FOLLOWERS OF THE SUPREME CHRIST
A. Paul begins this epistle by identifying himself and by affirming his apostleship. When he addressed congregations which were troubled with error and sin, it was necessary to set forth his authority, which this first statement accomplishes.
1. He addressed the epistle “to the saints” at Colossae.
a. Members of the church are called saints more frequently than by any other designation.
b. From Acts through Revelation, the word saints [or saint] is used 86 times; the word disciples [or disciple] is found 31 times. Christian is used in only 3 places.
c. The word translated saints is from a Greek term meaning “set apart, separate, holy.” When one obeys the gospel, he is sanctified: he is made holy because he has his sins washed away in the blood of Christ; he is separated from the world to become a dedicated servant of God.
d. A faithful Christian increases in sanctification (holiness) as he grows and matures spiritually.
1) At the end of his earthly sojourn, he should have reached the zenith of his sanctification.
2) 1 Thessalonians 5:23
2. Paul also addresses the recipients as “faithful brethren in Christ.”
a. Saints are saints because they are faithful in Christ.
b. All spiritual blessings are located in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
c. Faithful brethren are saints; faithful saints are ALL in Christ.
B. The errors being taught at Colossae represented a serious danger to the gospel.
1. Apparently Epaphras and his fellow-workers were unable to cope with this situation, and so Epaphras went to Rome to consult Paul about it (1:7-8)
2. Since Paul was imprisoned at the moment and cannot come in person, he writes this letter.
a. He sent it by Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9), since Epaphras, apparently, cannot come to them at once (4:12; Phile. 23).
b. Paul himself “greatly” strives for them, and is concerned that they attain to “the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ” (2:1-2)
A. A PRAYER OF THANKS (v. 3)
1. “We give thanks to God”
a. There were some corrections which needed to be made in the church at Colossae, but before Paul addressed these matters, he properly and accurately told them of his gratitude for them.
b. Corrections are more effective if they are preceded by commendations.
1) Before a physician performs surgery on his patient, he administers an anesthetic.
2) Some preachers/brethren start their “operation” without first giving the anesthetic; some administer the anesthetic but never get around to doing the “operation.”
c. Paul gave sincere thanks to God for the saints in Colossae, and will later address the error
2. “Praying always for you”
a. We may well visualize the apostle on bended knee expressing his thanks for them and imploring the Father’s help in their behalf.
b. In these times of apostasy and grave spiritual danger, there is tremendous need for many prayers in behalf of other Christians; we need to express genuine gratitude for them and to petition the Father for His help for them.
c. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
d. Knowing that Paul was praying for them would be a great encouragement for them in their present struggle
3. Paul was thankful for…
B. THEIR FAITH AND LOVE (v. 4)
1. “Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus”
a. Their faith in Christ was a faith that operated in the sphere of Christ.
b. It was a living, obedient faith which was exercised within the body of Christ.
c. 2 Timothy 1:13
d. Faith is much more than simple mental assent
1) James 2:19, 24
2) Mark 2:5
e. Faith is based on evidence
1) Hebrews 11:1
2) Romans 10:17
f. Paul was also thankful for…
2. “And of the love which you have toward all saints”
a. He commended them also for the love that they expressed to all saints.
b. Love that is not expressed in action is not love in fact.
c. Both faith and love operate on the basis of action; neither is real unless it is expressed.
1) Galatians 5:6
2) 1 John 3:17-18
d. Love that is shown to some but withheld from others is hypocrisy!
1) Romans 12:9
2) 1 Timothy 1:5
3. Paul was also thankful for…
C. THEIR HOPE OF HEAVEN (v. 5)
1. “Because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens”
a. The hope the Colossians saints had was laid up for them in heaven. This hope was not to be realized on earth or in any worldly setting.
1) Mark 10:30
2) Titus 1:2
b. Hope is realized in the future; it is not presently possessed, except in promise. We do not now have eternal life; we have it in promise; it will be realized in heaven.
1) Romans 8:24-25
2) 1 John 2:25
3) We live in hope of eternal life… Titus 1:2
c. Paul expressed thanks for them and prayed in their behalf. He was thankful that they had hope in heaven, and he prayed for them, at least in part, that they might not lose that hope.
2. “Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel”
a. Their knowledge of their hope was revealed to them “in the word of the truth of the gospel.”
