Summary: In Colossians 1:1-8, the Apostle Paul’s shows how the gospel is 1) Received by Faith (Colossians 1:1–4a), 2) Rests in Hope(Colossians 1:5-8), and 3) Results in Love (Colossians 1:4b).
Whenever we travel, problems inevitably arise. Situations regarding our own travel we tend to be able to handle. The difficult ones are the ones that happen back home. Perhaps our kids got into a jam, there is a difficulty at work or a friend got into a crisis situation. As much as we want to help, we are not physically there for assistance. What then can we do?
In the first century, the Apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome (Acts 21:17–28:31). A gentleman named Epaphras showed up in Rome because he needed Paul’s help. Some new doctrines were being taught in Colossae and were invading the church and creating problems. So Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians in order to refute these heretical teachings and establish the truth of the Gospel. What was the heresy that threatened the peace and purity of the Colossian church? It was a combination of Eastern philosophy and Jewish legalism, with elements of what Bible scholars call gnosticism (NOS-ti-cism). This term comes from the Greek word gnosis (KNOW-sis) which means “to know.” (An agnostic is one who does not know.) The gnostics were the people who were “in the know” when it came to the deep things of God. They were the “spiritual aristocracy” in the church. To begin with, this heresy promised people such a close union with God that they would achieve a “spiritual perfection.” Spiritual fullness could be theirs only if they entered into the teachings and ceremonies prescribed. There was also a “full knowledge,” a spiritual depth, that only the initiated could enjoy. This “wisdom” promised to release them from earthly things and put them in touch with heavenly things (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 103). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).
Do we have any of this heresy today? Yes, we do; and it is just as deceptive and dangerous! When we strive for “spiritual perfection” or “spiritual fullness” by means of formulas, disciplines, or rituals, we go backward instead of forward. Christian believers must beware of mixing their Christian faith with such alluring things as yoga philosophy, transcendental meditation, Oriental mysticism, and the like. We must also beware of “deeper life” teachers who offer a system for victory and fullness that bypasses devotion to Jesus Christ (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 104). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
Paul's answer for this heresy, and the deceptive teachings prevalent today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wonderful gospel is the reason for Paul’s thanksgiving expressed in Colossians 1:1–8. Rejoicing at the report of their faith brought to him by Epaphras, the founder of the church at Colossae, he characteristically expresses thanks that the Colossians heard the gospel, and that it bore fruit in their lives.
The Gospel is:
1) Received by Faith (Colossians 1:1–4a)
Colossians 1:1-4a [1:1]Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus (and of the love that you have for all the saints), (ESV)
Following the practice of correspondence in the ancient world, Paul begins the letter with his name. Paul writes to the Colossians from prison, probably in Rome. According to Acts, Paul was arrested after Judaizers from Asia (western modern Turkey) incited a crowd against him, causing disorder in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27). They accused him of teaching against the law and defiling the temple by bringing a Gentile into it (Acts 21:29–30) (Barry, J. D., Grigoni, M. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Col 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.).
Paul was the most important and influential person in history since our Lord Jesus Christ. His personality was the remarkable combination of a brilliant mind, a determined will, and a tender heart. Of Jewish ancestry, a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), he was a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). Paul was educated under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the leading rabbis of that time. He was also by birth a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) and exposed to Greek culture in his home city of Tarsus. Such a background rendered him uniquely qualified to communicate the gospel in the Greco-Roman world. It was largely his efforts that transformed Christianity from a small Palestinian sect to a faith with adherents throughout the Roman Empire. The church would be blessed to have record of even one letter from such a man, let alone the thirteen found in the New Testament.