The Writer and the Readers
Colossians 1:1-5
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

Notice —

I. THE BLENDING OF LOWLINESS AND AUTHORITY IN PAUL'S DESIGNATION OF HIMSELF. He does not always bring his apostolic authority to mind in his letters. In his earliest, to the Thessalonians, he has not yet adopted the practice. In Philippians he has no need, for it was not gainsaid. In Philemon friendship is uppermost, and he will not command as an "apostle," but pleads as "the prisoner of Christ Jesus." In the rest he puts it in the foreground, as here.

1. He claims the apostolate in the highest sense of the word — equality with the original apostles, the chosen witnesses of Christ's resurrection, for he, too, had seen the Lord, and his whole ministry was built upon the fact.

2. "Through the will of God" is at once an assertion of Divine authority and of independence, and also a lowly disclaimer of individual merit and power.

3. His gracious humility is seen in his association of his young brother Timothy, who has no apostolic authority, but whose concurrence in his teaching might give it some additional weight; but in the fiery sweep of his thoughts, Timothy is soon left out of sight and Paul alone pours out the wealth of his wisdom and the warmth of his heart.

II. THE NOBLE IDEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER SET FORTH IN THE DESIGNATIONS OF THE COLOSSIAN CHURCH. In his earlier letters the address is to "the Church," but in his latter, beginning with Romans, and including Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, he drops the word, and uses expressions which regard individuals rather than the community. This did not arise from any lower estimate of "the Church," but advancing years and familiarity with his work, his position, and his auditors, all tended to draw him closer to them, and led to the disuse of the formal and official term in favour of the simpler and more affectionate "brethren."

1. Saints — a word wofully misapplied. The Church has given it as a special honour to a few, and decorated with it the possessors of a false ideal of sanctity — that of the ascetic sort. The world has used it with a sarcastic intonation as if it implied loud professions and small performance, not without a touch of hypocrisy. Saints are not people living in cloisters, but men and women immersed in the vulgar work of every day life.

(1) The root idea of the word is not moral purity, but separation to God. Consecration to Him is the root from which the white flower of purity springs. We cannot make ourselves pure, but we can yield ourselves to God, and the purity will come.

(2) We have also the idea of the solemn obligation on all so-called Christians to devote themselves to Him. We are not bound to this as Christians; we are not Christians unless we consecrate ourselves. So the term does not belong to an eminent sort of Christians.

(3) The one motive which will lead us to bow our necks to the easy yoke, and come out of the misery of self pleasing into the peace of serving God, is drawn from the great love of Christ who devoted Himself, and bought us for tits own, by giving Himself to be ours. And if drawn by this we give ourselves to God, He gives Himself to us. "I am thine" has ever for its chord which completes the fulness of its music "Thou art Mine." And so "saint" is a name of dignity.

(4) There is implied in it, too, safety. If I belong to God then I am sale from the touch of evil and the taint of decay.

2. Faithful — trustworthy — true to the stewardship or trusting; probably the latter, because faith underlies consecration, and weaves the bond which unites men in the brotherhood, for it brings all who share it into a common relation to the Father. And then he who is believing will be faithful in the sense of being worthy of confidence, and true to his duty, his profession, and his Lord.

3. Brethren.

(1) That strong new bond of union among men the most unlike, was a strange phenomenon when the Roman world was falling to pieces, and men might well wonder as they saw the hearts of master and slave, Greek and barbarian, Jew and Gentile, fused into one glow of unselfish love.

(2) But the word points not merely to Christian love, but to the common possession of a new life. It leads straight to the doctrine of regeneration, and proclaims that through faith in Christ men are made children of the highest, and therefore brethren. "To as many as received Him," etc.

4. In Christ: saints, believers, brethren, are in Him as living things are in the atmosphere, the branch in the vine, members in the body, inhabitants in a house, hearts that love in hearts that love, parts in a whole.

III. THE APOSTOLIC WISH WHICH SETS FORTH THE HIGH IDEAL TO BE DESIRED FOR CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS. "And the Lord Jesus Christ" should be omitted. Perhaps the word "brethren" was lingering in Paul's mind, and so instinctively he stopped with the kindred word "Father."

1. Grace and peace blend the Western and Eastern forms of salutation, and surpass both. All that the Greek meant by his "grace" and the Hebrew by his "peace," the ideally happy condition which differing nations have placed in different blessings, and all loving words have wished for dear ones, is secured .and conveyed to every one who trusts in Christ.

2. Grace means —

(1)  Love in exercise to those who are below the lover;

(2)  the gifts which such love bestows;

(3)  the effects of these gifts in the beauties of character and conduct developed in the receivers.So here first the gentleness of the Father, next the outcome of that love which never visits the soul empty-handed, and as the result every beauty of mind, heart, and temper. "Of His fulness we have received grace for grace."

3. Peace comes after grace. For tranquillity of soul we must go to God, and He gives it by giving us His love and its gifts. There must be first peace with God that there may be peace from God.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

WEB: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

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