Monday, December 12, 2005

Colossians 1:1-14

Read it here

I always struggle with the first and last bits of the letters...the personal stuff. In my mind I often skip over this first and last bit, maybe regarding them as the bread in a sandwich. Studying the first fourteen verses of Colossians has taught me how wrong that approach was. Fourteen exciting, truth packed verses...here goes.

Paul, the author of the letter, describes himself as an apostle by the will of Christ Jesus. That made me think. Now, if anyone ever could say that, post conversion, they earned what God had called them to, it would surely be Pail. But look at what he says, not 'called to be an apostle because of my work to bring the gospel to the gentiles', or '...because of the riot inspiring truth in my preaching', or 'because of my doctrine and dedication'...but by the will of Christ Jesus. Paul stands in His grace alone, nothing else holds him there as an apostle. He doesn't even seem to entertain the notion, he's Paul, an apostle by the will of Christ Jesus, end of.
Paul and Timothy thank God in this letter, because of the attitude the newly converted Colossians have towards the fellow believers. We are told that they 'love...All the saints'. Why? Why would this bunch of new Christians have so much love for their fellow believers? Because of the hope laid up for them in heaven! How do they know of this hope? Through the gospel. Which gospel is this? The same one you and I have! Thats how we know about our future hope, that's why we love, because of the gospel, which tells us of Jesus Christ, who is life.
What should our response be to this gift? Paul is clear in verse 9. He wants to believers at Collosae to be 'filled with knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord'. Wow! Walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord? How can I possibly do that? And what help is wisdom and understanding and a knowledge of His will? Well, this evening, I was in my room...kind of bored, and my mind started to wonder onto what St Augustine would call 'fruitless pleasures'...but then I remembered 'the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance' (Romans 2:4), and so I stopped my mind from wondering. And that, I think, is what is meant by these verses. Paul challenges the new converts at Colossae to 'walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord', now, of course when reading this we have to remember that we don't live in first century Colossae but none the less, there is a challenge here for us I believe. We are told to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. We will only manage this though spiritual wisdom and understanding, and going by what Paul says in verse 9, we will only achieve this by prayer...so lets pray! Lets get to know God and His will better so we can please Him more. And lets make sure people know what God's will is, otherwise they'll think we are making up rules for them...We must know what the Bible says, what the Lord says if we are ever to 'walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord'.
In verses 11 and 12 Paul continues to pray for the Colossians. He wants them to be strengthened. But not only that, he wants them to be strengthened 'according to God's glorious might.' So a couple of things. There will be trouble and hardship ahead. One hardly needs strength to endure a life of endless good fortune and wordly pleasure. Secondly, God strengthens us 'according to His glorious might'. So, the most powerful force in the universe, the power of God, is our strength. So we needn't fear anything. Sure we will need strength, but what a strength to have, and to rely upon, 'His glorious might'. But God doesn't just give us this for our benefit. He gives us strength according to His might for one reason. That we might 'with joy give thanks to the father' (v12)
And we have good reason for this joy. He is the father who 'qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints', and who 'delivered us from the domain of darkness'. WOW! Of course we should praise and sing with joy, no matter what our circumstances! Of course we should praise and proclaim His name no matter what the cost. Silent acquiescence is nothing, as Daniel demonstrates, we must be brave in His name. And guess what? Not only has He delivered us from the domain of darkness, our reason to sing through the suffering, He also strengthens us to sing in the suffering! Amazing! Thank you God.
So where are we now? No longer in the domain of darkness as the first half of verse 13 tells us, so where. We are in the 'kingdom of His beloved son' (v14b). The kingdom of God! That's where we are now. He is our ruler, our Lord, our King. It is from Him we now take our orders! No longer burdened by the yoke of slavery that kept us bound in the dominion of darkness, desperate to fulfill our empty desires with empty pursuits. No no, we are now in the Kingdom of the living God. Is that not exciting. How? How are we in this kingdom, when 'none of righteous' (Romans 3:10). Well Colossians 1:14 has the answer to that...it is in Jesus we have 'redemption, the forgiveness of sins'. What a way to finish a greeting! Talk about leaving the best till last!
Paul talks about our reliance on God in this passage in a lot of areas for a lot of things:
  • for his calling (v1)
  • for the conversion of the Colossians (v3+4)
  • for the attitude of the believers (v5)
  • for understanding leading to a worthy walk with God (v9+10)
  • for endurance in times of suffering (v11)
  • for joy in times of suffering (v12)
  • for salvation in the first place! (v13+14)

So, it seems to be that Paul is making the point that reliance on God is pretty much the most important thing there is. Imagine the Christian life without those things...looking at verses 13+14, there is no Christian life without reliance on God for 'the forgiveness of sins' (v14). Pretty humbling stuff! There seems little doubt in Paul's mind about who is at the centre of things, of the conversion, and subsequent life of the Colossians! Why does Paul mention this so heavily to the Colossians? It seems because they were faced with 'hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ' (Col 2:8). Perhaps not the Judaisers found in Galatia, but an influential group of people trying to bring the newly converted Colossians away from the hope of the gospel, and make them hope in things of this world.
So what for us? How much do we rely on God? How much does the hope of heaven inspire us to love? How much does the greatest command to 'love God with all your heart and soul and mind' mean to us and reflect out of our lives. How often do we make the effort to grow in knowledge to walk in a way pleasing to the Lord?
This is our God, the God we worship, who will give us endurance and joy in the face of the inevitable suffering, who calls us to learn His ways and walk in them. Who is so central that without Him, not only would there be no Christians, but no universe! What a tiny person I am. How amazing it is that God would set His grace on me. How simple, yet vital, the challenge, to walk 'in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.'
Looking at the evidence, what other choice do we have?

3 comments:

thebluefish said...

Why do you think Paul would write this stuff to the Colossians in their context - why tell them about their faith, their hope, why the gospel bears fruit etc?

FloydTheBarber said...

Because of the lies and opposition that the Colossians were faced with at the time. Because they were faced with people telling them to revert to 'hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.' (Col 2:8). That is why Paul makes such a big play of their hope being in the gospel, and why, in the 2nd part of Chapter 1 he majors so much on the importance of Christ and what He has achieved for us, and how it's totally Him centred.
Yes, i did totally fail to mention any Colossian context...my bad.

FloydTheBarber said...

*updated*