Monday, October 24, 2016

Studies in Colossians #31

Put on Positive Characteristics (3:12-17).

Safeguard of Christian Living (3:l5-17)

After stating the characteristics, we are to have as the elect of God, and the means to practice to them, Paul now gives the things that safeguard us and our relationship with Christ. Putting on the new man involves four exhortations designed to safeguard us in our walk or conformity to Christ:

  • The Peace of Christ. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called into one body” (1:15). In the Greek the verse begins with a connector—kai (and) which is translated in the KJV, but not in many modern translations. It does denote a continuation of the theme, or as a parallel to the theme. Peace is an important truth in scripture. It is what the human heart desires. Its source is God. All three of the Godhead provide it for us. The source is God the Father (Phil 4:7), the Son (John 14:27), and the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Many times peace is used in the objective sense which speaks in terms of reconciliation (cf. Rom. 5:1). This peace has the following features in the Biblical world:
    • The fulfillment of the eschatological hope found in Israel’s Messiah.
    • The fulfillment of the gentile peace that comes through Christ, not imperial military pacification.
    • The means of hope is found in the work of the cross (1:20).

Thus true peace has a cause (the cross) and effect—peace to those who believe.

Contra O’Brien, this is not the equiant to salvation.[1] Paul is not talking about objective peace with God, but a subjective peace of Christ, that is to rule within us. This security and assurance of peace comes by submission… “let [it] rule in your hearts” (3:15).  This is a subjunctive aspect of peace. It calls for believers to let peace rule. It is a call to the Colossian believers for peace to be the decisive factor over conflicts within the church.  The word rule is to be the dominant factor over such conflict. The word rule means to act as an umpire, and has the connotation of control. It is in the present active voice, which speaks of the constant activity of the peace of Christ in our life. It is the ruling peace that is to govern us. We are to be submissive to its control. The phrase “in your hearts” indicates that is an inner peace, especially the location of the peace is to be within us. Moo notes that “Paul is not saying that the peace is in our hearts; but is saying that the peace should rule in the heart.”[2] Surrender to internal peace is the characteristic of the new man.

Peace keeps and protects the unifying principle within the body of Christ, “to which you were called in one body” (3:14).  Here Paul reminds us that peace is a prime element of our calling as believers. We are called to have peace with God and with one another. Peace is the purpose of our call. We are to be “diligent to preserved the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).  We are called to be participants of reconciliation within the church, the body of Christ. Reconciliation results in peace. The place of peace is to be active within the body of Christ (cf. Eph. 2:15).

  • Thanksgiving (3:15). The second exhortation is to thankfulness: “be thankful.” This is a common motif of the epistle (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2) However, there is an element in the Greek text that is commonly overlooked or missed in most translations. The verb is in the present tense and middle voice. It indicates the idea of continuality. The it could be translated “You continually be thankful.” Thanksgiving marks certain elements in the life of a believer:
    • Humility of heart.
    • An expression of worship.
    • Acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God.
    • Gratitude for our salvation.
    • Celebrates the sufficiency of Christ’s work in our daily life.
    •  Praise unto God for His gracious character and bestowal of grace in our life.
    • Gratitude for the provision and blessings of God.

Thanksgiving to God is acceptable to Him (1 Thess. 5:18), Neglect of it opens us up to sin (Rom 1:21); whereas in contrast it acts as an antidote to sin (Eph. 5:4). No wonder Paul exhorts us to be continually thankful.

