The Apostle Paul and his coworker Timothy wrote this letter to the church at Colossae (v. 1), a small city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Paul had not visited Colossae, but had received reports from Epaphras, the missionary who most likely founded the church there (1:7).
Paul speaks positively of the Colossian Christians’ faith, love, and hope (1:4-5) and acknowledges that the Good News is bearing fruit and growing in them (1:6). However, Epaphras has apparently brought Paul news of serious problems at Colossae—problems with false teachings that some scholars have labeled “the Colossian Heresy.” Paul’s is writing this letter to help the Colossians to deal with those problems (see especially 2:4, 8, 13-16, 18; 3:5, 8, 18—4:1).
While Paul will deal with their problems one by one, he first seeks to ground these Colossian Christians solidly in the basics of the faith—and Christ is at the center of that faith (see especially 1:15-20). If these Colossian Christians can better understand the nature and mission of Christ—who Christ was and is and what Christ came to do for them—that understanding will give them a firm footing to deal with the problems with which Paul is concerned.
We might characterize Paul’s strategy as filling these Colossian Christians with true beliefs, so untrue beliefs won’t find a place in their hearts for lodgment—in much the same way that a homeowner nurtures the growth of grass to prevent weeds from finding a place to grow.
We might also use the North Star as a metaphor. People who navigate by the stars find the North Star especially helpful. If they can get a “fix” on the North Star, that will help them to orient themselves so that they will know where they are and in what direction they are headed. They can use that knowledge to steer away from dangerous rocks and shoals—and to guide their ship to its intended destination. In this letter to the Colossians, Paul establishes Christ as their North Star—the fixed point in the sky by which they can navigate dependably—the truth who will help them to avoid the many falsehoods that threaten to lead them astray.
In verses 15-20, Paul states twelve ways that Christ is superior to things (such as angels) to which Colossian Christians might find themselves drawn. Christ is:
• The image of the invisible God (v. 15a).
• The firstborn of all creation (v. 15b).
• The one by whom all things were created (v. 16).
• The one who is before all things (v. 17a).
• The one who held (and holds) all things together (v. 17b).
• The head of the body, the church (v. 18a)
• The beginning (v. 18b).
• The firstborn from the dead (v. 18c).
• The one who has preeminence (v. 18d).
• The one in whom all the fullness was pleased to dwell (v. 19).
• The one through whom God has chosen to reconcile al things (v. 20a).
• The one who has made peace through the blood of his cross (v. 20b).
COLOSSIANS 1:11-14. STRENGTHENED WITH ALL POWER
Paul’s original writings sometimes leave us uncertain where to start a new sentence. Many modern translations start a new sentence with verse 11, but this translation sees verse 11 as a continuation of the sentence begun in verse 9. Therefore, I am providing the text for verses 9-10.
9For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11strengthened with all power, (Greek: dunamoo) according to the might of his glory, (Greek: doxa) for all endurance (Greek: hypermone) and perseverance (Greek: makrothumia) with joy; (Greek: charas) 12giving thanks (Greek: eucharisteo) to the Father, who made us fit (Greek: ikanoo) to be partakers of the inheritance (Greek: kleros) of the saints in light; 13who delivered us out of the power of darkness,(Greek: skotos) and translated (Greek: methistemi) us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love; 14in whom we have our redemption, (Greek: apolutrosis) the forgiveness (Greek: aphesis) of our sins.
“strengthened with all power” (dunamoo—from dunamis) (v. 11a).
God is powerful, and dispenses power to those who believe in him and serve him. The kind of power implied by dunamis involves the power to accomplish things—active power—positive power. It also involves the kind of courage found in those early disciples who faced tremendous persecution from both Jews and Romans—power to endure—courage to face opposition without flinching.
“according to the might (kratos) of his glory” (doxa) (v. 11b). The words dunamis (v. 11a) and kratos(v. 11b) both have to do with strength or power. Dunamis is more active. Kratos has more to do with inner strength. I believe that Paul uses both words to emphasize that Christians need strength—and that God is the source of that strength.
The word “glory” is used in the Bible to speak of various wonderful things—but it is used especially to speak of God’s glory—an aura associated with God’s appearance that reveals God’s majesty to humans. Biblical writers, attempting to describe God’s glory using human words, portrayed it as “a devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17). When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God replied, “You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live” (Exodus 33:20)—but God continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23). The point is that God’s glory is so overwhelming that humans aren’t engineered to be capable of experiencing it. An analogy might be coming into contact with a live high-voltage electrical line. It would be too much for us. We can’t deal with it.
