Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 42: Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
1. Ergo si consurrexistis cum Christo, quae sursum sunt quaerite, ubi Christus est in dextera Dei sedens:
2. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
2. Quae sursum sunt cogitate, non quae super terram.
3. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
3. Mortui enim estis, et vita nostra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo.
4. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
4. Ubi autem Christus apparuerit, vita vestra, tunc etiam vos cum ipso apparebitis in gloria.
To those fruitless exercises which the false apostles urged, 429 as though perfection consisted in them, he opposes those true exercises in which it becomes Christians to employ themselves; and this has no slight bearing upon the point in hand; for when we see what God would have us do, we afterwards easily despise the inventions of men. When we perceive, too, that what God recommends to us is much more lofty and excellent than what men inculcate, our alacrity of mind increases for following God, so as to disregard men. Paul here exhorts the Colossians to meditation upon the heavenly life. And what as to his opponents? They were desirous to retain their childish rudiments. This doctrine, therefore, makes the ceremonies be the more lightly esteemed. Hence it is manifest that Paul, in this passage, exhorts in such a manner as to confirm the foregoing doctrine; for, in describing solid piety and holiness of life, his aim is, that those vain shows of human traditions may vanish. 430 At the same time, he anticipates an objection with which the false apostles might assail him. What then? “Wouldst thou rather have men be idle than addict themselves to such exercises, of whatever sort they may be?” When, therefore, he bids Christians apply themselves to exercises of a greatly superior kind, he cuts off the handle for this calumny; nay more, he loads them with no small odium, on the ground that they impede the right course of the pious by worthless amusements. 431
1. If ye are risen with Christ. Ascension follows resurrection: hence, if we are the members of Christ we must ascend into heaven, because he, on being raised up from the dead, was received up into heaven, (Mr 16:19,) that he might draw us up with him. Now, we seek those things which are above, when in our minds 432 we are truly sojourners in this world, and are not bound to it. The word rendered think upon expresses rather assiduity and intensity of aim: “Let your whole meditation be as to this: to this apply your intellect — to this your mind.” But if we ought to think of nothing but of what is heavenly, because Christ is in heaven, how much less becoming were it to seek Christ upon the earth. Let us therefore bear in mind that that is a true and holy thinking as to Christ, which forthwith bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds may dwell with him.
As to the right hand of God, it is not confined to heaven, but fills the whole world. Paul has made mention of it here to intimate that Christ encompasses us by his power, that we may not think that distance of place is a cause of separation between us and him, and that at the same time his majesty may excite us wholly to reverence him.
2. Not the things that are on earth. He does not mean, as he does a little afterwards, depraved appetites, which reign in earthly men, nor even riches, or fields, or houses, nor any other things of the present life, which we must
use, as though we did not use them,
(1 Cor. 7:30, 31) 433
but is still following out his discussion as to ceremonies, which he represents as resembling entanglements which constrain us to creep upon the ground. “Christ,” says he, “calls us upwards to himself, while these draw us downwards.” For this is the winding-up and exposition of what he had lately touched upon as to the abolition of ceremonies through the death of Christ. “The ceremonies are dead to you through the death of Christ, and you to them, in order that, being raised up to heaven with Christ, you may think only of those things that are above. Leave off therefore earthly things.” I shall not contend against others who are of a different mind; but certainly the Apostle appears to me to go on step by step, so that, in the first instance, he places traditions as to trivial matters in contrast with meditation on the heavenly life, and afterwards, as we shall see, goes a step farther.
3. For ye are dead. No one can rise again with Christ, if he has not first died with him. Hence he draws an argument from rising again to dying, as from a consequent to an antecedent, 434 meaning that we must be dead to the world that we may live to Christ. Why has he taught, that we must seek those things that are above? It is because the life of the pious is above. Why does he now teach, that the things which are on earth are to be left off? Because they are dead to the world. “Death goes before that resurrection, of which I have spoken. Hence both of them must be seen in you.”
