Paul gives thanks to God for the Colossians because of their faith and love, a faith and love prompted by hope, an eternal hope fired by the gospel. Paul affirms that the gospel's life-giving power is touching the lives of people throughout the known world, and it is this message, brought to Colossae by Epaphras, that founded the Colossian church.
i] Context: See 1:1-2.
ii] Background: See 1:1-2.
iii] Structure: Paul's thanksgiving for the Colossian believers:
Paul gives thanks to God, v3;
Reasons for his thanksgiving, v4;
namely the faith and love of the Colossian believers;
The Colossians faith and love is based on their hope, v5a;
a hope founded on the gospel, v5b;
The gospel is bearing fruit everywhere, including in Colossae, v6;
to which end Epaphras has ministered, v7;
and reported its fruit to Paul, v8.
A chiastic structure is proposed by some, see Lohse, Dibelius, ...
Paul's thanksgivings tend to reflect the subject of the letter, and this thanksgiving + prayer is no exception. If we read v3-14 as a whole, we can note the overall purpose of Paul's letter / homily. The false teaching affecting the Colossians will lose its power if the believers in Colossae recognize that the fruit of faith and love, evident in their fellowship, stems from the hope they have discovered in the gospel of God's grace, and this apart from works of the law. "The false teaching will hold no attraction for the Colossians if they truly come to know and understand they they have already received the true word of God and that they have been transformed by God's power into the new realm of God's own Son", Moo.
Although this passage consists of one sentence in the Greek, there is a natural division at the end of v8, such that the prayer covering v9-14, although integrally linked to the thanksgiving, stands in its own right. None-the-less, the whole can be described as an introductory thanksgiving. See O'Brien, Introductory Thanksgivings in the Letters of Paul, NovT, Sup 49. This thanksgiving + prayer is more complex than most (Paul never gets to a thanksgiving in Galatians, given his red-hot state of mind!!!). It is possible that the prayer ends at v12, or even v11, if the participle eucaristounteV in v12 is read as the imperative "give thanks", but it is best taken to end at v14.
Lohse proposes that the language of the thanksgiving is post-Pauline, but against this view, the majority of conservative commentators read it as typically Pauline; see O'Brien.
Text - 1:3
A thanksgiving for the Colossians, v3-8. When Paul prays for the Colossians he always gives thanks for them to God the Father.
eucaristoumen (eucaristew) pres. "we [always] thank" - we give thanks. Probably a royal / epistolary plural = "I give thanks", but possibly "Timothy and I given thanks." This is the main verb covering v1-8, which in the Gk. is a single sentence.
pantote adv. "always" - Temporal adverb, probably modifying the verb "to give thanks." Although indicated by its position in the Gk. it may modify the participle "praying"; "we are constantly praying for you", Phillips. Better, "We constantly give thanks to God", Berkeley.
tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "God" - to god. Dative of direct object after the verb "to give thanks."
patri (hr roV) dat. "the Father" - the father. Dative, in apposition to "God". Variants, articular, tw/, and kai. Moule accepts the more difficult reading so "God, who is the Father ....."
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, relational. "Jesus Christ" stands in apposition to "Lord".
hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us [jesus christ]. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "Lord over us."
proseucomenoi (proseucomai) pres. mid. part. "when we pray" - [always] praying. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV. See above for the temporal adverb "always".
peri + gen. "for you" - about / for [you]. Possibly with the more common sense of "concerning, about", expressing reference / respect, although better used instead of uJper, expressing advantage / representation; "when we pray on behalf of you."
