue founded, put in order and stand framed through means of Him, and [proceeds, or were placed] into Him (or: = He is the agent and goal of all creation).
Now the first phrase in vs. 16 is shocking – so much so that many translators decide to translate the Greek en by the word "by." But the core meaning of the word is "in; within; within the midst of; or: in union with (where one is actually also within another)." So the whole of creation (all things – nothing left out!; "ta panta is nearly equivalent to 'the universe'" – Lightfoot, p. 149) was created, built, caused to be planted and settled and is produced and established WITHIN HIM. I am reminded of Rom. 11:36,
"Because, forth from out of the midst of Him, and through the midst of Him (or: through means of Him), and into the midst of Him, [is] the whole (everything; [are] all things; or: = Because He is the source, means and goal of all things – everything leads into Him)!
By Him (In Him; To Him; For Him) [is] the glory (the manifestation of that which calls forth praise; the reputation; the notion; the opinion; the credit; the splendor) on into the ages. It is so (Amen; So be it)!"
Again, there is Acts 17:28,
"For you see, within the midst of and in union with Him we continuously live (or, as a subjunctive: could be constantly living), and are constantly moved about and put into motion, and continue existing (experiencing Being)."
1 Cor. 8:6 gives us another declaration:
to us (or: for us; with us) [there is] one God, the Father, from out of the midst of Whom [is] the whole (or: [are] all things) – and we [directed and proceeding] into Him – even one Lord (or: as well as one Owner and Master), Jesus Christ: through Whom [is] the whole (or: [are] all things) – and we through means of and through the midst of Him!
The list of all that is included in vs. 16 is quite inclusive: all that exists. Then Paul proceeds to say that this whole of the universe "has been created and continues founded through means of Him," and also "[proceeds, or was placed] INTO Him," or, as the parenthetical paraphrase words it, "He is the agent and the goal of all creation." The universality of this verse is inescapable. We also have here an echo of John 1:3, "All things (or: All people; [The] whole) come to be (or: are at some time birthed; occur; or: came to be; were birthed; or: suddenly happened) through and by means of It (i.e., the Word; or: Him), and apart from It (or: Him) not even one thing comes into being (occurs; was birthed; came into being; happens) which has come into being (which has occurred; which has happened)." Note the aorist verb tenses, which I have rendered here in John both as simple present tenses, and as simple past tenses, since the aorist is simply a fact tense with not expression of time or kind of action.
The subject of vs. 13b-22 is the Son, the Christ. The divinity and deity of the Son, and the cosmic reference to Him, are clearly seen in the first clause of this verse, which begins with hoti en auto: because within Him. His instrumentality in creating "all things" is seen in the next to the last phrase of this verse, where Paul used di' autou: through means of Him. The final phrase expresses the goal of all, similar to Rom. 11:36, above, eis auton: into the midst of Him. Rendering eis as "for" misses the central idea of these three Greek prepositions, which all speak of "location": within, through the midst, into the midst. He is the sphere and place where all creations exists and resides. Here Lightfoot says, "All the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government of the Universe reside in Him, the Eternal Word, as their meeting-point" (ibid, p. 148).
So how are we to understand the list that follows "unseen things"? I suggest that they are here speaking of things – like the wind – of which you can see the effects, but not the things which produce the effects. A "throne," even though a visible chair, speaks of rulership and sovereignty. A "lordship" (ownership system; system of domination) is a position and a relationship to that which, or those whom, are owned. You can see the effect and the manifestation, but not the "lordship." Likewise "government" and "authority" are ideas of domination, rule, and privilege of action. All these things are as unseen as the wind, but they are realities within our world.
Lightfoot ends his comments on this verse, "The Eternal Word is the goal of the Universe, as He was the starting-point. It must end in unity, as it proceeded from unity: and the center of this unity is Christ" (ibid, p. 153). Lohse quotes Marcus Aurelius, speaking about Nature, "... out from the midst of You [come] all things; within the midst of You [exist] all things; into the midst of You [proceed] all things" (M. Ant. 4.23.2, my translation, ibid. p. 49). This closely mirrors Rom. 11:36.