“for all endurance (hypermone) and perseverance (makrothumia) with joy” (charas) (v. 11c). The Greek words hypermone and makrothumia are similar in meaning. Both have to do with endurance.Hypermone, however, is more related to the endurance of things or circumstances, while makrothumia is more related to the endurance of people problems.
I suspect that Paul included both words (hypermone and makrothumia) to emphasize the need for fortitude in the midst of adversity. He understood the problem. He had endured imprisonments, floggings, the forty lashes minus one, beatings with rods, stoning, shipwrecks, etc., etc., etc. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Some of the Colossian Christians would almost surely suffer similar adversities. They would need to be tough to survive.
“with joy” (charas) (v. 11c). But Paul wants more for the Colossian Christians than gritting-your-teeth endurance. He wants them to endure with joy.
Joy is a common theme in both Old and New Testaments. People give thanks because they have experienced salvation at God’s hands (Isaiah 25:9)—or rejoice in God’s steadfast love (Psalm 90:14) or God’s presence (Psalm 16:9-11). The birth of the Savior is an occasion for joy (Luke 2:10-11). Just as an ordinary person might rejoice at the recovery of a lost sheep or coin or son, so also “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). It should be obvious from these citations that joy in the scriptures is rooted in the love and faithfulness of God.
“giving thanks (eucharisteo) to the Father” (v. 12). We have taken this word eucharisteo into the English language as Eucharist, a word which many Christians use to refer to the Lord’s Supper—a rite that emphasizes thanksgiving for God’s grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanksgiving has its roots in the Old Testament. The Israelites gave thank offerings (Leviticus 7:12-15). The Psalmist, in particular, both gave thanks and enjoined others to do so (Psalm 7:17; 28:7; 30:4; 69:30; 86:12; 97:12; 100:1-5; 111:1, etc., etc., etc.).
Jesus gave thanks (Mark 8:6; 14:23; Luke 22:17; 1 Corinthians 11:24) and emphasized the importance of thanksgiving (Luke 17:11-19)—but gave the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican to emphasize the futility of thanksgiving gone awry (Luke 18:9-14).
Paul emphasized thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 5:4, 20; Colossians 4:2; 1 Timothy 2:1).
In the New Jerusalem, the angels will worship God with songs of thanksgiving (Revelation 7:11-12).
“who made us fit (ikanoo) to be partakers of the inheritance (kleros) of the saints (hagios) in light”(v. 12). Torah law specified who was to be considered an heir—and how much each heir was to inherit. The oldest son was to get two shares, and each additional son was to receive one share (Deuteronomy 21:17). If there were four sons, the inheritance would be divided five ways, and the oldest son would get two of the five shares. It was all quite cut and dried. There was no provision for inserting someone other than a son into the inheritance. Fathers were not even permitted to alter this formula to favor a well-liked son or to punish a son (Deuteronomy 21:16).
But Paul tells these Colossian Christians that God has inserted them into the inheritance scheme so that they might share in the inheritance of the saints—those whom God has counted as holy.
How could that be? The members of the Colossian church were largely Gentiles, so they couldn’t qualify for a saintly inheritance by virtue of their ancestor Abraham. Nor, being sinners, could they qualify based on their conduct or obedience to God.
The only explanation for their being counted fit for this saintly inheritance is that the Father has made them fit—has rendered them worthy. Because they have accepted the gift of grace as offered by the cross of Christ, they are no longer reckoned as sinners, but heirs.
“who delivered us out of the power of darkness” (v. 13a).
Note the contrast between “light” (v. 12b) and “darkness (v. 13a). God has delivered these Colossian Christians from the power of darkness, and has ushered them into the realm of light.
Light and darkness are used in both Old and New Testaments as metaphors for good and evil—chaos and order—danger and security—joy and sorrow—truth and untruth—life and death—salvation and condemnation. Satan is the price of darkness, but Jesus is “the light of the world.” Those who follow him “will have the light of life” (John 8:12. See also 9:5; 12:46).
“and translated (methistemi) us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love” (v. 13b). This Greek word methistemi is a combination of meta (in the midst of—among) and histemi (to place or to stand). It shows a change of condition—in this case a change from the “power of darkness” (v. 13a) to “the Kingdom of the Son of his love” (v. 13b).
