Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Colossians 1:1 Paul the apostle

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, (NASB)

I wanted to start a series on Colossians. It's a relatively short book, and a valuable one. I'm going to step through it slowly, and as practical and reflectively as possible.

It begins with an indentification of its author, and I'm reminded of NT Wright's comments that the Pauline corpus is small enough not to have to argue that Colossians is Pauline simply because some of the vocab is unique. 

Firstly then, Paul is an apostle or sent one of Christ by God's will. Paul has a divine calling to this role. As a representative of Christ, he carries an authority unlike anyone else. To live in an apostolic tradition is not so much about some sense of apostolic succession, but the carrying forward, teaching and living out of the message given from Christ, by Paul. 

It's worth thinking about the idea of apostolic authority then. Postmoderns rankle at the thought of authority, but when it is from God we must accept it. Note that a particular interpretation of Paul might not have the same authority as Paul himself (his comes from God, ours), but we are not at liberty simply to write Paul off without understanding what, why and to whom first. Hence, the present series of blogs.

Secondly, what stands out to me is the idea of the will of God. Lots is said about God's will and how it is manifest and carried out. It was God's will that Paul should be an apostle. Elsewhere (Rm 1 for example) Paul identifies apostleship as his calling. In a sense it was an imposition; Paul was an enemy of the church. On the other hand, as one schooled in the law of Israel, he was ideal for the task.

Everyone has a calling, and we can identify them as valid (testing the spirits) to the extent that they are under apostolic authority. Everyone's will be unique; they may be at 90 degrees to the direction we thought we were taking, but they may also suit us perfectly.

Finally, Paul very often began letters by acknowledging those with him, in this case Timothy. Even one called to such authority (which was ultimately service not lording it over) worked as part of a team. We've seen time and time again, men in leadership fall because they thought themselves above those around them. Paul didn't do this, so neither should we.

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