Colossians 1:29
Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Whereunto I also labour.—In this verse St. Paul passes from the plural to the singular, evidently in preparation for the strong personal remonstrance of Colossians 2:1-7.

His working . . .—See Ephesians 1:12, and Note there. Perhaps, as in Galatians 2:8 (“He that wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of the Circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles”), there is special allusion to the grace given to him for his Apostleship of the Gentiles.

Colossians

CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOUR

Colossians 1:29.

I have chosen this text principally because it brings together the two subjects which are naturally before us to-day. All ‘Western Christendom,’ as it is called, is to-day commemorating the Pentecostal gift. My text speaks about that power that ‘worketh in us mightily.’ True, the Apostle is speaking in reference to the fiery energy and persistent toil which characterised him in proclaiming Christ, that he might present men perfect before Him. But the same energy which he expended on his apostolic office he expended on his individual personality. And he would not have discharged the one unless he had first laboured on the other. And although in a letter contemporary with this one from which my text is taken he speaks of himself as no longer young, but ‘such an one as Paul the aged, and likewise, also a prisoner of Jesus Christ,’ the young spirit was in him, and the continual pressing forward to unattained heights. And that is the spirit, not only of a section of the Church divided from the rest by youth and by special effort, but of the whole Church if it is worth calling a Church, and unless it is thus instinct, it is a mere dead organisation.

So I hope that what few things I have to say may apply to, and be felt to be suitable by all of us, whether we are nominally Christian Endeavourers or not. If we are Christian people, we are such. If we are not endeavouring, shall I venture to say we are not Christians? At any rate, we are very poor ones.

Now here, then, are two plain things, a great universal Christian duty and a sufficient universal Christian endowment. ‘I work striving’; that is the description of every true Christian. ‘I work striving, according to His working, who worketh in me mightily’: there is the great gift which makes the work and the striving possible. Let me briefly deal, then, with these two.

I. The solemn universal Christian obligation.

Now the two words which the Apostle employs here are both of them very emphatic. ‘His words were half battles,’ was said about Luther. It may be as truly said about Paul. And that word ‘work’ which he employs, means, not work with one hand, or with a delicate forefinger, but it means toil up to the verge of weariness. The notion of fatigue is almost, I might say, uppermost in the word as it is used in the New Testament. Some people like to ‘labour’ so as never to turn a hair, or bring a sweat-drop on to their foreheads. That is not Christian Endeavour. Work that does not ‘take it out of you’ is not worth doing. The other word ‘striving’ brings up the picture of the arena with the combatants’ strain of muscle, their set teeth, their quick, short breathing, their deadly struggle. That is Paul’s notion of Endeavour. Now ‘Endeavour,’ like a great many other words, has a baser and a nobler side to it. Some people, when they say, ‘I will endeavour,’ mean that they are going to try in a half-hearted way, with no prospect of succeeding. That is not Christian Endeavour. The meaning of the word--for the expression in my text might just as well be rendered ‘endeavouring’ as ‘striving’--is that of a buoyant confident effort of all the concentrated powers, with the certainty of success. That is the endeavour that we have to cultivate as Christian men. And there is only one field of human effort in which that absolute confidence that it shall not be in vain is anything but presumptuous arrogance; namely, in the effort after making ourselves what God means us to be, what Jesus Christ longs for us to be, what the Spirit of God is given to us in order that we should be. ‘We shall not fail,’ ought to be the word of every man and woman when they set themselves to the great task of working out, in their own characters and personalities, the Divine intention which is made a Divine possibility by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Divine Spirit.

So then what we come to is just this, dear brethren, if we are Christians at all, we have to make a business of our religion; to go about it as if we meant work. Ah! what a contrast there is between the languid way in which Christian men pursue what the Bible designates their ‘calling’ and that in which men with far paltrier aims pursue theirs! And what a still sadder contrast there is between the way in which we Christians go about our daily business, and the way in which we go about our Christian life! Why, a man will take more pains to learn some ornamental art, or some game, than he will ever take to make himself a better Christian. The one is work. What is the other? To a very large extent dawdling and make-believe.

