Colossians 1:5
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
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(5) For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.—The union of hope with faith and love is natural enough. Compare the fuller expression of 1Thessalonians 1:3, “your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope.” But the place assigned to hope in this passage is notable. “For the hope” is really “on account of the hope.” Hence faith and love are spoken of, not merely as leading up to hope, but as being actually kindled by it. Similarly in Ephesians 1:18 we find that, while faith and love are taken for granted, there is a special prayer that they may be enlightened “to know the hope of His calling” as the one thing yet needful. The prominence given to the thought of “the heavenly places” in the Epistles of the captivity, and therefore to Christ in heaven, even more than to Christ risen, is evident to any careful student. Accordingly, the hope, which is the instinct of perfection in man, and which becomes realisation of heaven in the Christian, naturally comes out with corresponding emphasis.

Ye heard before.—That is, at their first conversion. There is an implied warning against the new doctrines, which are more fully noticed in the next chapter.

The truth of the gospel.—This expression (as in Galatians 2:14) is emphatic. It refers to the gospel, not chiefly as a message of graciousness and mercy, but rather as a revelation of eternal truths, itself changeless as the truth it reveals. There is a corresponding emphasis, but stronger still, in St. John. (See, for example, 1John 2:27; 1John 5:20; 2John 1:1-4; 3John 1:2-3.) The gospel was now winning its way to supremacy over civilised thought. Hence the need of warning against the sudden growth of wild speculations, contrasted with the unchanging simplicity of its main truths.



Colossians 1:5.

‘God never sends mouths but He sends meat to feed them,’ says the old proverb. And yet it seems as if that were scarcely true in regard to that strange faculty called Hope. It may well be a question whether on the whole it has given us more pleasure than pain. How seldom it has been a true prophet! How perpetually its pictures have been too highly coloured! It has cast illusions over the future, colouring the far-off hills with glorious purple which, reached, are barren rocks and cold snow. It has held out prizes never won. It has made us toil and struggle and aspire and fed us on empty husks. Either we have not got what we expected or have found it to be less good than it appeared from afar.

If we think of all the lies that hope has told us, of all the vain expenditure of effort to which it has tempted us, of the little that any of us have of what we began by thinking we should surely attain, hope seems a questionable good, and yet how obstinate it is, living on after all disappointments and drawing the oldest amongst us onwards. Surely somewhere there must be a reason for this great and in some respects awful faculty, a vindication of its existence in an adequate object for its grasp.

The New Testament has much to say about hope. Christianity lays hold of it and professes to supply it with its true nourishment and support. Let us look at the characteristics of Christian hope, or, as our text calls it, the hope of the Gospel, that is, the hope which the Gospel creates and feeds in our souls.

I. What does it hope for?

The weakness of our earthly hopes is that they are fixed on things which are contingent and are inadequate to make us blessed. Even when tinted with the rainbow hues, which it lends them, they are poor and small. How much more so when seen in the plain colourless light of common day. In contrast with these the objects of the Christian hope are certain and sufficient for all blessedness. In the most general terms they may be stated as ‘That blessed hope, even the appearing of the Great God and our Saviour.’ That is the specific Christian hope, precise and definite, a real historical event, filling the future with a certain steadfast light. Much is lost in the daily experience of all believers by the failure to set that great and precise hope in its true place of prominence. It is often discredited by millenarian dreams, but altogether apart from these it has solidity and substance enough to bear the whole weight of a world rested upon it.

That appearance of God brings with it the fulfilment of our highest hopes in the ‘grace that is to be brought to us at His appearing.’ All our blessedness of every kind is to be the result of the manifestation of God in His unobscured glory. The mirrors that are set round the fountain of light flash into hitherto undreamed-of brightness. It is but a variation in terms when we describe the blessedness which is to be the result of God’s appearing as being the Hope of Salvation in its fullest sense, or, in still other words, as being the Hope of Eternal Life. Nothing short of the great word of the Apostle John, that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, exhausts the greatness of the hope which the humblest and weakest Christian is not only allowed but commanded to cherish. And that great future is certainly capable of, and in Scripture receives, a still more detailed specification. We hear, for example, of the hope of Resurrection, and it is most natural that the bodily redemption which Paul calls the adoption of the body should first emerge into distinct consciousness as the principal object of hope in the earliest Christian experience, and that the mighty working whereby Jesus is able to subdue all things unto Himself, should first of all be discerned to operate in changing the body of our humiliation into the body of His glory.

