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It will be observed how the apostle consequently introduces Christ into
them, and especially in regard to those who are subject in them, wives and
children; in order to sanctify, by so exalted a motive, the obediencesuited
to their position. He does this still more where the tie is not of nature
but one which has its origin in a sinful world-and from sin itself-that
between slaves and their masters. Grace does not set itself to change the
state of the world and of society, but to lead souls to heaven by renewing
them after the image of God. I doubt not that it has very much altered for
the better the social condition of man; because, through bringing the
conscience immediately before the only true God whom it has revealed in His
own perfections, and establishing by its authority that of the natural
relationships in the human family, grace has had its effect upon that
conscience even where the heart was not converted, and has furnished it
with a rule in that which regards morality. But Christianity, as to its own
doctrine, treats the world as alienated from God, and lying in evil-man as
the child of wrath, and lost.
Christ, the Son of God (who if He had been received could have put all
things right, and who will hereafter by His kingdom establish righteousness
and peace), was rejected by the world, and the friendship of the world is
enmity against God. The state of man is treated in the gospel in a deeper
way than in regard to his social condition. It is viewed with reference to
the soul's connection with God, and consequently with that which is
eternal. God imparts a new life unto us, in order that we may enjoy those
new relationships with Himself which redemption has gained for us. Now as
Christ, while living, was the expression of the love and the omnipotent
goodness of God in the midst of a fallen creation, so, being now rejected
by the world (which thus condemned itself), Christ, who dwells by His grace
in the heart of one who has received life, becomes to that heart a source
of happiness in communion with the love of God, which lifts it up and sets
it above circumstances, be they what they may. The slave, in possessing
Christ, is free in heart; he is the freed man of God Himself. The master
knows that he himself has a Master, and the relationship in which he finds
himself takes the form of the grace and love that reigns in the heart of
him who in it exercises his authority.
But, as I have said, to the poor slave Christ is especially presented as a
resource. He may serve his master, whether a good or bad one, with
faithfulness, meekness, and devotedness; because in so doing he serves the
Lord Himself, and is conscious that he does so. He will have his reward
there where nothing is forgotten that is done to glorify Christ, and where
masters and slaves are all before Him who has no respect of persons.
Two principles act in the heart of the Christian slave: his conscience in
all his conduct is before God; the fear of God governs him, and not his
master's eye. And he is conscious of his relationship to Christ, of the
presence of Christ, which sustains and lifts him above everything. It is a
secret which nothing can take from him, and which has power over everything
because it is within and on high-Christ in him, the hope of glory. Yes, how
admirably does the know ledge of Christ exalt everything that it pervades;
and with what consoling power does it descend into all that is desolate and
cast down, all that groans, all that is humbled in this world of sin!
Three times in these two verses, while holding their conscience in the
presence of God the apostle brings in the Lord, the Lord Christ, to fill
the hearts of these poor slaves, and make them feel who it was to whom they
rendered service. Such is Christianity.
The apostle ends his epistle with some important general exhortations.
He desires that the saints should continue through prayer in communion with
God, and in the sense of their dependence on Him, conscious of His nearness
to them, and of His readiness to hear them. For that which speaks to the
heart for our walk is not enough; the soul must know it's own relations
with God exercising itself in those relations; and it must receive directly
from Him that which assures it of His love. There must be perseverance in
this. We are in conflict with evil, which has a hold upon our own hearts if
we are without the strength of God. We must therefore commune with God. We
must watch therein with settled purpose of heart, not merely as an
occasional thing: any one can cry out when he is in need. But the heart
separated from the world and all that is of it occupies itself with God,
with all that regards the glory of His name, according to the measure in
which we are concerned in it. The conflict is carried on with a tender and
freed spirit, having only His glory as the object, both in the assembly and
in the individual walk. But thus one understands that God works and that He
does not forsake us, and thanksgiving is always mingled with the prayers we
address to Him.
Paul felt his dependence on this blessing, and he asked for a share also in
their prayers, that God might open his mouth, and that he might proclaim
the gospel as he ought to do.
Now we are in a hostile world, in which hostility is easily awakened where
it does not already exist openly, and in which offence is quickly taken at
things wherein perhaps we neither saw nor intended evil. We must take away
the occasion even from those that seek it, and walk in wisdom with respect
to them that are without.
How clearly the within and the without are here distinguished! Those
within, whom God acknowledges, His family, His assembly-they are His own.
Those without, they are the world, those who are not joined to the Lord.
The distinction is plainly marked, but love is active towards them that are
without, and, being itself in the enjoyment of communion with God, it is
careful to do nothing that might prevent others from enjoying it.