You remember the old story,--it may raise a smile, but there should be a deep thought below the smile,--of the little child that said as to his father that ‘he was a Christian, but he had not been working much at it lately.’ Do not laugh. It is a great deal too true of--I will not venture to say what percentage of--the professing Christians of this day. Work at your religion. That is the great lesson of my text. Endeavour with confidence of success. The Book of Proverbs says: ‘He that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster,’ and that is true. A man that does ‘the work of the Lord negligently’ is scarcely to be credited with doing it at all. Dear friends, young or old, if you name the name of Christ, be in earnest, and make earnest work of your Christian character.

And now may I venture two or three very plain exhortations? First, I would say--if you mean to make your Christian life a piece of genuine work and striving, the first thing that you have to do is to endeavour in the direction of keeping its aim very clear before you. There are many ways in which we may state the goal of the Christian life, but let us put it now into the all-comprehensive form of likeness to Jesus Christ, by entire conformity to His Example and full interpretation of His life. I do not say ‘Heaven’; I say ‘Christ.’

That is our aim, the loftiest idea of development that any human spirit can grasp, and rising high above a great many others which are noble but incomplete. The Christian ideal is the greatest in the universe. There is no other system of thought that paints man as he is, so darkly; there is none that paints man as he is meant to be, in such radiant colours. The blacks upon the palette of Christianity are blacker, and the whites are whiter, and the golden is more radiant, than any other painter has ever mixed. And so just because the aim which lies before the least and lowest of us, possessing the most imperfect and rudimentary Christianity, is so transcendent and lofty, it is hard to keep it clear before our eyes, especially when all the shabby little necessities of daily life come in to clutter up the foreground, and hide the great distance. Men may live up at Darjeeling there on the heights for weeks, and never see the Himalayas towering opposite. The lower hills are clear; the peaks are wreathed in cloud. So the little aims, the nearer purposes, stand out distinct and obtrusive, and force themselves, as it were, upon our eyeballs, and the solemn white Throne of the Eternal away across the marshy levels, is often hid, and it needs an effort for us to keep it clear before us. One of the main reasons for much that is unsatisfactory in the spiritual condition of the average Christian of this day is precisely that he has not burning ever before him there, the great aim to which he ought to be tending. So he gets loose and diffused, and vague and uncertain. That is what Paul tells you when he proposes himself as an example: ‘So run I, not as uncertainly,’ The man who knows where he is running makes a bee-line for the goal. If he is not sure of his destination, of course he zigzags. ‘So fight I, not as one that beateth the air’--if I see my antagonist I can hit him. If I do not see him clearly I strike like a swordsman in the dark, at random, and my sword comes back unstained. If you want to make the harbour, keep the harbour lights always clear before you, or you will go yawing about, and washing here and there, in the trough of the wave, and the tempest will be your master. If you do not know where you are going you will have to say, like the men in the old story in the Old Book, ‘Thy servant went no whither.’ If you are going to endeavour, endeavour first to keep the goal clear before you.

And endeavour next to keep up communion with Jesus Christ, which is the secret of all peaceful and of all noble living. And endeavour next after concentration. And what does that mean? It means that you have to detach yourself from hindrances. It means that you have to prosecute the Christian aim all through the common things of Christian life. If it were not possible to be pursuing the great aim of likeness to Jesus Christ, in the veriest secularities of the most insignificant and trivial occupations, then it would be no use talking about that being our aim. If we are not making ourselves more like Jesus Christ by the way in which we handle our books, or our pen, or our loom, or our scalpel, or our kitchen utensils, then there is little chance of our ever making ourselves like Jesus Christ. For it is these trifles that make life, and to concentrate ourselves on the pursuit of the Christian aim is, in other words, to carry that Christian aim into every triviality of our daily lives.

