[This is the first in an extended series of periodical meditations drawn from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.]
One of the reasons we ignore certain statements in Scripture is our misguided belief that they simply don’t apply to us. For example, when the apostle Paul introduces his epistles he typically describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col. 1:1a; cf. also Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1).
I’m not an apostle and I doubt if you are either. So what possible relevance does a statement like that have for you and me? Before I answer that, let’s consider what Paul had in mind for himself.
In the first place, this was an expression of his entire theological perspective. He became a Christian “by the will of God.” His authority as an apostle is “by the will of God.” The power of his ministry, whether in teaching or healing the sick, is “by the will of God.” It is only “by God’s will” (Rom. 15:32) that he will eventually visit Rome. And whatever more he will achieve before he breathes his final breath is “by the will of God.”
Secondly, he needed to make clear to the Colossians (and to us) that they (and we) are obligated to listen to him. The Colossians were being led astray by false teachers, and we are certainly in no short supply of them in 2006. But it is Paul, not they, who speaks with divine authority and sanction. If it is “by the will of God” that Paul speaks in this letter then it is “the will of God” that we heed and embrace all he says in it.
In sum, Paul didn’t aspire to, ask or apply for the job (after all, until captured by the grace of God on the road to Damascus he was evidently content with and proud of his status as a revered Pharisee; see Phil. 3:4-6). His ministry as an apostle did not come by human nomination nor did he look for human