Chrysostom Colossians 300
300 he Firstborn of all creation: for in Him were all things created, in the heavens, and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the Church.” Col 1,15-18
301 To-Day if is necessary for me to pay the debt, which yesterday I deferred, in order that I might address it to your minds when in full force. Paul, discoursing as we showed of the dignity of the Son, says these words: “Who is the Image of the invisible God.” Whose image then wilt thou have Him be? God’s? Then he is exactly like the one to whom you assign Him. For if as a man’s image, say so, and I will have done with you as a madman. But if as God and God’s Son, God’s image, he shows the exact likeness. Wherefore hath no Angel anywhere been called either “image” or “son,” but man both? Wherefore? Because in the former case indeed the exaltedness of their nature might presently have thrust the many into this impiety ; but in the other case the mean and low nature is a pledge of security against this, and will not allow any, even should they desire it, to suspect anything of the kind, nor to bring down the Word so low. For this cause, where the meanness is great, the Scripture boldly asserts the honor, but where the nature is higher, it forbears. “The Image of the Invisible” is itself also invisible, and invisible in like manner, for otherwise it would not be an image. For an image, so far as it is an image, even amongst us, ought to be exactly similar, as, for example, in respect of the features and the likeness. But here indeed amongst us, this is by no means possible; for human art fails in many respects, or rather fails in all, if you examine with accuracy. But where God is, there is no error, no failure.
302 But if a creature: how is He the Image of the Creator? For neither is a horse the image of a man. If “the Image” mean not exact likeness to the Invisible, what hinders the Angels also from being His Image? for they too are invisible; but not to one another: but the soul is invisible: but because it is invisible, it is simply on that account an image, and not in such sort as he and angels are images. “The Firstborn of all creation.” “What then,” saith one, “Lo, He is a creature.” Whence? tell me. “Because he said Firstborn.” However, he said not “first created,” but “firstborn.” Then it is reasonable that he should be called many things. For he must also be called a brother “in all things.” (He 2,17). And we must take from Him His being Creator; and insist that neither in dignity nor in any other thing is He superior to us? And who that hath understanding would say this? For the word “firstborn” is not expressive of dignity and honor, nor of anything else, but of time only. What does “the firstborn” signify? That he is created, is the answer. Well. If then this be so, it has also kindred expressions. But otherwise the firstborn is of the same essence with those of whom he is firstborn. Therefore he will be the firstborn son of all things—for it said “of every creature”; therefore of stones also, and of me, is God the Word firstborn. But again, of what, tell me, are the words “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1,18 Rm 8,29) declaratory? Not that He first rose; for he said not simply, “of the dead,” but “firstborn from the dead,” nor yet, “that He died first,” but that He rose the firstborn from the dead. So that they declare nothing else than this, that He is the Firstfruits of the Resurrection. Surely then neither in the place before us. Next he proceeds to the doctrine itself. For that they may not think Him to be of more recent existence, because that in former times the approach was through Angels, but now through Him; he shows first, that they had no power (for else it had not been “out of darkness” (Col 1,13) that he brought), next, that He is also before them. And he uses as a proof of His being before them, this; that they were created by him. “For in Him,” he saith, “were all things created.” What say here the followers of Paul of Samosata? “The things in the heavens.” What was in question, he has placed first; “and the things upon the earth.” Then he says, “the visible and the invisible things”; invisible, such as soul, and all that has come to exist in heaven; visible, such as men, sun, sky. “Whether thrones.” And what is granted, he lets alone, but what is doubted he asserts. “Whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.” The words “whether,” “or,” comprehend the whole of things; but by means of the greater things show it of the less also. But the Spirit is not amongst the “powers.” “All things,” he saith, “have been created through Him, and unto Him.” Lo, “in Him,” is “through Him,” for having said “in Him,” he added, “through Him.” But what “unto Him”? It is this; the subsistence of all things depends on Him. Not only did He Himself bring them out of nothing into being, but Himself sustains them now, so that were they dissevered from His Providence, they were at once undone and destroyed. But He said not, “He continues them,” which had been a grosser way of speaking, but what is more subtle, that “on” Him they depend. To have only a bearing on Him is enough to continue anything and bind it fast. So also the word “firstborn,” in the sense of a foundation. But this doth not show the creatures to be consubstantial with Him; but that all things are through Him, and in Him are upheld. Since Paul also when he says elsewhere “I have laid a foundation” (1Co 3,10), is speaking not concerning substance, but operation. For, that thou mayest not think Him to be a minister, he says that He continues them, which is not less than making them. Certainly, with us it is greater even: for to the former, art conducts us; but to the latter, not so, it does not even stay a thing in decay.
