The Colossians epistle, Colossians 1:1-14, centers on Christ and the Church. It challenges teachings that threaten the uniqueness and sovereignty of Christ. A prayer of thanksgiving for the young church’s faith, love and hope is followed by petitions that the Colossians may grow in spiritual wisdom and bear fruit in every good work.

Letters like this remind us what a powerful medium letter writing can be. These opening lines of the letter to the Colossians summarize its mission to encourage and reassure the believers in this young congregation. Knowing the slippage, confusion and temptations young churches are prone to, Paul sent out this anchor of blessed remembrance and hope to help them hold fast to the promise planted in them.

Paul in his epistle lists five benefits God gives all believers through Jesus Christ:

  1. He made us qualified to share his inheritance ( 2 Corin. 5:21)
  2. He rescued us from Satan’s dominion of darkness and made us his children (2 Corin. 2:15)
  3. He brought us into his eternal kingdom (Heb. 1:5,6)
  4. He redeemed us (Heb.9:12)
  5. He forgave all our sins(Eph.1:7).

Paul lifts up their teacher, Epaphras, who not only shared the gospel with them, but also told him about their growth in love. Paul is ardent in his concern and prayers that they continue to grow and bear fruit, as he reminds them that the gospel is also growing throughout the Roman Empire. They are not alone. The unspoken earnest desire is that the seeds of goodness planted in them will not have been nurtured there in vain.

Paul reminds his fledglings of their personal relationship to the one who brought them to the faith, knowing how powerful those bonds can be in helping them to keep the faith. Everyone has their “embodiments” of the faith, hope and love of Christ in persons who have brought these to life for them. Recalling and sharing these puts the metal back into the beam.

“Look at the resources you have!” Paul says. The Colossians have received “the word of the truth” (v.5). Just allowing this to be present in their awareness will result in its growth and bearing of fruit among them. They have “love in the spirit” (v.8). What a blessing it is to be reminded of our asset! How it can strengthen and even make real for us those qualities that others “see” in us, good or ill!

Here Paul reinforces the goodness of the community as he recounts and celebrates its graces. He is also invoking “spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v.9) on the wings of prayer for the discerning of God’s will. Add to all this the strength of God’s glorious power” (v.11), and we might imagine that such an outpouring of gifts and graces would have them feeling by this point very strong indeed. This will enable them to have the patience and spirit of thanksgiving in everything that Paul knows they will also need.

Endless assurance — there will be no shortfalls in the retirement insurance for the community of faith. The hope is “laid up for you in heaven” (v.5). God has already “transferred us into the kingdom” (v.13). It’s a done deal. They are safely insured with the ultimate person plan in place for an unlimited time. Fortunately, everything in this letter is for us too.

J.B. Morris leads the Rock Hill United Methodist Church.