v1: Paul begins with his apostleship, his authority and qualifications, 1 Cor 14.37; 15.10; he wrote the very words of God, and he knew it! This was not pride, but the calling of God's grace.
v2: To Christians, who are holy and faithful, see also Eph 1.1. We are made holy, through faith in Christ, and we must live as holy people. We are faithful, in the sense that we have faith, but we must grow in faithfulness.
We experience grace and peace together and individually. Mercy is experienced individually, 1 Tim 1.2; 2 Tim 1.2; Titus 1.4.
v3: Paul prayed for the church at Colosse, and commended the church. This is true of the other letters, except Galatians.
Paul begins a theme of thankfulness; see also 2.7; 3.15-17; 4.2. Just as he is thankful, so he expects the Colossian Christians to be thankful also.
v4-5: See 1 Thess 1.3. Faith and hope and love; three rocks of our faith. Where the church is characterised by these things, then that is indicative of obedience and spiritual strength.
"We heard", also v9; Paul had not been to Colosse, but he had heard much about them, and he had a responsibility for them.
The word of the truth of the gospel; there is "the truth" (Eph 1.13), God's truth. Therefore we have confidence in its power, it is the source of our hope, and the ground of godly character.
Our faith is in Christ Jesus, the One who gave Himself for us. Faith in anything else, or anyone else, is useless. Our love is to be for all the saints, without discrimination, see 1 Thess 3.12.
v6: The gospel has an effect, bringing forth fruit. Any fruit is because of God's grace and faithfulness; He accepts us as we are, and He works in us to make us more like Christ. The glory of the gospel is that it is relevant to all peoples, and brings forth fruit "all over the world."
v7-8: Paul commends Epaphras, who had reported the condition of the church to Paul.
Paul's overall theme, 1.9-4.6, is the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ. This answers a particular error, which related to the person of Christ. This appears to be a brand of Gnosticism, with a legalistic emphasis.
v9-12: Paul's prayer for the Colossian Christians is not dissimilar to that prayed for the Ephesians. The letters were written around the same time. Paul prays for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Eph 1.17-18), that they might lead a life worthy (Eph 4.1), that they might be strengthened with might (Eph 3.16), according to His power (Eph 1.19); and Paul was ceaseless in his prayers for them (Eph 1.16).
v9: Paul's prayer was first a request for spiritual knowledge, wisdom and understanding, not the philosophy of man (2.8), nor the appearance of wisdom (2.23).
v10: Such knowledge and wisdom and understanding is not for intellectual benefit, but for a practical purpose;
- that they might lead a life worthy of the Lord;
- that they might please Him in every way, living a life of consistent godliness;
- that they might be fruitful in every good work; and
- that they might grow in their knowledge of God.
As we get to know God better, we grow in obedience and Christ-likeness; this is an upward spiral of spiritual growth.
v11: We gain strength and power from the knowledge of God; He enables us to live as we should. God's power is at work in our lives. In Eph 1.19 this is resurrection power, producing newness of life.
Patience and long-suffering with joy; being able to continue in the face of great difficulty, Heb 12.2. This is not some stony-faced stoicism, but powerful and joyful endurance.
v12: Thankfulness to God, for He has qualified us, making us ready for Heaven, to share in His own glory. This theme of thankfulness continues through the first chapter;
- that God has delivered us (1.13);
- the uniqueness and pre-eminence of Christ (1.13-18);
- the change in our lives (1.21-23);
- the joy we have even in sufferings (1.24);
- our satisfaction in service (1.25);
- the privilege of seeing Christ revealed in His people (1.27-29).
v13-29: Paul puts strong emphasis on the person of Jesus Christ, answering the error that taught that Christians need something more than Christ; the so-called 'Jesus plus' teaching.
v13-14: God's work in saving us, which is achieved through Jesus Christ. This is a once-for-all, completed work.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness.
He has brought us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. This contrasts with the 'kingdom of darkness' from which we were delivered.
Paul does not often use "kingdom". Here he is describing the wonderful truth that we belong to Christ, and are under His protection and headship.
We have redemption and forgiveness in Christ.
