Thursday, December 10, 2015

Studies in Colossians #09

The Supremacy of Christ (1:15-29)

Paul prayed that we would have full knowledge of Christ, which was attacked by the false teachers. Bruce notes that, “The doctrine of Christ was the principal truth threatened by the false teaching at Colossae, and this is the doctrine Paul presents to his readers before dealing specifically with the false teaching.”[1]  The error being taught centered upon the person and work of Christ. The best defense is offense.  Thus, Paul immediately reiterates who Christ was, in His Person and His work. It is one of the most important passages of Christology in all Scripture. Johnson calls it “the Great Christology.”[2] There are no negative refutations in this section, only positive assertions of Christ’s person and work.

A. The Preeminent Person of Christ (1:15-20)

Scholars refer to this section as the Christ Hymn. It is referred as such because of its rhythmic meter and arrangement.[3]

1. In relation to God the Father (1:15a).

He is the image of the invisible God.” (1:15a). Literally, the phrase reads, “Who is (the) image of God the invisible.” The focus of the passage is on Christ as the image. The Greek word is eikon and is the “regular word for that which is a precise copy, reproduction, or replica.”[4] Paul asserts that Christ is nothing less than the exact replica and unique image of God, the invisible one. Barclay says it is the ancient word for “photograph”.[5] Paul knows this by experience, as He saw the image of God in the face of Christ on the road to Damascus (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6). This is the reason Jesus declares: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Hebrews 1:3 declares “the exact representation of His nature….” In Hebrews, the Greek word is charakter meaning an impress made by an engraving tool. Later in this letter, Paul declares “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”  (Col. 2:9). John 1:8 says Jesus “declared” the Father. Christ declared the essence of deity openly so all could see God, for He was God in the flesh. He is preeminent because He is God (John 1:1, 14).

2. In relation to Creation (1:15b-17).

He is “the first-born of all creation” (1:15b). This phrase has caused much confusion.  It appears that it is saying that Christ was the first being created (as Jehovah’s Witness teach). If Paul meant that then he would have used the word protokistos (first-creation). Rather, the Greek word used for the word firstborn is prototokos, meaning first in time or rank. It has the connotation of priority and sovereignty.  The concept of supremacy or priority of rank tends to dominate and is in view here.[6] In the Old Testament, Psalm 89 is Messianic, showing Christ as the firstborn, again in the context of priority of rank. The context clearly does not support the idea of first in time.  It is inconsistent with the context for He existed before all things, for He is the creator of creation, not a part of creation (1:16-17). 
For…” (1:16a), introduces reason or explanation, thus now Paul gives why Christ is preeminent in creation. Christ’s preeminence in creation is seen by the use of three key prepositions:[7]

a. He is the originator of creation.
This is seen in the first prepositional phrase, “by him all things were created…” (1:16a). The Greek is en autoi, literally “in him.” While “by him” is a possible translation, it should be taken not as instrumental (by); but as locative.[8] We have a sequence of prepositional phrases… “in him,” “through or by him,” “for him.” Thus, “in Him all things were created.” The prepositional phrases identify the creative interest of Christ. He is the sphere of creation. Bruce writes: “…it was “in him” that all things were created. If it be asked why the preposition “in” is used here instead of the more usual “through,” the answer seems to be that Christ is the beginning “in” which, according to Gen. 1:1, “God created the heaven and the earth.” This is not mere surmise: he is expressly called “the beginning” in v. 18. The phrase “in him” seems to mark Christ out as the “sphere” within which the work of creation takes place; one might compare Eph. 1:4, where the people of God are said to have been chosen “in him” before time began. God’s creation, like his election, takes place “in Christ” and not apart from him.”[9]

