John T. Willis

Friday, January 15, 2010

Paul Greets the Colossians Christians--Colossians 1:1-2

The Book of Colossians begins with a greeting, which is quite common at the beginning of letters in the ancient Near East. This greeting is rich and full of important information for the entire letter. We will attempt to follow the words of this greeting step by step. This appears in Colossians 1:1-2.

I. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother. Verse 1.
a. Hebrew and Greek, Jewish and Christian letters in the ancient world began with the name of the sender or senders of a letter. This is quite different from the modern letter, in which the sender or senders appear at the end of the letter: We write: "Love, John Willis," or "Cordially, John and Evelyn Willis," etc. An example in the Bible appears in Daniel 4:1: "King Nebuchadnezsar to all the peoples, nations and languages that dwell on the earth, etc."
b. Colossians 1:1 is identical to 2 Corinthians 1:1: "Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother." Here, Paul uses his name "Paul" as his Hellenistic-Roman name as God's "apostle" to the Gentiles, rather than his original name "Saul," his Jewish name. Note that this man's name is called Saul from Acts 7:58-13:8, and with Acts 13:9, his name is changed to Paul, which continues through the book of Acts.
c. In Galatians 1:1, 15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:8-11, Paul explains that he became an apostle of Christ Jesus "as to one untimely born," "the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle," to proclaim the gospel of God through Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul became an apostle ONLY "by the will of God."
d. Paul works with Timothy in his letters to 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, and Philippians. Paul probably talked with Timothy to compose all these letters together. Paul probably dictated these letters to Timothy, who wrote them down. But neither Paul nor Timothy actually worked at Colossae. Colossians 1:7-8 indicate that Epaphras established the church there. Paul is an "apostle," Timothy is Paul's "brother" in the Christian faith, and hence the "brother" of all fellow-Christians.

II. "To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae"--Verse
a. Paul and Timothy do not call the Christians here "the church," but "the saints." But 1 Corinthians 1:2 makes clear that these two terms are identical in meaning: "To the CHURCH OF GOD that is in Corinth, to those who are SANCTIFIED in Christ Jesus, called to be SAINTS." The church of God is a group of HOLY people. They are not holy in and of themselves, but they ARE sanctified by God through Jesus Christ. To be a saint is not to be exalted spiritually, but to be blessed by God in a special way.
b. Unfortunately, not all "Christians" are "faithful." In this letter, Paul and Timothy address "faithful Christians."
c. Colossae is located in the upper valley of the Lycus River, surrounded by high mountains in modern Turkey. Colossae was established by Antiochus II (261-246 B. C.), and at first was a flourishing city. But by the time of Paul, it had declined significantly, and Laodicea had become the capital of this region.
d. The important expression "in Christ" underlines the conduct of life in obedience in the Lord. Jesus Christ owns the life of such a person. This expression permeates Paul's letters.

III. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father"--verse 2b.
a. "Grace" is a unique greeting in Christian letters. Christians are saved only by God's grace, never by their own good works. "Peace" is a common greeting, dating far back into Old Testament times.
b. God is the spiritual "Father" of all Christians. Jesus Christ is the "elder brother" of all Christians. Paul names Jesus Christ in verse 2 and God our Father in verse 2.

Each word and line in Paul's greeting in Colossians 1:1-2 is very important. As one studies through the Book of Colossians, one will appreciate more and more the significance of this greeting.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Post a Comment

<< Home