As you know, over the summer months we are preaching through the Epistle to the Colossians, authored by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, and delivered to the members of the church in the city of Colossae. Having introduced the letter in the first two messages, this coming Lord’s Day morning we will begin digging down into the rich soil of this most magnificent Epistle. Our text will be Colossians 1:3-8.
When we consider this opening paragraph, we can see that the obvious theme of this section of Paul’s letter is thanksgiving. And having stated his spirit of praise and gratitude to God for his Colossian brethren, Paul sets out the reasons for this attitude of heart.
Now, this is pretty remarkable given the fact that Paul was in prison as he penned this letter! And, furthermore, the Colossian church was facing a grave threat to its very existence! On the surface, there was, to be sure, cause for alarm! As we have already discovered, the fellowship of believers in Colossae was under attack from a false teacher who was offering to them a gospel contrary to the truth. It sounded good and “plausible” (2:4), and it had the “appearance of wisdom” (2:23), and by some measures it seemed to offer a better way toward living a disciplined and godly life (2:23). But this was a most destructive and damning heresy in the eyes of Paul! So the Epistle has been written as an Apostolic warning to a church square in the bull’s eye of spiritual danger!
And then we learn later in chapter 2 that Paul was not only in prison for the cause of Christ Jesus, but deep in his heart there was a profound “struggle” going on. In 2:1, he says: “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face.” That word translated as “struggle” is our word agony. So Paul himself was clearly alarmed and disturbed as he wrote this inspired letter!
But despite all of this, the Apostle begins his message to them on the note of thanksgiving! Why would he do this? Why express gratitude to the Lord beforedealing with the church emergency? Why make thanksgiving his first move?