Summary: The Letter of Paul to the Colossians has very strong significance for the issues which face the Church today. This "prison letter" is a letter of hope and clear teaching on the deity of Jesus.
“The Present Fruit of Heavenly Hope” Colossians 1:1-8
We are going to take some time to examine Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, known as one of Paul’s Prison Letters (the others being Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon) written while he was under house arrest for two years in Rome around 60 AD. The Colossae church is unique to Paul in that it neither planted by Paul nor ever visited by him; The church was planted through the ministry of Epaphras or Epaphroditus. Evidently, Epaphras had been saved during Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus and then became an evangelist among the Gentiles.
The church in Colossae, in what is present day Turkey, was a flourishing church but it experienced the same challenges that threaten many churches today. There was a mixture of religious error within as well as cultural pressure from without which was undermining the Colossian church. Today many churches in our country have succumbed to various humanist philosophies, cultural trends, and outright disregard for the Bible as God’s authoritative Word for life. The unrest and uncertain atmosphere in society often invades the Church and assaults the very Gospel which is the only hope for the world.
In the middle of a world of chaos and hopelessness, Paul writes a letter which is primarily a letter of hope, the hope that comes by the means of the Gospel which is characterized by the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. Let’s look at the first eight verses.
Colossians 1:1-8 (NKJ): “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; 7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.”
Understanding the inscription and the benediction
These verses are brimming with Christ-centered, Gospel Hope. The opening two verses are typical of written letters in general in Paul’s time, containing the name of the writer and the names of the recipients. Paul adds an important self-identifying, description, that he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” An apostle in the Early Church was called by Christ, Himself, to plant the Christian Church and confirm and complete the doctrine of the Church in the New Testament writings. Paul’s apostolic authority is God ordained not man-made, and at this time he is partnered with Timothy.
The letter and the Promise of Grace and Peace is addressed to the “saints and faithful ones” in the Church at Colossae. The root word for “saints” is the word “Holy”, so the “Saints” are God’s Holy Ones. We are the people whom God has set apart for His own possession. God declares us to be Holy, not on account of our good works or faithfulness but on account of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us.
God works within our hearts in order to bring us to faith in His Son, and that’s what makes God’s people “faithful” or “faith-FULL”. The Greek root word for “faithful” (GR, pistos) is “Peitho” meaning “to persuade” or “to believe”; so the “faithful ones” are those who have grounded their faith in the work of Jesus. They are persuaded that the work of Jesus is their only way to forgiveness and life. They are not “faithful” because they have done everything righteously but because they have faith and trust in the only Son of God who has done everything righteously and then paid the penalty for sin for those who trust Him.
The Grace and Peace from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” is to this particular people, God’s Holy Ones and to those who believe in Jesus’ redemptive work. God’s grace and peace to His people are inexhaustible; God’s grace (GR. charis) in Christ is not only in the past, but it continues second by second in the present, and forever throughout all eternity. His grace alone is redemptive, superlative and “salvational”. Anyone can be gracious to someone else, but only God’s grace can save and give eternal life.