For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea…
It would appear that Paul had not only the interests of the Colossians and Laodiceans at heart, but also as many as had not seen his face in the flesh. He did not act on the worldly principle, "Out of sight, out of mind;" but on the gospel principle, "Though out of sight, though never yet seen, yet kept in mind." We are thus brought at once to -
I. PAUL'S COSMOPOLITAN SPIRIT. (Ver. 1.) The selfish soul leaves out of consideration all but his own little circle; the Christian leaves out of consideration none but his own little circle. The gospel made a cosmopolitan of Paul the Pharisee. He who had been of the straitest sect becomes the man of broadest spirit. Besides, the problem of the world produced a "conflict" within him. He was in an agony of earnestness for unseen, uncounted millions. His great soul throbbed at Rome in sympathy for all who were under Caesar's sceptre. As the "apostle of the Gentiles" he magnified his office by making all mankind his spiritual care.
II. HIS DESIRE WAS THAT THROUGH CHRIST THEY MIGHT ALL UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERY OF THE TRIUNE GOD. (Ver. 2.) For the gospel does not commit the care of the universe to a "lonely God," but to a Triune Jehovah, who, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, has the elements of social happiness within himself. A social Trinity presides over the universe. Now, so practical a truth is this of the Trinity that, as Paul here puts it, the consolation of the heart and Christian unity depend upon it. It is sometimes insinuated that the doctrine of the Trinity is a profitless and unpractical speculation. Any one who thinks so would do well to read such an essay as Mr. Hutton's on 'The Incarnation and Principles of Evidence.' It will be seen from such a line of thought that there are deep longings of our nature which only an incarnation, and by consequence only a Trinity, can supply. But even apart from such subtle disquisition we may see in the sociality of the Trinity as distinguished from the awful loneliness of the Socinian hypothesis an element of consolation and of union. If God be a lonely being, and Martineau is driven to the term "lonely God;" if he is satisfied in his loneliness, - then there gathers round him that repellent element which we associate with the unsocial among men. I am not encouraged to come to this lonely and infinite One. He can do without me, and it repels me to think he can. But when I learn that God is not a lonely One, but has been, so to speak, a "family Being" from all eternity, rejoicing as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the satisfaction of his social qualities, then I am encouraged to come to him and to satisfy in him the longings of my heart. It will be found, then, that consolation is promoted by the realized truth of the Trinity in a way that cannot be secured by rival hypotheses. No unitarian abstraction can do for men what the social Trinity can. It will be found also that unity among Christians is promoted by this mighty truth. God as our Father gathers around him through the mediation of his Son Christ Jesus, and through the gift of his Spirit, the scattered members of the human family, and they feel united in a sense of sonship and sociality. A social Trinity secures a united society. Hence we find such a great thinker as John Howe preaching item ver. 2. a fine discourse for "union among Protestants." Now, it is when Christ is preached in all his fulness that "the treasury of wisdom and knowledge" to be found in him is opened up and the mystery of the Triune God becomes plain. It is in this full preaching of Christ that the present and eternal interests of the human race lie.
III. HE SEES THAT THIS PREACHING WILL ALSO SECURE A PROPER CHRISTIAN WALK. (Vers. 4-7.) He tells the Colossians that he is with them in spirit, taking notice of their order and conversation. He calls upon them, therefore, to walk in Christ Jesus the Lord as they have received him. This brings before us the fact that Jesus Christ, when received by faith, becomes the tenant of the human heart. He becomes the recognized Lord of the conscience, and to his sovereignty all things are submitted. The morality secured by the gospel is therefore the simple morality of pleasing the indwelling Christ. We may here follow the sainted Henry Martyn, who thus describes what the Christian walk is. It is
(1) to continue to apply his blood for the cleansing of our consciences from guilt;
(2) to live in dependence on his grace;
(3) to follow his example; and
(4) to walk in fellowship with him.
And this morality will be pervaded constantly by the grateful spirit. In truth, gratitude is the spirit and morality is the form assumed by the gospel as it lays hold of the minds of men. God having in his gospel done so much for us, we feel that we ought to do all we can for him. We consequently walk before him in love and strive gratefully to do the things which please him. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;