Friday 26 December 2008

Sent by God, Sent for Christ: Colossians 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother

In his letter to the Colossians, it is important for Paul for to let his readers know not just who he is, but why he is who he is. They have never met him. Yet, Paul dares to write intimately to these Christians, of the joy he has in praying for their faith (1:3), and the concern he has for them to continue in this faith in Christ (1:23).

3 things to note:
1. Paul was an apostle of Jesus
Christ Jesus to be exact. Christ is a term we find only in the New Testament. It is after all, a Greek word. But its richness can only be savoured by reading through the entire Old Testament. Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah - the one sent from God who would establish the kingdom of God. All of God's promises - his blessing, his presence, his rule - would come through his chosen servant - his King. The Messiah was the anointed one - or you could put it as the "crowned" one. Paul is saying that Jesus is this Messiah, the fulfilment of all the expectation of the Old Covenants, and the Christ of the new hope of redemption through his blood.

It was this Christ that sent Paul. Jesus' authority defined Paul's ministry as an apostle, sent to the Gentiles to announce the message that all would be in his kingdom through faith in Jesus alone.

2. The will of God
The exaltation of Jesus as the Christ is by the will of God. References to God are never tacked on whenever Jesus is mentioned, as a formality. Rather, the true basis of praising God, the proper way of giving him his true worth, of being able to know who he is and recognising the true significance of all he has done in the world and continues to work so powerfully through his might and mercy, is in Christ.

Paul is sent to proclaim Christ. He is the apostle of Jesus. He message is the gospel. But this is the will of God, for all this brings glory to God.

To truly identify yourself as being on the side of God, as Paul does here, is to find your identity and worth, in Christ Jesus.

3. Our common partnership and purpose
Finally, as a side point, Paul writes this letter with Timothy, recognised as our brother. Not just his brother, but the Colossians' as well.

It may well be, that the Colossians know Timothy personally, or likely that Timothy is acquainted with Epaphras (1:7) who established the church there.

However, here Paul is continuing on his identification in Jesus to include those who labour alongside him for the cause of the gospel. Timothy is their common brother not just through personal acquaintances, but because of a common partnership and purpose. The message of Jesus Christ - the gospel - is the basis of all authority, fellowship, and indeed joy within the body of believers.

In this sense, the way forward to establishing partnerships amongst churches, in strengthening bonds of fellowship between Christians across differences and distances, may not be so much in opening more channels of communication, working on more projects together, or indeed, simply just meeting up more often. Paul was a stranger to the Colossians in person, yet candidly wrote to encourage, even to warn of false teaching, all the while expecting to be taken seriously.

Our ties of partnership and purpose are found in the gospel. Our identity is to be in Christ, and our unity is bound through Christ - his bodily sacrifice which brings the reconciliation of all things (1:22) to himself.

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