Commended for faith and love: Devotional Commentary for October 1-7
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
Following the empowering of the commissioned Disciples by the Holy Spirit, both the dissemination of the 'gospel and the hostilities against the Disciples continued to gain momentum. It was during these crucial years that a devout Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, (AKA Paul), vigorously persecuted the church until he was captured by the Power of God's redeeming Grace. Like the Disciples he persecuted, Paul also received his own commission at the time of his conversion to be Christ's apostle to the Gentiles which he carried out with passion. The church at Colossae is one of the churches planted by one of his disciples, Epaphras, and this is the letter Paul sent to them as a follow up to Epaphras' onsite teachings.
Paul opened his letter to the church at Colossae with a distinctly Christian salutation. He identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ appointed by God. He greeted the believers in Colossae as faithful saints in Jesus Christ and blessed them with Grace and Peace from God our Father. He also conveyed warm greetings from Timothy his son in the Spirit and a partner in ministry.
Paul emphasized that he was the apostle of Jesus Christ by the Will of God. It was not an office he earned. He did not seek the appointment. It was a divine Calling upon his life. These opening words of salutation reflected certain important affirmations of God's work in the hearts of the believers in Colossae. The Colossians were duly informed that Paul's epistle to them was a message from God delivered by His divinely appointed apostle. It is the Word of God from God.
The Epistle to the Colossians was sent not just to random individuals at Colossae, but to the faithful saints in Christ. These are brothers and sisters who were one with Paul and with each other by faith in Christ. It was a Word from God to the people of God by the hands of the servant of God.
Having saluted them with God's Grace and Peace, Paul assured the Colossians that he prayed for them continually. He praised God for them and offered thanks to the Lord for who they are in Christ and for their godly attitudes toward other believers. Paul was well aware of God's mighty work in the church at Colossae. The testimony of the church at Colossae gave Paul every reason to be thankful to God for them. He knew that everything he observed in the life of the believers at Colossae was God's work in them by the Holy Spirit. Their love, faith, and saintliness resulted from the new life secured for them in Jesus Christ. They were consistent because of God's manifest Power in them.
5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel
6which 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;
7just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,
8and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
The Colossians were strong in faith because they were anchored in the hope they had in Jesus Christ. Christ's finished work laid up a sure hope for them in heaven. Having heard and believed the Gospel, the certainty of their hope in Christ was affirmed by the Word of Truth preached to them.
Their faith in Christ and love for the saints were nurtured not only by what they heard and believed, but also by the fruitful impact of the Gospel on their lives. The Colossians heard the Gospel from their teacher Epaphras. Epaphras was also the one who brought the good news of the faithfulness of the Colossians to Paul. Hence, Epaphras bridged the distance between Paul and his beloved Colossians with his tireless service.
The Colossians believed in God's Grace and His Peace. God's Grace continued to prosper in their hearts. Their faith in Christ was increasingly well-grounded in the sure Hope they had in their Savior. Their transformation was evident in the way they grew in faith, and in the love with which they treated each other. The Gospel they heard and believed became a living Word of Truth in their hearts nurturing their faith and strengthening their love for the saints of God in Jesus Christ.
As Paul's letter to the Colossians continues beyond this passage, it will become more evident that no church is perfect. But how many churches would love to hear these commendations, identifying them as God's holy and faithful people united in Christ. These words would lift the spirits of Christians everywhere. If Paul wrote to your church, would he say these same things?
These characteristics are the hallmarks of how to live as Christ's disciples. Perhaps the best-known expression of these distinctives is found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (ESV) While these distinctives are not perfectly or consistently applied in the life of any believer due to our inherent weaknesses, they are perfectly and consistently reflected in Jesus Christ, Who is the Head of the Church, which we are. He is the only truly reliable Hope on Whom the faith of the saints securely rests. In spite of our weaknesses, the Holy Spirit applies these distinctives in our lives through the life that Christ lives in us.
Faith in Christ Jesus. Love for all the saints. Trust the Hope secured for us by Jesus Christ. Live in the Word of Truth, the Gospel. Bear fruit in this unbelieving world. Understand the Grace of God in Truth. Love in the Spirit. These are the thrust, the theme, and the centerpiece of our Christian lives. Any deviation from these Spirit-filled distinctives fails to fulfill God's Purpose for His Church, which is the Body of His Son Jesus Christ.
Surely no church is perfect. Nor is there any individual who has it all together to the satisfaction of God's divine requirement except in and through Jesus Christ. Like the Colossians however, we are happy to hear Paul's words spoken to our churches, commending us for our faith in Jesus Christ, our love for all the saints, and our hope in the inheritance that is secured for us in heaven. We walk by faith, affirmed by the Spirit. We serve in love directed and empowered by the Spirit. We persist in the sure hope secured for us in Jesus Christ. Love, Faith, and Hope; these three: in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and from God our Father.