Summary: Paul's answer to Gnostic tendencies in the Church
THE KNOWLEDGE WE HAVE
The Apostle Paul was in prison (Colossians 4:10; Colossians 4:18), probably in Rome. We can imagine that any bearer of news of the churches, and of the progress of the gospel, was a welcome visitor. Such was Epaphras a “fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ” (Colossians 1:7) - who had been instrumental in bringing the gospel to the Colossians.
However, after the first flush of conversion the new Christians at Colossae had become somewhat dazzled by certain teachers (possibly from their own number) who were suggesting that there was more to the gospel than they had received. IN EVERY GENERATION OF THE CHURCH THERE HAVE BEEN THOSE WHO CLAIM SUPERIOR ‘KNOWLEDGE’, DIVISIVELY LEADING THE FLOCK ASTRAY. When we are new in the faith we still have much to learn, and are easily susceptible to such malevolent teachings.
First up, Paul acknowledges that those to whom he is writing are true Christians: they are “saints and faithful brethren in Christ” (Colossians 1:2). All Christians are called “saints” (Romans 1:7), “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2), partakers of a holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9), set apart by God. All are also “brethren” in the faith.
Paul and Timothy next “give thanks… praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3). Their whole attitude and demeanour was prayerful, in all that they did. They celebrated the “FAITH in Christ Jesus”, the “LOVE to all the saints” and the “HOPE laid up in heaven” of the Colossian believers (Colossians 1:4-5 - compare 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Now the gospel which the Colossians first believed, says Paul, is the same “word of truth” which you received, which is constantly “bearing fruit”. THE GOOD SEED OF THE WORD, PLANTED IN GOOD SOIL, TAKES ROOT, GROWS, AND PROVES FRUITFUL (Luke 8:15). Again, this is so because they KNOW the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:5-6).
All this serves to emphasise the integrity of Epaphras’ teaching (Colossians 1:7). Furthermore, Epaphras had brought a good report of the Colossians to Paul, despite the insipient Gnosticism of some of their members (Colossians 1:8). This is perhaps why Paul is so gentle in his counsel, as opposed to his earlier outrage against the wayward church in Galatia (Galatians 1:6; Galatians 3:1 etc).
Again the Apostle speaks of his ceaseless prayer on behalf of the Colossians. The new teachers were offering superior ‘knowledge’, but Paul prayed that the Colossians might rather experience the manifestation of what they already had: that they might be “filled with the Knowledge of His will” and “increasing in the Knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). WE DO NOT LACK KNOWLEDGE, BUT NEED RATHER TO TAP INTO THAT WHICH WE ALREADY HAVE.
The fact of the matter is, that “all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9); and living worthy lives, and pleasing God, and bearing fruit (Colossians 1:10) is all already readily available to us in Christ Jesus. And it is the possession of ALL Christians, not just a few ‘in the know’!
As Paul continues describing the content of his prayers for the Colossians, he next mentions the subject of their being “with all power” strengthened, according to the might of His glory. This again is something which we already have: power for all patience, power for perseverance, the ability to remain joyful throughout (Colossians 1:11). ‘Miserable’ Christians is an oxymoron!
Furthermore, Paul celebrates the fact that the Father has already qualified us to receive the inheritance which awaits His saints. We are delivered from the power of darkness, and have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:12-13). THIS IS ALL A PRESENT REALITY, AND GROUNDS FOR BLESSED ASSURANCE.
The evidence of the underlying drift away from the gospel is found implicitly throughout this epistle, in Paul’s answers to the perceived problems. This is why, for example, Paul laid so much emphasis on the deliverance which Jesus wrought on our behalf (Colossians 1:13; Colossians 2:15), and on the fullness of what He has accomplished (Colossians 2:10). This is all possible because of what Jesus did on the Cross: “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Colossians 1:14).
We need NOTHING ADDED, NOTHING TAKEN AWAY: but rather to recognise what we already have in Christ Jesus the Lord (Colossians 1:9-14).