Updated: Apr 8, 2020
by Gabe Bernal
Read the first 14 verses of Colossians
Reread it. Slowly, carefully.
What jumps out to you?
Any words, phrases?
You can journal or chat about them now, or you can wait until the end where I will give space for you to consider these things.
I'll give you a couple of thoughs that come to my mind when I read this. For me, the things that usually stick out are words and phrases. This time it's 5 words and 3 phrases: Apostle, Saints, Faith, Love, Hope, "word of Truth, the Gospel," "Worthy of the Lord," and "Endurance and Patience."
First, Paul begins the letter with greetings and salutations as is the custom of the time, and the first thing that jumps out is in his greeting as he calls himself an "Apostle."
Do you think Paul was gloating when he says this?
I mean, he doesn't always call himself an apostle, for instance in Philippians he and Timothy are merely servants. Still, here he calls himself "Apostle."
Then what is he trying to convey? Why use this title?
The meaning of the Greek word apostlos used here is "one who is sent" or a "messenger." In a sense, an apostle is an emissary with other non-biblical translations using ambassador.
Be reminded that Paul doesn't use the title Apostle lightly. In fact, he doesn't call Timothy an apostle, despite him being his top disciple and one who he shared ministry with for years if not decades. But with the message being so important, Paul wanted to stress that this message came from The One who sent him not Paul himself.
In the same sense that the ambassador can speak for the leader of their nation, Paul is merely a spokesman for Jesus' message.
Another important word that jumps out to me is how he addresses the Colossian Christians - as "saints."
Have a quick think or discussion about the following:
What or who do you think of when you think of someone who is a saint?
Would you consider yourself a saint? Why or why not?
Today, because of the long history of the church and deeds of several faithful men and women, we usually denote a saint as someone who is extraordinarily holy.
Even the apostles are stylized Saint in most high church backgrounds, i.e. Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Mark, etc.
With that, you'd think only the best, only the ones who left an impact on the world are considered saints. But remember what I said one of the traps we might fall into - "We are more likely to accommodate Scripture to our cultural expectations." And assuming only certain people can be considered a saint is one of those cultural expectations.
So who or what are saints in this context? The "faithful brethren" (also in 1:2), and overall anyone who is within the Body of Christ. Theologian David Guzik says, "Every true Christian is a saint." That means I am a saint, and you are a saint!
It doesn't matter where you are in your walk, if you walk with God, you are a saint.
For instance - in Corinthians, Paul calls one of the worst and most difficult churches "saints." Not because he is trying to flatter them, not because they are special, and definitely not because of what they did. He calls them "saints" not because of their holiness, but as part of Body of Christ, our mutual belief in Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour makes the Corinthian church saints. It makes the Colossian church saints. It makes us saints!
How does it make you feel to know you are considered a saint?
How will you proceed in your life knowing you are a saint?
Faith, Love, Hope
In verses 4-5, Paul mentions three things here that he has talked about elsewhere in the New Testament.
Faith, love, and hope.
These were not just idioms or a just a theological idea Paul liked. I believe when you read all of Paul's writings, it backs up that these three words embody what it means to be Christian. When in Christ, these are the three things that we can cling to. It is these three things that will direct our actions and behaviours as Christians. It is through these three things that we are our best selves.
In these verses, he uses them as an encouragement to the Colossian church, he knew that like a three-legged stool, we needed all three for the Gospel to be constant in our hearts.
We need to be remind each other continually of these three pillars.
Just like Paul does in verse 4-8, how can you encourage your fellow saints...
What about you? How do you need to encourage yourself in faith, love, or hope?
With genuine faith in Jesus, we will always be able to have true love for God's people and provide a hope to encourage, and that will never fail.
Word of Truth, the Gospel
This is another indicator that faith, love, and hope are vital pillars. Because not only does he remind the Colossian church in what Epaphras taught them, but those three are key to knowing "the word of truth, the gospel."
In your own words, what is the Gospel of Jesus?
Make it as short but as complete as possible?
Hopefully, this is a simple question to answer. But don't take it lightly. Remember, our eternal destiny is determined by the Gospel.
So take your time, use the next three questions to help you complete your definition.
How does your definition of the Gospel strengthen your faith?
How does your definition of the Gospel lead you to love more?
