Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. - Colossians 1:1-2
We turn our attention now back to Paul’s writings, as we focus for several weeks on his short letter to the Colossians. Paul begins this letter, as he begins most of his letters, by identifying himself and offering his credentials. ”An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” he writes. Paul was a lightening rod of controversy, and while many Christians today revere his insights and appreciate his faithful witness, he tended to create more enemies than friends during his lifetime. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 11 that he had enemies on every front – the Romans, the Jews, even his fellow followers of Christ Jesus. He was often in jail, often in conflict, often in trouble. So, to introduce himself to his readers, he needs to give his credentials.
Paul calls himself “an Apostle of Christ Jesus.” An apostle is defined in various ways in the Christian faith but etymologically the term “apostle” comes from the Greek word apóstólos, which includes the prefix apó- (“from”) and root stéllō (“I send”). There is some thought that no one who was not an eye-witness of the resurrected Christ could gain the status of apostleship in the Church. This provision served as an obstacle to Paul, who never knew Jesus. Paul, however, claims that his experience on the Damascus road was a resurrection appearance, and he claimed a relationship with Jesus as his apostle.
Apostle means ”messenger” or “envoy.” Surely Paul lived out the role of an apostle. Perhaps we see Paul’s claim to apostleship most fully when we recognize that the Latin term for apostle is “missio,” from which we get the word “missionary.” No one could deny that Paul was the missionary to the Gentiles, Paul understands his status to be granted neither by his own decision nor by his own doing, but by God’s direct calling.
Paul is writing the letter with Timothy, his companion. It could be that Timothy was recording Paul’s words, much like a secretary, due to Paul’s difficulties with his vision. The letter comes from both of them and, in customary Pauline style, is addressed to all the “saints and faithful brothers and sisters.” This is not an open letter to all the world, and to this day, those who understand Paul’s message best are those whose lives have been given over to Christ Jesus.
Paul uses his customary greeting, blending the Greek and Hebrew traditions, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Paul’s assurance is that his words come in peace; his words bring good news from God.
Eternal Father, we are thankful that you have sent apostles and missionaries through the ages to share your grace and peace – your good news of healing and hope. May I receive everything you have for me, and may my life serve as an authentic witness to your love and grace. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston