TEXT: Colossians 1:1-11
The epistle of Paul to the Colossians was written during his confinement in a Roman prison. Colosse was a city of Phrygia in Asia Minor, having Laodicea and Hierapolis as its immediate neighbors. The city, located on the east of Ephesus, was noted for its idolatrous worship. The church in Colosse was established most probably through the evangelistic ministry of Epaphras with his fellow natives of Colosse such as Philemon, Archippus and Apphia who became converted during Paul’s gospel outreach at Ephesus. Paul’s missionary work there had such a profound and far-reaching impact that “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10,26). These converts, properly followed-up by Paul (Acts 18:23), headed for their native land to preach the gospel and plant the church there. It is clear from this epistle that the Apostle had not been there (Colossians 2:1).
Soon after the Colossian church was established with remarkable evidence of transformation through the gospel, false teachers infiltrated the church to teach that commitment to Jesus Christ and adherence to the apostolic gospel was inadequate for full re asceticism, worship of angels as intermediaries between God and man, observances of certain Jewish rites with the gospel was the acceptable religion (Colossians 2:8,16,18,21- 23). This hybrid religion they peddled contradicted the basic Bible truths and was calculated to undermine the pre- eminence of Christ as the Saviour of mankind and the completeness of believers in Him.
So, Paul wrote to refute these erroneous teachings as well as establish the truth of the gospel that Christ is the only Saviour of the world, the Head of the Church and the Lord of the universe/creation. He further stated that redemption in Christ alone is complete and believers who are thus redeemed are “complete in him” (Colossians 2:10). Intermediaries are, therefore, unnecessary and unscriptural. The text focuses on the Apostle’s salutation and thanksgiving to God on behalf of the Colossian
Christians for the grace of God received through the gospel, acknowledgement of the impact of the gospel in their lives and his heart-felt prayer for their spiritual growth and fruitfulness in the gospel.
PAUL’S ADDRESS AND SALUTATION TO THE CHURCH (Colossians 1:1,2; Romans 1:7; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 1:1-3; Philippians 1:1,2; 1 Timothy 1:1,2; 2 Timothy 1:1,2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1-3)
Paul begins this epistle by introducing himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”. Here, he attributes his apostleship to divine will and grace, not to his own merit, strength or will. He was saved by the grace of God through faith. No one can be addressed as an apostle or a servant of Christ who had not received the grace of God that brings salvation to all men; the grace that teaches us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). As grace was a gift, so was his apostleship to preach the gospel. Every true minister of Christ derives his commission or office not by his own strength or schemes, nor by men’s nomination but by divine appointment (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28). It was, therefore, expedient for him to explain his call, commission and apostleship in relation to the gospel so as to give this epistle authenticity, authority and acceptance among the Colossian believers. Besides, he revealed that God is the Source of the gospel; that it had been promised and prophesied in Scriptures by the prophets and that the central subject is Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).
“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” In the New Testament dispensation, the word “saint” is used for all genuine Christians whose lives have been transformed by the power in the blood of Jesus. The call to salvation is also a call to be saints. This phrase marks them as holy people, chosen and set apart for God. They are made saints by their divine calling and character (Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:15,16 ); through the blood of atonement (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14; 10:12); by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13); by the sanctifying power of the word of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 17:17) and by their
separated, blameless, spotless moral life and inward purity (Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The saints of God live above reproach and for the glory of God. All saints are brethren who love and fellowship one with another. As brethren, all rancor, bitterness, fighting, malice, unforgiving spirit and all vices that would erect a wall of partition are removed. Unfaithfulness is a mark of the unregenerate; all true saints and brethren will be faithful to God, to their calling and to the gospel.
Paul’s characteristic introductory greeting which is found in most of his epistles is also conveyed to the Colossian church. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:2). Grace is the unmerited favour God freely bestows on the morally weak but repentant sinner by saving him from sin. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Peace is the effect of grace obtained from God within the soul (Colossians 1:14; Romans 5:1). Grace is the outpouring of the Father’s love toward the repentant sinner or backslider and peace is the divine rest and tranquility in the heart that attests to the reality of cancelled sin and entry into God’s family (Ephesians 2:18,19).
