Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I. Paul’s Struggle for the Faith. FOR I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For yough I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
“conflict”: Paul’s use of this word is a sign of their danger in face of heresy. This is where we get our word for “agony” or “agonize”. It is a reference to the intensity of his prayer for the believers in Colossae. This word is also used in 4:12 of Epaphras praying for them as well.
Laodicea: This was a neighboring city to Colossae. This letter was intended as a circular letter to be sent on to Laodicea, because they were facing the same dangers as Colossae.
”full assurance of understanding” means the inner confidence that comes from discerning the truth from falsehood (Farley)
“the knowledge of the mystery of God” - Knowledge once again is “epignosis” meaning knowledge by experience. The mystery as was mentioned earlier is Christ and His Body. Knowledge of this mystery is not the result of secret teachings that are relegated to a few. Also it is not mental understanding of a theological truth. It is experiential or relational knowledge that comes when incorporated into the Body of Christ.
Within Christ is all the “treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, this is counter to the Gnostic secret mystery that were revealed in secret rituals and hidden language.
A mature faith will be able to withstand the “persuasive words” of the heretics. vs. 5 “order” and “steadfastness” are military words. Order suggests men arrayed in ranks and “steadfastness” is the immovable defenses in battle. Paul was hopeful that their faith was mature enough to stand firm in the face of heresy.
II. Principles in Defense of the Faith.
A. Trust in the Faith you received. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it* with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Vs. 6-7 “received” This is a receiving a tradition that has been delivered. The Colossians are to hold onto what has been passed on to them. This is not to be held onto as dry dogma but a way of life. Paul exhorts them to “walk in Him” in order to hold to the faith. The Christian life must not be held only dogmatically but lived. Christianity is ultimately a way of life not just a set of theological truths.
The life must be lived in thanksgiving. This is a possible reference to the Eucharist and a lifestyle of thanksgiving. We are able to transform and redeem our world through thanksgiving. As priest of Creation we offer up to the Father the cosmos through acts of thanksgiving.
Vs. 8-10 "be alert/beware" This is a constant refrain in Ascetical literature. The heart and life must be always alert to avoid deception from self and the evil one.
To be "cheated" is to be captured, kidnaped, or plundered away from Christ. The Colossians are not to abandon Christ for the Gnostic counterfeits.
Christ must be held to tightly, because he is ”the fullness”. Christ contains what the Gnostics are looking for in their secret knowledge. Paul's use of the word ”bodily” is important in reaction against the Gnostics. The Gnostics often viewed the body as evil or at least less than the Spirit. There is no way God would have sullied Himself with this dirty flesh. Yet Christ was a real man who shared our nature; and we are able to experience God as a result of the Incarnation. We are ”complete in Him” and need no extra emanations to find God.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A. In Creation.
1. Image of God. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
This begins a section when Paul begins to combat some of the Gnostic heresies of the area. Remember that the Gnostics taught that Christ was not God but just in a line of emanations the proceeded God. These emanations revealed parts of God but Jesus for the Gnostics was only a link in the chain.
We can not see the essence of God. Scripture even says that if man were to see God he would die; yet God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Christ. If we want to know what God the Father looks like; we only have to look to Christ.
“firstborn” Jesus is the prototype of what man supposed to be. Remember that the Incarnation did not begin with the Annunciation, but with Creation. When God created the heavens and the earth, the Incarnation was in view. [thanks Clark]
2. The Logos of God. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
-John 1:1; Heb 1:3
It’s all about Jesus. As said above, the Incarnation was in view when God created. The world was created through Christ and for Him. Life only makes sense through Him.
3. The Head of the Church. 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 have the preeminence.
The One that created man and is the reason for all is the one who is the Head of the Church. This is an awesome thought that man is able to be part of the body of the One who created all things.
”firstborn from the dead”. He conquered death so that we might conquer death through resurrection as well
B. In Salvation.
1. The Work of Christ. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight--
”fullness” This is a term loved by the Gnostics. “Fullness” for them was this whole series of chain of divine emanations that secretly revealed God. Paul states that Christ is that fullness.