“And He is before all things,” he saith. This is befitting God. Where is Paul of Samosata? “And in Him all things consist,” that is, they are created into Him. He repeats these expressions in close sequence; with their close succession, as it were with rapid strokes, tearing up the deadly doctrine by the roots. For, if even when such great things had been declared, still after so long a time Paul of Samosata sprung up, how much more [would such have been the case], had not these things been said before? “And in Him,” he saith, “all things consist.” How “consist” in one who was not? So that the things also done through Angels are of Him.
“And He is the head of the body, the Church.”
Then having spoken of His dignity, he afterwards speaks of His love to man also. “He is,” saith he, “the Head of the body, the Church.” And he said not “of the fullness,” (although this too is signified,) out of a wish to show His great friendliness to us, in that He who is thus above, and above all, connected Himself with those below. For everywhere He is first; above first; in the Church first, for He is the Head; in the Resurrection first. That is,
Col 1,18. “That He might have the preËminence.” So that in generation also He is first. And this is what Paul is chiefly endeavoring to show. For if this be made good, that He was before all the Angels; then there is brought in along with it this also as a consequence, that He did their works by commanding them. And what is indeed wonderful, he makes a point to show that He is first in the later generation. Although elsewhere he calls Adam first (1Co 15,45), as in truth he is; but here he takes the Church for the whole race of mankind. For He is first of the Church; and first of men after the flesh, like as of the Creation. And therefore he here uses the word “firstborn.”
303 What is in this place the meaning of “the Firstborn”? Who was created first, or rose before all; as in the former place it means, Who was before all things. And here indeed he uses the word “firstfruits,” saying, “Who is the Firstfruits, the Firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preËminence,” showing that the rest also are such as He; but in the former place it is not the “Firstfruits” of creation. And it is there, “The Image of the invisible God,” and then, “Firstborn.”
Col 1,19-20. “For it was the good pleasure of the Father, that in Him should all the fullness dwell. And having made peace through the Blood of His Cross, through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.”
Whatsoever things are of the Father, these he saith are of the Son also, and that with more of intensity, because that He both became “dead” for, and united Himself to us. He said, “Firstfruits,” as of fruits. He said not “Resurrection,” but “Firstfruits,” showing that He hath sanctified us all, and offered us, as it were, a sacrifice. The term “fullness” some use of the Godhead, like as Jn said, “Of His fullness have all we received.” That is, whatever was the Son, the whole Son dwelt there, not a sort of energy, but a Substance.
(He hath no cause to assign but the will of God: for this is the import of, “it was the good pleasure …in Him. And …through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself.” Lest thou shouldest think that He undertook the office of a minister only, he saith, “unto Himself.” (2Co 5,18). And yet he elsewhere says, that He reconciled us to God, as in the Epistle he wrote to the Corinthians. And he well said, “Through Him to make an end of reconciling”; for they were already reconciled; but completely, he says, and in such sort, as no more to be at enmity with Him. How? For not only the reconciliation was set forth, but also the manner of the reconciliation. “Having made peace through the Blood of His Cross.” The word “reconcile,” shows the enmity; the words “having made peace,” the war. “Through the Blood of His Cross, through Himself, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.” A great thing indeed it is to reconcile; but that this should be through Himself too, is a greater thing; and a greater still,—how through Himself? Through His Blood. Through His Blood; and he said not simply His Blood, but what is yet greater, through the Cross. So that the marvels are five: He reconciled us; to God; through Himself; through Death; through the Cross. Admirable again! How he has mixed them up! For lest thou shouldest think that it is one thing merely, or that the Cross is anything of itself, he saith “through Himself.” How well he knows that this was a great thing. Because not by speaking words, but by giving Himself up for the reconciliation, He so wrought everything.
