Can you imagine what it must have been like to sit on the mountain while Jesus preached? Or to have been one of the early Christians listening to Paul share the gospel?
It’s been a long time since Paul was here on earth spreading the gospel on his missionary journeys. It’s been even longer since Jesus walked among us teaching on the mountainside – a really long time!
In our homeschool history lessons, we read first person documents. These are documents, like a journal, written at the time of the event. Details often change as stories spread from person to person. Even Paul, though he was alive when Jesus was ministering, did not have first hand knowledge of Jesus. The Colossians heard the gospel third-hand, at best. So, it’s no surprise that things got a bit jumbled.
Paul and Colossae
The city of Colossae was once a thriving city in Asia Minor (present day Turkey), but at the time that Paul is writing to them the city has declined and been overshadowed by other locations on the same major trade route. Epaphras, who became a Christian because of Paul’s work in Ephesus, had traveled to Colossae and founded a small church in the city.
But, there was a problem in the church. The church had interwoven parts of other religions into the gospel and diluted it. There must have been a mix of both Jewish and Gentile members and there was a lot of disputes over who was right. Concerned, Epaphras went to visit Paul. And Paul sent back this letter to set the record straight.
As he usually did, Paul included a prayer for the church…
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.Colossians 1:3-14 (NKJV)
Paul, as was his custom, began by thanking God for the people. Paul truly had a heart for people. He specifically thanked God for their faith in Jesus, love for the Saints, the hope that was laid up for them in heaven and that they were bringing forth fruit. In this offering of thanksgiving, we see Paul giving praise and honor to God who allowed for all of it, while still affirming the work of the Colossians.
Later in this book, Paul has some pretty harsh corrections for the believers in Colossae. I imagine that he knew that they would need some encouragement. Paul was able to simultaneously give God the credit and encourage the believers that they were getting some things right.
Acknowedge Who God Is
Paul always addresses his prayers to God by Name. Throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament, God reveals His character by revealing another name. And, Paul, being a devout Jew, was familiar with God’s names. He addresses his prayers as if he was talking to a friend. In this case, it is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Requests for the Colossian Believers
Paul’s prayers for the Colossian believers was three-fold.
First, Paul asked for the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding to fill their lives. They were isolated. Paul could not come to them in person. But, he knew that the Holy Spirit could come and teach them.
Secondly, he asked that they would walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. He knew that they would have to make a choice to continue following in the ways that God would teach them. Changes needed to be made.
Third, he prayed for supernatural strength and patience with joy. Paul knew change is hard. And he knew the persecution that came with that change. But, he also knew that they would have access to all the power that is at the command of Jesus and God the Father.
Paul continues to thank God. Times were not easy for these Christians – and certainly not for Paul who was in prison at the time he wrote this letter. But, he shares his secret for persevering in hard times – giving thanks to the Father. He concludes his prayer by:
- giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
- He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
- in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
See, Paul knew that we have moved out of a kingdom of darkness and earthly rule into an eternal kingdom. This kingdom is governed by love, not harshness and hatred. And we have citizenship because Jesus loved us enough to shed His blood and die in our place.
It’s not always easy to be thankful. Sometimes the stress of our hard times distracts us. But, we need to thank God anyway. There is always something to be thankful for, we just have to look! Sometimes its the little things like coffee or the sun shining on a new day.
What are you thankful for today?