”reconcile all things” Salvation is cosmic in scope because our sin affects all creation (Rom 8:20ff)
”things in heaven” St. Theodoret says “not so much that the angels were reconciled to God as that they were reconciled to us”
”enemies and estranged”. This is important. In popular Christianity, there is a view that there was this angry God whom Christ appeased and satisfied, so that man could approach in love. This makes salvation God’s problem. Yet it was man who had the problem. Man was the enemy not God. Man was estranged not God. Throughout Scripture, from Genesis onward, God is reaching out to man and yet man continues to stiff-arm God. The Incarnation is God’s ultimate condescension and expression of His love to mankind.
”present you” Just as Jesus became a sacrifice of worship to the Father. Those who are members of the Church will follow Jesus to be presented as a sacrifice by Christ to the Father
2. Our Response 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
This passage contains a sobering “if”. We can be presented as sacrifices in Christ if we continue this life of faith. What a sobering reminder to hold fast to the hope of the gospel which has been preached for the past 2000 years.
V. Paul the servant of the mystery of Christ.
A. Suffer for the mystery 24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
This is truth unlike that of the Gnostics is worth suffering for. Christ promised suffering. If the head suffers then the body will as well.
”what is lacking” This is a tough phrase. It is not that Christ’s sufferings were not sufficient but that there is apportioned for the body of Christ an amount of suffering. Paul is taking their portion; he suffers on their behalf. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, they do so on behalf of the rest of the body. When we look at the Church today, especially in the Muslim world, we must pray for those who suffer for the faith because they are taking our portion.
B. Reveal the mystery 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which* is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
The revelation of the mystery is a theme throughout the Pauline epistles. What is the mystery to be revealed? The mystery is that God has become man and the world is saved through His Body. His Body is the Church, and through the Body of Christ man is united to the head, and becomes restored to the Adamic state before the Fall.
Monday, June 11, 2007
A. Knowledge of God’s Will. 9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Knowledge again is epignosis meaning experiential knowledge. It is not just knowledge of the head but of the heart and how to live. Because of Paul use of this word, it appears he is playing of the Gnostics insistence that their gnosis (knowledge) is superior to the Christian revelation.
B. Live Pleasing to God. 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
We experience God so that we will be transformed and imitate Him;. An encounter with God should change us because now He lives through us. We can not know God in Paul’s sense of the word and not be changed. To come into relationship with God is a dangerous proposition, because our God is a “consuming fire”.
We are to ”please Him”. We walk as a child to please his Father; or a soldier to please the general; or an athlete to please the coach.
There is a progression in this passage. When we experience God; we bear fruit; when we bear fruit; we know God more; and bear more fruit .
C. Strengthened by God. 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
This life of faith and repentance is not the result of our own power alone, but we are strengthened by God.
Joy is always a characteristic of the Orthodox Christian. Often the Fathers of the Church will call repentance- joyful sorrow.
Paul may have been contrasting Christianity to the popular philosophy of Stoicism where patience and longsuffering were virtues; however, there is no joy, but only a resignation to life’s tragedies
D. Giving Thanks to God. 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood,* the forgiveness of sins.
Our response to God is always thanksgiving. This is shown at its height in the Eucharist. We are offering back to God what He has given to us, and as a result we receive God’s very life. This Eucharistic life extends beyond the liturgy. Every moment we take what God has given to us and give back to Him.
We are made “partakers of the inheritance of the saints” and nowhere is this more true than at the Liturgy. Because is a moment of time we experience eternity as we partake of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. At that moment we can truly proclaim that He has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love”.
“Conveyed” is used in the Ancient world for the moving of people groups when a nation would conquer land. Often they would remove the people to other areas of their empire. Here God rescues us from exile in Satan’s land.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Let's begin Colossians:
The theme of Ephesians was the Body of Christ. It held for the truth that from the beginning of time God predestined to create a people who would bring salvation to mankind. By joining oneself to this Body one becomes part of the predestined group. The book of Colossians upholds the Mystery of Christ Himself. Both books should be taken in concert, Christ restores mankind to become once again like God, but in order to do so one must grafted into His body—the Church.
I. Introduction PAUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timoyour our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.*
-Colossae is 100 miles east of Ephesus in the heart of Asia Minor. Originally it was a trade city between Ephesus and deeper into Asia Minor. However, by the time of Paul Colossae had begun to decline and shrink in size and prominence.