Paul now provides the reasons for his thanksgiving to God for the Colossians, namely, their "faith in Christ" and its fruit "love" / compassion toward all their brothers and sisters without exception.
akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "because we have heard of" - having heard. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal, "because", as NIV.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - [the faith] of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "your faith" / verbal, subjective, "the faith you have in Jesus Christ."
en + dat. "in" - in [christ jesus]. Possibly expressing reference / respect / object, so Bultmann, "because you believe in Christ Jesus", Phillips, or local, leaning toward eiV, "into", expressing direction toward / arrival at; "your faith as a person united to Christ Jesus / in union with Christ", so Moule.
thn agaphn (h) "the love" - [and] the love [which you have]. "Love", the fruit, or produce of, faith, is primarily brotherly love / compassion, toward ones brothers and sister in (who are in union with) Christ. The word "compassion" probably best expresses the nature of this love.
eiV + acc. "for" - to. Here expressing advantage, "for", as NIV, but possibly spacial / direction, "toward".
pantaV adj. "all" - all. Harris argues that since the adjective takes the predicate position with the articular noun touV aJgiouV, "the holy ones", then the sense is "all the saints without exception", rather than the attributive "all" meaning the entire Christian brotherhood.
touV aJgious adj. "God's people" - the holy ones. Translated, "the saints", but with the sense "believers".
Paul now identifies the source of faith and its product love. Faith and love are dia, "because of" / "spring from" hope, the eternal hope proclaimed in the gospel. "Faced with teaching that led them to wonder whether Christ could supply all their spiritual needs, the Colossians need to be reminded that their present experience of faith and love rests on the solid foundation of what God has committed to do for them in the future", Moo.
dia + acc. "the faith and love that spring from" - because of. Expressing ground / cause, "because of, on account of." The thanksgiving does not have its ground / cause in hope, although that is syntactically possible, but, as explicitly stated by the NIV, it is faith and love which has its ground / cause in hope, so Moule. "Faith and love are in some sense a response to, derived from, or in some way dependent on hope", Dunn. Paul often uses "hope" in conjunction with faith and love, but here faith and love is dependent on hope.
elpida (iV ewV) "the hope" - the hope. This hope / confidence is heavenly, it is "stored up / laid up / reserved" (apokeimai, to put away for safekeeping) there, the nature of which is presented in the gospel. Although Paul often uses "hope" in a subjective sense, here it denotes "that which Christians hope for", Moo, "the totality of blessing that awaits the Christian in the life to come", BDAG.
thn apokeimenhn (apokeimai) pres. part. "stored up" - being stored up, laid up. The participle is adjectival, attributive; "the hope which is laid up for you in heaven."
uJmin dat. pro. "for you" - to / for you. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.
en + dat. "in [heaven]" - in [the heavens]. Local, expressing space.
prohkousate (proakouw) aor. "you have already heard" - [which] you heard beforehand. Heard before when the gospel was preached in Colossae, or possibly "heard before the false teaching", Moule.
en + dat. "in" - in. Probably instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", "through the message heralding the truth of the gospel", Cassirer, but possibly temporal, "when the truth was brought to you", Phillips, also Barclay.
thV alhqeiaV (a) gen. "[the word] of truth / the true [message]" - [the word / message / speech = preaching] of the truth. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the word", "the true message", NIV11, a message which is truthful, as compared to the message of the false teachers, so CEV, REB. Possibly verbal, objective; "heralding the truth", Cassirer.
tou euaggeliou (on) gen. "the gospel / of the gospel" - of the news, important message. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / appositional, specifying / defining "the word of truth", namely / that is, the gospel." "The word of truth, which is the gospel", "O'Brien, so Calvin etc.
Expanding on the subject of the gospel, Paul makes the point that the gospel message which reached Colossae and bore fruit, is reaching out into the whole world, bearing fruit, changing lives. In this verse Paul reminds his readers of the central proposition of the gospel, namely, the grace of God. The Colossians received a message from God, "the gospel / important news." The content of this message concerns the bestowal of God's grace, the bestowal of his unmerited favor toward those who are found in a relationship with Christ, the one and only faithful child of God. As far as Paul is concerned, the central concept of the gospel is the grace of God realized in and through Christ. As Moo notes, Paul's language, at this point, is targeting the false teaching which has infested the Colossian church. When the Colossians heard the gospel, they truly understood the good news of God's grace, daily bearing fruit and increasing in their lives, so what's gone wrong? Why do the Colossians now feel that their Christian lives move forward by means of regulations that have only "an appearance of wisdom", 2:23?