There are three Scripture passages which set forth various aspects of the aim that we have before us, and from each of these aspects deduce the one same lesson. The Apostle says ‘giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,’ etc., ‘for if ye do these things ye shall never fail.’ He also exhorts: ‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.’ And finally he says: ‘Be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, blameless.’ There are three aspects of the Christian course, and the Christian aim, the addition to our faith of all the clustering graces and virtues and powers that can be hung upon it, like jewels on the neck of a queen; the making our calling and election sure, and the being found at last tranquil, spotless, stainless, and being found so by Him. These great aims are incumbent on all Christians, they require diligence, and ennoble the diligence which they require.

So, brethren, we have all to be Endeavourers if we are Christians, and that to the very end of our lives. For our path is the only path on which men tread that has for its goal an object so far off that it never can be attained, so near that it can ever be approached. This infinite goal of the Christian Endeavour means inspiration for youth, and freshness for old age, and that man is happy who can say: ‘Not as though I had already attained’ at the end of a long life, and can say it, not because he has failed, but because in a measure he has succeeded. Other courses of life are like the voyages of the old mariners which were confined within the narrow limits of the Mediterranean, and steered from headland to headland. But the Christian passes through the jaws of the straits, and comes out on a boundless sunlit ocean where, though he sees no land ahead, he knows there is a peaceful shore, beyond the western waves. ‘I work striving.’

Now one word as to the other thought that is here, and that is

II. The all-sufficient Christian gift.

‘According to His working, which worketh in me mightily.’ I need not discuss whether ‘His’ in my text refers to God or to Christ. The thing meant is the operation upon the Christian spirit, of that Divine Spirit whose descent the Church to-day commemorates. At this stage of my sermon I can only remind you in a word, first of all, that the Apostle here is arrogating to himself no special or peculiar gift, is not egotistically setting forth something which he possessed and other Christian people did not--that power which, ‘working in him mightily,’ worked in all his brethren as well. It was his conviction and his teaching--would that it were more operatively and vitally the conviction of all professing Christians to-day, and would that it were more conspicuously, and in due proportion to the rest of Christian truth, the teaching of all Christian teachers to-day!--that that Divine power is in the very act of faith received and implanted in every believing soul. ‘Know ye not,’ the Apostle could say to his hearers, ‘that ye have the Spirit of God, except ye be reprobates.’ I doubt whether the affirmative response would spring to the lips of all professing or real Christians to-day as swiftly as it would have done then. And I cannot help feeling, and feeling with increasing gravity of pressure as the days go on, that the thing that our churches, and we as individuals, perhaps need most to-day, is the replacing of that great truth--I do not call it a ‘doctrine,’ that is cold, it is experience--in its proper place. They who believe on Him do receive a new life, a supernatural communication of the new Spirit, to be the very power that rules in their lives.

It is an inward gift. It is not like the help that men can render us, given from without and apprehended and incorporated with ourselves through the medium of the understanding or of the heart. There is an old story in the history of Israel about a young king that was bid by the prophet to bend his bow against the enemies of Israel, as a symbol; and the old prophet put his withered, skinny brown hand on the young man’s fleshy one, and then said to him, ‘Shoot.’ But this Divine Spirit comes to strengthen us in a more intimate and blessed fashion than that, for it glides into our hearts and dwells in our spirits, and our work, as my text says, is His working. This ‘working within’ is stated in the original of my text most emphatically, for it is literally ‘the inworking which inworketh in me mightily.’

So, dear brethren, the first direct aim of all our endeavour ought to be to receive and to keep and to increase our gift of that Divine Spirit. The work and the striving of which my text speaks would be sheer slavery unless we had that help. It would be impossible of accomplishment unless we had it.

If any power we have, it is to ill, And all the power is Thine, to do and eke to will.

