Firm Foundations Introduction – Who are we listening to? Colossians 1:1-2

What is your worldview?

What do you build your hope upon? We all construct an understanding of the world that we live in so that we can work out how to make decisions and make sense of events that play out around us. This is called our worldview. We take in all that we experience and learn and we create a road map that explains everything properly. The way that we think of this world is moulded and shaped over time by our culture, our own story, our life experiences and our education. Our worldview makes sense of the world around us and provides a hope for the future. Our worldview matters and how we create our worldview matters. Incorrect input or misinterpreting the world around us tends to result in a false hope.

What is God’s worldview?

Christianity is based on the knowledge that God Himself has revealed His grand plans with us. We could say that God has shown us His worldview. The Firm Foundations course is about listening to God’s perspective on our lives and moulding our worldview in response to this knowledge. As we’ve already noted, our worldview is shaped by information from our senses and from those who have tried to educate us in the past (eg, parents, teachers, peers and media). If we could add God’s message to our learning, that would be wise, right?

We’ll examine in lesson 4 how we can be confident that God has spoken to us in the bible. We’ll use one book in the bible, Colossians, to listen to God’s perspective of life here on earth. But before we proceed, we need to look at how to listen properly.

The art of listening to the bible

Reading the bible is not magic but it does take some effort. It takes the same amount of effort as it does to listen well to somebody speak. If you have ever read a book with the aim of understanding what it is trying to say, then you are well on your way to being able to read the bible with understanding.

7 Principles to being a good bible reader.

  1. Come to the bible ready to learn something – taught, trained, corrected and perhaps rebuked. Many people come to the bible ready to disagree or rebuke the words they are reading. But if we come to the bible ready to listen, then we ought to come ready to learn something. If the bible is God’s word, then we ought to give the bible our readiness to listen.
  2. Listen to the context and ask, why is this here? When we take the text our of context then we are left with a con! The context means the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the book, and the whole bible. It can also include historical context but this is always trumped by the importance of biblical context. Almost all of the bible is able to be understood by taking clues from the bible text itself. Resist the temptation to Google your questions. The context is going to give you better answers.
  3. Take time to see new things. This is known as the observation. One reading of a passage from the bible is never enough. Read and reread several times until you believe that you have understood what it is saying. It’s frustrating when you say something in a conversation and the other person completely takes your sentence out of context. It is the same with the bible. Read like you are truly interested in what the bible is trying to say. It will not be clear straight away but we read the bible with our brains on and listening for understanding.
  4. Questions are very productive. They are and more useful in growing than focusing on only the parts of a passage that you feel you know. Questions come to those who want to know more and wish to hear everything that a passage is saying. So, write down your question. Make a note of it. You may be able to come to an answer quickly or it may take some exploring. Again, the context of the bible will often provide answers to your questions.
  5. Bible reading is excavation work. Do more than skim across the surface of the text. Shallow reading produces shallow disciples – even misguided disciples. You dig deeper into a passage by carefully drawing out the implications of the passage as well as considering how that passage effects the way we read other parts of the bible and vice-versa. How does that sentence change my thinking and how does it affect the rest of the bible?
  6. Formulate a summary of what you’ve uncovered. The bible, in one sense, has a very simple message to mankind. But each passage shines a special light on the truth of God and the importance of life in Christ. Find out what each new text contributes to the bigger message of the bible. For example, the whole bible is about faith in God but every story or lesson from the bible provides are different perspective or example of this faith. So, bring together all that you’ve seen and answer the question, “what does it mean?”
  7. Don’t just listen but do what it says. The bible is given to us so that we may find life in Christ. Jesus put great emphasis on reading the bible in order to find life (John 5:39-40)! If he thought so highly of the scriptures, who are we to neglect such an important life changing gift? Answer the question, “now what?”

So, in this course, we will be using the New Testament book of Colossians to a) learn how to read the bible well and b) to build upon the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. Each lesson will look at a new section of that book and then branch off to a specific topic that was raised in that section. To look at the passage we will consider the context that it is written in, we will make observations in the text to make sure we are listening carefully, we will then propose a meaning which sums up everything we have heard, and finally consider what applications we can draw out of our new understanding.

Paul begins his letter to a church in Colossae (Kol-oss-ie) like this:

Colossians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 

2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Background (Context)

Paul was a Jew who was violently opposed to the ‘new’ Christian movement. He (known firstly as Saul) was on his way from Jerusalem to the town of Damascus with permission to extract every Jew who were now worshiping Jesus Christ as Lord and put them in gaol. Before he got there, he saw Jesus Christ appear before him and he was immediately convicted that Jesus is indeed Lord. God changed Saul from a Christian hater to a Christian maker. His life story can be read in the book of Acts from Chapter 7 onward. Timothy was a younger man who Paul (renamed to Paul as he began to spend time in non-Jewish areas) considered a partner in the gospel and a true son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2). Colossae is located on the north side of the Mediterranean Sea in what is modern day Turkey.

What does it say? (Observation)

The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. So Paul regards himself to be sent by God’s will on behalf of Jesus. He and Timothy write this together to the people in Colossae who are also brothers and sisters in Christ – aka, Christians in Colossae. They are called ‘God’s holy people’. Holy means separated for God’s purpose. They are being labelled as holy. Paul and Timothy write to fellow Christians in Colossae with words of grace and peace from God.

So what? (Meaning)

Paul writes from the position as a sent one from God to a people who are set apart by God living in Colossae and his greeting begins with grace and peace. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and share the same God whom they are able to call Father.

Now what? (Application)

We may not live in Colossae but this letter is for unnamed believers. We would be wise to listen to what Paul has to say as a spokesperson of Jesus Christ by the will of God.