An Introductory Look at Colossians
Copyright © 1997
Indian Hills Community Church
Those of you who are regulars at Indian Hills know that our normal practice is to study the Bible book
by book. God chose to put His scripture together in books or letters, and I think the most effective
way to come to a thorough understanding of what God has said is simply to read it as He has given it.
So our pattern is to simply start at the first verse of a book and work our way through the last verse.
Our goal and purpose is to come to an understanding of what God has said. We're going to start a new
book in our time together on Sunday mornings - the book of Colossians.
If you are a real old-timer at Indian Hills, you'll remember that back in 1973 we studied Colossians together. We're going to redo it and get it right this time. Colossians is a short book, only four chapters. What we call books were written as letters. If you just take the time each week to read through Colossians as though it was a letter, you'll get so familiar with the content that you'll find yourself getting a grasp of the book. So let me encourage you to take that first step. There are a lot of things that we need to study in detail and depth to really understand in Scripture. But our biggest problem in understanding Scripture is that we just aren't very familiar with what it says. So take this letter and say, "I'm just going to make it a point to read through it every week." If you do, you'll be surprised at how much it will take hold in your life, as well as how much you understand.
What I want to do in our introductory study is to look at the introductory verses - just the first two
verses. We're just going to look at some basic facts that are dealt with here. The letters of the New
Testament follow the pattern of the other letters of biblical times. If you wrote a letter in New
Testament times, you started out by identifying yourself as the writer. Any of those who were with
you might be mentioned then. You identified those to whom you were writing, and you gave them a
word of greeting. That was standard procedure for letters from this period. It's the procedure
followed in the letters of the New Testament. The book of Colossians is a letter written to believers
in the church that was in the city of Colossae.
1. Paul's Great Impact on the Church
Let's just read the first two verses and see how the letter begins with the introductory matter: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father." That's the greeting. Now he's ready to move into the letter proper. But let's just take our time together today and look at what is said in this introduction. You know it begins with who wrote the letter, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ..." The Apostle Paul is of the central figures in New Testament times because of the ministry and the impact of his life.
I was looking on my bookshelf this morning at the number of books I have that have been written about Paul -- not commentaries on the letters of Paul, but just books written about Paul himself. I've not made a point of collecting books in this area, but I counted 15 volumes on Paul. One of the very outstanding volumes is about the thickness of a dictionary. Here's a man whose life is worthy of consideration. We feel the impact of this man's life down to our own day 2,000 years later. The world has been impacted by this man.
Turn to the front of your Bible where it tells you the order of the books of the Bible. I had a hard time finding it in my Bible. They put so much material in these study Bibles now. I could find out how to read through the Bible in a year, what the table of weights and measures were, what all the abbreviations were and even how they translated the Bible, but I couldn't find the index. I finally did; I hope you can find yours. It gives you the names of the books of the Bible and in the order that they appear.
We want to look at the New Testament because 13 of the New Testament books were authored by the Apostle Paul. If you have that listing of the New Testament, you'll see that after you move through the gospel - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - you come to the book of Acts. The book of Acts was written by Luke. Then comes the book of Romans, which was written by Paul. The following letters also were written by Paul: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. All are identified within the letter as written by Paul. Some people would add the book of Hebrews, but the author of Hebrews is not stated. But these 13 books, beginning with Romans and running through Philemon, are all credited in the New Testament to the Apostle Paul. Now you see something of the impact he has had in the work that God is doing in the world right down to our day. A significant portion of what we have as God's word, including the book of Colossians that we will be studying, was penned by Paul.
Turn over to the book of Acts. The four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - record the earthly life of Christ. Then comes the book of Acts. It was written by Luke, the physician who also wrote the gospel of Luke. The book of Acts is the history book of the church. The Bible can be broken down into a few basic periods. In he first 11 chapters of Genesis, God is dealing with all mankind. A change takes place in chapter 12 of Genesis. God calls Abraham to Himself, and we have the beginning of the nation Israel with the Abrahamic covenant. God calls Abraham and says that he and his descendants will be a unique and special people before God. And so the nation Israel comes into existence. From Genesis chapter 12 all the way down through Acts chapter 1, the focal point of Scripture is the nation Israel. Another dramatic change takes place in Acts chapter 2. The church is born. The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs for the first time in Acts chapter 2. The baptism of the Spirit is that work of the Spirit of God that identifies us with Jesus Christ - in His death, in His burial and in His resurrection - and places us into the body of Christ, the church, that begins in Acts chapter 2. The church never existed before Acts chapter 2. The church is comprised of all who come to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. Jews and Gentiles alike comprise one body - the body of Christ, the church.
