Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back to Colossians

Well, after a much needed holiday and finishing off some other important projects, let me take a tour back into the world that is Colossians...

Colossians 1 1-2 Paul, an apostle of King Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
This letter, which I tend towards being authored by Paul (written by Tim?), begins with a characteristic introduction about Paul’s calling and authority. Paul labels himself an ‘apostle of Christ’ and this is ‘by the will of God.’ Apostolic ministry is rather vague in scholarly writing. I don’t think that the western world has quite grasped what it is that Paul and other apostles did. Paul was a massive pioneer, much like Bill Gates with Microsoft. His aim was to make Jesus a household name, and quite frankly [with a little help from friends and GOD], he did a pretty good job. So when Paul writes Colossians we must not forget that Paul is on a massive mission and he never loses sight of that mission. With that in mind, Paul reminds this congregation that he has authority over them, despite this church not being specifically birthed by himself. The church is united and working together, and apostolic leadership sets the tone and the pace of early Christianity. Paul is concerned here to instruct them, and they must heed his message as one sent by ‘the will of God.’
Paul writes, not just to the leaders of this community of faith, but to the whole church. In a stunning phrase that could possible be the big idea that Paul will spend unpacking in this epistle, Paul notes that they are ‘in Christ and in Colossae.’ This is a loaded statement. I suggest that if the Colossians, and us, would fully grasp this statement, then problems and issues, such as the one’s the Colossians faced and the one’s we face, would be aided and helped along because of the freedom and joy that it brings. To live in Christ is to live the life of Christ in relationship with Christ. Christians first live in the sphere of King Jesus, and then in the geographical sphere of their respective localities. If this pivotal truth can be grasped from the start of reading this letter, one shall already have grasped one of the central arguments it proposes: Christ is enough. You don’t need anything else.
A formal benediction, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” ends off this opening remark and “indicates a prayerful concern for the readers.”[1] If this is the case, then Paul wants his readers to be aware that this is not an imposition of authority but the heart of a true pastor ‘at large’ who is taking time to care for this specific flock by sending them a letter that will aid their spiritual journey through fierce terrain. ‘Peace’ must be seen as the contrast of ‘pax’ the peace which Rome provides. But this will be explicated later in this letter. For now, we must merely alert the readers that Paul’s opening quotation of this benediction, sets the atmosphere for what will follow. Just as God is their Father, in an intimate and personal relationship, so Paul’s concern for them imitates that closeness of relationship. Both grace and peace are gifts from an almighty God who cares deeply for his people. And it is God’s care for his people that has lead Paul to write this letter with an imitated concern.
Paul’s character in this letter will strive to be both gracious and peaceful so that they may follow Jesus faithfully and remain true to their identity as ‘saints’ of the most High.
[1] O’Brien, Colossians and Philemon, pg. 5

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