As I blog through the Bible chapter by chapter, I wanted to mix in some New Testament letters as we work through the book of Genesis. Paul’s letter to the Colossian church has been ministering to my soul since I started studying it in the second year of my Christian life. Paul writes to this church as they struggle with heresy that stifles their joy in Christ and the effectiveness of their Christian life. It is difficult to pinpoint what the exact heresy is, but it seems to be a mixture of Gnosticism, Jewish Legalism, and Pagan Mysticism. Paul answers the difficulties they face by pointing to the reality of who Jesus is. The hymn in 1:15-20 displays Jesus in all his glory and majesty. Then he moves on to show who Christians are in Christ and what the Christian life looks like when it is lived in light of this overwhelming reality. We begin by looking at 1:1-2.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
This letter begins the way all Pauline letters begin. He identifies himself and his traveling companions. They he directly addresses his readers and offers them a greeting. How Paul describes his readers teaches us something about identity of Christians. He calls them “saints” and “faithful brothers.” While the language of “saints” has typically been reserved in our culture for those who seem to go above and beyond in their service to the Lord, the Bible does not use the word this way. A “saint” is a person who has trusted in Jesus, been forgiven of his sin, and been given the gift of Jesus’ righteousness. “Saint” means “holy one,” so we see that “saint” is simply a synonym for “Christian.” Every Christian is a saint. We cannot divide Christians into “ordinary Christians” and “saints.” We must see that all of us who trust in Christ are born again, indwelt with God’s Spirit, adopted as God’s child, reconciled to God, justified before God, and the recipient of God’s promises in Christ.
Paul also calls them “faithful brothers.” This designation shows the effect of the Gospel in the lives of God’s people. After trusting in Christ, the person who is a Christian is different. They have been wholly changed from the inside out. This will begin to evidence itself in everyday life. Christians follow Jesus, not perfectly, but following after characterizes the direction of our lives.
Grace and Peace
He closes with a word of greeting to them. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” “Peace” was a typical Jewish greeting and Paul adds a deeper Christian understanding of this with the word “grace.” He prays that God’s grace and peace will be upon them and that their lives will be dominated by it.
God Our Father
This grace and peace come from “God our Father.” The New Testament consistently refers to God with qualifiers. He is not a generic “god,” but the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only that, for those who trust in Christ, we call Him Father too. We belong to Him by creation, redemption, and adoption. He brought us into His family and has given us full rights and privileges of His first-born Son.
There are two questions Christians must ask in light of the opening verses of Colossians. Do we realize the privileges and glory of being in Christ? Do those propel us to faithfully follow Christ?
For Further Reading:
The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians by Sam Storms