v. 3. we give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
v. 4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
v. 5. for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the Word of the Truth, of the Gospel;
v. 6. which is come unto you as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth;
v. 7. as ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
v. 8. who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
It is characteristic of the Apostle Paul that he always finds some reason for thanksgiving, that he finds evidences of blessings all around, that he feels himself to be under the necessity of praising God for some special spiritual benefit: We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying for you. In the midst of a situation which the average person would have considered decidedly gloomy and disagreeable, Paul wasted no time in lamentations. He prayed, continually, habitually, for his readers, for all Christians. And his prayer was, first of all, a prayer of thanksgiving. Seeing the glorious fruits of the Gospel in the various congregations, praise and thanksgiving rose from his heart to his lips and overflowed in words, in hymns of blessing. To God, the Giver of all good gifts, he addressed his prayer of thanksgiving; for this God is at the same time the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore our Father through the atoning work of Christ. The will of God and the will of Jesus Christ for our salvation were identical. We may have a firm and certain confidence and faith in our heavenly Father through Christ, a childlike trust in His gracious will, knowing that He always hears the cries of His children.
The occasion of Paul's thanksgiving he names in the words: Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have toward all saints, on account of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven. The report which had reached Paul concerning the status of the congregation at Colossae spoke in glowing terms of their faith, which was centered in, and rested upon, Christ Jesus, the Savior. For there was abundant evidence of the existence of this faith in the love which the Colossian Christians showed to all saints, the true brotherly love, which feels a fellowship with all the saints, both near and far, and gives a practical proof of this feeling at every opportunity. Note that Paul here refers to the universal character of the Christian Church. In Jesus Christ all differences of rank, station, and sex are forgotten, for in Him, through his blood, we are one. These conditions obtaining in Colossae, Paul could give thanks on account of the hope which was laid up for them in heaven. Since they showed the unmistakable signs of being true Christians, Paul was certain that the object of their Christian hope, their inheritance as children of God, was laid up, reserved, for them in heaven. It is the hope to which we have been begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, 1Pe_1:3-6. For the full possession and enjoyment of this hope we long with fervent desire, but also with the calm certainty based upon the promise of the Lord.
Of this hope of the Christians the apostle writes further: Of which you heard before in the Word of the Truth, namely, the Gospel, which, having come, is present with you, as also in the whole world, bringing forth fruit and increasing as also in you, since the day you heard it and realized the grace of God in truth. The hope of the inheritance in heaven was set before them, the certainty of obtaining the gift of heaven was guaranteed to them in the Word of eternal Truth, which is the Gospel. What God has promised to His believers in this Word is certain, infallible truth, to be relied upon at all times and under all conditions with a certainty which knows no doubt. When the Gospel was first brought to the Colossians, it had brought them the news of this hope in Christ, present in Him from eternity. And what they had learned at that time Paul here confirms with the authority of his apostolic teaching. This Gospel, in its course through the world, like a traveler going from one city to another, had reached also their city and had remained there since, bringing to them the tidings of great joy. The influence of the Gospel commonly does not spread with irresistible, crushing blows, but comes with steady penetration, gaining one heart after the other for the Lord's cause. That was its progress in Colossae, that is its progress throughout the world. The message is not a vain and ineffectual sound, but it brings forth fruit in virtues and good works, Isa_55:10-11. The message of Christ enters a heart, works conviction, faith, and love; it reaches others, and the same process is repeated, there is a continual growth and multiplication of its adherents. From the first day of its introduction in Colossae this had been true, for even then some of them had come to the knowledge and understanding of the grace of God. For as the Gospel was first brought to them by Epaphras, it was preached in genuineness and sincerity; and they had accepted it in the same sense, in its genuine reality, and not in the form of the poor imitation which had been recently introduced. All true Christian knowledge must be based solely and alone upon the Word of the Truth in the Gospel, not upon human ideas and opinions.
This is emphasized by the apostle when he writes: Even as you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is in your behalf a faithful minister of Christ, who also made known to us your love in the Spirit. Epaphras had founded and organized the congregation at Colossae. He was a pupil and a dear fellow-worker of Paul, a faithful, untiring servant of Christ for the benefit of the Colossians. And the latter had received his message, upon which Paul here sets the seal of his apostolic approval; they had based their faith upon this teaching; they had realized and accepted the grace of God in truth. Since Epaphras, moreover, had remained in connection with this congregation, his concern for its welfare had driven him to Rome to seek the apostle, when the Judaizing teachers had made their appearance in Colossae. Paul assures his readers that the report which had come to him through Epaphras was highly satisfactory, for it declared their love in the Spirit. Though they were not personally acquainted with Paul, they had received the Gospel out of the mouth of one of his pupils, and they had learned to love the great teacher of the Gentiles. It was a love in the Holy Spirit whose power is ever active in the hearts of the believers, and it was a love which naturally included all the brethren everywhere. All these facts gave Paul his reasons for thanksgiving.