It is worthy of observation, that our life is said to be hid, that we may not murmur or complain if our life, being buried under the ignominy of the cross, and under various distresses, differs nothing from death, but may patiently wait for the day of revelation. And in order that our waiting may not be painful, let us observe those expressions, in God, and with Christ, which intimate that our life is out of danger, although it does not appear. For, in the first place, God is faithful, and therefore will not deny what has been committed to him, (2Ti 1:12,) nor deceive in the guardianship which he has undertaken; and, secondly, the fellowship of Christ brings still greater security. For what is to be more desired by us than this — that our life remain with the very fountain of life. Hence there is no reason why we should be alarmed if, on looking around on every side, we nowhere see life. For we are
saved by hope. But those things which are already seen with our eyes are not hoped for. (Ro 8:24.)
Nor does he teach that our life is hid merely in the opinion of the world, but even as to our own view, because this is the true and necessary trial of our hope, that being encompassed, as it were, with death, we may seek life somewhere else than in the world.
4. But when Christ, our life, shall appear. Here we have a choice consolation — that the coming of Christ will be the manifestation of our life. And, at the same time, he admonishes us how unreasonable were the disposition of the man, who should refuse to bear up 435 until that day. For if our life is shut up in Christ, it must be hid, until he shall appear
5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
5. Mortificate igitur membra vestra, quae sunt super terram, scortationem, immunditiem, mollitiem, concupiscentiam malam, et avaritiam, quae est idololatria.
6. For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
6. Propter quae venit ira Dei in filios inobedientiae;
7. In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
7. In quibus vos quoque ambulabatis aliquando, quum viveretis in illis.
8. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
8. Nunc autem deponite et vos omnia, iram, indignationem, malitiam, maledicentiam, turpiloquentiam ex ore vestro.
5. Mortify therefore. Hitherto he has been speaking of contempt of the world. He now proceeds further, and enters upon a higher philosophy, as to the mortification of the flesh. That this may be the better understood, let us take notice that there is a twofold mortification. The former relates to those things that are around us. Of this he has hitherto treated. The other is inward — that of the understanding and will, and of the whole of our corrupt nature. He makes mention of certain vices which he calls, not with strict accuracy, but at the same time elegantly, members. For he conceives of our nature as being, as it were, a mass made up of different vices. They are, therefore, our members, inasmuch as they in a manner stick close to us. He calls them also earthly, alluding to what he had said — not the things that are on earth, (Col 3:2,) but in a different sense. “I have admonished you, that earthly things are to be disregarded: you must, however, make it your aim to mortify those vices which detain you on the earth.” He intimates, however, that we are earthly, so long as the vices of our flesh are vigorous in us, and that we are made heavenly by the renewing of the Spirit.
After fornication he adds uncleanness, by which term he expresses all kinds of wantonness, by which lascivious persons pollute themselves. To these is added, πάθος that is, lust, which includes all the allurements of unhallowed desire. This term, it is true, denotes mental perturbations of other kinds, and disorderly motions contrary to reason; but lust is not an unsuitable rendering of this passage. As to the reason why covetousness is here spoken of as a worshipping of images, 436 consult the Epistle to the Ephesians, that I may not say the same thing twice.
6. On account of which things the wrath of God cometh. I do not find fault with the rendering of Erasmus — solet venire — (is wont to come,) but as the present tense is often taken in Scripture instead of the future, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, I have preferred to leave the rendering undecided, so that it might be accommodated to either meaning. He warns the Colossians, then, either of the ordinary judgments of God, which are seen daily, or of the vengeance which he has once denounced upon the wicked, and which impends over them, but will not be manifested until the last day. I willingly, however, admit the former meaning — that God, who is the perpetual Judge of the world, is accustomed to punish the crimes in question.
He says, however, expressly, that the wrath of God will come, or is wont to come, upon the unbelieving or disobedient, instead of threatening them with anything of this nature. 437 For God would rather that we should see his wrath upon the reprobate, than feel it in ourselves. It is true, that when the promises of grace are set before us, every one of the pious ought to embrace them equally as though they were designed for himself particularly; but, on the other hand, let us dread the threatenings of wrath and destruction in such a manner, that those things which are suitable for the reprobate, may serve as a lesson to us. God, it is true, is often said to be angry even with his children, and sometimes chastens their sins with severity. Paul speaks here, however, of eternal destruction, of which a mirror is to be seen only in the reprobate. In short, whenever God threatens, he shews, as it were, indirectly the punishment, that, beholding it in the reprobate, we may be deterred from sinning.