The church will exist until the rapture, when all believers in Christ who are alive at that time will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, along with all believers in Christ who have died. That will be followed by a seven-year period of time called the Tribulation. It is the seventieth week of Daniel, and it is then that God will resume His plan and program for the nation Israel. Israel once again will be the focal nation on the earth. That seven-year period will climax with the return of Christ to earth and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. The first thousand years is the Millennium, the earthly kingdom of Christ which is followed by the eternal kingdom.
We now are in the period of time called the church, and Acts is the history book for the early period of the church. The history of how the church began, how the gospel was carried to various places in parts of the world and the teaching that took place begins with chapter 2 and runs through chapter 28.
We meet the man Paul, or Saul as he is known there, for the first time in Acts chapter 7. Stephen has been arrested, and he gives his testimony by working through Israel's history. Stephen stands before the Jewish leadership of his day to offer proof from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah, that He was the Son of God. At the conclusion of that testimony, Stephen is taken out and stoned to death. Acts 7:58: "When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul." And Saul is Paul. As was customary in biblical times, Jews often had two names and were given two names from birth. Paul tells us that he was born a Roman citizen. So he would have been given not only his Jewish name, but a Gentile name as well. His Jewish name is Saul. Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 3 that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. The first king of Israel - Saul - also was of the tribe of Benjamin. So at his birth, Paul was given his Jewish name, Saul, by his Jewish parents. He also was given a Gentile name, Paul. It was customary at that time to give Jew and Gentile names that were similar in sound. At this time in Acts chapter 7 he is known as Saul. He was there. He heard the testimony of Stephen, and he is in hearty agreement that Stephen should be stoned to death. Saul evidently stands there with some authority and influence because the witnesses, the ones who testified against Stephen and who led the way in the stoning, laid their robes at his feet.
Acts 8:1-2 tells us that "Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church..." Verse 3: "But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison." Here's a man who is fanatically devoted to his cause, which is to wipe out the testimony of Jesus Christ. No pity was given to men or women. He desired to arrest and imprison all who declared their faith in Christ.
Come over to chapter 9, verses 1-2: "Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Saul is not satisfied to attempt to arrest and imprison any believers he can find in Jerusalem. Now he gets the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem to give him papers authorizing him to proceed to Damascus and arrest any there who are followers of Jesus Christ.
Something dramatic and life-changing occurs to the Apostle Paul as he travels to Damascus. Verses 3-5: "As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a verse saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?'" Paul acknowledges it is the Lord who would call from heaven, but he wants to know who says that he is persecuting him? The response from heaven: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." This is a remarkable, dramatic confrontation. Now Paul gets up. He is blind and can't see. The men who were traveling with him lead him into Damascus. There is a prophet in Damascus named Ananias. God appears to Ananias and tells him that Saul has arrived at Damascus. He tells Ananias to go ahead down and see him and lay his hands on him. But Ananias had a little problem. He says, "Lord, I have heard about this man. I have heard about his vengeance and vileness against the church at Jerusalem. I know why he has come to Damascus. It's to persecute and arrest. You want me to go down and have tea with him? That doesn't sound like a good idea to me." Verse 15: "But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine..."
You know, the doctrine of election is very simple. We are wretched, sinful, hell-bound people, uninterested in God and His salvation. But God in love reaches down and takes hold of those He has chosen and brings them to Himself. It is not always as dramatic as it was with the Apostle Paul. God did a similar thing with Abraham at the beginning of his walk with the Lord. Abraham's father, Terah, was an idol worshiper in Ur of the Chaldeans, but God intervened and called Abraham to himself. Even though the circumstances were externally different with Abraham and Paul, that is what happens when God calls those he has chosen to Himself. You may not see a bright light and be blinded on the road, but it was God who reached down and took hold of your heart and mind, turned you from your sin and brought you to Himself. That's why the all the glory for salvation goes to Him.
