This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Colossians chapter 1 followed by his notes on verses 12-20. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.
ANALYSIS OF COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 1
The Apostle commences this Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (Col 1:1, 2). In the next place, he gives thanks to God for the gifts of grace and the divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity, bestowed on the Colossians (Col 1:3–5). These gifts and virtues were to terminate in the enjoyment of the future blessings promised in the Gospel. From the mention of the Gospel, he takes occasion to confirm the doctrine preached to them by Epaphras, as a faithful minister of the Gospel. He prays that the Lord would grant, them a more perfect knowledge of his holy will, and strength and power to lead lives worthy of God, in the performance of good works, and the patient endurance of sufferings for his sake (Col 1:6–12).
The Apostle then renders thanks to God for the grace of faith, and the other blessings of redemption bestowed on all Christians; and from this, takes occasion to point out the attributes of Christ, and his superior excellence over the angels. He claims for him in a special way, the prerogatives of Creator and Redeemer, of which the heretics wishes to deprive him, by transferring them to the angels. The apostle, therefore, asserts, that he is the image of the invisible God—the Creator of all things, the angels included—the preserver, by his Providence, of all things created—the Redeemer of all men, Jews and Gentiles—the head of the Church—the reconciler of offended heaven with sinful man—the very fulness of the Divinity (Col 1:12–21).
He says that the Colossians will be partakers of the blessings of Redemption, provided they persevere in the faith announced to them, which is the same with that preached throughout the rest of the world. He declares himself to be appointed by the will of God a minister of the Gospel, in order to announce to the Gentiles a mystery hitherto concealed from them—a mystery for the fulfilment or accomplishment of which among the Gentiles, he cheerfully submits to suffering and privations of every kind (Col 1:22-29).
Col 1:12 Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:
We give thanks to God the Father, who, of his pure mercy and grace, has vouchsafed to make us sharers by the light of faith in the inheritance of the saints, which consists in light, or the beatific vision of God.
“Giving thanks to God the Father.” The Greek omits, God. Some persons connects this verse with verse 9, thus: “we cease not praying God to grant you this grace also of thanking him for having called you,” &c. According to the connexion in the Paraphrase, a new sentence is commenced, and St. Paul having concluded his petitions in the preceding verse, now thanks God for the benefits here enumerated. “The lot of the saints,” τοῦ κληρου τῶν ἁγ ων. Eternal life is called a “lot,” to express its gratuitousness, and the absence of strict claim on our part signified by the absence of a claim on the part of those who gain a thing by casting lots. And though we merit eternal life; still, it is primarily founded on grace. In crowning our merits, he only crowns his own gifts.—St. Augustine (from his Treatise ON GRACE AND FREE WILL). “In light.” The light of faith here, or the light of glory hereafter, by which we shall see God, face to face. “It may, however, denote both, as in Paraphrase.”
Col 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
Who has rescued us from the power of darkness, i.e., of demons and infidels, and translated us to the kingdom, i.e., the Church of his beloved Son here, which is the portal to the kingdom of heaven hereafter.
“Darkness,” taken in a moral sense in SS. Scripture, denotes evil; hence, it means here, the power of the devil, the prince of darkness. “The Son of his love,” a Hebraism, for his most beloved Son.
Col 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins:
Through whom we have obtained redemption, which consists in the remission of our sins, and which he effected by giving his blood by way of ransom or price for us.
In the following verses the Apostle claims for Christ, the titles of Creator and Redeemer, the two grand prerogatives of which the Simonians attempted to deprive him, and which they wished to transfer to angels. In this verse, he claims for Him the title of Redeemer, upon which he dilates more fully at verse 20—after claiming for him the title of Creator in the intervening verses, 16, 17, 18, 19. The words “through his blood,” are not in the Douay-Rheims Version, made from the Sixtine Edition of the Vulgate, nor in the Codex Vaticanus, nor in MSS. or Versions generally.
Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
15. Who is the perfect image of the invisible God (having the same identical nature with Him), existing before any creature, having been begotten of the Father by an eternal generation.