Let us, then, begin our endeavour, not by working, but by receiving. Is not that the very meaning of the doctrine that we are always talking about, that men are saved, not by works but by faith? Does not that mean that the first step is reception, and the first requisite is receptiveness, and that then, and after that, second and not first, come working and striving? To keep our hearts open by desire, to keep them open by purity, are the essentials. The dove will not come into a fouled nest. It is said that they forsake polluted places. But also we have to use the power which is inwrought. Use is the way to increase all gifts, from the muscle in your arm to the Christian life in your spirit. Use it, and it grows. Neglect it, and it vanishes, and like the old Jewish heroes, a man may go forth to exercise himself as of old time, and know not that the Spirit of God hath departed from him. Dear friends, do not bind yourselves to the slavery of Endeavour, until you come into the liberty and wealth of receiving. He gives first, and then says to you, ‘Now go to work, and keep that good thing which is committed unto thee.’

There is but one thought more in this last part of my text, which I must not leave untouched, and that is that this sufficient and universal gift is not only the means by which the great universal duty can be discharged, but it ought to be the measure in which it is discharged. ‘I work according to the working in me.’ That is, all the force that came into Paul by that Divine Spirit, came out of Paul in his Christian conduct, and the gift was not only the source, but also the measure, of this man’s Christian Endeavour. Is that true about us? They say that the steam-engine is a most wasteful application of power, that a great deal of the energy which is generated goes without ever doing any work. They tell us that one of the great difficulties in the way of economic application of electricity is the loss which comes through using accumulators. Is not that like a great many of us? So much power poured into us; so little coming out from us and translated into actual work! Such a ‘rushing mighty wind,’ and the air about us so heavy and stagnant and corrupt! Such a blaze of fire, and we so cold! Such a cataract of the river of the water of life, and our lips parched and our crops seared and worthless! Ah, brethren! when we look at ourselves, and when we think of the condition of so many of the churches to which we belong, the old rebuke of the prophet comes back to us in this generation, ‘Thou that art named the House of Israel, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are these His doings?’ We have an all-sufficient power. May our working and striving be according to it, and may we work mightily, being ‘strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!’

1:24-29 Both the sufferings of the Head and of the members are called the sufferings of Christ, and make up, as it were, one body of sufferings. But He suffered for the redemption of the church; we suffer on other accounts; for we do but slightly taste that cup of afflictions of which Christ first drank deeply. A Christian may be said to fill up that which remains of the sufferings of Christ, when he takes up his cross, and after the pattern of Christ, bears patiently the afflictions God allots to him. Let us be thankful that God has made known to us mysteries hidden from ages and generations, and has showed the riches of his glory among us. As Christ is preached among us, let us seriously inquire, whether he dwells and reigns in us; for this alone can warrant our assured hope of his glory. We must be faithful to death, through all trials, that we may receive the crown of life, and obtain the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls.Whereunto I also labour - See the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:10.

Striving - Greek agonizing. He taxed all his energies to accomplish this, as the wrestlers strove for the mastery in the Grecian games.

According to his working - Not by my own strength, but by the power which God alone can give; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:10.

Remarks On Colossians 1

Among the truths of practical importance taught by this chapter are the following:

1. We should rejoice in the piety of others; Colossians 1:2-8. It should be to us a subject of unfeigned gratitude to God; when others are faithful to their high calling, and when they so live as to adorn the blessed gospel. In all their faith, and love, and joy, we should find occasion for thankfulness to God. We should not envy it, or be disposed to charge it to wrong motives, or suspect it of insincerity or hypocrisy; but should welcome every account of the zeal and faithfulness of those who bear the Christian name - no matter who the persons are, or with what denomination of Christians they may be connected. Especially is this true in relation to our friends, or to those for whose salvation we have labored. The source of high, est gratitude to a Christian, in relation to his friends, should be, that they act as becomes the friends of God; the purest joy that can swell the bosom of a minister of Christ, is produced by the evidence that they to whom he has ministered are advancing in knowledge and love.

