Colossians ~ Chapter 1a

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As we get into Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we see both the importance of Jesus the Christ and of knowing His word. If that’s such a vital lesson for God’s people to know then shouldn’t we spend time each day in God’s word and with our Savior?

Colossians

Colossians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, [2] To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Paul begins his letter with a salutation in a form that is standard for his world, but he inserts some very unique words to show that Christians are nothing like this world. Timothy is so much more than just Paul’s young protégé. As a brother in Christ, even though young in age, he is heir to all the same blessings as any fellow Christian. He had proven himself years earlier in dealing with the troubled church at  Corinth  (cf.  1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10 and 2 Corinthians 1:19). Paul was proud and confident of this young Christian as they share in the Lord’s work.

As Paul names his audience, he addresses them with the respect due those set apart for the Lord. Saints are those sanctified, made holy by their dedication to God Almighty. As we are baptized into Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-8 and Acts. 2:38), our sins are washed away and the Lord Himself is instilled in us. We are now His possession to live for Him who no longer resides physically on this earth. Furthermore, we are saved for the express purpose of saving others (cf. Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Peter 2:9).

Such saints are a part of the very family of God. Paul uses the word adelphos (translated as brother in most translations), not in the sense of referring exclusively to the men of the congregation, but (according to the rules of grammar for the language) to both men and women as the standard of equality of Christians in Christ. The word shows equality in rank to the point that one of its meanings is literally twin. As Christians we are not only one with Christ but one with every Christian on this earth. What we may lose in earthly family, we more than make up for in Godly family (cf. Luke 18:28-30).

Paul then sums up his greeting and address to the fellow citizens of God’s Kingdom with the Christian standard blessing to such exalted ones: grace (that merciful, bountiful gift of God Himself) and peace (not like the world’s peace at all, but the very peace of God – cf. John 14:27). Jewish Christians had long been acquainted with the concept of extending God’s blessing on fellow Jews, but in Christ this blessing is as much greater as Christ is than the old law.

Colossians 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, [4] since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; [5] because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel [6] which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; [7] just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, [8] and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

When Paul speaks of the Lord God or of His faithful people, he finds it hard to constrain himself. After all, the superlatives in language have no greater use and thus Paul reminds us of an important lesson: Our God and His people are greater than anyone or anything on this earth!

Paul prays for his family in Christ in spite of never having met these brothers and sisters in Colossae. Simply hearing from other Christians of their faith and love is recommendation enough for him.

Our fellow saints may well need further instruction to mature in Christ and may well have many foibles and shortcomings just like we do. But the starting point for God’s people is acceptance. Unless and until we know that the errors are such that fellowship must be broken, we must accept.

One of the hardest things for us to acknowledge is simplistic, godly, acceptance. Baptists, for example, admit that New Testament acceptance of a sanctified child of God was the original practice, and yet claim it is no longer possible to accept someone into fellowship without a vote (cf. Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox).

God says that those who are baptized and thus have their sins washed away are added to the church by God. We either accept salvation as God defines it or we are wrong! Yes, they can sin and even be ultimately lost such that we are required to un-fellowship them. But we can never say that, without that sin, we have any vote or decision in the matter of their salvation.

Re-read verses 3-8 and see what God sees in those who have obeyed the Gospel wherever they live, whatever they look like, whatever their previous status. As Christians, there is  no greater person on this earth than one who has put on Christ and is trying to live in Christ!

The evidence of that living in Christ is also clear. Verse 6 reminds us that if we are not bearing fruit (that goes back to the very reason that we are saved as pointed out above) then we do not understand the grace of God in truth.

The Colossians seem to have learned much of that truth through Epaphras. And Paul also mentions something in verse 8 that we sometimes miss. Preachers and elders share information between congregations. It’s actually ordained by God to be that way.

When troublemakers hop from congregation to congregation, it is a valuable tool. Yes, everyone deserves a second, third, fourth and so on chance. But God also expects us to be smart enough to know, label and avoid those that cause problems. Be sure to read Romans 16:17 because it is also a part of God’s commands to us.

All the reminders of what God is not saying brings us back to the importance of what He IS saying. When we hear of a new Christian, a new congregation or work, we must become a part and partner with our Christ in helping. No, we cannot support every new congregation and we may well not be able to personally teach and help every new convert. But we still have a part to play.

Colossians 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [11] strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously [12] giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. [13] For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Once again, we are reminded that our salvation is not just for us. Somehow, we’ve allowed ourselves to be deluded into thinking that it is all about me! We are saved by God to do a job. Too many Christians feel their work is done when they are baptized or maybe after they’ve “gone to church and Bible study.” We are saved to BE the light of the world!

Once we begin that walk with Christ we are called to be filled with the knowledge of His will (verse 9). Apparently, that “read your Bible” thing is NOT just the idea of some nagging preacher. We will NEVER achieve wisdom and understanding without putting in the effort to study to show ourselves approved as one who doesn’t need to be ashamed (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). The converse of this is that, without constant effort to study, gain and grow, we NEED to be ashamed!

Finally, our salvation is greater than we’ve ever realized. We are rescued! Those being rescued cannot save themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t need a rescuer! But God goes much further than just saving us. He transfers us!

Rescued people are often transferred or transported to the hospital. We sometimes compare the Lord’s church here on earth to a hospital as this is where sinners come to get well. But the Lord’s church is so much more than just a hospital!

Paul says (verse 13) that we are transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Yes, the church is God’s kingdom here on this earth. So important is that kingdom that Jesus, before that church was established (Acts 2) taught His disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done (cf. Matthew 6:10). Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus spoke of that kingdom coming and that some listening to Him there would live to see it come (cf. Luke 9:27). But from Acts 2 onward that kingdom is always present, just as Paul says it is here for the Colossians.

As those with a citizenship in that eternal kingdom of God, we are saved, redeemed and forgiven of our sins!

As you might well imagine, there’s more. But first, Paul has to deal with the incredible Jesus Christ and who He REALLY is. Before we go there, let’s note the name before we look at Paul’s next lesson. Jesus is from the Latin form of the name his parents called him (cf. Luke 2:21). In Hebrew the name is Yeshua or in English, Joshua, and it means: Yahweh (God’s formal name, sometimes rendered Jehovah) is Salvation. Christ is a title meaning anointed or chosen one. So now we know where we’ll begin next time.

—Lester P. Bagley

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