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From Paul and Timothy
In introducing himself, Paul immediately lays claim to his apostolic authority as he is going to deal with some very important issues. He was not elected by a convention of men, but was appointed by the very will of the Almighty ( Act_9:10-16 ; Gal_1:1 ; Gal_1:11-12 ). Reference is here made to Timothy because he was with Paul at the time of writing and in no wise suggests the words of the letter come from any other than the inspired apostle ( Col_1:1 ).
To the Faithful brethren in Colossae
The words "saints and faithful brethren" describe one group of people. Christ's blood was shed so that He might set apart a people for His service ( Tit_2:14 ). This letter is especially for those who had remained true to Christ's cause. It would give them clear instructions from the Lord enabling them to answer the false teachers. All those separated from the world by Christ's blood are in Christ, or His body, the church. Paul prays that the Father will grant them unmerited favor and the inner peace only He can bestow ( Col_1:2 ).
Thank God for the Brethren in Colossae!
Paul did not take his praying lightly, nor his thanksgiving. The letters of 2 Corinthians and Galatians do not contain such a prayer with thanks for the brethren. Paul calls God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because that is what Jesus called Him ( Joh_20:17 ). Notice the thanks and prayer are directed to the Father and not Jesus. He gave thanks, in part, because he had heard good things about the church in Colossae. Paul often inquired concerning the churches he helped establish when he was away from them ( 1Co_1:11 ). So, this verse does not force us to believe someone else established this church. Paul did work in the region of Phrygia ( Act_16:6 ). A Christian's faith in Christ, as described here by Paul, would be his loyalty to Christ and obedience of His Word ( Rom_1:5 ; Rom_16:26 ). Love of the brethren is a natural outgrowth of that faith which proves such faith exists ( Col_1:3-4 ; 1Jn_3:14 )
The reason for their faith and love was the hope reserved for them in heaven. They had learned of that hope by the preaching of the Truth which is found in the gospel. This truth was in stark contrast to the false teaching they had been hearing near the time of Paul’s writing, which he confronts in this letter. By the time this letter was written, the good news of hope had spread throughout all of the world (compare Act_19:10 ; Act_19:20 ; Php_1:12-13 ; 1Th_1:8 ). Wherever the gospel had been preached, fruit had been produced, by the gospel, not the preacher ( Col_1:5-6 ; 1Co_3:4-9 , Rom_1:16 )!
Epaphras, a Fellow Servant
Epaphras may have been the one who first taught the Colossian brethren. Paul only uses the word "fellow servant" here and in 4:7. The word describes one who works with another in service to the great king. Paul calls Epaphras his "dear", or beloved, fellow servant, which indicates he had a very special love for him as a worker for the Lord. He also designates him as a faithful minister, which is a good commendation, especially directed to a church having trouble with false teachers. Just as the Colossians heard the good news of Christ from Epaphras, Paul heard the good news of their love from him. Love is a fruit of the Spirit and its presence would demonstrate the true nature of their conversion ( Col_1:7-8 ).
Paul’s Prayer for the Church at Colossae
From the time Paul heard of the love of the truth which the Colossian brethren possessed, Paul prayed without undue interval, or without ceasing, that they should be filled, or fully grown, in specific understanding of God's desire for them. He also prayed that God would give them the ability to apply it to their specific circumstances. Weed says the word "understanding means the critical judgment to distinguish between truth and falsehood."
He also prayed their knowledge would be translated into a way of life which was worthy of their high calling (compare Eph_4:1 ). A Christian life will be shown by the fruit of good works ( Gal_5:22-25 ). We cannot produce another Christian in and of ourselves but must plant the seed of God's word, water it with the truth of the gospel and wait for God to give the increase ( Luk_8:11 ; 1Co_3:6 ). The fruit of good works shows the positive impact of the gospel and readies us for judgment ( Php_2:12-15 ; Rom_2:6-11 ; 2Co_5:10 ). The more good works we perform the more we will grow in the understanding of God's will ( Heb_5:12-14 ).
When one practices the good works outlined in God's word, he is strengthened by His power, as contained in the word ( Rom_1:16 ; Joh_14:23 ). God's power is so great that one strengthened according to His power is blessed beyond man’s ability of description. When we have such power on our side, we can patiently face trials and suffer long with the failings of our brethren and they with ours ( Rom_5:1-5 ; 1Co_13:4 ). We can even have an attitude of joy knowing our end if we remain faithful in His good works ( Col_1:9-11 ; 1Pe_4:12-16 ; Act_16:22-25 ).
Reason for Thanksgiving
Paul also prayed that the Colossian brethren might be thankful. Particularly, Christians should be grateful God qualified us to inherit the promised land of heaven, which is a land of light because the Son is there ( Act_26:17-18 ; Rev_21:22-23 ). We were qualified when God delivered us out of the bondage of sin, or the realm of moral darkness. Coffman says the word "translated" was used to describe the transplanting of a race of people from one land to another. So, we are taken by God out of Satan's kingdom and placed in the Son's kingdom. This happens when one gets into Christ where he becomes a new creature dedicated in service to a new Lord, or king ( 2Co_5:17 ; Rom_6:3-4 ; Rom_6:16-18 ).
