The letter to the Colossians is written to encourage new Christians in their faith. Paul writes specifically to assure the Colossians that the Jesus they met when they first heard and believed the gospel is everything they need for salvation. Jesus is enough.
Summary of the Text:
Paul writes as an official emissary of King Jesus, which is to say he exercises this office “by the will of God” (1:1). Paul was called directly by Jesus from heaven to preach the gospel to all men, including gentiles (Acts 9:1-20ff). Paul is addressing the Colossian Christians with his assistant Timothy, his “brother,” and he addresses those in Colosse as “saints” and “faithful brothers” in Christ (1:2). Even though the Colossians have only been Christians a short time, they are already “holy” and “faithful” in Christ. They even have the same status as Timothy (“brother”) because they are “in Christ.” Even though Paul has never met them, and they live in a little country town in Asia Minor, they are important family members. Paul greets them with “grace” and “peace” which his trademark apostolic greeting (e.g. Eph. 1:2, Phil. 1:2), combining an adaption of the usual Greek greeting with the usual Hebrew greeting (1:2), probably meant to emphasize the unity of Jew and Gentile in Jesus. Paul starts with thanksgiving (as usual), but Paul is also already teaching (1:3). Grace always produces gratitude. Paul hasn’t met the Christians in Colosse directly, but he has heard that they have trusted in Jesus and how they already love all the other believers (1:4). This kind of love isn’t based on common interests or similar personalities but on the hope stored up in heaven for them, which was declared to them: the gospel (1:5). The center of this hope is Jesus who is now in heaven reigning over all things. And this same gospel has been proclaimed in all the world and has produced the same kind of fruit as is now showing up in Colosse (1:6). This grace of God has this same kind of effect everywhere when people hear and believe just as Epaphras, their pastor, one of Paul’s fellow servants, has already told the Colossians (1:7). And it is Epaphras who has relayed to Paul and Timothy and the other brothers that the Colossians have begun to love one another in the same way, as only the Spirit can do (1:8).
The Grace of God’s Family
Jesus changes everything. This is why Jesus could talk the way He did about family (Mt. 12:50, Lk. 14:26). But the way Jesus changes everything is by His grace. As happened dramatically with Paul, the “truth of the gospel” converts enemies into friends and family, it changes sinners into saints and faithful brothers (1:2). Paul will go on to explain this grace as an “inheritance of the saints” (1:12), “deliverance” from darkness (1:13), “redemption through His blood,” and “the forgiveness of sins” (1:14). When this grace is proclaimed to strangers and enemies, the net result is the fruit of love (1:6, 8). You can’t receive this kind of grace and not immediately start to give this kind of grace. That’s why the grace of Jesus changes everything. The love of the Spirit is supernatural love that performs what it already is. It already is the family-love of the Father and the Son that overflows in grace to a dark and rebellious world. And therefore, the love of the Spirit cannot be anything less than family-love for the most difficult people in our lives. Jesus is enough grace.
The Sovereignty of Grace
Don’t miss all the references to God’s action and authority in these opening verses. Paul has been commissioned by King Jesus, according to the will of God, such that he speaks grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1-2). As Paul has received the reports of the new Church in Colosse his immediate instinct is to thank God because he knows it’s God who is on the move. The gospel of grace is Jesus working through His Spirit through the instrument of the word preached (1:5-6). Jesus is the Second Adam, a faithful gardener bringing forth fruit in His people, His new creation, His new Eden (1:6). Even Epaphras and all ministers are just instruments of Jesus (1:7). And the fruit of the Spirit that always results from this new life planted is the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, grace is always piled on top of more grace. When you begin to believe the gospel, it’s beginning to see just how kind God has been in everything without you even noticing. His mercy is everlasting. His grace is boundless. You won’t ever get to the bottom of it. He’s that kind of King. He’s that kind of good. And His goodness frees us to practice that kind of goodness, that kind of sovereign grace. We don’t have to be noticed. We don’t have to be thanked. We don’t have to be appreciated. Jesus is enough grace.
Jesus is Enough Grace
Paul knows that the Colossians are no different than any other people. It’s a church full of personalities and difficulties and sinners like any other church. But Paul opens his letter addressing the Colossians as nobility in Jesus and gushes about the great virtues of faith, love, and hope already piling up in their midst (1:4-5, 8). Paul doesn’t know these folks personally, but he’s heard enough from Epaphras to know that the grace of Jesus has taken root and has begun to produce fruit. And if that’s the case, Paul knows they’re loaded, they’re set, they’re good to go. Some of the greatest calamities erupt in families because of fear. Marriages strain and stress and splinter because you fear what your spouse is thinking, what your spouse really means, what your spouse really wishes. Same thing with parents and children: Are we bad parents? Are our children going to turn out? But this is analysis by feelings and fears and despair. But if you’ve met Jesus, you now have access to faith, hope, and love. Jesus is enough grace.
For a congregation full of young families, young parents, young children, young adults, it’s the most natural thing in the world to not know what you’re doing. And that’s because we don’t know what we’re doing. How could we? We’ve never done this before.
This means that many of our temptations will fall along that line. We don’t know what we’re doing, so we assume that we’re doing it badly. We don’t know what we’re doing, so we assume that people who do know what they’re doing are silently judging us. We don’t know what we’re doing, so we’re constantly trying new things, flitting from one faddish thing to the next.
Paul, the great and famous preacher writes you a letter, and he starts out with gratitude, thankfulness. First things first: you need to see how much you already have. You need to see God’s grace already growing in your little garden and rejoice. You need to know and rest in the fact that Jesus is enough grace for you.
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