But equally natural was it that no merely corporeal transformation should suffice to meet the deep longings of Christian souls which had learned to entertain the wondrous thought of likeness to God as the certain result of the vision of Him, and so believers ‘wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.’ The moral likeness to God, the perfecting of our nature into His image, will not always be the issue of struggle and restraint, but in its highest form will follow on sight, even as here and now it is to be won by faith, and is more surely attained by waiting than by effort.

The highest form which the object of our hope takes is, the Hope of the Glory of God. This goes furthest; there is nothing beyond this. The eyes that have been wearied by looking at many fading gleams and seen them die away, may look undazzled into the central brightness, and we may be sure that even we shall walk there like the men in the furnace, unconsumed, purging our sight at the fountain of radiance, and being ourselves glorious with the image of God. This is the crown of glory which He has promised to them that love Him. Nothing less than this is what our hope has to entertain, and that not as a possibility, but as a certainty. The language of Christian hope is not perhaps this may be, but verily it shall be. To embrace its transcendent certainties with a tremulous faith broken by much unbelief, is sin.

II. The grounds on which the hope of the Gospel rests.

The grounds of our earthly hopes are for the most part possibilities, or, at the best, probabilities turned by our wishes into certainties. We moor our ships to floating islands which we resolve to think continents. So our earthly hopes vary indefinitely in firmness and substance. They are sometimes but wishes turned confident, and can never rise higher than their source, or be more certain than it is. At the best they are building on sand. At the surest there is an element of risk in them. One singer indeed may take for his theme ‘The pleasures of Hope,’ but another answers by singing of ‘The fallacies of Hope.’ Earth-born hopes carry no anchor and have always a latent dread looking out of their blue eyes.

But it is possible for us to dig down to and build on rock, to have a future as certain as our past, to escape in our anticipations from the region of the Contingent, and this we assuredly do when we take the hope of the Gospel for ours, and listen to Paul proclaiming to us ‘Christ which is our Hope,’ or ‘Christ in you the Hope of glory.’ If our faith grasps Jesus Christ risen from the dead and for us entered into the heavenly state as our forerunner, our hope will see in Him the pattern and the pledge of our manhood, and will begin to experience even here and now the first real though faint accomplishments of itself. The Gospel sets forth the facts concerning Christ which fully warrant and imperatively require our regarding Him as the perfect realised ideal of manhood as God meant it to be, and as bearing in Himself the power to make all men even as He is. He has entered into the fellowship of our humiliation and become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh that we might become life of His Life and spirit of His Spirit. As certain as it is that ‘we have borne the image of the earthy,’ so certain is it that ‘we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.’

What cruel waste of a divine faculty it is, then, of which we are all guilty when we allow our hopes to be frittered away and dissipated on uncertain and transient goods which they may never secure, and which, even if secured, would be ludicrously or rather tragically insufficient to make us blessed, instead of withdrawing them from all these and fixing them on Him who alone is able to satisfy our hungry souls in all their faculties for ever!

The hope of the Gospel is firm enough to rest our all upon because in it, by ‘two immutable things in which it is impossible that God should lie,’ His counsel and His oath, He has given strong encouragement to them who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them. Well may the hope for which God’s own eternal character is the guarantee be called ‘sure and steadfast.’ The hope of the Gospel rests at last on the Being and Heart of God. It is that which God ‘who cannot lie hath promised before the world was’ is working towards whilst the world lasts, and will accomplish when the world is no more. He has made known His purpose and has pledged all the energies and tendernesses of His Being to its realisation. Surely on this rock-foundation we may rest secure. The hopes that grow on other soils creep along the surface. The hope of the Gospel strikes its roots deep into the heart of God.

III. What the hope of the Gospel is and does for us.

We cannot do better than to lay hold of some of the New Testament descriptions of it. We recall first that great designation ‘A good hope through grace.’ This hope is no illusion; it does not come from fumes of fancy or the play of imagination. The wish is not father to the thought. We do not make bricks without straw nor spin ropes of sand on the shore of the great waste sea that waits to swallow us up. The cup of Tantalus has had its leaks stopped; the sieve carries the treasure unspilled. The rock can be rolled to the hill-top. All the disappointments, fallacies, and torments of hope pass away. It never makes ashamed. We have a solid certainty as solid as memory. The hope which is through grace is the full assurance of hope, and that full assurance is just what every other hope lacks. In that region and in that region only we can either say I hope or I know.

