|Colossians 1||The Perfect Life Exemplified – 1:1-8|
The Perfect Life
A Study in Colossians
The Perfect Life Exemplified – 1:1-8
What does the perfect life look like? How can we describe it? In our introduction we defined The Perfect Life as:
The Perfect Life is a life of Christian Perfection, a purifying empowering work of the Holy Spirit received by faith and ongoing in faith enabling a person to love God supremely and love others sacrificially with a Christlike love.
Remember Paul has stated to the Colossians that the aim of his preaching is, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (1:28). The phrase, “that we may” is translated from a single Greek term paristemi (παρίστημι - paristēmi, par-is´-tay-mee) which means to stand beside, to exhibit, to bring before, to present, to show, or to stand up something before someone. What is important about this word is the grammatical form of it Paul uses in Colossians 1:28. Paristemi is in what is called the subjunctive mood (parastesomin -Aorist / Active / Subjunctive). The subjunctive mood is defined as expressing a condition of “. . . possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.” 
Why is this important? Because Paul uses it in relation to presenting “every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” The point to be made therefore is that it is in some way possible for every person to be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. Our study in Colossians will help us understand in what way people can be presented as perfect in Christ Jesus. Suffice it to say here initially that such perfection is inextricably tied to “Christ Jesus.” We are perfect in connection to our relation with Him. We are perfect righteously because His righteousness has been put to our account when we put our faith in Him for salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). But there is a practical life impact to this idea of perfection as well. There is a perfect way of life, a perfect life. Our study of the Colossians will help us understand this as well.
Colossians 1:1-2 - Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first thing we see as we being or study is that the author is Paul (1:1a). Like Ephesians and Philippians Paul is writing from prison. It’s likely that Paul never personally visited this church (2:1). Instead the church at Colosse was probably an outgrowth of Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus. Spirit filled ministry grows and spreads.
Paul introduces himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1b). An apostle is one sent by God on a mission. The spiritual gift of apostleship is valid for today but is seen more in what we would call a missionary ministry than that of the authoritative position seen in the New Testament. The apostles of the New Testament were more than missionaries. They had particular criteria associated with their title.
As Paul points out, he was an apostle “by the will of God” (1:1c). Apostleship was not something someone could take upon themselves. It was an anointed choosing, a sovereign selection of God (2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1). An apostle had to be called by God (Rom. 1:1). They had to have had a face to face encounter with Jesus (Acts 1:21-24). While Paul did not apparently have this in terms of Christ’s re-resurrection ministry, he did experience a face to face encounter with Jesus after his conversion (1 Cor. 9:1-2; Gal. 1:12-16; 2:1-2). Apostles had to demonstrate the power of the Lord in sign gifts such a miracles and healings (2 Cor. 12:11-13). Apostles served on the front lines and therefore experienced great suffering (1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 1:5-7). An apostle was particularly chosen for an authoritative position by God, but it was a costly position as well.
God doesn’t call everyone to be an apostle. He calls each of us to a particular part of His plan. God reveals His calling and will for us in that where God guides God gifts us. We may think God wants us to be involved in singing on the worship team at church. But if we can’t play an instrument or sing, it’s not likely it is His will for us to be involved in that area of ministry. God will give us gifts and abilities to serve Him where He wants us to serve Him. He may call us to construction, to the legal system, to the medical field, to sales, to mechanics and technology, to any number of areas in life. He needs people in all areas of life to reach all people in these areas. If we force our involvement in areas we want and God does not, we will be frustrated and fail. But if we serve where God guides us by His gifting we will be fruitful and fulfilled. And if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will put His desires in our hearts so that we will enjoy serving Him (Ps. 37:4). We may encounter difficulty and hardship but we will have God’s stabilizing joy to bolster us through.
“Timothy our brother” (1:1d) was Paul’s “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). He was a frequent companion of Paul in ministry. Paul wrote two letters of the New Testament to Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy). Timothy had a Gentile father (Acts 16:1) and Jewish mother and grandmother who trained him well in the scriptures (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). It’s always a blessing when children are under the influence of the scriptures from an early age.
Paul addresses this letter “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ . . .” (1:2a). “Saints” (ἅγιος - hagiŏs, hag´-ee-os) means holy ones or consecrated ones. Paul addresses the Colossians as believers. They are holy because of their saving relationship with Christ. A person is not a “saint” because they are deemed so by the church that set specific criteria that includes miracles. Every Christian is a saint or holy because they have been made so through faith in Christ (e.g. Rom. 5:19; 10:3-4; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil 3:9).
