Paul begins this letter with his usual manner of greeting, stating up front who the letter is from and making mention of any companions who were with him at the time, in this case, Timothy. He introduces himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. “Apostle” is the title Paul most frequently uses of himself in the openings of his letters. Some have suggested that Paul is attempting to defend his ministry to the Church at Colossae, a congregation which he had never personally visited. However, he also uses the title of “apostle” in both his letters to Timothy, someone who would have hardly had any reason to question Paul’s legitimacy. I’m inclined to believe that Paul is not seeking to establish his authority with the Colossians, as much as simply acknowledge where his authority does indeed come from, namely “the will of God” not man. And this is of no small significance. Paul is acting as God’s emissary. In this short letter God is imparting to us many wonderful truths about His nature, His character, and His work. Paul, here, is the vehicle being used to convey that message. This is not some old man’s reflections on what God is like but is rather God’s very own thoughts about Himself.
While the first verse tells us from whom the letter is sent, the second verse tells us to whom the letter is addressed; “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.” A quick word about “saints”, Paul is using it here to refer to all believers, not just a group of super spiritual elites. “Saints” and “faithful brothers” then are parallel terms. As for “in Christ at Colossae”, I have read several authors who pointed out a two-fold location of his audience. “In Christ” refers to their spiritual location, while “at Colossae” obviously refers to their physical location. One take away from that observation is this, our location in Christ shapes how we see, while our location in the world shapes what we see. Our theology, our understanding of who Christ is, the transformation of our hearts and minds that occurs as we submit to Him all affect how we understand the events we go through. These things answer questions about what is significant or valuable, what is right and holy, what is to be pursued or what is to be rejected. In Christ our minds are oriented to a certain standard and that standard is Christ. Our location in the world, on the other hand, affects what we see. Because of where I was born and where I live I will have certain experiences and will be made aware of people with particular needs. Had I lived in a different time and place, I would have been exposed to a very different set of people with their own unique set of needs. This is our sphere of influence and this is where we are each called to live out our faith, to stand steadfast during times of trial, to show compassion to those in need, to winsomely draw others to Christ, in short, this is where we are to be ambassadors of the most high God.
As I have mentioned before, these posts are based off of my notes from the Sunday morning bible study. One of my favorite aspects of our Sunday morning group is the discussion and interaction that we are able to have. I hope to also have that back and forth exchange of ideas here too. So, in that spirit, I would encourage anyone with questions or comments to share their thoughts in the comment thread. I would love to hear from you!