So Ananias is told that Paul "...is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel." Paul is going to have a great and dramatic ministry before the kings of this earth. He will be the apostle to the Gentiles, but he will also bear testimony before the Jews. This will not be without cost. Suffering will be involved in Paul's life and ministry. Verse 16: "for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." Well, now you know the Apostle Paul before his conversion. Even as a young man, he threw himself into whatever he did. God had prepared the personality of the Apostle Paul. When he was opposed to Christianity, he was opposed without restraint. We saw in chapter 7, verse 58, that he was at the fore in opposing Christianity. When God took hold of his life, that same enthusiasm was poured into representing his God that he now knew.
We see in verse 20 that after few days "...immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God.'" You talk about a dramatic, 180-degree turn. Here is the man who is ready to throw into prison and have executed anyone who will say that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel. Now, a few days later, he stands to declare that He is the Son of God. How did Paul get to know that? Well, it is not recorded here that when God spoke to him from heaven that He unfolded all these details. You have to understand that Paul, or Saul, as he was known then, was on a course of persecuting the church. He sat through the testimony of Steven and heard Steven tie the Old Testament passages to the work that God was doing, which culminated in Christ. How many Christians had he arrested and heard declare their faith in Jesus Christ as God, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world? There is no doubt in Saul's mind. He is truly, dramatically changed.
Paul tells us later on in Acts chapter 22 that he thought his testimony would have a dramatic impact upon the Jews. And, boy, when they saw the change in his life, they would be ready to respond. But look at Acts 9:23: "When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him." You see, they are unchanged. The problem is not lack of evidence. The problem is an unwillingness to believe. There is a commitment to oppose Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul drops out of sight, if you will, for a period of several years. During that time God is communicating much truth to him to prepare him for the ministry he will have. Paul returns to the scene in chapter 13, and he will become the dominant figure in the history of the church through the rest of the New Testament. We are told in chapter 13 verse 2 that while Saul was ministering to the Lord at the church in Antioch with several prophets and teachers "...the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
Paul and Barnabas were set apart for the ministry in a special way. Now they embark on a trip. This
is what is known to us as the first missionary journey. There will be three such journeys. Paul and
Barnabas will travel to a certain part of the world, then return to Antioch and give a report on what
has happened and how people have responded to the gospel. They will establish churches in those
places where people hear the message of Christ, believe and are gloriously saved. Then they will go
out on a second missionary journey. They will go to some new areas as well as visit some old ones,
and more churches will be established. After they return, once again they will go out on a third
missionary journey. More churches will be established. In all of this, the Apostle Paul will be a key
and leading figure.
2.Name Change Reflects Paul's Ministry to Gentiles
Take a look at Acts 13:9. Early during this first missionary journey Luke says, "But Saul, who was also known as Paul..." At that point, there is a change. Luke quits referring to him as Saul, his Jewish name, and through the remainder of the book of Acts refers to him as Paul, using his Gentile name. This is consistent with the ministry to which God calls him. He primarily is to be the minister and apostle to Gentiles. There is just that little note by Luke where the change occurs. From this point in the book of Acts, he will be called Paul. He now assumes the leadership in carrying the gospel to the world and particularly to the Gentiles.
You follow the three missionary journeys, then, as you come to the close of the book of Acts, Paul is arrested and taken as a prisoner to Rome. Because of the inability to get a fair trial in Jerusalem, he appeals to Caesar which is his right as a Roman citizen. So he is transported to Rome. The book closes with Paul in prison, but it is more of a house arrest than an actual prison. He is a prisoner of Rome, but is more under house arrest. Look at Acts 28:16: "When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him." He is not in the formal Roman dungeon, but a soldier is guarding him. The law that applied to these soldiers was if you allowed your prisoner to escape, you gave your life for his. So it is a house arrest, but it is with a soldier who is going to make sure that Paul is not going anywhere. Not that Paul would have, but he did have certain freedoms.
