Thanksgiving and Prayer (1:1-14)
1-2 Timothy was a close friend and disciple of Paul, who shared in much of Paul’s work as an apostle (see Acts 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was with Paul when Paul wrote this letter; thus Paul has included his name in his salutation to the Colossians (see Ephesians 1:1-2; Philippians 1:1-2 and comments).
3-4 Paul gives thanks for the faith and love of the Colossians. We too, like Paul, need to develop the habit of thanking God for each other. How often we only complain about each other! This is a sin in God’s eyes; He does not want to hear our complaints about others. Instead, let us give thanks to God for every believer (see Ephesians 1:15-16 and comment).
Paul gives thanks especially for the FAITH of the Colossians and for the love that they have for all the SAINTS. Faith and love always go together. Faith without love—or faith without works—is a false faith; the proof of our faith is love and good works. If there are no works of love, then there is no faith (see Galatians 5:6; James 2:1417 and comments).
Let us ask ourselves: If Paul were alive today, would he be able to give thanks to God for our faith and love?
5 Paul says that faith and love spring from the hope stored up … in heaven. What hope is that? It is the hope of salvation, of eternal life, of an inheritance in heaven; it is for these things that Christians hope. Our hope is not weak and uncertain; it is strong and firm. Our hope is strong because it comes from Christ and is in Christ. Christ Himself is our hope, because it is from Him and in Him that we receive every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). If we have received Christ, then we have received every other spiritual blessing as well (see Romans 8:32 and comment).
The Colossians received their hope when they heard the word of truth, the GOSPEL. The Gospel of Christ is the truth. It does not come from man’s thoughts. It is not something invented or imagined by man. The Gospel is God’s true word. It is the central message of the Bible. The Bible is not an ordinary book written according to man’s wisdom and knowledge. Rather, the Bible is God’s own word.1 Therefore, we can place our complete reliance and faith in the Bible. From it we receive our hope of salvation and eternal life (see John 5:39-40; 6:68 and comments).
We Christians would do well to think more about the hope stored up for us in heaven. If we did so, we might think less about the wealth and possessions we try to store up for ourselves on earth (see Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:1-2; 1 Peter 1:3-4 and comments.)
Here in verses 4-5, then, we see the three greatest gifts or graces that God gives to us, and for which Paul here gives thanks: namely, faith, love, and hope (see 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 and comments).
6 Paul says here: All over the world this gospel is producing fruit and growing. And Paul adds that the Gospel has been producing fruit and growing among the Colossians as well.
We need to ask ourselves: In our own area and in our own church, is the Gospel producing fruit and growing? If we have truly received and believed the Gospel, then its fruit should be increasing in our lives and in our churches.
Paul reminds us here that the Gospel is founded in God’s GRACE, in God’s freely given love and mercy. When we hear the Gospel, we can understand God’s grace in all its truth. The Gospel is the “Good News” of God’s grace to men and women.
7-8 Epaphras was a faithful minister of Christ; that is, he had received Christ’s full authority to preach the Gospel. Epaphras was Paul’s fellow servant; Paul and Epaphras were the servants of one Master, Christ. Bible scholars believe that it was Paul who originally sent Epaphras to establish the church at Colosse.
Paul heard from Epaphras about the Colossians’ love in the Spirit (verse 8). For this kind of love to be present in our lives, the Holy Spirit must be present also. It is by the Holy Spirit that God pours out this love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). This love is the first of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Paul heard good things from Epaphras about the Colossians. Let us think about what kinds of things others are hearing about us!
9 Paul now prays that the Colossians might be filled with the knowledge of his (God’s) will. There are many kinds of knowledge, but the most important of all is the knowledge of God’s will. If one does not have a knowledge of God’s will, all other knowledge will be useless (see Ephesians 1:15-17 and comment).
To obtain spiritual knowledge or wisdom, the first step is to fear God (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). But remember, Satan and his evil spirits also fear God (James 2:19); therefore, they too have the first part or “beginning” of wisdom. But that is all they have, because they refuse to heed that wisdom. They fear God, but they do not obey Him.2 The second step, then, in obtaining spiritual knowledge or wisdom is to obey God. Only those who obey God and who walk in His way will obtain all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
10 Thus we see that it is not enough to have a knowledge of God’s will; we must also obey His will (see James 1:22). A knowledge of God’s will is useless unless we live according to that knowledge. What is God’s will? It is to live a life worthy of the Lord (see Ephesians 4:1 and comment). And what does it mean to live a life “worthy of the Lord”? It means bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God.
What kind of fruit does God want us to bear? First, He wants us to bear the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23 and comment). Second, through our own witness and example, God wants us to “bear” or raise up new believers, new disciples, new children for Him; this kind of “fruit” is also pleasing to God (see John 15:16; Philippians 1:9-11 and comments).
Notice that Paul says that we must keep growing in the knowledge of God. A tree either grows, or it dies. If we see a tree that has stopped growing and has stopped bearing fruit, then we know that that tree is about to die. Let our Christian lives never reach that state!
