Colossians 1:1-2

 |  October 13, 2017

  1. Locate the Passage

1:1-2 is the introduction to the letter.

  1. Identify the Genre

The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository and contains the introduction to the letter.

  1. Determine the Structure of the Passage.

This is a traditional Pauline salutation, identifying the writers, the recipients, and giving a formal greeting.

  1. The Writers (vs. 1)
  2. The Recipients (vs. 2a)
  3. The Greeting (vs. 2b)
  1. Exegete the Passage

Paul writes this letter to address an incipient heresy that emerged in the church at Colossae. Paul does so by extoling the supremacy of Jesus Christ and explaining the implications of Christ’s supremacy for the church’s belief and practice. In this paragraph, Paul gives a salutation that introduces his apostolic authority to deliver the message, affirms his confidence in the Colossian church, and grounds his message in the grace and peace which God the Father gives.

In vs. 1, Paul clarifies his apostolic authority. He holds the office of apostle (apostolos). His apostleship is not based on human agency, but by the agency “of Jesus Christ.” Furthermore, the authority of this commission is “by the will of God.” This signals to the recipients the importance of paying attention to his message. When Paul speaks, he speaks on behalf of Christ. Paul also identifies his co-author as Timothy, offering a commendation of him as “our brother,” indicating the relationship he has with both Paul and the Colossian church.

In vs. 2a, Paul identifies his intended audience as the church in Colossae. Specifically, they are “saints” (agiois, “holy ones”), God’s holy people, perhaps identified as a sort of new Israel, who are set apart by and for the purposes of God. They are also identified as “faithful brothers and sisters.” In similar fashion to his appeal to Philemon, Paul takes a posture not of rebuke (such as he takes in Galatians) but of appeal to brothers and sisters he deems faithful and assumes will listen to his correction. Paul models here Christian graciousness as he assumes the best of his audience. Finally, Paul identifies his audience as those who are both “in Christ” and “in Colossae,” indicating the reality in which all believers live, whereby we experience life in two dimensions simultaneously. To borrow from Augustine, believers live as citizens both of the city of God and the city of man.

In vs. 2b, Paul extends a greeting to the church, combining the traditional Greek greeting (modifying chairein to charis, “grace”) with the Jewish one (eirene, “peace” or “shalom”). This perhaps implies the importance of the gospel for both Jews and Gentiles. Notably, Paul begins and ends his letter with grace (1:2; 4:18). Grace and peace are linked as realities for the Christian. Grace, God’s unmerited favor extended to believers as a result of the work of Christ on their behalf, results in peace, both ontologically in terms of the believers’ right standing with God and experientially in terms of the believers’ settled confidence in their position. This peace should be seen as a superior peace in contrast to the peace promised by Rome (Roman coins in that period bore the imperial slogan “Pax et securitas,” promising a Pax Romana, or Roman peace). Christian peace is a superior peace because it is secured as a result of God’s grace. The source of this grace and peace is “God our Father,” indicating the paternal relationship the Colossian church has with God who grants them these divine gifts.

  1. Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon

This sermon ought to give introductory information about the letter to the Colossians as well as exegete the salutation.

  1. Location
    1. Of the author: Prison (unknown, but perhaps Ephesus or Rome)
    2. Of the recipients: Colossae (church started by Epaphras and Philemon)
  2. Occasion
    1. Purpose #1) Preventative (against the Colossian heresy)
    2. Purpose #2) Pro-active (on the supremacy of Christ and its implications)
  3. Salutation (vs. 1-2)
    1. The Writers (vs. 1)
      1. Paul
        1. Office: “apostle”
        2. Commission: “of Jesus Christ”
        3. Authority: “by the will of God”
      2. Timothy
        1. “Our Brother”
    2. The Recipients (vs. 2a)
      1. Saints
      2. Faithful brothers and sisters
      3. In Christ
      4. In Colossae
  4. The Greeting (vs. 2b)
    1. The Meaning of Grace and Peace
    2. The Relationship between Grace and Peace
    3. The Source of Grace and Peace: from God the Father

Category: Sermon Structure
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