Colossians – a letter from Paul to the Church in Colossae – is one that I find myself flicking through pretty regularly, mainly due to the sheer amount of gems that we find inside of it. Any of the verses could be written on a post-it note and stuck to your wall: Paul packs so much wisdom inside of this book, and it is one that we can gain a lot of understanding from. Unlike most of the other letters, in the book of Colossians we find a letter that Paul wrote from a long way away, to a church that he did not start, in a place that he had never been to, did not know at all and would never go to. While most of the letters were written to churches that Paul had been involved in starting, this book is different; and, Paul actually took time to write to the church from prison, where he had been locked up for declaring that Jesus was Lord.
The reason that the book of Colossians is important to us can actually be found in the reason that it was written: although Paul did not know the church in Colossae, he did know their leader, Epaphras, who was a friend of Paul’s. Paul had encouraged Epaphras as he started the church – and then, Epaphras visited Paul in prison to report back about how the church was going. He told him about all the great things – their faithfulness, and their passion, and their love for God – but he also told him about some of the cultural challenges they faced: pressures from the society around them to drop their faith and go after other things. That’s why Paul wrote the people this letter: it’s an encouragement and a recognition of how far they had come in their faith, and a reminder to stand firm, and to not surrender to the pressures around them.
There’s something in there that I think we could all benefit from. The Colossians had not walked away from God entirely – they had a very real faith, and at times they had been very passionate: but they were also living real lives, with very real pressures from the society that they were in. Tiredness came in, stress came in, distractions and other attractive options came in and at times they felt pulled away from God. I’m not sure if that is something that you can relate to – but I know that we can find a huge amount of comfort in Paul’s words to the Church.
We’ll be taking a few weeks to read the book of the Colossians, and pull out some of the wisdom that we can gain from Paul – come with us! We’ll be posting each Monday – so you can read the next chunk without throughout the week, and then let us know how you’re doing as we go along.
Today we’re reading from the very beginning of the book – Colossians 1:1-7
Faithful Brothers and Sisters
Paul begins the letter by introducing himself, and then the people that he is writing to: “To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” (Col. 1:2)
Firstly, whenever Paul calls people brothers and sisters, he is using a word that literally means believers: that is, he is writing to a group of people that he knows love God, and that are part of the Church. We are included in that – and as he begins the letter, he describes that Church as faithful: literally, full of faith – believing in Him, being convinced and persuaded of who He is. This is the group of people that Paul is writing to, and it is clear that Paul thinks highly of them: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people – the faith and love that spring up from the hope stored up from you in heaven…” (Col 1:3-5). That is, Paul is saying: I see the hope that you have, and I see the way that you love each other – well done!. Paul is often seen as quite a scary character – but here we see him as the encourager of believers who have recently come to faith; and though he goes on to challenge them on a few things, there is still this encouragement – an encouragement that we can also take on – I see that faith that you have, and the hope that you hold on to, and the love that you have for other people – well done! Through the book of Colossians, this is the word that we can take on: we are faithful.
I have always thought of being faithful to God in the same way as we would think of being faithful to other people: being trustworthy, being consistent, engaging with Him day-to-day and being constantly available. And yet we face a problem with this: we often fall short of this – we don’t spend that time with Him, we do things that prove us untrustworthy, and we step back from him – and by definition, this makes us not faithful. And yet God has different ideas about what it means to be faithful to Him. The Hebrew word that is used in the Old Testament, often referring to God’s faithful to man, has this meaning: one who is true and trustworthy, true to their word, consistent and reliable; and yet the Greek word in the New Testament – often speaking of man’s faithfulness to God, has a slightly different meaning: it means one who is convinced of, one who believes in, one who is persuaded by.
This is good news: it means that God’s job is to be faithful: true to His word, firm, consistent, reliable – but it is our job to be faithful in a different way: it’s our job to believe in Him, to be convinced by Him and to be persuaded of Him. That means that when Paul calls us faithful, he isn’t lying, and he isn’t referring to a group of people that we cannot be included in: we are called faithful.
You are Not Alone
Paul goes on: “…the faith and love that spring up from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” (Col 1:5-6)
Paul, who is not in Colossae but far away, writes this: this true gospel, the message of Jesus and of grace, has changed you and done great things among you. The Gospel makes a difference and changes hearts; and not only that, but this gospel is real – it’s doing great things across the whole world. You are not alone – you are not mad, and you are not on your own in this: you are part of something that is far, far bigger than you could imagine”.
There is so much packed in to the book of the Colossians – this was a scroll that, after Paul sent it off, was to be carried across the continent – and so this is Paul’s attempt to pack as much wisdom and understanding into the space that he had available to him. We’re going to be unpicking Colossians slowly, in our Monday posts – come with us as we read through this awesome book.
Next week we’ll be reading Colossians 1:7-14 – so have a read through of that passage before next Monday to join in with the reading plan!
Here are some of the ways that you can join in:
Read along with us:
This is the time to get your pens and highlighters out – there are so many gems to be found in the words in Colossians. Read with us – read the passage from the week before, read the passage that is to come, and use this series as a chance to get to grips with one of Paul’s letters. In our blog posts, I’ll be sharing some of the things that have stuck out to me, but let us know on our social media accounts what sticks out to you as you read the book – I’d love to know what you think!
Journal with us:
On our Instagram Stories, I’ll be sharing daily journal prompts around the passage that we have read that week. Get involved, journal along and let us know what comes out of that for you!