Paul writes of their prior life of estrangement and hostility to God manifested in evil deeds (1.21; 3.7). They were dead in their trespasses, unable to partake in the blessings of the covenant with Israel (uncircumcision of their flesh) (2.13), but having received the gospel through Epaphras (1.5), God raised them to life, reconciling them to himself (1.21), forgiving their sins through Christ’s death (2.12-14; 1.14). God has enabled them to share in the inheritance of his people (1.12), which is now the share of all in Christ, where ethnicity and rank/class is no longer of significance (3.11). They have become part of this new worldwide family (1.6; 2.2; 3.15) that belong to the kingdom of God’s Son, who is supreme over all powers (1.16-17; 2.10), having rescued them from the kingdom of darkness (1.14). This new life means that they have stripped off the old self with its earthly dispositions and practices and have been clothed with the new which is being renewed in the image of their creator, seen in Christ (3.9-10). All of this so that one day they may be presented as holy and mature in Christ (1.21, 28). In keeping with this he writes of their present faith, hope, and love (1.4) and of there moral and firmness of faith in Christ (2.5) which is the fruit the gospel has been bearing among them ever since they truly comprehended Gods grace in Christ (1.6). While their life is presently hidden with Christ in God, when Jesus is revealed so will they be in glory, this is their hope and future to which they now look forward (3.4; 1.5, 27).
Paul became an Apostle (1.1), a servant of the gospel (1.23) and of the church (1.25) by the will of God (1.1, 25). God commissioned him to make fully known to the Gentiles His word, the gospel about the hope of glory found in Christ (1.25-27). Paul, along with his co-workers proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with the goal of presenting them mature in Christ (1.28). For this he continues to toil and struggle, empowered by God (1.28), for the Colossians and for those in Laodicea and all those he has not met face to face (2.1). His desire is that all would be encouraged and united in love, and remain assured and steadfastly focused on Christ in whom all wisdom and understanding are found (2.2-3). As such he rejoices to here of their current firmness of faith (2.5). Ever since hearing of their faith Paul and Timothy have not ceased praying for them, thanking God for their faith, love, and hope (1.3-6), and asking that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and receive Gods empowering so that they may live lives pleasing to God, continuing to bear fruit in every good work, and being enabled to endure all things as he has and is, while sharing in the joy and thanksgiving which comprehension of their salvation brings (1.9-12). To this end he writes to the Colossians, in order to encourage and instruct them towards maturity in Christ (2.6-7), and to make them wise to the dangers of teachings and practices that are not rooted in Christ (2.4, 8, 19). He is currently undergoing suffering for their sake and the church as a whole, a prisoner because of the gospel (3.4, 18), yet rejoices in this (1.24). He requests prayer as one who is as much a recipient of grace as all in Christ (1.13), looking forward to the future asking that the Colossians would pray for him and his co-workers in their work of proclaiming the gospel (4.3), and for himself personally that he will be able to do so clearly (3.4).
Paul presents himself to the recipients of the letter as:
▪ An apostle of Christ and by God’s will (1.1), commissioned to be a servant of the church and the gospel (1.23) in order to make it fully known (1.25; particularly to the Gentiles 1.27) in order to present all mature in Christ (1.23, 28)
▪ As completely committed to this mission regardless of the trouble it causes him. He is a prisoner because of his proclamation of the gospel (4.3, 18) yet he takes joy in such sufferings, which are for the sake of Christ’s body, the church (1.24)
▪ As one who constantly struggles for the Colossians, the Laodiceans, and even those in Christ he has not met (2.1), seeking the unity of all in love (2.2)
▪ As a slave of Christ and fellow-slave of Epaphras (1.7; 4.12), his associate through whom they came to faith (1.7), and who he commends (4.12-13), and as grateful for and valuing of all those he works alongside (4.7-11)
▪ As one who constantly prays and thanks God for the Colossians, interceding for their growth in God (1.3, 9; 2.5)
▪ As deeply concerned for their perseverance and holding onto the gospel of Christ (1.11, 23; 2.5-7), and concerned for their being taken captive through teachings and practices not grounded in Christ (2.2, 6, 8-23)
▪ As one who is consciously reliant upon God for carrying out his commission (4.2-4)
21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him- 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. [NRSV]
• Through their comprehension of ‘the grace of God’ in the goodnews (1.6), they have been ‘reconciled’ to God.
• This is so that they may leave behind a life characterized by ‘evil deeds’ and become ‘holy, blameless and irreproachable before him’ for the day of judgment.
• This will only happen if they do not depart from the goodnews, in particular the ‘hope’.
• This ‘hope’ has been given a universal audience.
• Paul has become a servant of ‘this goodnews’.
From this passage and 1.3-7 we can establish that ‘the gospel’ is about actual events (‘word of truth’), and that it includes a forward looking dimension (‘hope’), all of which is of universal relevance (‘the whole world’; ‘every creature under heaven’). Furthermore, the reception of this news brings about a transformation in its recipients (‘bearing fruit’).
Two questions remain: 1) What real world events does the gospel speak of? 2) what is the nature of the ‘hope’ included within this?
3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. [NRSV]
What do we learn about ‘the gospel’ from this passage?
• The Colossian’s ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ and ‘love for all the saints’ spring from the ‘hope laid up in heaven’.
• This ‘hope’ was a part of ‘the goodnews’ (gospel) brought to them by Epaphras, a colleague of Paul and Timothy.
• This goodnews is ‘bearing fruit among them’ and ‘in the whole world’, it is impacting human life in keeping with what it communicates.
• It has been having this impact among them since they ‘heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God’.