Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;…
Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved. The Colossian Christians had been elected by God out of a state of heathenism. By arrangements over which they had exercised no control, the gospel had been brought to them and had been the means of their conversion. As elected by God, they were consecrated to God and were in the enjoyment of the Divine love. The Colossian Christians were not exceptional. We have been elected by God out of the ungodly state of our own hearts and out of the ungodly influences that more or less prevail in a semi-Christian state of society. Thus brought into a true Christian state, and in that state devoted to God, and the recipients of many tokens of the Divine favour, it becomes us to fed the force of it in reference to our duty.
I. THE CHRISTIAN FORMS OF LOVE. The concluding representation is that all are bound together by love.
1. "A heart of compassion." In the original there is indicated the supposed seat of the sympathetic feelings. In heathenism it was rather a heart of cruelty that was worn. The weak were down trodden and neglected. The softening influence of Christianity appears in our hospitals and asylums, in our abhorrence of oppression, in the missionary enterprise. There is a fine sensibility to the miseries of others in those who have felt the Divine compassions toward them. Especially are we to feel the sorrows of our fellow Christians.
2. "Kindness." We may show kindness where there is nothing to draw forth compassion. Under all circumstances are we to be king. There is nothing which we can wear outwardly to be compared with kindness. "Kind hearts are more than coronets." Kindness is the disposition to think about others, it adds greatly to the joy of their existence to let them see (even in little ways) that we are not forgetting them, but are giving them a place in our thoughts. As God's holy and beloved, we are to be the vehicles of the Divine thoughtfulness.
3. "Humility." As a Christian grace, humility is founded upon the fact of our having humbled ourselves before God as sinners. As a form of love, it is the disposition which forbids us to exalt ourselves over others. It is a form of selfishness simply to wish to give others a sense of our importance and of their unimportance. Rather does love impel us to sink our own importance and to prefer them.
4. "Meekness." This is founded on the fact of God being the First Cause of the provocation received from others. As a form of love, it is the disposition which prompts us to endure rather than retaliate on those who have wronged us.
5. "Long suffering." This is founded on the fact of God having suffered long and much with us. As a form of love, it is the disposition which forbids us to weary of the good of others. It is enduring in hope.
6. "Forbearing one another." Forbearance seems to be the practical exhibition of the last disposition. It is implied that we all need to have forbearance exercised toward us, as well as to exercise forbearance ourselves.
7. "And forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any." It is here "each other," with a look forward to the thought of our being all first forgiven by Christ. Just cause of complaint has already been supposed. How are we, as just complainants against a brother, to act? We are not merely to endure and to endure for his good, but we are to advance to positive forgiveness. That is to say, in love we are to remove the complaint, so that it is as though it had never been. The highest example of forgiveness. "Even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye." The Lord had just complaint against us; who shall estimate what it was? But he carried out a work for us the purport of which was the removal of the complaint. That we have appropriated, and now we are in the position of those from whom complaint has been removed. Forgiveness is usually associated with God, but in this Epistle, in which prominence is given to the Person of Christ, it is associated with him. The fact of Christ being called here "the Lord" points to the fact that, as his servants, we are bound by his example. If the Lord has so acted, servants must not nurse their wrath. The seven graces bound together by love. "And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness." There is the perfect number, and they are bound in the bond of perfectness. Love is thought of as the girdle which binds the garments which have been put on. We have seen its presence in all the seven. They are simply love in seven different relations. There is thus no looseness about them, but they constitute a perfect whole.
II. THE CHRISTIAN FORM OF CONCORD. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body." The peace which is the principle of concord is distinctively the peace of Christ. That is to say, it is the peace which Christ possessed and which he left as a legacy to his disciples. He possessed a holy feeling of tranquillity in view of death and under the wrongs which were heaped upon him, in the enjoyment of his Father's love and in the conscious and complete carrying out of his Father's purposes of love toward men. And this holy feeling of tranquility it is intended that we too should have, in all circumstances (in our case based on the atonement), in the enjoyment of our Father's love and in the conscious endeavour to carry out his purposes of love. The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. In the margin it is "arbitrate." And some have thought the meaning to be that, between contending feelings, the peace of Christ is to act as umpire. But the meaning seems simply to be that it is to rule so as to put down all disquieting feeling, and so that we have it toward God and toward all around us. The one body is here thought of as a society in which all are called to a holy feeling of satisfaction. It is, therefore, a society in which concord (out of a Christian ground) reigns. "And be ye thankful." This is the recurrence of what has been noticed as a subordinate feature in the Epistle. What we are to be thankful for is the tranquility which makes concord.
III. THE CHRISTIAN FORMS OF RELIGIOUS EXERCISE.
1. The reception of the Word. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." The Word also is distinctively the Word of Christ. That is to say, it is the Word which Christ spake and which he caused to be proclaimed. It may be taken as including inspired additions. There is a great richness in the Word of Christ. It contains all the thoughts that are needed to give us peace, guidance, strengthening, heartening, under earthly conditions. We are to receive it to be our permanent possession. We are to receive it, not scantily, but in all its richness. We are to receive it in all wisdom, that is, in all wise apprehension of its meaning, and not in the way of false interpretation.
2. Christian song. In Ephesians this is introduced as a counteractive of false excitement, as one of the manifestations of a true excitement of the Spirit. Here it is introduced as the result of the indwelling of the Word of Christ. It was out of no cold heart, but out of a heart of summer gladness, that the Word of Christ came, and, received into us, it wells up in all joyful feelings which find expression in song.
(1) Responsive song. "Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The historic psalms and other compositions used in the service of praise which are called hymns, fall under the head of "spiritual songs." In Ephesians the idea of responsiveness was brought out in the words "speaking one to another." Here it is said more definitely "teaching and admonishing one another." The principal purpose of song is to enliven. But the apostle here teaches, that it is not aside from its principal purpose to teach and admonish. And this subsidiary didactic, monitory purpose it is fitted to serve from its being the outcome of the Word of Christ.
(2) Silent song. "Singing with grace in your hearts unto God." This singing is only in the ear of God. Our other exercises are heard by God too. For it is said, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it." But this is for self edification, with God as the only listener. It is singing with grace, not with gracefulness, but with the grace that preserves from vanity, from extravagance, and enriches with all Christian elements.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN FORM OF SPEAKING AND ACTING. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus." This, like the others, is associated with Christ. His being called "Jesus" points to his having been a speaker and doer in human nature himself. The meaning is, not that we are formally to invoke the Name of Christ in connection with our speaking and doing. But they are to be according to the rules laid down by Christ and as unto Christ. They will thus be redeemed from all mere naturalness and all sinful elements that mix with them, and will have a richness as from the Word of Christ. "Giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is again the refrain of the Epistle, with a certain prominence. Our thanksgivings are to be unto the Father. We are to give thanks through Christ as Mediator. It is only through him that we have leave to thank God. It is only through him that we have anything to thank God for. It is through him that all the blessings of salvation come to us; and so it is through him that we are to thank God for them. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;