After introducing himself and Timothy in the letter, Paul then sends “grace and peace” to them from God the Father and then offers a significant prayer of thanksgiving to God for them and their faith, love, and commitment to the truth of the Gospel message. Paul then reminds them of the source of that message. It appears that Paul felt it necessary to remind his readers that they had first heard the message from Epaphras, who was a fellow servant with Timothy and Paul in their work at Colossae. Just as the Gospel is being spread throughout the whole known world, the residents of Colossae were not neglected. They, too, had the good news preached to them and have hung on to it ever “since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:6-8).

 They understood the grace of God in truth. The major characteristic of the message proclaimed by Paul, Epaphras, and the others in Colossae was the good news of God’s grace to sinners. Some, as we’ve seen in Galatia, were preaching the false gospel of works. Paul was always doing battle with those who distorted the Gospel. He told the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” The proclamation of the good news of God’s grace is just what it’s called: Good News! It’s not good advice. Richison observes, “The heretics of Paul’s day were preaching the gospel of legalism. The grace of God in truth is the grace of God without adulteration. It is the grace of God in its simplicity. The message was one of undiluted grace. The gospel came as an act of grace on God’s part. It was a message from God, not men. God took the initiative.” It’s all of Grace. Paul also made that clear to the Romans when he said, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.” We can do nothing to earn or deserve God’s favor. Richison goes on to say, “Jesus won God’s favor by his merit. True Christianity rests in the provision of Christ’s death upon the cross. Jesus’ death satisfies the just demands of an absolutely holy God. This is true both for becoming a Christian and living the Christian life.”[1]

Paul was constantly at war with the legalists of his day. Of those that heard the message of God’s grace, not everyone understood it or accepted it. The Jews especially had a difficult time with the message and always insisted on works being a part of the proclamation. But not Epaphras. He got the message Paul preached.  He understood that it was the proclamation of God’s grace to sinners that was the good news. It was this message and is still this message, that raises believers all over the world. When Paul referred to Epaphras as a “beloved fellow servant,” he was affirming the message that was proclaimed by Epaphras. By calling him a “faithful minister of Christ,” Paul was adding his own endorsement to Epaphras’ teaching. It is the preaching of the gospel of God’s grace that arouses “love in the Spirit.” The gospel is a message to sinners. God demonstrated his love for sinners by sending Jesus to die in their place for their sins. As John says, believers now love because God loved first. That’s the gospel for the whole world!

[1] Richison, Grant. 2006. Verse by Verse through the Book of Colossians. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems.