Thursday, December 20, 2007

The "Butter-em-up" Section

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.

21 comments:

sroll said...

Seems he is planting the seeds for. The Fruits of the Sprit , Faith Hope and Love.

Yvonne said...

I agree...the focus is on faith and love. Perhaps the plan is to produce more people (who are strong in these areas) to minister the gospel.

Joshua said...

It serves to set out the objectives of Christian life.
The triad of Faith, Love and Hope.
He thanks God that the Colossian faith was not secret, their love was not partial and their hope was not misplaced. The center-peice of his thanks was spreading the truth of the gospel. And for some reason he ties Epaphras name in there,,, i think it is to give them a familiar feeling with Paul since they never met but I am not sure... time to dig in deeper!!!

Amanda S. said...

From the mention P. Steve made the other day about Gnosticism, the first thing I noticed in the word count was how many times Paul mentioned faith....hmmmm! I'm thinking that even though the people hadn't drifted fully into gnosticism, Paul could see that they were headed towards issues that would later lead away from the truth.

Careythemom said...

I agree with the concensus...faith and love... he also mentions truth... Question for Steve or whomever- since you mention that Paul follows a pattern in his writing-how he opens the letter. Is this something he learned from his years in the Jewish "seminary"-he was a trained Pharisee, right? Is this a common pattern that was taught to him, or something he did on his "own" (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit)? Carey Clark

Joshua said...

well Carey,
After digging to find an anwser to your question I found it but it is like a book so bear with me.
Paul was a Pharisee of Judaism who arrested as many christians as any man possible could. He was the outstanding persecutor of the church. He ran out of victims in Jerusalem so he went to Damascus to capture more Christians. Saul (Paul) asked the high priest for permission to persucute any christian he found on his way so he might bring them bound to Jerrusalem. Then he ran into his match, the risen Christ, where God turned one of the biggest enemies of the church into one of the greatest men to serve the gospel of the first centry. He went from being a murderer of christians to an aspostle. Wow!! Just seeing our Lord Christ Jesus he knew that he had to change his ways and was saved on the road which, by the way, he was traveling to kill followers of the Man before him.
I am not sure of his education level but he had many Spirtual gifts that the Lord gave him to spread the word of the gospel.
And as far as his writings... Paul was the human author of Scripture but the Holy Spirit was the divine author,
"For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" 2 Pet 1:20.
This does not mean that the human author mechanically writes Scripture with little or no input from his person. It means that the Holy Spirit guides every word he writes to accurately convey what God wants to communicate to man.
I hope that clears it up... It did for me

Dave said...

Paul is planning on developing them to spread the word of God, but he is also reinforcing the fact that they are not alone, no matter where they are they will always have the church. Is Epaphras still there or has he moved on? If he is not there then the letter is encouragement to continue to follow in Christ Jesus. If you plant a seed and don't tend to it it will grow fast and die even faster. So in a sense all Paul is doing is watering the seed.

Joshua said...

well I dug in and I know who Epaphras is and where he comes from. Thanks to a few life lines and a little bit of study. Paul refers to him as....
Our dear fellow servant...A faithful minister of Christ. Col.1:7
A bond servant of Christ.
Col. 4:12
My fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus. Phil. 23
What do these descriptions indicate about this fellow Epaphras?

Where was he from?
Every reference to him in Paul's letters connect him to the church at Colossae. Epaphras was the founding Pastor of the church at Colossae.

Where was he?
According to Philemon 23, he was a fellow prisoner of Paul. This places him in a Roman prison at the time that Paul wrote Col. And Philemon.

So to anwser Daves question... he could not have been with them in the church at the time since he was in Rome sharing a prison cell with Paul and Timothy.

Now can anyone tell me what he was known for?? What was the greatest deed he did for the body of the Church?

Yvonne said...

Epaphras was a fervrant, intense, prayer warrior for others.

Yvonne said...

Merry Christmas and a blessed new year to all!

Joshua said...

Merry Christmas

Joshua said...

Hey are we going to get a new blog soon???

Amanda S. said...

I was just thinking the same thing this afternoon! I figure that I'll take a quick read over this past week's verses, see if I can get anything else out of the buttering up....I'm sure there's something that I can apply to my life that hasn't been posted yet. Happy New Year all!

