Colossians 3:14
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Above all.—Properly, over all—as a bond or cincture to keep all together. Love is the general principle, harmonising all the special graces named above.

The bond of perfectness.—The bond of that harmony of character which is perfection. The phrase is remarkable, apparently suggested by the claim to perfection, set up by the Gnostic teachers. They sought such perfection in knowledge peculiar to the few; St. Paul in the love which is possible to all. For as he elsewhere urges (1Corinthians 8:1),” Knowledge puffs up, charity builds up;” knowledge gains a fancied perfection, charity a real perfection.

Colossians 3:14-17. And above all these things — As including them all, and indeed being the source from whence they flow; put on charity Την αγαπην, love, namely, to God, his people, and all mankind; which is the bond of perfectness — Which both contains the whole of Christian perfection, and connects all the parts of it together. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts — Influence and govern all your intentions, affections, and dispositions, nay, and even your thoughts. Or, it then shall rule in your hearts, and that as the reward (so the Greek word implies) of your preceding love and obedience. “Let it fill your hearts,” says Pasor, “with such a joy as victors have when they receive (το βραβειον) the prize in the Olympic games.” Or rather, “let it preside in your hearts, as the master of the games does in those solemnities.” So Beza and Doddridge. To which — To the enjoyment of which inestimable blessing; ye are called — By the gospel; in one body — Not otherwise; that is, in a state of real, vital union with Christ your living Head, and one another. And be ye thankful — For the high honour and great happiness conferred upon you. Let the word of Christ — The gospel which you have received, and, as far as possible, the Holy Scriptures in general; dwell in you — In your minds and hearts, in your memories and affections, being made the matter of your daily meditation: nor let it make a short stay, or an occasional visit, but take up its stated residence in you; richly — In the largest measure, and in the greatest efficacy, so as to enlighten, quicken, and renew; to strengthen and comfort you, yea, so as to fill and govern all your powers; in all wisdom — Use your best endeavours thoroughly to understand it, and wisely to improve it to the best purposes. Teaching one another — Its important truths; and admonishing one another — Concerning its necessary duties; see on chap. Colossians 1:28; in psalms and hymns, &c. — A very engaging and pleasing way of teaching and admonishing one another, and a way the least, perhaps, liable of all others to give offence; singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord — In an humble, pious, and devout spirit, with a view to please the Lord, and expecting to receive grace from him. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed — With respect to all your discourses and actions; do all in the name of the Lord Jesus — In obedience to his will, and in imitation of his example, as your rule; from a principle of love to him as your motive; with an eye to his glory as your end; relying on the influence of his Spirit as your strength; and in dependance on his merits for acceptance; giving thanks — In your hearts, with your lips, and by your lives; to God, even the Father — That he gives you inclination and power thus to speak and act, and for all the great blessings of grace which you already enjoy, and for the greater blessings of glory which you expect hereafter to receive and possess for ever.3:12-17 We must not only do no hurt to any, but do what good we can to all. Those who are the elect of God, holy and beloved, ought to be lowly and compassionate towards all. While in this world, where there is so much corruption in our hearts, quarrels will sometimes arise. But it is our duty to forgive one another, imitating the forgiveness through which we are saved. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts; it is of his working in all who are his. Thanksgiving to God, helps to make us agreeable to all men. The gospel is the word of Christ. Many have the word, but it dwells in them poorly; it has no power over them. The soul prospers, when we are full of the Scriptures and of the grace of Christ. But when we sing psalms, we must be affected with what we sing. Whatever we are employed about, let us do every thing in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in believing dependence on him. Those who do all in Christ's name, will never want matter of thanksgiving to God, even the Father.And above all these things - Over, or upon all these things; compare the notes at Ephesians 6:16.

Charity - Love. Notes, 1 Corinthians 13:1.

Which is the bond of perfectness - The bond of all perfection; the thing which will unite all other things, and make them complete; compare the parallel place in Ephesians 4:3. The idea seems to be that love will bind all the other graces fast together, and render the whole system complete. Without love, though there might be other graces and virtues, there would be a want of harmony and compactness in our Christian graces, and this was necessary to unite and complete the whole. There is great beauty in the expression, and it contains most important truth. If it were possible to conceive that the other graces could exist among a Christian people, yet there would be a sad incompleteness, a painful want of harmony and union, if love were not the reigning principle. Nor faith, nor zeal, nor prophecy, nor the power of speaking with the tongue of angels, would answer the purpose. See this sentiment expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and the effect of love more fully explained in the notes at that chapter.