  • Word of Christ. The next exhortation is to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (3:16). The word of Christ is used only here in the New Testament. It speaks of the assimilation of the Word of Christ into our lives. There are those who hold that this refers to the earthly teaching of Christ.[3] While there may be parallels between the earthly teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven and the truth for the church, the body of Christ. The two are not the same. The earlier teaching centered upon the nation Israel and limited to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6). Paul’s scope centers upon the Gentiles and the oneness of the two. It is universal in focus. This is part of a later revelation given to Paul (Eph. 3:1-10). Paul was given a new revelation, and not a repeat of the earthly teaching of Christ. It is the word of Christ to the church, the body of Christ. The conv/remergence of the Jew and Gentile did not take place until the ministry of Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:25-29). Paul makes clear it was a mystery, not revealed until his ministry, and which was after the early life of Christ that he preaches.
    It is argued that the phrase is to be taken as an objective genitive. It is built on the word that comes from Christ. The word is seen as the gospel, seemingly supported by Col. 1:5, where the gospel is identified as the word of truth.[4] To Paul the word of Christ and the word of God is equitant. It is called the gospel of Christ in 2 Cor. 2:12; 10:14.

This word is to dwell in believers richly (1:16). The imperative dwell (enoiketo) means to be a home at, or to live in. It denotes abundance. The phrase within you, could be taken to mean “in your hearts.” The Word dwells within us by means of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 2 Tim. 1:14; cf. 1 Cor. 3:16 Titus 3:5-6). This do not mean that the Word is not necessary; the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with and through the Word. The two work hand in hand. Paul had received the Word by special revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:20; Col. 1:25-26). Paul wanted the gospel of grace to dwell in the believers.

This exhortation is followed by three Greek participles.[5] The Greek text[6] reads— “with all equitant wisdom, teaching and admonishing yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The particles are teaching and admonishing (clearly coronating participles) and singing. It is not clear how to handle these participles in regard to the text.[7] It seems to me that they stand as the means or method of letting the word dwell in us richly.

First it has to do with the mind. Teaching is more than communication; it has the idea of instruction. Admonishing means to put in the mind. It is used in the present tense indicating continuously teaching and admonishing in all wisdom.

Second, the third participle has to do with the exercise of thanksgiving in appreciation of the teaching and admonishing. This speaks of worship of the mind by singing and praising God in or with gratitude.

Three participles describe three things that are to be present in the worship service of the church: teaching, admonish, and sing praise to our God. These are expressions of letting the Word of Christ dwelling with us and the congregation.

  • The Glory of God: “Whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (3:17). Paul concludes the exhortation by a summary statement exhortation. Three elements are involved here:[8]

First, all-inclusive actions are in focus here. Word and deed is a common reference to one’s entire interaction with the world (2 Thess. 2:117; cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). They cover every aspect of life.

Second, our lives and its activities are under the authority of Jesus Christ. The genitive case of His name indicates ownership, or possession Everything we do ought to come under His authority and our submission to His will.  Our conduct is to be consistent with His character. Our actions should be to His credit and in the sphere of our Lord (cf. Eph. 5:20; Phil. 2:10).

Third, it is to be done in thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us. The word thanksgiving expresses giving good grace. It is to be an action of grace, for we have no merit of our own. God works in and through us and we are to exercise it in thanksgiving. It denotes humility of the mind in praise and thankfulness.

[1]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 204-205.
[3]  David Wenham, PAUL FOLLOWER OF JESUS OR FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANITY? [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1995], 287-288.
[4]  Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 246. Also see Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 250.
[6]  Translated from THE MAJORITY TEXT.
[7]  See the discussion of Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 286-289
[8]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 144

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Genesis 001


Genesis opens by going back to “the beginning” (Genesis 1:1). The first eleven chapters deal with the history before the time of Abraham. Revelation never is given in a vacuum. Scriptures treat this account as history (Exodus 20:9-11; 31:17; Psalm 8; 104; Matthew 19:4-6; 2 Peter 3:5; Hebrews 4:4). It provides a background and history to Genesis and the whole Bible. Like any history it is built on the principle of selectivity.

