Lesson 1

Paul's Letter to the Colossians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
1:2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ who are at Colossae:
      Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Today's Lesson 

The letter to the Colossians begins in the fashion of all of the letters of Paul that are collected in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul used the same style of letter-writing that most of his contemporaries followed. The most succinct and amusing way that I have heard Paul's style explained is: "From: To: Grace and Peace to You."


The letter is addressed from, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of GodÖ" Modern scholarship has tended to find reasons to deny that this epistle was truly written by the original Paul. Such a belief arises primarily from the speculation that the primary purpose of this letter is meant to refute the heresy of Gnosticism that arose in the second century. Gnosticism is a term referring to a wide range of heresies that stressed unique knowledge and revelation for a few elite people. This theory would have that Colossians was written by a follower of Paul to fight the Gnosticism of a later day. There is also the idea, often expressed, that the letter has a more developed understanding of the person of Jesus Christ than is found in the undisputed letters of Paul and, as such, is inconsistent with what we know of Paul's theology.


But both of these theories, though they might be genuinely believed by some, are far from conclusive. The "pre-Gnostic" heresy that some have tried to find in this letter has tended to be an unpopular theory upon examination. If there is heresy that is being refuted in this work, it certainly does not seem to follow in any of the patterns of later Gnostic though along many major lines. Moreover, the early church fathers knew of this work and attributed it to the Apostle Paul very early on. On the evidence of history, there is no evidence that it could have been written by anyone other than from whom it reports to be written by.


As to the idea that the theology is inconsistent with that of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, the same idea is used to deny the authorship of Ephesians and sometimes Philippians. Is there a difference in the theology of the early works of Paul, for instance I Thessalonians, and the later work of Colossians? Undoubtedly. Does that mean that the same man could not have written both works? Certainly not! Would we expect his understanding of God to be the same at the beginning of his ministry as it was over years of strenuous service?


Paul's understanding of God and the development of his theology of the person of Jesus Christ is what makes his writings all the more valuable. That is not meant to demean the earlier works. Each letter, in its own time and place, is equally inspired by God and useful for our instruction. Paul's faith had been radically altered on the road to Damascus, but that does not mean that God did not continue to reveal Himself to the apostle throughout His lifetime. Paul didnít just meet Jesus on the road one day; he lived with Christ on the roads of Asia Minor and Greece many days after that. Paul's love and faith deepened with every experience and with every revelation. We who follow are less likely to improve on the thoughts of those who achieve great breakthroughs in spiritual thought. It is more likely that someone of Paul's nature and character would come up with the profound ideas that are expressed in this work than someone following in his footsteps.


This letter is also attributed to Timothy, as are several of the other works of Paul. Timothy was one of the most consistent helpers that Paul had and he is spoken of in much of the Pauline corpus. And it is written, "To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ who are at Colossae." For Paul, the "who" they were "in" is more important than the "where" that they were "at." They were "in Christ." This is the one thing that separated them from all other people.


Finally, Paul brings to them both grace and peace from God and Christ. Grace and Peace. The grace that saves us when we are undeserving and the peace that reconciles us to a Holy God. With both grace and peace we are prepared for the life ahead. It is the combination of the Jewish greeting of peace, "shalom", and the Greek expression of grace. With this most Christian of greetings, the Apostle to the Gentiles begins this letter to the Colossians.


As we begin the study of the book of Colossians ask yourself, are you more aware of where you are at or who you are in?


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