Author: Ron Graham
In his letters, Paul reveals much about himself. Learning more about Paul the man, helps us to better understand the things he teaches. What does his letter to the Colossians tell us about him?
The first word in the letter is the name of its author: Paul (Colossians 1:1). This was not his original name. It was "Saul" (Acts 7:58, 8:1). Saul was also the name of the Benjaminite who became first king of Israel (1Sam 9:15-17). Paul was also a Benjaminite (Philippians 3:4-5), and his given name was Saul, the same name as the king of old. The name "Paul" comes from the Latin for "little" (the root of our English words "pauper" and "paucity"). To give up the kingly name Saul and take up the name Paul meaning "little", shows humility. But Paul is the more humble, for he does not stop at the name: he writes, "I Paul a servant..." (Colossians 1:23,25). Note that the word "minister" means servant.
The second word in the letter is "apostle", the title of its author (Colossians 1:1). The word "apostle" is derived from apo meaning "out" and stello meaning "send". Paul was one "sent out" on a mission. Paul thought of his apostleship as stewardship (Colossians 1:25 1Cor 9:17). To him the word "apostle" was not a fancy title, but a description of his duty. He was duty conscious, not title conscious. When he said, "I am an apostle", he meant, "I have a duty to speak" (Colossians 4:4 1Corinthians 9:16).
At the time of writing Colossians, Paul was under house arrest. He refers to his predicament in chapter four: "...the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains" (Colossians 4:3); "...my fellow prisoner Aristarchus" (Colossians 4:10); "...remember my chains". (Colossians 4:18).
Paul might easily have taken the attitude, "If God wants me to work as an apostle, let him get me out of these chains". Instead, he says, "I rejoice in my sufferings" (Colossians 1:24). He is glad to suffer for the Saviour who suffered so much for him.
Paul writes with deep concern. He cares about people even though he does not know them all personally (Colossians 2:1-2). He prays for them (Colossians 1:3,9) He wants to share news with them (Colossians 4:9). He craves their fellowship, and speaks wistfully of being present with them in spirit though absent in body (Colossians 2:5). His deep care can be felt in such phrases as:
Paul enjoins on his friends what he practices himself: "Clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness" (Colossians 3:12). He shared with them their "love for all saints" (Colossians 1:4).
Paul had built brotherhood with several men of God. Some of them are named (Colossians 1:1 4:7-18). There are three things particularly that come out of the way Paul speaks of these folk:
Paul was truly an amazing man! Let us be inspired by his example, that his benediction, "Grace be with you", might be upon us (Colossians 4:18).
Map Showing Colossae