Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Well we run right over these verse to get to the “main stuff.”
Not so fast folk – what is an “apostle?” and is Paul’s calling by the “will of God” different than deciding to go to Seminary and go into ministry as a profession (hey! I’m in seminary!) the same thing? And when he calls out to “saints” is that like the really “holy miracle-inducing” ones at Colossae or does Paul mean something else?
Here is my basic exegetical commentary from my rather staid and lackluster (but accurate) book: (you can skip this if you must – or skim for technical notes):
1 Paul, an apostle ( “one sent out,” “an ambassador of the King of Kings“ – Wuest on Ro.1:1. An ambassador represents the King or President of his country over his own interests—in fact, the interests of his government are his interests. ) of Jesus Christ (“transliteration of the Heb. ‘Joshua,’ meaning ‘Jehovah is salvation,’”—Vine’s. “Yahweh to the rescue” — Darrell Johnson. ) by the will of God, (God’s choice, not Paul’s. The significantly longer explanation is in Galatians 1 where Paul says something similar then follows with “…the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came by revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1:11,12). And, “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,” (1:16). This simply means he didn’t get it from the other Apostles or anyone else but via direct revelation – and we see this in the fact he goes from Damascus directly to Arabia to preach the very Christ he had been persecuting (Galatians 1:17). See Acts 26:19; 1 Cor. 9:16; Acts 22:14. “…he went forth as Christ’s ambassador, laboring under no human banner.” -S.L. Johnson, Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1961. p. 336. “Ministers must be commissioned by the will of God” -Expositor’s Bible.) and Timothy our brother (This letter was probably dictated to Timothy.),
2 to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ (“in Christ” is the condition. Note that the brethren are addressed as both “in Christ” and “in Colossae”. They live both in Christ and in the world.) who are at Colossae: (Location: south of Laodicea and south-east of Ephesus in Asia Minor. While Paul knew several members, he had never visited this church.) Grace (“Unmerited favor”) to you and peace (According to William Barclay, peace has a positive meaning in Biblical usage; it is more than just the absence of pain and suffering. Barclay comments, “In the NT peace has one meaning more often than any other, and it is a meaning which was carried over from Jewish thought and usage. Peace is right relationships in every sphere of life.” (Flesh and Spirit, p. 85-86). Barclay’s assertion brings into focus the relationship between peace and righteousness, as both contain the emphais on “right-relatedness”. It is also significant to note Dr. James Stewart’s observation that Jesus, having no possessions to leave His followers said instead, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”— John 14:27. ) from God our Father (No matter how disguised or besmirched our personal or cultural notion of “fatherhood” is, God is our true Father, and“fatherhood” is defined by His character, not our earthly fathers, the very best of which “disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He [God] disciplines us for our good …”—Hebrews 12:10. Even the best fathers of our generation have only done what they perceived was best—but our Father in heaven, by contrast, knows true good concerning us. ).
I wrote it in the 90s hoping to inspire others to both study scripture and also to explore the true glory of Christ. You can see how successful I have been!
To be honest the only person who seems to be as captivated (besides Darrell Johnson who I spoke with recently) up in Canada) is me.
So I am happy with that. If you are going to obsess on something in this life I think the glory of the Risen Christ is a pretty good and healthy thing. No one else – not even my wonderful girlfriend so captivates me (nor do I her – which is one of the things we love about each other).
Back to Him.
Paul is the oddest of the Apostles. The others spent years with Jesus and loved Him. Paul hated Jesus and headed up persecution of the infant church until Jesus knocked him off his transport to Damascus and said “Saul Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Then he made him the “ambassador” to the Gentiles.
You can imagine that for quite awhile wherever Paul (formerly Saul) stayed, his hosts slept with one eye open.
In many of his letters Paul mentions this divine call, but in his letter to the Galatians he goes into detail in the first chapter explaining that not only was his appointment divine – it was also taught him directly by Christ and not by any man. We know that shortly after his conversion he went away to Arabia – did not consult with the Apostles in Jerusalem – and then returned to Damascus to preach the Gospel (Galatians 1:16-18).
You might think he would want their approval. He doesn’t. In fact, he clearly distances himself from them making it clear that when he finally did meet them it was quick and cordial only.
We don’t really have “apostles” any more as it would seem they need any extremely direct calling to found churches and be discipled by Jesus Himself.
I have never met one.
I have heard of men who have claimed such in the USA – and they always seem to end up coming up cultic in the end. Some new doctrines. I think it is probably difficult enough to be a pastor and hold it together.
But having once been a pastor I can related in some very small degree (and I mean small) to receiving direct guidance in major situations. Of course I was under orders. It is a funny story.
The Divine Prankster
I was an associate pastor and an intellectual in a fairly charismatic church – proving that God has a delicious sense of humor and can be quite the prankster.