7. In which ye walked. Erasmus mistakingly refers this to men, rendering it, “inter quos,” (“among whom,”) for there can be no doubt that Paul had in view the vices, in which he, says that the Colossians had walked, during the time that they lived in them. For living and walking differ from each other, as power does from action. Living holds the first place: walking comes afterwards, as in Ga 5:25,
If ye live in the SPIRIT, WALK also in the Spirit.
By these words he intimates, that it were an unseemly thing that they should addict themselves any more to the vices, to which they had died through Christ. See the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is an argument from a withdrawment of the cause to a withdrawment of the effect.
8. But now — that is, after having ceased to live in the flesh. For the power and nature of mortification are such, that all corrupt affections are extinguished in us, lest sin should afterwards produce in us its wonted fruits. What I have rendered indignationem, (indignation,) is in the Greek θυμός — a term, which denotes a more impetuous passionateness than ὀργὴ, (anger.) Here, however, he enumerates, as may easily be perceived, forms of vice that were different from those previously mentioned.
9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
9. Ne mentiamini alii diversus alios, postquam exuistis veterem hominem cum actionibus suis:
10. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
10. Et induistis novum, qui renovatur in agnitionem, secundum imaginem eius, qui creavit eum:
11. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
11. Ubi non est Graecus nec Judaeus, circumcisio nec praeputium, barbarus, Scytha, servus, liber: sed omnia et in omnibus Christus.
12. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
12. Induite igitur, tanquam electi Dei sancti et dilecti, viscera miserationum, comitatem, humilitatem, mansuetudinem, tolerantiam,
13. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
13. Sufferentes vos mutuo, et condonantes si quis adversus alium litem habeat: quemadmodum Christus condonavit vobis, ita et vos.
9. Lie not. When he forbids lying, he condemns every sort of cunning, and all base artifices of deception. For I do not understand the term as referring merely to calumnies, but I view it as contrasted in a general way with sincerity. Hence it might be allowable to render it more briefly, and I am not sure but that it might also be a better rendering, thus: Lie not one to another. He follows out, however, his argument as to the fellowship, which believers have in the death and resurrection of Christ, but employs other forms of expression.
The old man denotes — whatever we bring from our mother’s womb, and whatever we are by nature. 438 It is put off by all that are renewed by Christ. The new man, on the other hand, is that which is renewed by the Spirit of Christ to the obedience of righteousness, or it is nature restored to its true integrity by the same Spirit. The old man, however, comes first in order, because we are first born from Adam, and afterwards are born again through Christ. And as what we have from Adam becomes old, 439 and tends towards ruin, so what we obtain through Christ remains for ever, and is not frail; but, on the contrary, tends towards immortality. This passage is worthy of notice, inasmuch as a definition of regeneration may be gathered from it. For it contains two parts — the putting off of the old man, and the putting on of the new, and of these Paul here makes mention. It is also to be noticed, that the old man is distinguished by his works, as a tree is by its fruits. Hence it follows, that the depravity that is innate in us is denoted by the term old man
10. Which is renewed in knowledge. He shews in the first place, that newness of life consists in knowledge — not as though a simple and bare knowledge were sufficient, but he speaks of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is lively and effectual, so as not merely to enlighten the mind by kindling it up with the light of truth, but transforming the whole man. And this is what he immediately adds, that we are renewed after the image of God. Now, the image of God resides in the whole of the soul, inasmuch as it is not the reason merely that is rectified, but also the will. Hence, too, we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration, that is, that we may be made like God, and that his glory may shine forth in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God, of which mention is made by Moses in Ge 9:6, 440 the rectitude and integrity of the whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God. He speaks somewhat differently in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but the meaning is the same. See the passage — Eph 4:24. Paul, at the same time, teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection and blessedness to bear the image of God.
11. Where there is neither Jew. He has added this intentionally, that he may again draw away the Colossians from ceremonies. For the meaning of the statement is this, that Christian perfection does not stand in need of those outward observances, nay, that they are things that are altogether at variance with it. For under the distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, of Jew and Greek, he includes, by synecdoche, 441 all outward things. The terms that follow, barbarian, Scythian, 442 bond, free, are added by way of amplification.