No historical narrative is a complete account of all that occurred in a given event or series of events. The author must select those events that most effectively relate not only what happened but also the meaning and significance of what happened.[1]

There is a common world view in Genesis and the ancient Near East. We have other writings and records from the ancient Near East to better help us understand the period and the worldviews that existed. The ancient ideas were at odds with the Biblical account, but there are also areas of agreement. Wenham writes:

...Genesis share a common outline of primeval history with its neighbors.... Both agreed that an invisible supernatural world existed; that a God or gods existed; were personal; could think, speak, and communicate with men; indeed, control human affairs.[2]

However, these are overshadowed by the great differences. The Genesis account is distinct and unique among the ancient Near East. It is an inspired account (2 Timothy 3:16)

Moses made his careful selection on the basis of ancestry leading to the nation Israel, tracing it back to the God of creation and Adam. This is clearly indicated in his arrangement of the whole book around the genealogies.

[1] Sailhamer, John H., (Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor) “Genesis,” THE EXPOSITOR’S BIBLE COMMENTARY, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1990], 2:13.
[2]  Wenham,  Gordon J, WBC: GENESIS 1-15, (Dallas TX, Word, 1991), xlvii

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Studies in Colossians #30


Put on Positive Characteristics (3:12-17).

These 12 verses are connected to what precedes, but go beyond what had been given. This section can be divided into two subdivisions: the new characteristics (3:12-14), and the exhortations based on putting them on (3:15-17). “A new character demands new characteristics!”[1] The characteristics are in line with Colossians 3:1, seeking “the things above.” It must be noted that there is a correspondence between putting off the old and putting on the new. Harris points out that the two are “issuing specific ethical directives…in being positive exhortation after negative injunctions.”[2] It is not enough to put off the old, it must be replaced with the new. Each of these injunctions begin with the conjunction “therefore” (3:5, 12); calling for action on the part of the believers. This is clear in verse 12 for the Greek text reads: “Put on therefore,” which the KJV translates more literally.

The new characteristics (3:12-14).

The section has a clear structure:

12a         The imperative: Put on therefore

12b         The basis: as elect of God, holy and beloved

12c         The list: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

13-14      The means: bearing with…forgiving…loving.

The imperative is to “put on” the new characteristics that produce harmony in the church, the body of Christ. While therefore calls for action based on what went before and alludes to Colossians 3:10; the word as points forward to the basis of doing so. They coordinate the past arguments with the new argument of the apostle. We are to “put on” new characters that are in harmony with our new position in Christ.

The basis of the new argument is based upon our identification: “as the elect of God, holy and beloved” (3:12). Our identification is that of “the elect of God,” and “holy” and “beloved” stand in apposition[3] to being elect of God. This can be diagrammed:

Elect of God



The elect of God is holy and beloved. These further define the status of the elect. The word elect is a compound word in the Greek (eklektos), meaning to pick out, to choose, or select. The object is the persons who have been chosen. Paul tells us as members of the church, the body of Christ, we were convicted by the Holy Spirit and drawn to the Son by God (John 6:44; 16:7-11; Titus 1:1). It speaks of God’s gracious initiative in drawing men to Himself.[4] It speaks of our status or position in Christ.

The words holy and beloved of God describes those who are elect. They, like the word elect, has its roots in the Old Testament. The Jews used them of the nation and of its leaders (i.e. Moses and Solomon). These words come from the self-identification of Israel. Lightfoot observes, “All the three terms…are transferred from the Old Covenant to the New, from Israel after the flesh to the Israel of the Spirit.[5] Paul uses it in reference to the elect of God in the church as well, and applies it to all believers. Thus, these descriptions are inter-dispensation in nature. There is common ground between Israel and the church. Both members of the kingdom of heaven and the church, the body of Christ, have these characteristics. The terms are redemptive, not dispensational. Being elect specifies the believers position, while holy and beloved specifies the character or elements of being elect (Eph. 1:4-5). “These words are nouns used as names that describe what they were in God’s sight.[6] They are so, not because of what they had done or by their merit, by God’s redemptive grace and sovereignty. They are positive in nature.

