Colossians 1:1-14


In verses 1-2 we have the salutation. In verses 3-8 Paul thanks God for what the Colossian Christians are. In verse 9-12 he prays for what they will be. And in verses 13-14 he reminds them of what God, in Christ, has done for them.

Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

The real author of our salvation and of the Word of God is God Himself. That is what Paul is saying here.

Thomas: His reference to 'the will of God' is a further reminder of apostolic authority as divinely derived and as independent of man. . . He was not only independent of man but also, in a sense, independent even of himself, so submissive was he to God's will. See Galatians 1:15-16.

This is very important here because the Colossian Christians were not personally acquainted with Paul.

Notice he lets his well known assistant Timothy join him in sending this letter. But Timothy is not called an apostle. Nor does he co-author the Epistle.

Colossians 1:2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

"To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse," or "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colosse." We consider the latter preferable.

Bengel: 'To the saints' implies union with God. 'To the faithful brethren' implies union with Christians.
Lenski: The two words, saints and brothers, thus form a unit designation for all Christians in their relation to God and to Christ.

The word "saint" reminds us of the imputed righteousness of Christ and the word "brother" reminds us of God's requirement for us to love our neighbor.

The words "and form the Lord Jesus Christ" are not found in the Nestle Greek text. If that is correct, the form of Paul's greeting here is unique. The NIV used here omits the phrase.

"Grace" is God's favor, His unmerited kindness.

"Peace" is the healthy condition of the life experienced by the person who enjoys God's favor.

Schweizer: Whereas 'grace' denotes the act of divine love, which bridges the gulf between God and his people, 'peace' describes the new relationship thus brought about . . . God himself is the real author.
Kretzmann: Note that Paul here refers to the universal character of the Christian Church.

True. Without this grace and peace there can be no Church. There can be no grace, no peace, apart from God.

The verse says that God is our Father. That implies that Jesus is our Savior because He said: "No man comes to the Father except through Me." It is not accident that Jews and those who follow Mohammed do not pray the Lord's Prayer. They do not because they do not acknowledge Jesus as their Savior. Therefore they do not say: "Our Father."

Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

Verses 3-8 are one sentence in Greek. The main clause is found in verse 3

Ephesians 1:17 calls God the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our verse is speaking about both natures in Christ, God is His God according to Jesus' human nature and His Father according to His divine nature.

Schweizer: The import of this (God, Father, etc) is that it is GOD who has become present in Jesus Christ, and that conversely, it is in CHRIST that God himself is found.

Paul and his assistants, he says "we," are constantly thanking God prayerfully for the Colossian Christians. Paul had not even met them personally! Paul did not congratulate them directly, because he is too keenly away that honor and glory are due to God alone.

Colossians 1:4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints--

According to verse 7, Epaphras, the pastor of the Colossian congregation, had informed Paul. Paul had heard of their faith and their love.

Carson: What calls for thanksgiving is, in the first place, their faith. The phrase 'in Christ Jesus' does not mean in this context that Christ is the object of their faith, though this is of course true. It is rather Paul's familiar usage which we have seen already in verse 2. They are 'in Christ' in the sense of drawing their life from Him. He is the sphere in which they move.
Schweizer: Faith describes life from the perspective of its orientation toward its source of energy in Christ. Love, on the other hand, describes that same life from the point of view of its effect on other people.

Note that Paul says "ALL the saints." This should not be watered down.

Colossians 1:5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel

Christians love all Christians whether they are personally acquainted with them or not. If is a God-given relationship whether we realize it or not.

Carson: The implication is that the Christian's hope is the motive power behind his faith and his love . . . The Christian has a sure hope . . . . Hope is used primarily in it objective sense. The faith and love of the Colossians have been nourished by the solid fact of the promises of God. . . . The hope of glory is carefully kept by God as a treasure which one day they will fully share. . . . Hope is not the product of a fertile imagination, but comes and develops through a study of the word of the Gospel.

