Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father (1:1-2).
This is a pretty standard salutation for a first century letter. Obviously, the way we write letters today is much different than the way someone would write a letter in the first century. Basically, what we do today is begin by writing the name of the one to whom we’re writing, such as, “Dear John”. And then we have the body of our letter followed by a final greeting, such as, “Sincerely yours, Jamie”.
However, first century letters were different. A letter written in Paul’s day would begin with the name of the author and might include some details about the author. That would be followed by the name or names of the one’s to whom the letter was written. And then, finally you would find some closing words of blessing or well wishes, also known as a benediction. That is basically what you have here.
Some of Paul’s greetings are longer than others. His salutation to the church at Rome encompasses 7 verses; the salutation to the Galatians, 5 verses; his salutation to Titus takes up 4 verses. However, his salutation to the Colossians is rather short, only consisting of two verses. Some of his salutations are very meaty and filled with theology (e.g. Rom. 1:1-7). The salutation here is not as meaty as some of his others, but there are some important theological truths in these two verses. And there are also some very practical things for us as well. Paul doesn’t waste a word. He uses his salutation to impart important theological and practical truth.
There are four basic elements that comprise this salutation. And those will be the focus of our study in this post. We see the author, the companion, the recipients, and finally, the benediction.
1. The Author (v. 1a)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1:1a)
So, first, let’s consider the author. And we already considered this in the previous post by way of introduction. But in this post we will consider that from a slightly different angle. So, who is the author? Who wrote the book? The answer: Paul. Paul begins this epistle, the way he does all thirteen of his New Testament epistles, by writing his name and thus affirming that he is the author. Remember, Paul had never been to Colossae. To many of the Colossians, he was not personally known. And therefore, in the truest sense, he is introducing himself to them.
Look at how he describes himself. He begins by asserting his authority: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ”. What is an apostle? The word apostolos refers to a messenger, an envoy, a delegate; one sent by another to represent him in some way. It is an authoritative messenger. The apostle is as the man himself. He carries with him the very authority of the one who sends him.
The word can be used to refer to a messenger in a more general sense. In the Bible we have to distinguish between what we could call “big A” apostles and “little a” apostles. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 8:23 Paul refers to some of his companions as “messengers [apostolos, apostles] of the churches”. They were what we could call “little a” apostles. They were sent out by the churches for a specific purpose. However, they must be distinguished from the “big A” apostles. When the word apostolos is joined with the words “of Jesus Christ” as it is here, it always refers to a special class of men who were chosen by Christ and thus carried the very authority of Christ.
This special class of men would include the original twelve (Mt. 10:2-4), with Judas replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:12-26), and Paul later added as one untimely born (Acts 9; Rom. 11:13; 1 Cor. 15:8). And these men were all chosen directly by Christ. For instance, consider the words of our Lord from Luke 6:
“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Lk. 6:12-15).
It must be noted that there is a difference between an apostle and a disciple. These are two words that are often used synonymously. But they are not synonyms. Every Christian is a disciple (Acts 11:26). However, every Christian is not an apostle in the official sense. Out of the larger group of His disciples Jesus chose twelve of them to be His apostles (Lk. 6:13). That is, His special, authoritative, messengers.
What are some qualifications that must be met for someone to be an apostle of Christ? He had to have seen the risen Lord, so that he could be an eyewitness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1). And secondly, he had to be chosen by the risen Lord. In Acts 1 the disciple prayed, “show which one of these two you have chosen” (Acts 1:24). So that class of men included the original twelve with Judas replaced by Matthias and Paul was later added as the apostle to the Gentiles.
The apostles carried with them divine authority. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul speaks of that authority, saying to the Corinthians, “For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down”. So, the Lord had given to Paul, as an apostle, some sort of divine authority.
The apostles possessed divine authority. They were also eyewitnesses of the resurrection. Another responsibility they had was authenticating the gospel by working miracles. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles”. Their miracles were for the purpose of authenticating the gospel message. There was no New Testament yet. How did they distinguish between a false apostle, such as those at Corinth, and a true apostle, such as Paul? A true apostle healed the sick, casted out demons, raised the dead, and so forth.
Another responsibility of the apostles was to lay the foundation of the church. In Ephesians 2:20 Paul says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets”. The foundation they laid was Holy Scripture, or more specifically the New Testament. The apostles were charged with laying down the foundational doctrines of the church by writing Holy Scripture.
The apostles included the original 12, Judas replaced by Mathias, and Paul added later as one untimely born. And with the death of the apostle John and the closing of the canon at the end of the 1st century the office of apostle ceased. God’s former ways of revealing Himself have now ceased. His revelation is complete in the Bible. We don’t need any more apostles nor any more signs of an apostle. The office has ceased. They do, however, still minster to us today through their writings.
So Paul was an apostle in this sense. He was an authoritative messenger of Christ Jesus. He carried with him the very authority of Christ. But notice how he on goes to describe his apostleship. He was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”. He was no mere self-appointed apostle. He didn’t take the office upon himself. He didn’t thrust himself into the ministry. On the contrary, He was chosen by Christ on the Damascus Road in Acts chapter nine as He encountered the risen Christ. And all of this was according to “the will of God”. God had sovereignly chosen Paul to be an apostle before the foundation of the world (Gal. 1:15). It was according to His will of decree. But also, he was an apostle according to God’s revealed will in time. And therefore, as an apostle he carried with him divine authority, and was in this case, writing the very words of God.
Remember Paul had never been to Colossae (2:1). What right did he have to address them? He wasn’t their church planter or pastor. Yet he writes to them as an apostle of Jesus Christ; as a divinely sent authoritative messenger of Christ. And therefore, he wrote to them with divine authority. And they were to give heed to his words as the words of God Himself.
And so it is for us. The ultimate author behind Colossians isn’t Paul, but the Holy Spirit. And God intended this letter not just for the church in the first century, but for the whole church for all time. He intended it even for us “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). And therefore, we likewise must give heed to Paul’s words and receive them for what they really are, namely the words of God. May we remember that as we continue to work our way through this epistle.
2. The Companion (v. 1b)
and Timothy our brother (1:1b)
So that’s the author, Paul. But now let’s consider the second element of this greeting, the companion. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother”. Now by saying, “and Timothy,” he is not meaning to convey that Timothy was the co-author of this epistle. Timothy was not the author. Timothy did not write any book of Scripture. Paul is the only human author of the book (4:18). He is merely introducing Timothy to the Colossians as his dearly beloved companion. Timothy was sending greetings to the Colossians along with the apostle. Paul includes Timothy’s name only that he might also be known to the Colossians.
Who is Timothy? We first encounter him in Acts chapter 16. On his second missionary journey, Paul returned to the cities he had preached in during his first missionary journey, namely Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium. And Acts 16 verse 1 tells us this: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek”. So Timothy had a Jewish mother, while his father was a Greek.
In 2 Timothy we learn that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures from childhood by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). As a result, he was made wise for the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. So, when Paul came to Lystra and Iconium and Derbe during his first missionary journey in Acts 14, Timothy and his mother and his grandmother were already Jewish Old Testament believers. They were converted either directly or indirectly through the ministry of Paul.
And by the time of Paul’s follow up visit during his second missionary journey, verse 2 of Acts 16 tells us that “he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium”. So, Timothy had a good standing in the churches in that region. He was a mature believer with a good testimony in the church. And, consequently, verse 3 tells us that “Paul wanted this man to go with him”. And thus was the beginning of the discipling relationship between Paul and Timothy.
Timothy became Paul’s dearest companion. In 1 Timothy 1:1 Paul refers to him as “my true child in the faith”. In 2 Timothy 1:1 he refers to him as “my beloved son”. In Philippians chapter 2 he says this about Timothy:
“But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father” (Php. 2:19-22).
So Timothy had become a spiritual son in the faith to Paul. He was Paul’s protégé. Paul was his mentor, his discipler, his spiritual father. And indeed, shouldn’t we all have discipling relationships like that? We should all have a Paul in our lives; one who mentors us, disciples us, trains us, and equips us to be faithful disciples of Jesus. And we ought to have Timothy’s in our lives; those whom we are discipling and training and equipping and mentoring. Do you have people like that in your life? Are you faithfully engaging in discipling relationships? Is there someone who mentors you? Trains you? Disciples you? Is there anyone in your life that you’re discipling and mentoring? May it be that we would be faithful to establish deep discipling relationships with other believers.
That is the kind of relationship Paul had with Timothy. He was his dear companion. And Paul wants to introduce Timothy to the Colossians and inform them that he also sends greetings to them.