Because as believers we are elect, holy, and beloved we are to “put on” certain qualities. In contrast to being elect, holy, and beloved, these qualities are our responsibilities to display. The injunction to “put on” enforces this as being conform in practice what has be done to us in Christ. This list focuses on the features that are consistent with our redemption. Paul lists five qualities we are responsible for:

·         “A heart of compassion” (3:12). The Greek text reads the “bowels of compassion,” which the KJV translates more literally. The Greek word means chief intestines, entrails, bowels, and also translated tender mercies (Lk. 1:78) of the heart, affections (2 Cor. 6:12), inward affections (2 Cor. 7:15), even mercy (Phil 2:1). Most of the commentaries point the translation based on the Greek idea that bowels were the set of emotions. It expresses a yearning compassion that is exercised by us toward others based on our position as the elect of God. As such we are beloved, and we are to express it by our compassion.

·          “Kindness” (3:12). The Greek word chrestotes is akin to the word grace, and means kindness, goodness shown, or beneficence. It is the virtue of grace in action. It is a temper of mind.[7] It is translated as “gentleness” in Galatians 5:22, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is often used of God (cf. Psa. 106:1; 107:1; 136:1; Jer. 40:11). The goodness of God is seen in nature (Psa. 64:22); in the events of history (Psa. 145:7); judgment (Psa. 119:39); and in the teaching of God (Psa. 119:65-68). It speaks of His forbearance (Rom. 2:4), and His kindness in salvation (Titus 3:4) to those who are not kind (Rom. 3:12). It indicates that we as believers (the elect) are to treat others as God has treated us.

·         “Humility” (3:12). This is a Greek compound word (tapeinphrosyne) meaning the lowest of mind, and indicates the process of humble thinking (cf. Phil. 2:3). It already has been used in 2:18, 23. It is in contrast to pride and superior thinking. We are to display the mind of Christ (Phil, 2:5).

·         “Gentleness” (3:2). The KJV has it translated “meekness.” The word is used 11 times and has various translations including meekness, gentleness, and kindness. It is not the same word for kindness (chrestotes), rather it is prautes. It is also one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Meekness is not weakness, as the modern day useage implies. That was not so in the Greek world. Among the Greek world it indicated power claim or to soothe. It expresses having the correct attitude. Scripture speaks of it as a quality of a good wife; of a businessman who answers in a friendly manner; and one who has the blessings of God (Psa. 25:9). It is connected with lowliness and humility (cf. Eph. 4:2). It is displayed in the person of Jesus (Matt. 11:29).[8] It denotes being nonaggressive.[9] It is not being overly impressed with self. Paul implores the Corinthians with gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1). It speaks of acting with consideration and understanding, not in anger, for others and their situation. It is not to be rude or rash. It is a common call by Paul for believers (Eph. 4:2; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).

·         “Patience” (3:12). The KJV translates it “long-suffering” which is a compound Greek word literally meaning long and passion or anger. It is makrothumia, meaning wrath that is far away.[10] Campbell observes:

Believers are to be a long time in coming to passion and anger; hence they are to be slow in getting passionate or angry. They are to put up with much for a long time –not to lose their cool.[11] 

It is linked with kindness/goodness in Romans 2:4; 2 Cor. 6:6; and Gal. 5:22). Paul thinks of them a companions. It is an expression of patience by the means of self-restraint. Barclays says “It expresses the attitude to people which never loses patience…[or] hope for them.”[12] It carries the idea of endurance (1 Peter 3:15). Its action takes place in the atmosphere of love (Eph. 4:2). This is in contrast to the false teachers (2 Tim. 3:10). We believers are to have unfailing patience (2 Tim. 4:2). It entails patience waiting on the action of God (cf. Heb. 6:12-15).