But what is “things in the heavens”? For with reason indeed is it said, “the things upon the earth,” for those were filled with enmity, and manifoldly divided, and each one of us was utterly at variance with himself, and with the many; but how made He peace amongst “the things in the heavens”? Was war and battle there also? How then do we pray, saying, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth”? (Mt 6,10). What is it then? The earth was divided from heaven, the Angels were become enemies to men, through seeing the Lord insulted. “To sum up,” he saith, “all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth.” (Ep 1,10). How? The things in heaven indeed in this way: He translated Man thither, He brought up to them the enemy, the hated one. Not only made He the things on earth to be at peace, but He brought up to them him that was their enemy and foe. Here was peace profound. Angels again appeared on the earth thereafter, because that Man too had appeared in heaven. And it seems to me that Paul was caught up on this account (2Co 12,2), and to show that the Son also had been received up thither. For in the earth indeed, the peace was twofold; with the things of heaven, and with themselves; but in heaven it was simple. For if the Angels rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, much more will they over so many.
All this God’s power hath wrought. Why then place ye confidence in Angels? saith he. For so far are they from bringing you near, that they were ever your enemies, except God Himself had reconciled you with them. Why then run ye to them? Wouldest thou know the hatred which the Angels had against us, how great it was; and how averse to us they always were? They were sent to take vengeance in the cases of the Israelites, of David, of the Sodomites, of the Valley of weeping. (Ex 23,20). Not so however now, but, on the contrary, they sang upon the earth (2S 24,16) with exceeding joy. And He led these down to men (Gn 19,13), and led men up to them.
304 And observe, I pray you, the marvel in this: He brought these first down hither, and then he took up man to them; earth became heaven, because that heaven was about to receive the things of earth. Therefore when we give thanks, we say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.” Behold, he saith, even men appeared well-pleasing to Him thereafter. What is “good will”? (Ep 2,14 Dt 32,8)), Sept). Reconciliation. No longer is the heaven a wall of partition. At first the Angels were according to the number of the nations; but now, not to the number of the nations, but that of the believers. Whence is this evident? Hear Christ saying, “See that ye despise not one of these little ones, for their Angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” (Mt 18,10) For each believer hath an Angel; since even from the beginning, every one of those that were approved had his Angel, as Jacob says, “The Angel that feedeth me, and delivereth me from my youth.” (Gn 48,15-16, nearly) If then we have Angels, let us be sober, as though we were in the presence of tutors; for there is a demon present also. Therefore we pray, asking for the Angel of peace, and everywhere we ask for peace (for there is nothing equal to this); peace, in the Churches, in the prayers, in the supplications, in the salutations; and once, and twice, and thrice, and many times, does he that is over the Church give it, “Peace be unto you.” Wherefore? Because this is the Mother of all good things; this is the foundation of joy. Therefore Christ also commanded the Apostles on entering into the houses straightway to say this, as being a sort of symbol of the good things; for He saith, “When ye come into the houses, say, Peace be unto you;” for where this is wanting, everything is useless. And to His disciples Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” (Jn 14,27). This prepareth the way for love. And he that is over the Church, says not, “Peace be unto you,” simply, but “Peace be unto all.” For what if with this man we have peace, but with another, war and fighting? what is the gain? For neither in the body, should some of its elements be at rest and others in a state of variance, is it possible that health should ever be upheld; but only when the whole of them are in good order, and harmony, and peace, and except the whole are at rest, and continue within their proper limits, all will be overturned. And, further, in our minds, except all our thoughts are at rest, peace will not exist. So great a good is peace, as that the makers and producers of it are called the sons of God (Mt 5,9 Mt 5,45), with reason; because the Son of God for this cause came upon the earth, to set at peace the things in the earth, and those in the heavens. But if the peacemakers are the sons of God, the makers of disturbance are sons of the devil.
