Thursday, February 24, 2011

Building Relationship at Colosse

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse. (Colossians 1:1-2)

Paul had never been to Colosse, but he spent an extended time in Ephesus, about 120 miles away, preaching and teaching about Jesus the Messiah, and the influence of his ministry reached Colosse. Luke records, “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

It was probably at this time that a man named Epaphras, of the region of Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, heard Paul and became a believer in Jesus the Messiah. Epaphras came home with the message of the gospel. Many there became believers and a church was started, meeting in a number of homes. Epaphras returned to Paul with news of their “love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:8).

Now Paul sends them this letter. Notice, though, that it comes not just from Paul, but also from Timothy. This does not mean that Timothy actually composed any part of this letter, however, although he might well have served as Paul’s secretary in putting pen to papyrus. So why does Paul mention him? He is building on relationship. Notice that he refers to him as “our brother.” In the Greek text, Paul uses the definite article before the word for brother. Timothy was not just a brother but the brother, that is, the brother of us.

Timothy was himself converted by the ministry of Paul. Elsewhere, Paul calls him, “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was native to the region and often travelled and served with Paul in his journeys throughout that land. He was known to the Colossians but would also have been known by some, perhaps many, of them as well. By referring to him as “our brother,” Paul immediately establishes a family bond between himself and the believers at Colosse.

In two brief sentences, the From and To slots of his letter, Paul connects with the Colossians in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Vertically, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He belongs to God. Apostleship was not something he took upon himself or, indeed, could have taken upon himself. It was something God did, “by the will of God.” In a similar way, Paul addresses the Colossians as “saints” — holy ones! To be holy means to be set apart for God. It is not something we do ourselves but something God does. He has set us apart for Himself. To be a saint, then, means to belong to God. Paul belonged to God, the believers at Colosse belonged to God, and that is a very strong point of fellowship. This relationship has everything to do with Jesus the Messiah. It is through Him that Paul is an apostle, and it is in Him that the believers in Colosse have put their faith.

Horizontally, Paul relates to the Colossian believers as brothers and sisters. He does this in two ways. The first is indirect: He calls Timothy “our brother.” If you and I have the same brother, then we must be sisters and brothers also. The second way he demonstrates this relationship is explicit: He calls the saints at Colossae “faithful brethren” (brothers and sisters). They all share in the same devotion of faith with him.

The powerful truth of relationship in these opening verses is that all who put their faith in Jesus the Messiah belong to God and to each other as brothers and sisters.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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