“1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”
In the book of Colossians we come face to face with a man who practiced both prayer and praise despite the difficulties that he faced. Paul starts out teaching thankfulness even though his present problems involved prison. Paul didn’t let his problems dictate his priorities. Instead of focusing on his trials he focused on thanks, teaching us a great truth about thanks giving, it is not tied to our circumstances but to Christ. Our praise is a reflection of our priorities, and at the very start Paul’s priority was thankfulness. He makes thankfulness and praise his priority saying we “always” give thanks and that thanks goes to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul points His praise first to Christ and second to people. Our tendency is to use praise to serve self and not the Savior, but Paul doesn’t save praise for self he spends it serving others. Why do we point our praise to self, pride, a problem that is present in all people. On some level we all battle with boasting, pride wants to position and proclaim self. How do you know if you have a problem with pride, answer this question, how often does your ego have to eat, how often do you have to feed it? Paul’s praise points us to who should have priority in our lives, the Lord Jesus Christ. This triple name expresses the divinity, humanity, and sacrifice of the Savior. The title “Lord” refers to His deity, He is God and Lord of all. The name “Jesus” speaks of his incarnation, He was born into the human race and walked on this earth. “Christ” reminds us that He came and carried the cross, the Savior who sacrificed for our sins. So because thanksgiving is a priority Paul starts not with an ordinary greeting but a:
The greeting becomes a blessing. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Grace to you and peace was the greeting Paul used to open all 13 of his letters. He chose “grace” God’s gift of unmerited favor, kindness from God we don’t deserve, His benevolence to the undeserving. Grace is God choosing to bless us and through Christ remove the curse of sin. Peace is what results when God’s grace is received. Grace is God’s provision for the Christian life, Peace is the enjoyment of those provisions. Grace always precedes peace and if someone does not have peace in their life, it may be because they’ve not yet experienced grace. Ultimately the Roman Empire that Paul lived in couldn’t deliver peace, Pax Romana, and neither will our Western society. Perfect and lasting peace comes when we are reconciled to God through Christ, not through culture. Peace is God’s provision; it doesn’t come through ‘powers and principalities’ which capture us through deceptive philosophy. It is here that we see the supremacy and sufficiency of our Savior. Paul is thankful for the:
- BODY the church
Who is the church? The letter is addressed to those “in Christ,” a phrased used by Paul more than 160 times in various forms. It emphasizes the spiritual position of believers. They are “in Christ” meaning they are united with Christ, joined to Him as limbs are joined to the body. Which should cause us to ask several questions: First are you part of the body, are you in Christ, are you saved or separated? Second if you are saved and are part of the body are you allowing Christ to operate as the head? Third, are you thankful for the body of Christ? Do you look at the church as a blessing or a bother, is your perception of God’s people one of pain or privilege? As Paul focuses on the believers in Christ he expresses a triad of thanksgiving. Even though he had never visited the Christians at Colossae, he heard of their faith, their love, and their hope. This is very similar to what he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” While these three virtues are linked together in other passages, the phrase is not a faith formula, thrown in for effect, but a genuine statement in which each word is profoundly significant.
Faith is mentioned first because it is the starting place for everything else in the Christian life. Faith is our vertical connection and faith in Christ is the first mark of a mature fellowship. They weren’t commended because they had everything in common but because they had put their trust and confidence “in Christ Jesus.” It’s amazing to me that the testimony of their faith reached all the way to Paul in a Roman prison. I wonder how far is your faith reaching? The author of Hebrews tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Therefore, the church that gathers together without believing God is going to work will not experience renewal, revival, or blessing. Faith opens the door of the soul to receive the Savior; faith not only admits Him, but it also submits to Him. Faith isn’t just the start it’s the sustainer yet so often instead of walking by faith we are found withdrawing in fear. We are not called to a life of worry and fear but a walk of faith. Do you realize that a dense fog covering a cubic mile is composed of less than one gallon of water. When water is divided into billions of droplets a small amount can create a catastrophe of gloom, crippling an entire city and creating chaos. Worry and anxiety are like that, just a small amount can settle on you like a dense fog of gloom, keeping you from living the life the Lord intended you to live. Fear deteriorates the quality of our lives and can even destroy us physically. But faith breathes life and joy into our bruises and burdens, bringing healing to our hearts. Jesus called us to focus on faith and not fear when he said in Matthew 6:25-26: “Look at the birds of the air ….they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ….Who of you by worrying …. can add a single hour to your life?” Faith means to trust. Who do you trust? Whose hands are you really put your life in? Who do you turn to in the trials, is Jesus the Focus of your Faith? Are you pursuing a life of freedom through faith or living in the prison of fear? So many of us get caught in the trap of a thankless life because we focus on the fears and not faith. Are you thankful for the blessings and the body or have you let yourself become blind to the blessings and bitter with the body? Often this leads to living life on our own, we say that we have stopped “going” to church, the reality is that we have stopped doing life with the body. We claim that we still love Christ the problem is that while we are holding onto His head we are hating His body. Paul was passionate about the body despite the problems, look there are no perfect people just a perfect Savior at work within us. Paul chose to focus on the perfection of Christ not the problems of His children. Why are we disappointed and disillusioned with the church today, because we are placing our hope in the body and not the head. But when you have your hope in the head you can build up and believe in the body.