What sayest thou? Dost thou excite contentions and fightings? And doth any ask who is so unhappy? Many there are who rejoice at evil, and who do rather rend in pieces the Body of Christ, than did the soldiers pierce it with the spear, or the Jews who struck it through with the nails. A less evil was that than this; those Members, so cut through, again united, but these when torn off, if they be not united here, will never be united, but remain apart from the Fullness. When thou art minded to war against thy brother, bethink thee that thou warrest against the members of Christ, and cease from thy madness. For what if he be an outcast? What if he be vile? What if he be open to contempt? So saith He, “It is not the will of My Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mt 18,14) And again, “Their Angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” (Mt 18,10) God for his sake and thine even became a servant, and was slain; and dost thou consider him to be nothing? Surely in this respect also thou fightest against God, in that thou deliverest a judgment contrary to His. When he that is over the Church cometh in, he straightway says, “Peace unto all”; when he preacheth, “Peace unto all”; when he blesseth, “Peace unto all”; when he biddeth to salute, “Peace unto all”; when the Sacrifice is finished, “Peace unto all”: and again, in the middle, “Grace to you and peace.” How then is it not monstrous, if, while hearing so many times that we are to have peace, we are in a state of feud with each other; and receiving peace, and giving it back, are at war with him that giveth it to us? Thou sayest, “And to thy spirit.” And dost thou traduce him abroad? Woe is me! that the majestic usages of the Church are become forms of things merely, not a truth. Woe is me! that the watchwords of this army proceed no farther than to be only words. Whence also ye are ignorant wherefore is said, “Peace unto all.” But hear what follows, what Christ saith; “And into whatsoever city or village ye shall enter …as ye enter into the house, salute it; and if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.” (Mt 10,11 Mt 10,13). We are therefore ignorant; because we look upon this merely as a figure of words; and we assent not to them in our minds. For do I give the Peace? It is Christ who deigneth to speak by us. Even if at all other times we are void of grace, yet are we not now, for your sakes. For if the Grace of God wrought in an ass and a diviner, for the sake of an economy, and the advantage of the Israelites (Nb 22), it is quite clear that it will not refuse to operate even in us, but for your sakes will endure even this.
Let none say then that I am mean, and low, and worthy of no consideration, and in such a frame of mind attend to me. For such I am; but God’s way always is, to be present even with such for the sake of the many. And, that ye may know this, with Cain He vouchsafed to talk for Abel’s sake (Gn 4)., with the devil for Job’s (Jb 1)., with Pharaoh for Joseph’s (Gn 41)., with Nebuchadnezzar for Daniel’s (Da 2 Da 4)., with Belshazzar, for the same (Da 5). And Magi moreover obtained a revelation (Mt 2); and Caiaphas prophesied, though a slayer of Christ, and an unworthy man, because of the worthiness of the priesthood. (Jn 11,49). And it is said to have been for this reason that Aaron was not smitten with leprosy. For why, tell me, when both had spoken against Moses did she alone suffer the punishment? (Nb 12) Marvel not: for if in worldly dignities, even though ten thousand charges be laid against a man, yet is he not brought to trial before he has laid down his office, in order that it may not be dishonored along with him; much more in the case of spiritual office, be he whosoever he may, the grace of God works in him, for otherwise everything is lost: but when he hath laid it down, either after he is departed or even here, then indeed, then he will suffer a sorer punishment.
Do not, I pray you, think that these things are spoken from us; it is the Grace of God which worketh in the unworthy, not for our sakes, but for yours. Hear ye then what Christ saith. “If the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it.” (). And how becometh it worthy? If “they receive you” (Lc 10,8), He saith. “But if they receive you not, nor hear your words, …verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodore and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” What boots it then, that ye receive us, and hear not the things we say? What gain is it that ye wait upon us, and give no heed to the things which are spoken to you? This will be honor to us, this the admirable service, which is profitable both to you and to us, if ye hear us. Hear also Paul saying, “I wist not, brethren, that he was High Priest.” (Ac 23,5). Hear also Christ saying, “All whatsoever they bid you observe” (Mt 23,3), that “observe and do.” Thou despisest not me, but the Priesthood; when thou seest me stripped of this, then despise me; then no more will I endure to impose commands. But so long as we sit upon this throne, so long as we have the first place, we have both the dignity and the power, even though we are unworthy. If the throne of Moses was of such reverence, that for its sake they were to be heard, much more the throne of Christ. It, we have received by succession; from it we speak; since the time that Christ hath vested in us the ministry of reconciliation.
Ambassadors, whatever be their sort, because of the dignity of an embassy, enjoy much honor. For observe; they go alone into the heart of the land of barbarians, through the midst of so many enemies; and because the law of embassy is of mighty power, all honor them; all look towards them with respect, all send them forth with safety. And we now have received a word of embassy, and we are come from God, for this is the dignity of the Episcopate. We are come to you on an embassy, requesting you to put an end to the war, and we say on what terms; not promising to give cities, nor so and so many measures of corn, nor slaves, nor gold; but the kingdom of heaven, eternal life, society with Christ, the other good things, which neither are we able to tell you, so long as we are in this flesh, and the present life. Ambassadors then we are, and we wish to enjoy honor, not for our own sakes, far be it, for we know its worthlessness, but for yours; that ye may hear with earnestness the things we say; that ye may be profited, that not with listlessness or indifference ye may attend to what is spoken. See ye not ambassadors, how all pay court to them? We are God’s ambassadors to men; but, if this offend you, not we, but the Episcopate itself, not this man or that, but the Bishop. Let no one hear me, but the dignity. Let us then do everything according to the will of God, that we may live to the glory of God, and be counted worthy of the good things promised to those that love Him, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c. &c.
