The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Colossians

Faith and Love: Hope’s Fruit

Diminished hope equals diminished faith and love.  Fervent hope fuels faith and love.  Paul tells of it in Colossians 1:3-8.

Below is the NAU’s translation.  As you can see, it’s one long sentence.  The NAU held true to the original Greek.

“We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of you faith in Christ and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of God on our behalf, and he also informed us of you love in the Spirit”.

Having greeted the Colossian church (1:1,2), Paul tells them he thanks God when he prays always for them.  Here, by the way, is insight into Paul’s relationship with the churches:  when he wasn’t with them, he prayed for them.

Paul never visited Colosse; but he heard of their faith and love.  For those two virtues, Paul thanked God.  We have to ask ourselves, “Why thank God for the Colossians faith and love?”  Obviously, because God was the source of their faith and love.

Paul identifies God as “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Thus Paul establishes the relationship between their Lord (Jesus Messiah) and God.  He will make more extreme claims about that relationship a little later.  With this identity, God is no whomever we believe him to be, but “the Father” of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Colossians’ faith is “in Christ.”  They believe in him.  Trust him.  Stake their lives on him.

Paul had heard, not only of the Colossians’ faith, but their “love . . . for all the saints.”  This implies that Paul heard, not only of their confessions of faith, but their acts of faith—that is, their “love . . . for all the saints”.  Implicitly, their faith “worked” in love.  And that love was not selective.  It was for “all” God’s holy people.  We can assume some were less “lovable” than others; but none were unloved!

Why such faith and love?  As we said above, God was the source.  But God didn’t just drop faith and love in their heart.  They had faith and practiced love, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you.”  This hope isn’t a wish; it’s an expectation promised in that the gospel.

  The Colossians “heard the word . . . ”  It was spoken and they heard it.  So today the gospel must be verbally proclaimed.  And it’s not any word; its “the word of truth”.

We, of course, have “evolved” to the point of my truth and your truth.  No objective, absolute truth, except when it serves our purposes.  But when Paul uses it, he means “reality”–the way it really is.  If he’s speaking of our hope through Christ’s resurrection, he means historical reality.  My truth versus your truth would be completely foreign to him.

To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (1:26,27).  This gospel hope:  glory.

They had heard the gospel first from Epaphras–” just as you learned it from Epaphras”.  Paul calls him, ” our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of God on our behalf, and he also informed us of you love in the Spirit.”

* * *

Holding onto faith is hard.  When prayers go unanswered.  When God’s presence feels absent.  Loving others is hard.  When it  calls for giving you can’t afford.  When your brother seems undeserving.  Paul says we keep believing and loving because of the hope of glory reserved for us in heaven.  In other words, that hope produces persevering faith and sacrificial love.  That hope makes faith-despite-disappointment worthwhile.  It makes loving sacrifice now worthwhile in the long run.

The hope of “glory”.  Glory is a word that expresses the inexpressible.  Therefore, its definition is not definable.  Dr. George Boudreau writes of the day we will become “beautiful with the beauty of God, rich with His wealth, holy with His holiness, and happy with his unutterable happiness.”  That’s the hope of glory.  And it moves us to live with persevering faith in Christ and sacrificial love to our brothers and sisters.

To put it another way,  the hope of this future shapes how we live in this present

To help hold onto hope, speak Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 to your soul . ..

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and  my God” (42:5,6a).

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

Give your soul a good talking-to.  Sit down.  Open your Bible.  Tell you soul all of both psalms.  And hold onto hope:  it produces faith and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grace and Peace to You

We begin Colossians.  Pondering Paul’s greeting.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father” (Colossians 1:1,2).

Paul’s introduction (“an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”) is familiar, but audacious.  Sent by the authority of Messiah Jesus?  The Jesus crucified almost 30 years ago?  Sure, resurrection rumors recur.  But most think them just that.  Yet, here’s Paul claiming to authoritatively represent him–and this “by the will of God”!  So, we’re obliged to listen.

While Paul’s a prisoner in Rome, Timothy is with him.  The younger man occupies an increasingly important place in Paul’s life and ministry.  In a few years, Paul will write two letters to Timothy, the latter the last we have of Paul’s letters.  Here Timothy is his “brother”, both in the faith and in the mission.

Paul addresses ” . . . the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse”.  ” . . . holy” is the NIV’s translation of the Greek hagios.  Many Bible versions translate this “saints”.

” . . . in Christ” ;  that is, their union with Christ by faith and the Spirit, sets them apart to Christ.

They are “faithful brothers”.   Though commentators are divided whether pistos should be translated “faithful” or “believing”, “faithful” better suits the context, because a problem is growing in the Colosse church.  Gnosticism, though not an organized system of belief until a hundred years later, is already influencing thought.  The doctrine taught that the world was created by Christ, who was a lesser deity and an emissary of the far-off divine being.  “Insider” knowledge (gnosis) of him brought redemption to the human spirit from the evil material world.  To the church, the danger was not rejection of Christ, but a diminishing of him.

To counter that, Paul boldly writes of Christ . . .

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).

” . . . faithful”, then, is Paul’s way of encouraging the believers who hold fast to the gospel of Christ, not mixing in gnostic ideas.

Colosse sat about 100 miles east of Ephesus in Asia Minor.  It was part of an important trade route that included the cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea.  Once a large, populous city, Colosse had become a small town when Paul writes to the church there.  The town was largely Gentile.  But estimates of a Jewish population reach as high as 50,000.

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“Grace and peace to you”, as always, isn’t just first-century-letter-form.  It’s Paul’s blessing for the church–that the church might enjoy a greater abundance of the Father’s unmerited favor in Christ and, from that, enjoy fullness of  well-being from him.

With that, Paul’s greeting to the Colossians ends.

* * *

Grace . . . to you”.   A welcome blessing pronounced.  A greater gift of grace.  The Father’s unmerited favor.  Love undeserved.  Sins forgiven.  A grace greater than our sins.  Estrangement reconciled.  Sufficient power perfected in weakness.  Embrace of us who are nothing by the One who has the supremacy in all things.  And, therefore, . . .

” . . . peace to you”.  Reconciled to the holy Father by the blood of the Son shed on the cross.  War ended.  Sinners surrendered and welcomed.  Distance bridged.  No sin held against graced sinners.  A pervasive sense of well-being in the soul.

This I say to us as we begin Colossians:

“May grace and peace
from God our Father
overflow to us longing sinners
as we ponder the inspired words of the apostle
in this majestic letter.”

 

 

 

 

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