All these things are found only in Christ, and nothing can be added, His salvation cannot be improved. These things are finished, completed. One of the errors in Colosse, and elsewhere, was that there was something else, into which the 'christian' had to be initiated. Paul's opening salvo is that we have everything in Christ, our salvation is complete. Should anyone doubt this, he then describes the supremacy of Christ (v15-18). God has highly exalted His Son; and He has entered into the glory which He had before the world was created (John 17.5).
v15: The invisible God has been made known to us by Jesus Christ (John 1.18; Heb 1.2-3). The One who is the image of the invisible God must also be God Himself. He was in the "form of God" (Phil 2.6). See note at Is 40.18; mankind cannot see Him who is invisible. Yet Jesus Christ has perfectly manifested His glorious character; the exact resemblance of the Father's excellences and glories.
The phrase "first-born" means pre-eminent over all creation (1 Cor 15.27; Heb 2.8), not a part of creation. Further, He is the first-born from among the dead (1 Cor 15.20; Acts 13.33).
v16: All things were created by Him, therefore He is not created. This includes things seen and unseen (John 1.3). All things were created for Him, that He might be glorified (Eph 1.10).
v17: As the pre-eminent One, Christ also preceded all things; "He was before me" was the testimony of John Baptist (John 1.30). Christ also sustains all things; the continuing of creation depends upon the word of His power (Heb 1.3).
v18: He is the Head of the body, the church (1 Cor 15.20). He was first-born from among the dead, that He might be Lord of all, Rom 14.9. The intention and plan of God is that in all things Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence.
v19: The whole Godhead dwelt in Christ; He was never less than God, He was always fully God. Compare Phil 2.6, where Paul says that Christ "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." In God are contained all virtues; in this creation virtues are limited, in our human lives virtues are limited. Therefore in Jesus Christ are found all the virtues of God. Further, Christ excels in all His virtues, demonstrating perfection in each. Even the best of men excel only in a few virtues, and then not consistently.
v20: The cross brings peace and reconciliation. The enmity is serious (John 3.19; 1 John 1.5), and God cannot change so as to accommodate sinful man, Mal 3.6. The only means was therefore that God become a man, and die, Col 3.20; Heb 9.22; Acts 4.12.
v21: Alienated and enemies, we became reconciled. He has reconciled us by His grace and initiative.
v22: The purpose of God's salvation, and Paul's ministry; this sentence continues in v29.
We note that Christ truly had a physical body, answering another error, that He was only a 'spiritual' being, without a body.
Only by Christ's work can we be holy and blameless and irreproachable in His sight. If God holds nothing against us, then we can be free from the accusations of the enemy, and our fellow men. We also share in Christ's own ministry of reconciliation, 2 Cor 5.18.
v23-28: These verses, in parenthesis; Paul's ministry was about Jesus Christ, and Paul had become His servant.
v23: The true Christian, like the tree in Psalm 1, is grounded and steadfast. See also 2.7, about continuing faithful in the one true faith, the hope of the gospel.
The same gospel had been proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul had given his life so that others might hear. The comment here, that the gospel had been proclaimed "to every creature under heaven," indicates the rapid spread within 3 or 4 decades. Even the enemies of the gospel made a similar claim in Acts 17.6, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world..."
v24: One aspect of Paul's faithful service, he had suffered for the Colossians. Paul had been called to suffer (Acts 9.16); the wording here pictures a loving parent suffering for the good of his child.
By explaining something of the cost involved in making Christ known, and in building the church, Paul prepares the minds of his readers for the rebukes on chapter 2.
v25: Paul had been called by God, and he was seeking to fulfil God's commission.
He was therefore committed to others, "to you", that they might know Christ and truly follow Him. He was also committed to proclaiming the word of God in its fulness; not just a few thoughts but declaring "the whole will of God" (Acts 20.27).
v26: The mystery which had been kept hidden was now revealed to the saints, 1 Cor 2.9-10; 1 Tim 3.16; such spiritual things can only be understood by the converted person, "the saints".
v27: God's plan was to reveal the mystery, the riches of the glory of the mystery. This is not just some secret knowledge, but something glorious and worth knowing; Christ in you the hope of glory.
This mystery contrasts with the Gnostic doctrine (addressed in chapter 2 and elsewhere in the N.T.) which claimed a secret knowledge, known only to a few initiates.
v28: Since the mystery is in Christ, and has been revealed in Him, we must preach Christ, and work to present each one mature in Christ. We therefore seek right belief (ch 2), and right living (ch 3).
The use of ‘complete’ meaning ‘maturity’ has caused some concern. Lilias Trotter uses the phrase ‘ripeness of maturity’ to explain the word.
v29: Since these things are true, Paul could give himself to serve Christ. Notice that he was only able to serve and strive through Christ's strength.