So often when we find ourselves in the midst of adversity we fail to realize some of the wonderful things we have in Christ. Yet, it is those very things that help us in our time of trouble, and indeed at other times as well. These are the basics and they sustain us day in and day out. In Col. 1:1-2, Paul gave the Colossians a Christian greeting and in so doing highlighted some tremendous benefits that Christians have. We should understand those benefits that we might rejoice further in that which we have in Christ.
Paul commences his letter to the saints at Colosse with his standard, Christianized greeting: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother..." In the New Testament time period, a standard greeting consisted of the name of the writer, the persons being addressed, and a greeting. Paul utilizes these elements, yet, relates himself and those to whom he is writing to Christ. For Paul, to live is Christ, in everything.
Thus, Paul's greeting is filled with meaning. And, his greeting has meaning not only for the Colossians but for us, which leads us to point out those benefits we have as Christians.
First, As Christians, we have ministers to help us. Everyone needs help now and then. Paul refers to himself in a two-fold manner. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ and he is such by the will of God. Generically, an apostle is one who is sent. Paul, of course, holds the office of apostle by virtue of his having seen the resurrected Lord (1 Cor. 15:8), and is accordingly graced with spiritual gifts that pertain to apostleship (2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:4). He is an ambassador of Christ. He was sent by the Lord to plant churches and take the gospel to the nations. He had great love for the churches and checked up on them from time to time. As an apostle, he has authority in all the churches. In a sense, he speaks for Christ.
In this letter, as we have it, Paul is simply the mouthpiece of Christ, for Paul himself and this letter were inspired by God. Thus, he has the authority to write to the church at Colosse and this Word from God through Paul is authoritative for us.
When Paul says he is an apostle by the will of God, he refers to the fact that God chose him, saved him, and called him to the apostolic ministry (Gal. 1:15-16). He was what he was by the sovereign, grace of God. His salvation, his office, his giftedness, and everything else that pertained to him were in accord with God's ordained will. He did not receive his calling or preparation from men, but from God.
Now, for us, the point is that as Christians we have ministers to help us. The word apostle reminds us that just as Paul was sent, we get ministers who are sent to minister. They have a responsibility before God and they have a responsibility to us. The reference to Christ in this text means that we get ministers who are sent by Christ. They love Christ and therefore they love us. They bring Christ and therefore we get Him. And, the concept of God's will in the text means that we get ministers who are sent by God. It is God who saves, calls, equips, and sends them for a purpose in our lives.
Second, as Christians, we have sainthood to motivate us. We need the proper motivation to spur us on toward love and good works. In v. 2, the greeting is continued. "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul refers to the Colossians as saints. The word "saint" has at its root the meaning "holy." It refers to being set apart. Christians have been set apart by God, for God, and unto God. The term does not refer to a special place of attained righteousness after salvation. Rather, it refers to the fact that all who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ do so by God's work of grace in their hearts. God has set them apart. A believer is a saint. He exists to glorify God by way of his changed life and commitment to Christ. Thus, we are set apart by God's grace and power. We are set apart for God's glory and honor. And, we are set apart to God's worship and service.
Third, as Christians, we have faithfulness to keep us. The true measure of success is not numbers, but faithfulness. Paul refers to the saints as "faithful brethren." The word "faithful" connotes saving faith and a commitment to a lifestyle that is reflecting of that faith. It refers to a commitment to the body of truth known as the "faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)." One who is faithful is committed to Christ. By way of application, we have received the faith delivered to the saints and we have embraced by faith the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, as Christians, we have brothers to love us. We need our brothers when times are tough. Again, the saints at Colosse are regarded as "brethren." A family relationship exists between believers by virtue of their union with Christ. We have fellowship one with another and are part of the bride of Christ. We are His body in the world and are unified in Christ by the Spirit. We have fellowship with God in Christ and we have fellowship with believers in Christ. As the body of Christ in the world, we need the bond of others in the fight.