2. We should earnestly pray that they who have been much favored should be prospered more and more; Colossians 1:9-11.

3. It is a good time to pray for Christians when they are already prosperous, and are distinguished for zeal and love; Colossians 1:9-11. We have then encouragement to do it. We feel that our prayers will not be in vain. For a man that is doing well, we feel encouraged to pray that he may do still better. For a Christian who has true spiritual joy, we are encouraged to pray that he may have more joy. For one who is aiming to make advances in the knowledge of God, we are encouraged to pray that he may make still higher advances; and if, therefore; we wish others to pray for us, we should, show them by our efforts that there is some encouragement for them to do it.

4. Let us cherish with suitable gratitude the remembrance of the goodness of God, who has translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son; Colossians 1:12-13. By nature we, like others, were under the power of darkness. In that kingdom of sin, and error, and misery, we were born and reared, until God, in great compassion, brought us out from it, and made us heirs of light. Now, if we are true Christians, we belong to a kingdom of holiness, and knowledge, and happiness. No words can express appropriately the goodness of God in thus making us heirs of light; and not an hour of our lives should pass without a thoughtful remembrance of his mercy.

5. In the affections of our hearts let the Saviour in all things have the pre-eminence; Colossians 1:15-18. He is the image of God; and when we think of him, we see what God is - how holy, pure, benevolent. He is the first-born of all things; the Son of God; exalted to the highest seat in the universe. When we look on the sun, moon, and stars, let us remember that he created them all. When we think of the angels, let us remember that they are the workmanship of his hands. When we look on the earth - the floods, the rivers, the hills, let us remember that all these were made by his power. The vast universe is still sustained by him. Its beautiful order and harmony are preserved by him; and all its movements are under his control. So the church is under him. It is subject to his command; receives its laws from his lips, and is bound to do his will. Over all councils and synods; over all rule and authority in the church, Christ is the Head; and whatever may be ordained by man, his will is to be obeyed. So, when we think of the resurrection, Christ is chief. He first rose to return to death no more; he rose as the pledge that his people should also rise. As Christ is thus head over all things, so let him be first in the affections of our hearts; as it is designed that in every thing he shall have the pre-eminence, so let him have the pre-eminence in the affections of our souls. None should be loved by us as Christ is loved; and no friend, however dear, should be allowed to displace him from the supremacy in our affections.

6. In all our wants let us go to Christ; Colossians 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." We do not have a need which he cannot supply; there is not a sorrow of our lives in which he cannot comfort us; not a temptation from which he cannot deliver us; not a pain which he cannot relieve, or enable us to hear. Every necessity of body or mind he can supply; and we never can go to him, in any circumstance of life in which we can possibly be placed, where we shall fail of consolation and support because Christ is not able to help us. True piety learns day by day to live more by simple dependence on the Saviour. As we advance in holiness, we become more and more sensible of our weakness and insufficiency, and more and more disposed to live by the faith of the Son of God."

7. By religion we become united with the angels; Colossians 1:20. Harmony is produced between heaven and earth. Alienated worlds are reconciled again, and from jarring elements there is rearing one great and harmonious empire. The work of the atonement is designed to remove what separated earth from heaven; men from angels; man from God. The redeemed have substantially the same feelings now, which they have who are around the throne of God; and though we are far inferior to them in rank, yet we shall be united with them in affection and purpose, for ever and ever. What a glorious work is that of the gospel! It reconciles and harmonizes distant worlds, and produces concord and love in millions of hearts which but for that would have been alienated forever.

