John T. Willis

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Triad of Spiritual Commitment and A Triad of Divine Persons

Immediately after Paul and Timothy's greeting in Colossians 1:1-2, they express prayers of thanksgiving and supplication to God in behalf of Christians, in this case Christians at Colossae, related in Colossians 1:3-8. This prayer is one long sentence, while translators divide this into smaller sentences to help the reader or hearer. There are two "triads" in Colossians 1:3-8, this blog divides the discussion into two parts along the lines of the two "triads," while in reality this prayer is indivisible.

I. The Triad of Human Spiritual Commitment. Verses 3-6a.
a. Paul and Timothy uncessantly declare that they "always" thank GOD THE FATHER. Verse 3. All human being has consists of GIFTS from GOD. We "receive" God's gifts--see 1 Corinthians 4:7; James 1:17. The ONLY appropriate human response to God is GRATITUDE or THANKSGIVING. Hence, Paul and Timothy THANK GOD ALONE for all his blessings. See 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; and often in Paul's letters.
b. Paul and Timothy "have heard of" certain important things about the Christians at Colossae. They had never been there themselves, but others, including Epaphras [see verses 7-8], had been there and now told Paul and Timothy what was going on there, and Paul and Timothy are thankful and elated. Verse 4a.
c. Paul and Timothy emphasize a TRIAD of spiritual commitment among the Colossian Christians, which are the core or center or kernel of Christianity itself.
1. Faith in Christ Jesus--verse 4a. Faith here is not a "proposition," but a deep commitment of persons to Jesus Christ. Faith here means total trust in someone else who is trustworthy, in this case, Jesus Christ.
2. Love for all the saints--verse 4b. Love to God through Jesus Christ naturally flows into love for all the saints. If God has saved others and other loves God, there is no way that people cannot but love all other believers in Christ. What a tragedy when professed Christian people abuse and mistreat and slander and ignore and gossip about other people!!!
3. Hope laid up for God's people in heaven--verses 5-6a. Hope is active expectation of the hope which God reveals to human beings through "the word of the truth" which Epaphras and other had already brought to Christians at Colossae.
*Faith, love, and hope are the "triad of human spiritual commitment" to God through Jesus Christ--see 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrew 6:9-12; and often in the New Testament.

II. The Triad of Divine Persons. Colossians 1:6b-8.
a. Paul and Timothy continue to declare that "faith, love, and hope" cause communities of faith "bear fruit and grow in the whole world." Verse 6. God's work is like a tiny seed. But gradually, tenaciously, slowly, God causes this tiny seed to bear fruit and grow in all the world. In our own day and time, Christian people populate in nations around planet earth. We do not accomplish this by our own wisdom or power or influence, but ONLY by God's "hidden power" through our hearts and lives.
b. Paul and Timothy consistently refer to three "divine persons" in this prayer, and often in their letters.
1. God the Father--verses 3 and 6. The Bible consistently describes God metaphorically as our "Father"--see Exodus 4:21-23; Deuteronomy 1:31; 32:6; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 3:19; and often in the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament simply repeats this metaphor about God.
2. Jesus Christ--verses 3 and 8. God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ work together in harmony to carry out the divine purposes for human beings and throughout the universe. Paul and Timothy had already made this harmonious connection in Colossians 1:1-2.
3. The Holy Spirit--verse 8. Paul and Timothy remarks the Epaphras had made known to Paul and Timothy the love of Colossians Christians "in the Spirit." Like God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son, the Holy Spirit constantly functions in a wide variety of ways in the community of faith.
*In the fourth century A. D., Christians proposed serious conflicts about the nature and work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, time and study and discernment have taught God's people to accept the testimonies of faith proclaimed in the Bible without making sharp distinctions between these persons. Of course, there are serious issues like: How can there be ONE GOD and three persons all of whom are divine? If rational thoughts prevail, there will be division over such matters. But by faith, Christian people can accept these biblical affirmations without insisting on this or that view of what this might mean.

What are YOUR thoughts? Share your experiences and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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