The means by which we are to “put on” of new clothes is now expressed by Paul. It is clear in verses 13-14. These verses do two things:[13] (1) They modify the main clause of putting on. (2) They form a “then clause,” indicating action or results. They are exercises compelled by the five virtues listed.  Thereby, Paul is now demonstrating how these virtues are to be exercised by the believer in the congregation. There are three distinct and progressive ways:

  • Bearing with one another” (3:13). The Greek word is anechomai meaning to bear; to endure patiently, to tolerate or to suffer with. Campbell says that the translation of bearing is a negative word which is uncharacteristic in a positive list and favors the translation “support.”[14] I disagree. I find no support for that translation. I do not see the word bearing as negative. It is an imperative verb denoting a command. There is a parallel by Paul in Ephesians 4:2. It has the idea, to put up or bear with people or persecution (2 Cor. 4:12; 2 Thess. 1:4). In the face of persecution, we are to bless; endure; and/or encourage. Ephesians 4:2 it modifies the word patience, and it may be the case here, since that is the last virtue mentioned.[15] This is the first step of the assembly toward one another. The present tense indicates that forbearance is a continual action.[16]     

  • Forgiving each other” (3:13). We are to exercise forgiveness of others in the church, the body of Christ. The word forgiveness is an aspect of grace (charizomai).[17] Forgiveness is given to others in spite of their non-merit. They may not deserve it, but part of grace is to forgive. It speaks of the gracious nature of forgiveness. It confirms that there will be times forgiveness is needed, both concerning us and others. Forgiveness is to be extended to “whoever has a complaint against another.” This is to be practiced in the face of a personal assault. At times we will be offered by another in the community of fellowship. In such cases we are to follow the example of Christ— “just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” We find a parallel in Ephesians 4:32. O’Brien calls this “conformity” teaching[18] He has a point. The Christian life is that of being conformed to the image of Christ. This is where the impact of the redeeming work of Christ by which the believer conforms to the same actions of Christ. This takes place by complete surrender to the transforming power of Christ in our life (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). His last admonition of gracious forgiving is “so also should you” (3:13). The Greek text does not have the word should; rather reads “so also you do.”

  • Beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (3:14). Every translation, including the KJV, bracket the words “put on” indicating that the words are not in the Greek text, and have been added by the translators to give the logical context and meaning. All translators agree that the words “put on” is the implied verb and therefore added. The reading is literally; “beyond or above all these love.” The Greek word epi (above) “means ‘in addition to’ with the idea implied, that what follows is the chief or best.”[19] The center of attention is love. Love is the most important element of grace for Paul (cf. Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:6, 14,22). It is the garment that is to be added over the other items of dress. Lightfoot says “love is the outer garment which holds the others in their places.[20] Paul commonly points to love as the motivating factor of the Christian life and service (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; 8:7; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:1; 1 Tim. 6:11; Titus 2:2), without which there is no profit (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:14). The reason of love’s importance is found in the phrase: “which is the perfect bond of unity.” The word bond is a compound Greek word meaning to bind together. It is the coherent element of all the virtues. Love is the glue that bonds us together as believers. The bond of perfection can be translated as an attributing genitive modifying the word bond; or it can be an objective genitive.[21] Either way is permissible. If an attributing genitive it is translated “bond of perfection,” as an objective genitive it is the “bond that produces perfection.” It seems to me that the first way is the best, thus love is the perfect bond. It seems to fit the context better. Love is the perfect bond that brings unity or harmony in the congregation of believers. Thus, perfect should be taken as a description of the bond. This perfect bond produces unity in the church, the body of Christ.
    It should be noted that all these virtues and their exercise are centered upon interpersonal relationships within the local body. We are the elect, holy, and the beloved of God by our position in Christ. These virtues and their exercise are for our practice, in order to give evidence of our being conformed to the image of Christ.


[1]  S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “Christian Apparel,” BIBLIOTHECA SACA, January 1964, 29.
[3]  Apposition: where two nouns have the same referent stand in relation to the rest of a sentence or phrase [see Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary].
[5]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 219
[6]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 240.
[7]   Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 218.
[8]  Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, 107-121.
[9]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 145.
[10]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 141
[11]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 145.
[12]  Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, 91
[14]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON 145.
[16]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 202.
[17] Charizomai means to bestow kindness, grant free favor, to remit, or to forgive.
[18]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 202.
[19]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 244.
[20]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 222.