This deliverance motif brings to mind the Exodus, in which Yahweh delivered Israel from the dark kingdom of Egypt, where they were slaves to Pharaoh, who despised and feared them. Yahweh then led Israel to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey, where they were subject only to Yahweh, who loved them.
“in whom we have our redemption” (apolutrosis) (v. 14a). Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through the payment of a price. A person could redeem a slave by paying the owner to free the slave. In some cases, impoverished people would sell themselves into slavery—or would sell the land that had come down through generations to them. Wherever possible, other family members would redeem the enslaved family member or the land to restore things to the way they were meant to be.
Yahweh saved Israel on numerous occasions, but the redemptive act foremost in their minds was their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
The words “ransom” and “redeem” or “redemption” are often used together in scripture. The ransom is the price paid to effect the redemption.
The New Testament presents Jesus’ death on the cross as a redemptive act for humanity—as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Paul speaks of “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). He says that Christ Jesus became for us “wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). He tells us that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
“the forgiveness (aphesis) of our sins” (v. 14b). Forgiveness is needed when one person does something to offend another person. It is needed to restore a harmonious relationship. We can think of the offense as a sin and the offender as a sinner.
We sin against each other in many ways—and Christ calls us to forgive those who have sinned against us (Matthew 6:12-15; 18:21ff; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; 17:3-4). Jesus says that we must forgive each other if we want God to forgive us (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
The Greek word aphesis has two meanings, forgiveness and release. It could imply forgiveness of a financial debt, which would constitute release from that obligation.
In this case, Paul is talking about our receiving from God the forgiveness of our sins, which constitutes a release from a great burden and a terrible threat. It has Old Testament roots. God said, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). He said, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25).
In the New Testament, forgiveness is made possible by Jesus Christ—his redeeming blood—his cross. He has redeemed us—has paid the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven—saved.
COLOSSIANS 1:15-20. A HYMN TO CHRIST, CREATOR AND RECONCILOR
15 who is the image (Greek: eikon) of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones (Greek: thronoi) or dominions (Greek: kuriotes) or principalities (Greek: archai) or powers (Greek: exousia); all things have been created through him, and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly (Greek: ekklesia—church), who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For all the fullness (Greek: pleroma) was pleased to dwell in him; 20 and through him to reconcile (Greek: apokatallasso) all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens, having made peace (Greek: eirenopoieo) through the blood of his cross.
Biblical scholars tend to refer to these verses as a hymn—a song of praise to Christ. They base that assessment on the style, vocabulary, and content, which differ from the surrounding text. Philippians 2:5-11 and John 1:1-18 are also examples of New Testament hymns.
It isn’t clear that these verses are original with this epistle. It is possible that Paul is quoting a hymn with which these Colossian Christians would be familiar.
In any event, Paul is emphasizing Christ’s deity to people who are tempted to be “vainly puffed up” (2:18) and “not holding firmly to the Head” (2:19). He will exhort them: “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17)—but first he must help them understand that Christ is preeminent.
“who is the image (eikon) of the invisible God“ (v. 15a). There is a good reason why God is invisible. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God replied, “You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). To see God would be like grabbing a high-voltage wire. We aren’t designed to survive contact with that kind of power.
“Who” in this verse refers back to the beloved Son (v. 13). It is the Son of God who is the eikon of the invisible God.
An eikon is an image or likeness—such as the emperor’s image on a coin or a child as the image of a parent. This word eikon is also found in 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says that Christ is the image (eikon) of God. Hebrews 1:3 uses a similar word, charakter, to speak of Christ as the image of the Father’s substance. Both words (eikon and charakter) represent something real (God)—and are therefore unlike the kind of graven images that are prohibited by Torah law (Leviticus 19:4; 26:1)—images that represent false gods.
It is wonderfully useful to have an eikon “of the invisible God”—to make visible and understandable what would otherwise be unknowable. Christ is that eikon. When Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father” (John 14:8), Jesus replied, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He went on to say that he has spoken the Father’s words and has done the Father’s works (John 14:10). In other words, Jesus’ life represents the Father accurately and with integrity.
Something of the same idea is found in the Prologue to the Gospel of John where John speaks of Jesus as “the Word”—who “became flesh and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). When I asked my theology professor why John referred to Jesus as the Word (Greek: logos), he asked me to explain how we use words. I said, “We use words to communicate something from one person to another. He said, “That’s right—and that’s what Christ came to do. He came to communicate something from the Father to us. That’s why John calls him “the Word.”
