Colossians 1:1-8: A Thankful Apostle of Christ

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   With the opening words of the letter to the Colossians, we are reminded that Paul was an apostle, one sent by another with a specific task/message.  He was an official envoy and ambassador of Jesus Christ.  His apostleship was a Divine appointment, completed by no other authority than the will of God.

   He was writing to those who were set apart for God’s service, the “saints” at Colossae.  Being “in Christ” by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the only way for a sinner to become a saint.  The Colossians were “faithful brethren,” which means they were true and steadfast. 

   One thing we learn from the ministry of the Apostle Paul is that prayer is important. According to his words, he prayed consistently.  He was in a constant mental state of gratitude and prayer.  To understand how this approach to prayer is possible you need to understand that prayer is not just a bow your head and close your eyes thing.  Prayer is an open line of communication to God.  Paul’s statement at the end of verse 3 is similar to verse 9 when he says “unceasing.”  The meaning is “without letting up.” He was persistent in prayer.

   Paul only mentions three Persons when discussing prayer.  He directed his prayer to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:8), while the Holy Spirit made intercession (Romans 8:26).  You will never find the Apostle Paul, or any other faithful person in the Bible, address prayer to anyone else outside of the Holy Trinity.  He never prayed to Mary or other saints, because there is only “One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). 

When Paul prayed, he always prayed “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2).  I suppose I should point out that Paul never tells us to be thankful FOR everything, but IN everything give thanks.  No matter what circumstances we are going through, the person who stands as a forgiven child of God has cause to give thanks. 

   Here, in these verses, Paul proclaims his thankfulness for the Colossians saints.  The passage gives us three reasons why Paul was thankful to God for them. 

  1).  Their faith.  Faith is a confidence.  If you have faith in something, there is no maybe about it.  There is no room for doubt in faith.  Faith is all-in; there is no holding back.

   We often throw the word faith around as if faith itself has some secret power, but we are not saved by faith in faith.  In other words, WHAT your faith is resting in matters -- it could be the difference between eternal life and eternal damnation.  Paul praised the faith of those who had faith solely in Christ.  They fully believed in Who He is and what He did.  The faith Paul praised was commitment to Jesus Christ.  It wasn’t Jesus Christ plus some of their own works.  They were leaning their whole weight on Jesus Christ.

   When Paul speaks of the Colossians faith in Christ, he speaks of their initial faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that saved them eternally as well as the continued exercising of that faith.  We should rejoice with those who have placed their entire faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ to save them.  We should equally rejoice with those believers who are exemplifying their faith in the way they live their lives.  We are not saved by works, but, after we are saved, we should walk in faith to do the works God has planned for us to do. 

   2).  Their love.  People have false connotations of love.  Many think of love as a huggy, touchy-feely, never disagree thing.  When they hear churches teach love for everyone, they respond with: “So, you love the terrorist blowing up people?”  In the culture in which we live, it is difficult for people to separate love for someone from the actions of that same person.

   True love is unconditional.  We can love the terrorist while condemning his behavior, because Christ loved us while we were still sinners.  We love Him because He first loved us; His love for us begets our love for others (2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 John 4:19-21). For believers, this true love is produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  In the case of the bomb-welding terrorist, I should have a concern for him and desire that he sees the error of his ways.  I want him to experience the new life through Jesus Christ.

   Here in this passage Paul praises the Colossians love for ALL saints, not just those in their fellowship and not just certain ones with which they agree.  There are always going to be differences of opinions among God’s people, but it is love which bonds us together.  

   3).  Their Hope.   The phrase “laid up” means “reserved; to set aside” for someone.  The hope we have in Jesus Christ is not a wish; it is an assurance.  The word means “assured expectation; looking forward to; a longing.”  God personally guarantees that when the believer leaves His earthly body, he will be in the Lord’s presence.

   This hope did not only benefit the Colossians someday in the future.  Their assurance in Christ had an impact on their daily living.  They could live knowing their eternity was secure in Jesus Christ.  Their thankfulness to Him motivated them to live for Him without fear.

   All of these things (faith, hope, charity) are grounded in the truth of the Gospel.  The Word of the truth of the Gospel taught to them by Epapharas is the seed that bore the fruit in them.  Faith (and love and hope) comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans  10:17).  It is no coincidence that the three things for which Paul praises the Colossians are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

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