But look at how he goes on to describe Timothy. He says, “and Timothy our brother”. Literally, “the brother”. Why is he called “the brother”? Because that is exactly what he was. He wasn’t simply Paul’s companion. He was also Paul’s brother. And he was the brother of all the Colossians as well. All Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ, having the same Father, namely God. We have all been adopted into the family of God. We “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). We’ve all received the same grace of adoption and regeneration. And therefore, in the words of Romans 12:10, we should “be devoted to one another in brotherly love”. That is the way Paul loved Timothy. And therefore, Paul was eager to introduce him to the Colossians as his companion and their brother.
3. The Recipients (v. 2a)
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae (1:2a)
We’ve seen the author, Paul, and the companion, Timothy, but now thirdly, notice the recipients. And we considered this last time as well, by way of introduction, but this morning we will also consider this from a different angle. To whom did Paul write this letter? To whom was it addressed? Verse 2: “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae”. Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Colossae or to the church at Colossae. And last week we talked a little bit about the city and the church there, noting that it was probably planted by Epaphras.
But now, notice how Paul describes the believers that constituted the church at Colossae. There is a three-fold identification of these believers. First, he calls them saints. “To the saints”. What is a saint? It’s from the Greek word hagios, which means holy or set apart. It refers to those who have been set apart from sin to God in righteousness. It’s a holy one. And notice, Paul is writing to living saints. Saints are not old dead Christians who have been canonized by the Catholic Church, such as Mother Teresa. On the contrary, saints are, in this case, clearly believers who are currently alive. And he calls all of the believers at Colossae saints. And that is because all Christians are saints.
This is a reference to our position in Christ. When we talk about sanctification, which is from the root word hagios, we usually think about the way we live our lives. And it is true that the Bible does teach a kind of practical or progressive sanctification (Rom. 6:22; 1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 12:14), in which we are really growing in Christlikeness; in which we grow in holiness; in which we see a decreasing pattern of sin and an increasing pattern of righteousness (1 Jn. 3:4-10). There is no doubt that true believers will experience a progressive sanctification. There is also what we could call a perfect sanctification, when we are made perfectly holy in the new heavens and the new earth and receive the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). However, as believers we are saints at the moment of our conversion because of our position in Christ.
This is what we could call positional sanctification. That is to say, at the moment of our conversion we are clothed in the very righteousness of Christ so that in our position before God we are no longer sinners but saints. No longer sinful but holy. God sees not our sin but Christ’s righteousness. As Paul told the Galatians, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
Paul describes this positional sanctification in verse 22: “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach”. That is positional sanctification. That is your position before God today if you are in Christ. If you are in union with Him through faith you are clothed in His righteousness, so that you are “before Him,” in His sight, holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. Believers are sinless and perfect in God’s sight.
However, if you have not come into union with Christ by faith then that is not the case for you. If you are not in Christ, your greatest righteousness is as a filthy rag before God (Is. 64:6). You are “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17); sinful, guilty, and unclean in His sight. And His wrath abides upon you. The only way to be a saint, the only way to be holy in God’s sight, is through faith in Christ; through union with the Son of God; to be clothed in His righteousness. For that reason, the Lord exhorted the lukewarm Laodiceans with these words: “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed” (Rev. 3:18).
In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 2, notice how Paul addressees the believers at Corinth. He writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours”. Notice, those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in faith are sanctified, that is set apart from sin to God by virtue of their union with Christ, being clothed in His righteousness. And having been sanctified they are saints, holy ones by calling.
Thus is your position before God, oh child of God. Even on your worst of days you stand perfect in His sight; Holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. And on your best of days you are only acceptable to God because of Christ’s righteousness. Because through union with Him you are made holy. We are saints.
But notice the second designation of these believers. He describes them as, “saints and faithful brethren in Christ”. They are faithful brethren. The word faithful translates the Greek word pistos, and its basic meaning is trustworthy, faithful, or believing. It is related to the word for faith, pisteúō, and both words have the idea of persuasion. So perhaps what Paul is saying is this: These believers at Colossae are saints because of their faith in Christ. In other words, the source of their sainthood is their faith. They are saints by virtue of their union with Christ by faith. And we have already established that to be true.
However, the usual meaning of the word pistos is faithful, trustworthy, or reliable. And therefore, the sense of Paul’s words is this: These believers at Colossae are faithful to Christ. That is, they are faithful to obey Him, to follow Him, to love Him. They are faithful to Christ. That is probably what Paul means. Whereas “saint” deals with our position, “faithful” deals with our practice. We demonstrate the reality of our sainthood by our faithfulness. We demonstrate that we are holy in our position before God by becoming more holy in our lives before men. We demonstrate the genuineness or validity of our faith in Christ by our faithfulness to Christ (1 Jn. 2:3-6; 3:4-10).
