Colossians 1:1-2
A couple walks hand in hand down the beach at sunset at Arcadia Beach on the Oregon Coast.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. ~Colossians 1:1-2

Paul wrote nearly half of the books in the New Testament, 13 of 27. His “books” were actually letters, mostly to churches such as his letter to the Church in Colossae.

At the beginning of his letters, Paul begins with salutations, letting his readers know who is writing the letter, to whom the letter is written, and focusing the readers of the letter upon God.

Paul begins the letter to the Colossians by introducing himself. He’s never meet the people of this congregation. He lets them know is is an “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

An apostle is someone who is sent by God for a specific purpose, to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. An apostle, like a messenger or an ambassador, represents the one who sent them. Paul represents Christ Jesus to the Colossians. Paul was made an apostle by God’s will, meaning God decided on this, God personally chose Paul to be God’s apostle. The idea was not first Paul’s but God’s. God got Paul’s attention and told him that he was to begin serving as God’s apostle.

In Acts 9:15-16, God told Ananias to go to the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, now living in Damascus, Syria, and told Ananias what Saul’s (Paul) life calling was to be. “The Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul’s apostolic mission was to be God’s chosen instrument, to be an apostle, to go proclaim the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, as well as to the people of Israel. This calling cost Paul much suffering in Jesus’ name.

Timothy our brother: Paul usually traveled with at least one other person, choosing to do ministry in community, walking alongside another along the way to the next town or village where they would proclaim Jesus’ name. During his second missionary journey, when Paul came into central Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), to the town of Lystra, near Derbe, he met “a disciple named Timothy” who lived there, “whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). Paul invited Timothy to join him and began to mentor him, training him to become a pastor and writing several pastoral letters to him what we have in the New Testament.

In Colossians 1:1, Paul names Timothy as “our brother,” someone who shares life in the family of God as a follower of Jesus. Paul names Timothy here because he was Paul’s companion in ministry and in some ways, also involved in composing and sending the letter to the Church in Colossae. Paul names Timothy as co-author of six of his 13 letters.

Colossians is written to God’s holy people in Colossae. The Church is people, not buildings. We today often associate the word “Church” with a building, the structure built as a place for Christian worship and ministry. But the Church building is just the box that houses the mystery and holy wonder of God’s holy people, the real Church. Anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ is part of God’s Church, one of God’s holy people.

We are not holy within ourselves, by any merit of our own. We are only holy people because God is holy, and God has come to dwell within us. Where God dwells is holy. When God comes to live within us, God cleans house, forgives sins, washes us, and makes us holy.

The Greek word for holy, ἁγίοις, hagios, means to be set apart for God, different than the culture and world around you.

Faithful brothers and sisters: the Church is made up of people, men and women who are faithful to Jesus Christ, living their shared life in Christ. The Greek word for faithful, pistos, means reliable, trustworthy, dependable. As followers of Jesus, we rely upon Christ, we depend upon the trustworthy nature of Jesus, and thus we become like the foundation upon which our lives rest. We become faithful, reliable, trustworthy, dependable people as we live our lives in Christ.

In Christ: we live within Christ’s life, hidden in Jesus, and Jesus lives within us. One of the aspects I love the most about Colossians, is the exalted Christology, the mysterious, beautiful, powerful theology of the identity of Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus? Paul affirms Jesus as the Christ, the only true God come to us in fulness of human nature, come in human flesh.

In the year ahead, we will look again and again into the mystery of Christ, to seek to better understand what it means to live in Christ.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father: Paul begins all of his letters with “grace and peace to you.” See Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thes 1:1, 1 Thes 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3.

Grace: Χάρις, Charis, God’s gift of grace, unmerited favor, surprising kindness.

Peace: εἰρήνη, Eirene, God’s wholeness, healing what was broken, uniting divisions, bringing back together what was separated.

Grace and peace comes to us from God our Father as a gift through Jesus Christ. Paul always opens his letters with these two heartbeats of God, grace and peace, gifts given to us from God, as a father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Colossians, as a letter, comes to us as a gift of God’s grace and peace for us.

At the beginning of a New Year, with new pages in a new calendar, may you and I commit to living with grace and peace in Christ Jesus, receiving the gifts of grace and peace from God our Father, passing along the abundant gifts of grace and peace to every person we meet this year.