Colossians 1:1, 2
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,…
It is common to compare the Epistle to the Colossians with the Epistle to the Ephesians. Written about the same time (both conveyed by Tychicus), there are many coincidences in thought. But there is this difference - that the thought in this Epistle does not centre round the Church of Christ (the word occurs only twice, as compared with nine times in the Epistle to the Ephesians), but round the Person of Christ. There is also this difference - that this Epistle has not the catholic form of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but has a certain controversial form, with reference to the peculiar state of the Colossian Church. In order to understand the Colossian heresy, it is necessary to bear in mind that the type of religion to which the Eastern mind was inclined was mysticism. One feature was the belief in a good and a bad principle (Isaiah refers to them as light and darkness), the latter having its abode in matter. Another feature is the postulation of emanations, or intermediate agencies between heaven and earth. This mysticism seems to have had congenial soil in Phrygia, to which Colossae belonged. It had an ascetic side (communication with matter being to be eschewed), and, readily combining with Judaism, it formed Essenism. In the Galatian Churches it was Judaism that was struggling to modify Christianity. In the Colossian Church it was rather this Essenism that was the modifying element. The modification of Christianity by Eastern philosophy (its finding a place for redemption and the Person of Christ) was afterward known as Gnosticism.
1. The writers. "Paul." He is the principal writer. The thought has a distinctively Pauline character. We cannot mistake its coming from the writer of the Epistle to the Ephesians. He has a relation to two personalities, who are yet one (Jesus being the Christ of God).
(1) His relation to Christ. "An apostle of Christ Jesus." That gave him unquestionable authority in all matters which he discussed. He gave the mind of Christ. He was under the infallible direction of the Spirit. And his statements were to be accepted in the face of all statements to the contrary.
(2) His relation to God. "Through the will of God." It was not that he had light in himself more than any ordinary writer. It was simply that God graciously willed that he should communicate the mind of Christ to them and to others. And that was his support in every word he dictated. "And Timothy." He is subordinated to Paul in the writing of the Epistle; and his personality is, after a few introductory verses, lost sight of. He is brought into relation, not directly to Christ or God, but to the brethren. "Our brother." A member of the Christian brotherhood Timothy was. And that really contained more in it (title to everlasting life) than "apostle" by itself. "Apostle" would cease, but "brother" would remain. Apostle though Paul was, in a brotherly way he consulted with Timothy regarding the Church of Colossal. The ground of his consulting with him would naturally be his acquaintance with that Church. That active brother, it may be presumed, had ministered to them and had won their affection. And so Paul associates him with himself in writing to Colossal, that, beyond the "apostolic," there might be the "personal," in which personal Timothy was partly his representative. He might expect to have influence with Colossae, when there was both apostolic authority and personal affection combined.
2. The persons addressed.
(1) Generic designation. "To the saints." The holy people had formerly been those connected with the holy land; but here were they, many of them Gentiles, receiving the ancient title of honour.
(2) Specific designation. "And faithful brethren in Christ." The corresponding designation in Ephesians is "And the faithful in Christ Jesus." The apostle goes a point here beyond their believing, viz. to their being, in virtue of their believing, a brotherhood, and a brotherhood subsisting in (as created by) Christ, therefore distinctively the Christian brotherhood. Locality. "Which are at Colossae." This town was situated in Phrygia, in the interior of Asia Minor. There were three towns connected with the valley of the Lycus (a tributary of the Ms, under). Overhanging the valley on opposite sides, and facing each other, with the mountains rising behind and the Lycus flowing between, about six miles apart, were Laodicea and Hierapolis, the two towns which are referred to at the close of this Epistle. Further up the river, and intersected by it, distant about twelve miles both from Laodicea and Hierapolis, was the third town of Colossal. With a certain historical character, it was the least important place to which any Epistle of Paul's was sent. The attention of the apostle was drawn to it at the time by the presence at Rome of two Colossians - Epaphras, who is referred to in the seventh and eighth verses, and Onesimus, the runaway slave about whom Paul writes in his Epistle to Philemon.
II. THE SALUTATION.
1. The two words of salutation.
(1) Grace. "Grace to you." This is the universal word of salutation in the Epistles which bear Paul's name (it is wanting in the Epistle to the Hebrews). It points to this - that we must not look to our friends being blessed on the ground of their deservings. If they are to be blessed, as we would wish them, then there must be the outflowing of Divine favour toward them.
(2) Peace. "And peace." This also is the universal word in salutation with Paul. If we were dealt with according to our deservings, there would be constant cause for dispeace. But being dealt with according to infinite grace (upon which we can ever fall back under a sense of our ill deservings), there should then be a calming of the mind and an ultimate complete deliverance from all disturbing influences.
2. Source to which we look in salutation. "From God our Father." In the Revised translation the usual addition is omitted, "and the Lord Jesus Christ." It does not enter into the plan of the apostle to connect his thought with the Father and the Spirit in this Epistle, as in the Epistle to the Ephesians (they are named twenty-four times in Ephesians, and only six times in Colossians). But here in the forefront prominence is given to the Father (all the more because of the unusual omission) as the original Source whence all blessings flow. The Divine fatherhood (not apart from Christ) is the natural guarantee for provision being made for ourselves and for our friends, for individuals and for Churches. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,