b. He is the instrument of creation.
 Creation was “by Him” (1:16), or literally “through” Him. The Greek word is dia, a preposition of instrument or means. Christ is not only the architect of creation, but also the builder of creation.  John 1:3 declares, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  He is the active agent of creation (cf. Heb. 1:2, 11:3, Eph. 3:9).
It is interesting that two things are repeated twice in this verse. This is done for emphasis: First, the word creation is found two times. The Greek word means to make, to form something out of nothing (John 1:3). It is used only of God in the New Testament, and speaks of His work as Creator.[10] In the first instance of the word we find it in the aorist tense, meaning that creation is a fact. It was an event that took place in a point of time. “The aorist characterizes creation as a past and perfect work.”[11] The second time it is used, the word is found in the perfect tense, which is the tense of completed action with continuing results. The tense “states that they remain as having been created, they never get beyond that state.”[12] Thus, Christ created in a point of time (Gen 1:1—in the beginning), and that creation still remains. However that does not mean that what was created and remains was not corrupted by sin. It did not necessary remain in its original state (Gen. 3:1-20; Rom. 8:18-25). 
 Second, “all things” are repeated twice also. It denotes totality and sometimes has the sense of “universe.”[13] It describes the all encompassing extent of the Son’s creation. This is emphasized and lengthened in the words, “both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities…” (cp. Eph 1:21). This clearly refers both to the physical world, as well as, the spiritual. These phrases reach into every sphere or locality, every kind, and every level of creation. He no doubt uses the terms that the false teachers were using. Barclay tells us that the Gnostics believed in a
…long series of intermediaries between man and God. Thrones, lordships, powers and authorities were different grades of angels having their places in different spheres of the seven heavens. Paul dismisses them all with complete indifference. He is in effect saying to the Gnostics, “You give a great place in your thinking to angels.  You rate Jesus Christ merely as one of them. So far from that, he created them.” Paul lays it down that the agent of God in creation is no inferior, ignorant and hostile secondary god, but the Son himself.[14]
It is clear that Paul is attacking and countering the view that makes Christ as a part of creation.  He clearly argues that Christ is the Creator, separate from the creation.  He is not a part of creation, but the Creator of all creation.

c. He is the object of Creation.
Creation is “for Him,” literally “unto Him.” Christ is the goal, object, and reason of creation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:25; Phil. 2:10-11; Rev. 19:16). He created all things for his own possession and glory.  Its original purpose was to glorify God. Therefore, the three prepositions—in, by, for—speak of His sovereignty, His superiority, and His separation from that which were created.

Now Paul declares Christ is the antecedent of creation—“He is before all things” (1:17). The word “He” is exclusive, it is He, and He alone that is before all things. The word “before” in the Greek has two meanings: It has the sense of order, rank, or eminence, but it more naturally has the meaning of before in a point of time.[15] Thus, it indicates in advance of or prior to time. It deals with His priority in time, more exactly before time. It therefore “sums up the essence of His designation as ‘Firstborn before all creation’ and excludes any possibility of interpreting that designation to mean that He Himself is part of the created order.[16] It clearly points to the preexistence of Christ.  To take it in sense of preeminence would be simply a repeat of verse 15. John 8:58 reveals Christ clearly declaring “Before Abraham was, I am.” He was with the Father “before the world was” (John 7:5). He preexisted before the creation of the world (John 1:1-2, John 8:58). This is also an assertion of sovereignty.  He preexisted before all things and therefore ranks over all things in sovereignty. It asserts His deity. He is the eternal God. “If create all things as Originator of them and to be the object of them as Proprietor, it is a mark of Deity, the Lord Jesus Christ is, in the absolute sense, God” declares Chafer.[17]

d. Christ is also the preserver of creation—“and in Him all things consist” (1:17).
He is the power behind the universe. Lightfoot calls Christ, “the principle of cohesion” that keeps creation “a cosmos, instead of a chaos.”[18] The Greek word for consist is sunistemi, a compound word meaning to stand with or together, thus hold together. The word is in the perfect tense that indicates action that is complete, with ongoing results. Thus, what He created, He continues to preserve, by holding it together.  He does so by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). This speaks of His omnipotence. Verse 17 clearly declares as Originator and Operator of the universe. He was the source and is the sustainer of the universe.

[1]  F.F. Bruce, “Colossian Problems” BIB SAC, April 1984, 99.
[2]  S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians—Part 3: Christ Pre-eminent,” BIB SAC, January 1962, 13.
[4]  Barclay, ALL-SUFFICENT CHRIST, 59.
[5]  Ibid, 59.
[6]  O’Brien, COLOSSIANS, 44.
[7]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 63,
[8]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 148-149; O’Brien, COLOSSIANS, 45; Dunn, COLOSSIANS, 91.
[9]  Bruce, COLOSSIANS, 61-62.
[10]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 44.
[11]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 52.
[12]  Lenski, COLOSSIANS, 57.
[13]   Vaughan, COLOSSIANS, 182.
[14]   William Barclay, DBS: COLOSSIANS, electronic media.
[15]   Eadie, 58.
[16]   F.F. Bruce, “Colossians Problems—Part 2: The ‘Christ Hymn’ of Colossians 1:15-20,” BIB SAC., April 1984, 105.
[17]   Lewis Sperry Chafer, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (Dallas Seminary Press, Dallas, 1971), 1:343.
[18]   Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 156.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


