DUNCAN/A letter to the saints in Christ
Please turn to Colossians 1:1-2. The book of Colossians is about the incomparable, soul-sufficient, and sovereign Christ, in whom is everything that we need as Christians.
The gospel of Jesus Christ was not brought to the Colossians directly by Paul. Instead, Paul tells us that the faithful man, Epaphras, had come to the Colossians with the word of truth. Epaphras had heard the preaching of the gospel by the Apostle Paul in Ephesus, and took back that gospel to the Colossians. It is eventually through Epaphras that Paul learns that there are new false teachers in Colossae who are confusing young converts by teaching a mixture of Christian truths with Jewish and even pagan beliefs and practices. And so the Apostle Paul is writing to combat this error by pressing home the truth of the sole sufficiency of Christ and his saving work, and that faith in him necessarily rules out reliance on anything outside of him. With these things in mind, the Apostle Paul sets forth six key points in this passage. First, he wants us to see that Christians receive Scripture as authoritative in all matters of faith and life. Secondly, Christians are chosen by God, set apart, and dedicated to being His own people. Thirdly, Christians, in response to God’s initiative, are faithful or loyal to their calling. Fourthly, Christians, in virtue of their relation to God, are all brethren. Fifthly, Christians are recipients of God’s unmerited favor. Sixthly and finally, Christians, in virtue of God’s grace, enjoy an inner peace with God.
I. Christians Receive Scripture As Authoritative In All Matters Of Faith And Life.
In verses 1-2, the Apostle Paul is giving a salutation to the Church, but it is not just a polite ritual. Paul has significant content in that greeting meant to minister to the souls in Colossae. In this brief greeting, Paul sets forth a claim about himself and this claim begins with an assertion of Paul’s authority. He is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He comes with decisive directions and truths. The Apostle Paul is laying forth a foundation for the Colossians to receive the Word of God, which he is going to preach to them, and so he emphasizes that he is an Apostle by the will of God. This reminds us of the importance of the authority of Scripture in our own experience. Scripture is self-evidently true. Scripture shows forth itself to be what it claims to be which is the Word of God. And it is our job to receive it. That is part of Paul’s first claim. He is setting forth very clearly the fact that he is an authority. The words that he is writing are Scripture and the Colossians are to receive it.
II. Christians Are Chosen By God, Set Apart, And Dedicated To Be His Own People.
In verse 2, when Paul writes “To the saints at Colossae”, he is not referring to those most extraordinarily holy people who are members of that congregation. Instead, Paul is referring to all the members of the congregation. Those whom God has chosen for Himself. Those who have been set apart by God for his own people. This relationship to God is underscored by the word “saints.” God did not choose Israel because they were the greatest, for they were the least. Deuteronomy 7 tells us that He did not choose Israel for anything in them, but because He loved them. He chose them to be a peculiar people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. You see this is the truth of our sainthood and God’s electing love. He has sought us out. Before we came to Him, He came to us. Those who are in Christ, and those only, are saints.
III. Christians, In Response To God’s Initiative, Are Faithful Or Loyal To Their Calling.
We also see in verse 2 that Paul writes to the “faithful brethren at Colossae.” Christians, in response to God’s initiative and love, are faithful or loyal to their calling. This word from Paul is an encouragement to faithfulness and obedience. We have been made to be the true Israel. We have been chosen by God and now, as we have been dedicated by God, we are to be loyal to God. In light of this truth, we must ask ourselves, “Do we reflect that reality in our own experience? Is faithfulness something by which we are characterized? Is God our priority?”
IV. Christians, In Virtue Of Their Relation To God, Are Now All Brethren.
Another thing that we notice in verse 2 is that Christians, in virtue of their relation to God, are brethren which is a common New Testament term for Christian. When he calls the Colossians “brethren”, he is calling out to the unity and community of believers. We are to be united in mutual love, mutual ministry, and fellowship. We are to share life together, which means mutual involvement in all our losses and crosses, and in all our trials and our triumphs. Do we reflect those realities in our experience? Can we look back and say, “I know what it is to love my brothers and I know what it is to respond in loyalty to God.” That is the description that Paul gives of what a Christian is to these Colossians.
V. Christians Are Recipients Of God’s Unmerited Favor.
Paul pronounces a blessing, a benediction, on the Colossian Christians. He writes, “Grace to you”. That grace, of course, refers to God’s favor towards us. God’s grace is undeserved and it is despite our demerit. The use of that word in this salutation is much more than a simple greeting. It is a prayer that these Colossians might enjoy the blessing of God Himself, that they might see the face of God and commune with Him. Do you know what it is to be favored by God, and to be brought into the sweetness of fellowship with Him?
VI. Christians, In Virtue Of God’s Grace, Enjoy An Inner Peace With God.
The “peace from God our Father” in verse 2 is a peace that first knows that you have been brought into right relationship to God by trusting in Jesus Christ. It is a peace which keeps us through the trials of life because it is a peace not brought to us by circumstances but in spite of circumstances. Do you know what it is to have the benediction of God pronounced on your soul? Oh, my friends, if you do not have that peace, I plead with you to go to Christ. He awaits with arms open to receive any who will come to him. And for fellow Christians, may the Spirit bring these truths to forceful remembrance in our lives, that we might walk in the security and the holiness that we are called to by God.