tou parontoV (pareimi) gen. pres. part. "that has come [to you]" - the one present, coming, available [to you]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, genitive in agreement with tou euaggeliou, "the gospel", v5; "the gospel, which came to you, as also in all the world, is bearing fruit and growing."
kaqwV "in the same way" - as [and = also]. Comparative; "just as / in the same as."
estin karpoforoumenon (karpoforew) pres. mid. part. "is bearing fruit" - is bearing fruit [and growing]. As with "growing", the present participle with the present verb to-be, forms a present periphrastic construction, possibly emphasizing durative aspect. "Bearing fruit" before "growing" is somewhat of an enigma. Chrysostom suggested that the sense is the gospel is "fruit-growing." The language may reflect the Biblical use of the term "to bear fruit and grow", eg., Gen.1:22, 28, ... or possibly the idea found in the parable of the sower where the word "bears fruit and increases in the lives of those who receive it rightly", O'Brien.
en + dat. "throughout" - in [all the world]. Local, expressing space. "All the world" is hyperbolic, but reflects the eye of a prophet and the language of scripture; "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world", Rom.10:18, ref., Ps.19:4.
kaqwV "just as it has been doing" - as [and = also]. Comparative.
en + dat. "among" - in [you]. Here expressing association, "among you", but possibly spacial, "in you" = "in each one of you."
af (apo) + gen. "since" - from [day of which you listened]. Temporal use of the preposition; the phrase as a whole is idiomatic, apo thV hJmeraV h}/, "from the day on which" = "from / since the / that day" = "ever since the day." The pronoun h|V is genitive by attraction; it should be dative. "From the day you first heard of God's grace", Barclay.
en alhqeia/ "truly" - [and knew about the grace of god] in truth. This prepositional construction is best taken as adverbial, "truly", modifying the verb "understood, recognized", as TNIV; "the day you learned of God's gracious favor and truly recognized it for what it is", Cassirer. It could also be taken as a dative of rule, "according to the standard of truth", so Campbell.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's [grace]" - [the grace] of god. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source / origin, "the grace from God", or verbal, subjective, "the grace bestowed by God."
For the Colossians, Epaphras was the source of their understanding of the gospel message. In expressing his full confidence in the ministry of Epaphras, Paul implies that the Colossians have moved from the truth of the gospel as originally explained to them. We know little of Epaphras, other than what we are told of him in this letter, along with a mention in Philemon 23. His missionary work covered Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis.
kaqwV "-" - as [you learned]. Possibly comparative, "just as you learned it from Epaphras", ESV, but it may well be causal here, explaining why the Colossians heard and understood the gospel, "because you learned."
apo + gen. "from" - from [epaphras]. Expressing source / origin.
tou agaphtou sundoulou gen. "[our] dear fellow servant" - the beloved fellow slave [of us]. Standing in apposition to "Epaphras", genitive in agreement; "that dearly-loved fellow bondsman of ours", Cassirer.
pistoV adj. "faithful" - [who is] faithful, reliable, trustworthy. Predicate nominative. As Harris notes, not "believing minister of Christ."
tou Cristou (oV) "of Christ" - [minister] of christ. The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, Epaphras is one of Christ's ministers, but possibly ablative, source / origin, or verbal, subjective, "from / appointed by", or even verbal, objective, "a faithful minister serving Christ."
uJper + gen. "on [our] behalf" - for, on behalf of [us]. Here expressing advantage; "for the benefit of."
Paul knows all about the founding of the church in Colossae from Epaphras, presumably in person, but possibly by letter or second-hand report, and he knows what is going on at present in the church, presumably also from Epaphras.
oJ "[and] who" - who [also]. The article here serves as a personal pronoun, with an adjunctive kai, "also".
uJmin dat. pro. "us" - [revealed] to us - Dative of indirect object.
en + dat. "in [the Spirit]" - [the love of you] in [the spirit]. The preposition here is probably instrumental, expressing means, "by means of the Spirit"; "The love is the result of the Holy Spirit's work in them", Pfitzner.