1) The gospel is the word of God, and as such, it is entirely true.
2) This special statement includes references to the glad tidings of the gospel, the revealed word, which is truth.
b. In this one verse the terms the “word,” the “truth,” and the “gospel” are in significant order.
1) The Word was heard and believed when it was first preached; it was present with them and in them in the form of the revealed truth; and it was the gospel, the good news of salvation and of “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.”
2) This living, animated thing, called the word and the truth and the gospel remained in them to produce and bring forth fruit continually, making them increasingly fruitful in the knowledge of God (1:9-10).
3) The three terms – the word, the truth, and the gospel, were as one fertile tree, yielding abundant fruit with increasing knowledge, of which the Colossians were a specimen.
4) This is the fruit of the Spirit, through the Word
a) John 8:32
b) Acts 20:32
c. The presence of God’s powerful word eliminates any need for any supernatural element in convicting and converting lost souls; it shows the fallacy of thinking the gospel is insufficient to save us.
3. Paul was thankful for…
D. THE FRUIT RESULTING FROM THEIR FAITH (v. 6)
1. “Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world”
a. The word of the truth of the gospel had come to Colossae; it had been heard, believed, and obeyed; it had brought forth its proper fruit.
1) The fact that many will reject the word when they hear it does not blunt the power of the gospel; the fact that many who receive the gospel but later become unfaithful, does not deny the power of the gospel.
2) The very nature of God’s plan requires the willing compliance of those who serve him. If their compliance is compelled, no glory is given to the Almighty and no good is done for the soul.
b. At the time Paul wrote this epistle, he could accurately declare that the message of the gospel had been taken to the whole world.
1) “All the world” probably has reference to the Roman Empire, which extended to virtually all of the civilized parts of the earth.
2) Ancient uninspired testimony asserts that the apostles and evangelists went to distant parts in proclaiming the word.
3) The passage is not asserting that every single individual had been taught the gospel; it is saying that the gospel had been taken to the far reaches of the first century world, that it was accessible to all.
2. “Bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth”
a. The result of preaching and living in accordance with the Gospel was that of constantly bearing fruit
b. This is why Paul said… Romans 1:16
c. “Fruit” can include numerical and spiritual growth
d. Not only were other congregation bearing fruit, but so was Colossae (“as it doth in you also”)
E. EPAPHRAS’ REPORT (vs. 7-8)
1. The Colossians evidently had learned the gospel through the work of Epaphras.
a. He had remained in connection with it (4:12), and seems to have come to Paul to inform him of the presence of false teachers whose doctrines were threatening its welfare
b. Notice how Paul describes Epaphras…
2. “Our beloved fellow-servant”
a. Epaphras is here described as Paul’s fellow-servant. They both were jointly in service to Christ.
b. Epaphras had been active and faithful in spreading the gospel and edifying the church as a slave
1) “Ye are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19)
2) As a slave we will… Matthew 6:33
3. “Who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf”
a. He is further described as Christ’s faithful minister for them.
b. The work Epaphras did at Colossae was an extension of Paul’s work.
c. The statement suggests that Epaphras was a messenger of Paul, sent possibly at the time when he was stationed at Ephesus, and when all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10)
d. As a “minister” – a diakonos – he was one who served constantly
1) He was reliable and dedicated in his service
2) Are we reliable and truly dedicated?
4. “Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit”
a. Obviously Epaphras had come to Rome, bringing Paul word of the present condition of the brethren in Colossae.
b. A full report of their status would have been thus given to the apostle, which elicited from Paul expressions of thanks to God for their exalted spiritual condition.
c. He states here that he knew of their “love in the Spirit.”
1) Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
2) The Holy Spirit produces these fruits in us by means of the inspired word which he revealed and confirmed.
d. The love they had was taught by the revelation given by the Holy Spirit; the love they had, included all the saints (vs. 4).
1) Love that includes only certain ones is hypocritical love – and does us no good.
2) Matthew 5:46-47
1. Too often our prayers are selfish in nature:
a. Paul prayed thankful prayers
b. Paul used his prayers in behalf of others
2. True faith is seen in action
a. Action-less faith is a dead faith
b. True faith is an obedient response to God’s message
3. The Colossians begin teaching the truth to others as
soon as the heard it
a. 2 Timothy 2:2
b. Ephesians 4:11-12
B. Are we a true follower of the Supreme Christ?