Christ is all, and in all, that is, Christ alone holds, as they say, the prow and the stern — the beginning and the end. Farther, by Christ, he means the spiritual righteousness of Christ, which puts an end to ceremonies, as we have formerly seen. They are, therefore, superfluous in a state of true perfection, nay more, they ought to have no place, inasmuch as injustice would otherwise be done to Christ, as though it were necessary to call in those helps for making up his deficiencies.
13. Put on therefore. As he has enumerated some parts of the old man, so he now also enumerates some parts of the new. “Then,” says he, “will it appear that ye are renewed by Christ, when ye are merciful and kind. For these are the effects and evidences of renovation.” Hence the exhortation depends on the second clause, and, accordingly, he keeps up the metaphor in the word rendered put on
He mentions, first, bowels of mercy, by which expression he means an earnest affection, with yearnings, as it were, of the bowels: Secondly, he makes mention of kindness, (for in this manner I have chosen to render χρηστότητα,) by which we make ourselves amiable. To this he adds humility, because no one will be kind and gentle but the man who, laying aside haughtiness, and high mindedness, brings himself down to the exercise of modesty, claiming nothing for himself.
Gentleness — the term which follows — has a wider acceptation than kindness, for that is chiefly in look and speech, while this is also in inward disposition. As, however, it frequently happens, that we come in contact with wicked and ungrateful men, there is need of patience, that it may cherish mildness in us. He at length explains what he meant by long-suffering — that we embrace each other indulgently, and forgive also where any offense has been given. As, however, it is a thing that is hard and difficult, he confirms this doctrine by the example of Christ, and teaches, that the same thing is required from us, that as we, who have so frequently and so grievously offended, have nevertheless been received into favor, we should manifest the same kindness towards our neighbors, by forgiving whatever offenses they have committed against us. Hence he says, if any one have a quarrel against another. By this he means, that even just occasions of quarrel, according to the views of men, ought not to be followed out.
As the chosen of God. Elect I take here to mean, set apart. “God has chosen you to himself, has sanctified you, and received you into his love on this condition, that ye be merciful, etc. To no purpose does the man that has not these excellences boast that he is holy, and beloved of God; to no purpose does he reckon himself among the number of believers.”
14. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
14. Propter omnia haec caritatem, quae est vinculum perfectionis:
15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
15. Et pax Dei palmam obtineat 443 in cordibus vestris, ad quam etiam estis vocati in uno corpore, et grati sitis.
16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
16. Sermo Christi inhabiter in vobis opulente in omni sapientia, docendo et commonefaciendo vos psalmis, hymnis, et canticis spiritualibus cum gratia, canentes in cordibus vestris Domino.
17. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
17. Et quiquid feceritis sermone vel opere, omnia in nomine Domini Iesu, gratiae agentes Deo et Patri, per ipsum.
14. On account of all these things. The rendering that has been given by others, “super omnia haec,” (above all these things,) instead of insuper, (over and above,) is, in my opinion, meagre. It would be more suitable to render it, Before all these things. I have chosen, however, the more ordinary signification of the word ἐπί. For as all the things that he has hitherto enumerated flow from love, he now on good grounds exhorts the Colossians to cherish love among themselves, for the sake of these things — that they may be merciful, gentle, ready to forgive, as though he had said, that they would be such only in the event of their having love. For where love is wanting, all these things are sought for in vain. That he may commend it the more, he calls it the bond of perfection, meaning by this, that the troop of all the virtues 444 is comprehended under it. For this truly is the rule of our whole life, and of all our actions, so that everything that is not regulated according to it is faulty, whatever attractiveness it may otherwise possess. This is the reason why it is called here the bond of perfection; because there is nothing in our life that is well regulated if it be not directed towards it, but everything that we attempt is mere waste.
