By Peter Wade
You can live and grow in Christ in a hostile world. To live God’s way today you need a stable person resident in your life, and that person is Christ. You cannot live a fulfilled life without Christ. I know that there are many books written about positive living that will tell you otherwise, but I believe that so long as you have that empty gap within yourself that only God can fill, you will not live a positive life. Without Him we just “drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living” (Ephesians 2:2 Phillips). With Him we can do all things. With Him we have fantastic possibilities, and the colossal book of Colossians emphasizes the place of Christ in our lives.
It is interesting to note that Paul never went to Colossae. He did one trip through the area north of the city, but as far as the Bible record is concerned he never visited the city. So he introduces himself as an apostle, since he is writing to a group of people he has never met but about which he has heard much. He is currently under house arrest in Rome, and it is possible he may never get to meet them.
There is an interesting relationship between Ephesus and Colossae; Ephesus is on the coast and Colossae about a hundred miles inland to the east. Acts 19:10 reveals that when Paul stayed at Ephesus for two years, the word of God reached all Asia [Minor], and one of the cities that it reached was Colossae. The believer who actually took the word of God there was a man named Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), who sat at Paul’s feet, learned the truth, and then took it home and started what became a powerful and positive church in Colossae, as well as churches in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. All three cities were destroyed by an earthquake around 62 A.D.
Ephesians teaches that the believer is in Christ, while Colossians focuses on the Christ that is in the believer. E.W. Bullinger wrote that three-quarters (78) of the 95 verses in Colossians have a marked resemblance to verses in Ephesians (The Church Epistles, 2nd ed., 1905, p.175). It is therefore not surprising to see that while “in Christ” in various forms is used 35 times in Ephesians, it is also used 17 times in Colossians, for the truths of “in Christ” and “Christ in” have a vital relationship with each other.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…” (Colossians 1:1). You may have noticed a difference from the King James and other versions which read “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” The Greek texts use the form “Christ Jesus” in this verse, not “Jesus Christ”. What is the difference? Am I any different if I am called Peter Wade or if I am called Wade Peter? Sometimes computer login names have your last name first and then your Christian name or initial, but you are still you. The difference between “Christ Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” is a difference in emphasis. (There are around a dozen different titles given to Christ in the New Testament.) If Paul was named an apostle of Jesus Christ, the emphasis would be upon the earthly Jesus, the one who was humiliated, the one who was crucified, and who later became the risen, victorious Christ. If Paul was named an apostle of Christ Jesus, then the emphasis is on the risen, victorious Christ who had been humiliated. There is a great difference between those two concepts. Do we worship the the humanity of the Lord, the Jesus of the beard and the sandals? Do we worship the Jesus crucified on the cross? Or do we worship Christ Jesus who sits at the right hand of God in the heavenlies, the powerful, victorious, overcoming one? You have to ask yourself those questions. I worship Christ Jesus, the victorious Son of God. I’m thankful for everything Jesus did for me upon the cross, but I’ve found in the Bible that God carefully uses words and when He speaks in the revelation to Paul of what He has done for me, it’s always the finished work of the victorious Christ Jesus that is in view.
Colossians is written “to the saints and the faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae: …” (verse 2a). Not all saints are faithful. A saint in Bible terms is simply a Christian believer. It is not a person who has been canonized by the church years after they have died. A saint is simply a person who believes in God and has accepted Christ as their Savior. There will always be saints, and there will always be faithful brothers and sisters. There are those who may have become believers but have not developed further. And there are those who recognize their place in the family of God, and want to maximize their potential as a child of God, and see the kingdom of God extended. They are the faithful brethren in Christ.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2b). Grace or favour signifies all the blessings we have in Christ and is often used throughout the Bible, while peace comes directly from the Hebrew greeting of Shalom. The combination of grace and peace is often used in salutations in Paul’s writings. Some believe grace was the term for the Gentiles while peace was the greeting to the Jews.
When I am reading verses 3 to 8, the question comes to me, “If this were the only document I had about the Christian faith, what would I know about being a Christian from this?” I think this is an interesting way to look at it. If I was living in Colossae and I had no other documents apart from the Old Testament in the synagogue, that is, no other New Testament documents, what would this tell me about a Christian? Could I tell anything from this as to who is a Christian, what is their potential, and so on? And I believe we can, so let’s look at it for a moment. This will also start us on our quest to get the basics straight—what is a Christian and who is this Christ?
The first thing we discover is that a Christian is someone who knows God exists, as it says in Hebrews 11:6, and that He rewards those who seek Him. A Christian knows that God exists. A Christian is one who has faith in the invisible. We will probably never see God in this life, but He is here and He is as real to us as our spouses, our mothers and fathers, and the rest of the people with whom we rub shoulders. God is just that real to a Christian. This is an important point to recognize. We can easily forget it sometimes. We see our friends and our family so often and we do not question that they are real. We need to get to the same place of recognizing that God is just as real, just as certain as the people we can see.
In verse 3 Paul says, “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.” You do not give thanks to someone whom you do not believe exists. A Christian is a person who knows that God is worthy to receive our thanks for everything. “God… the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”—there’s another whole study here as to how God describes himself. The one name that God delights in calling himself is the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (See Colossians 3:17, and also Romans 15:6, II Corinthians 1:3 and 11:31, and I Peter 1:3.) God is a very proud father. He loves to call Himself the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Another thing we can find out about a Christian is given in verse 4, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.” A Christian is one who has faith in Christ Jesus. That is God’s own definition. There is a relationship between a Christian and Christ. A lot of people talk about God but who or what are they talking about? Is it just the First Cause, the Supreme Being? Many religions use the word “God”. Allah, the moon God, is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Buddha is not the God who saved us. A Christian by definition is one who has faith in, believes in, Christ Jesus. The central person of the Christian religion is Christ, the son of God. That is really important to keep in your mind.
