Colossians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
Sermons
Prayer and Spiritual KnowledgeMartin LutherColossians 1:1
Address and SalutationR. Finlayson Colossians 1:1, 2
The Apostolic SalutationU.R. Thomas Colossians 1:1, 2
The SalutationE.S. Prout Colossians 1:1, 2
The Apostolic SalutationU. R. Thomas., J. Morison, D. D.Colossians 1:1-5
The Writer and the ReadersA. Maclaren, D. D.Colossians 1:1-5
The Hope Laid Up in HeavenR.M. Edgar Colossians 1:1-8
This Epistle, written from Rome to meet and overmaster the "Colossian heresy," begins with a salutation somewhat similar to those at the beginning of other Epistles. There is the assertion of Paul's apostleship as direct from Christ; there is the statement of the brotherhood of Timothy, and the desire that grace and peace may be the constant portion of the saints and faithful brethren at Colossal. But, having thus started, Paul immediately passes to an account of their character as he had got it from Epaphras, and how this character had been produced. He is thankful for it, and he wishes them to remember how it had been formed within them. And here we have to notice that -

I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE OBJECT OF THE COLOSSIANS' FAITH. (Ver. 4.) They had happily been led to this - to trust in the personal Saviour. It is not the promises, but the Promiser; not the proposition, but the Person pledging himself to the fulfilment of the proposition, in whom we believe. Now, the heresy, which will appear more clearly afterwards, made a good deal of angelic and intermediate personages; there was, in fact, a tendency to a mystic peopling of the unseen with needless, forms, explanatory, as the Colossians supposed, of the mysteries of creation. It was important in these circumstances to state with precision that Jesus Christ is the great Object of faith. Faith in such a Being becomes a glorious simplicity. It is a simple extension of that trust to him which we extend to our fellow men. But his glorious personality, embracing a Divine as well as human nature, makes all the difference between faith in men and faith in him. The latter is true saving faith.

II. THE SAINTS WERE THE SPECIAL OBJECTS OF THE COLOSSIANS' LOVE. (Ver. 4.) While faith goes out to a personal Saviour, it worketh by love towards all the saints. For it cannot but be that, in trusting and loving the perfect Saviour, we learn almost instinctively to love those in his image. The saints, all the saints, are seen to have their claim upon the believer's love. The love of good men is the note of a true Christian.

III. HEAVEN WAS INDISPENSABLE TO THE CONSUMMATION OF THEIR HOPE. (Ver. 5.) It is the characteristic of the Christian system to relegate a goodly portion of its promise to the world to come. It has certainly a promise for the life that now is, but chiefly has it a promise for that which is to come. In heaven the hope is laid up. And into this hope the Colossians heartily entered. They looked for more to follow - for a purity, for a power, for a perfection impossible in the present life. There is thus a faith, a love, and a hope characteristic of the saints at Colossae as well as elsewhere.

IV. THIS HOPE HAD BEEN COMMUNICATED THROUGH THE PREACHED GOSPEL. (Vers. 5-8.) Had the Colossians not had the gospel preached to them, they would never have entered into such glorious, heavenly hopes. The word of the gospel is fruit-bearing. It kindles the hopes of men. Everywhere it has the same blessed effects in lifting men's hearts to heaven. It would seem that Epaphras had been the instrument in the Lord's hand in evangelizing the Colossians. He had, as a faithful minister of Christ, preached the Word to them, and they had received it and become the loving disciples he represented them to be in his report to Paul. "Love in the Spirit" was the leading idea in their lives. All this was matter for profound gratitude to God, and so the apostle pours out his thanksgiving to God the Father (ver. 3) because of it. In such circumstances it surely becomes us to see that we rise on the wings of hope to heaven and appreciate the glorious consummation which there awaits us. We need such a hope to complete the demands of our immortal being. We cannot be satisfied with the seen, with the present life, with the present world; we must have more. And this the gospel gives us in that hope which is laid up for us in heaven. - R.M.E.







Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
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.)

Pondering this we ask three questions.

I. WHAT IT REVEALS ABOUT THE APOSTLE.

1. His dignity: "An apostle by the will of God." a title —(1) Directly derived from God.(2) Abundantly justified —

(a)by supernatural visions and experiences;

(b)by seals of success.(3) Employed here —

(a)Because he was dealing with erroneous teaching, and so needed a claim of authority.

(b)He was personally an entire stranger to the Colossians.

(c)He writes from prison, and it was well that he should remind himself and them of his dignity. He was a prisoner, but he was none the less an apostle.

2. His condescension: "Timotheus our brother." He was no fellow-apostle, yet his brother; his boyish convert, yet his brother. Great souls never patronize; they elevate men of whatever station or age into brotherhood with them. The Greatest is not ashamed to call us brethren.

II. WHAT IT IMPLIES ABOUT THE CHURCH. It recalls to us —

1. Its locality and associations. One of the historic Churches in the valley of the Lycus. The town had been famous, but its glory was waning. Xerxes and Cyrus had made it famous, bat Paul's letter has made its name known where Xerxes and Cyrus have never been heard of.

2. Its character, which ought to be that of every Church.(1) "Saints." The Old Testament description of Israel applied to Christians to indicate union to God and consecration.(2) "Faithful brethren," indicating union to each other. All freemasonries, guilds, etc., are but hints of what the Church was meant to be.

III. WHAT IT SUGGESTS ABOUT TRUE BLESSEDNESS.

1. "Grace" is a Greek thought Christianized. It takes the conception of grace of form, gesture, tone into the spiritual realm. To Paul it has two meanings.(1) It is to be enjoyed as the attitude of God in Christ towards men. It is thus the Divine pity, gentleness, favour; the bearing of a forgiving, condescending, loving God.(2) It is to be possessed as the spirit of a Christian. It is thus "the grace of life," moral beauty, spiritual loveliness. It is the indwelling in human character of more than all that the Greeks conceived in their "three graces."

2. "Peace," which may include —(1) Freedom from persecution — a great desideratum.(2) Absence of internal dissension — one main purpose of the letter.(3) Inward calm of heart, and quiet confidence in God — ideal peace, Christ's peace. The wish of Paul is the gift of Jesus.

(U. R. Thomas.)

I. THE SUPERSCRIPTION.

1. The writer.(1) His Gentile name, kindred in form and pronunciation to his Hebrew name, was that of an honoured family in Rome. His use of it is evidence.of his desire to keep before himself and others the relationship of Jesus to Gentiles, and to show that He was no respecter of persons who gave Himself a ransom for all.(2) His office — messenger of Jesus Christ; not (2 Corinthians 8:23) of the Churches. The expression implies that Christ has a message for universal man, "Go ye into all the world," a message of good news.(3) His Divine authority, "By the will of God," stated to shield himself from the charge that he was running unsent. The best are sometimes misunderstood, mistrusted, and suspected. Although many have no special call, yet all can do something after the manner of a humble herald to diffuse the glad tidings, and as we have opportunity so responsibility is laid upon us to be up and doing.

2. Paul associates with himself Timotheus the brother, or brother Timothy, not his own in particular, nor theirs, but the Church's universally. The disciples of Jesus are a brotherhood, and every individual should be animated in relation to all the rest with the feelings of a brother or a sister.

3. The parties addressed were —(1) In his judgment of charity, true saints — a fine word meaning "holy ones," and yet it has been pelted for ages with moral mire. No wonder, for it has been assumed by pretenders, and claimed by people because they lived in cells or wore a certain garb. Unholy men, occupying a certain official position, have been and are obsequiously addressed as "Your Holiness." Saintliness is not a thing of profession but practice, and springs out of that pure heart which sees God.(2) Faithful brethren in Christ. That was the secret of all their excellencies. We do not say of any one that he is in Luther or Calvin, Paul, David, or Isaiah — but "in Christ." We may be in love, peace, joy; and in some kindred way we may be in Christ, even as we live, move, and have our being in Him. Conversely, Christ is in us, when He is the object of the faith that is in us. We never fully comprehend Him; but He comprehends us as members are comprehended in the body and branches in the tree.