14. above—rather "over," as in Eph 6:16. Charity, which is the crowning grace, covering the multitude of others' sins (1Pe 4:8), must overlie all the other graces enumerated.

which is—that is, "for it is"; literally, "which thing is."

bond of perfectness—an upper garment which completes and keeps together the rest, which, without it, would be loose and disconnected. Seeming graces, where love is wanting, are mere hypocrisy. Justification by faith is assumed as already having taken place in those whom Paul addresses, Col 3:12, "elect of God, holy … beloved," and Col 2:12; so that there is no plea here for Rome's view of justification by works. Love and its works "perfect," that is, manifest the full maturity of faith developed (Mt 5:44, 48). Love … be ye perfect, &c. (Jas 2:21, 22; 1Jo 2:5). "If we love one another, God's love is perfected in us" (Ro 13:8; 1Co 13:1-13; 1Ti 1:5; 1Jo 4:12). As to "bond," compare Col 2:2, "knit together in love" (Eph 4:3), "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

And above all these things put on charity: that which we render above, as surpassing all, some read upon, or over, and some, for all these things, viz. the graces he exhorted them to be clothed with. Both agree, that mutual Christian love or charity is the chiefest garment the new man can put on, being the livery of Christ’s disciples, John 13:35. But in prosecuting the allegory under the former notion, there is some danger of being over fine; and therefore it may be very pertinent to understand the putting on or exercising of charity, for the performance of the other graces and exercises, this being that which sets them on work with reference to their several objects, engaging to sincerity in their actings, without which the motions of the new man are no way acceptable; this links them together, and so is in a sort, as the apostle says elsewhere, a fulfilling of the whole law, Romans 13:8,9 Ga 5:14, with Matthew 22:39,40; being the subjects of this hearty and regular affection of love to God and our neighbour, are inclined by it to do good continually, and to avoid the injuring of another in any respect. Not that there is any fulfilling of the law perfectly in this state, as the papists argue impertinently from what follows of charity, that it is

the bond of perfectness, or, by an hypallage or Hebraism, the most perfect bond, therefore we are justified by it, and so by the works of the law before God. For:

1. Love, or charity, itself is not perfect, and so the very best of the new creatures who have put it on, however they may be perfect with a perfection of integrity or parts, yet not with a perfection of maturity or degrees, absolutely, while in this life; See Poole on "Ecclesiastes 7:20". See Poole on "Romans 7:18", See Poole on "Romans 7:19". See Poole on "Galatians 5:17". See Poole on "Philippians 3:12", See Poole on "Philippians 3:15". See Poole on "Jam 3:2", &c.

2. Upon supposition that charity in a new creature doth in some sort perfectly fulfil the law, from the time he is endowed with it of God’s grace, and a man hath put it on; he could not by it be justified from the breach of God’s law before, he being a transgressor of it in time past, 1Jo 1:8,10.

3. That perfection of which charity here is said to be the bond, doth most likely respect the integrity and unity of the members of the church, holding the Head, being knit together in one body;

See Poole on "Colossians 2:2", See Poole on "Colossians 2:19". See Poole on "Ephesians 4:16": the Greek word we translate bond here, noting such a collection and colligation of parts whereof a body is composed; and in one Greek copy it is found written, the bond of unity. As a prevailing love to God, and to those who bear his image, for his sake, doth bind up the other graces in every regenerate soul, so it doth the true members of the body of Christ one to another, being the best means for the perfecting of them under Christ their Head, who hath upon that account expressly required mutual love amongst his followers, John 15:12 1Jo 3:23 4:21: and the cogent reason hereof is, (as above in John 4:10,11), God’s loving of us; and then indeed, when we entirely love God and his children, we show our love to be the bond of perfectness in returning love to him and his; when by this reciprocal affection both ends of the band of love do meet and are knit together, we become one with God, and in him, through Christ, as one soul amongst ourselves, walking in love according to his commandment, Acts 4:32 Ephesians 5:2 1 Thessalonians 4:9. And above all these things,.... Bowels of mercies, kindness, &c.

