3We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; 7as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8who also declared to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8)
Paul is thanking God the Father for the salvation in the Colossians. Paul recognizes that their salvation is a work of God… not an individual work on their part… We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.
Paul recognizes their faith in Christ Jesus as a work of God… and extends his praise to God for this work. This is an important precept for us to understand… that salvation is a work of God, through Jesus Christ.
This is important for a few reasons…
#1 – In reference to ourselves, we need to recognize the author of our salvation so that we don’t become prideful… For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
#2 – In reference to unbelievers, an understanding that “salvation is a work of God” gives us the tools that we need to minister to them. If we have unbelieving friends and family… we should be appealing to God for their salvation.
-It can be tempting to focus all of our efforts and energy on the unbeliever. However, we should be directing our appeals to God. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
– God, speaking of Israel in Ezekiel 11 says: Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
-Again, referring to Israel in Deuteronomy 30, And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
-In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul instructs… And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 1:24-26)
-In Acts chapter 16 it is recorded… Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)
So we can see that God performs the work of salvation. God circumcises the heart in order to allow the believer to be dedicated to serving and worshiping Him. God will frequently use us in this process. As we pray for unbelievers that we know, God may often use us to speak words of truth to those individuals. God may use believers as examples of what a life filled with Christ looks like. Knowing that God is the One who performs the work of salvation… we should go to God with our appeals for those that we desire to see saved.
Here Paul says that they prayed “always” for the Colossians after hearing of their faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints. The prayers should not stop once a person accepts Christ as their savior. In many ways… new works must begin. As a person turns from their old life, they have much to learn about living a life dedicated to God. I’m still learning how to walk in a Spirit lead life. An unbeliever’s life is guided and directed by the world and the desire of their flesh. A believer’s life is guided by the Holy Spirit. This is a drastic change… a true 180 turn. True salvation is characterized by repentance… turning from one’s own ways and turning towards God.
Discipleship is required for a believer to become truly strong in this new relationship with God through Jesus. Paul records in Ephesians… if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
A new believer is in a vulnerable spot. They have turned away from the world that they have lived in their entire life… and they now find themselves as foreigners in a strange land. Prayer and discipleship is important for new believers. The disciples spent three years at the feet of Jesus being taught. They frequently had to have lessons repeated for them… they didn’t always grasp the lesson the first time.
In these verses, Paul identifies the Christians in Colosse as:
Faithful– faith in Jesus Christ
Love – for Jesus and each other
Hope – hope in the soon coming of Jesus and heaven
Fruitful – fruitful in sharing the gospel
God does not want them to stay where they are. God is always interested in seeing us grow. On a memorial stone for a young climber that died attempting to climb one of the peaks in the Swiss Alps there is a simple inscription that reads “I chose to climb”. Another plaque at the base of the Swiss Alps reads “He died climbing”.
God is not interested in where you came from, but where you are going. The Colossians were obviously being discipled and learning. They were growing in their faith and in their love for one another.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
May you pray for one another, encourage one another, and celebrate the fruit produced through each another’s service to God.