II. THE SALUTATION.

1. A cordial greeting of this kind was common with the apostle. It was no formality or empty inflation. He really felt most kindly towards the Colossians, and hence, with beautiful Christian gentlemanliness, he no sooner names them than he hastens to set them entirely at ease, by letting them feel his cordial friendliness.

2. The salutation is not a supplication, but rather a benediction. In the former we address God, in the latter man.

3. It is twofold — Greek and Hebrew, being a message to both peoples.(1) The word "grace," though not that which the Greeks employed in their salutation, is intimately related to it. When Greek met Greek politely, they mutually said, "Joy to thee." The apostle slightly modifies the ordinary Greek phraseology, and lays hold of a word which directs attention to the Divine source of joy. The English "grace," as is obvious from its two adjectives "graceful" and "gracious," denotes that which occasions joy. It is connected with gratitude and gratification as conditions of heart that are inspirations of joy. But the term is employed to denote that greatest joy-giving kindness which when found in the heart of God towards us is the fountain of joy unspeakable. From the constitution of the mind, lovingkindness is pre-eminently fitted to produce joy.(2) The Jewish salutation, "Peace," is strictly oriental and primitive. It had naturally sprung up when there were no extensive governments or codes of law, when men were apt to be like Ishmaelites wherever they travelled. When they came in view of strangers therefore, if no hostile intent was entertained, it was natural to call out "Peace!" As time rolled on and peoples got consolidated into organized communities, so that life in general became secure, the import of the salutation became gradually and increasingly enriched — equivalent to "May you have peace, and the fruits of it in your home, amongst your friends and neighbours, in your heart." But as the apostle turned to Jesus, "peace" became that which He gave, that which passed all understanding.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

I. AN EXALTED AND IMPORTANT OFFICE. "Apostle." Paul was commissioned to declare the grandest truths. His sphere was the world, and to fill it involved incredible care, work, and suffering. The office was created by the circumstances of the time. An ordinary officer can govern a garrison, but it requires a gifted general to marshal an army in line of battle. In the Divine government the occasion calls forth the man.

II. THE AUTHORITY THAT DESIGNATES AND QUALIFIES. The will of God is the great originating and governing force. That force called and qualified Paul (Acts 9.). In undertaking the highest work for God it is not enough that we possess learning, gifts, piety, without the consciousness of a Divine commission. There are crises when it is necessary to have this to fall back upon.

III. A FAMILIAR CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIP. "Timotheus our brother." He was Paul's "own son in the faith," but here he recognizes him on the more equal footing of brother. Christianity is a brotherhood; not a communism which drags down all to its own level, but a holy confederacy in which men of all ranks, ages, and talents unite. His equality is based on a moral foundation. The minister whose position is assured loses nothing by honouring his younger brethren.

IV. UNITY OF SYMPATHY AND DESIRE. "Paul and Timothy." The closest intimacy, notwithstanding disparity in rank and ability.

V. SUGGESTIVE PHASES OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.

1. Saints.

2. Faithful brethren. Several races are here united in a holy and faithful brotherhood.

3. The sublime origin of the Christian character. "In Christ."

VI. THE SALUTATION SUPPLICATES THE BESTOWMENT OF HIGHEST DIVINE BLESSINGS.

1. Grace. A term inclusive of all the blessings that can flow from God.

2. Peace. Grace expresses the spirit in which Divine manifestations come; peace the result they accomplish.

(1)Peace with God.

(2)Peace with each other — peace in the Church.

3. The source of the blessings desired. The Father's love and the Son's work are the sole source of every blessing, while the Holy Spirit is the agent of their communication. Learn: the broad, deep charity of the apostolic spirit, and the scope and temper of the prayers we should offer for the race.

(G. Barlow.)

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