17. And He is before (prior to; or: maintains precedence of) all things and all people, and the whole has (or: all things have) been placed together and now continues to jointly-stand (stands cohesively; is made to have a co-standing) within the midst of and in union with Him,
This shows that He was prior to the "all things" which He created, and He maintains the preeminence over all people (note: the form of the first all, panton, is both neuter and masculine, this latter function indicating "people;" the second, which I rendered first "the whole," has the neuter article and thus means "all things"), and then Paul uses the perfect tense to show that it was a completed action and now so exists, restating that "all things" continue jointly-standing within the midst of, and in union with Him! What solidarity; what union!
Lightfoot points out from "He is," "... the present estin declares that this pre-existence is absolute existence. The autos estin here corresponds exactly to the ego eimi in St. John..." (ibid, p. 153).
18. and so He is the Head (or: Source) of the body – which is the called-out community (the ecclesia; the summoned congregation) – Who is the Beginning (or: the Ruler; the Originator and Ruling Principle; the Beginning Power and Ability of the process), a Firstborn forth from out of the midst of dead folks, to the end that He would be birthed (may come into existence; or: could come to be) within all things and in all people: He continuously holding first place
(or: constantly being preeminent; or: habitually being the First One; or: continuing being the First Man [note: this phrase has in Greek literature been used as a title for a person]),
So we can logically see that He is the Source and Head of the body, since He is the Source and Head of all things! He is the beginning power, as well as the power of continued existence. He is also the Firstborn from out of the midst of dead folks – referring both to His resurrection, and to His place as Originator of the new creation. Then note the purpose statement: "to the end that He would be birthed, may come into existence and could come to be WITHIN ALL THINGS and IN ALL PEOPLE!" [note: the Greek pasin is both neutral and masculine] Paul goes beyond himself here to make his point clear and beyond question. The purpose clause that begins with, "to the end that" shows the goal and destiny of all creation and all people.
The responsibility to and for dead folks is again present in the title "Firstborn" since a father's legal role and responsibilities were passed on to his firstborn son. For this reason he was given a double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21:17). Lightfoot points out that the pro ("before, prior to, all things and all people") of vs. 17 should be interpreted by the pro's (in firstborn and first place/preeminence) in this verse, along with the pro in vs. 15. And because of this, He (the Creator of the world) is the Head and Source of His body, the ecclesia. Cf Heb. 12:22-24, where in vs. 23 we find the statement,
"[that is] in (or: to) an assembly of an entire people (or: an assembly of all; a universal convocation) and in (or: to) a summoning forth (or: a called-out and gathered community) of firstborn folks having been copied (from-written, as from a pattern; or: enrolled; registered) within [the; or: various] atmospheres (or: heavens)..."
The covenant community is made up of "firstborn folks" who are His body, members of Christ, Who is "the Firstborn among, within the center of, and in union with many brothers!" – Rom. 8:29.
19. because WITHIN Him all – the entire contents (the result of that which fills everything; all the effect of the full measure [of things]) – delights to settle down and dwell as in a house (or: because He approved all the fullness [of all existence] to permanently reside within Him)
Again, he expresses the inclusiveness and universality of all existence dwelling within what we might call the "Cosmic Christ." This is a statement of God's purpose of the ages. Jesus said something similar in John 17:21,
"to the end that all mankind may (or: everyone would) continuously exist being one, correspondingly as You, O Father [other MSS: Father], [are] within the midst of Me, and I [am] within the midst of You – so that they, themselves, may and would also continuously exist being within the midst of Us..."
Lightfoot says that to pleroma was "a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes" (ibid, p. 157). However, vs. 20 again uses the phrase ta panta (the whole; all things) that was used in vss. 16 and 17, so the antecedent of Paul's thought in this verse is the same of that of the entire passage: the entirety of creation.