PAUL’S THANKSGIVING TO GOD FOR THE COLOSSIAN CHRISTIANS (Colossians 1:3-8; Romans 1:8; Ephesians
1:15,16; Philippians 1:3-7; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Psalm 118:1-4)
Paul’s expression of thanksgiving to God on behalf of the Colossian church was in recognition and appreciation of the influence and transforming power of the gospel on the believers. This was in keeping with his manner and practice in his epistles to other churches in which he gave thanks to God for their reception of the gospel and its tangible fruits on them. Faith in Christ and love toward all the saints were sufficient proofs of their conversion for which he gave thanks to God. These godly attributes they manifested were anchored on the hope of rewards in heaven that was preached to them. The inference here is that everyone who
has heard the gospel, believed and have the hope of reward in heaven will strive to live the Christ-like lifestyle here on earth. The gospel is universal and able to produce the same kind of fruits in the lives of recipients irrespective of their locale. Paul affirms that “Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:4-6). The fruit Paul mentioned here are that of the Christian character.
Every sinner is expected to repent of sin and bear fruits of repentance. After salvation, the professing believer will not continue to live in sin. The fruit of the Christian character that show genuine conversion are “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22,23).
The truth of the transforming power of the gospel and hope of its recipients was preached to them by Epaphras whom Paul referred to as “our dear fellow servant” and “faithful minister of Christ”. The Apostle here reveals the bond of affection between them and his testimony of Epaphras. He was happy that Epaphras was faithful in preaching the true gospel to them which, as a corollary, bore spiritual fruit; that if he was not preaching, he was teaching them the Word to help them grow in faith or laboring in prayers for them to be steadfast, mature and perfect in God’s will (Colossians 4:12,13). He loved the brethren and wanted to protect them from false doctrines that would destroy their fellowship and hinder their spiritual development. This
attitude is worthy of emulation by all Christian leaders.
Where the gospel is faithfully preached and taught with unceasing intercession, there would be testimony of transformation such as Epaphras shared with Paul. He testified of their “love in the Spirit”. He balanced this testimony with the report of the threat and challenge from peddlers of false teachings which informed the writing of this epistle by the Apostle.
Like Paul, believers should show gratitude for what God is doing in the lives of others, since we are all members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12- 14). Believers are to give thanks to God for His mercies, kindness, goodness, love, grace, provision and protection. Like Epaphras and Paul, praise to God and testimony should precede prayer while commendation should precede correction. At this time, Paul was in a Roman prison and Epaphras was facing the greatest challenge in ministry, but they were not downcast. So, whatever challenges, persecution and pressures we face in life and ministry, we must not give room for worry, anxiety or fear; we must pray with faith and thanksgiving, knowing that God is faithful to perform all that He has promised (Colossians 4:2; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 10:23).
PAUL’S PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH OF THE CHURCH (Colossians 1:9-11; Romans 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-19; 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11; Philemon 4,5; John 17:20-24)
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church bears striking semblance with his prayer in other prison letters (Ephesians 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11). From his prayers, we learn a great deal on how to pray scripturally, fervently and effectively to God for the church.
The essential ingredients of Paul’s prayer which should form our requests are that believers should be enabled as well as have spiritual fullness, knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, spiritual understanding, pleasing lifestyle of worthy walk with Him, fruitfulness in good works, growing spiritual knowledge, renewed spiritual strength, power, patience, longsuffering and knowledge. With these requests answered, he believed believers in Colosse would be able to live according to the truth they had been taught without being deceived into error. From these requests, believers should learn to prioritize on spiritual blessings, not
material or physical matters, especially where erroneous teachings threaten to erode the truth. Though it is not wrong to pray about physical or material needs, priority should be given to spiritual needs.
Believers need spiritual knowledge, understanding, wisdom and strength to overcome temptations and the tempter; endure hardship, suffering, persecution, deprivations and trials of faith; remain steadfast, immovable and abound in grace and good works; live by faith and proclaim the truth constantly, resolutely and tirelessly; fight the good fight of faith, and serve God faithfully till the end.
If the benefits and blessings of the gospel are to be fully realized in our lives and church, we must constantly uphold its truth and be always ready to defend its purity against falsehood and false teachers. Our usefulness and fruitfulness would be enhanced as we pray for the church leaders and members to be filled with spiritual blessings, live holy lifestyle and continue to persevere in the faith in readiness for the Lord’s return and for the hope of reward in heaven.