A Study of Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s Apostolic Authority
As we begin this study of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, it is important that we get settled on the authority of its author. Paul first lets us know by what authority this letter comes: It comes with the authority of one who is sent by our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what an apostle is. It is “one sent”. In the epistle to the Galatians, where Paul spends much ink defending his apostleship, he designates himself by the following:
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1)
Note the difference, where in Colossians he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, and in Galatians he is an apostle by Jesus Christ. In Galatians, Paul is making the point that he was sent by the Lord Jesus Himself. In Colossians, he is making the point of who he is speaking for. Now, no one could make himself an apostle. Some so-called “clergymen” today designate themselves apostles, but they DO NOT have apostolic authority. Those who the Lord calls apostles have apostolic authority. Paul was made an apostle by the will of God.
But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15-16)
The designation as apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God is also letting those who receive this epistle know the source of it. The apostles of Jesus Christ have His authorized stamp of approval, and as He said about His twelve apostles of the circumcision, the same is true of the apostle of the gentiles:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. (John 13:20)
Those who would reject Paul’s authority, or make his epistles as subordinate to the “red letters” should take this to heart. As Paul says “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ“, we take that as the greeting from God Himself. The remainder of the letter is also from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, let us look at what Paul says to the boasters in Corinth who thought themselves quite spiritual because of their spiritual gifts:
If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37)
If we now find ourselves settled on Paul’s authority as one sent by Jesus Christ, we can move on and continue to study this epistle. The riches contained in it are inexhaustible, but we will mine all that we can!
Timotheus our Brother
Timotheus (Timothy)is designated as “brother”. Paul calls him his own son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), but in this case, he is “brother”. He is brother to Paul, and he is brother to the Colossian believers.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
It is important to recognize and rightly divide the use of “brother” in Scripture. Note how Peter uses the term “brethren”, or his group of brothers, to speak to the Jewish people:
And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. (Acts 3:17)
See how these brethren are the unbelieving Jews of whom Peter points the finger of blame for crucifying the Lord Jesus, Who is God’s Christ. Paul also uses the term brethren to refer to Jewish people as well:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, Who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)
Paul is not speaking of Timotheus (Timothy) here as his brother by nationality or by physical birth. He is rather speaking of him as his brother in the Lord.
Saints and Faithful Brethren
As he called Timothy brother, the Colossian saints will also be referred to as brethren. The letter is written to the saints and faithful brethren at Colosse. As Timotheus was a brother, so is the group to which Paul is writing. As regarding “saints”, look at how Paul addresses the assembly at Corinth:
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)
The assembly at Corinth was not known for its “saintly” behavior. It was known for its carnality. Yet Paul called them saints and sanctified in Christ Jesus. The word sanctified could easily be said “saintified” to get a picture of what it means. The saints (holy, set apart people) are sanctified (made saints, i.e. “saintified”) because they are in Christ. No one outside of Christ is a saint. No one in Christ is not a saint.
When Paul addresses the saints and faithful brethren, he is not speaking to two different groups of people, but rather using this two-fold term to describe a single group. They are faithful because they are believing brethren. They would not be brethren if they were not believing, because as Paul said to the Galatians, ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:36).
Grace to You and Peace
Grace and peace are God’s message of the day. They are the opposite of what will be the case when the day of salvation comes to a close and the Lord returns to take what is rightfully His:
Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. (Psalm 2:5)
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. (Revelation 19:11)
When our Lord came to earth the first time, the declaration from God was one of peace:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)
This will not be the case when He comes the second time. Judgment and war are opposite to grace and peace. Speaking to the nations in wrath is opposite to a declaration saying “on earth peace, good will toward men.” To get a good sense of what the shepherds saw, look to some earlier English translations, such as Tyndale, or the Geneva Bible, and you will see “heavenly soldiers”. This was the army of heaven! Is it any wonder that the angels had to tell the shepherds to “fear not”? The the message of heaven’s army to earth at this time was “peace, good will toward men”. The record shows though that man showed his enmity toward God by crucifying the Prince of Peace. The Nations and the People (Psalm 2:1), i.e., Gentiles and the People of Israel, came together in unity against God’s anointed. Even in resurrection, Israel sent the message that “we will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14) in the way that the message of the apostles was rejected. So how was God to answer? By the words of the psalmist, He would speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Instead, God in His grace has postponed wrath (it will still come), and is speaking to this world with the message of grace and peace. It is the word of reconciliation.
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)
So as we close this study, where do you stand in regards to God’s grace? The grace of God that brings salvation is freely offered by faith in Jesus Christ and His finished payment for your sins when He died for you at the cross. Will you commit yourself fully to Him to save you and stop trusting in your own merit, leaning fully on His?
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men… (Titus 2:11)