In Hebrews 10:10 we read this: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. So there is, in light of this verse, a once for all sanctification. A sense in which we are, by virtue of Christ’s work on the cross, once and for all set apart from sin and made holy before God. However, in Hebrews 12:14 we read this: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord”. So, although there is a once and for all sanctification, there is also a sanctification that we must pursue. We must pursue holiness. We must pursue obedience. And without that we will not see the Lord in His kingdom at all. Because progressive sanctification is the evidence of positional sanctification. Actual growth in holiness is the evidence we are holy in God’s sight positionally. Faithfulness to Christ is the evidence of our faith in Christ.
Jesus says in John 14:15, if you love Me you will keep My commandments. In John 8:31 He said, if you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine. Faithfulness to the Lord is the sign of true conversion. Is your life marked by faithfulness to Christ? Are you growing in holiness and obedience? If not you will not see the Lord.
But now, notice the third and final designation of these believers. They are not only saints and brethren who are faithful, but they are “in Christ”. “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ”. All of this is possible because they are in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? It means to be in union with Him. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”. Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”. Romans 6:5 says that “we have become united with Him”. The Spirit has placed us into union with Christ so they we are now identified with Him. We belong to Him. We are clothed with Him. And thus we are saints and faithful in Him.
These things are true for all believers, but Paul is writing to a very specific group of saints: To those “who are at Colossae”. These saints at Colossae were all of these things because they were in Christ.
4. The Benediction (v. 2b)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father (1:2b)
So, we’ve seen the author, Paul; the companion, Timothy; and the recipients, the church at Colossae. But now let’s consider the fourth and final element of this salutation: the benediction. At the end of verse 2 Paul writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father”.
The word grace, charis in the Greek, is just the usual word translated grace in the New Testament. The word refers to the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor and kindness of God. The whole of our salvation is of grace. However, Paul is not praying for the Colossians to receive saving grace, for they received that at the moment of their salvation. Instead, he is praying for God to bestow upon them sanctifying, strengthening, and sustaining grace. The grace that they need to maintain their relationship with the Lord and grow in grace.
And the word peace, it could mean quietness, or rest, or wholeness. It could also refer to relational peace. That is a lack of hostility between two parties. A sense of harmony. Sinners have this objective, relational, unchanging peace with God because Christ died for us. There is no more hostility between God and His redeemed saints, for Christ bore the wrath of God for us on the cross. And thus, according to Romans 5:1, “having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. And that peace flows from God’s grace.
However, Paul isn’t talking about that peace here. The Colossian believers received the objective, relational peace with God at the moment of their conversion. Believers are forever in a right relationship with God. Paul isn’t praying for peace with God but the peace of God. He’s praying for the peace he describes in Philippians 4:7, that is “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, [and] guards [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus”.
This peace is a sense of deep-seated security and joy. And it’s based on our relational peace with God. Because we have peace with God we can, and should, have the peace of God in our hearts. However, believers do not always possess that inner peace. And therefore, Paul prays that by the grace of God the believers at Colossae would know such peace. And in the same way, may we pray for God’s grace and peace to be lavished upon our fellow brothers and sisters as well.
Finally, notice the source of this grace and peace. It is “from God our Father”. Some manuscripts add “and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Both God and Christ are equally the source of grace and peace. There is no grace nor any peace apart from God in Christ. If anyone fancies himself that he has peace apart from Christ, he says to himself, “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). Friends, true peace, true joy, true security is found in Christ and Christ alone. And those who are His have the ability to have that peace reigning in their hearts at all times by faith, if we would simply hope and trust in Him.
We’ve seen the author: Paul; the companion: Timothy; the recipients: the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae; and finally, the benediction: grace to you and peace from God our Father. Do you have that peace? If you haven’t truly put your faith in Christ, you cannot genuinely know such peace. And thus, I would plead with you today, repent and run to Christ that you may have peace with God and thus the peace of God. Perhaps you are a believer but due to a trial or some difficulty in your life, or due to some persistent sin, that peace has dissipated in your heart. My prayer for you is that you would know the grace and peace of God, and that that peace would reign in your heart through all the trials of life. And may this be the prayer of all believers. May each of us be faithful to pray for one another that we would all know the grace and peace of God in Christ. And may we pray these things for the good of the church and the glory of our great God.