We begin our last leg of the journey. It is a journey through Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae as we read in vs.2. It is a church made up primarily of gentiles, so those who would be foreigners to the long history and culture of the Jewish people which had shaped so much of the early church. It is not a church that Paul had personally founded, but certainly his work in the area had an impact where those to whom he preached had gone to Colossae to begin this community. We find that the primary emphasis of this letter is to address heresy that has overtaken the church and Paul’s attempt to right the ship and oppose that heresy. He loves the church and repeatedly tells them that he is praying for them. The letter was written probably in the mid 60’s.
We begin with a very common statement by Paul that he is constantly lifting up the community in prayer. This is something that he says to all of the communities, but in this case he supports these prayers by the evidence of their love for the saints and the witness of their strong faith. He begins by encouraging them and lifting up their strong faith which many in the Christian community have commended. Paul speaks about the beginning of their faith journey as a community by pointing to Epaphras who is considered the founding member of the church in Colossae. Since their inception, Paul states in vs.9, they have been praying for this community without ceasing, and specifically that they would be filled with knowledge and wisdom.
A couple of times Paul mentions the work of Jesus and refers specifically to the blood of Jesus as something that is not only efficacious, but instrumental in the saving of our souls. Look at vs.14 and depending on your translation it should have as a trailer: “…the forgiveness of sins through his blood.” The italicized part is not seen in all of the manuscripts, but it is present in some. It makes sense that it reveals itself here because later on we find that same concept repeated. Look at vs.20 and we find the phrase “…by making peace through the blood of his cross.” There is a movement in some circles to tone down any type of violent or directly referenced terms which would lead to a theology built around death and violence. There are some who skirt around using the term: “the blood of Jesus”, simply because they see it as too disturbing and could lead some to run from the Gospel message because of its explicit reference to blood.
I don’t see how we can avoid that reference, or why we would want to. Paul mentions it clearly as a necessary factor in our redemption. The blood of Jesus is what washes us clean, regardless of how uneasy it makes us. Think about what we do at the Lord’s Supper when we eat the body and drink the blood of our Savior. Why is it so important to maintain that image and that reference to the blood? Because from the very beginning the cleansing of our sin through the blood of a sacrifice is what has defined both the old and the new covenant that we have with God. We cannot run away from this reality. If we are uncomfortable with that imagery, then maybe we are uncomfortable with the fact that someone actually had to die for us in order for us to be saved. Jesus didn’t just come on the earth to hang out and set up a kingdom. No, he came and died a death that was brutal, vicious, and unforgiving. All of this was so that we could be forgiven, and yes, have our sins washed clean by his blood.
We find Paul’s words resonate even today in a verse that is to be the operative verse for every church on this planet. Look at vs. 28 where Paul reminds us: “It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” He goes on to say that for this reason, and this reason alone, do we work as hard as we do. What a great goal and what a great reason to live. So that others would come to a maturity in Christ that is life giving. I think you are going to love this letter.