Another designation is ‘A lively hope.’ It is no poor pale ghost brightening and fading, fading and brightening, through which one can see the stars shine, and of little power in practical life, but strong and vigorous and not the least active amongst the many forces that make up the sum of our lives.

It is most significantly designated as ‘The blessed hope.’ All others quickly pass into sorrows. This alone gives lasting joys, for this alone is blessed whilst it is only anticipation, and still more blessed when its blossoms ripen into full fruition. In all earthly hopes there is an element of unrest, but the hope of the Gospel is so remote, so certain, and so satisfying, that it works stillness, and they who most firmly grasp it ‘do with patience wait for it.’ Earthly hopes have little moral effect and often loosen the sinews of the soul, and are distinctly unfavourable to all strenuous effort. But ‘every man that hath this hope in Jesus purifieth himself even as He is pure,’ and the Apostle, whose keen insight most surely discerns the character-building value of the fundamental facts of Christian experience, was not wrong when he bid us find in the hope of the Gospel deeply rooted within us the driving force of the most strenuous efforts after purity like His whom it is our deepest desire and humble hope to become like.

Let us remember the double account which Scripture gives of the discipline by which the hope of the Gospel is won for our very own. On the one hand, we have ‘joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope.’ Our faith breeds hope because it grasps the divine facts concerning Jesus from which hope springs. And faith further breeds hope because it kindles joy and peace, which are the foretastes and earnests of the future blessedness. On the other hand, the very opposite experiences work to the same end, for ‘tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.’ Sorrow rightly borne tests for us the power of the Gospel and the reality of our faith, and so gives us a firmer grip of hope and of Him on whom in the last result it all depends. Out of this collision of flint and steel the spark springs. The water churned into foam and tortured in the cataract has the fair bow bending above it.

But this discipline will not achieve its result, therefore comes the exhortation to us all, ‘Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end.’ The hope of the Gospel is the one thing that we need. Without it all else is futile and frail. God alone is worthy to have the whole weight and burden of a creature’s hope fixed on Him, and it is an everlasting truth that they who are ‘without God in the world’ also ‘have no hope.’ Saints of old held fast by an assurance, which they must often have felt left many questions still to be asked, and because they were sure that they were continually with Him, were also sure of His guidance through life and of His afterwards receiving them to glory. But for us the twilight has broadened into day, and we shall be wise if, knowing our defencelessness, and forsaking all the lies and illusions of this vain present, we flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the Gospel.

1:1-8 All true Christians are brethren one to another. Faithfulness runs through every character and relation of the Christian life. Faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces in the Christian life, and proper matter for prayer and thanksgiving. The more we fix our hopes on the reward in the other world, the more free shall we be in doing good with our earthly treasure. It was treasured up for them, no enemy could deprive them of it. The gospel is the word of truth, and we may safely venture our souls upon it. And all who hear the word of the gospel, ought to bring forth the fruit of the gospel, obey it, and have their principles and lives formed according to it. Worldly love arises, either from views of interest or from likeness in manners; carnal love, from the appetite for pleasure. To these, something corrupt, selfish, and base always cleaves. But Christian love arises from the Holy Spirit, and is full of holiness.For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven - That is, "I give thanks that there is such a hope laid up for you." The evidence which he had that this hope was theirs, was founded on the faith and love to the saints which he heard they had evinced. He fully believed that where there was such faith and love, there was a well-founded hope of heaven. The word "hope" here is used, as it often is, for the thing hoped for. The object of hope - to wit, eternal happiness, was reserved for them in heaven.

Whereof ye heard before - When the gospel was first preached to you. You were told of the blessed rewards of a life of faith, in heaven.

In the word of the truth of the gospel - In the true word of the gospel.

5. For—to be joined with the words immediately preceding: "The love which ye have to all the saints because of (literally, 'on account of') the hope," &c. The hope of eternal life will never be in us an inactive principle but will always produce "love." This passage is abused by Romanists, as if the hope of salvation depended upon works. A false argument. It does not follow that our hope is founded on our works because we are strongly stimulated to live well; since nothing is more effectual for this purpose than the sense of God's free grace [Calvin].

laid up—a treasure laid up so as to be out of danger of being lost (2Ti 4:8). Faith, love, and hope (Col 1:4, 5), comprise the sum of Christianity. Compare Col 1:23, "the hope of the Gospel."

in heaven—Greek, "in the heavens."

whereof ye heard before—namely, at the time when it was preached to you.

in the word, &c.—That "hope" formed part of "the word of the truth of the Gospel" (compare Eph 1:13), that is, part of the Gospel truth preached unto you.