It is during this time of imprisonment in Rome that Paul writes what is known as the prison epistles. There are four of them: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. So when we refer to the prison epistles, we are talking about those that Paul wrote while he was a prisoner at Rome. We are beginning our study of the book of Colossians. It was written to the church at Colossae while Paul was a prisoner at Rome in A.D. 60 and 61. Now I agree with those who think Scripture indicates that Paul was subsequently released from this imprisonment at the end of the book of Acts. He carried on a ministry for another six years or so before he was arrested again and ultimately executed around A.D. 67. That is why the book of Acts does not close with an account of the execution of Paul. In fact, when he writes to the Philippians, which is one of his prison epistles, he says he is confident he is going to be released. Some time later when he writes 2 Timothy, his last letter, he does not have that kind of confidence. When he is arrested again, he says the process has already begun that will culminate in his martyrdom. So you get a different flavor out of Acts and these prison epistles than you do from 2 Timothy.
Stay with the book of Acts for a moment. I want to tell you something about Colossae. It was a city that had seen its glory days and now was on the down side. It was an old city, hundreds of years old. But now it was on the decline. It is in Asia Minor. Some of you were here for our studies of 1 and 2 Peter, which were written to Jewish believers scattered throughout what was Asia Minor in biblical times. We know part of that area is present-day Turkey. The city of Ephesus is in Asia Minor. In fact, if you go to find the city of Ephesus and you travel 100 miles east going inland, you will come to the city of Colossae. There is another city well-known to us from the New Testament that is 10 miles from the city of Colossae. It is the city of Laodicea. Remember the letters to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3? Those letters from Christ in Revelation 2 and 3 are written to cities within this part of the world. The last of those seven letters of Revelation 2 and 3 is written to the church at Laodicea, just 10 miles up the river from the city of Colossae. Across the river from Laodicea was the city of Hierapolis. Laodicea and Hierapolis were the central key cities of this region and overshadowed the city of Colossae. The Apostle Paul had never visited Colossae, nor had he visited Laodicea. In fact, in Colossians 2:1 he talked about his concern for those in Colossae and Laodicea who have never seen his face.
How did the church at Colossae get started? Well, back up to Acts 20:31, where Paul is visiting with
the Ephesian elders at Militias. He refers to the fact that he spent three years in the city of Ephesus
on his third missionary journey: "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for
a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears." Turn to chapter 19.
We're told in the early part of this chapter that Paul reasoned and debated in the synagogues. When
they gave him the boot out of the synagogues, verse 9, he went to the school of Tyrannus and set up
operations there. He remained there for two years. We saw in chapter 20 of Acts that he was in
Ephesus for a total of three years. And you note in verses 9 and 10 of chapter 19 that Paul reasoned
daily in the school of Tyrannus "...so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both
Jews and Greeks." Evidently, it was during this three-year stay in Ephesus that the gospel was
spread throughout the region of Asia. People in cities like Colossae, Laodicea and Smyrna would have
heard the gospel. In fact, Paul will tell us in Colossians 1:7 that it was Epaphras, a faithful servant of
Paul and of the Lord, who carried the gospel to the city of Colossae. So while Paul was centered in
Colossae, workers who were joined with him evidently went out into other cities of Asia Minor and
carried the gospel there. People who would have been saved at Ephesus under the ministry of Paul
also would have journeyed back to other cities. Ephesus seems to have been a key city. The church at
Colossae was started by Epaphras, who likely came from Ephesus.
3.Colossians Emphasizes Absolute Supremacy of Christ
Now Paul is going to write the Colossians a letter because he's heard from Epaphras, who came to visit him during his imprisonment. He learns from Epaphras that there are some difficulties confronting the church, so he writes this letter. The theme of the letter to the Colossians is the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ. No other book in all the Bible places such strong emphasis on the absolute supremacy of Christ as does the book of Colossians. It is an absolutely essential letter for us as the church of Jesus Christ today. We'll find the heresies that Paul deals with in this letter cut to the very heart of undermining that supremacy of Jesus Christ. The manner with which Paul deals with those heresies is very, very pertinent to the heresies that are being promulgated today.
Let's look some more at the introduction. We've just seen something of Paul's background and how
he came to be so dramatically converted and appointed by God to be foremost in the church that Jesus
Christ was establishing in the world. He identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word
apostle simply means one who is sent. It carries the idea that one who is sent is representing someone
else. And it is used in a general sense in some passages in the New Testament of a person who is sent
someplace. But in its technical sense, it refers to those we know as "the Apostles" - particularly the
12 and Paul. These were men selected by God to have a unique ministry in establishing the church.
