Colossians 1

Readings for this week October 29 – November 2
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Day 1 – Dear Family

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:1-2

“Dear John.” Letter or email openings are usually fairly brief affairs, a simple greeting attached to a person’s name signifying all the sender really needs to say. For Paul, a “Dear John (or whoever)” would never be enough, and the opening to his letter to the church at Colossae is proof of that. For Paul, the greeting itself is an opportunity to tell the recipients of the letter something important, to remind them of a truth that, hopefully, they are already aware of, but to put it at the front of the letter and therefore at the forefront of their minds.

Paul uses the opening greeting to remind the Colossians of the unique identities of both themselves and of Paul and his co-workers. Paul is an “apostle”, one who is sent out to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ – a designation that is Paul’s dominant descriptor of who he is. He is spreading a life-altering message of grace and transformation to people and communities throughout the (known) world, and encouraging churches everywhere to remain faithful to Christ and to grow in maturity in him. Paul describes the Colossians as “holy and faithful brothers in Christ”, holiness here meaning called, consecrated and set apart for a special purpose. Paul also uses the image of family and kinship ties too. Timothy is “our brother” (presumably of Paul but probably of the Colossians too); the Colossians are “brothers in Christ”; and God is the Father of all. Sender and readers are siblings in the family of God, one family “in Christ” – a theme that will recur throughout the rest of the letter.

Questions to Consider
How is the community of God’s people your family? How does it show?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for opening your family up to all of us and welcoming us as your children. Help us bring others into your family so that they may also know the love of their heavenly Father. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The New Life in Christ

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:3-14

Paul had not been to Colossae. He did not found the church there, though it is quite likely that people he knew, and who had perhaps heard him speak years earlier when he travelled through the nearby area – people like Epaphras – were responsible for establishing the Christian community there. Paul is writing this letter from prison, and so therefore finds himself in the familiar position of wanting to teach and exhort and encourage a community in person but unable to do so due to his imprisonment. There are really only two things he can do, and so he does them. He writes, and he prays.

Paul’s key prayer is that this new Christian life the Colossians have will take root deeply in the lives of everyone in the community. They need to come to a deep understanding of who they are now and of the new life they have received from God that is growing within them. They need to learn how to nurture and care for this new life, to recognise the things that will feed and grow it, but also the things to be wary of, the things that threaten to damage and harm it. Wisdom is what is needed, and is what Paul has been praying for them to develop. If they can continue to be faithful, from the new life growing in them will flow transformed behaviour as they are new creations in Christ, as well as the good fruit that comes from a life of fidelity to God.

Questions to Consider
How do you continue to cultivate and nurture God’s new life in you? How do others assist you in this?

Prayer
Lord God, give me wisdom. Help me grow to see the things that further my relationship with you, and with others, but also the things that harm these relationships. Give me the wisdom to choose how to cultivate love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Christ Alone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:15-20

This poem is one of the earliest pieces of Christian writing we have. Whether Paul wrote it or is simply repeating it here, it is one of the most marvellous poems of early Christian literature. But it’s also a poem containing an incredibly important truth: the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ; the importance of knowing who he is, what he has done, who we are as a result and how we live for him. If we want to know what God is like, then we need to look at Jesus. He is the “image of God.” The more we look at Jesus, the more we see what the true God is like. Jesus reveals who God is and what he is like. There is nowhere else to look in order to discover this.

Jesus also holds together the old world and the new world; he holds together creation (God-made “in Christ”, declared “good”, but fallen because of sin and death) and new creation (redeemed and reconciled to the Creator and awaiting fulfilment and renewal). They are both held together. The old world is not worthless and to be discarded, despite what many seem to think today. The one through whom the world was made is the same one through whom the world has now been redeemed. That is why Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead. Jesus is also the model for what genuine humanness looks like. He is the one showing us what a truly human life looks like in practice. He is the one in whom and through whom we can become the true human beings God wants us to be.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean for believers to be moved from the sphere of darkness to the kingdom of God? What does this concretely look like?

Prayer
Father God, may Jesus always reign supreme in my life. May it always be him, and him alone, I look to, for when I see him, I see you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Before and After

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:21-23

We’ve all seen “before and after” commercials, whether for exercise machines, weight loss programmes, dishwash liquid, or any of the multitude of other products that promise amazing personal transformations (or at least softened hands). And we’ve all thought to ourselves “Yeah, right”, and immediately catalogued the list of camera tricks and editing techniques, and just down-right lies, used to lure us to part with our money in the hope of experiencing the transformation that we know, deep down, is incredibly unlikely if not impossible. Paul himself isn’t afraid to use such “before and after” rhetoric in his letters. (As well as today’s passage, other examples include Eph. 2:1-7 and Titus 3:3-7 to name just a couple.) The difference is, the before and after picture he presents is one of true transformation, with no trickery, cynicism or deception involved, just the life-changing power of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Paul reminds the Colossians of their former lives, the way they used to be (v.21), in order to encourage them to look at themselves so they can be truly mindful of the change that has occurred through Christ dwelling in them. They were once estranged from God and were his enemies in thought. These former ways led to evil deeds. But they have been rescued from darkness thanks to the death of Christ. Through his body they have been reconciled to God; hostility and rebellion have been turned into peace and friendship, and those who were once enemies of God are now his humble servants and co-workers in the kingdom. Only in Christ is such true, life-changing transformation possible.

Questions to Consider
How were we God’s enemies in thought? What has changed now?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for the life changing transformation you have begun in me. Thank you that there can be a before and after. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Boasting in Suffering

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:24-29

One of Paul’s core beliefs is that what is true of Jesus, the Messiah, also becomes true of his people. When Jesus died and rose again, his people also died and rose again with him. This is what Paul means when he talks about the Colossians being “in” the Messiah. Because of this Paul sees his own suffering not as in addition to the suffering of Jesus, as something extra or tacked on afterwards, but as an extension of the suffering of Jesus. This is why Paul can be content to take on the suffering he is undergoing: he sees it as a part of the very suffering that Jesus experienced. Through the suffering of Christ – and the subsequent suffering of his people – the new age of Christ’s reign will emerge in its full and final shape.

Jesus is the cruciform example we are to follow. Paul isn’t boasting of his own suffering because he’s a masochist who is deeply, perversely into pain for its own sake. His boasting is the boasting of someone who is imitating the way of Jesus, someone who welcomes the suffering that comes his way because it gives him an opportunity to share in the primary form of Christ’s redemptive love for the world. For Paul, it isn’t just about suffering for Christ, but imitating Christ’s suffering for the sake of others. Whatever comes his way, whatever trouble and toil he is afflicted with, Paul accepts it with joy as he shares the good news about Jesus. The way of the cross is a new way of life.

Questions to Consider
How does our suffering share in Christ’s suffering? How is this redemptive?

Prayer
Father God, though it is natural to shy away from suffering, help me see my suffering as something that can allow me to share in the redemption you bring to your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)