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CHAPTER XV.

COLOSSIANS-PHILEMON.

“ THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE

COLOSSIANS.”

1. Authorship. THE Pauline authorship of this epistle, as well as of that to the Ephesians (which it closely resembles), has of recent years been called in question, not for any want of external evidence, but because of its peculiar phraseology as compared with the earlier epistles of Paul.1 The objection, however, is one of little force. It is no uncommon thing for a writer's vocabulary to undergo a considerable change in the course of a very short period, when he is placed amid new surroundings and under the influence of new associations. Anything strange about the apostle's language in this epistle is sufficiently explained by the circumstances under which he wrote, and was evidently occasioned by the new errors which he was called to encounter.

It is alleged, however, that we have in this epistle not only novelty in language but also in doctrine, especially with regard to the nature and office of Christ. But the truth is we have in the Christology of this epistle only the full development of ideas which had germinated in the apostle's mind years before, and are to be found in other

1 Expressions are borrowed from it Xenophon, for example, has brought to by Justin Martyr and Basilides, and, light a remarkable variation of language apparently, by still earlier writers; it is in the books he wrote after he began to clearly recognised as Paul's by Irenæus, move about from place to place like St. Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian; Paul. See Salmon's Introduction (4th it was acknowledged by Marcion, a edition) p. 419. Note *. native of Asia Minor, and it is found in 3 1 Thess. i. 1: “Paul, and Silvanus, the Muratorian Canon and the Syriac and Timothy, unto the church of the and Old Latin Versions.

Thessalonians in God the Father and 2 A close examination of the works of the Lord Jesus Christ : Grace to you

books of the New Testament. In the notable passage in Philippians regarding the original glory and the ultimate exaltation of the Saviour, as lofty a claim is made on His behalf to the reverence and adoration of the Church as is anywhere to be found in this epistle.?

It is worthy of note, too, that this epistle has a special mark of genuineness in the singular connection which subsists between it and the Epistle to Philemon.3 This

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and peace.” I Cor. viii. 6: “Yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him." 1 Cor. xi.

3:

« But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." 2 Cor. iv. 4:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.”

1 John i. 3: " That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us : yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.' Heb. i.

1-3: “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

2 Phil. ii. 5-11: “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus : who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the

earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." 3 iv. 7-18:

All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord : whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your hearts; together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things that are done here. Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him), and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision : these only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, men that have been a comfort unto me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas salute you. Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house. And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.” Philemon, vers. 2, 10-12, 23, 24 : "And to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house:... I beseech thee for my child, whom I have begotten in my bonds, Onesimus, who was aforetime

be so.

connection is such, that if the letter to Philemon be genuine (as generally admitted), Colossians must likewise

Otherwise it must be a forgery founded on Philemon,—which is very unlikely for the following reasons : (1) In the Epistle to Philemon there is no mention whatever of Colossæ, or of any place in its neighbourhood, nor yet of the messenger Tychicus ; (2) there are variations in the salutations sent in the two epistles, such as we can scarcely imagine to have been resorted to in the interests of forgery; and (3) in Colossians there is no reference whatever to Philemon himself or to the peculiar circumstances of Onesimus as a runaway slave.

2. The Readers. “ To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossæ."1 The Church at Colossæ seems to have been the least important of the Churches to which Paul is known to have written. The city itself had at one time been populous and important, but its prosperity was very much reduced before the days of the apostle. It lay on the river Lycus, a tributary of the Mæander in the Phrygian part of Asia Minor, not many miles distant from its more prosperous neighbours, Laodicea and Hierapolis, in “a sombre and melancholy region ” covered with the traces

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similarly honoured by Cyrus, speaks of it as “a populous city, prosperous and great."

3 iv. 13 (quoted p. 167, end of note 3). ". The Christian communities of this district play a conspicuous part in the struggles and the development of the Church. When after the destruction of Jerusalem St. John fixed his abode at Ephesus, it would appear that not a few of the oldest surviving members of the Palestinian Church accompanied him into' Asia,' which henceforward became the headquarters of Apostolic authority. In this body of emigrants, Andrew and Philip among the Twelve, Aristion and John the presbyter among other personal disciples of the Lord, are especially mentioned.”—Lightfoot on Colossians, p. 45.

of volcanic action. In common with these cities, Colossæ had doubtless been indebted for its knowledge of Christianity to the evangelistic labours of Paul at Ephesus, the metropolis of the district, from which his influence had spread far and wide, “almost throughout all Asia.”2 Although we may infer from his language in the epistle that Paul had not personally laboured among the Colossians, it would seem that their chief evangelist, Epaphras, had been one of his disciples.3

This Epaphras had paid a visit to Rome during Paul's imprisonment there. Whether he had come for the express purpose of consulting the apostle regarding the state of the Colossians is not clear; but at all events he made Paul acquainted with the dangers that were besetting the Church notwithstanding many tokens of grace. *

1“ Though the exterior surface of the earth shows no traces of recent volcanoes, still the cavernous nature of the soil and the hot springs and mephitic vapours abounding here indicate the presence of those subterranean fires which from time to time have manifested themselves in this work of destruction. . . . If fire has its fitful outbursts of devastation, water is only less powerful in its gradual work of reconstruction. The lateral streams which swell the waters of the Lycus are thickly impregnated with calcareous matter, which they deposit in their course. ...

Ancient monuments are buried, fertile lands overlaid, river-beds choked up and streams diverted, fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone formed by this strange capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently and relentlessly through long ages. Fatal to vegetation, these incrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hill-side, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness.”—Lightfoot. 2 Acts xix. 10, 26 :

" And this continued for the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. ... And ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout

all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands." 1 Cor. xvi. 19: “The churches of Asia salute you."

3 ii. 1: “For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh." i. 3-9: “We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you ; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth ; even as ye learned of Epaphras our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Like Epaphras, Philemon (“our beloved and fellow-worker," p. 173) was no doubt another of his active missionary converts ; so, apparently, was Nymphas of Laodicea (iv. 15, quoted p. 165, note 3). 4 i.3-8 (quoted above); ii. 8-10 : “Take

The interest in Colossæ which was thus awakened in the mind of the apostle by his conversation with Epaphras was further stimulated by his intercourse with Onesimus, a runaway slave from the same city, who was in some way or other brought under his influence at Rome, and proved an invaluable friend. He could not permanently retain Onesimus in his service, as he was the lawful property of another; so he took the opportunity afforded by the mission of Tychicus (a trusty delegate) to Asia to send Onesimus along with him, giving the latter a conciliatory letter to his master Philemon, and at the same time he addresses a longer communication to the members of the Colossian Church, with special reference to the evils to which they were exposed. This he intrusts to the care of Tychicus, by whom he also despatches another epistle intended for a still wider circle of readers.3

i iv. 9:

2 iv. 7-9:

heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in hin ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power. 16-23: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God. If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh." iv. 12, 13:

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness, that he hath much labour for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for ihem in Hierapolis."

Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you." Cf. Philemon.

All my affairs shall Tychicus make known unto you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord : whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate, and that he may comfort your hearts ; together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things that are done here. “And there accompanied him as far as Asia Sopater of Bercea, the son of Pyrrhus, and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophinius." Cf. 2 Tim. V. 12: “But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus. Titus iii. 12: “When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus." Cf: pp. 174-5.

Eph. vi. 21, 22: “But that ye also

Acts xx. 4:

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