"For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty" Heb. 2:2

For it” is a conditional conjunction, many translations render it “since.” It is assumed to be true. “The speaker draws his audience to just such a connection, basing his argument on what both speaker and audience already embrace as true.[1]

The steadfastness of the revelation by angels. “The word spoken through angels proved unalterable” (2:2) is a statement of fact. There is some question about what the angels indicate in this text. There are two main views: (1) this view holds that the Greek word translated angel means messenger and refers to men, not spiritual beings.[2] Thus, the word relates to the Lord’s earthly ministry whose words were recorded. There is some credit to this view in the text which refers to a message that they heard (2:1). However, it seems to me not to be consistent with the context of chapters 1-2 of Christ being better than the angels. (2) It is more likely referring to the angels revealing the word of God. This is especially true of the role they played in the giving of the Law (Exodus 19 cf. Deut. 33:2, Acts 7:38). The text of verse 2 has a strong accumulation of judicial jargon.[3] First, we have the word unalterable (bebaios) meaning firm, stable, sure, steadfast, or established. Schlier says it indicates a legal valid confirmation that is actual, effective and forceful[4] The word carries the idea of a legal guarantee. Second, is the phrase “every transgression and disobedience.” The Greek word for transgression (parabasis) means a stepping by the side, a transgression, and a violation of law. It is a legal term for breaking the law. The word disobedience is the Greek word parokoe, found only three times in the New Testament (Heb. 2:2, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 10:6). It means a deviation from obedience; disobedience. It is a deviation from the legal standard. Third, is the result of transgression and disobedience is “a just penalty.” The word penalty (misthapodosia) means the discharge of wages, or getting what is due. The penalty is described as just (endios) indicating fair and just. These terms and phrases confirm or reinforce the word spoken by the angels at Sinai. It is the language of the Law which they delivered to Moses. It was not just a religious document, but a legal one with its provisions of blessings and judgments. It was steadfast legally. Newell gives an excellent summary: “The argument of the verse is: If the Law ordained through angels, who were creatures, brought just recompense, how much rather when the Lord Himself comes and speaks, and men rejected or neglect His word!”[5]           

[1]  Daniel Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 694
[3]  William Lane, WBC: HEBREWS 1-8, 37.
[4]  Schlier, “bebaios,” (Kittle) TDNT,  1:602.
[5]  William R. Newell, HEBREWS: VERSE OR VERSE, 37. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Studies in Colossians #8



