Colossians & Philemon
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” —Colossians 2:6–7
Overview of Colossians & Philemon
Around AD 52, Paul preached daily in the city of Ephesus. From there the gospel spread across the whole region, including Colossae. About eight years later, Paul found himself under house arrest in Rome. Epaphras came to see him, bringing news of the church in Colossae. From his prison, Paul wrote to the church in Colossae—a church he probably hadn’t actually visited, but with whom he felt a strong connection. He wrote to encourage them to be “rooted and built up in [Jesus]” (Colossians 2:7). Paul wanted the believers there to keep growing strong in Christ.
Welcome to Colossians, Paul’s word of encouragement to the “holy and faithful” in Colossae. Having introduced himself, Paul immediately reminds the Colossians of how he prays for them. Paul’s prayer is astonishing: “We always thank God” (v. 3). Imagine you were awoken in the middle of the night to the news that your house had just burned down, and then you decided to send an email to friends around the world seeking their prayers. How would you begin? I would say, “Pray for us,” and then at length describe my awful situation. How stunning that Paul begins with thanksgiving. Why is that so remarkable? Paul is awaiting trial, probably under house arrest in Rome. But you would hardly know that from this letter. Many of Paul’s letters were written from prison, but most of them contain almost nothing about his own situation. They are full of thanksgiving and exhortations to those he writes to.
And look at what Paul is thankful for. He has heard about their faith in Christ and their love for one another (v. 4). Why are the Colossians living such faithful, loving lives? Because of “the hope stored up for [them] in heaven” (v. 5). We too share in this hope—the new heaven and the new earth that we will soon occupy. It is because we know we will have such an incredible inheritance then that we are energised to keep on trusting God and loving one another now.
How did people who were faithless, loveless, and hopeless have their lives so amazingly turned around? How did this miracle take place in the Colossian believers’ lives? It is only because of “the true message of the gospel” (v. 5). The gospel is, first and foremost, news. It is words that are spoken and heard. The fruits of faith and love spring to life when God’s mighty Spirit takes His dynamic, truthful Word and plants it in the hearts of people. Paul has heard of this great work in the lives of these young believers and so, despite his terrible trial, he first gives thanks to God.
Why is being thankful so important for Christians? What spiritual blessings can you thank God for right now?
Think about the hope laid up for Christians in heaven. How could more reflection on this hope transform your daily living?