Colossians 1

New King James Version 1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

The Resultant Version 1. Paul, a commissioned one of Jesus Christ in harmony with the will of God, and Timothy the brother,

This epistle starts off with the name of its human author, Paul. This might seem to us a strange way to begin a letter, since we always leave the name of the person writing for the bottom of the letter. Yet we must remember that at that time they wrote on scrolls. It is often true that it is very important to know who wrote a letter in order for it to be understood. If you were reading a letter and did not know who wrote it, you would probably find that you were having many questions about what was being said. In order to answer those questions, you would have to turn to the last page of the letter in order to see who the author was. It is very likely that, upon seeing the name of the person writing it, you would suddenly understand many things that were unclear to you before. Yet if the letter you were reading was written on a scroll, it would be very inconvenient to have to roll all the way through the scroll to the end to see who the author was, and then to scroll all the way back to the beginning in order to continue reading. Therefore, their custom was to put the name of the author first, and Paul follows this custom here.

Now we know this man Paul from the book of Acts, and are aware of the ministry for God he performed then. Yet at the time this is written that ministry was over, and Paul was now embarking on his new ministry in the dispensation of grace. We read briefly of the first two years of this ministry in Acts 28:30-31.

30. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31. preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

So Paul was living at this time in his own rented house, and receiving all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet though it does not say so here, we know that also during these two years, he wrote four books setting forth truths about the new dispensation that had come about after the momentous proclamation he made at the pivotal point of Acts 28:28. This book of Colossians is one of those important books.

Paul calls himself an “apostle of Jesus Christ.” In the Resultant Version of Otis Q. Sellers, this is put as “a commissioned one of Jesus Christ,” and this is correct. The Greek word apostolos is the noun related to the Greek verb apostello, which is often translated “sent” or “sent forth.” As such, many tend to say that an apostle was just a “sent-one.” Yet there is a second word for “sent” in Greek, pempo. The idea of pempo is of a simple sending. For example, if I was to pay the money to send you on a vacation to France, that would be the kind of sending the Greeks would call pempo. Yet if the President of the United States were to officially send you to France as the U.S. ambassador to France, that would be a much more significant sending indeed. That is the kind of sending that the Greeks would call apostello, since you were not simply sent there, but were sent there with an authority and a commission. Therefore, Paul was not just saying he was a sent-one when he called himself an apostle. Instead, he was saying that he was sent with authority or commissioned by Jesus Christ.

Now we tend to think of an apostleship as an office, much like our church offices like pastors or elders. Yet really when one is commissioned with authority, that is not just an office one holds, but is also a job one has to do. For example, in Damascus in Acts 9, the man Ananias was sent by God to speak to Saul after his meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ on road to Damascus. Ananias was to restore Paul’s sight and to speak to him certain words in the name of the Lord. Ananias calls this being apostello in Acts 9:17, when he speaks to Paul and says, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The words “has sent” here are a translation of apestalken, a form of the verb apostello. In other words, Ananias claims that the Lord Jesus had commissioned him to come to Paul, restore his sight, and see to it that he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Now this commissioning did not result in Ananias permanently holding an office called “apostle.” Rather, it was a job that he was to perform, and once he had performed it, his commission was complete, and he was no longer apostello. Therefore apostolos does not imply an office, but only a job. If that job is an ongoing thing, it might be considered an office, but that idea is not at all inherent in the word.

Once we realize that apostolos is a job, not a title, we can see that this word at the beginning of a letter has much more significance than just telling us the author’s official title. When we read that Paul was apostolos at the start of this epistle, this is telling us that Paul was commissioned by God when he wrote this epistle. He did not just write because he felt like sending the Colossians a letter. Rather, he wrote because he was commissioned by God to do so. When God commissioned him to write, God would also give him the words to write. Therefore, when Paul says he is “commissioned” at the start of Colossians, I believe that that is the same as him saying that this book is inspired by God, or “God-breathed,” as the Greek of II Timothy 3:16 puts it. Paul must have written many letters in his lifetime. Many of these letters were just the words of Paul, and were not the Spirit of God speaking through Paul. If we were to find ancient copies of some of these letters, they would not be of such a character that we could add them into the Word of God, for even though they were written by Paul, they were ultimately just written by a man, and would be man’s words. Yet when Paul wrote by commission of God, what he wrote were not just his own words, but were also God’s words. That is what makes Scripture, and that is what Paul is telling us about his letter here.