In what does your definition of the Gospel give you hope?
Do any of your answers in the previous three questions change your perspective on the question from the prior section?
How can you encourage your fellow saints...
What about you? Do you need to encourage yourself in faith, love, or hope?
As we move forward, I hope this definition you created will establish a baseline for you as we continue to study Colossians. So remember the answer to this question as you advance in this blog.
Worthy of the Lord
This next comes in as Paul begins to pray his petition for the Colossians. He is exhorting them here to continue to live in a way "worthy of the Lord!" That is high praise! I don't know about you, but I would love it if my pastor or a church leader told me he was praying for me to continue to live in a way that is "worthy of the Lord!"
He gives a few specific examples of ways he has heard (maybe from Epaphras?) that they have been pleasing to Him:
1) Bearing Fruit, in Every Good Work
Which means, one we need to do good works (not for God's approval but to express our faith (James 2:14-26), and two we need to do works that bear fruits. Sometimes on our trees, sometimes on others.
2) Increasing in Knowledge
Pretty straight forward and explicitly one of the main tools we need (as we'll see in coming passages) to not only grow in faith but combat false teachers. But before we worry about all that - we need to be continually studying the Word to be "walking in a manner worthy of the Lord."
But I think there is a way we can be "worthy" that is expressed in this passage (though not necessarily explicit). It is through exhortation like Paul does in this passage. "Exhortation" simply is a posh spiritual word for encouragement and giving guidance. Those with this spiritual gift (Romans 12:8) do this in hope to motivate us to mature in Christ.
At a previous church I served at, we had one of the most servant-hearted and gentle women I had ever met that served as our Children's Minister. Sweet was her name (a good ol' Southern name!).
Sweet has since passed, but before she did one of her passions she wanted to make sure to pass on was affirmation and encouragement. She often reminded everyone she served alongside of this challenge:
"If you see something great in someone else, TELL THEM!"
Sweet definitely had the gift of exhortation!
Just think about how many times you have grown in your faith, love, or hope because someone encouraged you? That's why I invited you to think of a few people to encourage a few sections prior when we talked about saints. To pass that strength on.
Take a moment to now think of someone specific you can encourage this week.
Endurance and patience
There is one more way that is explicitly mentioned that we can "walking in a manner worthy of the Lord."
"To be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience." (v11)
I focused on this bit because I think patience is one of the fruits of the spirit that most people (including myself) hate being reminded they need to exhibit. It's like when someone tells you to be calm, all of a sudden I become less calm!
But there is a reason this is not only a fruit of the spirit but a way we can live a life worthy of the Lord. It's because most of life on this side of eternity is marked by difficult times, struggles, and even suffering.
In fact, this is such a fact of life that Paul wrote about it before:
Read Romans 5:3-5
Paul is not the only only one who speaks on this. James does as well, read James 1:2-4.
What do these two passages have in common?
It's almost like this is a perpetual conflict amongst people (understatement of the year!). But's through the perseverance of these struggles and suffering that produces something special in believers.
Paul says it produces hope. James says it creates steadfastness in our faith. Both are fantastic, but whichever it is, we gain it through the trials and tribulations of life.
Endurance and patience: these are not passive traits, they are active.
As a former athlete, I think of endurance as something that allows me to keep going. Whether it's in a race or playing late in a match, it is endurance that will enable me to keep going.
What do you think it means when I say that endurance and patience are active?
Give an example of active endurance.
Do you think you have endurance and patience?
If not, why do you think you struggle?
Don't worry if you think you struggle with this. The fact is we all struggle with this. But even in that struggle, we are strengthened by God's power and glorious might. And as a result, something great is produced in us.
Remember we are all saints. We are His and share in the inheritance.
"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Amen to that!
I hope you see that even in this opening thanksgiving and prayer for the Colossian church, you can see how much we can learn about the Gospel and how we are to conduct ourselves and encourage others.
Here are a few final questions for you to consider as we close this passage of Colossians:
What was Paul's primary prayer for these Christians?
In what ways does this prayer encourage you?
Is there something that jumps out to you that we haven't talked about?
Was there something we did talk about that really stood out?
If there is anything during your discussion or journaling as you went through those questions that you found encouraging, let me know! I'm no expert, and this blog is definitely not exhaustive.