Summary: In this passage Paul asks the questions: 1. What is the origin of life? 2. What is the meaning of life? 3. What is the value of life?
I’d like to look this morning at the passage appointed as the Epistle today from Colossians 1:1-14.
In it, as Rodney Buchanan has said Paul answers three basic questions:
1. What is the origin of life?
2. What is the meaning of life?
3. What is the value of life?
But let me first set the scene by telling you a bit about Colossae and background to the letter
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).
Colossae was probably quite cosmopolitan - made up of native Phrygians, Greek settlers and Jews.
And it is likely that Colossae had its fair share of pagan temples - as Paul alludes to their pagan past in several places.
Many think the Colossian Church was actually founded by one of Paul’s co-workers Epaphras, who was described in Col. 4:13 as a native of Colossae.
This is because Paul concentrated his work in major centres like Ephesus,
The letter to the Colossians is a great encouragement for those in small churches in rural Norfolk.
Because it reminds us that God is interested in little things
For in Zechariah 4;6, the prophet reminds us not to “despise the day of little things”
2. Why did Paul write the letter to the Colossians?
F.F. Bruce, the famous 20th Century Evangelical scholar has suggested that Paul wrote Colossians as
"Paul’s vigorous reaction to news of the strange teaching which was (permeating) in Colossae." (F.F. Bruce Commentary p.165).
We can only surmise what this strange teaching was, but it seems to have been false teaching about the divinity and humanity of Christ. What we call nowadays Gnosticism
As one Bible Commentator put it
“It would appear that there were those in Colossae that did not see Jesus as a triumphant Saviour to whom all authority on earth and heaven had been given.
At best he was only one of many spirit beings who
bridged the space between God and man.”(taken from the Expositor’s Bible Vol 11 p. 180-1)
Paul writes the letter to the Colossians to state clearly who Christ is.
The passage we read today as our first reading was probably one of the first creeds of the Early Church.
3. Let us look at Colossians 1: 15-20
What is its value today?
Many people today are asking these three fundamental questions
3.1. What is the origin of life?
3.2. What is the meaning of life?
3.3. What is the value of life?
And Paul in this passage gives us a clear answer to all three. For it is in Jesus Christ alone that we find the answer
3.1 What is the origin of life
Carl Sagan, opens his book Cosmos by saying: “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”
“We are not children of God,” Sagan tells us but “children of the Cosmos.”
Paul categorically refutes this. Creation is not a mere chance action – Christ is the creator
For in Col 1. 16 Paul says this
16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
The origin of life is God himself
3.2. What is the meaning of life
The second question that Paul touches on in this passage is what the meaning of life?
What is the purpose of our existence?
If there is not a personal God who created us in love, then we are left to believe that life has no meaning.
If there is no meaning to life, neither is there any morality.
As Dostoevsky said, “Without God all things are permissible.”
If there is no morality, how is it that there is a universal sense of rightness and wrongness about things like theft, murder and adultery?
Immanuel Kant, the great philosopher, said,
“Two things fill the mind with ever increasing wonder and awe. . . . the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”
Discovering that purpose, and living out that purpose, is our most important mission in life.
We have been created with a divine future.
Christ enabled us to have that future.
Although we broke the moral law of God and we should have died for that St Paul tells us that
“through Jesus, God reconciled to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through Jesus blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1;20)