Thursday, March 03, 2011

BSM Colossians Study - Wk 1 Part 2

Yesterday's post laid out the start of this Bible study I am trying to pursue for the next eight weeks.  Yesterday's post described a quick survey of the words thankfulness and thanksgiving in the NT, keyed off of Col. 4:2.  Tonight we continue to the focus on thanks, but limiting it to three passages in Colossians. They are the previously mentioned Col. 4:2 -
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Col. 1:3 -
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

and Col. 3:15
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

The study guide asks us to ponder Paul's view of thankfulness, when he is thankful and why he is thankful.  A couple "setting" issues may be helpful to our understanding.  First, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter.  And we should probably keep in mind that not only was he in prison, he was in prison because of his faith in Christ.  The second item of note is that the church at Colossae was having some trouble as well.  The commentaries I got through all indicate this was due to a faction that was perverting the Gospel, some specifically calling it out as Gnostics doing this.  By Gnostics, the reference is to some believers who believed in a dualism between the spiritual/heavenly world and the material world.  Probably most concerning to Paul were some of the teachings of these Gnostics that one had to achieve a special knowledge in order to be "saved".

So, Paul was located in a bad place physically (prison) and dealing with the hardship that entailed.  And he was trying to deal with a group of people who were causing all sorts of drama and strife for a church (to put it mildly).  It seems to me it would be easy for someone in that situation to "write off" the people at the church.  I know sometimes when I have to deal with people causing problems, especially when it is not something directly affecting me, it is very tempting to treat them as "out of sight, out of mind".  Why waste my time on them, right?  And for someone in prison or some other difficult situation, it becomes even easier - "hey, I have my own problems to deal with."

But in v1:3, we see Paul still giving thanks for those in Colossae when he prays.  In v3:15 we see him urging those he prays for to also be thankful.  Note that being thankful is included in this passage along with letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.  It is not just having that peace - it is being thankful also.  And finally, we see in v4:2 that he urges believers to include thanksgiving when praying.  And since prayer is a continuous action, thanksgiving is a continuous action as well.

I will note that the commentaries I reviewed mentioned one of the concepts I noted in last night's post - the idea that prayer and thanksgiving go hand in hand with each other.  And as we see, always praying and giving thanks, includes those times and situations when we think we are burdened and it should include others who are struggling.  As one commentary put it, giving thanks is:
a biblical world-view that God is with us and for us even amidst the difficulties and circumstances of this fallen world!
Utley, R. J. D. (1997). Vol. Volume 8: Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians). Study Guide Commentary Series (45). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

As I close out this installment, I think the one issue that could use a little more reflection is why Paul is thankful.  I think I may sleep on that and see if something makes more sense to me tomorrow night.

Thanks for reading!

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