They were men who had to have seen Jesus Christ after his resurrection from the dead. Some at
Corinth were challenging whether Paul was an apostle. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:1, "...Am I not an
apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?..." You had to have seen Jesus Christ after His
resurrection so that you could be an eyewitness. I could not be an apostle because I have not seen
Jesus Christ bodily after His resurrection.
4.Paul is the Last Apostle
Paul is the last of the apostles. 1 Corinthians chapter 15 opens with Paul recounting the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to those whom Christ appeared after His resurrection from the dead. Then Paul concludes that list by saying in verse 8, "and last of all, as if it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." "I'm a unique case," Paul said. "I'm the last of the apostles. But He did appear to me, and that happened on the Damascus road." The apostles had the ability to perform miracles, and in 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul writes, "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs, and wonders and miracles." It was necessary that the apostles could do signs, wonders and miracles because they also were the recipients of new revelations from God. Turn back to the book of Galatians. Here Paul talks about the fullness of the gospel that he preached, and he says in Galatians chapter 1:11: "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it..." Paul is saying that Peter didn't teach it to him; John didn't teach it to him, no other man told it to him. Then Paul says where he got it from: "...but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ himself personally communicated it to him. That was part of an apostle's ministry. That is why he could do signs, wonders and miracles - to validate the new material he was presenting so the people would know that, yes, this is a message from God.
The same claim is made by Paul in Ephesians 3:3: "that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery..." A mystery is something that has not before been revealed in scripture. Paul says, "Here is new material. It was revealed to me. It hadn't before been revealed. What was revealed is that God was going to bring Jew and Gentile alike together into one body, the church. That is new information not revealed before. I got it by revelation." Those of you who were here when we studied 2 Peter remember that in chapter 3, verses 15 and 16, the Apostle Peter said that Paul's writings were Scripture. Peter added that some people twisted the writings of Paul just like they do the rest of Scripture. So even while the apostles were still living, it was recognized that their writings were on a level with the Old Testament Scriptures. We want to keep this in mind when Paul says he is an apostle. He has an authority and a unique position.
There are some in the church today who are teaching that we are in the last days and apostles are again
present. That is a lie. It is unscriptural; it is unbiblical. It is a way of promoting false authority in
the church. It is a way of trying to bring men who not only claim to be apostles but prophets who can
communicate truth directly from God, not just from Scripture. The foolishness of it knows no end. A
whole book has been written on this by a seminary professor who is arguing that present-day
prophets differ from New Testament prophets in that present-day prophets can be mistaken in their
prophecy. New Testament prophets couldn't be mistaken. Yet he is an avid follower of the doctrine
of present-day prophets. This is foolishness, even if it is taught by someone who is supposedly
5.Paul Given Authority of Apostle
When Paul says in Colossians chapter 1 that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is one who represents Jesus Christ. He is in a unique position. It is important to establish his authority because he is going to deal with contrary teaching when we get to chapter 3. You understand that he is not just going to give one opinion among many opinions. He is going to render God's verdict on the issues at hand because he is an apostle. He has that position. There is not new revelation given today. Ephesians 2:20 says the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. So we are going to study the book of Colossians, which is a writing of a New Testament apostle. We are building on that foundation.
I have no new material to give you. Think of how dramatic it would be if I could stand here this morning, as some men are doing in their pulpits, and say, "I had a dream last night. And I asked God what this dream means, and here is what He told me." You know, this could be an interesting service. I had an upset stomach last night, and I had to take a Pepto-Bismol. Just think of what I could be telling you this morning. Furthermore, when I went to get the Pepto-Bismol....We don't get sick often in our family. We didn't have any in the bottle. You know, the pink stuff. But we had tablets. So I said, "Oh, thank You, Lord." We had two boxes. I turned the box over. "Expires November 1990." That accounts for the pink pills being green. But thank the Lord we had a second box. It didn't expire until December of 1990. All that to say, "What did I dream when I went to bed last night?" It doesn't matter. "What visions did I have?" It doesn't matter. What matters is what God has said through Paul in Colossians. That's His truth. That is His Scripture. Everything else is the ramblings of ignorant men who are opposed to the work of God.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God..." There is no arrogance in what Paul is saying here. There is not self glory. What he is, he is by the grace of God. As he wrote to the Corinthians, "I am what I am by the grace of God. I hold this position not because of superior merit. I hold this position by the will of God. That also is my authority. I have this position by the will of God."
