Faith in Christ, Love of People (Colossians 3-5a) ~ A Daily Devotion for August 11, 2014

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” ~ Colossians 1:3-5a

Explanation of the Text: After giving a normal greeting, Paul begins his letter to the Colossians with an encouragement of thanksgiving for the Colossian believers. One of the questions of the text is who is the ‘we’ that Paul is referring to? Paul is indicating that whoever is with him on a consistent basis are praying for the people at Colossae. Therefore, if they are consistently praying for the people (perhaps not always or every day, but at least on a consistent basis) that means that these people must also be with Paul on a consistent basis as well. We really can’t come to a certain conclusion about who these people are, and it might be safe to assume that Timothy is amongst those people since he is mentioned in verse 1. Regardless, the best conclusion to come to is that clearly Paul is referencing others aside himself (unlike his usage sometimes of ‘we’ even when only writing from a first person perspective as seen in Thessalonians) and that it is not necessary for us to know who those people are.

It is also important to understand the text here as we read. Often, people will read the text as saying that Paul is always praying. However, the word ‘always’ is best understood to modify ‘thank God.’ Therefore, the text logically would read similar to saying, ‘When we pray, we always thank God for you.’

Now as we look at the text, Pau lists why he prays for the Colossians. He prays for them because of the testimony they have maintained. He characterizes this testimony using a trio of words that is common in the New Testament, faith, hope and love, and although they are not used exclusively by Paul, the majority of their appearances together appear in the Pauline Epistles. As we look at this, we will note that Paul gives thanks for them because they are fellow believers, having faith in Christ, which results in a hope that they have in a future eternity, which all culminates into being evidenced by their love for one another. It is interesting to note that in regards to this triad, faith, hope, and love are all something that come from God and they are not something that man can simply manufacture on his own.[1] Therefore, Paul is not simply giving thanks to God because of the character of the people, but he is also giving thanks to God for the work that God has done through the people.

It is common for people to claim that they have faith, and yet when asked, very few people can describe what faith is. First off, note something. Faith in itself has no value, but rather faith has value that is only derived from the object in which faith is placed in.[2] This is important because, while someone may say they have faith, that faith only has value if it is placed in the right thing, which of course, would be Jesus Christ. If someone’s faith is rooted in anything else, then that faith is meaningless and useless. Likewise, having faith in something also signifies that one came to a reasonable conclusion using available evidence to establish something as true. Therefore, believing in God is not simply blind without any regard to the evidence, instead it means that although you can’t physically see God you trust in Him because you can see the evidence all around.

There is also something else of great importance with regard to the word faith. In the classical usage of the word, when it was used in regards to people, it was also characterized by obedience or gives reference to one obeying.[3] Therefore, when the word faith was used, it was used with the understanding that when someone puts their trust in something or someone, then it would be followed up with acts of obedience to that person (or thing). There are some significant implications in the text because of this understanding.

As we read the text, we see that it reads ‘because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.’ The word because indicates a cause, meaning that the hope they have has caused some sort of effect or something to happen. So what was that effect? First off, we see that effect being their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith here is not merely referring to just saving faith at the point of salvation, but it is referring to something that is ongoing within a believer’s life. Therefore, we understand the text to say that ‘because the readers have a place in heaven, and recognize this, they have ongoing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Now we just learned that the faith in Jesus Christ implies obedience to Him, because the word faith suggests obedience in its classical usage. Paul writes that the faith they have in Christ is manifested through their love for one another. In other words, their love for each other is evidence of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Examination & Application of the Text:  The implications of the text are huge. If we understand a true meaning of faith, then it means we have to respond. Faith in Christ indicates that one is willing to be obedient and follow Him, regardless of the cost…..and perhaps counting what that cost may be, because the price can be great. If we truly have faith in the one Lord, Jesus Christ, then I would urge each person to respond to Him in obedience. First and foremost, if you are not a Christian who has committed your life to Him, then I would suggest now to be the time to do so. A second area though is to be obedient to the Word. The Bible outlines who people should be in Christ, and not so much in a way that is oppressing and weighs someone down with a burden of rules and regulations, but in a way that is freeing because it recognizes we can’t meet God’s standards except through Christ. Therefore, you can quit relying on yourself to meet God’s righteous standards, and instead focus on relying on Jesus Christ to work through you.

While we know the totality of Scripture outlines ways to be in obedience, our text for today found in verses 3-5a also give us a very specific application for this concept. That application is love to one another. Paul indicates that because of who they are in Christ, or rather because of the hope of salvation they have, which came from faith in Christ, the Colossians love one another. The first evidence of any Christian is that of love. The world should know us by our love for one another. If there is any characteristic that sets us apart from the world, it should be the aspect of love. Now remember something though. Love must be defined by God’s standards and not the world’s standards. One of the major problems with understanding love, is that we try to define it in the same way the world does. Love entails things that people don’t always like, such as discipline, if we are to define it God’s way. However, this is the only way to define it.
These are my two challenges today to each of us for self-examination today. Do we have faith in Christ? How do you know? Second, is your faith evidenced by your love for one another? Are there ways in which this can be improved? Specifically, we should continuously think of ways in which we can love one another. It may be calling someone up who is struggling to encourage them, pray with them on the phone. It may be taking a meal over to a family who is dealing with issues of their own. It may be having a Bible study with someone who is struggling maintaining their time in the Word, and so many other ways. Think of some ways in which you can manifest the love of Christ to others this week and then go forth and do this. Show that you have faith in Christ by loving those around you.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Location 3473.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Location 3473.

[3] Verlyn D. Verbrugge, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 462.

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