We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,…
I. A THANKFUL RECOGNITION OF CHRISTIAN EXCELLENCE AS INTRODUCTORY TO WARNINGS AND REMONSTRANCES. Almost all Paul's Epistles begin thus. Gentle rain softens the ground, and prepares it to receive the heavier downfall which would else mostly run off the hard surface. These expressions are not compliments, or flattery used for personal ends, but uncalculated expressions of affection which delights to see white patches in the blackest character, and of wisdom which knows that the nauseous medicine of blame is most easily taken if wrapped in a capsule of honest praise. All persons in authority may be the better for taking this lesson.
2. The praise is cast in the form of thanksgiving to God, as the true fountain of all that is good in men. All that might be harmful in direct praise is thus strained out of it. Christian excellences are God's gifts. The fountain, not the pitcher, should have the credit of the water.
3. There were two points which occasioned his thankfulness.
(1) Faith. This is sometimes spoken of as "towards" Jesus, which describes the act by its direction, as if it were the going out of man's nature to the true goal of all active being. "On" Christ, describes it as reposing on Him as the end of all seeking. But more sweet is faith considered as "in" Him as its home, where the seeking spirit may fold its wings, be strengthened, and tranquillized.
(a) In all, faith is the same — simple confidence. But how unlike are the objects! — broken reeds in the one case, and the firm pillar of Divine power and tenderness in the other. And how unlike, alas! the fervency and constancy of our trust in each other and in Him.
(b) Faith covers the whole ground of man's relation to God. Everything that binds us to the unseen world is included in it.
(c) From that fruitful source all good will come, and that faith lacks its best warrant which does not lead to whatsoever is of good report.
(2) As faith is the parent of all virtue, so it is the parent of love — the whole law of human conduct packed into one word. But the warmest place in a Christian's heart will belong to those in sympathy with his deepest self. The sign on the surface of earthly relations of the central fire of faith to Christ is the fruitful vintage of brotherly love, as the vineyards bear the heaviest clusters on the slopes of Vesuvius.
(3) So here we have two members of the familiar triad, and their sister, Hope, is not far off. And the hope laid up in heaven is a motive for brotherly love. This hope is not the emotion, but the object, and the ideas of futurity and security are suggested by that object being laid up. This is not the main motive, but it is legitimate to draw subordinate motives for holiness from the anticipation of future blessedness, and to use that prospect to reinforce the higher motives.
II. A SOLEMN REMINDER OF THE TRUTH AND WORTH OF THAT GOSPEL WHICH WAS THREATENED BY THE BUDDING HERESIES OF THE COLOSSIAN CHURCH.
1. He begins by reminding them that to that gospel they owed all their knowledge and hope of heaven. Its sole certainty is built on the resurrection of Christ, and its sole hope on His death. All around us we see those who reject these surrender their faith in the life beyond.
2. The gospel is a word of which the whole subject and contents is truth. It is of value, not because it feeds sentiment or regulates conduct only, but because it reveals knowledge about the deepest things of God, of which, but for it, man would know nothing. It is not speculation, but truth; and truth because it is the record of Him who is "the Truth." "To whom shall we go?" If elsewhere, to will-o'-the-wisps and Babel.
3. This gospel had been received by them. "You have accepted the Word; see that your future be consistent with your past." Blessed are they whose creed at last can be spoken in the lessons learned in childhood, to which experience has but given new meaning.
4. This gospel was filling the world. "All the world" must be taken with an allowance for rhetorical statement, but the rapid spread of Christianity then, and its power to influence all sorts of men, were facts that needed to be accounted for if the gospel were not true. All schisms and heresies are partial and local, suit coteries, and are the product of circumstances; but the gospel goes through the world, and draws all men. Dainties are for the few, and the delicacies of one country are the abominations of another; but everybody breaks bread and lives on it. Do not fling away the gospel, which belongs to all, for that which can never live in the popular heart, nor influence more than a handful of "superior persons."
5. Another plea for adherence to the gospel is based on its continuous and universal fruitfulness. It brings about results which attest its claim to be from God. Our imperfections are our own; our good is its. A medicine is not shown to be powerless if a sick man has taken it irregularly. This rod has budded at all events; have any of its antagonists' rods done the same? Don't cast it away, says Paul, till you have found a better.
6. They have heard a gospel which reveals the "true grace of God" — another argument for steadfastness. In opposition to it then, as now, were put various thoughts and requirements, a human wisdom and a burdensome code. They are but bony things to try and live on. The soul wants something more than bread made out of sawdust. We want a loving God to live on, whom we can love because He loves us. Will anything but the gospel give us that?
III. THE APOSTOLIC ENDORSEMENT OF EPAPHRAS, the early teacher of the Colossians, whose authority, no doubt, was imperilled by the new direction of thought, and Paul was desirous of adding the weight of his attestation to the complete correspondence between his own teaching and that of Epaphras. We know nothing of him except from this letter end that to Philemon. He is a member of the Colossian Church (Colossians 4:12). He had brought the tidings which filled the apostle's heart with joy and love for their Christian walk (vers. 4-8), and of anxiety lest they should be swept away from their steadfastness. Epaphras shared this (Colossians 4:12). He was in some sense Paul's "fellow-prisoner," and alone of Paul's companions receives the name of "fellow-servant," which may be an instance of Paul's courteous humility. "Don't make differences — we are both slaves of one Master." As He had truly represented Paul, so he had lovingly represented them. Probably those who questioned Epaphras' version of Paul's teaching would suspect his report of the Church; hence the double witness borne from the apostle's generous heart to both parts of his brother's work. Never was leader truer to his subordinates than Paul.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,