But there was something more: they were to redeem the time. The natural
man, taken up with his own affairs, and disinclined to serious things, gave
Christian love little opportunity to set grace and truth before him and
make him care for his own soul, thus serving the Lord and using time in His
name. The heart of man cannot always escape the influence of surrounding
circumstances, which bear witness to his heart and conscience that he is
under the dominion of sin, and already eating its bitter fruits here below-
circumstances which bring to his conscience the remembrance of a too-much
forgotten God, which speak with the mighty voice of sorrow to a broken
heart, glad at least to have a resource in God when his hand is pierced by
the broken reed on which he leaned. God Himself acts upon man by these
circumstances, and by every circumstance of life. One who is walking with
the Lord knows how to avail himself of them. Satan may indeed deceive a
man, but he cannot prevent God at all times from speaking to the heart. It
is a happy thing so to walk with God that He can use us as His voice, when
He would thus speak to poor sinners. Our speech ought always to be the
expression of the separation from evil, this power of the presence of God
which keeps us inwardly apart from it, so as to make that power felt by
others; and that, in all the questionings which arise in the heart of man,
wandering out of the way in confusion and darkness, and even leading others
astray thereby, we may know how to give an answer which comes from the
light and conveys light.
Tychicus was to carry the testimony of the interest which the apostle took
in the welfare of the Colossians, and of his confidence in their interest
in him, Paul bears witness to the love of others, and to their concern also
in the progress of the gospel and the prosperity of the faithful.
Marcus, who had formerly drawn back from the toils of the work, receives a
testimony here on the apostle's part and a still better one later (2 Tim
4:11), forhe had made himself useful to the apostles himself. Such is
grace, The secret of the interest Barnabas took in him comes out here: he
was nearly related to him, This dear servant of God was from Cyprus too. He
went there and took Mark with him, The flesh and Judaism find their way
everywhere. The poser of the Spirit of God is requisite to raise us above,
and set us beyond, their influence.
Demas receives no especial testimony. The apostle conveys his greetings,
but is silent as to himself. Only in the Epistle to Philemon is he named as
a fellow-laborer of the apostle. Afterwards he forsook Paul. He was a
brother: the apostles admits his claim but says nothing; had had nothing to
say. "And Demas," for Paul's style is terribly cold.
We may observe that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written at the same
time, and sent by this same Tychicus. The one "from Laodecia" is, I doubt
not, one that they were to receive from that assembly, written by Paul, and
by which the saints at Colosse were to profit; possibly the Epistle to the
Ephesians, which he may have had communicated to the Laodiceans. Be this as
it may, all that is said is that it was one of which the assembly at
Laodicea were in possession and by no means that it was directly addressed
to them; rather the contrary. It is very possible that a letter, or a
hundred letters, may have been written by Paul to others, which it was not
in the purposes of God to preserve for the universal assembly: but here
there is no proof that a letter had been written to the Laodecians.
Tychicus was the bearer of two; he may have been the bearer of three, one
of which differed only in some details of application which might serve to
confirm the Colossians without being in the main another Divine
communication for other days; but, I repeat, it does not appear to be so
from that which is said here. It might be said, a letter "from Laodicea,"
because it was there instead of a letter to Laodicea; but it is not the
usual mode of expression. We have seen that the letter to the Ephesians is
another communication of the Spirit of God. It has been preserved for us.
We do not know whether that from Laodicea was the same communicated by them
to the Christians of that city; or another, which they were to send to the
Colossians (an assembly in their vicinity), and which-adding nothing to the
divine relations-has not been preserved for us.
It appears that Christians were not very numerous at Laodicea. The apostle
salutes the brethren there. There were some who assembled in the house of
one Nymphas; they were not in a case to have a letter addressed to them in
particular: still the apostle does not forget them. But that which he says
here is an almost certain proof that the apostle had not addressed any
epistle to them. He would not have sent greetings through the Colossians to
the brethren in Laodicea, if at the same time he had written a special
epistle to the latter. The case is plain enough: there were brethren at
Laodicea, but not in great numbers and not in that distinct position which
gave rise to an epistle. But this little assembly in the house of Nymphas
was not to be forgotten; it should profit by the epistles addressed to
other assemblies more considerable than itself, and whose condition
required an epistle, or gave occasion to write one, which epistles were
transmitted to Laodicea, according to the apostle's order.
With regard to the Epistle to the Colossians, it is not a supposition. The
apostle commands them expressly to have it read in the assembly at
Laodicea. The latter had also received another epistle from some other
assembly, and the Colossians were to profit by it in the same manner. The
two assemblies, which were near each other, were mutually to enjoy the
spiritual favors that were granted them.
The apostle does not forget individuals even. Archippus receives a solemn
exhortation to take heed to the ministry which the Lord had committed to
him, and to fulfill his service.
The apostle had not seen these assemblies. (Chap 2:1)