Introduction to Colossians
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
Paul has never been here. He is introduced to these people by Epaphras. And Paul’s goal here is:
25 I have become its (your) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness
Paul’s letters have some standard qualities relating to form. Having said that, they are not all the same. His introductions have a road map to follow so that we do not get ahead of ourselves in establishing his purpose in writing.
Address: From, to. v.1-2
Salutation: Grace and Peace to you from God v.2
Typically Paul speaks of things he is grateful for in the lives of those he is writing to. v.3-8
Often Paul writes a prayer for them. v.9-14
We will start our look at Colossians by focusing in on the main body of Paul’s introduction of himself to the Colossians. This is a true introduction, Paul has never been to Colossae, he has heard about the church there from Epaphras.
- Paul the Apostle of Jesus
This is Paul’s title of personal address. This is his identity. This is his calling, this is his gifting. This is his commitment. This is how he fits into the kingdom of God.
- Apostle by the will of God
Apostolos: One sent out. Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
By the will of God, just like the 12. Paul is chosen by God, given the calling to go to the Gentiles. He is told how much he will suffer and then Paul gets prepared and then goes.
Paul spends a good deal of time in his letters defending his Apostleship. This is good and bad. First of all, Apostolic authority is a huge issues as it relates to the writing of Scripture. That’s the good reason for skepticism. Paul was not with Jesus like the 12. But Paul writes 13 NT “books” and Luke, his close associate writes Luke and Acts.
In Galatians and in II Corinthians, Paul vigorously defends his equality with the other Apostles. In I Thes 2: Paul expresses the importance of this authority in the following way: 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
The rest of Paul’s personal address:
- And Timothy our brother
Paul’s ministry is a partnership. Many different people participate!
Men and women. Slaves and free. Faithful and challenged. Young and old. Accurate and those working on accuracy.
Philemon, John Mark, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Pricilla and Aquilla, Apollos.
And most importantly for this book: Epaphras! Who is he you say?
He is the missionary, the apostle who has brought the gospel to Colossae and has planted a church here and in Laodacea.
To Whom is the letter addressed?
- Faithful brothers and sisters in Christ
God’s holy people in Colossae
Their description is meant to be the description of all Christ followers! This is what it means to be a Christian!!
Holy people: People who are living differently from the world.
Faithful brothers and sisters: in contrast to unfaithful. What does it mean to be faithful? It means that they endure hardship, testing, temptation and they entrust themselves to Christ for their quality of life. There is pressure to conform to different worldly systems of thinking. And there is the call to be faithful to Christ.
- Grace and Peace to You!
Do not pass this over because it is what Paul always says. If he always says it, it must be important. It is not “Hello, how are you?”
- Grace is what God gives
Grace is what brings life, order and light to our personal chaos.
The earth was formless, empty and dark. And then God graciously spoke. When He speaks, darkness is dispelled by light. Light is more than the sun, moon and stars because light precedes them by three days! In our own lives, light is insight into what is true, wise and best. If we have light and if we follow light then we do not walk in darkness. Darkness is fear, uncertainty, slow and painful. Light is confidence, courage, steadfastness and certain. Trouble comes to both the darkness and light.
Formless: What are we to be? Are we to pursue pleasure? Success? Competition? Money? Stuff? If we pursue the wrong things we lack form in our lives. We lack purpose and meaning. We are made to be a certain way. We are the workmanship of God. He has made us for a purpose. That purpose is to reflect His image. We will not fit into our lives until we are pursuing that purpose. And God speaks into our lives to inform how we are to pursue that purpose.
Empty: We fill our lives with pursuits. What do we spend our time, energy, love, desire, money etc. on? We are meant for purpose, for a life of significance. And this significance comes from pursuing the kingdom of God in our lives! Look at v. 13
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
When God speaks, it is good!
- Peace is the best life
The result of God speaking into our lives is that we focus our lives around the will and kingdom of God and He gives us the indwelling power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit (look at Paul’s prayer v.9-12)
Peace means more than just an absence of external conflict. It is a sense of confidence that our lives count for something significant. It is a sense of confidence that we are blessed by God. It is a life filled with gratitude to God for His grace to us in Christ.
- Grace and peace are for you
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Ephesians 2: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The image of God!
Just as creation is meant to be a blessing for all mankind, so is the gift of grace in Christ. Just as sin (seeking life apart from God’s instruction) is the reason that man steps into God’s curse instead of His blessing, so it is with Christ. If we are not willing to submit to Jesus as the Word of God for us, then we will not experience His grace and peace. God has done His part. We are called to trust in Him and follow Jesus Christ.
III. Fruitful Followers of Jesus Christ
v.6 In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
In the same way? In what way is the gospel bearing fruit in their lives? Have you all ever heard the term, the three cardinal virtues? There are three virtuous actions of people that work to make them truly good, they under gird all other virtues.
- They have faith in Jesus Christ
Faith in Jesus means very simply that the people at Colossae believe in Who Jesus Christ is. He is:
the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
They also believe in what Jesus has done for them!
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
- They have love for people
Because of their faith in Christ, they love. They love Christ and they love others because they love Christ. Love is the response of obedience to God that treats others the way that He treats them. Patient, kind, etc. Loving enemies.
Love one another as I have loved you, by this will all men know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another.
- They have hope that makes them strong
Having hope means that there is an expectation that God is at work for his glory and our good. We are saved in hope. That means that there are aspects of our salvation that we are required to wait for. They are not fully realized. There are aspects of our salvation that are reserved for heaven. And so we patiently wait in hope for God to work in our lives when encountering difficulties because of our faith.
Forgiveness is not something reserved for heaven. God has forgiven us ahead of time so we might have the courage to fail! If you never try, then you never fail. Will we have the faith to try and truly follow Jesus? If we try and fail, should we give up?
Paul is grateful because he sees that they are willing to endure hardship because of their faith. And that demonstrates their faith, hope and love!