The Papists, however, act a ridiculous part in abusing this declaration, with the view of maintaining justification by works. “Love,” say they, “is the bond of perfection: now perfection is righteousness; therefore we are justified by love.” The answer is twofold; for Paul here is not reasoning as to the manner in which men are made perfect in the sight of God, but as to the manner in which they may live perfectly among themselves. For the genuine exposition of the passage is this — that other things will be in a desirable state as to our life, if love be exercised among us. When, however, we grant that love is righteousness, they groundlessly and childishly take occasion from this to maintain, that we are justified by love, for where will perfect love be found? We, however, do not say that men are justified by faith alone, on the ground that the observance of the law is not righteousness, but rather on this ground, that as we are all transgressors of the law, we are, in consequence of our being destitute of any righteousness of our own, constrained to borrow righteousness from Christ. There remains nothing, therefore, but the righteousness of faith, because perfect love is nowhere to be found.
15. And the peace of God. He gives the name of the peace of God to that which God has established among us, as will appear from what follows. He would have it reign in our hearts. 445 He employs, however, a very appropriate metaphor; for as among wrestlers, 446 he who has vanquished all the others carries off the palm, so he would have the peace of God be superior to all carnal affections, which often hurry us on to contentions, disagreements, quarrels, secret grudges. He accordingly prohibits us from giving loose reins to corrupt affections of this kind. As, however it is difficult to restrain them, he points out also the remedy, that the peace of God may carry the victory, because it must be a bridle, by which carnal affections may be restrained. Hence he says, in our hearts; because we constantly feel there great conflicts, while the flesh lusteth against the Spirit. (Ga 5:17.)
The clause, to which ye are called, intimates what manner of peace this is — that unity which Christ has consecrated among us under his own direction. 447 For God has reconciled us to himself in Christ, (2Co 5:18,) with this view, that we may live in entire harmony among ourselves. He adds, in one body, meaning by this, that we cannot be in a state of agreement with God otherwise than by being united among ourselves as members of one body. When he bids us be thankful, I do not take this as referring so much to the remembrance of favors, as to sweetness of manners. Hence, with the view of removing ambiguity, I prefer to render it, “Be amiable.” At the same time I acknowledge that, if gratitude takes possession of our minds, 448 we shall without fail be inclined to cherish mutual affection among ourselves.
16. Let the word of Christ dwell. He would have the doctrine of the gospel be familiarly known by them. Hence we may infer by what spirit those are actuated in the present day, who cruelly 449 interdict the Christian people from making use of it, and furiously vociferate, that no pestilence is more to be dreaded, than that the reading of the Scriptures should be thrown open to the common people. For, unquestionably, Paul here addresses men and women of all ranks; nor would he simply have them take a slight taste merely of the word of Christ, but exhorts that it should dwell in them; that is, that it should have a settled abode, and that largely, that they may make it their aim to advance and increase more and more every day. As, however, the desire of learning is extravagant on the part of many, while they pervert the word of the Lord for their own ambition, or for vain curiosity, or in some way corrupt it, he on this account adds, in all wisdom — that, being instructed by it, we may be wise as we ought to be.
Farther, he gives a short definition of this wisdom — that the Colossians teach one another Teaching is taken here to mean profitable instruction, which tends to edification, as in Ro 12:7 — He that teacheth, on teaching; also in Timothy — “All Scripture is profitable for teaching.” (2Ti 3:16.) This is the true use of Christ’s word. As, however, doctrine is sometimes in itself cold, and, as one says, 450 when it is simply shewn what is right, virtue is praised 451 and left to starve, 452 he adds at the same time admonition, which is, as it were, a confirmation of doctrine and incitement to it. Nor does he mean that the word of Christ ought to be of benefit merely to individuals, that they may teach themselves, but he requires mutual teaching and admonition.
Psalms, hymns. He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; 453 and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument.
The clause, in grace, Chrysostom explains in different ways. I, however, take it simply, as also afterwards, in Col 4:6, where he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt, in grace,” that is, by way of a dexterity that may be agreeable, and may please the hearers by its profitableness, so that it may be opposed to buffoonery and similar trifles.
Singing in your hearts. This relates to disposition; for as we ought to stir up others, so we ought also to sing from the heart, that there may not be merely an external sound with the mouth. At the same time, we must not understand it as though he would have every one sing inwardly to himself, but he would have both conjoined, provided the heart goes before the tongue.