-One of the major reasons for writing the book was to help them recognize and defend themselves against heresy. This will become apparent when we get into chapter 2
-The type of heresy that was begining to attack this church was Gnosticism. Gnosticism is a broad category of heresy that the church fought through the second century; various forms would pop up in different places throughout the empire. If you want a thorough understanding of all the various forms of Gnosticism, take a trip through St. Ireaneus’ Against Heresies.
-Two basic ideas were common to all forms of Gnosticism. First, salvation consisted by being initiated into a secret truth or knowledge. Second, there was a belief that God was so transcendent that He related to man through various emanations; each emanation was further and further from God; the secret knowledge allowed man to recognize each emanation and eventually reach back to God Himself. Also there was usually a low view of the body and all matter, because it was the body that prevented man from having direct relationship with God and the need to travel through the emanations.
-The Gnosticism of Colossae was a combination of Greek speculation; Jewish legalism (primarily dietary laws, holy days, and circumcision); and eastern mysticism
II. Thanksgiving for the Colossians
A. Their Faith, Hope and Love. 3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
C. Their Minister 7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
-The last time we ran into Epaphras was in Philippians; he had been ministering there as well. Epaphras had probably founded the Church in Colossae. Paul it appears never actually visited Colossae, but he had sent Epaphras when he was working in Ephesus.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Make sure you vote on the post below. As I get more info, I will try to pass it along.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Does this mean it is coming soon? I will try to contact Thomas Nelson and find out. I got the honor of helping out with the Bible and did the translation work on 1 & 2 Samuel and the notes on the same. However, I turned in my work in 1999 and since then my Greek has gotten a little rusty. I can't believe it may right around the corner.
Please go the following link and vote (perhaps the voting activity will spur the publishing date).
Vote here: http://www.thomasnelson.com/research/osb-a.htm
Friday, June 01, 2007
C. Submit to one another. 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.*
This portion is a continuation of Paul previous exhortations about life in the Body of Christ. In this passage, he discusses submission. This is such an important topic in the Church and runs throughout its life. We are all subject to one another. No one in the church is an authority to himself. Even the highest ranking bishop is still subject to others and has his own spiritual father to whom he submits. When followed properly, a level of humility is developed that reflects the Trinitarian life of submission. Christ submits to the Father and we follow His example when we submit.
St. Jerome: “In the Church, leaders are servants. Let them imitate the apostle. The difference between secular rulers and Christian leaders is that the former love to be lord over their subordinates whereas the latter serve them.”
1. Submission in Family life.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."* 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Once again our relationship with Christ affects and colors all our relationships. There seems to be two things that are going on here. One is that mutual submission is the basis for Christian marriage and then two that marriage is a type of the mystery of Christ and the Church. Marriage points to and finds its fulfillment in Christ and the Church. Marriage is a mystery as well and communicates God’s grace to those who submit it. There is a tendency within the Church for monasticism to be exalted above marriage as a path of holiness. However, repeatedly throughout her history, the Church has upheld marriage as an equal path of holiness. One aspect of the Orthodox wedding service is to focus on marriage as martyrdom. Each person dies daily in an act of mutual submission. It is interesting that the model of monastic life, St. John the Baptist, was martyred while defending the sanctity of marriage.
In summary, wives are to respect and submit. Fr. Farley states: “submission does not include loss of dignity”. Christ submits to the Father yet He is co-equal and one in essence with the Father. Husbands are to love their wife as Christ. Christ does all things necessary for the Church’s joy and salvation.
The orthodox Husbands are to love their wives in order that their shared life may daily reveal the truth, grace and glory of God. Since the great union of Christ and the Church discloses the inner essence of the vocation and work of marriage, the Apostle graciously develops this type to describe five ways that marital partners may live out their union: 1) self-giving (Eph. 5:25), 2) dying to self (vs. 26), 3) glorifying the other (vs. 27), 4) loving the other (vss. 28,29), while 5) functioning as one body and one flesh (vss. 30-32). “As we consciously joined ourselves to His dying in Holy Baptism, so also in marriage, let us daily determine to die in order to deepen our union with our spouses. Let marriage be a school for learning to die, taught by the One Who loves perfectly; and as we learn from Him to die, we may also expect His Resurrection life to be manifested in our marriages [From the Orthodox devotional-Dynamis].”
