As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). The teaching will primarily be discussion (which I’ve found requires more preparation than lecture style, but that’s another post for another day).
I’ve already written about the beginning of my study, and I’ve presented a preliminary outline along with the reasoning behind that outline. In this post, I want to talk about the first part of the letter, which I called the salutation in my outline. This part identifies the author, the recipients, and includes a greeting.
Here is the salutation of Colossians:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2 ESV)
This is fairly straightforwards, especially if you’ve read much of the New Testament.
The text indicates that Paul is the author, along with Timothy. We don’t know exactly how the authorship process worked, but somehow the letter is from both of them.
Later in the letter, we’ll see that Paul specifically talks about his ministry on behalf of the gospel in Colossians 1:23, and that he specifically signs the letter by writing the final greeting himself in Colossians 4:18. This probably indicates that Paul is the primary author, but that Timothy is there with him in some capacity, although Timothy is not mentioned again in the letter.
Paul specifically identifies himself as an apostle (representative, emissary, ambassador, messenger) of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he admits that he is an apostle only because God desired for him to be an apostle. Paul includes the idea that he was an apostle by the will of God in the opening of several of his letters (see 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, and 2 Timothy 1:1). It is most explicit in Galatians 1:1.
Timothy is called “the brother” (or perhaps “our brother” or “his brother” in context). Paul is not slighting Timothy. In other places, Timothy is recognized as an apostle. As we will see in this letter (and in fact in all his letters), Paul considers the familial relationship to be very important.
Again, according to the text, Paul (and Timothy) are sending this letter to Chrisitans who are living in Collosae. Paul identifies them as “saints” (or “holy ones” or “those set apart”) and as “faithful brothers and sisters.” This idea of continued faithfulness will continue to be very important in this letter.
Collosae was located in Phrygia (part of modern day Turkey) near Laodicea and near a major road that ran from Ephesus to the Euphrates River. As we will learn later in the letter, Paul had never visited Collosae.
Finally, Paul offers his standard greeting: Grace and peace to you. This is a slight variation of the standard greeting of that time, which is typically translated, “Greetings.”
It is interesting and worthwhile to note the references to God the Father and Jesus Christ in these two short verses. Paul is not just any messenger/apostle, but a messenger of/from Jesus Christ. He is an apostle by the will of God. The Collosians are saints and faithful brothers and sisters “in Christ,” and Paul wishes them grace and peace from God our Father.
In fact, of the 28 words in these two verses, nine of them (almost 1/3) are used to refer to God the Father or Jesus Christ (and that doesn’t include the words “apostle,” “by the will,” “saints,” “faithful,” “brothers/sisters,” “grace,” or “peace” all of which relate to God and/or Jesus in this passage).
Do you have anything to add?