For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven: hope here, in this description of it, seems chiefly by a metonymy to be put for the glorious eternal salvation hoped for, Romans 8:24 Ephesians 1:18 which may also include that lively grace whereby we lay hold of eternal life contained in the promise, Titus 1:2. This indeed is set before believers here to encourage them to fly unto Christ for refuge, Hebrews 6:18, and reserved in heaven for them, 1 Peter 1:4; which may well quicken in Christian love all the members of Christ in every condition; yet not with a mercenary of affection, 2 Corinthians 5:14, as if any by offices of Christian love to brethren could merit what is laid up for those who exercise faith, love, and hope, but that God of his mere grace and undeserved love is pleased to reward such as diligently seek him, and thereby gives an exact evidence of his admirable liberality, Hebrews 11:6, which will abundantly weigh down those light afflictions they sustain here, 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; hereupon he puts them in mind of the means whereby they attained to this good hope when they first embraced the gospel, viz. by hearing, Romans 10:14, the word of truth, eminently, 2 Corinthians 6:7 Ephesians 1:13; not only because it is the word of Jesus Christ, who is the truth, and the life, John 14:6, but because the gospel (which is here put appositively) is the most excellent of all truths, surpassing all in philosophy, and the law, John 1:17.

For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven,.... These words may be considered either in connection with the foregoing, and express the reason or motive which encouraged these saints to believe in Christ, and to go on believing in him, and hold fast the profession of their faith in him, and to love the saints, and show it upon all occasions, and in every case; because of the rich treasure of glory and happiness in reserve for them in heaven, which they were hoping and waiting for; this encouraged their faith in Christ, and enlarged their love and beneficence to the saints: or else with the thanksgiving of the apostle, and so contains fresh matter of it, that as thanks were given for faith and love, so for "hope"; by which is meant, not the grace of hope, for that is not in heaven, though it enters within the vail, and is conversant with heavenly things, but is in the heart; and though it supposes it, and which these persons had; they were not without it; they had a good hope through grace of eternal glory, for faith, hope, and love, always go together: nor Christ the foundation of hope; there are many things in him, which are a ground of hope of happiness, as his sufferings, and death, and redemption thereby; his resurrection from the dead, his intercessions and preparations; the promise of life in him, and the thing itself being in his gift; his righteousness and grace, which, give a title to it, and meetness for it; and he is also in heaven, but then he cannot be said to be laid up there: but the thing hoped for, everlasting happiness, is intended; see Titus 2:13 Galatians 5:5; which is so called, because it is the object of hope; is not yet possessed; is future; is not seen; is difficult, and yet possible to be enjoyed: this is said to be "laid up"; which denotes the preciousness and valuableness of it, it is a treasure, an inheritance, a kingdom, and riches of glory; and the secrecy and hiddenness of it, it consists of things invisible to the bodily eye, and which are out of the reach of carnal sense and reason, of which faith only has some small glimpse; and also the safety of it, it is hid in Christ, it is reserved "in heaven", and cannot be come at, and spoiled by men or devils; and likewise the free grace and goodness of God in laying up and providing things of such a nature for his children and friends: the place where it is, in heaven, where moth and rust corrupt not, and thieves cannot break through and steal; and so is safe, and must be of an heavenly nature, as it is for heavenly persons: "for you"; the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, for those who were chosen in Christ, for whom it was prepared from the foundation of the world; for this is not laid up for any, for everyone, but for the chosen of God, and precious; whom God has distinguished by his grace, Christ has redeemed by his blood, and the Spirit regenerates and sanctifies, and who have faith, hope, and love, given unto them; and this was not only laid up for them, but they knew of it, they were made acquainted with it:

whereof ye heard before; before the writing of this epistle, under the ministry of their faithful teacher Epaphras:

in the word of the truth of the Gospel; or in the true word of the Gospel; which comes from the God of truth, is indited by the Spirit of truth, is concerning Christ the truth, and which contains nothing but truth, and lies in the Scriptures of truth: or "in the word of truth", even the Gospel; which explains what word of truth is meant. The law is the word of truth; and many of the words of men, of the philosophers, were words of truth; but it was not in either of them they had heard of eternal life laid up in heaven; of which there were hopes to be entertained by sinful creatures, enjoying it through Christ: this is what only the Gospel brings an account of; life and immortality are only brought to light by the Gospel; which not only speaks of it, but lays that before men, which give them ground and encouragement to hope for it.