These saints are “faithful” (πιστός - pistŏs, pis-tos´) or trustworthy people of faith. This tells us that they are bearing fruit in connection with their salvation. There is a sign of spiritual life in them as noted by Paul. He didn’t address everyone as faithful (e.g. Corinthians and Galatians). He was commending these saints from the start.
The people Paul is writing to reside in the city of Colosse (“who are in Colosse” – 1:2b). It’s believed Paul wrote this letter around 60 AD. Colosse is described as:
“. . . one of three cities located about 100 miles inland from Ephesus. The other two cities were Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col. 4:13, 16). This area was a meeting point of East and West because an important trade route passed through there. At one time, all three cities were growing and prosperous, but gradually Colossae slipped into a second-rate position. It became what we would call a small town. Yet the church there was important enough to merit the attention of the Apostle Paul.
All kinds of philosophies mingled in this cosmopolitan area, and religious hucksters abounded. There was a large Jewish colony in Colossae, and there was also a constant influx of new ideas and doctrines from the East. It was fertile ground for religious speculations and heresies!
Paul then gives his customary introductory blessing with the words, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2c). Grace was a common introduction for Gentiles. Peace or shalom, was a common introduction for Jews. Paul always put grace before peace. This is significant because grace always precedes peace. You cannot experience the peace of God before you experience His saving grace (e.g. Rom. 5:1).
Thanks for the Perfect Life
Colossians 1:3-8 - 3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; 7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
“We give thanks . . .” (1:8a). Paul was thankful for these Colossian saints. He was thankful for them because they had accepted the Lord and had proven faithful (1:2). But now he will elaborate on their state by giving thanks for what God was working in them. It is in these verses that we get our initial picture of the perfect life we will be studying.
“Thanks” (εὐχαριστέω ĕucharistĕō, yoo-khar-is-teh´-o) is gratitude, appreciation. We need to thank God in our prayers. Paul didn’t seek thanks from others but gave thanks to God. We should remember that what was achieved in them was not achieved as a result of the direct influence of Paul. Sometimes we look at the New Testament and yearn for the advantage of the actual physical presence of an apostle to teach us. But the Colossians are proof that this perfect life we are speaking about is something that is first and foremost from God. It was in them and it is in us God’s work that we need to trust in. That’s why Paul gives thanks “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8b). He is only an instrument in the Surgeon’s hand.
Paul says, “. . . always praying for you” (1:8c). Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God. Paul says he was always praying for them. We ought to always pray for each other. Ministers especially need to be people of prayer. The word “prayer” is translated from the Greek term proseuchomai (προσεύχομαι - prŏsĕuchŏmai, pros-yoo´-khom-ahee). This word consists of the preposition pros which is used to connote direction, “forward to; toward; by the side of; near to.” The root of the word is euchomai which means “to pray (to God); will; wish.”  Euchomai was used in Classical Greek to refer to a prayer offering or vow. This word also has the implied meaning of “desire.” 
Therefore, prayer is turning toward the Lord and coming to His side with a desire. That “desire” doesn’t need to be self-centered or request oriented, it can be simply a desire to know the Lord, to speak with the Lord, to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Paul says he offers prayers “for you” or for the Colossian saints. This is called intercession. Paul is stating he comes before the Lord with a desire for the Colossians to experience the fullness of the perfect life described in this epistle.
Paul then says, “since we heard of” and will in verses 4-8 give us our first glimpse of what he is so thankful to God for on behalf of these saints. Here we see the first characteristics of the perfect life. They are as follows.
First, the perfect life is one that is “heard of” (1:4a). There’s something about these Colossians that is causing those around them to take notice and talk about them. When God’s people are being salt and light (Mat. 5:13-16) or exhibiting the love Jesus said His disciples would be known by (John 13:35) those around them begin to take notice. The Colossians were building a reputation, a good reputation. They are becoming known as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:14-21). When you live a life of love people take notice.
Second, the perfect life is one of faith (1:4b). Paul says, “your faith in Christ Jesus.” “Faith” (πίστις - pistis, pis´-tis) is belief in the truth of God, reliance on Christ for salvation, constancy of profession, assurance, belief, faith or fidelity. In Hebrews 11:1 it states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith looks to and receives God’s purposes, plans and destinations and trusts God to bring those to pass “in Christ Jesus.”
As we mentioned in the introduction the perfect life described in this epistle and in the New Testament is something offered by God’s grace and received by faith. In Roman’s 1:17 Paul speaks of “the righteousness of God” that “is revealed from faith to faith.” We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ and we live on and grow in our relationship with God by His grace through faith in Him (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:10). The perfect life is something appropriated or received from God by faith. We see God’s truth about Christian Perfection in the Bible and we trust God to bring it to pass in our lives.
