1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,
8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
We all know the importance of thanksgiving (1 Thess 5:17). We teach it to our children … “thank your mother for a wonderful meal,” “thank daddy for faithfully working hard so you have food to eat and clothing to wear,” “thank your teachers for the work they do in order to help you learn about the Lord and what he has done,” and on and on the list could go. We also know that we need to cultivate a thankful heart in all things. If we don’t, frustration, anger, and bitterness are often the alternatives. So, developing thankfulness is clearly important.
However, it is very instructive for us to understand what Paul prays for and gives thanks for in the NT. After the standard introduction, in Col 1:3-8 we find that Paul gives thanks to God for those in Colosse for two basic reasons:
- Their Faith in Christ (v. 4)
- Their Love for all the Saints (v. 4)
Two very logical questions flow from the passage: (1) could others give thanks to God for me because I exercise both of these things? And (2) When I think of giving thanks are these some of the things I think about in the lives of others?
From Rags to Riches … Spiritually [Faith in Christ]
“Faith in Christ” could refer to object of their faith … that is Christ. There is no question, of course, that the believers exercised their faith in Christ. However, the emphasis in this passage is that their faith operates while being united with Christ. In other words, Christ is the “living environment” where their faith operated. Thus, Paul thanks God for the fact that the believers have been transformed by the power of Christ through the gospel message faithfully proclaimed (vv. 6-8). They formerly were lost and dead in their sins (2:13), but now they are alive and in union with Jesus. They were once in spiritual rags and now they have a hope in heaven (e.g. an inheritance) that has made them spiritual rich. For Paul, hearing of a person who once exercised their faith in darkness to now being able to exercise that faith in union with Christ is a great reason to give thanks.
Friend, your faith can operate in the world of darkness, where the only hope is found in pursuit of happiness (whatever that may be for an individual) or your faith can operate in union with Christ where there is hope not only for today, but also for the bright future of tomorrow. If you are a follower of Christ then your story is already one of “rags to riches.” For you and every person you know in that position, there is great reason to be thankful. For those of you who don’t know Christ, the gospel message is a simple one … believe that you are sinner and that your sin separates you from a holy God … believe in your heart that Jesus is exactly who he said he was and that his death, burial, and resurrection was sufficient to pay for your sin … and confess that you need his forgiveness. We would encourage you to embrace that message today.
From Riches to Generosity [Love for all the saints]
A second reason Paul gave thanks was the love that these believers exercised for their fellow believers. There is an apologetic value to the world around when believers genuinely love one another. In other words, the riches given in Christ put believers in the best possible position to love others. Murray Harris put it this way, “The inheritance [speaking of hope in v. 5] of Christians has the effect of stimulating in them stronger faith and deeper love” (Colossians & Philemon, (1991), 17). Is that true for you? Do the riches in Christ stimulate you to generosity of love?
God’s Word in Col 1:1-8 reminds us of the significance of the work of Christ that allows us to exercise faith in union with Christ, and the importance of loving others. So let us encourage you today to:
- Put your faith and trust in Christ today by repenting of your sin and believing in heart in the finished work of Jesus
- Demonstrate one act of love each day this week toward your fellow “saints.”
- Give thanks for the faith and love of others in your life