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[This is the first in an extended series of periodical meditations drawn from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.] One of the reasons we ignore certain statements in Scripture is our misguided belief that they simply don’t apply to us. For example, when the apostle Paul introduces his epistles he typically describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col. 1:1a; cf. also Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). I’...Read More

Following his standard practice, Paul addresses this letter to “the saints” in Christ at Colossae. As you know, “saints” is a precious word that has been sorely perverted. For many people it conjures up images of a painfully thin, sad-faced monastic sort of soul who looks like he’s been sucking on a lemon. Most of you are aware, I hope, that the word translated “saints” was used primarily to describe people set apart or separate...Read More

There is great and glorious encouragement in the fact that Paul begins his letters by blessing his readers with the "grace" of God. This reference to "grace" is more than a standard literary device by which letters were begun. It is a sincere prayer for the release of divine favor and power into the lives of those to whom he writes. It is also significant that at the beginning of Paul's letters he says, "Grace [be] to you," while the blessings at the end say, "Grace [be]...Read More

In the previous meditation we saw that the empowering and abiding presence of divine grace comes to us by means of the Scriptures. But let us not overlook the gift of “peace” which also flows to us “from God our Father” (1:2b). When Paul refers to “peace” he’s not talking about some superficial psychological giddiness that comes from reaping the material comforts of western society (as justifiably grateful we may be for the latt...Read More

This past Christmas I received a red and white, University of Oklahoma, sweater vest from my daughter and her husband. To say that I was profoundly grateful is an understatement. When it came time to express my gratitude, I didn’t address my sentiments to my sister, although she has been extremely generous to me over the years. Nor did I turn to my wife and say, “Honey, this is a wonderful gift. Thank you so much!” I hope you realize why. No one, at le...Read More

There are four critically important things to remember about faith and love as they are described by Paul in Colossians 1:4. First, neither can exist independently of the other. Second, they are by God’s design public virtues, visible expressions of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Third, faith is only as good as its object. Fourth, and finally, Christian love cannot be selective. Let me briefly explain what I mean. First, love without faith is sloppy and ...Read More

Prepositions are wonderful things. No, I'm not crazy. Look with me at Colossians 1:4-5 and then draw your own conclusions. Having heard of the faith and love among the Colossians, visibly and vocally displayed, Paul has declared his gratitude to God. But how did God produce these virtues in the hearts and lives of his people? Some might suggest that he directed their thoughts away from heavenly reward to earthly responsibilities. If these people are going to be of any ...Read More

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the comments of John Piper on this passage in Colossians 1:4-5. In a sermon titled "The Fruit of Hope: Love", preached on July 13, 1986, John addressed the objection that being "heavenly-minded" is a threat to earthly productivity and fruitfulness and love toward those in need. Fixing our thoughts and hopes on heaven, so some contend, doesn't produce love, but escapism. And so we must ask, writes Piper, "Is it true that when...Read More

Paul has focused on the hope we all have in Christ as the ground or fountain from which flow both faith and love. Of this hope, he now writes in Colossians 1:5-6, "you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth." Let me make four brief observations on this text. First, the...Read More

In Colossians 1:4 Paul acknowledged the love these believers have toward one another. He praises and thanks God for having evoked this in their hearts. In v. 8 he mentions it yet again, but here explicitly describes it as being "in the Spirit." Somewhat surprisingly, this is the only explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in the book of Colossians. Needless to say, there are countless activities and virtues and experiences mentioned in this book that are elsewhere in the...Read More

You may recall that in Philippians 2:25-30 Paul described a certain Epaphroditus who risked his life for the work of Christ. "Honor such men" (v. 29b), said Paul. Tragically, today we honor people in whom we find none of the characteristics of an Epaphroditus. It is the pompous, arrogant athlete, or the self-indulgent Hollywood actress, or the unscrupulous Wall-Street financial wizard who wins our praise and adoration. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the criteria by wh...Read More

Let's be sure we understand the nature of intercessory prayer. I've heard any number of definitions, but none better than that of Lloyd John Ogilvie who said that intercession is not so much my placing my burdens on God's heart but "God putting his burdens on our hearts." I can't prove it, but I suspect that God takes greater delight in blessing me in response to your prayers on my behalf than he does when I ask him myself. That isn't to say I shouldn't pray for myself ...Read More

So what did Paul pray for? What did he want most for those in Colossae? I wonder what they might have said to him had he asked, "How may I pray for you?" We'll never know, but what we do know is that Paul asked, apparently repeatedly, that God would fill them "with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Let's be clear about one thing. Simply because Paul prayed for them to know God's will does not mean we are forbidden to ask for other thi...Read More

There's a reason why I put a question mark after the title for this meditation. I'm asking whether knowledge of God, true, soul-saving knowledge of God, can be fruitless? Can a person "know" God in the way Paul describes in Colossians 1:9 and not bear the fruit of holiness? George Barna recently described 77 million church-going Americans as "born again." In my review of his book, Revolution, I took issue with this. I didn't do so because I regard myself as the infalli...Read More

There are two phrases in v. 10 that call for our careful attention. (1) Observe that Paul speaks of the need for us to walk "worthy of the Lord." The apostle uses similar language in a number of texts. For example, in Philippians 1:27 he exhorts the believers in that city to let their "manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." In Ephesians 4:1 he urges believers "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." Again, in 1 Thessalonians...Read More

Paul's prayer in Colossians 1 actually frightens some people. It is intimidating to them for one of two reasons (or both): some are afraid they won't have the power to live worthy of the Lord and to bear fruit in every good work, while others fear that once they start out in their efforts to do so they'll end up quitting, they simply won't have the endurance to persevere in what they began. So either the sense of personal weakness and spiritual impotence, on the one hand...Read More

If you are reading the ESV (English Standard Version), as I am, you'll see that the words "with joy" are placed at the close of v. 11, as if to qualify the endurance and patience that God's power will enable us to experience. In other words, this rendering suggests that perseverance and longsuffering are to be joyful, not morose and sullen, as if we were to submit to injustice and hardship grudgingly and with a long face. I certainly think the Bible teaches this, but I'...Read More

There is a slight difference between being "unqualified" and being "disqualified". In the former case, I may simply lack a talent or attribute or sufficient education to fulfill a task. There's really no shame or fault in being unqualified. We can always work harder or go to school to cultivate the necessary characteristics for whatever it is we desire to achieve. But to be "disqualified" means you are unfit for the task, you are excluded because of specific failures or...Read More

When the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, he gave an account of what happened to him on the road to Damascus. Jesus, he said, was sending him to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18). When Paul wrote to the Colossians he portrayed their salvation in almost identical terms: Yo...Read More

Jesus Christ, the one into whose kingdom we have been transferred (Col. 1:13), is also the one, indeed the only one, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14). It isn't in the keeping of New Year's resolutions that forgiveness is found, nor in the therapy of a psychiatrist's counsel. Neither good works nor good intentions nor the cultivation of a healthy self-esteem can wipe clean the slate of our souls. Forgiveness is found only in Christ. And ...Read More