Before asserting that he is Creator, the Apostle first claims for Christ the supreme attribute of Divinity, and the eternal Sonship of God. Others say, that the object of the Apostle in this verse is, to show the great benefits of Redemption from the exalted nature of the person by whom it was effected. Christ is the perfect delineation of that invisible God whom no one ever saw, and exhibits the perfect image which the person possessing the nature of God could alone exhibit. He was begotten of God by an eternal generation; hence, as far anterior to the EONS of the Gnostics in time, as he is superior to them in causality, which latter is shown in the following verse.
Col 1:16 For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him and in him.
16. For by him were all things created in heaven and earth, both visible and invisible, men and angels of every rank and order—whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and unto him, i.e., for his glory.
In this verse is refuted the false doctrine of the Gnostics, who asserted that this material visible world was created by the ministry of angels. “Through him and in him.” In Greek, unto him, i.e., unto his glory.
Col 1:17 And he is before all: and by him all things consist.
17. And he is before all creatures, and in him, and through him, all things subsist and are preserved.
In this verse, the Apostle refers to the Divine attribute of Providence, whereby all created things are preserved. From this and the preceding verses, it is clear, that the “image,” εἰκων, referred to in verse 15, must regard the substantial image of God, and the possession of the divine nature; since of God only could it be said that all things were created “by him,” and “in him,” or unto him, as in the Greek, i.e., for his glory, as also that by his providence all things subsist and are preserved. And it was this God—born of the Father before all ages, begotten by eternal generation—his substantial image, by whom all things were made and are still preserved—that submitted to the ignominious tortures of the cross, for what?—to make atonement for the sins of his own creatures—the sins by which he himself was offended. He, though God, submits to tortures, which he could not merit, to free us, worms of earth, from the eternal tortures of the damned which we justly deserved. What excessive love! Sic amantem quis non redamaret. The Latin phrase is from the the famous hymn ADESTE FIDELIS and translates something like: Who would not return the love of one who has loved so much.
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may hold the primacy:
18. And this same person of whom we are treating as God, is, as man, the head of the Church, which is his mystical body; he is the principle and author of the resurrection, and is himself the first born, or first fruits of the dead, consecrating the resurrection of all by raising himself from the grave. So that whether viewed as God, or as man, he holds pre-eminence over all things created.
He now treats of him, as man; as such, he is the head of his mystical body, the Church—towards her, he exercises all the duties, which the relation of head imposes on him, governing and vivifying her by the continual influx of his graces. He is “the beginning,” which appears from the Greek, ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχὴ, to refer to the words immediately following, viz., “the first born from the dead.” Hence, it means, “he is the principle and author of the resurrection.”
Col 1:19 Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell:
19. For, it has pleased God the Father, that in Christ, all fulness, all perfection of power necessary for him as head, to govern, and of grace, to vivify his body, should permanently and inseparably dwell, and essentially reside.
“All fulness,” i.e., all perfection of wisdom, grace, power, befitting him, as head of the Church. He has the fulness, not only of grace, but of divinity. “Should dwell,” perpetually, inseparably, and essentially. All grace befitting him as head, dwelt in him in the sense already explained, in order that from the head it would descend to the members, and that each might derive from him, as source, the graces necessary for his state and place in the body. The Greek word for “fulness,” πληρωμα, had a special significance, in the false system of the Gnostics.
Col 1:20 And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven.
20. And it hath pleased the Father, to reconcile all things to himself through him—making peace, by the blood which he shed on the cross, between the angels in heaven and men on earth, between whose union under one common head, sin stood as an obstacle.
The Apostle again refers in this verse to the other great prerogative of Christ, viz., that of Redeemer, to which he alluded before (verse 14). “The things on earth, and the things in heaven.” He reconciled men and angels, and united them, hitherto so far dissevered from each other, under one common headship, having destroyed, by the blood which he shed on the cross, the chiefest obstacle to this union, viz., sin.