20. and THROUGH Him at once to transfer the all (the whole; = all of existential creation), away from a certain state to the level of another which is quite different
(or: to change all things, bringing movement away from being down; to reconcile all things; to change everything from estrangement and alienation to friendship and harmony and move all), INTO Him – making (constructing; forming; creating) peace and harmony through the blood of His cross (execution stake): through Him, whether the things upon the earth (or: land) or the things within the atmospheres and heavens!
So vs. 20 makes a beautiful summation of Paul's presentation here: "THROUGH Him at once to transfer the all (the whole; = all of existential creation), away from a certain state to the level of another which is quite different (or: to change all things, bringing movement away from being down; to reconcile all things; to change everything from estrangement and alienation to friendship and harmony and move all), INTO Him." This is the work of the cross. Anything less simply devalues that work. "The whole universe of things, material as well as spiritual, shall be restored to harmony with God" (Lightfoot, p. 158). "Now the universe is again under its head and thereby cosmic peace has returned... through Christ..." (Lohse, p. 59).
He is the Way of peace and harmony. This peace exists within Him in all realms – on earth, as it is in heaven. He is the expression of God's kingdom come, and nothing exists outside His reign of sovereign action and influence.
The first rendering of the Greek infinitive of apokatallasso is a core meaning of the verb, "to transfer... different," and is the primary lexical definition. But the root, allasso means to change, alter or transform, make different or other than it was. The prefixed prepositions apo & kata signify a movement away from being down, so this would imply an upward movement. I have included the traditional definition "to reconcile" and thus also added the resultant idea of a "change from estrangement and alienation to friendship and harmony." But the central idea is a movement away from where humanity was, and what had been established, to be placed INTO (eis) Him.
Paul then uses two dia phrases to confirm that this all happened "through" the work of Christ: "through" the blood of His cross, and then "through" Him. There is no place in this for religious works, or even our belief in Him. It is all THROUGH HIM. The last two phrases of this verse are a common expression of the totality of their view of the universe: upon the land/earth, and within the heavens/skies. Thus Paul points to the universality of the work of the cross. Nothing is excluded.
21. And so you folks, being at one time people having been alienated away (being estranged; being rendered as belonging to another; = having been put out of the family) and enemies (or: hated ones) by the divided thoughts (in the dualistic perceptions and things going through the mind in every direction) within (or: in the midst of; in union with; or: = in the performance of) the miserable deeds (gushes of wicked actions; laborious and painful works) –
Here he describes the human condition (cf Rom. 1:18-32) as it is before being made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22). The folks at Colossae had been such folks, having been "dead people in and by offences and failures to hit the goal" (Eph. 2:1). Consider the two aspects of our estrangement and enmity: divided thought with dualistic perceptions (dia-noia, the prefix having the root idea of dividing in two, or going throughout in every direction; these perceptions may have arisen from the influence of Gnostic Judaism, which was dualistic in nature), and the gushes of miserable activities. The term "alienated" may indicate the predominantly Gentile makeup of the group (cf Eph. 2:12-14). He has just painted a black back-drop for what he is about to say in the next verse:
22. yet now He at once reconciled (or: changed and transferred to a different state; [p46 & B read: you folks were reconciled]) within the body of His flesh (= His physical being), through His death, to place you folks alongside, down before Him and in His sight: set-apart (holy) folks and flawless (unblemished; blameless) ones, even people not accused, with nothing laid to your charge (or: unaccusable ones; unimpeachable ones; folks without reproach),
A great change has taken place. These folks are now reconciled (apokatallasso), which literally means that they were suddenly "changed and transferred to a different state of being; moved away from an established condition of being down, and changed to be other than they were." This was done through the work of the cross, for it says that it happened within the body of His flesh. His death and resurrection transferred them from the old creation into the new, placing them alongside Him and in His sight. It was this transfer that set them apart from the rest of the alienated mass of humanity. It also transformed them into being other than they were, for now they are "flawless (unblemished; blameless)" – through His blood (1 John 1:7). He does not "account to them their offences" (2 Cor. 5:19) and so they are "people not accused, with nothing laid to [their] charge." No one can accuse them! What a turnaround from how they were formerly described in vs. 21! This is the good news. The "now" indicates the "present [order of things]" (Lightfoot, p. 159), i.e., the new creation. Witherington sees this verse as echoing both Rom. 5:10 and 2 Cor. 5:18-20 (ibid., p. 139), and here cites A.T. Lincoln ("Col.," in The New Intepreter's Bible XI, Abingdon, 2000, p. 606) as pointing out "that the physical body of Christ was the means of reconciliation..." It was true that His body and life was the vehicle, but Paul makes it clear that it was "God, within Christ" that was doing the reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), and it was a reconciliation of "the world" – of the universe (?), or of the aggregate of humanity, and not just the covenant community. Or, as we see in 1 John 2:2,
" And He Himself exists continually being a cover around our mistakes and errors, sheltering us from their effects so that we can be in peaceful and rightwised relationships (or: being the act by which our sins and failures are made ineffective, effecting conciliation [to us]), yet not only around those pertaining to us (or: having their source in us), but further, even around the whole ordered System (secular realm and dominating world of culture, economy, religion and government; or: cosmos; adorned universe; or: = all mankind)!"
