Study Notes

Colossians 1:1-8


If you've gone through the Bible with us for the last few years, you know that I don't like to spend a lot of time on book introductions. But I should probably tell you a short story to help set the stage for our study of the book of Colossians.

In Acts 19, we read of Paul coming to Ephesus and teaching for two years. The gospel was being preached to Jews and Gentiles from the entire region. Many people were coming to faith in Jesus Christ and turning from their sins.

Acts 19:20 So the Word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

One of the Gentiles who received Christ during this time was named Ep-af-RAS. After he'd been discipled and raised up in the ministry, he went to the town of Colossae and preached the gospel.

Many of the Colossians responded to the gospel by receiving Christ. A church was formed, and the Colossian Christians were being talked about all over the world for their incredible growth.

Unfortunately, there was growth of a different kind as well: some strange ideas and doctrine were popping up among them, floating around their fellowship - some wrong assumptions and heretical teachings.

Ep-af-RAS was so troubled by the heresies in the church that he went to visit Paul, in Rome, where he had been imprisoned by the Romans and put under house arrest.

When Paul heard about the state of the Colossian church, he was motivated to write them a letter. He wanted to encourage them in what they were doing well, but also to give them correction and clarification about things that were being misunderstood.

So, with that background, let us now begin our study of Paul's epistle to the Colossians.

1:1 An Apostle

What is an apostle? The word simply means "one who is sent out." There are some who teach that there were only twelve apostles, but the Bible makes it clear that there were many who were called apostles that were not part of the original twelve (Acts 14:14, Rom 16:7; 1Cor 12:28-29; 2Cor. 11:13; Gal 1:19; 1Thes. 1:1 with 1Thes. 2:6). The Bible says that God...

Eph. 4:11-13 ...gave some {as} apostles, and some {as} prophets, and some {as} evangelists, and some {as} pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God...

Until there is unity in our faith and our knowledge of Jesus, we will always need apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers to equip and edify us.

The Will Of God

Paul did not call himself to be an apostle - God ordained him for this ministry. He told the Corinthians,

1Cor. 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.

Paul's call to the ministry was not one that he could brag about, for it was not his natural-born talent and desire - it was a command by the will of God.

Unfortunately, there are those that appoint themselves in the position of apostles. Jesus told the church in Ephesus,

Rev. 2:2 "I know ... you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them {to be} false"

There are many people in churches today that are pastors, ministers, and apostles, not by the will of God, but by their own doing. It is our obligation as sheep to recognize when someone is truly called to minister or not.

Timothy Our Brother

Timothy was a young man whom Paul had discipled and brought with him on missionary trips. He eventually became pastor of the church at Ephesus.

Paul and Timothy wrote several epistles together - Paul dictating and Timothy acting as amanuensis - copying down what Paul said. So, in a sense, the letters were really from Paul, and you can see that in the repeated use of the pronoun "I" in his dictation.

1:2 Saints And Faithful Brethren

It is clear that the Bible talks about the saints. But there is a big misunderstanding in the church about who they are.

The Catholic church has taken the word to apply only to those people throughout history who've been canonized. Others use the word to describe people that are exceptionally holy. "She never gets angry, she's a saint." Still others think that the Saints are a bunch of guys in New Orleans who were 7 and 9 this year!

Of course, there are saints in the Scriptures - the word is used 68 times in the NASB. But who are they? There are three words in the Bible that are translated into English as "saints." One Aramaic, one Hebrew, and one Greek.

All of them refer to someone or something that is holy. Interestingly enough, the word is always used in a plural sense: never of one individual. And if you read the Scriptures to see how the word is applied, I believe it becomes obvious who the saints are:

Paul, when writing to the churches, said...

Rom. 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called saints...

1Cor. 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling...

Eph. 1:1 the saints who are at Ephesus, and {who are} faithful in Christ Jesus

In other words, saints are simply the people that have been set apart, who have been made holy. They are the Christians. If you've been born again, you're a saint.


A few hundred years prior, Colossae had been a prominent city in what we call Turkey today (Asia Minor). But by the time of the first century, it was just a market town.

Grace To You And Peace

Every one of Paul's epistles contains this greeting in the first few verses. (If you are listing the pros and cons for Paul's authorship of Hebrews, you'll have to put this as a check in the "against" column, since that book contains no such greeting.)

But more importantly, what does Paul mean when he says this? First of all, we must understand what grace is. Grace is God's unmerited favor on us. In other words, He loved us when we were unlovable. He gave us the gift of salvation when we were completely undeserving. He provided forgiveness for our sins while we were still in our sins.

And it is only after we understand grace, that we will experience true peace. That is why Paul was always using the phrase, and why he always used it in that order.

1:3-8 Faith And Love Because Of Hope In Heaven

Paul begins by saying that he and Timothy were always thanking God for them and praying to God about them.

Word on the street was that their fellowship was marked by three essentials of Christianity: faith, hope, and love (1Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5-6; 1Ths. 1:3; 1Ths. 5:8). Their faith was in Jesus Christ, their love was for the saints, and their hope was in heaven.

These three essentials are intricately combined. Our Christianity must always begin with faith in Jesus Christ - it is that faith from which everything else will result. When we have faith in Him, we have a blessed hope - the hope of eternal life in heaven. And, because of that hope, we have love for all the saints (Col. 1:4-5).

Real Christians with hope in heaven love one another. It is interesting to me that the basis of our love is not how lovable others are, but how much God has loved us. We don't have to force ourselves to love the people in the church, we just need to let God's love flow through us. Jesus said,

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

If you're having trouble loving people, I would challenge you to look, not at your relationship with others, but at your relationship with God. Are you holding onto the hope of heaven? Are you living as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Bearing Fruit Since Understanding Grace

Ep-af-RAS was living his life as a servant of God. He had brought the gospel to the Colossians, and it had huge results, as it had been doing all throughout the world.

But notice this: The gospel began to bear fruit and increase in their lives since a certain day:

Col. 1:6 ...since the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth

It was when they heard and understood God's grace in truth that the gospel began to bear fruit and increase in them.

You see, a lot of people hear the gospel. Some of them even respond to the gospel by deciding to be saved. But the ones that actually bear fruit in their lives are the ones who understand grace. These are the ones out of which the gospel overflows in abundance.

It is those who realize that they had no hope. That they were sinners bound for hell. That there was no potential in them, that there was nothing that a righteous God could find lovable in them. And yet God did love us.

Rom. 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God loved us, and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, taking the penalty of our sin on Himself, so that we could spend eternity in heaven. Nothing we deserved - it was just God's grace.

Saints, grace is the key. As we saw earlier, it is the key to having true peace. It is the key to bearing fruit. It is the very key to salvation:

Acts 15:11 ...we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus...

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith...

It is no wonder then that Paul told Timothy,

2Tim. 2:1 strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

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