Grace & Peace to You: An Analysis of Colossians 1:1-2
Colossians begins with a greeting (Col. 1:1-2).
And instead of glossing over it so we can get to the “good stuff,” I want to establish three things I believe the Lord intends to communicate to us through this important passage in Colossians chapter 1:
1. Who is the Author?
The first word of Colossians is Paul’s name, which is a statement of authorship. Therefore, Paul wrote Colossians.
That wasn’t so bad was it?
But there’s more. Paul could have left it at that and moved on like this: “Paul [and Timothy], to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae…” but he didn’t. Before addressing his audience, Paul qualified himself this way: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”
Consider for a moment Paul’s intention in crafting that sentence.
- An apostle of Christ Jesus – He wants to remind his readers that he is commissioned by the risen Christ, the one in whom they have professed faith in and been united to (Acts 26:14-18; Col. 1:25). And, that he received “grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1-7).
- By the will of God – Paul’s apostleship is the outworking of God’s will—the impenetrable, everlasting, and holy will of the Father. For the same Lord, whose will it was to crush the Son (Isa. 53:10) and provide salvation through him, is the one who appointed Paul to speak on his behalf.
Do you feel the weight of this statement?
Paul’s letter carries distinct authority, as he is Jesus’s commissioned apostle. It is, therefore, to be received as if God himself is communicating a message to them (and to us)—for indeed he is!
Study question: Read Colossians 1:1-2, Romans 1:1-7, and Acts 26:14-18. What is so significant about Paul opening his letter by affirming his apostleship? What bearing should his statement have for us as we approach this study?
2. Who is Paul’s Audience?
Next, in Colossians 1:2, we find out who this letter is addressed to. Paul writes: “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.”
Note the titles he gives to his audience:
- Saints – Those whom God has eternally set apart for his glory and salvation
- Faithful brothers – Men and women who have sustained and persevered in their confession amidst opposition and false teaching (Col. 1:23, 2:4-8)
Those are beautiful titles. But then Paul takes these two astounding designations and plunges them deep into two other profound realities, which are important for us to embrace today.
Although the word is masked by “in” and “at” in our English translation, Paul uses the same preposition in the original language—that is, “in”—to doubly embed the location where the “saints and faithful brothers” are or reside. This is interesting.
They are in Christ; they are also in Colossae (that is, in the church at Colossae).
Consider two things here. First, it is most important that we be rooted in the deepest layer of Paul’s locational identity: Christ. There—in Christ—is where the richest elements and nutrients for our spiritual growth reside. We will hear more about this as the letter unfolds.
Second, it is critical for the longevity of our Christian walks and for the advancement of the gospel that we root ourselves in a local church. This, friends, is the beauty of God’s design for his saints. While the church universal is invisible, the church local is made visible as it comprises born-again believers in geographic areas. Thus, Paul’s audience was in Christ spiritually and in Colossae physically. And as those endowed by God with a new nature (Col. 3:10), Paul trusted that his authority in Christ would be met with faith and action.
Where are you today?
- Consider the way Paul identifies the church in verse 2a, calling them “saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.” Consider what these terms mean (e.g. What is a saint? Why does the Bible call Christians brothers? Why do you think Paul used the adjective “faithful” to describe the brothers in Colossae? What does it mean to be in Christ?). Record your thoughts below (do some research on these terms if you are unfamiliar with them).
- Next, prayerfully consider: (1) your role in the church, (2) your role in your family, and (3) your conduct in the world (vocationally, etc.). How well do you resemble one that is holy and set apart by God? Where are the areas of nagging unfaithfulness or unholiness in your walk with the Lord? What could you do, by God’s “grace and peace” (Col. 1:2b) in this season, to increasingly conform to these Christian identities?
3. What is the Theme?
Finally, in Paul’s last statement he encapsulates the overarching theme of his letter: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
In this statement, we see (1) what Paul eagerly desires the Colossians to possess (grace and peace) and (2) who it is that ultimately offers it to them (God our Father).
Later in Colossians 1, we see that the Father initially qualified the “saints and faithful brothers” to “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (v. 12) by delivering them “from the domain of darkness” and transferring them to “the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv. 13-14). And it is this same Father who still seeks to give them “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) from the fullness of his Son in this letter from Paul. What a gracious God.
Thus, we come to discover that Paul’s message to the church at Colossae contains a very special message for us. We live in a frantic age of self-improvement and self-care, and our society is saturated with spiritual innovation to help us get there. Yet, our Father commends another way; innovation is not what we need. Instead we need only Christ. And only from him will grace, spiritual maturity, peace, abounding love, healthy and ordered relationships, hope, and perseverance (and so much more) abound (Col. 2:3). We need God’s grace, which is found in Christ alone.
Therefore, as you study Colossians, remind yourself often of these three things:
- The distinct authority it possesses as God’s word
- The local church’s nature and your responsibility in it
- The all-sufficient grace of Christ that the Father continues to extend to you