put on charity, or brotherly love, for without this all is nothing; they will only be done in show and appearance, in mere guise and hypocrisy, if love is wanting; this actuates and exercises all the rest; it is only from this principle that true sympathy, real kindness, undisguised humility, and meekness, patient longsuffering, and forbearance, and hearty forgiveness proceeds: this is greater, and more excellent, than all the other, and adds a glory, lustre, and beauty to them; this is the upper garment that covers all the rest, for so the words may be rendered, "upon all these things put on charity"; whereby a disciple of Christ is visible, and distinguished, and is known to be what he is; this is like a strait and upper garment, keeps close all that is under it, and within it: and it is called

the bond of perfectness; either of the law, and the duties of religion, which it is said to be the fulfilling of; or rather of the saints, for this is the bond of union between them, which knits and cements them together, so that they are perfectly joined together, and are of one mind and one heart: it is the bond of peace among them, of perfect unity and brotherly love; and a most beautiful and pleasant thing it is for brethren to live and dwell together in unity; such are beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem among themselves, and terrible to their enemies as an army with banners, being not to be divided or broken by them. The Claromontane exemplar reads, "the bond of unity".

And above all these things put on charity, which is the {h} bond of perfectness.

(h) Which bonds and knits together all the duties that take place between men.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 3:14. In addition to all this, however, put on love, by which Christian perfection is knit. In making τ. ἀγάπην dependent on ἐνδύσασθε, Paul abides by his figure: becoming added (Kühner, II. 1, p. 433) to all those virtues (regarded as garments), love is to be put on like an upper garment embracing all, because love brings it about, that the moral perfection is established in its organic unity as an integral whole. Thus love is the bond of Christian perfection, its συνδετικὸν ὄργανον; without love, all the individual virtues, which belong in themselves to that perfection, would not unite together into that necessary harmonious entirety, in which perfection consists. Not as if the latter were already existent without love (as Schenkel objects to this view), but love is the σύνδεσμος constituting its perfection; apart from, love there is no τελειότης, which has its conditio sine qua non only in the inclusion of its other factors in love; how love accomplishes this, no one has better shown than Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 13.[154] Nor is it as if the genitive would necessarily be a plurality (as Hofmann objects); on the contrary, the τελειότης according to its nature and to the context is a collective idea, with which the conception of a σύνδεσμος well corresponds. It might, moreover, occasion surprise, that love, which is withal the principle and presupposition of the virtues enumerated, is mentioned last, and described as being added; but this was rendered necessary by the figurative representation, because love, from its nature, in so far as it includes in principle the collective virtues and comprehends them in itself, necessarily had assigned to it in the figure of putting on garments the place of the upper garment, so that Paul rightly proceeds in his description from the under garments to the upper one which holds all the others together, and with whose function love corresponds. Accordingly the absolute ἡ ἀγάπη is not to be taken in any other sense than the general and habitual one of Christian brotherly love (Colossians 1:8, Colossians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13; Php 1:9); nor yet in any sort of reference limiting it to special qualities, e.g. as by de Wette: “as active, beneficent, perfecting love.”

(see the critical remarks), which, namely love, conceived of as neuter, as in our “that is.” Comp. on ἐξ οὗ, Colossians 2:19.