The senior pastor, knowing my propensity for logical argument and reliance on persuasive words of wisdom also recognized the gift of evangelism and wanted yo use me occasionally as the substitute speaker at the end of the free rock concerts we had on Saturday nights.
Oh, what to do with me and my handicap?
Well he ordered me not to prepare any notes or a speech/presentation. Ordered.
Back then the only thing I feared more than God was him (I know, I know…he is maybe 6 inches shorter but I thought he towered over me).
He said I had to just wait in the prayer room while the concert was going on and pray for the Holy Spirit to “give you the message.”
Oh great. I mean technically this is all fine and good…but so is walking up in front of 1500 people with absolutely nothing to say…which you can probably handle at 58, but is not so easy at 28.
But doggone it if he was not correct. I mean it was close a couple times (I felt pranked once for sure because no message till I grabbed the mic..I mean c’mon).
Here is what I learned – I learned how to use my cerebral/analytical alongside an absolute openness existentially to divine leading in the moment while “reading” the crowd empathetically. The key was just me “getting out of the way” – and you (me) are so scared that is really easy.
I mean at that moment you want no part of you.
So Pastor Louis Neely did me one of the greatest services of my life when he “forced” me to do that back in 1985 because I have been using it ever since in intense situations. They are smaller situations – like a guy has a gun in my face in SF (2010); those guys with the golf clubs (last year) and the gun in Oakland; the guys in the Safeway in Santa Cruz (2012) – or the guy doing the hold-up on the light rail up in Portland (2011)- etc… I get the best “intel” ever. I am never in danger – not really.
In fact, in Portland I even complained when I heard the ruckass – “I suppose you want ME to deal with this?”
As I tell Laura – I am “not really smart at all – I just listen well.”
Now, to be clear. I am not called to even be a pastor. I lasted a total of 3 years total in two positions. I am very “pastoral” – true. But I could not do what my brothers and sisters do for even a month.
Now of course if you disbelieve in God none of this makes any sense at all – and if you do you may still be incredulous. Hey, all I can say is I am not all that happy about it most of the time myself. It is not like God’s “intel” is giving me Joel Osteen tips on getting rich or how to better polish me teeth. No – it’s usually how to keep some other guy from buying a bullet or a beating – and while I have never felt in danger – technically when a guy is waving a gun in your face and says he wants your wallet it could go off.
And then you are a mess if your are not finished off.
Now in the interest of both the peace and grace that Paul speaks of (“right-relationship in every sphere of life”) between all the brethren (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) let us dwell simply on the core Greek meaning of the word “saints” or “hagios” – “set apart ones.”
There is much to be derived from the rich tradition and views of all three strains, or what is called “hagiography.”
If you are a protestant and have a problem with some Catholics who pray to “Saints” then don’t do it and by all means show by example the supremacy of Christ. But, in fact, modern Protestantism does not show the supremacy of Christ at all – but the supremacy of Personal Betterment – and the saints they venerate and speak of are Pastor Hagee, Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar (to name a few).
As my friend Stephen Scott use to ask “Is it Rome by name or Rome by nature?”
The Orthodox set the “Saints” before us largely through iconography, which in turn points us (or can) to some intense writings.
Again, Protestants object (well we are built to “protest” after all – which explains why we are constantly splitting over any objection – it’s just in our spiritual DNA). claiming that icons are “idoatrous” or “graven images.”
Now this is really funny – because after doing THAT – the Protestant (Western) world lets in every imaginable idolatrous image in the front, side and back doors (and up through the basement, in through windows – you name it – let it ALL flood in!!)
We are awash in images – but keep out those little painted ones of St. Gregory the Great!
I’d scream if it wasn’t so funny.
The lives of the “Saints” can be prescriptive – a remedy of sorts (Rx) in a thin and superfluous age of televangelists who model opulence and put their seal of approval on the idols of our culture.
Read of the Martyrs of North Africa and it will sober up your faith and it will inspire you. watch the televangelists and it will sink you deeper into your couch.
I random sampling (I had not planned to do this so I do not know the outcome – I just suspect it) of the top money-making Evanglists and how they expose people to the supremacy of Christ (which is the centerpiece of Paul presentation to the Colossians) on their websites:
Pastor John Hagee (https://shop.jhm.org/shop#) comes in with an impressive array of Betterment books with everything from how to vote American/Biblical, to a a number of “prosperity while the world ends” books. Nothing about God front and center – or Christ – but an interesting book on David as a book on a “Rich man” in the Bible.
How to be “Happy in an Unhappy World,” “Desperate Wives” of the Bible – it’s all here and splashed with patriotic garb.
Jesus is like Waldo.
One thinks of the 22 year old martyr Perpetua who had her infant taken from her and was rejected by her father before her death. Her defense of the faith was amazing and beyond brave.
The Church still remembers Perpetua and her faith inspires us.
Joel Osteen tomorrow.