By Charles H. Welch
Presentation. Two Greek words are employed to speak of the believer's presentation to God, namely histemi "to set, place, station" (Jude 24), and paristemi "to set, place, or station alongside" (Eph. 5:27, Col. 1:22,28). Full and rich as the doxology of Jude is, it will be observed that the presentation there envisaged is not so near, so intimate as that of the Church of the Mystery, the one is to be set or stationed before the presence of the glory, the other adds the preposition para "alongside" a signal mark of super-heavenly glory. This presentation is associated with such terms as "without blemish", "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing" and with being "faultless". These terms are borrowed from the character of the O.T. sacrifice and priesthood and something of the picture that is introduced may be gathered by reading the preparation of Esther for her presentation to the king (Esther 2:1-4 and 8-20). Especially let us note Esther's modest restraint. She could have decked herself from a wardrobe as fantastic and voluptuous as any described in The Arabian Nights; instead, in blessed anticipation of the believer's ground of acceptance "she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women appointed".
The two presentations of Colossians 1:22 and 28, must be distinguished. One is the result of the offering of Christ, the other is the consequence of the Apostle's warning and teaching. The structure of Colossians places two members in correspondence thus:
In order that this new section shall be seen from the Word itse1f, and not merely from our disposition of the matter, we will quote the two passages from the A.V.:
The items that link these two passages together are the double reference to Laodicea, the use of agonistic terms, agon "conflict" (Col. 2:1), agonizomai "striving" (Col. 1:29) and "labouring fervently" (Col. 4:12). These are subordinate, however, to the central theme:
The correspondence will be the more readily perceived if set out as follows:
Paul (Col. 1:28-2:1)
A METHOD - Warning and teaching
Epaphras (Col. 4:12-13)
Let us follow the teaching of these passages step by step. First as to the methods adopted by these two servants of the Lord. The one employed "warning and teaching" the other "praying". The Apostle has recognized this double ministry elsewhere:
The ministry of the Apostle in this special labour for the Colossians is described as "warning and teaching". If the reader will refer to the structure of the epistle given in the artic1e entitled COLOSSIANS, he will see that the central member commences with the word "beware". The great difference between Ephesians and Colossians is in this central section (Col. 2:4-23) with its warning notes:
Admonition or warning belongs to the training and discipline of children; it presupposes life and position in the family:
Admonition or warning belongs to growth, to walk, to the things that accompany salvation, to the prize or reward, not so much to salvation in its first phase:
"Warning and teaching" are related as "practice and doctrine" are related. We must now turn our attention to the central theme. In this chapter there are two "presentings", and they are intimately associated:
The reader is sufficiently taught, we trust, to realize that the work of Christ on our behalf is so complete, that to speak of adding to it or "perfecting" it is nothing short of treason. The words used preclude all possible addition. What can be added to holiness? and what improvement can there be upon a condition which is both unblameable and unreproveable in God's sight? That which is unreproveable there is surely unimproveable here; and yet the fact remains that Paul does say, and in the near context, "that I may present every man perfect", even though the ink that wrote verse 22 was scarcely dry.
He does also use the expression "perfecting holiness" in 2 Corinthians 7:1.
The difficulty lies in the word "perfect" and the meaning that it has attached to it in modern speech. The derivation of the English word, however, takes us nearer to the meaning of the Greek original. "Perfect" has come into English through the old French parfait, which in its turn comes from the Latin per "throughly" and facere "to make". Now the word "fact" comes from the same verb facere, and if we can see in the word "perfect" the idea of making that which is a "fact" in Christ, a "fact" also in our own experience, we shall be near the truth contained in the two presentings of Colossians one, and perfecting of 2 Corinthians 7:1. There is, however, only one true method of arriving at the meaning of a word, and that is by a canvass of its usage together with its etymology. The word translated "perfect" in Colossians 1:28 is teleios, and If we bring together the various words that are derived from the same root or stem, we shall be in a position to understand its essential meaning.
There are other words used in the N.T. derived from the same source, and also quite a number of compounds, but we have sufficient for our purpose in the list above. The etymology of the word suggests that "perfect" has something to do with the "end", with a "finish". The usage of the word leaves us without any doubt. It is found as an antithesis to "begin" and "beginning" , and is employed in association with the running of a race with a prize in view. It is used of Christ Himself in connexion with the "finishing" of His work, although the idea of His "being made perfect" as a result of His sufferings cannot be tolerated, if by the word "perfect" we mean moral or spiritual improvement. Let us take a few occurrences of the word "perfect" in order to establish its meaning by its usage.
Here the word is used in its natural meaning. Over against "begun" the Apostle places "made perfect" where the mind thinks of the idea of "ending" or "finishing" :
Here once more a literal rendering throws "beginning" and "perfecting" or "ending" into prominence:
Here, the word translated "to make perfect" in Galatians 3:3 is translated "to finish" as also:
The figure that occurs with the use of this word in 1 Corinthians and Hebrews, adult:
With the knowledge that we now have of the word under discussion, we can return to Colossians one and realize that there is no intrusion into the finished work of Christ by Paul's statement, but rather the idea that the believer, whose holiness is already an unalterable fact in Christ, should by teaching and admonition make that fact real experimentally, that he should take to the end, or to its logical conclusion, such a glorious position as is his by grace. When the same Apostle speaks of yielding the body as a living sacrifice, he calls it a "reasonable" or "logical" service, in other words the exhortation of Romans twelve is but the logical sequel of the doctrine of Romans six or the perfecting of holiness of 2 Corinthians 7:1.
See articles PERFECTION V. PERDITION for further notes on this aspect of truth.