Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Colossians 1:3-6 – Thanksgiving for the Colossians

Paul addresses God as the Father of Jesus, evidence of his own gratitude that he had been shown that Jesus was the Messiah and that through him it was possible for a sinner like Paul to have access to the throne of God.
As he wrote the letter Paul was encouraged by two spiritual realities, and we will think about the second of them tomorrow. The first was connected to what was taking place in the lives of the Colossians. Paul would have been informed of these spiritual developments by Epaphras when he arrived in Rome. He summarises their spiritual state by using the common New Testament triad of graces – faith, hope and love.
The first grace is faith in Christ Jesus. Paul has already described his readers as the faithful in Christ Jesus and now he stresses again the reality of their faith. It is important to observe the object of their faith, namely, Jesus. Sometimes we speak about faith as if the faculty of believing was all that mattered. Yet if the object is wrong, so too is the faith from a biblical point of view.
The second grace is love for all the saints. They now belong to the same family. This love is a miracle because it transcends all the barriers that usually divide people from one another (such as barriers of race, religion, status, and gender). Yet before their conversions, each of them had some form of separation. But now they were together and they showed this love by meeting together and remembering the Lord, and by serving one another in a variety of spiritual and practical ways. Love for the saints would stop them playing with false doctrine, and this was a danger in Colosse.
The third detail is the hope laid up for them in heaven. Paul indicates that this hope affects the other graces. It affected faith because hope reminded them that they would yet meet the One in whom they trusted; it affected love because it reminded them that they would spend eternity with the saints and therefore they loved all God’s people. What is the hope that is preserved securely for them in heaven?
I suppose many answers could be given to this question such as being with Jesus, reunited with Christian friends, enjoying eternal perfection, living in the new heavens and new earth. Of course, the difficulty is that none of them were actually true of the Colossians at the moment Paul was writing to them. Yet he says that there is something laid up for them in heaven. Perhaps the meaning of his description can be illustrated by a young person waiting until he is of age to enter his inheritance. The document entitling him to his inheritance will be in a secure place such as a bank or in a lawyer’s safe. He knows that it will be his, although he cannot yet enjoy it. In a far higher sense, each Christian has in heaven a guarantee that he or she will yet come into a God-promised inheritance.

Paul then says of this hope that it had been part of the gospel message heard by the Colossians. In other words, we do not preach the gospel fully if we do not include a reference to the assured promise of heavenly glory in the future. The gospel is more than saying that Jesus died so that we could live for him in this world, which is true as far as it goes. In addition, there has to be a focus on heaven, on the beautiful experience that awaits all who trust in Jesus.

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