So a Christian is a person who really believes in Christ. He doesn’t go around saying, “Whenever I’m in trouble I talk to the man upstairs.” Believing in Christ is different from just talking to the man upstairs when you get into trouble. To believe means to lean your whole weight upon the object of your belief. Christ is the center of my life. In fact, later on in this chapter we will read that He’s living in me (verse 27), and He’s living through me (3:4). The center of everything to do with the Christian life is Christ. And as believers we have come to faith in Christ.
It is important to see how God works on a person to embrace faith in Christ. There are steps to having faith in Christ. God first works on the mind. You see, everybody has a mind, and God works on that mind so that as we hear the gospel, the Good News; we take a seed of truth and think about it. We are told that there are 10,000 messages a day coming into your brain through your sight and through your hearing. God gets to people first through their mind. That’s why we share the Good News. That is why we give out leaflets and books and have web sites. That is why we say the right word at the right time. God gets a person’s attention and they hear and understand the Good News. They learn that God has only the best for them.
Then there’s another step that He takes. Emotion is involved. I can take facts into my mind about my computer and how it works. I don’t get emotional unless the computer doesn’t work. Then I have been known to get emotional! But the fact itself is not an emotional thing. Sales people are taught to sell the sizzle and not the steak! When it comes to the Good News, then I see there is a glorious future for me. God has done so much for me, and He drops a small picture of the benefit into my mind, and then my emotions get stirred up. I have a desire to get hold of this good life that God is talking about. There’s a certain expectation that comes to me. Elvis Presley said he did not understand his mother’s faith but he wanted it! A lot of people go about witnessing as if they were prosecuting attorneys. They just want to tell people what miserable sinners they are and how they are on the road to Hell. However, the way to encourage folk to join the family of God is to tell them how good God is. Hold out the carrot! Make them see that this life you’re talking about is not a life of giving up something. It’s a life of receiving something better than you have right now. And that starts desire happening in the emotions.
Then we’re ready to go one step further and we make an act of the will and commit our life to Christ. You might have noticed there—the mind, the emotions, and the will. They comprise what we call the soul of a person. You have a mind; you have emotions; and you have a will. And it’s your will that decides what you are going to do. Having taken in the Good News, having got the desire and expectation that you want what God is offering, then you will to have it. You say, “I will go God’s way and I will commit my life to Christ.” When you do that you will receive God’s spiritual gift package. That is how we get to faith in Christ. It always works that way. God goes through the mind first. Your emotions then get involved, and there follows an act of your will. You do not become a Christian by being born in a Christian country. You do not become a car by being born in a garage! You become a Christian by an act of the will, and from that moment you are “saved”.
Let’s go back to verse 4 again. “Since we heard of your faith in Christ”, so a Christian is one who believes in Christ. And then it says, “and of the love that you have for all the saints.” Christians are people who love each other. Now it’s getting difficult. You mean I have to love all the Christians? I mean to say, have you met some of the ones I’ve run across? Someone wrote this oft-quoted verse:
To live above with saints we love,
Will certainly be glory.
To live below with saints we know,
Well that’s another story!
Christians are people who love each other. That’s another Bible definition of a Christian (John 13:35, Romans 13:8, etc.). A Christian is one who is not thinking of themselves but of somebody else. That has to be the hallmark of Christianity. And that is the way that you get answers to your problems. When you quit thinking about what a terrible mess you are making of life and you start thinking about somebody else’s problem, then you find you start getting answers to your own challenges. If you think your problem is more than you can bear, come visit with me and I’ll take you around the hospital one time and I think we can solve that attitude fairly quickly. A Christian is noted as one who thinks about others before they think about themselves.
A Christian, it says in verse 4, is one who has love for all the saints. We’ve already seen that truth in verse 2 and the word “saints” is used again in verse 4. A Christian is one who has a good self-image. In Bible terms, a saint is one who belongs to the family of God. A saint is one who has Christ in them, the hope of glory. A saint is a member of God’s family. That is why I get upset and even express myself strongly at times when people say they are “only a sinner saved by grace”. That is not what God says you are. Certainly you were a sinner. Certainly you were saved by grace. But what are you now? You are a saint. You are a son or daughter in God’s family. Christian, you must have a good self-image. Those Christians who seem so spiritual when they say they are “only sinners saved by grace” may sound humble but it is not true. I was a sinner but now I’m a saved person. We need to say, “I know who I am. I am a child of God with power.” Let’s have a good, healthy self-image. A Christian knows God. He or she believes in Christ, and has love to all the saints. He or she has a good self-image.
Verse 5 states that a Christian is one who has expectation. “Because of the expectation laid up for you in heaven.” I believe the word “hope” (KJV) should always be translated “expectation”. God has an expectation which is stored away for you in heaven. God has placed your name on it, its gift-wrapped ready for you to take into your life and enjoy the benefit of it. There is expectation in the Christian life. I’m so glad I’m a Christian, and I’m glad I have an expectation for the future. Yesterday I was listening to a tape where the speaker asked “How should we handle the book of Revelation and what effect does it have on us?” He took the same approach that I do. He basically said that if you think you are going to go through those things, then you are in the wrong family. If you are in God’s family, the book of Revelation is not for you—you’ll be gone! But if you are not in God’s family, then you had better brace yourself because there are some things coming that you may not like.
Copyright © 2010 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is based on the King James Version, modernized and with added insights. This article appears on the site: http://www.peterwade.com/.