Colossians 1:1-8

Salutations (1-2): Paul opens this epistle with a formal introduction of himself as "an apostle of Jesus Christ"[1] and of Timothy as the brother.[2] The recipients are believers, who are "saints and faithful brethren in Christ." They reside in the Roman province of Asia in a city called Colossae which is near two more prominent cities mentioned in this letter: Laodicea and Hierapolis.[3] These believers were evangelized through a man named Epaphras,[4] who himself was a Colossian native.[5] During Paul's imprisonment,[6] this man visits Paul to bring news about the Colossians, both the good[7] and the bad.[8] Even though he is aware of the issues he must address, Paul first warmly greets them with his typical salutation,[9] wishing them God's grace and peace.

Thanksgiving (3-4): As Paul often does, he then begins his letter with a word of thanksgiving. This is thanks from both him and Timothy, and together, they direct their thanks to the high and supreme God, "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."[10] This isn't just a grateful feeling. This is actually voicing gratitude to God in prayer: "We give thanks to God… praying." Now, what engenders this thanksgiving in prayer (more on prayer in 1:9ff.) is the news they heard about their faith and their love (1:4). This is the first time they heard about these believers.[11] There were souls God redeemed in Colossae, and they exhibited these marks of genuine salvation. This is a tremendous cause for thanks, and Paul and Timothy do not take it for granted. They do not cease[12] praying and giving thanks. There is a body of believers that sprang up in Colossae!

Love (5-8): Of the two traits mentioned, Paul expands on the latter: love.[13] He explains what ignited this love for the saints. It was their "hope[14] laid up… in heaven" (1:5). Since they are assured of heavenly possessions,[15] they cease holding onto things in this life. They have better treasures in heaven! And they became generous[16] and big-hearted people ("for all the saints"!). Heavenly security led to this kind of liberality! What gave them this security? It was "the word of truth,"[17] "the gospel," which they heard from Epaphras. This man taught and discipled them[18] and so they came to know "the grace of God." God uses men like this "faithful servant" to let His Word bear fruit and increase, and more disciples are made! May the Lord raise up more men like Epaphras!

[1] Paul knows the weightiness of this title (Eph. 2:20; 1 Thess. 2:6; 1 Tim. 2:7). He only appeals to it when he must establish or call to mind this authority. With others, he leaves it out (Phil. 1:1, 1+2 Thess. 1:1, Phm. 1).

[2] As NASB footnotes, "our" is just the article "the" (NET, "my"). The audience may have known Timothy as a brother, but this verse does not say. Timothy is included in various sections in the 1st person plural pronouns, but never as a fellow apostle. The main speaker is Paul as seen in the many 1st person singular pronouns.

[3] References to Laodicea are plenty (2:1; 4:13-16; Rev. 3:17 [wealthy!]). It is 10 mi. due West. Hierapolis is mentioned once (4:13), and it is 12 mi. due NW. These cities in the Lycus Valley belong to the Roman province of Asia. Only ruins exist today as earthquakes later destroyed them according to extrabiblical history.

[4] Cf. 1:5-7 ("you previously heard… the gospel… you learned it from Epaphras"). This outreach took place through this man during Paul's Ephesian ministry when "all who lived in Asia heard the word…" (Acts 19:10).

[5] Cf. 4:12 ("Epaphras, who is one of your number [or better rendered, "one of you" (ESV, NKJV, NET)]").

[6] Cf. 4:18 ("Remember my imprisonment"). No reference to location is given like Phil. 4:22, but the freedom to evangelize (cf. 4:3-4) and Aristarchus' presence (cf. Acts 27:2; Col. 4:10) make Rome the best match.

[7] Cf. 1:8 ("he [Epaphras] also informed us of your love in the Spirit").

[8] Paul addresses many evil influences that were bombarding them. It goes without saying that he heard this news also from this man, since they just heard about these saints through Epaphras.

[9] Christ is not also named as the source. This is odd but not entirely so, since 1 Thess. 1:1 names no source.

[10] This exalts the Father even above the very person who is our authority, our Lord Jesus Christ.

[11] The language of "since we heard of your faith…" indicates they were unaware of these believers until Epaphras brought news. This also explains why they began to pray for them "since the day we heard" (1:9).

[12] This mode of "praying always for you" is also seen in 1:9 ("we have not ceased to pray for you").

[13] Love is what's explained in 1:5-8. NASB's semicolon in 1:4 is best left out, and the phrase "because of the hope" should be seen as modifying the statement "you have [love] for all the saints" (1:4). Love is the focus of this section which ends with a reference to their love once again in 1:8 ("informed us of your love").

[14] "Hope" here is the object of hope (heavenly possessions), not the act of hope. This is hope laid up in heaven.

[15] This is the sense of "the hope laid up for you." There were secure possessions in heaven for them.

[16] How they loved is unstated. But since heavenly possessions led to this love, generosity seems like a good fit.

[17] This truth is about Christ (1:4; 2:5-6) who rose from the dead (2:12), who will glorify us (3:4).

[18] They "learned it from Epaphras" (1:7). The verb is man-tha- (μανθάνω) from which comes ma-thē-tēs (μαθητής), a "learner"/"disciple." Epaphras discipled them.