1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Before we begin our study of Colossians, it may be helpful to go over a brief overview of this Pauline epistle. Colossians is considered to be one of the most Christ-centered books as it highlights the supremacy and fullness of Christ.
It was written in 62 AD during the time of Paul’s imprisonment. It was written to a people he never met, and a church he didn’t plant. Colossae was once a thriving city, however, during Paul’s time it had lost its appeal in comparison to Laodecia and Ephesus. The Christians in Colossae were new believers most-likely converted by Epaphras. Unfortunately, this young church had been infiltrated by false teachers, who were promoting a syncretistic view of Christianity. And so the struggle that many of the Colossians faced was, Jesus is great, he is just one of the many gods. Epaphras, not knowing what to do, returned to Paul for guidance and instruction. Paul then purposes this letter to refute the heresy of syncretism by highlighting the fullness of Christ and his supremacy.
1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother
Like many of Paul’s letters, he begins by declaring his apostleship–an emissary of Jesus Christ. And with Christ’s full authority, he has been commissioned to spread the gospel and to defend it. However, unlike many of his letters, he adds the phrase, “…by the will of God…” This highlights Paul’s conviction that God has set him apart for this purpose.
Now Paul also mentions Timothy, who served as his secretary (amanuensis) during this time of this letter.
On a side note, it’s interesting to see that Paul address Timothy as a brother, and not an “apostle.” There has been much discussion about the continuation of apostles, and it’s clear that if Paul wanted to establish Timothy’s office as an apostle, he certainly could have addressed this given he was imprisoned.
1:2 – To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae
Thomas Cartwright, English Puritan from the 16th-century states:
All who have the fear of God are saints, because they have the righteousness of Christ, which is in heaven… His sufferings are accounted theirs, his fulfilling of the law is theirs, which is a great righteousness of God.
By identifying the believers as saints, he is stating their eschatological positions as “holy ones” or those whom Christ has “set apart” for God. In Daniel 7, a vision of the last days is given to the Prophet Daniel, of saints sharing in Christ’s inheritance.
Dan 7:27 – And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’
Not only are the members of the church Saints, but they’re also “brothers.” Through Christ’s redeeming work, we have now been reconciled to the Father. Christ in his new creation is rebuilding God’s family.
Some commentators see this as Paul buttering up the people before addressing the heresy and false teachers amongst the people. However, in Galatians, we see that Paul is very comfortable with addressing the sins of the church.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Galatians 1:6-7