Directed to God the Father (1:12-14).
The purpose of prayer is to express our thanksgiving to God the Father. Our prayers are directed toward the first person of the Trinity, in the name of the Son, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is to the Father we are “giving thanks.” The Greek word eucharisteo comes from the word meaning to give freely, and denotes gratitude, gratefulness, giving thanks for what God has graciously given his people.  Notice this word is in the present tense, indicating that we are to be constantly giving thanks. We are to live with the attitude of thanksgiving. One of the great characteristics of what a believer is to be is constantly thankful for the work of God. We are to be people who offer up our praise, worship and adoration to the Father for what He has done. At this point we must to look at the word “joyously” at the end of verse 11. While Lightfoot argues the word belongs to verse 11,[1] it is a more natural fit with verse 12—“joyously or with joy giving thanks…” O’Brien tells us, “it preserves the balance of the three clauses in verses 11-12, and is favored by Phil. 1:4.”[2] Paul joyously directs thanks unto the Father. “Amen, blessing, and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, [be] unto our God for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev.7:12).
The prayer is directed to God the Father. In doing so, Paul affirms the reason for thanksgiving is the work of God the Father. He gives this a threefold work of the Father:
a.         He qualifies us (1:12).
He “who has qualified us” is God the Father. The Greek word is hikanoo meaning to make sufficient, fit, empowered, or able to qualify, authorized. It does not mean to make deserving.[3] The word is in the aorist tense, which means God qualified us in a point of time, i.e. salvation. The qualification is a completed action. He made us fit by His grace, for by nature we are unfit (Rom. 3:23). He does it all. Wuest appropriately points out; “The standing of the believer in Christ is here in view, not his Christian character.”[4] It is the work of the Father based on the redemptive work of God the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is why we are received into His family.
God qualifies us “to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” The word share is from the word merida, means a part, share or portion. The KJV uses the translation of partaker, which is stronger and better than the word share. We partake of a portion or share in the inheritance. The Greek is klerou, meaning an allotted portion; a portion assigned, inheritance. The same form of the word is used in Acts 26:18. This particular word is used in reference to believers only. They have an assigned portion, an inheritance among those who have been justified by faith. This is of special interest and significance to the Gentiles under the dispensation of the mystery—Eph. 1:11. Paul here says “of the saints.” Some take this phrase as holy ones meaning angels, thus we have a share with the angels. However, this is not the likely meaning here.  There are two reasons for this. First, Acts 26:18, which is the only place this specific word for inheritance is used, clearly identifies the inheritance be to those whom Christ has sanctified (set apart). Second, it is doubtful that Paul ever used the word saint for anything but human saints. In Colossians, this inheritance is in the sphere of light (lit. of the light). It is contrast to verse 13, the “domain of darkness.” Light denotes the environment of the inheritance. It is an inheritance in God. God is light (1 John 1:5).  Christ is light (John 1:9). We are joint-heirs are with Christ and heirs of God (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7). It is clear that our inheritance came not by the Law (Gal. 3:18); rather we have obtained it in Christ (Eph. 1:11). The Holy Spirit has been given to us as a down payment of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14). Our inheritance is eternal (Heb. 9:15), imperishable, undefiled, and reserved for us (1 Peter 1:4).
b.         He transfers us (1:13).
Here is the how God qualified us for our inheritance. The Father does two things, one is negative, the other is positive. First the negative: “He rescued us from the domain of darkness” (1:13a). The word rescued is the Greek verb errusatio in the aorist tense, indicating this was done in a point of time, thus, translated in the past tense. The word depicts the idea of drawing out from, to rescue.[5] This requires a power more powerful than the power which one is rescued from. It is a complete rescue by God. Gromacki notes that this verb form is used only of God in the New Testament (Matt. 6:13; 27:43, Luke 1:74; 11:4; Rom. 7:24; 15:31; 2 Cor. 1:10; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 3:2; 2 Tim 3:11; 4:17-18, 2 Pet. 2:7,9).[6]  It is always the deliverance by God. He is the one that delivers, and thus it is His exclusive work. Campbell notes, “We must keep in mind that this deliverance was initiated, preveniently effected in time, and ultimately completed by God.[7]
The expression “from the domain of darkness” acknowledges that it is a power that those who are rescued were under. The word domain (exousia) denotes the right to act, meaning authority and the power to exercise that authority. It describes the state of the unregenerate. Dunn says “The implication, therefore, is not so much that the darkness has been already stripped of all its power and banished. Rather, the darkness can be legitimately and authoritatively resisted, as having had its license revoked (Rom. 11:11-14; Eph. 5:8-11; 1 Thess. 5:4-8; 1 Pet. 2:9).”[8] Darkness describes the character of this power and authority, and is the prevailing ethical element. It had its hour at the crucifixion (Luke 22:53), but it was not an hour of victory, but defeat. It is because of this hour that we can be rescued from its darkness of ignorance, sin, and degrading power. The Greek word “from” is ek, meaning out from or out of this domain of darkness.
Now comes the change to the positive—“and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (1:13). The word transferred is the Greek word methistemi, meaning to change, remove, or to relocate. The background is the wholesale transportation of peoples from one nation to another by a victorious army.[9] A prime example was the 10 tribes of Israel deported and relocated by the Assyrians. The aorist tense of the verb refers to an action taken in a point of time, i.e. the moment of salvation.  We are delivered “out of” one domain, “into” another domain or kingdom. Those delivered are not emigrants, nor simple exiles, but are transferred as citizens of a new kingdom (Phil. 3:20). We are citizens now of the heavenly kingdom of His beloved Son.
c.         He liberates us (1:14).
Some end this section at verse 13,[10] but most end it with verse 14. The major reason for continuing until the end of verse 14 is that verse 13 does not yet complete the thought. Verse 14 is a continuation of the thought of verse 13.
It is in the sphere of “the Son of His love” (literally), that God the Father redeems and forgives us. This is done in union with Christ. “In whom,” is a statement of sphere (1:14). It is where God the Father redeems and forgives. The proposal of redemption began in the heart of God; the action of redemption was carried out by God in Christ. It is the sphere or the union with Christ in which we receive benefit. “We have” is the Greek word echomen, is in the present tense and has a durative force, which indicates a continual procession. It is ours now, and continually. 
What we have is “redemption”. There are three Greek verbs translated redemption. First, agarazo, it means to purchase in the marketplace.  Second, is exagarazo, the same word as before, but with the prefix ex, which indicates a separation from or out of the market place. Third, is the Greek word lytroo, means to set free by payment. Here we have the noun form of the last Greek word, apolutrosis, denoting a release by ransom. It speaks of not simply buying a slave, but buying back a slave so that he is free; no longer a slave, nor can he be, for he has been set free.  He has complete freedom from slavery. It connotes liberation. As Barclay simple puts it, “redemption is liberation at a cost.”[11] This noun is also found in Romans 3:24, “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” We are brought, redeemed, by His grace through the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7). It is not his birth, his life, nor his example that provides redemption for us. It is His sacrifice on the Cross which redeems us. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22). He had to spill his own blood for our redemption (Heb. 9:12-14). 
Being redeemed is an act of grace. Grace is unmerited favor, we cannot earn it in any way, shape, or form. Redemption is received, not achieved. It is a gift—a gift received by faith (Eph. 2:8-10). A definition of redemption is “the forgiveness of sins” (1:14). This phrase is in apposition with redemption, thus further describing the redemption. This is “the essential effect of Christ’s ransoming for all believers.[12] The word forgiveness is aphesis and has a rich background in the ancient world. In the Old Testament, it has to do with a release of debt (Ex. 21:2-11; Lev. 25:39-46; Deut. 15:1-18). It was liberation. It cancelled a debt or obligation, thus releasing or liberating one from under the burden of that debt. In the Greek world, it had the same idea. It was used in remission of taxes, a cancellation of a debt.[13] The debt is a cheriographon, meaning a note of hand or an I.O.U. held over one’s head. The word canceled is exaleiphein, meaning to sponge clean or to wipe away. The word is a compound word meaning “to send away from.” It is in the locative case indicating that forgiveness is in the sphere of Jesus Christ, “with the implication that He alone is able to erase our sins.[14] Gromacki states, “the essence of forgiveness is the sending away of sins from a person who committed those sins.”[15] This is what God has done for us in Christ. Christ took our sin, and gave us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). What a transaction! The great unavoidable fact is that we are under the debt of sin. It is universal and inescapable, except in and by the person and work of Christ. God alone can forgive sin. Christ liberates us from the liability of our sins and their guilt.