Colossians 1:6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

Lenski: Why do we love all our fellow saints? Because for us too, as for them, a great hope is laid away in the heavens. 'Hope' is objective, for it is laid away in the heavens. . . . Paul certainly has the trio: faith, love, hope. Yet is not really the trio of 1 Corinthians 13:13, for here 'the hope laid away for you' is objective, and not like faith and love, something subjective in our hearts, it is hope in the sense of our hoping. . . . Paul calls this hope the cause of our love to all the saints.

Yes, eternal life is an absolute security. It is THE hope, the things hoped for, certain and secure.

Schweizer: The whole meaning of life lies neither in one's self, nor in humanity, nor in nature, but in the one who is encountered in, though he is also beyond, them both. See 1 Peter 1:4.
Thomas: Faith rests on the past, love works in the present, and hope presses toward the future.

They had heard of the hope from Epaphras. The objective hope comes only through hearing. The Word of Truth is the Gospel. Christ is the Truth, He who can be trusted and relied upon. If we look at Galatians 2:5 and 14 we might say that here Paul means the true Gospel, in contrast with false teaching. Truth is reliability. Look at Psalms 119:43.

Ephesians 1:13 speaks about "the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation." Both in Colossians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:13 Paul is speaking about that part of the Word of God which forgives sins and grants eternal life.

Paul is speaking about the universality of the preaching of the Gospel and the universality of the Una Sancta, the holy Christian Church.

The Gospel is ever bearing fruit and growing, both locally and throughout the world. This is an encouragement to the local congregation and the individual Christian. Two passages come to mind here: Isaiah 55:10-11 assures us that God's Word will not return to Him void but will accomplish what He pleases. Secondly, Matthew 13:8, the conclusion to the parable of the sower, assures us that the Word yields a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty, but, in any case, there will be fruit.

How long has the Word been bearing fruit among them? "Ever since the day you heard." The Word of God bears fruit the moment it is heard effectively. This verse reminds us of Jesus' words concerning the application of the parable of the sower, in Matthew 13:23.

Both in Matthew 13:23 and here in Colossians 1:6 "to understand" means "to understand what it means for a person."

Lenski: Note how often the verb 'heard' occurs, 4, 5, 6, 9. Twice the Colossians 'heard,' twice Paul and Timothy 'heard' how the Colossians 'heard.' . . . . What Paul and Timothy are thanking God for appears in what they HEARD concerning the Colossians.

Colossians 1:7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,

Epaphras was Paul's fellow-servant and faithful minister of Christ. He was evidently the pastor of the congregation at Colosse. Paul confirms and approves the doctrine of Epaphras, which perhaps some had despised. Evidently the doctrinal problems at Colosse so baffled Epaphras that he came to visit Paul in prison for advice. Perhaps some of the Colossians were denying what Epaphras taught them.

Kretzmann: Epaphras' concern for the congregation's welfare had driven him to Rome to see the apostle, when the Judaizing teachers had made their appearance in Colosse. Paul assures his readers that the report which had come to him through Epaphras was highly satisfactory, for it declared their love in the Spirit.

Colossians 1:8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

This is the last verse in the long sentence. Verse 8 is future from the standpoint of verse 7.

"In the Spirit" occurs only here in Colossians. All our English version except NEB take it to mean "love in the Spirit," which means "love which the Holy Spirit gives. NEB reads "God-given love." The difference is not serious.

Carson: Love is a supernatural grace bestowed and maintained by the Holy Spirit.
Schweizer: The point presumably is only that a spiritual love is to be distinguished from one that is purely worldly.
Lenski: 'Love in spirit' is love wholly spiritual . . . . 'In spirit' the Colossians are joined by love to Paul and Timothy, loving them for their works' sake.

In any case, despite the difficulties at Colosse, as outlined later in the Epistle, Paul says that Epaphras made clear to them their deep love. Epaphras did not merely complain. He assured Paul of their deep love for the Lord.

Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

At the beginning of this study we suggested that in verses 9-12 Paul is praying for what the Colossians will become and be.

"For this reason we also" shows that Paul emphasizes that it is the very facts which have given such cause for thanksgiving, which are also an incentive to continue in unceasing prayer for them. We could translate: "That will explain why.'

"We" means at least himself and Timothy. In verse 4 Paul had mentioned that they had heard, from Epaphras, about the Colossian's faith and love, cause by their objective hope in heaven. Here in verse 9 he repeats the idea of hearing about them. From that day forward Paul and Timothy have not ceased praying and asking. In verse 3 he mentioned prayers for them generally, now he states what he prays for.

"For you" means "in your behalf."

"Full knowledge" is the full knowledge of God's will. It is clear from this Epistle that the Colossian Christians were in great danger because of subtle false teachers. The best defense in such a case is "the full knowledge of God's saving will." "What we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of His will."

They are praying for three items: Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Wisdom denotes the application of knowledge. And understanding denotes discernment in the various problems which present themselves.

Lenski: When knowledge is connected with 'wisdom,' real knowledge of God's will knows how to use and to apply this knowledge in life's situations, for instance, when error confronts one. When it is connected with 'understanding', bringing this and that together, such knowledge will analyze and combine, will take one point after another of the error and will set against each point the part of truth regarding God's will which refutes and exposes the error.

Ponder these words for a moment. A conscientious pastor prays and preaches so that his hearers are equipped for everyday living with God's saving knowledge, which is basic to all kinds of heaven-sent wisdom and discernment. What a responsibility a pastor has!!

Colossians 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

"Worthy of the Lord" denotes what He wants and expects.

"In every way" means fully, always, entirely. "Every good work" is every kind, all kinds of. Just as the Gospel bears fruit and increases, so the believers bear fruit and increase.

"The knowledge of God" could be translated "by knowing your God better." Again we are reminded of what is said of the faithful hearer in Matthew 13:23. Incidentally, the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, surely underlie verses 9-11.

Colossians 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully

"Glorious" points to God's attributes. His whole person stands behind this "might." Paul is speaking about endurance under all circumstances, in the fact of all things, even adverse circumstances.

"Patience" in respect to persons, waiting long for the repentance and improvement of the individual. God's power enables us to stand up under any adversity. It enables us to endure the provocations and sins of men.

Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Our verse speaks of "the share of the inheritance of the saints in light." Is Paul speaking about the Kingdom of Grace or the Kingdom of Glory?

Lenski: Paul speaks of 'the lot of the saints' in this life . . . This very definite light is 'the Word of the truth of the Gospel present for you' in verse 5. . . Both 'light' and 'darkness' are viewed as powers, the former the means for making us bear fruit and grow, the latter as 'the authority or power' from which the Father has rescued us. . . . The saints here on earth have a blessed lot, all light up by 'the light' of the Gospel, its knowledge filling them with power to bear the fruit of good works.

Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

"He" is the Father. "The dominion of darkness" is also found in Luke 22:53. The authority of the darkness is not only the opposite of "the light" in verse 12, but that dark power which is utterly opposed to God. Jesus' enemies in Luke 22:53 were clearly a part of that dark power. The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of despair, sin, and opposition to God.

Lenski: It is conceived as a definite power, horrible, monstrous. It holds all men in its authority, and all are powerless to escape. Only the Father, only he could effect our rescue.

He has transferred us into the rule and reign of His beloved Son. He is speaking of the invisible church. The love of the Father stands behind the person and work of His beloved Son. Therefore it is very certain.

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

When Christ died He attained the redemption

When Christ died He attained the redemption, the forgiveness of sins for all people. The means of grace grant us that which Christ attained. The words "redemption" and "forgiveness" are used as synonyms.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 39-43. Used with permission.

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