For the {d} hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

(d) For the glory that is hoped for.

Colossians 1:5. Διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα κ.τ.λ.] on account of the hope, etc., does not belong to εὐχαρ. Colossians 1:3 (Bengel, “ex spe patet, quanta sit causa gratias agendi pro dono fidei et amoris;” comp. Bullinger, Zanchius, Calovius, Elsner, Michaelis, Zachariae, Storr, Rosenmüller, Hofmann, and others), because the ground for the apostolic thanksgiving at the beginnings of the Epistles, as also here at Colossians 1:4, always consists in the Christian character of the readers (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4 ff.; Ephesians 1:15; Php 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:5; Philemon 1:5), and that indeed as a ground in itself,[12] and therefore not merely on account of what one has in future to hope from it; and, moreover, because εὐχαριστεῖν with ΔΙΆ and the accusative does not occur anywhere in the N. T. It is connected with ἫΝ ἜΧΕΤΕ Κ.Τ.Λ., and thus specifies the motive ground of the love; for love guarantees the realization of the salvation hoped for. So correctly, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Calvin, Estius, Steiger, Bleek, and others. The more faith is active through love, the richer one becomes εἰς Θεόν (Luke 12:21), and this riches forms the contents of hope. He who does not love remains subject to death (1 John 3:14), and his faith profits him nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). It is erroneous to refer it jointly to πίστις, so as to make the hope appear here as ground of the faith and the love; so Grotius and others, including Bähr, Olshausen, and de Wette; comp. Baumgarten-Crusius and Ewald. For ἣν ἔχετε (or the Rec. τήν) indicates a further statement merely as regards ΤῊΝ ἈΓΆΠΗΝ; and with this accords the close of the whole outburst, which in Colossians 1:8 emphatically reverts to ΤῊΝ ὙΜῶΝ ἈΓΆΠΗΝ.

The ἘΛΠΊς is here conceived objectively (comp. ἐλπ. βλεπομένη, Romans 8:24): our hope as to its objective contents, that which we hope for. Comp. Job 6:8; 2Ma 7:14, and see on Romans 8:24 and Galatians 5:5; Zöckler, de vi ac notione voc. ἐλπίς, Giss. 1856, p. 26 ff.

ΤῊΝ ἈΠΟΚΕΙΜ. ὙΜῖΝ ἘΝ Τ. ΟὐΡ.] What is meant is the Messianic salvation forming the contents of the hope (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 5:2; Romans 8:18 ff.; Colossians 3:3 f.), which remains deposited, that is, preserved, laid up (Luke 19:20), in heaven for the Christian until the Parousia, in order to be then given to him.[13] On ἀποκ. comp. 2 Timothy 4:8; 2Ma 12:45; Kypke, II. p. 320 f.; Loesner, p. 360; Jacobs, ad Ach. Tat. p. 678. Used of death, Hebrews 9:27; of punishments, Plat. Locr. p. 104 D, 4Ma 8:10. As to the idea, comp. the conception of the treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21; 1 Timothy 6:19), of the reward in heaven (see on Matthew 5:12), of the πολίτευμα in heaven (see on Php 3:20), of the κληρονομία τετηρημένη ἐν οὐραν. (1 Peter 1:4), and of the βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως (Php 3:14).

ἣν προηκούσατε κ.τ.λ.] Certainty of this hope, which is not an unwarranted subjective fancy, but is objectively conveyed to them through the word of truth previously announced. The πρό in προηκούσατε (Herod, viii. 79; Plat. Legg vii. p. 797 A; Xen. Mem. ii. 4. 7; Dem. 759. 26, 955. 1; Joseph. Antt. viii. 12. 3) does not denote already formerly, whereby Paul premises se nihil allaturum novi (Calvin and many), but must be said with reference to the future, to which the hope belongs; hence the sense imported by Ewald: where with the word of truth began among you (Mark 1:15), is the less admissible. The conception is rather, that the contents of the ἐλπίς, the heavenly salvation, is the great future blessing, the infallible pre-announcement of which they have heard. As previously announced, it is also previously heard.