Joined with Paul is "...Timothy our brother..." You know Timothy is not an apostle. Two of the
letters of the New Testament will be written to this young man - 1 and 2 Timothy. There is no man
closer to the Apostle Paul in his ministries, beginning with his second missionary journey in Acts
chapter 16, than Timothy. But Timothy is not an apostle. Any authority he has will be a derived
authority. He will pass on the letters of Paul and what Paul has said, but he does not have
independent authority and direct revelation. He is Timothy our brother. He is not the co-author of
this letter. Down through the first eight or nine verses, Paul will use the plural we as he moves into
the letter, then he switches to the singular I. Timothy is joined with Paul in a number of his letters - 2
Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. So you see Timothy plays a major role in
Paul's life and ministry and is joined with him in the greeting in several
New Testament letters.
6.Parents Prepared Timothy for God's Service
Timothy is first mentioned in Acts 16:1. On the second missionary journey, Paul comes to Lystra, a city he had visited a little over a year earlier on his first missionary journey. Now something happened during the first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas took off on that first missionary journey - we read about the start of it in Acts chapter 13 - and John Mark, a relative of Barnabas, accompanies them. But he gets part way along on the trip, then bails out and goes back home. Comes time for the second missionary journey, Barnabas says, "Let's give Mark another chance and take him along." Paul says, "Look, he bailed out the first time. He's not going this time." Paul and Barnabas have such a serious disagreement that Barnabas takes John Mark and goes a different way. Paul takes Silas as his new traveling partner and starts off on the second missionary journey. When they get to Lystra they meet the young man, Timothy, who's well spoken of. Paul then has Timothy join him as a traveling companion with him and Silas. From that point, there is no man closer to the Apostle Paul than Timothy. You can read 1 Timothy and Paul's last letter, 2 Timothy, to get something of the flavor of the relationship. Timothy was evidently saved on Paul's first missionary journey through Lystra. You get this idea because Paul refers to him several times as "my son" or "child in the faith," which seems to indicate he was saved under Paul's ministry. But Timothy had preparation for this because the letters written to Timothy tell us that from earliest childhood he was taught the sacred Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. For example, Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15: "...from childhood you have know the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Timothy had a Gentile father and a strongly Jewish mother and grandmother who grounded him in the Old Testament Scriptures. Timothy evidently would have been about 20 years of age when he was saved during Paul's first missionary journey. Just a reminder - the work that his grandmother and mother had done is credited by Paul as playing a key role in Timothy's salvation even though that salvation was not experienced until he was a man of about 20. From the language used about Timothy, some people estimate he would have been about 21 or 22 when he joined Paul in Acts chapter 16, which meant he'd have been around 20 if he was saved on Paul's first missionary journey.
I have to say, just as an aside, that part of what we do as a church and what we do as parents is try to build the Scriptures "...which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation..." into our children from the earliest age so that whenever God in His sovereign choice chooses to reach down and call them to Himself they have the foundation to respond because they have been prepared. We ought to realize that is a key and essential work. You say, "Oh, boy, they get to be teenagers and it doesn't seem they're saved." That's all right. The word that's built into them is the word that God uses to bring about salvation. And that's a role we have to assume.
So Timothy becomes Paul's companion, and Paul says some wonderful things about Timothy. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Paul refers to Timothy as "...our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ...." What a great statement. In 1 Corinthians 4:17, he calls Timothy "...my beloved and faithful child in the Lord...." Now turn to Philippians 2:19. Remember this, like Colossians, is another one of the letters written by Paul from the same Roman imprisonment. "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition." Now note what he says about Timothy in verses 20-22: "For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father." You know, these are high commendations from the Apostle Paul of the worth and value of Timothy.