Third, the perfect life is one of “love for all the saints” (1:4c). The prime characteristic of the perfect life is love (ἀγάπη agapē, ag-ah´-pay) which is understood by its description in 1Corinthians 13 where it states:
When we look at this perfect life depicted in the Colossians we see it as a victorious life. It is a victorious life because “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8a). But Paul’s phrase gives us further insight into this perfect type of love.
The Colossians were known for their “love for all the saints.” They weren’t partial to one group over another. They were impartial like their heavenly Father is (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9). God’s love, like Him, is impartial. Jesus went so far as to say that His disciples were to love even their enemies (Mat. 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). This kind of love comes from God (Rom. 5:5). This kind of love is overcoming and incredible. This kind of love isn’t something we can self-generate or talk ourselves into. This kind of love is from God. He showed us this love; it saved us – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Do you have that kind of love?
Fourth, the perfect life is one of hope (1:5a). Paul says, “because of the hope that is laid up in heaven for you.” “Hope” (ἐλπίς -ĕlpis, el-pece´) is to anticipate or look forward to something, expectation, or confidence. The Perfect Life is one that has a hopeful future. We see the scriptural promise of Christian Perfection and hope for its realization in our lives.
In scripture our hope is depicted as living or alive, dynamic. It is living because it is in the resurrected Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4). When we suffer loss in the Perfect Life we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, but we realize that the separation death brings now to those in the Lord is only temporary; it’s not I’ll never see you again but see you later (1 Thess. 4:13).
Fifth, the perfect life is one based on “the word of the truth of the gospel” (1:5b). The gospel is based on God’s word of truth or it is not the gospel. “Truth” (ἀλήθεια - alēthĕia, al-ay´-thi-a) is reality, something verified, dependability, freedom from error, integrity. Something that is true is something that can be trusted because it has been verified. Jesus said God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The word of God is our source and basis of truth. In Psalm 119 it states:
God’s word, all of it, (the 66 OT/NT canonical books) is true.
Satan, the “god of this world” has blinded people with deception and lies (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus said of Satan, “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). Therefore, Jesus came to reveal and bear witness to God’s truth. He said everyone interested in the truth would come to Him:
Jesus said He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The gospel therefore is inseparably connected to God’s truth in Christ.
The word “gospel” (εὐαγγέλιον - ĕuaggĕliŏn, yoo-ang-ghel´-ee-on) means good tidings, or good news. The truthful message contained in the message of Jesus is that sinful people separated from God can have their sins forgiven and be reconciled to God as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
A person takes the first step toward the perfect life by responding to the gospel as revealed in God’s word. That means every person stands sinfully guilty before Holy God (Rom. 3:10, 23) and deserving of God’s just death penalty (Rm. 6:23a). We cannot work our way out of our guilt and sentence. But God who is rich in mercy and because of His love has sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin for us (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). We know Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is acceptable to God by His resurrection (Acts 17:31). When we turn from our sins to God and ask Him to forgive us based on the completed work of Jesus Christ, God will justly forgive us and put Jesus’ righteousness to our account and give us eternal spiritual life by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11; 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 5:21). This is the only acceptable gospel.
Sixth, the perfect life is one of fruitfulness (1:6a). Paul states, “which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, . . .” The phrase, “bring forth fruit” is translated from a single Greek term (καρποφορέω - karpŏphŏrĕō, kar-pof-or-eh´-o – to be fertile) whose grammatical form (Present Tense) conveys the idea of a continuous ongoing action. The Colossians were consistently bringing forth spiritual fruit. They were growing in the Lord.
The gospel came to them “as it has in all the world.” Here is evidence that in the first century the gospel being preached throughout the world mentioned prophetically by Jesus had already taken place (cf. Mat. 24:14). But what Paul points out here is that the gospel was bearing fruit in them. The perfect life is one of fruitfulness. They were growing and maturing in their walk with the Lord.
Jesus’ most foundational parable is the Parable of the Sower. In this parable Jesus spoke of four heart soils that the gospel is sown into. There is the hard hearted soil which is so hard the gospel seed doesn’t penetrate at all. There is the shallow soil that gives the appearance of receptivity initially but when trials come it withers and dries up. There is the thorny soil which pictures the person who receives the gospel along with the other stuff of the world and eventually the gospel is crowded out of their lives. The final soil is the one where the gospel takes root and bears fruit. This final soil is the only one where salvation is legitimate and genuine (Mat. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25; Luke 8:4-15). The perfect life is a spiritually growing and fruitful life.
