Colossians 1:1-2 (Week 1)
INTRO & LESSON 1
The first step in Christian growth is the study of God’s Word. Remember that God has given us His Word, not for some kind of academic discipline, but so we can know Him better through it.
In light of that, one of the most important things we can do together as Christians is to work through different passages of the Bible with each other. What a great way for God to convict us, teach us and lead us into instant accountability. So, grab a couple of friends and invite them to join your journey through Paul’s letter to the Colossian church.
This study guide will help you know how to study the Bible and help set a pace so you can study together. Each section of this guide will focus on a particular passage of the book of Colossians, provide context, attempt to explain what God is saying, and offer questions to guide you in personal application.
Let’s use these questions (and others that you come up with) to help us dig deeper into God’s Word and apply it to our lives.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy, our brother. To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.“
Colossians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul (along with Timothy) to the Church of Colossae. The members of the church are both Jews and Gentiles, with the majority being Gentiles. There is a little bit of ambiguity as to when and where Paul was when he wrote this letter, but we are going to say that it was probably around the year AD 60 and that Paul was writing from Rome during his first imprisonment.
Why would this make any difference as to how we interpret the letter?
Well, think about it. This guy is in jail because of his testimony for the Gospel. It’s not like he’s writing from a beach house somewhere. The context in which Paul is writing will affect the way that we interpret what he is saying.
The next thing that we need to keep in mind is that there is a good chance that Paul did not know most of these people personally.
Interesting…so why is he writing to them? He has heard of their faith and their Christian conduct, and he wants to encourage them and aid in their discipleship.
This is really cool because they have a reputation that has made it all the way to Paul in Rome. They are faithfully living out the Gospel in such a way that the world is hearing.
Is that true of us? Would our Christian conduct be the first thing people think of when they hear about us?
Not only does Paul want to encourage them, but he wants to warn them. We don’t know exactly what kind of false teaching is coming their way, but it looks like there is some sort of heresy threatening the Church of Colossae, and they need to be on their guard. We can figure out a little bit about the specifics like it might be some kind of Jewish legalism mixed with a dash of pagan mysticism (more on all that later). Still, the remedy is the same: focus on Jesus and the Gospel. This is timely for us, as well. The best thing to counteract false teaching is good, solid, Biblical teaching.
What is the Text Saying?
Paul describes himself as an apostle. As you may have heard before, “apostle” comes from a Greek word that means, “to send out,” and surely Paul is claiming to have been sent out by Jesus. However, this is being used in a more technical sense in this verse. Paul is not just saying that Jesus sent him out (which he has). He is claiming to have authority as one who holds the office of an apostle. Paul has a special role to be able to speak into the lives of believers because He was personally selected by Jesus Christ to be his representative here on the earth (for more on this look at Acts 9 and Galatians 1).
So Paul is actually claiming that you should listen to what he has to say because the message that he is bringing is from Jesus.
WILL OF GOD
In addition to this, his apostleship is according to the will of God. God set Paul apart before he was born for the role that he is now playing in the church. This is another strong argument for the authority of what Paul has to say. If you are going to go against the council that Paul is giving to you in this letter, you are setting yourself up in opposition to the will of God.
Paul is not just talking about himself in his introduction. He uses very powerful words to describe his readers in Colossae (and by extension us) by referring to them as “saints.” Now, for many of us, we do not have a healthy, biblical understanding of the word “saints.” When I hear this, my first thought is of the Catholic Church with their huge list of saints for this or that occupation (did you know that Saint Agatha is the Patron Saint of Bakers?).
But if you were to directly translate this word, it would actually be “holy ones.” Wow! Paul is saying that the Colossians are holy! Why would he say that? Because they have been made holy in Christ! This means that you and I need to have a shift in the way that we think about our identity too. If you are in Christ, then by this same teaching, you need to understand that you are holy as well. That is a big deal. This is Paul’s favorite word to use in describing Christians and uses it 15 times in his NT writings for that purpose.
Not only does he call them “holy,” but he calls them “faithful brothers in Christ.” For Paul, the most important connection that we can have to one another is to be a part of God’s family. God is our Father, and we are brothers and sisters. Our unity together is found in our union with Christ. We are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
What is striking about this is that it doesn’t just affect our vertical relationship with God (we are His sons and daughters), but our horizontal relationship with each other (we are brothers and sisters in Christ). How different would our lives look if we actually lived out what it means to treat each other as if we are part of the same family? The irony is that we will be brothers and sisters in the same family for eternity!
GRACE AND PEACE
This is the crux of Paul’s introduction and serves as a setup for the rest of the letter.
In the time period that Paul is writing, it was common for people to write letters and start them off with, “greetings.” Here Paul has changed that to “grace and peace,” but it is more than just a standard greeting. He wants grace and peace to form everything he is saying in the letter.
In fact, he uses “grace,” five times, including ending the letter with, “grace be with you.” This whole letter can be seen as a way of extending grace and peace to the Christians who were living in Colossae, but not only to them but to us as well.
What Does This Mean for Me?
- How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as holy? Is your identity in Christ? If so, what does that mean? How does that affect the way you live your life?
- See how Paul had a good understanding of his calling, what about you? What is it that God has called you to? How do you need to use that calling to minister to others?
- How do I view other Christians? Do I see them as holy? Do I see them as my brothers and sisters? Am I treating them as God’s son or daughter and my brother or sister?
- How can I be a conduit of grace and peace to others?
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