Devotional # 143. 6/29/15. Colossians 1:3-8.
Intro. Last week’s devotional was very meaningful and really inspirational to me. Not because of my words but because of the Holy Spirit speaking. I actually used the things that I talked about from verses one and two in the sermon that I gave yesterday. The important things to remember by way of context was that Epaphras, who had planted the church and was the pastor, had traveled to Paul who was in prison to ask about how to deal with the “Colossian heresy.” So Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Colossae. He reminded them of where their roots were: although they had varying backgrounds and cultures (Hebrew and Greek) they should be united in Christ. Which brought him to their real roots: spiritual roots in truth.
We’re going to study through verses 3-8 today. When I just read this I was mildly surprised at how long the sentence is and then it reminded me that Paul had done the same thing in Philippians 1:3-8. He started with the greeting and then said a lot of good information in a really, really long sentence (by our English standards!) . So what is some of that good information?
WHO: “we” this was Paul, Timothy (v. 3) and Epaphras (v. 7 – the Colossian’s pastor who had visited Paul to get advice on the “Colossian heresy.”)
WHEN: “since we [first] heard of your faith” (v. 4).
WHY: “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (v. 5).
WHAT: “The gospel…is bringing forth fruit” (vv. 5-6).
Now that we have a roadmap of where we’re going, let’s dive into what each verse is saying a little more.
v. 3. As mentioned above the “we” here is Paul who is dictating this letter, and Timothy, who was probably the one writing it and also from their pastor “Epaphras.” What do these three men of faith say first? That they are “thankful.” They are thankful to “God our Father” and to “the Lord Jesus Christ.” They recognize that it is God and God alone who should receive “thanks” when there is blessing.
And what is the most important thing that they can give to the church? Is it a million dollars? Is it good wishes? Is it world peace? Nope. It’s that they are “praying” for the church in Colossae. This is where the power is at. There is no other way to make change happen than to seek God and ask for His will to be done.
Did you know Paul didn’t know most of the people in Colossae and had never visited there? I think it’s incredible that he was praying for them all the time. This love really shows the power of Christian love.
v. 4. How long had Paul, and the others in Rome and other places been praying for these Christians? Since they first heard that there was a church in Colossae. These other churches were “praying always for you”. To hear that is a very encouraging thing! We as Christians need to be always praying, and part of that is to be praying always for our other brothers and sister around the world.
Paul says that it wasn’t just that they had heard about the Colossian’s faith in Jesus but also their “love for all the saints.” This “love for the saints” was shown in action towards other believers (we’ll talk more about bearing “fruit” in a minute). Did you notice that Paul used the word “saints“? Remember last week we said that “saints” implied a right relationship with God? So it’s not enough to just have faith in Jesus but a right relationship with God is reflected in also having a right relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters! And Paul is specific that it is “love for ALL the saints.” The Colossians didn’t discriminate between race or background or education or social class or annoyance or age. I personally need to work on this and I bet you do also. It can be so hard to force myself to “love” another Christian that doesn’t fit my personality preferences or if they intimidate me or if they smell or whatever it is. But I constantly need to pray that the Holy Spirit would teach me to love like Jesus loved.
v. 5. So Paul’s first word in verse 5 (“because”) should be read in the context of verse 3. Let me put them together for you: “We give thanks to God…because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” You see the Christians in Rome and other places were convinced that the people in Colossae were really Christians who were going to heaven. I was just talking to my son about church denominations and I explained that for me personally they weren’t really a big deal but some people’s whole life is wrapped up in their denomination or disliking a different denomination. I explained that the only way you can really know if a person is a Christian is to talk with them. When you develop a relationship (or at least start to) that’s when you can tell where a person is at with the Lord. However, denominations can provide a quick reference for people to know where other people stand. For example I’ve had someone come up to me and tell me they are a Christian and as we start talking I find out that they go to a Kingdom Hall, which means that they are a Jehovah’s Witness, so that is different than someone that tells me they go to a Baptist church or a Methodist church.
So the people in surrounding areas had talked with Epaphras and Onesimus (Colossians 4:9) and been convinced that the people back in Colossae were of the same beliefs and therefore they were going to heaven. Notice it doesn’t say they were going to “the new heavens and the new earth” or that they would be in Purgatory, but it specifically says they were going to “heaven.” This is another great encouragement both for the believers in Colossae and for the Christians in Rome and other areas. (Pay attention because this should be an encouragement and lesson for us to!) It was an encouragement for the Colossians because they were looking forward to seeing the other brothers and sisters, now with this letter, God had recognized them, the struggles they were going through and the “Colossian heresy”, and they were encouraged of the end result: that they would be in heaven! And it was encouraging for the believers in Rome and other areas because most of them couldn’t go visit Colossae (remember Paul was in prison) but they knew that they would see their spiritual family from Colossae in heaven. So it wasn’t just the great reward of one day getting to enter heaven but it also made this earthly life bearable – looking forward to fellowship with other believers!
We’ll talk about the “truth of the gospel” in the next verse.
vv. 6-8. Paul’s thought from verse 5 about the “truth of the gospel” doesn’t require much elaboration. As most of us have talked about in the past, “the gospel” just means “the good news” referring to the fact that Jesus died for our sins and came back to life showing us that our sins could be forgiven, if we put faith in Jesus and that we also could enjoy eternal life in heaven. So that “good news” is “truth.” Jesus said He is the “Truth” in John 14:6. There is nothing made up or fake about it. If you want me to email you 7 great proofs of the resurrection just email me back.
The good news of Jesus went to the Colossians in the same way that it went out to the whole world. It’s interesting I was just reading in my personal devotions in Acts 11 about how Jesus had told his disciples to go into the whole world and tell everyone the good news (Matthew 28:19) but they didn’t, they just stayed close to home and told people like them because that was more comfortable. But God allowed persecution of Christians (Acts 8:1) to force them out of their comfort zones and obey what He had told them to do. Isn’t that the same way with us? God tells us to go share His good news with others and we ignore Him or squirm around trying to get out of it but ultimately we comply. This is considered “bearing forth fruit” so the quicker we figure this out the better!
Sometimes we lose the focus of how it takes obedient individuals to bear this “fruit” in spreading “the gospel.” But Paul didn’t forget and he is quick to remind the Colossians that they have a faithful pastor in “Epaphras” since he was the one who first brought the good news to Colossae. But do you have to be a missionary to “bear fruit”? Do you have to be a pastor? Do you have to plant churches? No. Jesus called all of us to share His good news and if He did that then He expects us to be faithful in whatever calling He has given us. We don’t have to force anything on anyone but instead we “love in the Spirit”, we “love” them to Jesus. It is Jesus who is the root, the trunk and ultimately the “fruit” that we, “the branches”, are to bear. He will do the work we just have to be willing vessels.
Conclusion. We’ve talked about Christians being “thankful” when they hear about other Christians who are like minded with them in following Jesus. We talked about “praying” for and “loving” all the different types of Christians that we meet. We talked about being encouraged because when we die we will be in heaven” and not only that but we’ll finally get to meet all of the believers around the world who we have prayed for, and who have prayed for us. We talked about “bearing fruit” for the Lord by sharing the good news of Jesus with others and just obeying His commands in our lives. These are great things for us to pray about in the coming week.