σύνδεσμος τῆς τελειότ.] bond of perfection, i.e. what binds together the Christian moral perfection into the totality of its nature, συνδεσμεύει, Polyb. iii. 42. 8; ξυνδεῖ καὶ ξυμπλέκει, Plat. Polit. p. 309 B. Chrysostom (though mingling with it the foreign figure of the root) aptly says: συγκράτησις τῶν τὴν τελειότητα ποιούντων. Comp. Theophylact: πάντα ἐκεῖνά, φησιν, αὕτη συσφίγγει παροῦσα· ἀπούσης δὲ διαλύονται καὶ ἐλέγχονται ὑπόκρισις ὄντα καὶ οὐδέν. The genitive, which is that of the object, denotes (it is otherwise in Ephesians 4:3; comp. Acts 8:23; LXX. Isaiah 58:6) that which, is held together by the bond. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 616 C: εἶναι γὰρ τοῦτο τὸ φῶς ξύνδεσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦπᾶσαν ξυνέχον τὴν περιφοράν, also p. 520 A: τὸν ξύνδεσμον τῆς πόλεως, Polit. p. 310 A: τὸν ξύνδεσμον ἀρετῆς μερῶν φύσεως ἀνομοίων. Taken as the genitive of quality, it would yield the adjective sense: the perfect bond, “animos sc. conjungens,” Grotius. So also Erasmus, Vatablus, Calovius, Estius, Wolf, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Flatt, and others. But how arbitrary this would be in itself, and especially in view of the fact that, in the event of τ. τελειότ. being disposed of as an adjective, the more precise definition of σύνδεσμος would have to be gratuitously introduced! Taken as the genitivus causae (Schenkel), it would not correspond with the figure, though it is in substance correct that that, which as a bond envelopes perfection, only thereby brings about its existence (comp. above). According to Huther, the sense is: “by man’s putting on love he is girt with perfection; whosoever lives in love is perfect.” Thus the genitive would have to be conceived as genitive of apposition, which would yield an incongruous analysis of the figure, induced by the opinion that does not refer to the ἀγάπη itself, but to the ἐνδύσασθαι τὴν ἀγάπην.[155] According to Hofmann (comp. Ellicott), the genitive is meant to be that of the subject, and the τελειότης is to indicate the completeness of the Christian state, of which love is the bond, inasmuch as it binds Christians together among themselves, wherever that completeness exists (John 13:35). This is erroneous; for if in some curious fashion the abstract ἡ τελειότης (consequently an aggregate of attributes) were to be the acting subject, which makes use of love as a bond (consequently for the purpose of binding), yet the Christians among themselves could not be conceived as the object of that binding, but only the πάντα ταῦτα in accordance with the immediate context (ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ τούτοις). The apostle would have been able to express the tenor of thought forced upon him by Hofmann simply and clearly by some such phrase as (or ὅς, or ἥτις) ἐστι σύνδεσμος τῶν ἐν Χριστῷ τελείων (comp. Colossians 1:28). Others take it as the sum of perfection. So Bengel, Zachariae, Usteri, Böhmer, Steiger, de Wette, Olshausen (“inasmuch as it comprehends in itself—bears, as it were, bound up in itself—all the individual aspects of the perfect life, all virtues”). Comp. on the subject-matter, Romans 13:10. This explanation cannot be justified linguistically (not even by Simplic. Epictet. p. 208, according to which the Pythagoreans termed friendship: σύνδεσμον πασῶν τῶν ἀρετῶν, i.e. the bond which knits all the virtues together), unless we take σύνδεσμος in the sense of a bundle, as Herodian uses it, iv. 12. 11 (πάντα τὸν σύνδεσμον τῶν ἐπιστολῶν), which, however, even apart from the singular form of the conception in itself, would be unsuitable to the context, since love is to be added to all the previously enumerated elements of perfection, and may therefore well be termed the bond that holds them together, but not their bundle, not the sum of them. The word σύνδεσμος itself, which except in our two parallel epistles does not occur in Paul’s writings, is too hastily assigned by Holtzmann “to the range of language of the Auctor ad Ephesios.” As if we had the whole linguistic range of the copious apostle in the few epistles which bear his name! Indeed, even ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ τούτοις (comp. Ephesians 6:16) is alleged to betray the auctor in question.

In opposition to the Catholic use of our passage to support the justificatio operum, it is enough to observe that the entire exhortation has justification as its presupposition (Colossians 3:12), and concerns the moral life of those who are already justified. Irrelevantly, however, it is urged in the Apol. Conf. Aug. 3, p. 104 f. (comp. Calovius and others), in opposition to the Catholics, that τελειότης is the integritas ecclesiae, and that through love the church is kept in harmony, as Erasmus, Melanchthon, and others also explained it.

[154] Comp. Clem. Cor. I. 49 f.