2. Submission of Children (6:1-4) 1 CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."* 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
To ”provoke not” is to irritate not, by vexatious commands, unreasonable blame, and uncertain temper; not to punish so strictly that they become discouraged. To ”bring up” is to nurture; and is used in 5:29 of how we treat our own bodies. Admonition is training by words.
On a personal note, I could see that this verse could be read that fathers should not treat their children in such a way that would lead to their condemnation (wrath) but to their salvation. This may not be a proper reading of this verse, but I do think the idea is Orthodox. In fact, this is the way the canons of the church are treated. The canons are often to disciplinary in nature in order to bring man to salvation. Occasionally a canon may lead man to condemnation rather than salvation and “economy” may be used by a bishop. Perhaps this is how us as fathers should raise our children. All our actions and discipline are directed to their salvation and away from their condemnation.
3. Submission in Work Life (6:5-9) 5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also* is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
This passage is not condoning slavery. Gal 3:28 strips away the basis and justification for slavery, because we are all one in Christ. The book of Philemon gives Paul’s personal opinion on the issue, even though he is reticent to try to impose on such an ingrained part of Roman society. Paul here assumes the existence of slavery and how to live in it.
Fortunately we don’t live with these conditions, but it seems reasonable that we can take this passage and apply it to work life. As employees we can work as to Christ; this allows us to turn our employment into an act of worship. This is a transformation of something that is seen as something purely secular into something holy. As employers, we are to treat those we employ as Christ. Every relationship that man has is transformed through the person of Christ. This is true implication of the Incarnation.
III. Be strong & fight. (6:10-20)
A. Be Strong. 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
To be strong in the Lord is to be empowered by God and to trust in God’s power as we wrestle with those things that would destroy communion with God.
1. The Enemy. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,* against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Wrestling implies sweat and blood, and in this instance hand to hand combat. This is not struggle free Christianity, but it is a life full of blood, sweat, and tears. Heb 12:4 “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
2. The Armor & Weapons. 13. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints-- 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul has been in prison looking at the armor of his guards, and he uses that image to reflect what we use to fight. Also this idea of the Lord in armor is a theme found in many OT books such as the Psalms, Isaiah, and in the book of Wisdom 5:17-24. Several comments can be made here. First, Paul expects the Christian to always to be wearing the armor. There is no rest. Vigilance is upheld as a high virtue. Even a cursory reading of ascetical literature of the church will emphasize the desperate need for the Christian to guard all his senses so that nothing sinful will enter the heart.
Paul admonishes us to ”stand”. This is the second time mentioning it. We are to maintain our ground; we can’t run because the armor only covers your front.
”Gird waist with truth” – Because of the custom of wearing long robes and cloaks, one of the functions of the belt was to hold fast the cloak when it was pulled through the legs into the belt. This allowed movement without getting tangled in one’s garments. The same word for truth is translated in the OT as faithfulness (Is. 11:5).
The Apostle says to gird “your loins with truth” (vs. 14). The loins are that portion of the body between the hip-bones and the lower edge of the rib cage, the soft, easily pierced area of the mid-section, where wounds do great damage. A “gut shot” in the belly is very serious not simply because it tears up vital organs, but because of the likelihood of infection and complications. The soft part of our spiritual life, where our Faith can be lanced, is located wherever we miss the truth and fail to guard the Gospel from attacks coming at us from the media, friends, colleagues, casual conversations - those thousand paths of misinformation that beckon to us. (from Dynamis devotional).
”Breastplate of righteousness” - Is. 59:17 Christ must be present in our hearts. ”Shod your feet with...peace” - Is. 26:3; Is 52:7. We are to be prepared and ready no matter the attack. St. Moses of Optina offers this addition: “If you want to be spiritually tranquil, never part from someone while feeling agitated, but try in every way to forgive everyone in your soul and to make peace as much as possible.”
”Sword of the Spirit” – This is the first weapon in the fight. The prime example is the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Christ Himself uses Scripture to withstand the attacks of the devil. (Ps. 149:6). ”Praying” – This is second weapon in the fight. We are to pray with perseverance. Ultimately we are putting on Christ.
IV. Conclusion 21 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
The Orthodox New Testament
Ancient Christian Commentary
Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here: