Study 1 THE APOSTLE AND HIS LETTER
(Scripture Portion: Colossians 1: 1-18)
Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written about AD 62 to the church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, situated on the Aegean Sea. It is generally supposed that Epaphras founded and afterwards ministered to this church and that Paul never visited the city, as Colossians 1:4,9 and 2:1 seem to indicate. Paul’s object in writing was to send help and guidance in connection with serious heresy which had come into the Colossian church, a false doctrine which was a mixture of speculative oriental mysticism and Judaistic legalism. The former denigrates the Person and Work of Christ, and the latter propagates the false notion that salvation is obtainable by works. How up-to-date Colossians is! – for you can trace these heresies in practically every modern false system. In Colossians 1:1-8 the apostle gives us a five-fold description:-
1. PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF THE LORD
The false teaching which had come into the church at Colosse was derogatory to the Person of Christ, so Paul speaks of Him in a three-fold way:-
- He gives Him His full title. See the end of verse 2 (KJV) and verse 3. Let us give our Lord Jesus His full title and acknowledge His lordship – look up 1 Corinthians 12:3.
- He emphasises His deity. In verse 3 we read, “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – and compare verse 2 – “God our Father”. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in an unique sense.
- He designates Him as the Second Person in the Godhead. The Trinity is mentioned in these few verses: the Father (in 2 and 3); the Son (in 1,2,3,4 and 7); and the Spirit (in 8).
2. PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF
He is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (verse 1) – and again the description is three-fold:-
- “An apostle”. The word means “a sent one” – compare Luke 6:13. An apostle was one who had seen the Lord and had been a witness of His resurrection – look up Acts 1:21-22 and 9:3-6.
- “An apostle of Christ Jesus”. How wonderful to be the special messenger of the King of kings! – and we are to be just that – look up 2 Corinthians 5:20.
- “By the will of God”. Paul’s call and authority were derived from God Himself – compare Galatians 1:1 and John 15:16.
3. PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF TIMOTHY
This is also in verse 1: “Paul, an apostle…and Timothy our brother…” Notice:-
- The apostle’s affection. He describes young Timothy as his brother. Timothy was, of course, his “own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2), and fellow-labourer in the gospel – look up Acts 16:1-3.
- The apostle’s humility. Paul was the great apostle and Timothy the young assistant; the one man was much older than the other, so it is a mark of Paul’s humility that he mentions Timothy.
- The apostle’s diplomacy. This is very beautiful. Timothy was a native of the region where these Christians lived, and many would be thrilled to hear his name mentioned. Paul was always very tactful when it came to the matter of bettering human relationships.
4. PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF THE COLOSSIANS
This seven-fold description is contained in verses 2, 4, 5 and 6:-
- He addresses them as “saints” (verse 2 KJV). Every Christian is a saint. God places us “in Christ” (verse 2), and immediately we become saints – look up Ephesians 3:18 and Philippians 4:21.
- He speaks of their steadfastness. That is the meaning of the word “faithful”. There were some in the church who were not faithful – but look up 1 Corinthians 15:58.
- He refers to their new relationship in Christ. In verse 2 he describes them as “brothers”; this is the true brotherhood – look up Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11.
- He speaks of them as believers (verse 4). He refers to their “faith in Christ Jesus”. Faith must not only be initial, trusting Christ for salvation, but it must be comprehensive – look up the last phrase in Romans 1:17.
- He especially mentions their love. In verse 4 he speaks of their love “for all the saints”, and in verse 8 he tells us that this love was “in the Spirit”. Look up Galatians 5:6; if we have faith we shall love! – compare Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 and 2 Peter 1:7.
- He says these Christians were filled with hope (verse 5). To rejoice in our inheritance in Christ will fill us with hope, and will banish doubt and fear – look up 1 Peter 1:4.
- He describes them as fruitful Christians (verse 6). This is God’s will for each one of us – look up John 15:4-5 and 8.
5. PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF EPAPHRAS
This three-fold description is in verses 7 and 8.
- He was Paul’s dear fellow-servant. Paul looked upon every other true servant of the Lord as a partner, a co-labourer – see 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
- He was a faithful minister of Christ. This, above all, is what God requires of us – look up Matthew 25:21 and 1 Corinthians 4:2.
- He was a proclaimer of love. Let us speak well of others; let us declare their “love in the Spirit”.