23 March 2010

Colossians studies 9: Greetings 1 — the main author (1:1-2)

by Dan Phillips

Now we begin studying the text of the epistle. If we were to do it verse-by-verse from my notes, it would take about 23,497 separate posts. So I'm thinking... no. It will be selective.

Like Ephesians, Colossians generally falls into two roughly equal parts: the first emphasizes doctrinal truths (chapters one and two), the second emphasizes practical application (chapters three and four).

First in Colossians we have the greetings (1:1-2). Ancient letters were unlike modern letters. They begin with the signature, and the addressee. So here:
Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the holy  and faithful  brothers in Christ at Colosse: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father. 
The primary sender is "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God" (1:1a). Paul gives us his pedigree in Philippians 3:4-6, which may hint as to why he felt particularly moved to write this letter. I have suggested that the false teacher may have been a Jew. If so, he may have played the "race-card" on Ephaphras, who was a mere dog/Gentile. But not Paul; he came of the finest stock, racially and religiously.

But here Paul doesn't stress that (well-known) aspect. He calls himself an apostle. We should note that "apostle" is not a translation; it's merely a transliteration of the Greek apostolos. An actual translation might be  emissary, or commissioner, or even plenipotentiary. An apostle was the reality of which the Papacy/Magisterium is a warped imitation. We read of Paul's twofold pedagogy in Acts 22:3 and Galatians 1:13-14. Though steeped in Judaism, Paul's Gospel-knowledge was his by revelation from Christ.

Each apostle had at least three qualifications:
  1. He was hand-picked by Jesus (Luke 6:12, 13; the office could not be applied-for)
  2. He had to be an eyewitness of Christ's resurrection (Acts 1:21-22)
  3. There would be confirmatory miraculous signs (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4)
We see that Paul had these qualifications by comparing 1 Corinthians 9:1, 2 Corinthians 12:12, and  Galatians 1:1, 11-12. Thus Paul truly was an apostle "through the will of God" (Colossians 1:1). That phrase ("the will of God")) does not mean that Paul "felt led" to be an apostle. No, he knew he was called by direct, inerrant, special revelation — as direct as the Scripture we read to learn God's will for us (cf. Acts 9:5-6, 10-16; 26:12-19).

As an apostle, Paul was a conduit of ongoing revelation (John 14:26; 16:12-15), and as such laid the one foundation of the church  (Ephesians 2:20), which is the truth of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Can there be apostles today? Sure, I supposed, but they'd have to be about 2000 years old (cf. Acts 3:21), and would have to show unambiguous miraculous confirmation such has not even been suggested since the close of the first century.

In other words, no.

The foundation has been laid by the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Our role is to build on it, not keep starting over again as if the apostles had not already laid it.

Next time, Lord willing, we'll look at the sender's Master.

Dan Phillips's signature


James Scott Bell said...

Had an ongoing discussion with a Mormon bishop for a time, and he eventually conceded that everything came down to whether one believed in modern day revelation or not. I then asked him what confirming miracles Joseph Smith ever performed, in public, like the Apostles. As I recall, he said Smith cured some colds once. These were Mormon colds, of course, out on the trail somewhere. Not exactly like raising up the crippled in the middle of a busy town.

DJP said...

No indeed. In fact, in an unpublished book I werote on the person and work of the Spirit, I had a section titled "The Maze of Martinism," where I noted that Walter Martin's argument for the continuation of the gifts was a very tight parallel with a passage from the book of Mormon.

Now, let me by crystal-clear: my point was not that Martin was in any way a closet Mormon. My point was that the arguments for "continuation" are lame and were used by a cult before Christianoid Charismatics adopted them.

And HSAT, I think Martin's way of dealing with the Mormon claim was a good one: you say revelation is ongoing, fine. Let's say it is. Then later revelation MUST be IN FULL ACCORD with previous revelation. Let's test Mormon truth-claims that way.

allen said...

So are you saying that Benny Hinn's "miracle crusades" and "words from the Lord" are not apostolic credentials?

Well... I'm... just... floored.

(word verification was decklerf--as in, the false prophet blew and the whipped up masses hit the 'deck' and 'lerfed'-laughed)


olan strickland said...

In other words, no.

Dan, would you quit beating around the bush and tell us what you think? :)

lee n. field said...

No more apostles? Peter Wagner & Co., call your office...

Bookmarked for contemplation and later use.

joel said...

Maybe this is off topic, but I have always wondered about James, the Lords brother and Jude for that matter. Were they Apostles? If not then were they prophets, because they wrote scripture.

That leads to another question. If prophets wrote part of the new testament and they did not have to have the accompanying signs of an Apostle then how exactly did the early church decide that their writings were inspired?

Dave .... said...

Dan, Love your thoughts on Col.s. It is my single favorite book in the NT. And I agree - nn,nnn poss would not cover it. Missed you at the PCRT - SC was the same weekend.

DJP said...

Yes, Dave, sorry, I didn't make it. Giving my weekends to working on the Proverbs book, which is being both hard work and very exciting for me.

Brian Roden said...

In Acts 14:14, Barnabas is called an apostle. We can assume he was an eyewitness of the resurrection because his name appears at the end of Acts 4, which is likely within months of Christ's ascension. And Acts records signs and miracles worked by both Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. But we have no biblical record of his being hand-picked by Jesus (unless I just missed it in my reading of the four gospels over the past 2 months).

And while I would agree that we no longer have capital-A Apostles today, the apostolic gift of establishing the Church where the gospel has not yet been heard is still evident among missionaries working with unreached people groups.

DJP said...

It's generally accepted that apostoloi is also used a very few times in a nontechnical sense, maybe akin to "missionary." In that sense, missionaries are present.

But not apostles, a term rightly restricted to the technical sense as I've explained it.