400 in your evil works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.” Col 1,21-22
401 Here he goes to show that He reconciled those even who were unworthy of reconciliation. For by the saying that they were under the power of darkness, he shows the calamity in which they were. ((Col 1,13). But lest, on hearing of “the power of darkness,” thou shouldest consider it Necessity, he adds, “And you that were alienated,” so that though it appear to be the same thing that he says, yet it is not so; for it is not the same thing to deliver out of the evils him that through necessity came to suffer, and him that of his own will endures. For the former indeed is worthy to be pitied, but the latter hated. But nevertheless, he saith, you that are not against your wills, nor from compulsion, but with your wills, and wishes, sprang away from Him, and are unworthy of it, He hath reconciled. And seeing he had made mention of the “things in the heavens,” he shows, that all the enmity had its origin from hence, not thence. For they indeed were long ago desirous, and God also, but ye were not willing.
And throughout he is showing that the Angels had no power in the successive times, forasmuch as men continued enemies; they could neither persuade them, nor, if persuaded, could they deliver them from the devil. For neither would persuading them be any gain, except he that held them were bound; nor would binding him have been of any service, except they whom he detained were willing to return. But both of these were needed, and they could do neither of them, but Christ did both. So that even more marvelous than loosing death, is the persuading them. For the former was wholly of Himself, and the power lay wholly in Himself, but of the latter, not in Himself alone, but in us also; but we accomplish those things more easily of which the power lies in ourselves. Therefore, as being the greater, he puts it last. And he said not simply “were at enmity,” but “were alienated,” which denotes great enmity, nor yet “alienated” [only], but without any expectation even of returning. “And enemies in your mind,” he says; then the alienation had not proceeded so far as purpose only—but what? “in your wicked works” also. Ye were both enemies, he saith, and ye did the works of enemies.
“Yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.” Again he lays down also the manner of the reconciliation, that it was “in the Body,” not by being merely beaten, nor scourged, nor sold, but even by dying a death the most shameful. Again he makes mention of the Cross, and again lays down another benefit. For He did not only “deliver,” but, as be says above, “Who made us meet” (Col 1,12), to the same he alludes here also. “Through” His “death,” he says, “to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.” For truly, He hath not only delivered from sins, but hath also placed amongst the approved. For, not that He might deliver us from evils only, did He suffer so great things, but that also we might obtain the first rewards; as if one should not only free a condemned criminal from his punishment, but also advance him to honor. And he hath ranked you with those who have not sinned, yea rather not with those who have done no sin only, but even with those who have wrought the greatest righteousness; and, what is truly a great thing, hath given the holiness which is before Him, and the being unreprovable. Now an advance upon unblamable is unreprovable, when we have done nothing either to be condemned for, or charged with. But, since he ascribed the whole to Him, because through His death He achieved these things; “what then, says one, is it to us? we need nothing.” Therefore he added,
Col 1,23. “If so be that ye continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.”
Here he strikes a blow at their listlessness. And he said not simply “continue,” for it is possible to continue wavering, and vacillating; it is possible to stand, and continue, though turned this way and that. “If so be that ye continue,” he saith, “grounded and steadfast, and not moved away.” Wonderful! What a forcible metaphor he uses; he says not only not tossed to and fro, but not even moved. And observe, he lays down so far nothing burdensome, nor toilsome, but faith and hope; that is, if ye continue believing, that the hope of the things to come is true. For this indeed is possible; but, as regards virtuous living, it is not possible to avoid being shaken about, though it be but a little; so (what he enjoins) is not grievous.
“From the hope,” he saith, “of the Gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven.” But what is the hope of the Gospel, except Christ? For He Himself is our peace, that hath wrought all these things: so that he who ascribes them to others is “moved away”: for he has lost all, unless he believe in Christ. “Which ye heard,” he saith. And again he brings themselves as witnesses, then the whole world. He saith not, “which is being preached,” but hath already been believed and preached. As he did also at the outset (Col 1,6), being desirous by the witness of the many to establish these also. “Whereof I Paul was made a minister.” This also contributes to make it credible; “I,” saith he, “Paul a minister.” For great was his authority, as being now everywhere celebrated, and the teacher of the world.