Paul’s commissioning, we read, was not just by Jesus Christ, but it was also in complete harmony with the will of God. It is not just that God’s will was in agreement with Paul writing a letter, but rather than everything Paul wrote was in harmony with that will. If it was not in harmony with God’s will, then Paul could not have written it in a commissioned letter. So with these words Paul is assuring us that everything that is written in Colossians is in complete harmony with God’s will for the Colossians and for us all in the dispensation of the grace of God.

Paul includes the name of “Timothy the brother” as a co-author of the book. This doubtless means that Timothy was Paul’s amanuensis, or the one to whom Paul dictated the letter, rather than writing it down himself. Yet at the same time, when Paul is writing with co-authors, he often uses “we” instead of “I,” indicating that he and his co-authors are both saying a thing. Therefore, Timothy should not be left totally out of what is being said here.

Timothy is called “brother” in II Corinthians 1:1, I Thessalonians 3:2, Philemon 1, and Hebrews 13:23. It seems to be a common term of affection applied to him. Among some believers today, it is common to call everyone a “brother.” While it does appear common in the New Testament that they referred to each other generally as “brethren,” this term appears to be a bit more specialized than this, and indicates the bond Timothy had with Paul and his fellows. It seems that those who knew and loved Timothy thought of him as a “brother” indeed, a man for whom they felt a great bond of affection.

New King James Version: 2. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resultant Version: 2. To the hallowed ones in Colosse, even believing brethren in Christ: Grace be unto you, even peace, from God our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having introduced himself as the author and having spoken of his commissioning to write, Paul now moves on to speak of his audience. He is writing to the saints or hallowed ones. This word in Greek is hagios, and is usually translated as “holy.” Our translators have just taken this word and, when it is applied to holy people, they have made this out to be “saints.” Yet the idea of that which is holy or hallowed is of that which is separated from the rest, marked out, or set apart for special use. In the context of the Bible, the word is usually used of those marked out by God for His Own special use. Here, it speaks of those who have been separated by God for Himself from the rest of mankind. We learn what separates them as the verse continues.

These hallowed ones are also called “faithful brethren.” Yet this is a very questionable translation, because it implies the fact that there must have been unfaithful brethren in Colosse, an idea which is in no way borne out by the remainder of the book. If this were the case, then this book could only be applied to those believers who have stood the test of time and proven themselves to be faithful. Any believers who had no such track record or who never had done anything to prove themselves faithful would be left out of the book altogether. Yet this Greek word pistos, derived from the word for belief or faith pistis, can also be translated “believing.” Such a translation opens the book up to a much wider audience. If it is written to those who are “believing” in Christ in Colosse, then anyone who believes can read the book and learn from it, not just those who have proven themselves faithful. That is what this verse is actually saying, and that is truly its intended audience. It is written to believers in Christ, and all who are such can learn and get value from it.

Paul calls those who are believing “brothers in Christ.” It was not so long before this when Paul would have reserved this word “brethren” almost exclusively for his fellow Israelites. Yet now the truth of Acts 28:28 has been proclaimed, and all nations are now equal in God’s sight. Therefore, Paul now counts all men as his brothers, as long as they are in Christ.

The believing brethren Paul is speaking to are first of all “in Christ.” This is the special and characteristic term of Ephesians, and we find it just as prominent in this book of Colossians, which is in so many ways a companion book to Ephesians. Once one believes the gospel of our salvation, in God’s sight one is placed into Jesus Christ. This gospel of our salvation has to do with Who Jesus Christ is. As John puts it in John 20:30-31:

30. And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31. but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that He is the One God anointed and marked out to be the Savior of the world. To believe that He is the Son of God is to believe that He is God, the very representative of God in human form, for the Hebrew idea of the “son” is of the representative. Thus, we must believe in the Person of Christ. Yet we also need to believe in His work. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians 15:1-4.

1. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

To believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, this One Who was the Savior and the Representative of God in human form, came and died for our sins in harmony with the teaching of the Scriptures on sacrificial death, was buried in the ground proving He was really dead, and then rose from the dead on the third day, is to believe in the work that Christ did on our behalf. To believe in Who the Lord Jesus is and what He did results in our placement into Him. By believing, we are identified with Him in God’s sight. We died when He died, we were buried when He was buried, and we rose when He rose. This is what Romans 6:3 calls being “baptized into His death.” Thus, God considers us to have His Own righteousness in Christ. This is the glorious truth proclaimed in II Corinthians 5:21, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is the glorious truth of being “in Christ” that is the happy position of all true believers today. This is the reality of being “in Christ” that Colossians will say so much about.

