- Locate the Passage
1:3-8 contains Paul’s expression of thanksgiving for the Colossians. The order of salutation followed by thanksgiving is a normative pattern for Paul’s letters (Galatians is a notable exception). The thanksgiving is part of the introductory material in the letter.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
Vs. 3-8 are one sentence in Greek. This passage contains an indicative verb announcing Paul’s thanksgiving (vs. 3a), followed by participles expressing the timing of Paul’s thanksgiving (vs. 3b) and the reasoning for Paul’s thanksgiving (vs. 4-5a). The passage concludes with an expansion on the reasoning for Paul’s thanksgiving (vs. 5b-8).
This passage expresses when and why Paul thanks God for the church in Colossae.
- Exegete the Passage
In vs. 3, Paul uses a driving verb for this section expressing the fact that he gives thanks to God for the Colossians (eucharistoumen, “we give thanks”). This verb is modified in vs. 3b by a participle expressing the timing of Paul’s thanksgiving (proseuchomenoi, “when we pray for you”) as well as an accompanying adverb expressing time (pantote, “always”).
In vs. 4, “we give thanks” is further modified by the participle akousantes (“hearing”), denoting the grounds or reasons for Paul’s thanksgiving.
In vs. 4-5a, there are three accusative nouns identifying the reasons for Paul’s thanksgiving. First, he has heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus.” Second, he has heard of the “love you have for all the saints.” Finally, he has heard of their “hope.” This hope is seen as the basis of their faith and love, (hence the use of dia, “through” or “because of,” here used as a preposition of means). Hope, believing and looking forward to the future, affects the Colossians’ here and now. It inspires, motivates, energizes, and causes their faith and love.
Vs. 5b-8 is an amplification on the nature of their hope. Their hope is described in two ways. First, it is “reserved for you in heaven” (vs. 5). That is, their hope is secure. Second, they “heard about this hope in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you” (vs. 5b-6a). Their hope is grounded in the gospel, which is seen as true. This should be read as a set-up for Paul’s expose of the Colossian heresy which will come in chapter 2. The gospel is true, over and against the Colossian heresy.
Vs. 6-8 is an expansion on the gospel that the Colossians heard. Paul says that the gospel is “bearing fruit and growing all over the world” (vs. 6). This describes the gospel’s unconquerable nature and its impact not only on the world, but specifically upon the Colossian church. Paul says that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the world, “just as it has among you since the day you heard it and came to truly appreciate God’s grace” (vs. 6b). That is, their spiritual progress (their admirable faith and love motivated by hope) is a result of the gospel’s work in them.
Paul also notes that this gospel was brought to them by Epaphras, who reported to Paul about their spiritual condition (vs. 7-8). Epaphras is described as a “dearly loved fellow servant” and a “faithful minister of Christ” on their behalf. That is, this word of truth was delivered by a trustworthy messenger who serves, like Paul, as a representative of Christ. The ethos of Epaphras’ life lends credibility to the message of the gospel he delivered to the Colossians.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- The What – “We give thanks” (vs. 3a)
- The When – “praying always” (vs. 3b)
- The Why
- Faith in the Savior (vs. 4a)
- Love for the Saints (vs. 4b)
- Hope of Salvation (vs. 5)
- The How – because of the impact of the gospel that was brought by Epaphras (vs. 5c-8)