Col 1,24. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church.”
402 And what is the connection of this? It seems indeed not to be connected, but it is even closely so. And “minister,” he says, that is, bringing in nothing from myself, but announcing what is from another. I so believe, that I suffer even for His sake, and not suffer only, but even rejoice in suffering, looking unto the hope which is to come, and I suffer not for myself, but for you. “And fill up,” he saith, “that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” It seems indeed to be a great thing he has said; but it is not of arrogancy, far be it, but even of much tender love towards Christ; for he will not have the sufferings to be his own, but His, through desire of conciliating these persons to Him. And what things I suffer, I suffer, he saith, on His account: not to me, therefore, express your gratitude, but to him, for it is He Himself who suffers. Just as if one, when sent to a person, should make request to another, saying, I beseech thee, go for me to this person, then the other should say, “it is on his account I am doing it.” So that He is not ashamed to call these sufferings also his own. For He did not only die for us, but even after His death He is ready to be afflicted for your sakes. He is eagerly and vehemently set upon showing that He is even now exposed to peril in His own Body for the Church’s sake, and he aims at this point, namely, ye are not brought unto God by us, but by Him, even though. we do these things, for we have not undertaken a work of our own, but His. And it is the same as if there were a band which had its allotted leader to protect it, and it should stand in battle, and then when he was gone, his lieutenant should succeed to his wounds until the battle were brought to a close.
Next, that for His sake also he doeth these things, hearken: “For His Body’s sake,” he saith, assuredly meaning to say this: “I pleasure not you, but Christ: for what things He should have suffered, I suffer instead of Him.” See how many things he establishes. Great, he shows, is the claim upon their love. As in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote, saying, “he committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (2Co 5,20); and again, “We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ; as though God were entreating by us.” So also here he saith, “For his sake I suffer,” that he may the more draw them to Him. That is, though He who is your debtor is gone away, yet I repay. For, on this account he also said, “that which is lacking,” to show that not even yet does he consider Him to have suffered all. “For your sake,” he saith, and even after His death He suffers; seeing that still there remains a deficiency. The same thing he doeth in another way in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, “Who also maketh intercession for us” (Rm 8,34), showing that He was not satisfied with His death alone, but even afterwards He doeth countless things.
(He does not then say this to exalt himself, but through a desire to show that Christ is even yet caring for them. And he shows what he says to be credible, by adding, “for His Body’s sake.” For that so it is, and that there is no unlikelihood in it, is plain from these things being done for His body’s sake. Look how He hath knitted us unto Himself. Why then introduce Angels between? “Whereof I was made,” he saith, “a minister.” Why introduce Angels besides? “I am a minister.” Then he shows that he had himself done nothing, albeit he is a minister. “Of which I was made,” saith he, “a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given me to youward, to fulfill the word of God.” “The dispensation.” Either he means, He so willed that after His own departure we should succeed to the dispensation, in order that ye might not feel as deserted, (for it is Himself that suffers, Himself that is ambassador;) or he means this, namely, me who was more than all a persecutor, for this end He permitted to persecute, that in my preaching I might gain belief; or by “dispensation” he means, that He required not deeds, nor actions, nor good works, but faith and baptism. For ye would not otherwise have received the word. “For you,” he saith, “to fulfill the word of God.” He speaks of the Gentiles, showing that they were yet wavering, by the expression, “fulfill.” For that the cast-away Gentiles should have been able to receive such lofty doctrines was not of Paul, but of the dispensation of God; “for I never could have had the power,” he saith. Having shown that which is greater, that his sufferings are Christ’s, he next subjoins what is more evident, that this also is of God, “to fulfill His word in you.” And he shows here covertly, that this too is of dispensation, that it is spoken to you now, when ye are able to hear it, and cometh not of neglect, but to the end ye may receive it. For God doeth not all things on a sudden, but useth condescension because of His plenteous love toward man. And this is the reason why Christ came at this time, and not of old. And He shows in the Gospel, that for this reason He sent the servants first, that they might not proceed to kill the Son. For if they did not reverence the Son, even when He came after the servants, much less would they had He come sooner; if they gave no heed to the lesser commandments, how would they to the greater? What then, doth one object? Are there not Jews even now, and Greeks who are in a very imperfect condition? This, however, is an excess of listlessness. For after so long a time, after such great instructions, still to continue imperfect, is a proof of great stupidity.