When we read the letters written to Timothy, we get the idea he has a different personal makeup than Paul. Paul is the driving, relentless zealot. Timothy seems to have some timidity about him. Paul reminds him in 2 Timothy 1:7 that "...God has not given us a spirit of timidity..." or cowardice. He tells Timothy to stir up the gift which is in him. Get it burning a little hotter. But you also must realize that about everyone I know needs some admonition like that, compared to the Apostle Paul. I know if the Apostle Paul came and spent a couple months with me, he would say, "Gil, are you going to get the lead out? Gil, don't you think you ought to turn the heat up a little bit? Gil, you know you don't have to be a coward about this." So, I want to put what is said about Timothy in proper perspective. He is a man who is beset by physical problems. Paul tells him in 1 Timothy 5:23 to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake and his frequent ailments. Evidently, Timothy had reoccurring physical problems. All in all, maybe they are different kinds of personalities, but they both are men greatly used. And Paul's appreciation of Timothy is not restrained in any way as to his value in the ministry. Timothy is a man of proven worth, and we benefit from his ministry today as well.
Come back to Colossians. We know Paul is writing the letter and that he wants Timothy to be joined with him in greeting this church. They are writing, verse 2, "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae..." The believers in this church are identified in two ways. They are called saints, and they are called faithful brethren. The saints - the common Greek word is hagios. Three English words come from this basic word - saints, holy and sanctify. The basic idea of this word means to be set apart. It is used in the Old Testament of things associated with the worship of God that were holy. For instance, in the tabernacle the utensils were holy. They were set apart from common use and were to be used only in connection with the worship of God. The nation Israel was holy. It was set apart from the other nations to belong to God. From this idea, then, comes the idea of moral character. When you are set apart from something for God, then naturally you are set apart from sinfulness, sin. Your behavior is to manifest the character of God.
I was curious, so yesterday I got out my Roman Catholic catechism to see what it said about the saint. You know, it had nothing to do with biblical doctrine. It had nothing to do with biblical teaching. We need to get back to what we talked about with Paul. He is an apostle. All truth comes through him and other apostles and prophets. Complete truth is here in the Scripture. If you're looking for biblical truth, you don't go to the church fathers. You don't go to the church councils. You don't go to the creeds of the church. You go to the Scripture. A whole doctrine of saints has been build up. They are people of certain venerable character to whom we look back at hundreds of years later and decide they did certain attested miracles, so we give them certain exalted position. Now we can pray to them, and they intercede for us in heaven. This has nothing to do with the biblical doctrine of sainthood.
Incidentally, I also was reading the testimony yesterday as well of a Roman Catholic who at one time had studied at Calvin College. He called himself a Calvinist who converted to Catholicism because he read the church fathers and they seemed to have Roman Catholic doctrine or doctrine that has come to be found in the Roman Catholic church. We don't build our doctrine on the doctrine of the fathers. I am not saying we don't learn from the fathers. It is interesting to see what the church studied in early history, to see what the councils met together about in early history, to see the creeds they wrote. But the only authoritative source for doctrine in the life of the church is the written word of God. As soon as you turn from that, you are going to get into trouble.
So here, who are the saints? Well, the saints are the church. In fact, in writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, Paul equates the saints with the church. He writes "to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling..." In that expression, the church and saints are appositional. They refer to the same thing. The church are the saints. The saints are the church. And in between he put those who are sanctified. That's what we are. When we come to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are set apart by Him for Himself. We are placed into the body of Christ, the church. You are a saint. Now your life is to reflect sainthood. That doesn't necessarily mean perfection. The Corinthians were carnal in many ways. But Paul still says they are the saints. That's what believers are. So he is writing to the saints, the church at Colossae. They are the faithful brethren. They are living in light of the position they have. They have been set apart in Christ. They are faithful brethren, joined together as brothers in Christ. And they are faithful. Those who walk with the Lord are a testimony to his grace in their lives.