[1]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 140.
[2]  O’Brien, COLOSSIANS, 25.
[3]   Johnson, S. Lewis, “Studies in the Epistles of Colossians: Spiritual Knowledge and a Worthy Walk,” BIB-SAC, October 1961, 344.
[4]  Wuest, COLOSSIANS, 179.
[5]  Ernest Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 37.
[6]  Robert Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 54.
[7]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 38.
[8]  James Dunn, COLOSSIANS, 78.
[9]  JB Lightfoot,  COLOSSIANS, 139.  Also see William Barclay, THE ALL-SUFFICIENT CHRIST, 72.
[10]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 57.
[11]  Barclay, ALL-SUFFICENT CHRIST, 75.
[12]  RCH Lenski, COLOSSIANS, 44.
[13]  Barclay, ALL-SUFFIECENT CHRIST, 77.
[14]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 41.
[15]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 60.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thoughts on Mark 1:11b


  • I was reading in Mark this morning. Mark 1:11b drew my attention. It speaks of divine approval—“In you I am well-pleased” (1:11b). Again the “you” is emphatic. It is best to see this phrase as a separate statement from the identification statement of 1:11a. The words well-pleased as a timeless aorist in the Greek (eudokhsa). The Companion Bible suggests the translation—“I have [ever] found delight.” It was an abiding reality. God always approved of the Son, now God the Father affirms it. Isaiah 42:1 expresses the same idea. This is not an expression of adoption because of His incarnation; it is a statement of eternal approval. May He be praised.