11 First, Paul has prayed that the Colossians might have a knowledge of [God’s] will (verse 9). Now he prays that they might be strengthened with all power in order to carry out God’s will. Paul prayed the same thing for the Ephesians (see Ephesians 3:14-16,20-21).
All we need to do is to pray in faith for this power, and God will give it to us. But, in another sense, we have already received this power. This is why Paul has given us this command: … be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10). True, on the one hand, we must continually ask God for power. But, on the other hand, God says to us: “I have already given you power; use it!”
Having been strengthened with all power, we shall be able to bear all kinds of trouble with great endurance and patience—and do so joyfully.
12-14 Paul here mentions three things for which the Colossians—and we also—should thank God. First, we should thank God that we have been qualified … to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light—the KINGDOM OF GOD. That is, we have been made full citizens of God’s kingdom.
The second thing we should thank God for is that we have been rescued … from the dominion of darkness (verse 13)—that is, from the kingdom of Satan. And we have been brought into the kingdom of the Son (Christ), which is the same as the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9).
The third thing to thank God for is that we have REDEMPTION, the forgiveness of sins (verse 14). The word redemption means deliverance from the penalty of sin through Christ’s sacrifice; it is one of the main aspects of our salvation (see Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7 and comments). We are no longer servants of Satan; we are no longer prisoners in his kingdom. We have been set free, and have become citizens in the kingdom of God (see Ephesians 2:19 and comment).
These three great blessings are not something we shall obtain only in the future; we have already received these blessings! Let us indeed give thanks and praise to God!
The Supremacy of Christ (1:15-23)
15 He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God. No man can see God with his natural eyes; but men could clearly see Jesus Christ while He was on earth (see John 1:18; Hebrews 1:3 and comments). By looking at Jesus, we can see the character and qualities of God Himself. But more than this, when we see Jesus, we are actually seeing God Himself, as revealed in the form of His only Son (see John 14:9 and comment). Christ is not only the image of God; He is God’s one true incarnation. He is the one true God come down to earth. He is God Himself (see John 10:30 and comment; General Article: Jesus Christ).
God has made man in His image (Genesis 1:27). That’s why, when God chose to come down to earth, He came in the form of a man—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the firstborn over all creation; He is our older brother (Romans 8:29). Because Jesus is the firstborn, He receives the Father’s inheritance. Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).
We too have been created in God’s image, and through faith in Christ we can become co-heirs with Him (see Romans 8:17 and comment).
16-17 Christ is not only the firstborn over all creation (verse 15); He is the Creator. For by him all things were created.
Christ existed from before the creation of the world (see John 1:1-3 and comment).
Christ has created all things. Therefore, He has authority over all things—both in heaven and on earth. Christ rules over all thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities in the universe (see Ephesians 1:21). He rules over evil spirits, and gods and goddesses; He rules over Satan himself. In everything, God has given Him the supremacy (verse 18). Christ is truly the Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).
18 Christ is the head of the body, the CHURCH (see Ephesians 1:22-23 and comment). No body can live without a head. If we lose one member of our bodies—such as an arm or a leg or an eye—we will still live. But if there is no head, there is no life!
Christ not only created the universe and everything in it, but He also created a “new man,” a “new people”—that is, the church. Through His church, Christ continues working in the world today. Today men can’t see Christ (because He has ascended into heaven), but they can see us, Christ’s church. Therefore, they must be able to see Christ in us. And that must be our goal. We must live as Christ did, so that when other people look at us, they will indeed see Christ in our lives. The indwelling Holy Spirit of Christ must shine forth in our daily speech and behavior. Men know God through Christ. And men know Christ through us—that is, through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (see 1 Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:22 and comments).
Let us examine ourselves: Can others see Christ in our church? In each one of us? Is Christ truly our Head? Or are we like a chicken with its head cut off, running here and there and soon to die? (see 1 John 5:12).
Christ is the firstborn from among the dead. God raised Christ from the dead. And God will raise up from the dead all who truly believe in Christ. Those who believe have been chosen by God to be His children, to be members of His family. And since we are God’s children, Christ is our older brother (see Romans 8:11,29 and comment).
19 God has given all of His power, authority, and lordship to Christ (see Colossians 2:9-10 and comment). That is, God has given to Christ all his fullness. And through the Holy Spirit living within us and filling us, we too can possess that fullness.
20 Here we can see God’s purpose in giving Christ the supremacy (verse 18). God’s purpose was through him (Christ) to reconcile to himself (God) all things.
Through the sacrifice of Christ’s body—that is, through Christ’s death on the cross—God transferred the punishment for our sins to Christ. Therefore, we who believe in Christ are no longer held guilty; we have received forgiveness for our sins (see Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14 and comments). Not only are our sins washed away, but we have also been reconciled to God. There is now peace between us and God. Thus we can see here two major aspects of our salvation: forgiveness of sin, and reconciliation with God. And all this—our forgiveness and our reconciliation—have been made possible through [Christ’s] blood—that is, through Christ’s death on the cross (see Romans 5:9-11; Ephesians 2:13 and comments).
