Epistle: Colossians 1:1-14 (Pentecost 5: Series C)
There are fourteen verses in this pericope but not nearly so many sentences. In fact, outside of the opening salutation, there are only five sentences. The three multiverse sentences which make up the body of the reading indicate Paul is driving at something, bringing the text to some great point. Indeed, he does in verses 12: “the Father… has qualified you [through Jesus Christ] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” There it is: The Father has justified you through the Son to share in the sanctifying life of the Spirit in the here and now… and forevermore. Hereby, the preacher has been given a cornucopia of options running along the theme of “Thy Kingdom come [and] Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Providing some context for Paul’s writing may be helpful and interesting, but do not tarry long on isagogics other than to underscore the Kingdom metaphor resonating throughout his salutation in order to proclaim the Gospel of the King, Jesus (v.1). Paul’s description of that kingdom—the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church—occurs through the affectionate language of family (v.2). Indeed, aside from addressing the entire congregation(s) as “brothers”, Tychicus (4:7) and Onesium (4:9) are both also called brothers in the epistle. The Father, then, “has qualified you” through the work of Christ to share in the family inheritance. This inheritance is the Family of God itself and the family of the triune God Himself. That inheritance will be fully manifested, not only in Heaven, but on Earth at the Resurrection of those who are in Christ Jesus. On that day, the family inherits the Earth to reign with Christ forever.
The opening verse establishes Saint Paul’s authority to herald the King’s message as an apostle. He is commissioned by Christ to speak on the Lord’s behalf, but only insofar as the commissioning itself. The commissioning is to herald the Gospel of Jesus.
Verses 3-7 home in on the Gospel, mentioning it directly, referring to it indirectly, or otherwise alluding to it no less than six times. Take time to unpack the Gospel. This is your burden within this text. Verses 9-14 which follow it, altogether flow from it. There is a logical progression, nay, a theological progression. Be mindful of it and obedient to it. So, do not venture into the imperatives and injunctions of verse 9-14 without having established the indicatives of the Gospel. What follows in verses 9-14 are the consequences, the upshot of the Gospel having become a reality on Earth as it is in Heaven. When the Gospel elicits saving faith (v.4), love (v.4, 8), hope (v.5), understanding (v.7), and learning of God’s grace in Jesus Christ (v.8), in short, when the Colossians heard, believed and were baptized into Christ Jesus (vv.3-8) and so justified, illuminated and regenerated, then such lively faith manifests the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit; hence verses 9-14.
Back to verses 3-7 once more, what is that gospel reality Paul assumes they believe, understand and love? What is the Gospel? It is precisely what Jesus preached in Mark 1:14-15: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus identifies the Gospel with the Kingdom of God breaking into our fallen and treasonous world. That, He says, is good news precisely because it could have been otherwise, indeed, it is otherwise for those who do not “believe the Gospel”. They are the ones perishing in and with the perishing world itself. Meanwhile, the Gospel is good news because God is going to reign in and through His Messiah, Jesus the Son, and do so in the power of the Holy Spirit (John 8:16; Galatians 5:22-23). Where and among whom He does this is His Church — into which these Colossians have been baptized (Colossians 2:11-13). And so, it is the day of grace (2 Corinthians 6:2; Titus 2:11). Paul even opened the letter with shorthand for all the aforementioned saying: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (verse. 2).
This gospel reality has implications for the Colossians. Because of who they are now — their family status in Christ and within His kingdom — then (post facto!), says Paul, know you are enlightened and endowed, “to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10). Having been made disciples, now be discipled and be disciples.
Verses 11-12 constitute a startling berakah (blessing) prayer for what Paul envisions for their sanctification in light of what Jesus can and does give through His Word and Sacraments.
In verses 13-14 the Apostle returns to more proclamation, knowing how the Gospel not only saves us, but also sanctifies us. “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son [from one kingdom to another!], in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Law has no power to save or sanctify, though it be holy and good. Notwithstanding, it is the Gospel which moves us from grace to grace (John 1:16). Pure gospel. Preach the Gospel.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Colossians 1:1-14.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Colossians 1:1-14.