Lesson 1: A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lesson One: A Prayer of Thanksgiving

(Colossians 1:1-11)




Paul wrote this important letter while imprisoned in Rome.  Three other prison epistles bear his name: Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Ephesians and Colossians were written around the same time, probably around 60-62 a.d.  In his friendly letter to Philemon he identifies himself as "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus."  However, in this letter he is "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."  He is writing as someone with authority from the Lord.

The great apostle adds, "and Timothy our brother."  Young Timothy was "a true son in the faith."  1 Timothy 1:2.  He accompanied Paul in his missionary endeavors, and also stood by him in difficult situations.



The letter was addressed "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse."  The saints and faithful brethren were one and the same.  According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a saint is defined, "in the New Testament, any Christian."  This is true.  See 1 Corinthians 1:2.  There is a second definition: "in certain churches, a person officially recognized as having lived an exceptionally holy life, and thus as being in heaven and capable of interceding for sinners."  Some examples are Saint Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, and Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  Saint Bernard, a large dog trained to rescue travelers in the snow, does not fall into this erroneous category.

Colosse was a city in Asia Minor, located about 100 miles east of Ephesus.  It is never mentioned in the book of Acts, and it appears that the apostle Paul had never visited there.  See Colossians 2:1.  The city does not exist today.



"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Grace was a Greek greeting; peace was Hebrew.  Paul is addressing both Jews and Gentiles.  Apart from the grace of God we cannot know the peace of God.  Grace and peace belong to all who are in Christ Jesus.




We don't know who founded the church at Colosse.  However, a true leader in the church was Epaphras, whom Paul describes as "our dear fellow servant," and "faithful minister of Christ."  At the end of the letter he writes, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."  See Colossians 1:7; 4:12.

Epaphras was a bearer of good news to Paul.  He spoke well of the Christians in Colosse, moving the apostle to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

Thanksgiving is commonly expressed through prayer.  That's how Paul articulated his thanksgiving to God for the Christians at Colosse.  "We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." 



Paul heard from Epaphras of the faith, love, and hope of the saints and faithful brethren.  This trilogy of faith, love, and hope is also found in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where we read of the "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ...."

Notice that the faith of the brethren was not in the saints, but in Christ Jesus.  Those who put their faith in men, even godly men, may set themselves up for disappointment.  Jeremiah wrote, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength....  Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord."  Jeremiah 17:5, 7.

While our faith is in Christ, our love in the Spirit should be "for all the saints."  Christians should be known by their love.  John, also known as the apostle of love, wrote, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren."  1 John 3:14. 

The loving believers at Colosse possessed a living hope, laid up for them in heaven.  But what gave birth the this faith, love, and hope?  How did it come about?



They possessed faith, hope, and love, because "the word of the truth of the gospel" had come to them.  The gospel is the good news that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."  Some might add, "And that He was seen...."  1 Corinthians 15:3-8.  In all its simplicity..."For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16.  The Colossians heard the word of the truth of the gospel, and believed. 

The gospel of God's grace not only brings salvation.  It also "is bringing forth fruit" in all the world.

At times pastors, missionaries, and other Christians get a bad rap from people who claim that they are so heavenly minded they aren't any earthly good.  That isn't true.  Evangelical Christianity has established Christian schools throughout the world.  Written languages have been prepared in places where no writing existed.  The sanctity of human life, the worth of the individual, social justice, and freedom of thought and expression have always been promoted and defended by Christians.  Followers of Jesus Christ are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.  The gospel does bring forth fruit.

The apostle Paul gave thanks to God for the faithful brethren in Colosse, praying for them. 



Since the day that Paul heard of the faith, love, and hope of the Colossian believers he did not cease to pray for them.  They were always on his mind, and he had specific requests which he had made known to God.



Paul wanted them to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."  Our pursuit of the knowledge of His will begins on our knees with the question, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"  See Acts 9:6. 

Understanding the will of God is a spiritual undertaking.  God's thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways are not our ways.  Read Isaiah 55:8, 9.  Consider Romans 12:1, 2, which says, "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." 

The word "present" may more accurately be translated, "continue to present," since it is written in the progressive present tense.  In other words, keep on presenting yourself to God.... 



Paul prayed that they "may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him."  Perhaps the apostle had Enoch in mind, when he offered this prayer.  It was said of Enoch that he walked with God.  See Genesis 5:21-24.  Then we read about Enoch in Hebrews 11:5, where "he had this testimony, that he pleased God."  Enoch walked by faith.  Without faith it's impossible to please God.  Hebrews 11:6.

Paul mentions two ways that we may fully please the Lord.  First, by "being fruitful in every good work."  One good work with which He is pleased is participation in the ministry of the gospel.  See 1 Corinthians 1:21.  A familiar verse is Matthew 5:16.  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  God wants you to both speak and shine for Him.  Second, you may please the Lord by "increasing in the knowledge of God."  Where can you find this knowledge?  In the Bible!  This is the means through which we may come to know Him more and more.  Read Proverbs 2:1-9.



Finally, Paul prayed that the brethren at Colosse would be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power."  Power!  God's power!  Imagine being made strong with the power of the Almighty! 

When some people read this, their thoughts turn to healing the sick, or raising the dead, or performing some other miracle.  But that's not what the apostle Paul had in mind.  Instead, he wanted the Christians at Colosse to be strengthened "for all patience and longsuffering with joy."

The apostolic church was a persecuted church.  Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."  Philippians 1:29.  The need of the hour was for patient endurance, for strength to suffer for Christ joyfully.  In Acts 5:40, 41 we learn that the apostles were beaten and warned not to speak in the name of Jesus.  "So they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."

Do you thank God for others, who share your faith, love, and hope?  Do you know that God wants to answer Paul's prayer on your behalf?  He really does want you to know His will, and walk worthy of Him, being strengthened with His might.


Lesson 2 - The Supremacy of Christ



All About God

Scripture taken from the
New King James Version.
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1979, 1980, 1982
by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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