It sounds like we’ve got a good handle on grace and peace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor shown to us, and peace requires grace because if we had to depend on our own good/merit, we’ve never be able to fully rest in God’s peace. (Way to drag Scripture into the discussion.)
So, let’s move to the rest of the introduction, the Thanksgiving section. Paul almost always (Galatians is the exception) follows up the basic greeting with a section where he expresses his appreciation for the recipients.
Now, normally, the Thanksgiving section fulfills three functions. For one thing, it encourages the listeners. They may be in for a rough ride over the course of the letter. Paul wants to make sure they don’t get discouraged.
Second, it butters up the readers to make them more open to the coming message. If Paul has a close relationship with the listeners, he reminds them of it to establish why they should trust him enough to listen. If not, he just tells them how much he appreciates them. (General rule—the more he brags, the harder he’s going to come down on them later. 1 Corinthians has the longest thanksgiving section and is the most negative letter.)
And third, he often introduces some concepts he’ll be advancing later, themes that either will be addressed in the letter or that will form the foundation for Paul’s response to the problems faced by the listeners.
So, now let’s look at the main part of the Thanksgiving section.
3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8 NIV)
Now, for the challenge-o-the-day. From reading the Thanksgiving section, what do you think might be the crucial ideas Paul is planning to develop in Colossians? (Hint: Count word usage and start speculating.)
A couple procedural notes. First, sign your real name. We’re hoping to build fellowship as well as Bible knowledge. Second, post a pic if you can. That way you can actually get to know some of the other people when you see them. Thanks.