Summary: Introdcution to Colossians
Wycliffe Hall 2001
Do little things as if they were great, because of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ (Blaise Pascal)
Background to the Book of Colossians:
Colossae is a town in modern-day Turkey on the banks of the river Lycus, not all that far from Ephesus.
In Paul’s day it was neither large nor important. It had been overshadowed by neighbouring towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis (the two towns mentioned in Col. 4:13).
However centuries earlier it had been large and prosperous. Herodotus described it as " a great city of Phrygia" (Histories vii.30).
Lightfoot has said: "Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed".
The Church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, because Paul concentrated his work in major centres, such as Ephesus.
Many think it was actually founded by a co-worker of his Epaphras, who was described in Col. 4:13 as a native of Colossae.
Colossae was probably quite cosmopolitan - made up of native Phrygians, Greek settlers and Jews.
It is likely that Colossae had its fair share of pagan temples -as Paul alludes to their pagan past in several places.
Why did Paul write the letter to the Colossians? There is no clear answer.
F.F. Bruce has suggested that it was "Paul’s vigorous reaction to news of the strange teaching which was being inculcated in Colossae." (F.F. Bruce Commentary p.165).
We can only surmise what this strange teaching was.
It seems to have been false teaching about the divinity and humanity of Christ. (see Chapter 2 v. 9).
I am encouraged that the book of Colossians is in the Bible.
It reminds me that God is interested in the little churches as well as the large churches, like All Souls, Langham Place or HTB.
I would not be surprised if some of us land up shepherding little flocks. If you do, be encouraged by Colossians.
I am looking forward to the 15 small parishes I am going to in Norfolk.
St. Augustine of Hippo said: Be great in little things.
Colossians 1: 1-14
This morning I would like to draw out two
of ideas that strike me from this passage. There are of course many more, but I would like to focus on two.
The first is the calling of Paul and the second is the responsibility of Paul.
1. The Calling of Paul
Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus BY THE WILL
OF GOD. This is an extremely pertinent phrase.
Paul is not some self-appointed Guru out to make a name for himself. He is CALLED by God.
We read in Acts 9, how God told Ananias that
"..this man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel..."
There have been a number of times over the last year (here at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) when I have wanted to chuck it all in and go back to being a Patent Agent.
It would be so much easier - there I am an expert - here I am not!
Yet I need to be reminded that God called me.
My calling - and your calling - is not our own. It is from God. And when we are feeling down it is good to reflect on this.
I am encouraged not to give in - as I remember it is God who has called me.
2. The responsibility of Paul’s calling
In Colossians I see three major areas of responsibility that Paul had for the Colossians.
The first of these responsibilities was that Paul prayed for them. We see this, for example in Col. 1:3 and in v. 9.
"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you...."(v.3)
"..Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with his Spirit (v.9)
Prayer is going to be an important part of our ministry when we go to a parish- yet one that will mostly go unseen.
I am on placement at All Saints in Faringdon - and just by preparing this talk, I have been challenged that I need to pray for them there - not just turn up on Sunday. As I get to know people there - I can pray for them.
That was the challenge of the Apostle Paul. He prayed for the people, for whom he had responsibility.
The second responsibility that Paul has is to encourage.
The reason for Paul writing this letter is not apparent in the opening chapter. Why - because before he corrects, he encourages.
Paul starts with PRAISE - and sincere praise at that.
In Col. 1 v.4, we read how he gives thanks because of their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for the saints.