Now Paul is writing to the hallowed ones and the believing brethren in Christ in Colosse. Colosse means “Monstrosities.” It was a large and flourishing city located in the Roman province of Asia. Yet we should not think that this had anything to do with the giant continent that we call Asia. The Roman Asia was a relatively small province in what we call “Asia Minor.” Yet it was not even all of Asia Minor, so it was little like what we think of as “Asia.” It was located west of the regions Paul first traveled to like Pisidia and Lycaonia, but east of Macedonia, where Paul traveled on his second apostolic mission in Acts. Ephesus was located in Asia. Colosse was east of Ephesus, however, and nearer to the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, both of which Paul will mention in this letter. All three of these cities were destroyed by an earthquake about three or four years after Paul wrote this book, in about 66 A.D.

When Paul was in Asia, we have no reason to believe he ever traveled to Colosse, although he clearly did know some people there. Yet this letter seems to be written to the new believers who arose since the beginning of the dispensation of grace, so Paul speaks of them as being people who had “not seen my face in the flesh.” Colossians 2:1. He also says that he merely heard of their faith in Colossians 1:4, not having witnessed it for himself. This shows us that it was not the established believers of the Acts period whom Paul has in mind in this letter, but rather those new believers who have arisen since Acts 28:28.

Now Paul offers his standard greeting of grace to the Colossians. Grace, as we know, is God’s love and favor to men regardless of whether or not they deserve it (which, when it comes right down to it, none of us do.) It is the Greek word charis. God’s attitude towards those who are in Christ is one of grace.

The next word is translated as “and” in the King James Version, but this is the Greek word kai. While this word can mean “and,” when it is used between two nouns of the same case it can be used appositionally, meaning that the two words are equivalent and define each other. This is true in the first part of this verse, wherein the saints or hallowed ones are the same as the believing brethren. Therefore, The Resultant Version translates this as “even.” In other words, the specific grace that Paul is wishing upon the Colossians IS peace.

The word “peace” is the Greek eirene. We get our name “Irene” from this word. It means “peace,” but peace in a greater sense than just meaning a cessation of hostilities. Eirene indicates not just a cease-fire, but also a true union between parties. In this case, the true union Paul wishes for the Colossians is with God the Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants them to experience a true union with Him.

Notice that between “God the Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” we again have the Greek word kai translated as “and.” This is again used appositionally, for we understand that God the Father is the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ said in John 14:9, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” To see Christ is to see the Father. As He also says in John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.” Our peace is with God, Who is both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. These two are one. God is the source and Christ the channel by which grace and peace flow to His people.

New King James Version 3. We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

The Resultant Version 3. We are giving thanks unto God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying concerning you,

Paul and Timothy are always giving thanks to God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason they are thankful is because of the Colossians. We will learn why they were thankful in subsequent verses. They were always praying concerning the Colossians.

There are two words used here, which represent two different kinds of prayer. The first is eucharisteo, which has to do with prayers of thankfulness. The word has to do with giving thanks, and of thirty-nine occurrences, thirty-seven have to do with giving thanks to God in prayer. The second word is proseuchomai, which means simply prayer or talking to God. It occurs eighty-seven times, and speaks of talking to God every time. Paul and Timothy were both thanking God for the Colossians, as well as speaking to Him about them.

New King James Version 4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;

The Resultant Version 4. Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and also the love which you have for all the hallowed ones.

We can see here that Paul’s thankfulness comes out of what he has heard about these Colossians. Paul has not met these believers, for he has been away from Asia for about four years, and these believers have all come to Christ in the last two years or so since Paul’s pronouncement in Acts 28:28 opened up the door for men of any nation to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, all Paul knows about them is what he has heard. But he has received a true report of these new, Colossian believers, and this report has made him thankful for them.

The first thing he has heard that has made him thankful is of their faith in Christ Jesus. The word “faith” is the Greek word pistis, and is translated both “faith” and “belief” in English. It means to believe, and that is what these Colossians had done: they had believed in Christ Jesus. And characteristically for this dispensation in which we live, they had believed without seeing. No apostle like Paul had come to them with miraculous signs to prove the message he proclaimed. They had merely heard the message of Christ and believed it.

The word “Christ,” or the Greek Christos, is the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. This is demonstrated for us in John 1:41.

41. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).

The fact is that the words “Messiah” and “Christ” are interchangeable, and mean the exact same thing. The only difference is that Messiah comes to us from the Hebrew, and Christ comes to us from the Greek. But John 1:41 shows us they are the same, and both would actually translate to the English “Anointed One.”

As for the word “Jesus,” this is the Greek Iesous, which we have Englished as “Jesus.” Yet this name is really the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Yeshua, which we have Englished as “Joshua.” This can clearly be seen from an English translation of the Septuagint, wherein the book of Joshua appears as the book of “Jesus.” We can also see this in the old King James Version of Acts 7:45:

45. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;

Here, speaking of Joshua, the King James has made it “Jesus,” for that is what the Greek reads. The same is true in Hebrews 4:8.

8. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

More modern versions change these two verses to the familiar “Joshua,” but the King James faithfully reveals the Greek, and the correspondence between “Jesus” and “Joshua.” These two are just the same name in two different languages.

Yet E.W. Bullinger, in his Companion Bible, while he admits that “Christ” means “Messiah” in the gospels, citing John 1:41, he teaches that in the epistles it takes on the new meaning of “the exalted One,” whereas Jesus means “the humbled One.” Therefore, he suggests that Jesus Christ means “the humbled One Who is now exalted,” and “Christ Jesus” means “the exalted One Who once was humbled.” While there may be a germ of truth in this, the reality that Christ and Messiah are equivalent cannot be removed with such easy sleight-of-hand.

Therefore, when we read of Christ Jesus, that is the same thing as reading of Messiah Joshua. This might seem shocking to some, especially those who are likely to speak of “Israel’s Messiah” at the same time as they speak of “our Lord Jesus Christ,” but this is simply the truth of the matter. John 1:41 is true throughout the Bible, not just in the gospels. We must incorporate this truth into our thinking, and no longer say foolish things like “Israel’s Messiah.” He is just as much the Messiah we believe in in the dispensation of grace. We are “in Messiah” when we are “in Christ,” and if we are not “in Messiah,” then we are not “in Christ.” Let us not allow the vagaries of linguistic form to rob us of the truth by introducing into our thinking an imaginary distinction. We should particularly not do this when John 1:41 is extant to disillusion us of this incorrect notion. “Christ” means “Messiah,” and no less that after the dispensational change as before.

The second thing Paul heard about these Colossians that caused him to be thankful was their love for all the saints. These are again the hallowed ones, the ones made holy or set apart to God. The Colossians loved all of these. For them, most of these would have been the hallowed ones of the past, and most of these (with the exception of the few Gentile believers of the Acts period) were men of Israelite ancestry. These new believers, many of whom were Gentiles, had probably only recently learned of the great heroes of Israel’s past, men like Abraham or David, Elijah or Daniel. As pagan Gentiles, they would have no more reason to know of these men than I would have to know of the national heroes of Switzerland. Yet now that they were believers in Christ, they were learning of all these great hallowed men of God, and learning of them, they loved them, just as did the Israelites themselves. This caused Paul to be thankful, for it showed how fully they had identified themselves with the God of Israel, Who had now thrown open the door for men everywhere to believe.

Many in the Christian world display no such love for the hallowed ones of the past. Viewing the Old Testament rather as the New Testament’s poor cousin than anything else, they largely discount it and show no affection for those great men of God whose actions and words are recorded there. Instead, they seem to view it that all the blessings God had promised these men of the past have been wrested away from them, and given instead to the “church.” This wild notion is sadly devoid of the truth, yet it is the common view of Christendom. The average Christian wishes only to exalt himself and his church, and cares little for the hallowed ones of God. Yet this is not the way these Colossians were. They loved the great men of Israel of the past, and we as believers in Christ should do the same.

Yet I do not believe that the believers of long past were the only ones these Colossians loved. They also had doubtlessly become personally acquainted with many of the hallowed ones of the dispensation so recently past: the Acts period. These saints, mostly Jews with some Gentiles granted into their company, were God’s hallowed ones of the recent past, and were still alive at this time. Paul, of course, is not the least among these. It would be very questionable if the love the Colossians claimed to have for the hallowed ones of the past could have been real if they had not also displayed similar love for the hallowed ones of the Acts period who were still living among them. If you cannot demonstrate love for the saints you know, it is very unlikely that you actually have any real love for the saints of the past that you have only read about. If you love the holy ones of the past, then you will love the holy ones of the present as well when you meet them.

These Colossians had loved the modern hallowed ones. Though they might not bear the same relationship to him as his converts in the Acts period did, these people loved Paul, and would have been overjoyed to have him visit them, and been able to show him their love and hospitality. The same was true of all the other apostles, and given an opportunity they would have demonstrated their love for them as well. Yet what they did get an opportunity to do, which no doubt was part of the reason Paul is thankful for them here, is that they had shown love to those believers in Jesus Christ of the Acts period which were around them. These they came into contact with often, and they demonstrated their love for all the hallowed ones by demonstrating it to them. These believers may have been mostly Jewish, and they may have come to the Lord in a different dispensation, but that did not stop these Colossians from loving them by words and actions, and love them they did. And for this, Paul and Timothy are thankful.