8. By religion we become fitted for heaven; Colossians 1:12, Colossians 1:22. We are made "meet" to enter there; we shall be presented there unblamable and unreprovable. No one will accuse us before the throne of God. Nor Satan, nor our own consciences nor our fellowmen will then urge that we ought not to be admitted to heaven. Redeemed and pardoned, renewed and sanctified, the universe will be satisfied that we ought to be saved, and will rejoice. Satan will no longer charge the friends of Jesus with insincerity and hypocrisy; our own minds will be no longer troubled with doubts and fears; and holy angels will welcome us to their presence. Not a voice will be lifted up in reproach or condemnation, and the Universal Father will stretch out his arms and press to his bosom the returning prodigals. Clothed in the white robes of salvation, we shall be welcome even in heaven, and the universe will rejoice that we are there.

9. It is a privilege to suffer for the welfare of the church; Colossians 1:24. Paul regarded it as such and rejoiced in the trials which came upon him in the cause of religion. The Saviour so, regarded it, and shrank not from the great sorrows involved in the work of saving his people. We may suffer much in promoting the same object. We may be exposed to persecution and death. We may be called to part with all we have - to leave country and friends and home, to go and preach the gospel to benighted people. On a foreign shore, far from all that we hold dear on earth, we may lie down and die, and our grave, unmarked by sculptured marble, may be soon forgotten. But to do good; to defend truth; to promote virtue; to save the souls of the perishing, is worth all which it costs, and he who accomplishes these things by exchanging for them earthly comforts, and even life, has made a wise exchange. The universe gains by it in happiness; and the benevolent heart should rejoice that there is such a gain, though attended with our individual and personal suffering.

continued...

29. Whereunto—namely, "to present every man perfect in Christ."

I also labour—rather, "I labor also." I not only "proclaim" (English Version, "preach") Christ, but I labor also.

striving—in "conflict" (Col 2:1) of spirit (compare Ro 8:26). The same Greek word is used of Epaphras (Col 4:12), "laboring fervently for you in prayers": literally, "agonizing," "striving as in the agony of a contest." So Jesus in Gethsemane when praying (Lu 22:44): so "strive" (the same Greek word, "agonize"), Lu 13:24. So Jacob "wrestled" in prayer (Ge 32:24-29). Compare "contention," Greek, "agony," or "striving earnestness," 1Th 2:2.

according to his working—Paul avows that he has power to "strive" in spirit for his converts, so far only as Christ works in him and by him (Eph 3:20; Php 4:13).

mightily—literally, "in power."

To perform which, saith he, I earnestly endeavour and take pains to weariness, as a husbandman, 2 Timothy 2:6, contending as one in an agony, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, by his grace which was with me {1 Corinthians 15:10} in power; not by my own strength or wisdom to do or suffer, but by his effectual aids, enabling me for his service which might, Colossians 1:11 Romans 15:15-21 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 Ephesians 1:19,20 3:7 Philippians 4:13.

Whereunto I also labour,.... In the word and doctrine, by preaching Christ, warning sinners of their danger, teaching them the way of salvation, and their duty; with this view, that, in thee great day of account, he might bring a large number of them, and set them before Christ as the seals of his ministry, as instances of the grace of Christ, and as perfect in him:

striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily; meaning either in his prayers, earnestly entreating of God that he would succeed his labours, and bless them to the conversion of many; which sense is favoured by the Syriac version, which renders it, "and make supplication"; that is, with that effectual fervent prayer, which was powerfully wrought in him: or in his ministry, combating with many enemies, fighting the good fight of faith; not in his own strength, but through the power of Christ; which enabled him to preach the Gospel far and near, in season and out of season; which supported his outward man, and strengthened his inward man for that service, and made it effectual to the good of the souls of many: some refer this to the signs, wonders, and miracles, which Christ wrought by him, for the confirmation of the Gospel; but the other sense, which takes in both the power by which he was assisted in preaching, both in body and soul, and that which went along with his ministry to make it useful to others, is to be preferred.

Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 1:29. On the point of now urging upon the readers their obligation to fidelity in the faith (Colossians 2:4), and that from the platform of the personal relation in which he stood towards them as one unknown to them by face (Colossians 2:1), Paul now turns from the form of expression embracing others in common with himself, into which he had glided at Colossians 1:28 in harmony with its contents, back to the individual form (the first person singular), and asserts, first of all, in connection with Colossians 1:28, that for the purpose of the παραστῆσαι κ.τ.λ. (εἰς ὅ, comp. 1 Timothy 4:10) he also gives himself even toil (κοπιῶ, comp. Romans 16:6; Romans 16:12; 1 Corinthians 4:12), striving, etc.

καί] also, subjoins the κοπιᾶν to the καταγγέλλειν κ.τ.λ., in which he subjects himself also to the former; it is therefore augmentative, in harmony with the climactic progress of the discourse; not a mere equalization of the aim and the striving (de Wette). Neither this καί, nor even the transition to the singular of the verb,—especially since the latter is not emphasized by the addition of an ἐγώ,—can justify the interpretation of Hofmann, according to which εἰς ὅ is, contrary to its position, to be attached to ἀγωνιζόμενος, and κοπιῷ is to mean: “I become weary and faint” (comp. John 4:6; Revelation 2:3, and Düsterdieck in loc.). Paul, who has often impressed upon others the μὴ ἐκκακεῖν, and for himself is certain of being more than conqueror in all things (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 4:8, et al.), can hardly have borne testimony about himself in this sense, with which, moreover, the ἀγωνίζεσθαι in the strength of Christ is not consistent. In his case, as much as in that of any one, the οὐκ ἐκοπίασας of Revelation 2:3 holds good.

ἀγωνιζόμενος] Compare 1 Timothy 4:10. Here, however, according to the context, Colossians 2:1 ff., the inward striving (comp. Luke 13:24) against difficulties and hostile forces, the striving of solicitude, of watching, of mental and emotional exertion, of prayer, etc., is meant; as respects which Paul, like every regenerate person (Galatians 5:17), could not be raised above the resistance of the σάρξ to the πνεῦμα ruling in him. Comp. Chrysostom: καὶ οὐχ ἁπλῶς σπουδάζω, φησιν, οὐδὲ ὡς ἔτυχεν, ἀλλὰ κοπιῶ ἀγωνιζόμενος μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σπουδῆς, μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς ἀγρυπνίας. It is not: “tot me periculis ac malis objicere” (Erasmus, comp. Grotius, Estius, Heinrichs, Bähr, and others), which outward struggling, according to Flatt, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others, should be understood along with that inward striving; Colossians 2:1 only points to the latter; comp. Colossians 4:12.

κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν κ.τ.λ.] for Paul does not contend, amid the labours of his office, according to the measure of his own strength, but according to the effectual working of Christ (αὐτοῦ is not to be referred to God, as is done by Chrysostom, Grotius, Flatt, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others), which worketh in him. Comp. Php 4:13. How must this consciousness, at once so humble and confident of victory, have operated upon the readers to stir them up and strengthen them for stedfastness in the faith!

τὴν ἐνεργουμ.] is middle; see on 2 Corinthians 1:6; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 3:20. The modal definition to it, ἐν δυνάμει, mightily (comp. on Romans 1:4), is placed at the end significantly, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:11; it is groundlessly regarded by Holtzmann as probably due to the interpolator.

Colossians 1:29. εἰς ὃ: to achieve which end.—κοπιῶ expresses toil carried to the point of weariness.—ἀγωνιζόμενος: a metaphor from the arena. Meyer takes the reference to be to inward striving against difficulties and hostile forces. Perhaps both inward and outward struggle are referred to (De W.).—κατὰ. The struggle is carried on in proportion not to his natural powers, but to the mightily working energy of Christ within him.—ἐνεργουμένην: a dynamic middle (cf. Colossians 1:6).