[155] σύνδεσμος, namely, would apply to the girdle, as Clericus, Ewald, and Schenkel make it do. But to that view the ἐνδύσασθε to be supplied would be contextually less suitable (comp. Ephesians 6:14); while after what has gone before the reader would most naturally think of love simply as a garment, and not as the girdle, “which holds together all individual efforts towards perfection” (Ewald). Besides, it would not at all be easy to see why Paul should not have used the definite word ζώνη instead of σύνδεσμος.Colossians 3:14. ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ τούτοις τὴν ἀγάπην: probably “over all these,” carrying on the metaphor of clothing, not “in addition to all”. These virtues are manifestations of love, but may be conceivably exhibited where love is absent, so that the mention of it is not superfluous.—ὅ ἐστιν: probably “that is,” though for criticism of Lightfoot’s examples see Abbott. The relative cannot mean τὸ ἐνδύσασθαι τ. ἀγ., for love itself is the σύνδ.—σύδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος. Generally σύνδ. is explained as that which binds together all the virtues. The genitive is variously interpreted. It has been taken as genitive of the object, but the objection (Luther, Ol., Haupt) that the bond binds the virtues into a unity but does not bind together the unity itself is forcible. It has also been taken as a genitive of quality, “the perfect bond,” which Paul would have said if he had meant it. Ellicott regards it as a subjective genitive, the bond possessed by perfectness; but this seems unlikely. Again, it is explained as the bond which produces perfection in these virtues (Ol.), or as the bond which binds these virtues together and so produces Christian perfection (Sod). If, however, we do not take τελ. as an objective genitive, there is no ground for assuming that the bond is that which binds the virtues together. The function of love as a bond is to bind Christians together, and Haupt explains the word in this way. The genitive he regards as one of apposition, the bond in which perfection consists. When love binds all Christians together, the ideal of Christian perfection is attained. This gives a natural and appropriate sense, and is probably right. The view that σύνδ. is the sum total gives a sense to the word which it does not bear; nor does it suit the context.14. above all these things] Or, “upon all these things.” Perhaps the words convey both the supreme importance of love, and its relation to other graces as their embracing bond; see just below. “Love is the outer garment” (rather, the girdle?) “which holds the others in their places” (Lightfoot).

put on] The words are supplied from Colossians 3:12.

charity] Or, love. See on ch. Colossians 1:4. Love, says Leibnitz, is that which seeks its joy in the good of another.—“Hypocrisy can do Christian actions; charity alone does them christianly” (Quesnel).

which is] The Greek implies that “love” must be thus “put on” because it is, &c.

the bond of perfectness] I.e., the bond, or tie, which makes and secures the “perfectness,” wholeness, fulness, harmony, of the Christian character, both in the individual and in society. Chrysostom, quoted by Lightfoot, says (on this place), “If love is lacking, all other good is nothing; it dissolves.” The man without love is, in effect, the man whose very virtues are selfish; “unto himself.”

Perfectness:”—see note on ch. Colossians 1:28.Colossians 3:14. Ἐπὶ, above) Here the climax reaches its highest point; love, superior to all things, 1 Peter 4:8.—τὴν ἀγάπην, love) viz. put on.—σύνδεσμος, the bond) Love comprehends the whole range of the virtues (graces), 2 Peter 1:7.—τελειότητος, of perfection) תם, τελειότης, Jdg 9:16; Proverbs 11:3. He who has love, wants nothing: he is not kept bound by the elements of the world. Particular duties are also derived from this source, Colossians 3:19; Colossians 3:21.Verse 14. - And over all these things (put on) love, which (thing) is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 2:2; Ephesians 4:2, 3; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:13-15, 22; Romans 13:8-10; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 John 4:7-21; John 13:34, 35). In 1 Corinthians 13. "love" is the substance or substratum of the Christian virtues; in Galatians 5:22 it is their head and beginning; here it is that which embraces and completes them. They imply love, but it is more than them all together. They lie within its circumference; wanting it, they fall to pieces and are nothing. (For συνδεσμός ("bond" or "band"), comp. Colossians 2:19.) In Ephesians 4:3 we have the "bond of peace" (see next verse). Love is the bond in the active sense, as that wherewith the constituents of a Christian character or the members of a Church are bound together: peace, in a passive sense, as that wherein the union consists (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11). "Love" (compare "covetousness," ver. 5) is made conspicuous by the Greek definite article - being that eminent, essential grace of Christian love (Colossians 1:4, 8; Colossians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4:16, etc.). "Perfectness" is genitive of object, not of quality: love unifies the elements of Christian goodness and gives them in itself their "perfectness" (Romans 13:10). (For "perfectness," see note on "perfect," Colossians 1:28; and comp. 4:12.) Against Galatian teachers of circumcision, and Corinthian exalters of knowledge, the apostle had magnified the supremacy of love (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 8:1-3); and so against the Colossian mysticism and asceticism he sets it forth as the crown of spiritual perfection, the goal of human excellence (comp. Ephesians 4:15, 16). Above all (ἐπὶ πᾶσιν)

According to the metaphor of the garment. Over all, like an upper garment, put on, etc.

Charity

See on 1 Corinthians 13:1.

Bond of perfectness (σύνδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος)

Love embraces and knits together all the virtues. Τελειότης perfectness is a collective idea, a result of combination, to which bond is appropriate. Compare Plato: "But two things cannot be held together without a third; they must have some bond of union. And the fairest bond is that which most completely fuses and is fused into the things which are bound" ("Timaeus," 31).

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