17. And whatsoever ye do. We have already explained these things, and what goes before, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same things are said almost word for word. As he had already begun to discourse in reference to different parts of the Christian life, and had simply touched upon a few precepts, it would have been too tedious a thing to follow out the rest one by one, he therefore concludes in a summary way, that life must be regulated in such a manner, that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the mark. 454 For we shall fitly comprehend under this term the two following things — that all our aims 455 may set out with invocation of Christ, and may be subservient to his glory. From invocation follows the act of blessing God, which supplies us with matter of thanksgiving. It is also to be observed, that he teaches that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.
18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
18. Mulieres, subditae estote propriis maritis, quemadmodum decet in Domino.
19. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
19. Viri, diligite uxores, et ne amari sitis adversus illas.
20. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
20. Filii, obedite parentibus vestris per omnia: hoc enim placet Domino.
21. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
21. Patres, ne provocetis liberos vestros, ne deiiciantur animis.
22. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
22. Servi, obedite per omnia iis, qui secundum carnem sunt domini: non exhibitis ad oculum obsequiis, tanquam hominibus placere studentes, sed in simplicitate cordis, ut qui timeatis Deum.
23. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
23. Et quicquid feceritis, ex animo facite, tanquam Domino, et non hominibus:
24. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
24. Scientes quod a Domino recipietis mercedem hereditatis, nam Domino Christo servitis.
25. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
25. Qui autem iniuste egerit, mercedem reportabit suae iniquitatis: et non est personarum acceptio. (De 10:17.)
18 Wives, be subject. Now follow particular duties, as they are called, 456 which depend on the calling of individuals. In handling these it were superfluous to take up many words, inasmuch as I have already stated in the Epistle to the Ephesians 457 almost everything that was necessary. Here I shall only add briefly such things as are more particularly suited to an exposition of the passage before us.
He commands wives to be subject. This is clear, but what follows is of doubtful signification — as it is fit in the Lord. For some connect it thus — “Be subject in the Lord, as it is fit.” I, however, view it rather differently, — As it is fit in the Lord, that is, according to the appointment of the Lord, so that he confirms the subjection of wives by the authority of God. He requires love on the part of husbands, and that they be not bitter, because there is a danger lest they should abuse their authority in the way of tyranny.
20 Children, obey your parents. He enjoins it upon children to obey their parents, 458 without any exception. But what if parents 459 should feel disposed to constrain them to anything that is unlawful; will they in that case, too, obey without any reservation? Now it were worse than unreasonable, that the, authority of men should prevail at the expense of neglecting God. I answer, that here, too, we must understand as implied what he expresses elsewhere, (Eph 6:1) — in the Lord. But for what purpose does he employ a term of universality? I answer again, that it is to shew, that obedience must be rendered not merely to just commands, but also to such as are unreasonable. 460 For many make themselves compliant with the wishes of their parents only where the command is not grievous or inconvenient. But, on the other hand, this one thing ought to be considered by children — that whoever may be their parents, they have been allotted to them by the providence of God, who by his appointment makes children subject to their parents.
In all things, therefore, that they may not refuse anything, however difficult or disagreeable — in all things, that in things indifferent they may give deference to the station which their parents occupy — in all things, that they may not put themselves on a footing of equality with their parents, in the way of questioning and debating, or disputing, it being always understood that conscience is not to be infringed upon. 461 He prohibits parents from exercising an immoderate harshness, lest their children should be so disheartened as to be incapable of receiving any honorable training; for we see, from daily experience, the advantage of a liberal education.
22 Servants, be obedient. Anything that is stated here respecting servants requires no exposition, as it has been already expounded in commenting on Ephesians 6:1, with the exception of these two expressions, — For we serve the Lord Christ; and, He that will act unjustly will receive the reward of his iniquity.
By the former statement he means, that service is done to men in such a way that Christ at the same time holds supremacy of dominion, and is the supreme master. Here, truly, is choice consolation for all that are under subjection, inasmuch as they are informed that, while they willingly serve their masters, their services are acceptable to Christ, as though they had been rendered to him. From this, also, Paul gathers, that they will receive from him a reward, but it is the reward of inheritance, by which he means that the very thing that is bestowed in reward of works is freely given to us by God, for inheritance comes from adoption.