29. also] i.e. “actually,” “as a matter of fact.”

labour] The Greek verb denotes toil even to weariness. It (or its cognate noun) occurs e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 4:11; Php 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:6; Revelation 2:2-3.

striving] The Greek verb (our word “agony” is the descendant of a cognate) occurs e.g. Luke 13:24; 1 Corinthians 9:25; below, Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:12; and a cognate, Php 1:30 (see note); below, Colossians 2:1 (see note); 1 Thessalonians 2:2; Hebrews 12:1 (“race” A.V.). By usage, the word gives the thought of the strife and stress of the athletic arena; a thought conspicuous in e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Timothy 6:12. It thus conveys an impression of contest with obstacles in view of a definite goal.

See our note on a similar phrase, Php 1:27.

according to, &c.] Observe the intimation, at once restful and animating, that the presence and movement within him of the power (“working,” energeia) of God were the force behind all his apostolic activity. “By Him he moves, in Him he lives;” while yet the man’s “moving” and “living” is none the less genuinely personal. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Php 2:12-13; Php 4:13; and above, Colossians 1:11.

mightily] Lit. and better, in power. Cp. above Colossians 1:11, and note.

Christ in him” was for St Paul not only “the hope of glory” but also the mainspring of action; the secret of a “power” which was anything but violence, or disorder, but which brought with it a wonderful victory and an inexhaustible energy of life and love. For every “recipient of Christ” (John 1:12) the same secret is to do the same work, as it is reverently recognized and welcomed, according to each one’s path of duty and service.

Colossians 1:29. Ἀγωνιζόμενος, striving) In ch. Colossians 2:1, the conflict (comp. Colossians 4:12) refers to this word.—κατὰ, according to) Paul would not be able to strive in himself: he is only mighty, according as Christ works in him.—αὐτοῦ, of Him) of Christ.

Verse 29. - To which end also I toil hard, striving according to his working (Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; 1 Timothy 4:10; Acts 20:35). Κοπιῶ, to labour to weariness, often used of manual labour, is a favourite word of St. Paul's (1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:9: comp. Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; John 4:38). The figurative use of "striving" ("agonizing," i.e. "contending in the arena") is only Pauline in the New Testament: comp. Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:12; Philippians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; also Luke 22:44; in 1 Timothy 4:10 (R.V.) it is again connected with "toil" (κοπιάω). We need not, with Meyer and Ellicott, distinguish inward from outward striving in this word. The apostle's bodily sufferings (ver. 21) and his mental anxiety (Colossians 2:1) alike enter into the mighty struggle which he is maintaining on the Church's behalf, and which strains every fibre of his nature to the utmost (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:28). "Striving" implies opponents against whom he contends (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 11:26); "toiling hard," the painful efforts he has to make. In this toll he is divinely sustained, for he "strives according to his [Christ's: comp. Philippians 4:13] working." Ανεργεία ("energy," "operative force," "power in action") - another word of St. Paul's vocabulary (frequent also in Aristotle) - is used by him only of supernatural power, "a working of God," "of Satan" (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 11). Which worketh in me with power (ver. 11; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 2:13; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). The "energy of Christ" is such that it "effectually works" in the apostle; the same idea is repeated in noun and verb (ver. 11, note). The verb is middle in voice, as this "working" is that in which the Divine "energy of Christ" puts itself forth and shows what it can do (comp. 2 Corinthians 13:3-6); see note on "bearing fruit," ver. 6, and Winer's 'N. T. Grammar,' p. 318 (dynamic middle). So it works unmistakably "in [or, 'with'] power." Never do we find this consciousness of the Divine power dwelling in himself expressed by St. Paul with such joyous confidence as at this period (see Philippians 1:20, 21; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 3:9, 20; and comp. note on ver. 23 b).



Colossians 1:29I labor (κοπιῶ)

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

Striving (ἀγωνιζόμενος)

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

Working (ἐνέργειαν)

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

Which worketh (τὴν ἐνεργουμένην)

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

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