τῆς ἀληθείας is the contents of the λόγος (comp. on Ephesians 1:13); and by τοῦ εὐαγ., the ἀλήθεια, that is, the absolute truth, is specifically defined as that of the gospel, that is, as that which is announced in the gospel. Both genitives are therefore to be left in their substantive form (Erasmus, Heinrichs, Baumgarten-Crusius, and many others understand τῆς ἀληθ. as adjectival: sermo verax; comp. on the contrary, on ἀλήθ. τοῦ εὐαγγ., Galatians 2:5; Galatians 2:14), so that the expression advances to greater definiteness. The circumstantiality has something solemn about it (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:4); but this is arbitrarily done away, if we regard τοῦ εὐαγγ. as the genitive of apposition to τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθ. (Calvin, Beza, and many others, including Flatt, Bähr, Steiger, Böhmer, Huther, Olshausen, de Wette, Hofmann); following Ephesians 1:13, Paul would have written τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

[12] In opposition to the view of Hofmann, that Paul names the reason why the news of the faith and love of the readers had become to him a cause of thanksgiving.

[13] It is erroneous to say that the Parousia no longer occurs in our Epistle. It is the substratum of the ἐλπὶς ἀποκ. ἐν τ. οὐρ. Comp. Colossians 3:1 ff. (in opposition to Mayerhoff, and Holtzmann, p. 203 f.).

Colossians 1:5. διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα. This is connected by Bengel, followed by several recent commentators (Hofm., Kl[2], Ol., Haupt, Weiss, Abb.), with εὐχαριστοῦμεν. Having heard of their faith and love, Paul gives thanks for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Lightfoot and Soden urge that in this way the triad of Christian graces, faith, hope and love, is broken up. But “hope” is objective here, not the grace of hope, but the object of that hope. It is true that Paul glides from the subjective to the objective use of ἐλπίς in Romans 8:24, but if this combination had been intended here he would probably have simply co-ordinated the three terms. A more serious objection is that εὐχαριστ. is so far away, though Haupt urges that διὰ τ. ἐλπ. could not have come in earlier. Further, Paul never uses this constr. εὐχαριστ. διὰ. It is also his custom, at the beginning of his Epistles, to give thanks for the Christian character of his readers (which he hardly does in Colossians 1:4), not for the heavenly reward that awaits them. Others (De W., Lightf., Sod.) connect it with τ. πίστινκαὶ τ. ἀγάπην. This gives a good sense, their faith and love have their ground in their hope of reward. But we should have expected the article before a clause thus added to substantives. It is simplest to refer it to τὴν ἀγ. ἣν ἔχετε (Chrys., Mey., Ell., Alf., Franke), and interpret it of the love which is due to the hope of a heavenly reward. It is urged that a love of this calculating kind is foreign to Paul, but Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:9.—ἐν τ. οὐρανοῖς. Cf. the reward or treasure in heaven (Matthew 5:12; Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21), the citizenship in heaven (Php 3:20), the inheritance reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4).—ἣν προηκούσατε. The reference in προ. is disputed. Bengel and Klöpper think it means before the writing of this letter; Meyer, Hofmann and Haupt before its fulfilment. But more probably it is to be taken of their first hearing of the Gospel (so Lightf., Ol., Abb.), perhaps in tacit contrast to the false teaching they had recently heard. Haupt, it is true, denies that there is any reference to the false teachers in Colossians 1:2-8; but though none can be proved, it is surely probable that the turn of several expressions should be determined by the subject which was uppermost in the Apostle’s mind, and that he should thus prepare his readers for the direct attack.—λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Cf. Ephesians 1:13, according to which τ. εὐαγγ. should be taken as in apposition to λόγ. τ. ἀλ., “the word of truth, even the Gospel,” though it is often explained as the word of truth announced in the Gospel. It is not clear what λόγ. τ. ἀλ. means. Several give the genitive an adjectival force, “the true word,” but more probably it expresses the content, the word which contains the truth. Perhaps here also there is a side-thrust at the false teachers.

[2] Klöpper.

5. for the hope] I.e. on account of the hope. “That blessed hope,” full of Christ, and the object of an intensely united expectation, gave special occasion, by its nature, for the exercise alike of the faith and the love just mentioned.

“Faith, love, hope,” thus appear together, as 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; and cp. 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:22. Lightfoot compares also Polycarp, Ep. to the Philippians, c. 3: “Faith, which is the mother of us all, followed by hope, whose precursor is love.” See Lightfoot’s note on that place (Apost. Fathers, Pt. ii. vol. ii. sect. ii. p. 911).—The interaction of the three great graces has many different aspects. Faith, which alone accepts Christ, and so unites us to Him, is indeed the antecedent in the deepest sense to both the others, and their abiding basis. But in the experience of the life and walk of grace, faith itself may be stimulated by either or both of the sister-graces; and so on.

