In this chapter we begin our study of the epistle to the Colossian church. Note the simple outline: The epistle is Christ centered and its main objective is to show that the true teaching about Jesus is the sole response to this and all heresies.
Vs. 1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
Paul, as was the custom, introduces himself at the beginning of the letter. He takes special care to include his title, Apostle, in the introduction. The term Apostle meant messenger and there were many messengers in the church at the time. (e.g. Phoebe bringing a message to Rome – Romans 16:1-3).
However only a few could claim the title Apostle of Jesus Christ. These were the special messengers chosen by Christ Himself.
Paul even reinforces this position by saying that his Apostleship was not self-appointed but came about by the will of God. This introduction was important because what was at stake here was the credibility of the teachers. Paul is going to go on to give authoritative teaching so he wants to establish his credentials from the outset. He mentions Timothy as a courtesy because the people at Colossae knew him but Paul does not include him as part of the authority base for the letter. Timothy's role is that he is a brother in the Lord and that is his connection to Paul and the Colossians.
Vs. 2 – To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
In the second verse he recognizes the brethren to whom the letter is sent. Saints and faithful brethren are not two separate groups but simply a reference to different aspects of the same groups.
1. Saints – The Greek word meant holy one, or separated one. Those made holy by the blood of Christ. Those separated from sin by the blood of Christ. All Christians are saints, not exceptionally holy or martyrs, etc. The word "saint" denotes one's relationship with God.
2. Faithful Brethren referred to the relationship that all Christians share with one another. When one falls away from Christ and His church he becomes an unfaithful brother. When we discipline and disfellowship someone for unrepented sinfulness or unfaithfulness, we do not condemn them to hell (that is God's call); we simply identify them as faithful or unfaithful brethren.
He then identifies the location and church where his letter is intended in the first place, but later on (4:16) Paul will instruct them to pass this letter along to other churches. The content was meant for them but applicable to all churches, even until Jesus returns because the heresies might take different forms but they always have the same objective – to discredit Jesus Christ as divine Lord and His word in the New Testament. (I.E. Islam, Buddhism, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.)
Paul then offers a blessing upon them that he uses in other letters and with other churches (e.g. Romans 1:7).
He offers them a blessing that only God provides, and one that is the most precious. Prosperity, health, long life, many children, the respect of others – all of these things are blessings indeed but grace and peace exceed them all:
Grace: God's favor, God's gift of forgiveness, God's acceptance regardless of one's imperfection, God's promise of eternal life. These are only possible because of God's grace.
Peace: The felt result of God's grace is peace. Peace of mind, peace within one's soul, peace with others, peace with oneself – all the benefits of God's grace.
Taken together these two are the very best gifts God bestows on sinful man. Paul mentions that they are indeed gifts that do not come from himself, but from the Father in heaven.
Of course, these gifts (grace and peace) are in marked contrast with what these people have been experiencing with their new teachers and new doctrines. There has been confusion about the way to receive blessings because of the introduction of the worship of angels and other intermediary spirit beings by these teachers.
Paul says that these gifts (grace and peace) come directly from God the Father – He gives them.
They, of course, have not had peace but rather turmoil and debate with the new doctrines they have had to deal with. And, with the introduction of Jewish traditions, laws and food restrictions, the concept of grace is probably being trampled as well.
Christians are restrained by love, not law. I do not steal because I love my brother not because the Law will condemn me. We are new creatures; we live under the dispensation of grace not law.
It is God's grace and love that not only frees us from sin but also empowers us to overcome sin in our lives. These Colossians were being dragged back to living under the Law by these false teachers.
Every new religion does this in one way or another because that is the only option other than being saved and living in God's grace. No religion can improve on the gospel of grace. God offering us perfection and salvation based on faith in Jesus Christ (expressed in repentance and baptism). Nobody can make a better deal, a more gracious offer, a more effective religious experience, so they always go the other way.
For example, Eastern religions have their rules of life where through human effort you keep trying for perfection or oneness – what is that if not a form of law keeping?
Islam imposes strict rules and if Allah wants and feels like it, you might go to Paradise – more law keeping, especially social law. Every form of "Christian" sect or cult has been based on obedience to the rules of a human prophet or leader or special "doctrine". For example:
- Sabbath keeping – 7th Day Adventist
- No blood letting – Jehovah's Witness
But it is all a form of law-keeping to obtain salvation, and it works because people love to try to keep the law – it appeals to their pride because they can measure their progress in relationship to another.
The Gospel of Christ on the other hand declares 3 simple truths:
- All are sinners and condemned before God – Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23 (From Adam to the last person).
- No one can save themselves by trying to keep the law (perfectionism) in any of its religious or social forms – Galatians 2:16.
- The only way to be saved from the condemnation that awaits us because of our sins is through faith in Jesus Christ and no other.
Some ask at this point, "well what about repentance and baptism, where do these fit into all of this?" The answer is that repentance and baptism are the ways that Christ has given us to express our faith in Him. We are saved when we express our faith in Christ Jesus by repentance and baptism. This is what "saved by faith" includes. If you do not believe, you will express that disbelief by rejecting repentance and baptism. So back to verse 2, Paul says that grace and the peace that comes with grace are things that come from the Father.
In his epistle he will show how the Father bestows these through His Son Jesus Christ. Note also that he says our Father, meaning the Father of Paul and Timothy and the brethren at Colossae. God is the Creator of all men but the Father of His adopted children, Christians. All men can call upon God as their creator, only Christians can call Him Father or Dad as Paul refers to Him in Romans 8:15.