Giving Thanks - Colossians 1:1-8

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As Paul sits in a Roman prison and hears the report from Epaphras about the church in Colossae we know there were concerns. Paul writes to the Colossians to remind them of the centrality and the supremacy of Christ and to help them understand how their position in Christ should change the way they think, speak, relate to others and see the world. But while there were concerns, Paul also writes with spirit of gratitude

As Paul begins his letter to the Colossians he tells them of his gratitude to God for what has happened among them. The Gospel came to them, they heard and understood it and it has begun bearing fruit in their lives. Paul thanks God that there are followers of Christ in Colossae (saints and faithful brothers) whose lives bear the fruits of faith, love and hope.

A Greeting with Purpose (1:1-2)

Most of Paul’s letters follow very similar patterns and there’s a reason for that, Paul is following the standard letter format of his day. But while he follows the format, nothing Paul does is without purpose. He uses every opportunity to point to Christ and to teach and encourage his readers.

  • Sender: Paul not only identities himself but states that he is writing as a representative of Christ (the one this letter exalts) by the will of God.
  • Recipients: As Paul addresses the Colossians he reminds them of their position in Christ as well as their relationship to the family of God.
  • Greeting: One would expect to see a greeting like this in a letter, but the words Paul uses are distinctly Christian. He greets them with mention of two of the greatest gifts of God that we receive: grace and peace.

Giving Thanks (1:3-8)

Paul follows the traditional letter format of his day by including a section of thanksgiving – conveying his gratitude for the recipients. But Paul takes this custom and uses it in a distinctively Christian way: He thanks God for the work of the Gospel in the Colossians. He thanks God that the Gospel has been taken to where they are (reach) and for the impact it has had in their lives (results).

Paul’s Gratitude for The Reach of the Gospel (1:5b-8)

  • Something Paul understood very clearly is that for people to be changed by the Gospel, they have to hear the Gospel. As Paul thanks God for the Colossians he is thankful that the Gospel has been taken to them and that they have heard and received it.
  • Paul also thanks God for the effectiveness of the Gospel. While many may hear the truth, it does not always take root and bear fruit. Paul thanks God that the Gospel is ‘bearing fruit and increasing.’ This is a reminder of the parable of Jesus regarding the sower in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.
  • Application: Are we truly thankful for the spread and the impact of the Gospel? Is there any part of us that rejoices in knowing that the Gospel is bearing fruit, or does it just seem ordinary to us? If we truly understand the necessity of the Gospel then we should be overwhelmed with thanks when we hear that the Gospel is changing lives.

Paul’s Gratitude for the Results of the Gospel (1:3-5a)

  • In vs. 6 Paul mentions that the Gospel is bearing fruit and in vv. 3-5 he describes some of that fruit: faith, love and hope. The grouping of these three virtues is frequent in the New Testament as a common summary of the impact of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 5:8; 1 Peter 1:21-22; Hebrews 6:10-12).

The Faith of the Colossians (1:4)

  • Faith is the act of placing our trust and our confidence in something or someone. In regards to salvation we know that there is only one source of saving faith, Jesus Christ. Paul thanks God that the Colossians have placed their faith in Christ (Galatians 2:15-16; Romans 5:1-2).
  • Application: We are often tempted to trust in other things apart from Christ: our morality, our religion or our ideas of fairness. Those who are truly in Christ are those who have confident faith in Him alone.

The Love of the Colossians (1:4)

  • The Scriptures are clear that those who are ‘in Christ’ are people of love. Paul thanks God that the Colossians have shown their position in Christ through their love (John 13:34-35; 1 John 2:9-10; 3:14-16; 19-21).
  • Application: As those who are in Christ, the reality of the Gospel should be evident through the way we love.

The Hope of the Colossians (1:5)

  • The Colossians have a sure and certain expectation of what awaits them in eternity and it’s their steadfast confidence in that future reality that sustains their faith and love (this is hope).
  • Application: As we look at the volatility of the world around us and the uncertainty of our own situations it can be easy to despair. As Christians we must remember that we have something that remains even when everything else falls apart. We have a hope laid up for us in heaven and we are called to be people who live in hope (1 Peter 1:3-5; Hebrews 6:17-20; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 5:1-5).