The infinitive parastesai is commonly rendered "to present," but it literally means "to place or set alongside." Katenopion autou means "down before Him and in His sight." So we must ask, "Where is He?" He is present within His temple: us. So Paul is not speaking of some future event, but of a reality that existed at that time – and now. This was accomplished "within His flesh" – which means, on the cross. The work has been accomplished, and is finished. And we are not only at His side and down before Him in His presence, but He also
"... jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens within and in union with Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
23. since in fact (or: inasmuch as) you folks are continually remaining on (or: are constantly persisting) by trust, in the faith and for loyalty, being ones having been provided with a foundation so as to continue grounded, even seated so as to be settled ones, and not people being repeatedly moved elsewhere (shifted; removed; or, as a middle: shifting yourselves) away from the expectation (or: expectant hope) pertaining to, belonging to and having its source in the message of ease, goodness and well-being of which you hear (or: heard): the [message] being heralded (announced; publicly proclaimed and preached) within all creation which is under the sky (or: heaven) – of which I, Paul, am myself come to be a herald, an emissary, and an attending servant (or: a dispenser).
Vs. 23 continues with their happy condition, noting that they are in fact continually remaining on and constantly persisting by trust and in faith with loyalty, "being ones having been provided with a foundation so as to continue grounded..." Look what Christ has done for them (and us!)! The foundation is Christ Himself. He provided Himself (via His word and spirit) so that they would "continue grounded." What a firm promise from God.
Paul goes on to say that they are "even seated so as to be settled ones," – seated where? "Upon the heavens, within and in union with Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6) – and now they are "not people being repeatedly moved elsewhere, or shifted, or even shifting themselves, away from the expectation that pertains to, belongs to, and has its source in, the message of ease, goodness and well-being." Then he assures them that this same message is being publicly announced and proclaimed WITHIN ALL CREATION under the sky (or: heaven)! Witherington observes that this "bold claim" is an example of the Asiatic rhetoric of this letter (ibid., p. 112). This message is universal, for everyone. Paul was a dispenser of this good news. He was a herald. The news came from and was about the King and His present reign over all creation. Jesus was his Authority for preaching it, as he was His emissary and attending servant.