403 When then the Greeks say, why did Christ come at this time? let us not allow them so to speak, but let us ask them, whether He did not succeed? For as, if He had come at the very first, and had not succeeded, the time would not have been for us a sufficient excusation, so, seeing He hath succeeded, we cannot with justice be brought to account on the score of “the time.” For neither does any one demand of a physician, who has removed the disease, and restored one to health, to give an account of his treatment, nor yet does any examine closely a general who has gained a victory, why at this time, and why in this place. For these things it were in place to ask, had he not been successful; but when he has been successful, they must even be taken for granted. For, tell me, whether is more worthy of credit, thy reasoning and calumny, or the perfection of the thing? Conquered He, or conquered He not? show this. Prevailed He, or prevailed He not? Accomplished He what He said, or no? These are the articles of enquiry. Tell me, I pray. Thou fully grantest that God is, even though not Christ? I ask thee then; Is God without beginning? Thou wilt say, Certainly. Tell me then, why made He not men myriads of years before? For they would have lived through a longer time. They were now losers by that time during which they were not. Nay, they were not losers; but how, He who made them alone knows. Again, I ask thee, why did He not make all men at once? But his soul, whoever was first made, hath so many years of existence, of which that one is deprived which is not yet created. Wherefore made He the one to be brought first into this world, and the other afterwards?
Although these things are really fit subjects for enquiry: yet not for a meddling curiosity: for this is not for enquiry at all. For I will tell you the reason I spoke of. For suppose human nature as being some one continued life, and that in the first times our race was in the position of boyhood; in those that succeeded, of manhood; and in these that are near extreme age, of an old man. Now when the soul is at its perfection, when the limbs of the body are unstrung, and our war is over, we are then brought to philosophy. On the contrary, one may say, we teach boys whilst young. Yes, but not the great doctrines, but rhetoric, and expertness with language; and the other when they are come to ripeness of age. See God also doing the same with the Jews. For just as though the Jews had been little children, he placed Moses over them as a schoolmaster, and like little children he managed these things for them through shadowy representations, as we teach letters. “For the law had a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things.” (He 10,1) As we both buy cakes for children and give them pieces of money, requiring of them one thing only, that for the present they would go to school; so also God at that time gave them both wealth and luxury, purchasing from them by this His great indulgence one only thing, that they would listen to Moses. Therefore He delivered them over to a schoolmaster, that they might not despise Himself as a tender, loving Father. See then that they feared him only; for they said not, Where is God? but, Where is Moses? and his very presence was fearful. So when they did amiss, observe how he punished them. For God indeed was desirous of casting them off; but he would not permit Him. Or rather the whole was of God; just as when a Father threatens whilst a schoolmaster entreats Him, and says, “Forgive them, I pray, on my account, and henceforward I undertake for them.” In this way was the wilderness a school. And as children who have been a long while at school are desirous of quitting it, so also were they at that time continually desiring Egypt, and weeping, saying, “We are lost, we are wholly consumed, we are utterly undone.” (Ex 16,3). And Moses broke their tablet, having written for them, as it were, certain words (Ex 32,19).; just as a schoolmaster would do, who having taken up the writing tablet, and found it badly written, throws away the tablet itself, desiring to show great anger; and if he have broken it, the father is not angry. For he indeed was busy writing, but they not attending to him, but turning themselves other ways, were committing disorder. And as in school, they strike each other, so also, on that occasion, he bade them strike and slay each other. And again, having given them as it were lessons to learn, then asking for them, and finding they had not learnt them, he would punish them. For instance. What writings were those that denoted the power of God? The events in Egypt? Yes, saith one, but these writings represented the plagues, that He punishes His enemies. And to them it was a school. For what else was the punishment of your enemies but your benefit? And in other respects too, He benefited you. And it was the same as if one should say he knew his letters, but when asked up and down, should be at fault, and be beaten. So they also said indeed that they knew the power of God, but when asked their knowledge up and down, they could not give it, and therefore were beaten. Hast thou seen water? Thou oughtest to be reminded of the water in Egypt. For He that of water made blood, will be also of power to do this. As we also say often to the children, “when in a book thou seest the letter A, remember that thou hadst it in thy tablet.” Hast thou seen famine? Remember that it was He that destroyed the crops! Hast thou seen wars? Remember the drowning! Hast thou seen that they are mighty who inhabit the land? But not mightier than the Egyptians. He who took thee out of the midst of them, will He not much more save thee when out? But they knew not how to answer their letters out of order, and therefore they were beaten. “They ate,” and drank, “and kicked.” (Dt 32,15) When fed with their manna they ought not to have asked for luxury, seeing they had known the evils which proceed from it. And they acted precisely as if a free child, when sent to school, should ask to be reckoned with the slaves, and to wait on them,—so did these also in seeking Egypt—and when receiving all needful sustenance, and such as becomes a free person, and sitting at his father’s table, should have a longing for the ill-savored and noisy one of the servants. And they said to Moses, “Yea, Lord, all that thou hast spoken will we do, and be obedient.” (Ex 24,7). And as it happens in the case of desperately bad children, that when the father would put them to death the schoolmaster perseveringly entreats for them, the same was the case at that time also.