Paul says here that God’s purpose was to reconcile to himself all things. What does this mean? Does it mean that Satan and his evil spirits will be reconciled to God and receive salvation? No, it doesn’t mean that. It means that the entire creation is going to be placed under Christ’s authority and lordship. Therefore, Satan and his evil spirits, having received eternal punishment, will also be brought under the authority of Christ (Ephesians 1:22).
21 All men at first are alienated from God. Because of their evil and self-centered behavior, men are enemies of God in their minds. Some people think that all men are basically good by nature, but Paul does not agree. Paul says that at one time all of us were by nature enemies of God.
22 Now, however, through the death of Christ’s body on the cross, we have received forgiveness for our sins, we have been cleansed of our impurities, and we have been delivered from the punishment we deserved. Thus we have now been completely reconciled to God (see Ephesians 2:13 and comment).
23 Is it possible, once having been reconciled to God, to later lose our salvation? This verse seems to say that if we stop believing, we can indeed lose our salvation. We must continue in [our] faith, or else Christ’s death will be of no benefit to us. We are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8); therefore, if we leave the faith, we will forfeit our salvation.
But many Christians believe that once a person is truly saved, his salvation can never be lost. They quote John 10:28, where Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” This is true. But others answer that even though no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand, we ourselves can choose to jump out of His hand: that is, we can choose to stop believing.3 This much can be said with certainty: If we leave our faith, our situation will be extremely dangerous (see Luke 9:62; 2 Peter 2:20-22 and comments; General Article: Can We Lose Our Salvation?).
Here another question arises. Some Christians at first seem to be very strong in their faith, but then later they appear to fall away; they stop coming to church, they do not behave like Christians, they no longer do the works of faith. But they say, “I believe; I have not stopped believing.” But what kind of “faith” do they have? It is a false faith. True faith always gives rise to good works, to works of love. If our faith doesn’t result in good works, it is a dead faith (see James 2:14-24 and comment).
Therefore, let us continue in our faith, established and firm; let us not be moved from our hope (see Hebrews 10:23). Our hope has been revealed or held out in the gospel of Christ. And this Gospel of Christ has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. That is, the Gospel of Christ is for every man and woman on earth.
Paul’s Labor for the Church (1:24-29)
24 God’s true servants rejoice in what [they have] suffered for Christ and His church (see Matthew 5:11-12; Acts 5:4142; Romans 5:3 and comments). Even though Paul is in jail as he writes this letter, he is rejoicing!
There is nothing lacking in Christ’s suffering for us. He took the whole weight of our sins upon Himself, and suffered a slow and painful death on the cross. His suffering is complete. But Paul’s suffering is not yet complete; he has still more to suffer.4
Paul has suffered much for the sake of the church, Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Even though Paul has never met the Colossians (he only knows about them through the report of Epaphras), he has suffered for them also.
We must learn something here from Paul’s life: namely, that if we want to follow Christ we must be ready to suffer for Him. Paul wrote Timothy: … everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Are we ready to suffer? Not only that, will we be able to rejoice when trouble and suffering come? It’s easy to say yes—before the suffering comes! And suffering comes not only from our enemies; it often comes from those who are supposed to be our friends, from our own brothers and sisters in the church. Such was Paul’s own experience (2 Timothy 1:15).
25 In order to overcome the false teaching that had arisen in the Colossian church, Paul here reminds the Colossians of his apostolic authority; he reminds them that he has been specially appointed to preach the full Gospel of Christ and to expose error in the churches. Everything Paul writes is completely true and trustworthy; therefore, let the Colossians heed what he has written in this letter! (Ephesians 3:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).
26-27 In one way, the word of God is like a mystery, because its meaning is hidden from many people. But the “mystery” has been disclosed to the saints—that is, to those whose hearts are open and who are ready to believe.
In another letter Paul has clearly written what this mystery is: namely, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). And even now, through His Holy Spirit living within us, Christ is reconciling us to God and to each other. And this Gospel, from which we obtain the hope of salvation—the hope of glory (verse 27)—is not only for the Jews, but is also for the GENTILES, such as the Colossians (Ephesians 3:8-9).
28 Here we see the main subject of all Paul’s preaching: Jesus Christ. We proclaim him (Christ). And the chief goal and purpose of all preaching and teaching can also be seen here: namely, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. The word everyone here means “every believer,” since it is impossible for a non-believer to be presented perfect in Christ. And we believers will be presented perfect in Christ on the day when we stand before Christ’s throne in heaven.
29 Paul labors and struggles. But he labors and struggles not with his own energy, but with Christ’s energy. Let us too, like Paul, attempt nothing in our own strength; otherwise, what we do will come to nothing. Without Christ’s power, we can do nothing worthwhile for God (see John 15:5 and comment). But with Christ’s power, we can do anything (Philippians 4:13).