24. I am at this moment continuing to rejoice within the effects of experiences and the results of my sufferings over your [situation] and on your behalf, and I am progressively filling back up in turn – so as in [His] stead to replace, supply and balance out, within my flesh (or: = with the means of my natural situation) – the deficiencies (or: results from what is lacking; effects from need) with regard to the pressures (or: from the squeezings, tribulations and tight spots) that pertain to the Anointed One (or: that belong to and affect Christ; or: from the Christ) over [the situation of] His body, which is the called-out community (which exists being the summoned-forth congregation – the ecclesia)
(or: Now I am progressively filled with joy – in union with the feelings coming from passion over you folks – and am habitually filling up again, to bring balance, the effects of what is lacking, resulting from the distresses of Christ – resident within my flesh – concerning His body, which is the invited-out assembly),
What an attitude to have for our fellow members of the body: constantly rejoicing in our sufferings (or, other experiences) over their situation. And here Paul reveals that this suffering is actually supplying what is lacking and creating a balance, within his flesh (both his body, and his human nature), in regard to whatever is lacking with respect to the pressures and tight spots that the body of Christ was presently going through. This is solidarity; this is being a fellow worker with Jesus, and with His body – the called-out folks. Where there is a lack, or an imbalance, even at a distance we can make a difference, for we are joined in spirit as one body. Our experiences and any suffering which we may undergo have a positive effect upon the rest of the body. From what Paul has said here, there must be a need for the body to have pressures and squeezings, and there is a need for us to be joined with others as they, and we, go through this. Cf Eph. 3:13.
The "filling back up in turn... to replace, supply, and balance out" is the only place in the NT where the more usual word anapleroo (to fill up) is prefixed by anti. "It signifies that the supply comes from an opposite quarter to the deficiency" (Lightfoot, p. 163). One picture of anti is that of someone taking hold of an object, from the other side, to assist in lifting or managing the item. This word was used of creating balance in situations, by filling in areas of lack.
The second rendering of this verse presents a different picture, giving another meaning of pathema (feelings coming from passion) and treating ton thlipseon as an ablative (resulting from), instead of a genitive. Thlipseon is rendered "distresses," which is modified by "of Christ," and en te sarki mou is seen as modifying "Christ," so we have, "resulting from the distresses of Christ – resident within my flesh – concerning His body..." With this, we see Christ, Who is within Paul, as being distressed over the situations of His body, the called-out covenant community. But Paul's joy and feelings of passion bring a balance to the distress of Christ Who lives within him – for there had been some problems in Colosse. Recall how Jesus was distressed over the situation of Jerusalem (Lu. 13:34).
25. of which I am come to be an attending servant (or: a dispenser), corresponding to (or: down from; in the sphere of) God's household administration (or: God's directives for the tasks of a household manager; the stewardship whose source is God and pertains to His house; God's economy; God's scheme and arrangement which He planned for His household) – the [detailed plan] being given by me unto you (or: to me [and infused] into you) – to fulfill God's Word (or: to make full the message pertaining to God; to make a full presentation of God's message; to deliver God's thought and idea in full; or: with a view to you fulfilling God's idea):
26. the Secret (or: sacred mystery) having been hidden away and remaining concealed away from the ages (or: from [past] eons), as well as away from the [past] generations, yet now (at the present time) is set in clear light in His set-apart folks (or: was manifested to His holy ones; is caused to be seen by His saints; is shown for what it is, for His sacred people),
In these two verses Paul first sets himself as an example of this solidarity, for he views himself as an attending servant and a dispenser in the sphere of and commensurate to God's household and its administration. He sets himself in line with the directives from God with a view to the tasks of the management of God's house, and the purposes of His economy. This plan was given to the folks at Colossae by Paul, and he infused it into them, so as to fulfill God's Word and to deliver God's thought and idea in full to them. The last parenthetical presentation for the final clause of vs. 25 renders the infinitive plerosai as giving a purpose statement, rendering eis "with a view to": God's economy and scheme is for Paul to dispense into the Colossians so that THEY would fulfill God's idea. This is expressed as "the expectation from glory" in the next verse.
God's idea and message is described as "the Secret" – a plan and an arrangement (the new covenant) that God had hidden away and concealed from those that lived in the past ages (cf 1 Cor. 2:7; Lightfoot points out the "the ages" were made up of many "generations" – p. 166), but in Paul's time was NOW (vs. 22) set in clear light for His set-apart folks, and manifested in His sacred people (of whom the saints of Colosse were a part). This is a strong statement against Gnosticism which was characterized by "secret knowledge" that is revealed only to the initiated. There is no intellectual exclusiveness here, it is manifested in all His people.
