By Harry Bultema

“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your FAITH in Christ Jesus, and of the LOVE which ye have to all the saints, for the HOPE which is laid up for you in Heaven.” (Col. 1:3-5b)

 We want to emphasize on the Christian’s faith, the Christian’s love, and the Christian’s hope. These words are not strange to us for we are familiar with that wonderful  Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians which ends with: “And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  In verse 8 we are told: “Love never faileth: but whether they be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” Prophecies were to fail.

Every generation has seen and heard the would-be prophets and they are not lacking today; but they are false prophets and we have the Lord’s warning in Matthew 7:15-16: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes or thorns, or figs or thistles?” There is but one Prophet today and He is on the right hand of the Father on High. Tongues ceased in spite of the modern (or ancient) tongue movements of our day. Babel was the seat of confusion and resulted in the babbling or confused tongues of mankind that is so very evident in our world. But the tongues of Pentecost and the Acts period are dead and the attempts of deluded men to revive them is sinful.

Knowledge shall pass away or more accurately, “shall vanish away.” Knowledge here refers to that miraculous knowledge possessed by Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles as when they dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, Simon the Sorcerer, Elymas, and others. Yes, all these Pentecostal miracles and signs disappeared with the close of the Pentecostal period BUT FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE REMAIN.

The Epistle to the Colossians is not a doctrinal thesis but a genuine letter: a letter of love to Paul’s fellow Christians at Colosse and for all the times to come. We have, in this Epistle, the most majestic view of the Person of Christ that has ever been spoken and written about Christ, but none of these have ever reached the zenith of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

CHRIST IS PREEMINENT in all things is the theme of the Epistle. The word preeminent carries the meaning of first and foremost. Here we find that:

¨ Christ is preeminent in the Kingdom for it is called “the Kingdom of His dear Son.

¨ Christ is preeminent in redemption for it was brought about through His own precious blood.

¨ Christ is preeminent in the economical Trinity because He is the image of the invisible God.

¨ Christ is preeminent in all creation for the first born had supreme right, authority, and heritage over all the younger brothers and sisters. He is the Creator of all things.

¨ Christ is preeminent in destiny since all things were made for Him as well as by Him.

¨ Christ is preeminent in Providence because all things cling together or consist through Him.

¨ Christ is preeminent in the Church as He is the blessed Head of the Body.

¨ Christ is preeminent in our resurrection hope for He is the “first born among many brethren.”

Small wonder it is that the Apostle’s heart was overflowing with gratitude for such a Savior. He rejoiced, too, over the believers at Colosse. What a spirit of thankfulness permeates the whole Epistle! No less than seven times do we find the Prisoner of the Lord expressing thanks in these four chapters.

He thanks God for their faith, love and hope of the Colossian brethren in the verse of our text. He thanks God that He has made these same believers (and all believers) “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”; i.e., fit for Heaven (1:12). He exhorts Christians to abound in the faith with thanksgiving (21:7). “And be ye thankful”  is a further counsel (3:15). We are to praise Him with grace in our hearts and all our expended energy is to be exerted with thanksgiving (3:16-17).

We are to “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (4:2). This brings to mind Philippians 4:6-7 and it ought to sink deep into the heart of every child of God. There are Christians who pray but never return thanks to God, but on the other hand there are Christians like the Pharisee in the Temple who gave thanks but did not prevail in prayer. The Apostle Paul was harmonious in this respect for he was a man of constant prayer, and one who was constant in the exercise of thanksgiving as well. He found occasion for gratitude where many believers do not see it. The art of thanksgiving cannot be acquired in the schools of the “Gamaliels” of earth. This must be learned in the school of Christ. Have you sat at the feet of Jesus for this important lesson?

The object of Paul’s gratitude is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The first person of the Holy Trinity, as a rule, is the object of prayer. We must also pray to the Son and Holy Spirit as Divine persons, but the common order is that we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit Who prays for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

“Praying always for you” (vs. 3). What a marvelous statement! “Continual prayer” it is likened to our breathing—it must be continuous without intermission or intervention. Prayer is our spiritual breathing, the breathing of the new man in Christ Jesus by which we exhale our woes and inhale His matchless love and grace. Prayer is our constant heart beat toward the Savior; it is not only our solemn duty but our highest privilege.  We need not shout so as to overcome God’s reluctance for there is no unwillingness to succor on the part of our Heavenly Father. God is never deaf but our hearts are all too often dumb. The simplest definition of prayer is: “a wish turned God-ward.”

