13 August 2018

Colossians 1:1-14

“may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father” (v. 11b)

Psalm: Psalm 119:49-64


On family holidays as a child in the USA, we used to stop at a restaurant that would give a free meal to any child who could show a school report with all A grades. I liked school, but I worked with the hope of the free meal in mind!

Paul here writes to the church community in Colossae, on behalf of himself and Timothy. In many ways, he is congratulating the church on a good report, citing the minister Epaphras who has “made known to us your love in the Spirit” (v. 8).

The difference between Paul’s celebration and a school report was that it was not just about what was happening in that individual place, or for those individual people. He notes that the gospel (the good news about Jesus) had been “bearing fruit and growing in the whole world” (v. 6), just as it had among that church. What if any of our school reports reported not only on our individual progress, but on the progress of each child in the class? What if our fruitfulness was entirely inseparable from fruitfulness for all people? This is a subtext in what Paul is saying: our faith is not just about pulling up a drawbridge and living holy lives ourselves, but about the fruit of the gospel everywhere.

Paul’s letter will go on to have a very firm ‘must do better’ for the church at Colossae. He had reports of their excessive ceremonial and food regulation, and emphasis on secret knowledge or ‘Gnosis’ as a condition of salvation. Paul would rehearse with them the necessity for patience and thanksgiving in all circumstances (verse 11) and remind them of where they came from as a way of nudging them back to wholesome living.  

To Ponder

  • Is it right to “endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks”? Why?
  • How different or distinctive should Christians be, in relation to the ‘outside’ culture?
  • What happens, in your experience, when the leader of a church community disagrees with members of a congregation?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister and superintendent of Wesley's Chapel in London. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.

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