Meanwhile “hope” here, strictly speaking, is not the subjective grace but its glorious object, the Return of the exalted Lord to receive His people to Himself. See e.g. Php 3:20, with our note; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:4-7; Revelation 22:20.

laid up for you in heaven] See for a close parallel, 1 Peter 1:4; and cp. Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 13:14.

In heaven:”—lit., in the heavens; as often in N.T. On this plural see our note on Ephesians 4:10. The hope is “laid up” there, because He who is its Essence (1 Timothy 1:1; cp. below Colossians 1:27) is there, “sitting at the right hand of God” (below, Colossians 3:1); and our final enjoyment of it, whatever the details of locality may prove to be, whatever e.g. be the destiny of this earth with regard to the abode of the Blessed, will take place under the full manifestation of His presence in heavenly glory. See our Lord’s own words, Matthew 6:20-21; Luke 12:34; Luke 18:22; John 14:3; John 17:24.

ye heard before] He might have said simply, “ye heard.” But the expression “seems intended to contrast their earlier with their later lessons—the true Gospel of Epaphras with the false gospel of their recent teachers” (Lightfoot). On that “false gospel” see below, on Colossians 2:8, etc., and Introd., ch. 4.

the truth of the gospel] Not merely “the true Gospel,” but that holy and mighty Truth, “Jesus and the Resurrection” (Acts 17:18), which is the basis and the characteristic of the one Gospel. The rivals of that Gospel could produce on the contrary only arbitrary assertions and a priori speculations, the cloud of a theory of existence and of observance instead of the rock of Jesus Christ.

The word “Gospel” (euangelion) occurs more than 60 times in St Paul’s writings and addresses; elsewhere, 12 times in SS. Matthew and Mark together, once in the Acts, once in St Peter, once in the Revelation.—The expositor must never forget its true meaning; “good tidings.” Paradoxically but truly it has been said that the Gospel as such contains no precepts and no threatenings, though deeply and vitally related to Divine law and judgment. Its burthen is Jesus Christ as our perfect Peace, Life, and Hope, with a Divine welcome in His name to sinful man, believing.

Colossians 1:5. Διὰ, for) From [the greatness of the object of] hope, it is evident how great a cause of thanksgiving there is for the gift of faith and love; for (διά) is construed with we give thanks, Colossians 1:3. [Faith, hope, love, Colossians 1:4-5, the sum of Christianity. Comp. Colossians 1:9-11.—V. g.]—ἀποκειμένην, laid up) so as to be without danger [of its being lost].—ἣν, which) hope, comp. Colossians 1:23.—προηκούσατε) ye have heard of, before I wrote.—ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς αληθείας, in the word of the truth) Ephesians 1:13. The truth of ‘knowledge,’ Colossians 1:6 [ye—knew—the grace of God], corresponds to the truth of preaching in this verse. Neither admits of artifice (being tricked out for show).

