Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

November 25, 2003

Notes on Colossians:
I want to jot down my thoughts about the Epistle to the Colossians because I have always found that doing so, summarizing a book or a passage in my own words, is the best way to grow in understanding. So here goes. I do pray that the blessing will not only be to me but to others, and that God will not allow me to mislead anyone by miscontruing His Word.

Paul begins the epistle with a comprehensive overview of the Christian life. After congratulating the Colossians for what they have become in Christ, he speaks both of their ultimate destiny in Him (what they shall become), and of the very beginning of their faith (what they once were). His ultimate intention is to address their current situation, the here and now of life in the Kingdom, but he is first careful to explain the greater context--the salvation story from start to finish.

I think there's something to be learned from all this. Right off the bat Paul makes note of the faith and love of the Colossians. These two words summarize the here and now of the Colossian spiritual condition. But Paul then quickly focuses their attention on the future-aspect of that condition. It seems that their now is conditioned by their shall be. The very things that characterize them now, their faith and love, actually spring from "the hope laid up for them in heaven."

Now consider this for a moment. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as products of our past, and there is certainly much truth in this. And furthermore, as Paul is everywhere quick to point out, our spiritual condition is utterly dependent on a past event--the Cross of Calvary. However, what Paul is saying here, as he addresses the ongoing life together of this group of believers at Colosse, is that much of the impetus and glory of that life springs from, is a product of, is conditioned by, something in the future!

What is that something? It is the "hope laid up" of verse 5. It is the very subject of the Gospel message (verse 5b). It is the "inheritance of the saints in light" of verse 12. It is the "mystery" of verse 26, and "the riches of the glory of the mystery" in verse 27. This word hope encompasses here both the idea of "confidant expectation" as well as standing for the thing expected. And it is the ground of their life together, their love, their unity, their works of compassion, their patient endurance--it all begins in (because of) the objective reality of an eternal inheritance that is real and certain for those who are called ("qualified," v. 12) to be saints.

Okay, well time is running out for me this morning, but I do want to return again next time to this theme. Paul, of course, has much more to say . He is going to detail how the life together of the Christians at Colosse is influenced by this hope, and he is going to describe this influence in terms of struggle and growth. More on this later.

Quote of the day: "All difficulty in prayer can be traced to one cause--praying as if God were absent." Theresa of Avila.


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