Why have we said these things? Because we differ in nothing from children. Wilt thou hear their doctrines also, that they are those of children? “Eye for eye,” it is said, “and tooth for tooth.” (Lv 24,20). For nothing is so eager to revenge as a childish mind. For seeing it is a passion of irrationality, and there is much irrationality, and great lack of consideration in that age, no wonder the child is tyrannized over by anger; and so great is the tyranny, that ofttimes after stumbling and getting up again, they will smite their knee for passion, or overturn the footstool, and so will allay their pain, and quench their rage. In some such way as this did God also deal with them, when He allowed them to strike out “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” and destroyed the Egyptians and the Amalekites that had grieved them. And He promised such things; as if to one who said, “Father, such and such an one has beaten me,” the father should then reply, “Such and such an one is a bad man, and let us hate him.” So also doth God say, “I will be their enemy that are thine enemies, and I will hate them that hate thee.” (Ex 23,22). And again, when Balaam prayed, the condescension which was used towards them was childish. For as with children, when having been frightened at anything not frightful, such as either a lock of wool, or any other thing of like sort, they are suddenly alarmed; that their fear may not continue in them, we bring the thing up to their hands, and make their nurses show it them: so also did God; seeing that the Prophet was a terror to them, he turned the terror of him into confidence. And as children who are under weaning have all manner of things in little baskets, so also did He give them everything, and dainties in abundance. Still the child longs for the breast; so did these also for Egypt and the flesh that was there.
(So that one would not be wrong in calling Moses both a teacher, and a nursing-father, and a conductor (Ex 16,3 Nb 11,4-5); the man’s wisdom was great. Howbeit it is not the same thing to guide men who are already philosophers, and to rule unreasoning children. And, if you are inclined to hear yet another particular; as the nurse says to the child, When thou easest thyself, take up thy garments, and for as long as thou sittest, so also did Moses. (Dt 23,13) For all the passions are tyrannous in children (for as yet they have not that which is to bridle them), vainglory, desire, irrationality, anger, envy; just as in children, so they prevailed; they spat upon, they beat, Moses. And as a child takes up a stone, and we all exclaim, O do not throw it; so did they also take up stones against their father; and he fled from them. And as, if a father have any ornament, the child, being fond of ornament, asks him for it, in like manner, truly, did the party of Dathan and Abiram act, when they rebelled for the priesthood. (Nb 16). And besides, they were of all people the most envious, and little-minded, and in all respects imperfect.
Ought then Christ, tell me, to have appeared at that time, at that time to have given them these teachings of true wisdom, when they were raging with lust, when they were as horses mad for the mare, when they were the slaves of money, of the belly? Nay, He would but have wasted his lessons of wisdom in discoursing with those of no understanding; and they would have neither learnt one thing nor the other. And as he who teaches to read before he has taught the alphabet, will never teach even so much as the alphabet; so indeed would it then have been also. But not so now, for by the grace of God much forbearance, much virtue, hath been planted everywhere. Let us give thanks then for all things, and not be over curious. For it is not we that know the due time, but He, The Maker of the time, and The Creator of the ages.
In everything then yield we to Him: for this is to glorify God, not to demand of Him an account of what He doeth. In this way too did Abraham give glory to God; “And being fully persuade,” we read, “that what He had promised, He was able to perform.” (Rm 4,21) He did not ask about the future even; but we scrutinize the account even of the past. See how great folly, how great ingratitude, is here. But let us for the future have done, for no gain comes of it, but much harm even; and let our minds be gratefully disposed towards our Master, and let us send up glory to God, that making for all things an offering of thanksgiving, we may be counted worthy of His lovingkindness, through the grace and love toward man of His Only-begotten, with whom, &c.
Chrysostom Colossians 300