As the heliotrope turns naturally to the sun, so the saint turns supernaturally to God in prayer. Heaven is not won by prayer, but prayer is won by Heaven’s Lord. We do not pray to become Christians, but we pray because we are Christians. The mighty prayer warrior, David Brainerd, spent whole nights in agonizing prayer for the poor benighted American Indians among whom he labored for the Lord. His journal was instrumental in sending William Carrey as Missionary to India, Martin to Persia, Burns to China and there is ample proof to assure us that His prayer inaugurated the great Missionary Era of the last century.

When we breathe  irregularly, we are sick and are suffering from some ailment that indicates we are slipping physically and in probably danger of losing our health. In much the same manner, prayerlessness indicates that our new life is slipping and sliding backward. We can make it a rule that all backsliding begins with prayerlessness. The sinfulness of powerlessness is prayerlessness.

Constant prayer is no pious exaggeration because in the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle called God to witness that “without ceasing I make mention of you in my prayer.” He traveled, suffered, agonized, toiled and had the cares of all the churches upon him but he never ceased praying. One of our troubles is that we often set Old Testament characters before us, such as, David and Daniel, as examples of men of prayer. These prayed at definite seasons, morning, noon and night but lived on the other side of Calvary and Pentecost. Let us hold up the man Paul as the great example for our prayer life. If our prayer is but a memorized collection of words uttered three times a day,  our prayer life is at a dangerously low ebb. And as we pray, let us not forget how harmoniously prayer and thanksgiving are connected in the Christian life.

Paul’s prayer and thanksgiving was not for the inhabitants of Colosse in general but for the saints residing there as a “peculiar people.” Epaphras had brought Paul’s  reports of great spiritual progress in the Colossian Church which filled the aged prisoner of the Lord with thanksgiving. It is Christ-like to thank God for the grace bestowed upon us, but it is still more exalted to thank Him for the blessings heaped upon others. How little this is done today! It is a very rare thing to hear one congregation of believers thank God for the blessings poured out upon another congregation. We still know of intercessory prayer but have been estranged from intercessory thanksgiving.

The Apostle Paul gave thanks for the three enduring graces evidenced in the Colossian Church—FAITH, LOVE, AND HOPE—the same three as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13 but in a “Faith in Christ Jesus” – not merely a faith in or toward God. In Hebrews 6:1-2, we are told to leave behind the faith toward God as “Old covenantal.” Satan believes God and trembles. Pharoah, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Judas, etc., all trembled in fear but  Satan hardened their hearts against Him.

Many think that their faith in God is enough but the Scriptures tell us “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” God dwelleth “in light which no man can approach unto,” and without Christ, we are as stubble before God for “our God is a consuming fire.” No man can look to the sun without injury to the eyes, so God is like a consuming sun without the holy cloud: Christ. He is the Mediator between our sinful selves and the sunshine of God’s glory. Our faith is in Christ, not in any man-made saint or angels—In Him alone! “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Faith is the fount and foundation of all piety, safety, certainty, and enjoyment for time and eternity and “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” By faith we are now in the ark of safety, in the city of refuge. No blood avenger can harm us in our safe retreat. No law can smite with its fiery curse and no evil can harm. None of the flaming judgments of God can hard or reach us for “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

Do you want this glorious freedom for your very own. Believe in the Christ of Calvary and of the empty tomb and thou shalt be saved. Do not reject Him—do not neglect Him! He is still calling to you through His Word and Spirit. “Today if ye hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” Again I say, heed His voice while you may, ‘ere it be too late forever.

“The Love which we have for all saints” is the second trait of the Colossian Church Paul thanked God for. Faith operates by love or it does not operate at all. Beloved, the very character of God is love (1 Jn. 4:8) and Christ is the special object of His love (Jn. 15:9-10). This love of God had been shed abroad in the hearts of the Colossian saints. Their faith was operative in unfeigned brotherly love to the far away jail bird in Rome. They had great love for the Apostle, although he was not the organizer of their church. They had great love for one another, for the saints of neighboring Ephesus and Laodicea, and for all saints. What a wide hallowed circle of love!

Natural love is natural for the natural man. He loves his wife, children, parents, blood kin and friends. Just so the saints have a spiritual love for the members of the household of faith. They love not because they find them all so lovely but because they are fellow members of the Body of Christ and inseparably bound together to the Head (Christ). Realizing that we shall spend eternity together in Glory, let us learn to love one another here below. If we love the members of our own body, we ought also to love the members of His Body. Let us be mutually helpful and cooperative even as our hands are: “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

I love all the children of my congregation dearly, but you do not think it strange when I say that the children of my own flesh and blood are the peculiar objects of my love and adoration? Just so ought our love for the members of His Body be the peculiar objects of our love over our love for the world lings that are enemies of our Blessed Lord because they refuse to accept Him as their Savior.