Verse 5. - (We give thanks) because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens (Colossians 3:4; Ephesians 1:12-14; Philippians 3:20, 21; Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; John 14:2, 3). "Hope" is objective - matter of hope, as in Galatians 5:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 6:18. St. Paul speaks most of heaven and heavenly things in the letters of this period. Ver. 4 gives the nearest grammatical connection for this clause; and many recent commentators, following Greek interpreters, accordingly find here that which "evokes and conditions" the Colossians' "love" (Meyer, Ellicott) or "faith and love" (De Wette, Lightfoot). But this construction we reject. For it makes the heavenly reward the reason of the Colossians' present (faith and) love, reversing the true and Pauline order of thought (Romans 5:1-5; Romans 8:28-39; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 1:13; comp. 1 John 4:17, 18); while, on the other hand, the heavenly hope is the last and highest ground of the apostle's thanksgivings and encouragements, and the forfeiture or impairing of it the chief matter of his fears and warnings throughout the Epistles of this group (Colossians 1:12, 22, 23, 27, 28; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 3:4, 24; Ephesians 1:13, 14; Ephesians 2:12; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 3:11-21: comp. 1 Peter 1:3, 4). It is better, therefore, with Bengel, Hofmann, Klopper, Conybeare, Eadie, and others, from Athanasius downwards, to refer ver. 5 as well as ver. 4 to the principal verb, "we give thanks" (ver. 3). What the apostle hears of "the faith and love" of the Colossian brethren moves him to give thanks for "the hope which is in store for them in heaven." Of that hope this faith and love are to him a pledge and an earnest, even as the "seal of the Spirit" (Ephesians 1:14) and the "peace of Christ in their hearts" (Colossians 3:15; see note) are to themselves. Similarly, in Philippians 1:27, 28 and 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 5, from the present faith and patience of the saints the certainty of their future blessedness is argued. By singling out this hope as chief matter of thanksgiving here, the apostle enhances its certainty and its value in his readers' eyes. (On this verse, see the Expositor, first series, vol. 10. pp. 74-80.) From the general occasion and ground of his thanksgiving in the Christian state and prospects of his readers, St. Paul proceeds to dwell on certain special circumstances which enhanced his gratitude to God (vers. 56-8). Which (hope) ye heard of before, in the word of the truth of the gospel; or, good tidings (vers. 7, 23; Colossians 2:7; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:15, 21; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 3:1-4; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 5:12). There is a veiled polemic reference in "the word of the truth of the gospel" (comp. ver. 7 and parallels from Galatians). The word "before" (aforetime) "contrasts their earlier with their later lessons, the true gospel of Epaphras with the false gospel of recent teachers" (Lightfoot). Others interpret, less suitably: heard already (before my writing), or heard beforehand (before the fulfilment of the hope). It is in St. Paul's manner to refer his readers at the outset to their conversion and first Christian experiences (see parallel passages). Their hope was directly at stake in the controversy with Colossian error. Here we meet the first of those cumulative combinations of nouns, so marked a feature of the style of Colossians and Ephesians, which are made a reproach against these Epistles by some critics; but each is appropriate in its place. Colossians 1:5For the hope (διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα)

The A.V. connects with we give thanks (Colossians 1:3). But the two are too far apart, and Paul's introductory thanksgiving is habitually grounded on the spiritual condition of his readers, not on something objective. See Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15. Better connect with what immediately precedes, love which ye have, and render as Rev., because of the hope, etc. Faith works by love, and the ground of their love is found in the hope set before them. Compare Romans 8:24. The motive is subordinate, but legitimate. "The hope laid up in heaven is not the deepest reason or motive for faith and love, but both are made more vivid when it is strong. It is not the light at which their lamps are lit, but it is the odorous oil which feeds their flame" (Maclaren). Hope. See on 1 Peter 1:3. In the New Testament the word signifies both the sentiment of hope and the thing hoped for. Here the latter. Compare Titus 2:13; Galatians 5:5; Hebrews 6:18; also Romans 8:24, where both meanings appear. Lightfoot observes that the sense oscillates between the subjective feeling and the objective realization. The combination of faith, hope, and love is a favorite one with Paul. See 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 12:6-12.

Laid up (ἀποκειμένην)

Lit., laid away, as the pound in the napkin, Luke 19:20. With the derivative sense of reserved or awaiting, as the crown, 2 Timothy 4:8. In Hebrews 9:27, it is rendered appointed (unto men to die), where, however, the sense is the same: death awaits men as something laid up. Rev., in margin, laid up for. Compare treasure in heaven, Matthew 6:20; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:34. "Deposited, reserved, put by in store out of the reach of all enemies and sorrows" (Bishop Wilson).

Ye heard before (προηκούσατε)

Only here in the New Testament, not in Septuagint, and not frequent in classical Greek. It is variously explained as denoting either an undefined period in the past, or as contrasting the earlier Christian teaching with the later heresies, or as related to Paul's letter (before I wrote), or as related to the fulfillment of the hope (ye have had the hope pre-announced). It occurs several times in Herodotus in this last sense, as ii. 5, of one who has heard of Egypt without seeing it: v., 86, of the Aeginetans who had learned beforehand what the Athenians intended. Compare viii. 79; vi. 16. Xenophon uses it of a horse, which signifies by pricking up its ears what it hears beforehand. In the sense of mere priority of time without the idea of anticipation, Plato: "Hear me once more, though you have heard me say the same before" ("Laws," vii., 797). I incline to the more general reference, ye heard in the past. The sense of hearing before the fulfillment of the hope would seem rather to require the perfect tense, since the hope still remained unfulfilled.

The word of the truth of the Gospel

The truth is the contents of the word, and the Gospel defines the character of the truth.

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