In the second clause he again comforts servants, by saying that, if they are oppressed by the unjust cruelty of their masters, God himself will take vengeance, and will not, on the ground that they are servants, overlook the injuries inflicted upon them, inasmuch as there is no respect of persons with him. For this consideration might diminish their courage, if they imagined that God had no regard for them, or no great regard, and that their miseries gave him no concern. Besides, it often happens that servants themselves endeavor to avenge injurious and cruel treatment. He obviates, accordingly, this evil, by admonishing them to wait patiently the judgment of God.
“Recommandoyent estroittement;” — “Urgently recommended.”
“S’en aillent en fumee;” — “May vanish into smoke.”
“Par des amusemens plus que pueriles;” — “By worse than childish amusements.”
“De cœur et esprit;” — “In heart and spirit.”
See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 257.
“C’est a dire de ce qui suit a ce qui va deuant;” — “That is to say, from what follows to what comes before.”
“D’endurer et attendre;” — “To endure and wait.”
“Est appelee Idolatrie;” — “Is called Idolatry.”
“Plustot que de menacer les Colossiens de telles choses;” — “Instead of threatening the Colossians with such things.”
See Calvin on the Romans, p. 224; also Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 188.
“Deuient vieil et caduque;” — “Becomes old and frail.”
“De laquelle Moyse fait mention au Genesis 1, chap. c. 26, et 9, b. 6;” — “Of which Moses makes mention in Gen. 1:26, Gen. 9:6.”
Synecdoche, a figure of speech, by which a part is taken for the whole. — Ed.
Howe supposes that Paul “may possibly refer here to a Scythian who, having an inclination to learning, betook himself to Athens, to study the principles of philosophy that were taught there. But meeting one day with a person that very insolently upbraided him on the account of his country, he gave him this smart repartee: ‘True indeed it is, my country is a reproach to me; but you, for your part, are a reproach to your country.’” — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1822,) vol. 5, p. 497. — Ed.
“Regne, ou, gouerne;” — “Reign, or, rule.”
Virtutum omnium chorum. See Cic. 50:3, Offic. c. ult. — Ed.
“Rule in your hearts, (βραβεύετο.) Let the peace of Christ judge, decide, and govern in your hearts, as the brabeus, or judge, does in the Olympic contests... While peace rules, all is safe.” — Dr. A. Clarke. — Ed.
“Le mot Grec signifie aucunesfois, Enclins a rendre graces, et recognoistre les benefices que nous receuons;” — “The Greek word means sometimes — having a disposition to give thanks, and to acknowledge the favors that we receive.”
“En son nom et authorite;” — “In his own name and authority.”
“Si nous auons les cœurs et les sens abbreuuez de ceste affection de n’estre point ingrats;” — “If we have our hearts and minds thoroughly imbued with this disposition of being not unthankful.”
“Si estroitement et auec si grande cruaute;” — “So strictly and with such great cruelty.”
“Comme a dit anciennement vn poëte Latin; — “As a Latin poet has anciently said.”
“Probitas laudatur et alget;” — “Virtue is praised and starves,” — that is, is slighted. See Juv. 1:74. — Ed.
“Il se trouue assez de gens qui louënt vertu, mais cependant elle se morfond: c’est a dire, il n’y en a gueres qui se mettent a l’ensuyure;” — “There are persons enough who praise virtue, but in the mean time it starves; that is to say, there are scarcely any of them that set themselves to pursue it.”
“Plaisanteries pleines de vanite et niaiserie;” — “Pleasantries full of vanity and silliness.”
“Comme a son but principal;” — “As to its chief aim.”
“Toutes nos œuures et entreprinses;” — “All our works and enterprises.”
“Les enseignemens concernans le deuoir particulier d’vn chacun;” — “Instructions relating to the particular duty of each individual.”
I believe Calvin is referring to his commentary on Eph 5:21-6:9, — v.41 p. 317. — fj.
“Leurs peres et meres;” — “Their fathers and mothers.”
“Les peres ou les meres;” — “Fathers or mothers.”
“C’est a dire, fascheux et rigoureux;” — “That is to say, grievous and rigorous.”
“Ou entrant en dispute auec eux, comme compagnon a compagnon, ainsi qu’on dit. Toutesfois, que ce soit tant que faire se pourra sans offenser Dieu;” — “Or entering into dispute with them, as associate with associate, as they say. At the same time, let it be only in so far as it can be done without offending God.”