27. to whom God wills (or: at one point purposed; or: intends) to make known by intimate experience, what [are] the riches of the glory of this Secret (or: the wealth which has it source in this sacred mystery's manifestation which calls forth praise) within the multitudes (among the nations; in the Gentiles; among the swarms of ethnic groups), which is (or: exists being) Christ within you folks, the expectation of and from the glory
(or: which is [the] Anointed in union with you people: the hope of the manifestation which calls forth praise; or: which is [the] Anointing within the midst of you folks – the expectation which is the glory),
Note that in vs. 27 that is to them, as well as the rest of the multitudes (ethnic groups among the nations) and to us, that God purposed, wills and intends to make known – by intimate experience – just what this Secret entails, and the riches of the glory which has its source in that manifestation (Christ) which calls forth praise. Then he explains that it is "Christ within [them], the expectation of the glory." The term christos is a noun that can either mean "Christ," or "the anointing," and it is through the anointing from His Spirit that He dwells within us, and among us. Christ Himself, and the flow of His Spirit, is in union with us: that is the glory, which was the expectation of the Promise (the Secret), from ages past. Christ within, and among, the Gentiles (the ethnic multitudes) was "the Secret." Christ brings a "manifestation which calls forth praise" (or: glory) to the nations now, whereas before the glory (along with the sonship, the arrangements and the promises) belonged only to Israel (Rom. 9:4).
Rendering the last phrase, tes doxes, as an ablative (from the glory) gives the meaning that the expectation comes from the manifestation which calls forth praise, and that manifestation is Christ. Thus, Christ is the source of the expectation – which is Christ within and among them (the ethnic multitudes). The "glory" has now been set in clear light "in His set-apart folks" (vs. 26), the covenant community in Christ.
28. Whom [other MSS: Which] we ourselves habitually proclaim down the line (or: announce in accord with the pattern), constantly putting [Him] into the minds of every person (or: human) and repeatedly teaching every person (or: human), within the sphere of all wisdom, to the intent that we may place every person (or: human) finished (mature; perfect with respect to purpose; complete; as having reached the goal of destiny) by [our] side, within and in union with Christ [other MSS add: Jesus],
29. unto which [goal] I habitually work hard (or: progressively toil on) and become weary, constantly struggling as in a contest, corresponding to (or: down from, yet on the level of) His inward working (or: energy and operation): the One continuously operating (energizing and inwardly working) within me – within power and in ability.
Thus it is, as he says in 28 & 29, that this Secret – both His anointing, and Christ Himself – was being habitually proclaimed: in accord with the pattern (the directives of His household administration). Paul was putting this plan and purpose into their minds; he was inserting Him into their minds, repeatedly teaching every human. The sphere of his teaching was wisdom; the intent and scope of his announcing was to "place every human" by their side as a finished, mature and complete person that had reached the goal of their destiny (along with the firstfruits) – and this was to place them "within and in union with Christ."
This was the goal of his continuous work, his progressive toil. He related it to being in a contest, but his struggle corresponded to, and was on the level of, Christ's inward working (His energy; His operation) Whom he acknowledged as being that continuous operation and powerful ability. As with Paul, it is Christ, and His power and His ability, inwardly working within us: this is the glory; these are the riches of the Secret; this is God's reign and kingdom within and among us, which Paul proclaimed (Acts 20:25; 28:23). The "power and ability" are the influence and activity of His reign in us. He is "continuously operating within [us]."
Observations on John
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
Gospel of John Commentary PDF
Paul to Corinth
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
The End of the Old & The Beginning of the New
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
Great JMNT Companions:
ALL 5 OF JONATHAN'S
(Updated 2019 Edition)
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
JONATHAN'S 4TH COMMENTARY
Peter's Encore & Later Paul
Comments on 2 Peter & Ephesians
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
JONATHAN'S 3RD COMMENTARY
JONATHAN'S 2ND COMMENTARY
JONATHAN'S 1ST COMMENTARY
Jonathan's 7 volumes in a series of New Testament commentaries
Great companions to:
The New Testament
If you like the Amplified Bible, this translation unpacks more Word!
GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
HIS LIFE, HIS GRACE,
HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE