Exposition of Colossians 1: 1-16
- Colossae was an insignificant town… something of a backwater
- The church was founded by Epaphras, not by Paul
- The insidious influence of the Gnostics, emphasising a mystical inner knowledge of God, was undermining the believers’ faith in Jesus
- People were arguing that Jesus was not enough… other ideas and practices were needed to make up the ‘deficit’, so Paul argues strongly that Jesus is everything they need!
This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
Paul… chosen by God… The most unlikely person! Think of his past record: his sinful life and his antagonism towards followers of “The Way”
- Imagine if you heard that an atheist celebrity had been chosen by God to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury or head of your denomination!
There’s hope for all of us! And hope for the worst of sinners if they repent and come to the foot of the Cross
God chooses… We respond or fail to respond… God doesn’t force us to walk with Him through life and do His will…
- We can drift through our lives and miss His call or we can walk in step with the Spirit of God and obey what He says!
- But we will only receive God’s best for our lives if we continue to be sensitive to what He is saying… through prayer; reading the Bible eagerly and expectantly; and drawing from the wisdom of mature believers and those to whom God has given a gift of teaching and prophecy.
We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace…
Notice the encouragement that Paul offers… How lovely to be encouraged… not flattered… not idolised… encouraged!
- More encouragement and less finding fault would transform our lives and the life of the church!
The Christians in Colossae are described by Paul as a holy people … set aside… special… separated from the world, yet in the world!
It isn’t always easy to be ‘separate’ yet ‘in the world’
- The old song goes: “This world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through”… But while we are here, we have a life to live and a Saviour to proclaim
- We need to be wise in associating with people… associating with who will build us up and not grind us down or lead us along wrong paths… But we also need to be ‘salt and light’ in dark places
And note how Paul refers to “our Father”… not a remote God, who doesn’t even know our names… or a fierce taskmaster, who drives us and makes us afraid and causes us to run from His presence!
This is the God of grace and peace…
- The other major monotheistic religion presents God as remote, fearsome and punitive deity
- What a contrast with the God presented through Jesus Christ … A God of justice and compassion, who doesn’t want anyone to be lost… but also a God who is not to be trivialised or scorned.
We get used to thinking of God as ‘Father’, yet it’s a highly significant relationship because it makes us His sons and daughters…
- May we never become so familiar with the wonderful grace of God the Father that it loses its freshness and wonder!
We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
Paul had never met the members of the Colossian church yet promises to pray for them!
- Our prayers are important, even for mission workers and believers in different parts of the world, whom we have never met.
- Have you ever been asked to pray for someone or a situation and completely forgotten to do so… or not really sure what to pray!
- The best strategy is to pray there and then!
And see how Paul was so commending of three things:
- Their faith in Christ Jesus
- Their love for all of God’s people
- Their confident hope of heaven
Oh, that these things may be said of you and me!
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
The Gospel is good news… but only for those who are being saved… It is far from ‘good news’ to those who are lost!
The Gospel is good news because it is in the “life transforming” business… not merely the ‘reforming’ business (‘repentance’)
And the key to a changed life (and a saved life) is the truth! That’s why the apostles were so anxious to ensure that Christians are not duped into believing heresies
The truth is rooted in the grace of God found in His Son, Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on a Roman cross.
And those transformed lives should lead to the ‘fruit’ of other lives being changed…
- We are not a select group in an enclave surrounded by guardian angels… It is good news “going out all over the world”
And regardless of sneers and accusations that Christianity is irrelevant and the church is dying, the reality is of amazing growth across the planet, including people of ‘hard-line’ faiths.
You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.
Epaphras seems to have been the founder of the church but was obviously out of his depth when false teaching emerged… thus, his cry for help and advice from Paul…
Note Paul’s lovely description of Epaphras:
- Beloved co-worker… Christ’s faithful servant
- Wow! I would be humbly proud to be so described, wouldn’t you!
And look at the power of the Holy Spirit in that small church, giving them a love for others!
Jesus said that the world would only be impressed by our love for one another…
- All the Bible teaching, sermons and good works in the world will fall short of our expectations unless we are motivated by love
I sometimes find it hard to love others, especially awkward people or those who oppose the work of the Gospel or those whose behaviour is godless and wicked… but Jesus gave His life for the sins of the world, so each person is precious to Him, even if He disapproves of their conduct…
- The Apostle Paul reminds the believers in Corinth that love is the greatest of all God’s gifts
- “Love” used to be translated “charity”, which I understand to be a more accurate definition of the original Greek
- In other words, love is an action, not just an emotion or feeling.
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
Paul had never met the Christians in Colossae… but he has prayed for them continually… Look at the nature of his prayer:
- That God would give them complete knowledge of His will
- That they will receive spiritual wisdom and understanding
The outcome is: (1) Living in a way that pleases the Lord and (2) Producing every kind of good fruit and (3) Knowing God better and better.
There are lessons for us here…
- To persevere in prayer about the things, situations and people that God lays on our hearts.
- To pray for spiritual growth, as well as (perhaps, ahead of) physical needs.
- Put the focus on God and what He desires ahead of our own priorities and desires.
- Jesus prayed: “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done…”
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
The second element of Paul’s prayer for the people at Colossae moves into practical Christian living:
- Strengthened with all His glorious power for endurance and patience
- Filled with joy and thankful to the Father
And a reminder of the promises of God:
- We share in the inheritance awaiting all believers that live in the light
- The Father has rescued us through the Son, who gave His life for two reasons: (a) To bring us freedom (b) To forgive our sins.
And finally, in verses 15 and 16, a description of Christ…
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!