Summary: #1 in series. Do we try to change, or do we let Him change us?
Colossians 1:1-8 – Can You Spare Some Change?
Today, we are starting a series on a book of the Bible that often gets neglected. It’s a 4-chapter book in the New Testament called Colossians. The author, Paul, is writing to a group of believers at a town called Colosse, and his words to them are still relevant for us today. As we will see in the coming weeks, the book is about putting Christ first in our lives. There are so many voices telling us that happiness and satisfaction in life are the most important things. But there is so much more than just living and dying, somehow trying to make it through the day. The book of Colossians will show us what matters most, that living for Jesus is the very best possible thing we can do. Let’s read Colossians 1:1-8 as we begin this exciting book.
In this opening section, we see the stage set for what is going to be said. We meet the characters. The letter is written by Paul, and co-written by Timothy. Paul was an example of what it means to be changed by God, which is what we’ll be speaking about today. And Timothy was his apprentice, his student, a faithful and devoted learner. May that be true of us today, too.
And Paul is writing to the believers at Colosse. What kind of town was it? Well, let’s just say, that by the time Paul wrote the letter to them, they used to be important. But, by NT times, it had become overshadowed by Ephesus and Heiropolis, both about 100 miles away. It was at an awkward stage of being too big for a village but too small for a town. They had some close relationships, but there was a feeling of stagnation, that their best days were behind them, and they were in fear of decline. But God cared enough about them to send them some very special words, even as God cares about what happens on Cape Island and in the municipality of Barrington.
So what were the Colossian believers like? What kind of people were they? Well, first off, they were mostly Gentiles, that is, non-Jews. I say mostly, but not completely. The book is almost empty of OT references, but they obviously had some knowledge of the Jewish books, as seen in chapter 2. It’s possible that some of the believers in Colosse were even present at Pentecost, some 30 years earlier.
But more important than upbringing, more important than religious history… who were the Colossian believers? What were they like? Where were they on the spiritual journey? Paul listed 4 qualities, 4 commendable characteristics, 4 “good job, guys” traits, 4 attitudes and actions that made Paul and Timothy thankful – v3 – when they prayed for the Colossians.
The first “good job, guys” quality is also the most confusing. Paul wrote to the “holy” brothers, to God’s “holy” people, to the “saints” in Colosse – v2. The believers, the Christians, at Colosse were called saints, God’s holy people. Now, before you jump too much on that, let’s clarify something… they were not perfect. Some of the believers there had fallen into several traps: Greek philosophy, Jewish legalism, or Oriental mysticism. There may have been some issues Paul mentioned in chapter 3. These people did not live perfect lives, but yet, Paul called them holy. The word “holy” means set apart for God’s uses, different from the ways of the world, distinct and separate from how things used to be. Don’t be scared of the word. It means that God has done something.
The second “good job, guys” quality is their faith and trust – v4. Their upward reach towards God, their desire to place their lives in competent hands. Again, as we will see in the next few weeks, it was easy for them to want to trust in other things, in visible traditions or in visible spirit beings or even in visions, but in the end, it was about simply placing their confidence in the unseen God.
The third “good job, guys” quality is their love – v4,v8. Their supernatural desire to care about others more than they cared about themselves. The only place in the whole book where the Holy Spirit is mentioned is in connection with love… because you can’t love unloving people on your own. A person needs supernatural help from God to love people who we think don’t deserve it.
And the last “good job, guys” quality is their hope – v5. Hope is the confidence, the expectation, the optimism that God has not lost control of things, that what we see around us is not all there is, and that things will get better. It’s not just about heaven, or how wonderful things will be when we die, but about now… that God has already provided blessings for us now. And even if/when we go through hard times, this world is not all there is.