Fifth, as Christians, we have Christ to unite us. We need Christ for everything. Paul says explicitly that the saints are "in Christ." Spiritually speaking, they are no longer in Adam, in sin, in the flesh, or in the kingdom of darkness. They are located in Christ. They are united to Him by His death and resurrection. They are in the Spirit and in the Kingdom of Light. The phrase "in Christ" is a favorite of Paul's and refers to that mystical union and bond that believers have with Christ by the Spirit. While these particular saints were physically in Colosse, they were spiritually in Christ.
Thus, we may imply that we have union with Him, therefore we have life (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn 5:20). Because we have union with Him, we have power (Acts 1:8). And, we have confidence. We have confidence before God (Heb. 10:19) and in ministry (2 Cor. 3:5). Finally, if we have union with Him, we have family.
Sixth, as Christians, we have grace to sustain us. We need what we don't deserve. Yet, God gives it freely for our good. Paul prays that "grace and peace" would flow to them. The Greek salutation "grace" and the Hebrew salutation "peace" have been taken up by Paul and beatified. Paul refers to the grace and peace that belong to a believer by virtue of his/her union with Christ. The unsearchable riches of God flow to the believer by Christ.
Grace refers to unmerited favor and peace is the result of such favor. Christians are saved by "grace through faith, and that not of [themselves], it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9)." Grace conforms us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30). Grace encourages us in the hour of need (Rom. 8:18; 31-39). Grace preserves us to the end of time (1 Pet. 1:3f).
Seventh, as Christians, we have peace to encourage us. In a world of war, we need peace. One cannot have peace without grace. As God lavishes his grace upon his people, that is, as He gives them salvation in Christ by virtue of His free and kind will, they receive peace with God, with others, and within themselves. The believer has been reconciled to God and may now face the difficulties of the world with a full assurance of hope in Christ knowing that God makes good on His promises. Christ has given peace to His own by virtue of His atoning work on their behalf (Jn. 14:27).
The grace and peace Paul has in mind flow from "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." God is a loving father who delights in being gracious to His people. He is not contrasted with the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the God of wrath vs. the God of grace. Rather, His will and the will of the Son are one. Those wills are the same because God is one. There is but one God who has manifested Himself in three persons. Thus, this grace and peace come from the Father and the Son.
The Son is referred to as the Lord Jesus Christ. The term "Lord" refers to His position of authority and rule over all things. His Name "Jesus" refers to his role as Savior as the Name means "God is salvation." He is also referred to as "Christ," or, the Anointed One. The Father anointed the Son to save His people. Grace and peace come from the one true and living God who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Again, by virtue of these things, we have peace with God, men, and ourselves (Col. 2:11f; Phil. 4:1-8). Let us be grateful and bring these things to remembrance on a daily basis that we might more and more live as Christ for His glory and our joy.
While Paul is writing this letter, Timothy is with him and echoes his sentiment. However, this letter is from Paul, not both of them. Timothy is simply offering his greetings to the Colossian church.
Timothy is referred to as "our brother." While Paul utilized Timothy in church planting, pastoring, and troubleshooting roles, it is always appropriate to refer to a fellow believer as brother. The term connotes love, affection, and relationship by virtue of our union with Christ and with one another.
Moreover, with the simple term brother, we see here that Timothy does not share apostolic authority with Paul. He had authority by virtue of his calling, and Paul urged different congregations to receive him as an authority. Yet, he did not hold the office of apostle as Paul did.
Sign up free for "Christian News and Views," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. An editorial by Dr. Dean is included as well as a link to his comments on selected stories. The e-newsletter goes out each Friday and is sponsored by "Calling for Truth," a daily, live, call-in radio program co-hosted by Dr. Dean and Kevin Boling. Simply e-mail us at [email protected] to receive your first issue this Friday.
To listen live to "Calling for Truth" each day from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm eastern time, go to www.christiantalk660.com and click on the "Listen Online" button.