“the firstborn of all creation“ (v. 15b). In Jewish law and practice, the firstborn was accorded a special place.
• God said, “All the firstborn are mine” (Numbers 3:13)—including firstborn human children (Exodus 13:2)—”the males shall be Yahweh’s” (Exodus 13:12).
• Firstborn cattle, sheep, and goats were to be sacrificed to God (Exodus 13:12-15).
• The firstborn of other animals (unclean animals) were to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb (Exodus 34:20). Firstborn sons were also to be redeemed (Exodus 13:13).
• The firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17).
• Esau, the firstborn of Isaac, was supposed to receive the birthright, but his brother Jacob persuaded him to sell it for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29ff). Esau was also to receive his father’s blessing, but Jacob tricked their father into giving Jacob the blessing instead (Genesis 27).
It is clear that Jewish custom and law bestowed great privileges on the firstborn. It is in this sense of priority or privilege that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Paul is not suggesting that Jesus was the firstborn in the sense that he was part of the created order—like the human race. Instead, Jesus was the preeminent one—the ruler over all rulers—the King of all kings. It is in that sense that the Psalmist, speaking of David, says, “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27).
The following verse (v. 16) will make this interpretation even more certain.
“For by him (Greek: en auto—in him or by him) all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible“ (v. 16a). We get the same sense in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, which says:
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him.
Without him was not anything made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
Colossian Christians have been tempted to worship angels (2:18). Now Paul goes to lengths to show them that Christ was involved in the creation of “all things”—things “in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and invisible”—in other words, everything. If Christ was involved in creating them, he must be superior to them. Colossian Christians should reserve their worship for Christ—not for angels or other parts of the created order.
“whether thrones (thronoi) or dominions (kuriotes) or principalities (archai) or powers (exousia); all things have been created through him, and for him“ (v. 16b). Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers are four facets of power:
• Thrones (thronoi) represent the seat of majesty and power.
• Dominions (kuriotes) have to do with the authority and power of civil rulers.
• Principalities (archai) represent preeminence—that which is before all or above all.
• Powers (exousia) have the authority and ability to accomplish things.
From our perspective, each of the above seems awesome. I have seen Air Force One—the President’s airplane—big and unbelievably grand. I have read of majestic palaces owned by Arab princes. Via television, I saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of Charles and Diana. All those things were so grand as to be almost beyond comprehension. What would it be like to live like that?
But these various thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers “have been created through (Christ), and for him.” That puts them into perspective. The creator is superior to the creation. The potter is superior to the clay—and the pottery. Christ is superior to all these forms of human power.
“He is before all things“ (v. 17a). Once again we hear the echo of the Prologue to the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). In this context, the word “before” suggests two things: (1) Christ was before the created order chronologically—and therefore (2) Christ is superior to the created order.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries, Arius promulgated the Arian Heresy—that Christ was not pre-existent but was created by the Father and was therefore subordinate to the Father. The Council of Nicea deemed this as heresy in 325 A.D.
“and in him all things are held together“ (sunesteken—from sunistemi) (v. 17b). The verb sunestekenis perfect tense, suggesting a completed action. This is another argument by Paul for the primacy of Christ over the created order. He was not only present at the creation, but has held things together ever since.
“He is the head of the body, the assembly” (ekklesia—church or assembly) (v. 18a). Paul uses this same imagery a little later when he speaks of Christ’s body, “which is the ekklesia” (1:24). The Greek word ekklesia is related to the word kaleo, which means “to call.” The ekklesia, as that word was used in secular settings to speak of calling out people to a public assembly.
Early Christians adopted the word ekklesia to refer to Christians gathered together for worship—what we today would call “the church.” Most modern translations translate ekklesia as “church” rather than “assembly.”
Paul introduces an especially helpful metaphor for the church here. It is the body for which Christ is the head. As Paul notes elsewhere, bodies have many parts—feet, ears, eyes, hands, etc.—all of which are important (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). The same is true for the church. There are many members, some distinguished and some humble—but all are important.
Now Paul says that Christ is the head of the church. The head, as we know, is the concertmaster in charge of all the members of the body. The head orchestrates their movements—helps them to work in concert—gives them direction—makes it possible for them to accomplish wondrous things. So it is with the church and Christ, its head.
“who is the beginning“ (v. 18b). Christ is the beginning in that he was “before all things” (v. 17) and was the one “by whom all things were created” (v. 16). He is also the beginning in that his incarnation, death, and resurrection began a new chapter in God’s salvation history.