As he so often did, Paul emphasizes the blessings Christians have in Christ. The word "redemption" tells of one gaining his freedom by the payment of a ransom. Christ's blood was shed to pay the price for man's release from sin and to justify God for pronouncing those who are in the church free from guilt ( Act_20:28 ; Eph_1:7 ). Weed says the word "forgiveness" describes release from or cancellation of sins ( Col_1:12-14 ).
The Preeminence of Christ
Though man has not seen God, he can clearly see the likeness of the Father in the Son ( Joh_14:9 ; 2Co_4:4-6 ). Vine says the word "firstborn" is used in reference to Christ's "relationship to the Father, expressing His priority to, and preeminence over, creation, not in the sense of being the first to be born." He goes on to say Christ's "eternal relationship with the Father is in view, and the clause means both that He was the Firstborn before all creation and that He Himself produced creation" ( Joh_1:1-3 ; Heb_1:1-2 ).
Gen_1:1 tells us God created, while this verse tells us Christ was the particular member of the Godhead who did the creating. Weed says heaven and earth would be the Jewish concept, while visible and invisible is the Greek. Both of these expressions are just means of furthering the thought that Jesus created everything in the universe. Thrones, dominions, principalities and powers may have been special designations used by the false teachers at Colossae to describe the hierarchy of the universe. Christ is above all such because He created all ( Col_1:15-16 ).
Paul used words in verse 17 which would say "he (Christ) and only he is" before all things and the One through whom all things consist. It is reminiscent of the Lord's identification of Himself to Moses ( Exo_3:6 ). Christ identified Himself this way in Joh_8:58 , and the Jews clearly understood it as a claim to being God ( Heb_13:8 ). Not only is Christ pre-existent, but Paul also says He is the sustaining power of the universe. The word, "consist" literally means "hold together in an orderly fashion," according to Weed.
In addition to His power over the whole universe, Jesus has authority over the church as its head. In fact, the church had its beginning in Christ's death, burial and resurrection. His blood paid the price for our sins, thereby redeeming us from all iniquity ( Mat_26:28 ; Act_20:28 ; Tit_2:14 ). The redeemed, or saved, are added to the church, which is the body ( Act_2:47 ). Christ is the head over that body because He is its resurrected Lord ( Act_2:36 ). Jesus was the first raised, or born, from the dead to die no more. Thus, in the church, as well as the universe, Christ is the pre-eminent one, which means the first in rank ( Col_1:18 )!
Reconciliation is in Christ
Paul wanted his readers to see the complete essence of God resides in Jesus Christ. Sin disrupted the peaceful relationship man had with God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus' blood satisfied the demands of sin ( Heb_9:22 ; 1Pe_1:18-19 ) and made friends again of God and man. Ordinarily, reconciliation is said to take place between the Father and man, while here Paul says it is the Son. This writer believes the evil men of earth are the ones who are reconciled there and sees two possibilities for the things reconciled in heaven. Either, sinful man used the universe for purposes not originally in God's design and reconciliation restores its proper use, or those righteous who died prior to Christ's death are reconciled by His shed blood ( Col_1:19-20 ).
Paul said the Colossian Christians were separated from God and became His enemies because of the wickedness with which they had filled their minds. Minds filled with wickedness caused them to involve themselves in evil deeds. Christians are made friends with God again by the death of the Incarnate One. Also, Christ's death causes them to be placed before God as ones dedicated to His service, without blemish and not needing reproof. Such a presentation could only be made before God to the Colossian brethren on the condition that they remained within the total of that taught, or the faith. Paul urges them to be stable and steadfast in that faith, unmoved by false teachers who would take them away from the source of their hope, which is the gospel. Paul declares that every creature under heaven had heard the good news just like those at Colossae. The apostle was a servant of the gospel because he had been saved by the Christ of the gospel ( Col_1:21-23 ).
Preaching the Mystery of Christ
Paul was happy he could suffer so that the body of Christ could be benefitted. Christ suffered to purchase the church, His body, but more suffering had to take place for the church to be expanded to encompass all the earth. Christ called Paul as a minister of the gospel to the lost, especially Gentiles, and to the church ( Act_9:15 ; Act_26:16-18 ). Paul says his ministry is a part of God's great plan to have the word fully preached, particularly to the Colossians ( Col_1:24-25 ).
Paul uses the word "mystery" to describe something God had kept secret in the past and had been revealed ( Rom_16:26-26 ; 1Co_2:7-10 ; Eph_3:1-10 ). Also, Paul usually referred to it as something that now was to be proclaimed. While other religions had secrets known only by its priests, or leaders, Christianity was openly proclaimed to all. The saints are especially said to know about the mystery because they have willingly heard its message and obeyed it. Weed says, "In Christ, the wealth of God's self-manifestation spills over the barriers of nationality and race into a universal demonstration of his greatness" (See Rom_9:24 ; Rom_11:17 ; Rom_11:33 ). The mystery of salvation is fully revealed when one has Christ in him as the only hope of eternal glory in heaven ( Col_1:26-27 ).
The false teachers with whom Paul was dealing may have approached only a selective group with their secret, but Paul preached the gospel to every man. His desire in such proclamation was, in the distant future, to present every man perfect before God, which can only occur if they are in Christ. Notice, "Christ in you", from the previous verse, here becomes every man "in Christ.” Paul was working and striving with all his being to bring every man to the riches available in Christ. He was able to keep working as he did because Christ worked in him ( Col_1:28-29 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Colossians 1". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17