Colossians 1:9-14

November 27, 2008

Now it to week two of our study of Colossians, we have broken in to the second portion of Paul’s introduction to his letter to the Colossians. Whereas the former section (Col. 1:1-8) centered mostly on Paul’s thanksgiving to God for his work in and among the Colossians, he now expresses his prayer for them. Again, brought to us by us from the NET Bible, here is the text:

For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects – bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

To begin our discussion Tuesday night, we first went back to the beginning of all things in Genesis.  The story of the universe, as God tells it, says that in the beginning, everything was perfect until sin came in to the world and what was perfect became marred.  In response to this marring God both pronounces a curse (Gen. 3:14-19) though with a promise in the midst of it (Gen. 3:15) that evil would one day be defeated.  How would this happen?  By what means?  

Back in Colossians, I found myself struck with the question, “Is Paul praying for the impossible?”  Specifically, can we “walk worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects” (1:10)?  To answer that question, we must again go back to the Old Testament where Paul has pulled these concepts from.  

Though Paul makes two requests here (“walking” and “pleasing”) he is actually making one petition: that the Colossians’ life of faith would enact a great reversal of the entirety of human history.  Here are the connections I see:

Paul prays that the Colossians…

…would find wisdom in Christ (Col. 1:9) as Adam and Eve were unable to do (Gen. 3:5-6)

…would take up the invitation of God (Gen. 17:1) to walk worthily (Col. 1:10) of the Lord like Enoch (Gen 5:24), Noah (Gen. 6:9), Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 48:15) did–unlike Adam and Eve who could not (Gen 3:8).

…would live lives that God could once again affirm as being pleasing (Col. 1:10)  and good (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

…would bear fruit and grow (Gen. 1:28) in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:6, 10).

Though Paul’s prayer is essentially that the Gospel would reverse the total effect of sin on humanity, he bears no misconception of exactly whose work it is to complete this work.  Evidencing this conviction Paul immediately turns his prayer not to the strength the Colossians will need to accomplish this transformation, but to the patience and steadfastness that will be necessary (1:11) as they wait for the Father to complete his work in them, his new creation in Christ.  Further illustrating God’s role, Paul then moves back in to thanksgiving for the work God has done (not the Colossians) in qualifying, delivering and redeeming his people (Col. 1:12-14).


Colossians 1:1-8

November 18, 2008

Following a short and pretty standard introduction (vv. 1-2), Paul begins this letter to the church at Colossea in thanksgiving.  Here is the text (bear in mind that the entirety of verse 3-8 is one sentence in the greek) from the NET Bible:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. Your faith and love have arisen  from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as in the entire world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, so it has also been bearing fruit and growing among you from the first day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.  You learned the gospel  from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave – a faithful minister of Christ on our  behalf – who also told us of your love in the Spirit. 

The key questions we will be asking tonight are these: 

  1. What does Paul mean by “hope that is laid up for you in heaven”?  Why couldn’t he say “hope that is laid up for you on the moon”?  
  2. Why does Paul bring Epaphras in to the introduction?

Starting with question number one, here are my thoughts: 

Hope, as Paul is talking about it here, is communicated to us in the gospel.  The gospel is said to have “come to you” and to be “bearing fruit and growing” “in the entire world” “from the first day you heard it”.  What is more, later on Paul will instruct the Colossians to “keep seeking things above, where Christ is” (3:1), leading me to believe that the current object of hope under discussion is none other than Christ himself.  He is the hope and the gospel who has come to them, and he is the intended fulfillment of all God’s original intentions for mankind that Paul hints at.  Check out Genesis 1:27-28

God created humankind  in his own image,

in the image of God [cf. Col. 1:15] he created them, 

male and female he created them.

God blessed  them and said  to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” 

Jesus is the gospel who is seated in heaven and who will return.  He is the perfection and image of everything God ever intended for mankind to be.

The answer to the second question takes just a little less explaining, for in Epaphras we see a true Christ-follower whose identification with Christ has led him to do as Christ does.  Jesus (i.e. the gospel) has come to the Colossians–in to enemy territory no less (Col. 1:21)–and Epaphras has served to bring him there.  As the rest of the book will expand upon, Christ is all and in all, so that he goes with those who have him living in them (1:27).  As such, Paul includes Epaphras because in him we see a clear example of one who’s life in Christ is so real that his presence communicates Jesus’ presence and becomes a conduit for his life to flow to those around him. 


November 15, 2008

I will be starting a study of Colossians for the youth here in Holland, and just wanted to put a quick note out to you guys to invite you to study along with me if you would like.  I hope to be posting my findings and guesses as I journey through the book and would love to hear your thoughts.