Colossians1v1and2: GREETINGS FROM PAUL


Paul packs a lot into the opening remarks of his letter to the Colossians. It contains three descriptions:

(1) Paul describes himself.

(a) Paul was the spokesman for Jesus Christ.

He had a testimony to give to this effect. He gave it before King Agrippa as reported in Acts 25: Jesus sent him to the Gentiles, "To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified in him." Paul was able to add: "I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven."

Paul was confirmed as Christ's spokesman by the churches he founded throughout the Roman Empire. Today we are left in no doubt about Paul's special role by the spiritual vitality of his many letters. We are indebted to the apostle for emphasising the part played by God's grace in salvation.

(b) Paul took on the role of spokesman by the will of God.

God chose Paul for his special task; God equipped him to carry it out; God prepared many Gentiles for the gospel he proclaimed.

Paul's conviction that he was Christ's spokesman by royal appointment gave him authority, confidence and dignity notwithstanding his lack of natural gifts - a lack commented on by the Christians at Corinth. See exposition on 2Cor10.

It didn't matter what circumstances he was in, Paul never lost sight of the fact that he was God's chosen man - chosen to introduce men and women to Jesus his Lord. See exposition on 2Cor11v16to33.

(c) Paul was brother to all who believed in Jesus.

He was brother to Timothy a young man with much to learn. Paul wrote Timothy at least two letters packed full of good advice. The youthful believer seems rather shy and lacking in confidence. Paul advises him, Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in love, in faith and in purity. 1Tim4v12.

It is important for every Christian to be aware of the relationship they have with other Christians. All who receive Jesus, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children ... born of God. Jn1v12and13.

If we are sons of God we are brothers. So, we should care for one another as devoted brothers; we should confide in one another as loving brothers; we should converse with one another as trusted brothers. Would that it were so.

(2) Paul's description of the church at Colosse.

Paul describes the Christians in Colosse as:

(a) Brothers in Christ.

Paul did not consider that true believers were only to be found in the churches founded by himself. The church at Colosse was probably established by converts made through the ministry of Paul in Ephesus. Luke records that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. Acts19v10. Colosse was inland from Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia. (Modern day Turkey.) Perhaps Epaphras was one such convert who took the gospel to Colosse. Paul wrote: You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who told us of your love in the spirit. Col1v7and8.

It is very clear from the New Testament that although churches might have been founded in different towns by different individuals and met in someone's house, there was only one church. The history of the church since its origin has been one of fragmentation. John Wesley was a great evangelist. Sadly the converts made as a result of his preaching formed a new denomination, Methodism. The same is true of William Booth's great enterprise.

In Britain today an individual Christian with a desire for leadership may establish a house church. These churches often have nothing at all to do with any other family of believers.

It was all very different in Paul's time. The apostle did not resent the work of Epaphras. He welcomed it. It is also highly unlikely that Epaphras objected to Paul's interest in the Colosse fellowship. It is telling that Paul considered he had the authority to advise and admonish the Christians at Colosse. Many modern independent house churches brook no interference whatsoever!

(b) Saints.

A saint is a holy person - someone set apart as special to God. Believers in Jesus everywhere are special. They have had their sins washed away; they have been adopted into God's family; they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and spiritually enlightened; they are in receipt of the promise of eternal life.

Believers in Jesus everywhere should be special - special in the fruit they bear. The fruits of the Spirit should adorn their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. See Gal5v22and23.

(c) Faithful

The Colossian Christians were faithful to Jesus. They were his loyal supporters and servants. They didn't blow hot and cold but remained constant in their devotion to Jesus.

If Jesus is our commander in chief it behoves us to be loyal troops. For 2000 years men and women have shown outstanding commitment to Jesus and faithfulness to his cause. Every month I read about Christians being persecuted in Evangelicals Now. The murder of Christians in a country like Pakistan is almost common place. I wonder that there are any Christians left in this predominantly Muslim country. Yet there are!

(3) Paul's description of the Christian's assets.

The Christian's benefits:

(a) The fatherhood of God.

I love to think of God as my father - perhaps, because I had a father that I admired and loved dearly. I revel in the fatherhood of God because as our father he will supply: The necessities, security, freedom, comfort and encouragement. See exposition on the Lord's Prayer.

(b) The grace of God.

It is good to be reminded of our indebtedness to God's grace - his unmerited favour. We depend upon God's grace for our salvation. He accepted the sacrifice for sin that Jesus offered. It was like all sacrifices, a token payment to atone for sin that depended for its efficacy on God's gracious acceptance of it as altogether sufficient. Insofar as we depend upon God's grace for our eternal well being we should exhibit humility and show grace to others. Jesus showed what this involved in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. To act in grace, as the father did to his errant son, is by no means easy. The normal reaction is that of the older brother. I daresay he considered that the prodigal should be made to pay for his spendthrift ways.

One fine morning my brother Paul and I left Clapham North station for Archway in a very crowded, stuffy train. We were going to walk in the Hampstead area of London. It wasn't long before a dark-haired, drawn-faced, youngish man burst into our carriage. He was selling the Big Issue. The young fellow was in a terrible state. He had just been sworn at and he took his anger out on us. For two or three minutes he harangued us bitterly. His burning resentment was all too evident as he accused us of not looking at him, not caring that he slept rough or did his best to earn an honest living by selling the Big Issue. His tirade was met with a sullen silence. He was ignored. No-one offered to buy a magazine. Eventually to everyone's relief he stormed out of the carriage.

I said to my brother afterwards, "That's no way to sell the Big Issue. He antagonised us all. If he had been pleasant and agreeable ...... . He got what he deserved!" I thought a lot about that young man during the day. It dawned on me that he needed grace. Nobody showed him grace. I didn't show him grace. Why didn't I buy a magazine? I could have made him happier and restored his faith in human nature. Instead I was content for him to get what he deserved!

When Almighty God looks on the world of men he sees that we are spoilt. We can all be quite as unlovely as that overwrought vagrant on the Northern Line. God shows us grace. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans5v8. God doesn't treat us as we deserve! He shows us such abundant grace - why can't we show more grace to others?

(c) The peace of God.

I think there is more than one way to enjoy the peace of God. It may be that sense of utter well being that comes from the consciousness of being loved. I took a funeral recently. Afterwards I enjoyed watching a pretty, dark haired, two-year-old happy in her father's arms. She had been recently adopted and, notwithstanding her tender age, knew that she was loved.

Christians have been adopted by God into his family. John wrote in his first epistle: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are. 1Jn3v1. That final sentence is a triumphant declaration of well being - the peace that passes understanding.

I think we can experience great well being when we carry out the will of God. Recently I was asked to conduct the funeral of an old friend, one Phyllis. Now, I am getting old and by no means as confident in my ability as I used to be. I felt quite downcast about prparing another funeral tribute. But I had a little prayer to God, sat down and began work. Two hours later the tribute was done. That night for the first time in months I enjoyed an unbroken night's sleep. When I finally woke up - I woke up extraordinarily happy. I hadn't been so happy for ages. I was almost overcome with a sense of well being. I think the sleep and the happiness were a small gift from God for carrying out his will. Paul wrote to the Philippians: The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil4v6and7. I proved this true!