Seventh, the perfect life is one based on “the grace of God in truth” (1:6b). The perfect life is a life of grace. “Grace” (χάρις - charis, khar´-ece ) is undeserved favor, benefit, gift, “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”  Grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. This grace is “in truth” in that it is a verified reality. It is revealed in the life of Christ and His people and recorded in the truth of God’s word.
Paul attributed all that he was and all that he did to God’s grace working in and through him (1 Cor. 15:10). Any experience of the Perfect Life is a work of God’s grace in and through us. Perfect Love is not something that we can manufacture on our own. It isn’t something we can go to school, learn about and apply to life in our own strength. It is a work of God’s grace. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. The Colossians new the truth that all that they were or could ever hope to be was rooted in the gracious work of God in them.
Eighth, the perfect life is one of growth and learning (1:7a). These Colossians exemplified the Perfect Life in that they were described by Paul as those who “learned.” “Learned” (μανθάνω -manthanō, man-than´-o) means learn, understand, find out, or know. The secular use of this Greek term meant, ““to learn by instruction, practice, or experience.” It means to learn by investigation. The idea is the Colossians made a good effort to study and absorb the things of God.
This goes hand in hand with what Paul mentioned earlier in verse 6 where he mentioned they had “heard and knew the grace of God in truth.” To hear (ἀκούω - akŏuō, ak-oo´-o) means they paid attention to, gave audience to, understood through hearing something. That they “knew” something here (ἐπιγινώσκω -ĕpiginōskō, ep-ig-in-oce´-ko) means to become fully acquainted with, perceive, acknowledge something. The Greek term uses the prefix epi which means to be enveloped with, overflow. When we use this term we should understand it meant “to know thoroughly.” They thoroughly knew about the grace of Godin truth.” Their spiritual growth was connected to a thorough understanding of God’s grace and His word of truth. This implies they studied it and examined it in life. Spiritual growth is rooted in Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17) and an examination and application of the things learned from godly examples.
These Colossians were apparently students of God’s word but they also paid attention to those teaching them. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). We aren’t to imitate just anyone. Indeed “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33; cf. also ps. 1:1; Prov. 4:14; 13:20). Like the Colossians we are to follow the examples of godly people. Who do you imitate, Godly or ungodly people? Who do you hang out with godly or ungodly or carnal Christians? You will become who you imitate and hang out with.
Paul notes they had learned from Epaphras who Paul describes as a “dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.” The Colossians had a good teacher and Paul commended them for paying attention to him and learning their lessons well. The Perfect Life is facilitated by learning from the godly examples and teachers provided by God. This is a provision of His grace. Appreciate your pastor and godly Spirit filled teachers of the word of God! (cf. 1 Cor. 9:7-15; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:18).
Ninth, the perfect life is one of servanthood (1:7b). What made Epaphras worthy of being imitated by the Colossians? His servanthood. Apparently Epaphras had a servant’s heart. Jesus instructed His disciples that they need to follow in His steps of service (e.g. Mark 10:35-45; John 13:1-20). The attitude of the one living the Perfect Life is one of servanthood. Our service is not begrudging but Spirit led and Spirit empowered. When we serve and have done all that we do we should simply understand we have done only that which we should have done (Luke 17:10). We no longer belong to ourselves but to God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). The Perfect Life is one of service.
Tenth, the perfect life is one of “love in the Spirit” (1:8). Paul climaxes his words about the Colossians by noting their “love in the Spirit.” The Perfect Life is all about the love of the Spirit poured out into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). This is the love that never fails (1 Cor. 4:8). This love (ἀγάπη - agapē, ag-ah´-pay) is a love that acts. This love is active and works to bless others. It is not stagnant or mere emotion or feeling, it is a powerful action. The apostle John described this love in the following way:
The Perfect Life is characterized by a love that is validated in action. It is a love that copies the love of God toward us. It is a love that meets needs practically. It is not just talk; it is a walk in truth. This is the climax of the Perfect Life.
Remember, The Perfect Life is a life of Christian Perfection, a purifying empowering work of the Holy Spirit received by faith and ongoing in faith enabling a person to love God supremely and love others sacrificially with a Christlike love. That is what God’s objective is in our life. But what is the first thing we ought to do to experience the Perfect Life in us? The first thing we need to do is do what Paul did, pray. That is what we will see in the next section of The Perfect Life our study in Colossians.
Pierce, Larry: Tense Voice Mood. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., S. TVM5792
Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Php 4:14
W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.
 Thoralf Gilbrant, International Ed., The Complete Biblical Library – The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary – Delta to Epsilon (
Strong, James: The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. H8674
 Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.
 Ibid. Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.