“the firstborn from the dead“ (v. 18c; see also Revelation 1:5). Elsewhere, Paul uses a similar but different phrase: Christ “became the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Both phrases (firstborn and first fruits) tell us that Christ’s resurrection was to be the first of many—”Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23).
“that in all things he might have the preeminence“ (v. 18d). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul talks about Christ, “who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, …becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).
In other words, Christ was first preeminent in service and sacrifice. Now he is preeminent in receiving honor.
“For all the fullness (pleroma) was pleased to dwell in him“ (v.19). This word pleroma has to do with fullness or abundance.
While this verse does not mention God, Paul later says, “For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full” (2:9-10a). That makes it clear that verse 1:9 should be understood to mean “For all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ.”
A century later, the church would have problems with Gnosticism, which believed that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. As a result, Gnostics had a problem with the Incarnation—God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. They said that the fullness (pleroma) of God could reach us only through emanations or angels—being gradually drained of its pleroma as it approached our earthly existence.
Some scholars believe that the church at Colossae was infected with this kind of dualistic viewpoint. For instance, Paul criticized the Colossian Christians for subjecting themselves to rules such as “Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch” (2:21)—and for seeking spiritual enlightenment by practicing “severity to the body” (2:23)—ascetic practices consistent with Gnosticism. Now, in the opening verses of this epistle, Paul seeks to correct this sort of error by presenting Christ as the one in whom all the fullness of the deity was pleased to dwell.
“and through him to reconcile (apokatallasso) all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens“ (v. 20a). Reconciliation involves a change in a relationship from bad to good—from enmity to friendship. When used of nations, it involves establishing peace between nations that were previously at war with one another.
There is another Greek word for reconciliation—kataallasso. Adding apo (from) as a prefix, as Paul does here, strengthens the force of the reconciliation. In other words, when God (through Christ) reconciled all things to himself, he took on a really hostile situation and transformed it into a peaceful situation.
This reconciliation is not something we could have accomplished for ourselves. It required God’s initiative, because our unholiness was incompatible with God’s holiness. Paul says that God accomplished this reconciliation “through him” (“him” being Christ). He did so through the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
Reconciliation is related to several other New Testament concepts—forgiveness, grace, justification, and redemption—but is distinct from them:
• Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation, justification, or redemption. We need to be forgiven, and then we need to learn to forgive.
• Grace (Greek: charis) is the undeserved favor of God.
• Justification involves a “not guilty” verdict.
• Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through the payment of a price.
Paul outlines the scope of this reconciliation. It involves “all things…whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens.” This reconciliation is all-encompassing.
However, it is clear from Paul’s other epistles that, while this reconciliation is available to Jew and Gentile alike, we must accept it—and not everyone will do that. Some people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). “Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:24-25; see also Romans 2:1-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
“having made peace (eirenopoieo) through the blood of his cross“ (v. 20b). This Greek word eirenopoieo is made up of two parts: eirene (peace) and poieo (making).
Peace (eirene) is a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times.
Both eirene (Greek) and shalom (Hebrew) can refer to an inner kind of peace—the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God—the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
But both eirene and shalom can also refer to an external kind of peace—the absence of rancor or violence among individuals or nations. That is what is involved in this verse. Christ, through his blood—his cross—has established peace between God and humans.
Eirene is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It has its roots in the peace that we have with God, who has granted us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2a). Having received grace from God, we are also expected to extend grace to others. In a community where grace is freely received and given, eirene (peace) will almost certainly prevail.
Christ has made peace between God and humans—removing the stain of guilt that made it impossible for humans to approach the divine throne.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Donelson, Lewis R., Colossians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996
Dunham, Maxie D., The Preacher’s Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982)
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Lincoln, Andrew T., The New Interpreter’s Bible: 2 Corinthians to Philemon, Vol. XI (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002
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MacArthur, John, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1992)
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Martin, Earnest D., Believers Church Bible Commentary: Colossians, (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993
Martin, Ralph P., Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1991)
Melick, Richard R., Jr., New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Vol. 32 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991)
Moo, Douglas J., Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon(Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008)
O’Brien, Peter T., Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon, Vol. 44 (Dallas: Word Books, 1982)
Pao, David W., Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Colossians & Philemon(Zondervan, 2012)
Wall, Robert W., IVP New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Ephesians (IVP Academic, 2010)
Wright, N.T., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Colossians and Philemon, Vol. 10 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986)
Copyright 2013, Richard Niell Donovan