Amanda S. said...

The first thing that I see right off, is that Paul and those with him where he's writing the letter, have heard of the faith of the Colossians. News didn't travel all that easily back then, and yet they heard of their faith.....apply that to my faith....how far and wide has the knowledge of my love for the Lord travelled. I know my close friends and family know, and those in the churches where I've attended, but do my neighbors know? Can the people who sit near me at a restaraunt? What about the unbelievers who I come in contact with on a regular basis? I know I'm not sharing anything new or especially surprising, but every time I'm personally confronted with the question, it always makes me stop and reevaluate my life.

Careythemom said...

Amanda, great thought and reminder... I'm not trying to toot my own horn, b/c there surely isn't much to toot, but I've seen in my own life that often our reach is much beyond what we expect (deserving or otherwise).
When we were young Christians in Las Vegas, I went through a "low" time spiritually where I felt like all I was really doing was going through the motions-going to church, but not much else. One night, my neighbor stopped me and began asking me all sorts of questions about salvation, which eventually led to her accepting the Lord as her Savior. It was such a shock to me, I really didn't feel like I had been much of an example to her, so I asked her what led her to ask me out there by the dumpster that night when I was tossing the garbage and she was walking the dog... Know what she said? She said just the simple act of our going to church every week showed her that I was a "safe" person to ask! I was so floored. Within 2 days, her enthusiasm led her husband, her best friend and her best friend's husband to salvation. All because we went to church. No bells and whistles, no going door to door, not hitting anyone over the head with the Bible-just being real, and being faithful, even if it didn't "feel" like much to us. So, yes, we should strive for more, and continually strive to be more like Christ and obey Him as He leads us to service for Him. But, don't forget that what you're already doing is likely impacting people around you. Another note of caution though-when we lived in MD, our neighbors called me "the church lady"-and these were people who themselves went to church. Now, this wasn't a "compliment"-this was during our legalistic years where I only wore dresses and we were very strict in everything we did. So, even other believers saw us in a very negative light-imagine what my unsaved neighbors called me! (I don't want to know). We led no one to Christ in those years. So, our behavior "good" or "bad" (and sometimes only God can tell the difference!!) is noticed by those around us.

Thanks again for the reminder Amanda. Love Carey (Clark-the one with 9 kids)

Amanda S. said...

I love hearing testimony like that...thanks Carey!
That's exactly what verse 6 says in the passage..."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." I'm glad that God doesn't stop working, even when I'm not at my 100%.

Joshua said...

well said carey and amanda

Careythemom said...

Exactly Amanda-it is GOD who is at work in us and around us. Phil 2:13 "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." I have a tendency to forget that and think that I have to work FOR Him, forgetting that He will do the work through me-it is up to me only to be obedient minute by minute. And although my earlier post was negative about our legalistic years, I really did feel I was following the Lord at that time-and I do believe I was-but for a much different reason than I expected. I needed to learn the lesson that I couldn't "work" my way into His favor or spirituality anymore than I could "work" for my salvation. I never believed that my actions were in any way imparting salvation-just that it was growing me in maturity and that I was becoming spiritually stronger. The verses that said that those who needed rules were "weaker" always bothered me! But, it DID mature me-because I had to learn first hand that all my "work" was just like a hamster in a wheel-making me tired but not really getting me where I thought I was going! Carey

Careythemom said...

Happy New Year everyone! I know for us I'm praying that 2008 is "better" although the trials of 2007 certainly were not in vain! Carey

richie_rich_28 said...

I hope everyone has a very Blessed New Year!

Careythemom said...

I've been meaning to post this for the ladies in the group... Steve mentioned daily email devotions for those that miss his daily devotion. I've found a really good one for women that is nearly always applicable to MY life, and it has questions for follow up, additional scripture reading, etc. It is the Proverbs 31 ministries devotion put out Mon - Fri. You can subscribe to it by going directly to their site: http://proverbs31.gospelcom.net/ or subscribe through crosswalk.com, which lists lots of devotions. I think Steve posted the link for crosswalk. Just wanted the ladies to know that the Proverbs 31 devotion is a really good one if someone were still looking. Carey