Paul has a two-fold word of greeting: "...Grace to you and peace from God our Father." This is basically the Greek greeting related to our word grace, and the Hebrew greeting related to the word peace. It seems the Apostle Paul joined the two together and put grace and peace. Grace is foundational to everything we are and have in Christ. Ephesians 2:8: "For by grace you have been saved through faith..." Grace of God: His unmerited favor, doing for us what we do not deserve, what we cannot earn - His graciousness. Now it is turned into a greeting here, which is a form of a wish or a prayer for them. It is his desire for them. Paul is saying, "I desire God's grace be given to you. God's grace is the grace that is given to you in salvation, and in its ongoing, daily provision it is able to sustain and enable and provide for you in every situation and circumstance. I want you to be enjoying God's provision and God's blessing in all that you do."
God's peace. The background word for this is the Hebrew word shalom. It comes to carry the significance of well being.The foundation for this is found in Romans 5:1: "...we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And now we enjoy that peace with his provision for us day by day and moment by moment. Paul said, "This is my desire and prayer for you. Experience His gracious provision. Experience his provision of peace and well being in all that you do as his people. This comes from God our Father. What a blessing to know He is not a God who is awesome and distant and removed. He is the God who is our Father. He is awesome. He is distant. But He is near. He is the God I call Father. He delights in providing for me." So when Paul prays for the provisions from God of grace and peace, he is asking our Father to be giving them. And our Father delights in providing for us in every circumstance of every situation. His grace is sufficient. The circumstances and trials of life can be overwhelming. Paul knows. He is writing this while a prisoner at Rome. He is writing this as a man who has experienced great suffering in his service for the Lord. But the provision of his father is sufficient. And well being, peace.... He said in 2 Corinthians 4:16: "...though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." He richly experienced that ongoing provision of God's peace, God's well being for him in his life.
There was a lot of theology in some introductory words today. It's good to remind ourselves again of Paul - his life, his testimony, the dramatic change that occurred and the power of that life for God. He was appointed as an apostle. He filled this unique role so we might have a completed Scripture and understand right down to our day the purposes and plans of God. Was Timothy, a man joined with Paul in ministry, as important as Paul? No. Was he as influential as Paul? No. Did he have an essential role in the ministry to carry out the plan of God? Yes. You know, we tend to want to focus on the stars. We need to have an appreciation for one another in the way that God uses every member of the body whom he has brought to Himself in the accomplishing of His purposes. And who are we working with? Saints - those whom God has set apart for Himself. Paul doesn't lose perspective on who these people are. They are saints, people who God has set apart for Himself. I want to help them be all that God has called them to be. I want them to be a chaste bride when they are presented before Him. Paul wrote to the Colossians to challenge and encourage them. He wants them to continue to be faithful brethren who do not lose their reward, as he will talk about in chapter 2, but who are faithful in their walk with the Lord in the face of difficulty and opposition.
Through it all, we come back again to this basic truth: God's grace is sufficient. He provides for our well being. Praise God that he is the God who provides for all and everything. May this be a church whose testimony will be enduring because we take to heart the truth that God has provided to nourish us, to mature us and to enable us to glorify Him. Let's pray together.
Thank You, Lord, for who You are. Thank You for the wonder of salvation. And, Lord, with that
dramatic transformation in the life of Paul, we are reminded that Your salvation dramatically and
radically transforms lives right down to our very day. Lord, many of us are here today as testimonies
of that life-transforming power of the gospel. May we never let loose of that wonderful truth. May
we never give up on the wretched sinners to whom we bring the gospel. May we remember that no
one is too vile or too lost to be changed and transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lord, You know us as we sit in Your presence this morning. Some are conforming externally to what a
Christian should look like. Some are going along with what is required. But, Lord, You see our hearts.
I pray for those who have never been truly transformed in the heart and mind by your truth. I pray
for those who have not turned from their sin and believied that Jesus Christ, their Savior, died for them
and rose again. We desire that this would be a day of salvation for them. Lord, may we be encouraged
by the life and ministry of men like Paul and Timothy. May we be reminded of what we are as the
church - saints, faithful brethren. As we are reminded of Your abundant provision for us in grace and
peace, may we not be discouraged, disheartened or turned aside, but may we stand firm as testimonies
to the work of Almighty God in our lives and in the life of this church. All for Your honor and glory
we pray in Christ's name, amen.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
This file was converted from Adobe PDF format to HTML by Tony Capoccia of Bible Bulletin Board (BBB). Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the conversion and the posting on BBB. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for a church that preaches/teaches messages that are bold and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Our websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Online since 1986