Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Colossians 1:7-8

Vs. 7. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,
The gospel is wrapped up in peoples lives. It’s relational, connecting people from various streams of life into a global family that is on a mission to New Frontiers in God and in this world. Epaphras was sent to the city, possibly by Paul, to plant a work of God among them. He has served this church well, and is part of a larger team (“our beloved servant”) of people working together within the kingdom to establish local communities of people who have embraced Jesus and “the way” that he is.
The verb used (“as you learned”) may imply that Epaphras had seen his task in Colossae not simply as winning them to faith but as instructing them in the traditions and parenesis without which they would have no guidelines in translating their faith into daily living (Rom 16:7; 1 Cor 4:6; Phil 4:9).[1]
Epaphras is thus, an emissary of the gospel, part of Paul’s team[2] and loyal to the gospel story of King Jesus. He has taught the Colossians the gospel and is commended by Paul. Paul probably notes this to reinforce his leadership among them and to convey to them that they should continue to follow him faithfully.
Vs. 8. and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
Paul finishes this section by reminding the Colossians that he is well aware of their situation, and of the “love” commitment that they have for one another and for himself. Paul’s apostolic oversight of this church is thus relational, even to a community that he has not met or established. They, Paul and others, had commissioned Epaphras to serve in Colossae by planting and establishing a church, but this community of faith is not an isolated entity, rather it is part of a much larger family network of relationships. There appears to be constant communication in the early Church as different communities work together to announce God’s presence and power among them. However, the “love” which connects them is no ordinary kind of love, but rather a “love in/by the Spirit.”

The love that mirrors the love of God in Christ can only be aroused and sustained by the Spirit of God. The phrase carries overtones of an inspiration that wells up from within, charismatically enabled (Rom. 2:29; 1 Cor. 12:3, 9, 13; 14:16; 1 Thes. 1:5), and that depends on continued openness to the Spirit if its quality of unselfish service of others is to be maintained.[3]

This community of believers is powered by and moved by love that has its origins in the work of the Spirit among them. This is the only direct reference to the Spirit in Colossians, but there are many other hints that infer the work of the Spirit among them, and thus we should not conclude that Spirit activity was somehow absent from their community experiences (cf. Col. 3:16).

[1] Dunn, Colossians, pg. 64

[2] Dunn, Colossians, pg. 63 notes that “It may have been Paul’s missionary strategy to concentrate his own energies in major cities, which sending out mission teams to towns in the region (Acts 19:10).”
[3] Dunn, Colossians, pg. 65

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