The final participle, giving thanks, found in verse 12, returns Paul to the point where his prayer began (1:3), thereby fashioning a literary inclusio, which "includes" everything mentioned in between as reason to be thankful. Especially since Paul repeats his confession that God is Father, the reader senses his confidence that his concerns for the Colossian congregation will be addressed by a concerned God. If the first thanksgiving remembers God's faithful work on their behalf, this final thanksgiving invokes God's continuing work, which promises to bring to fullness the work of grace the gospel has begun.
Paul's prayers are rich in theological treasure, and this one is no exception. Those who teach Colossians will surely want to mine the themes Paul so simply and elegantly introduces here. Before Paul talks about God, he first talks to God as a personal, covenant-keeping Savior. Thanksgiving for and confidence in God's grace provide the theological foundation for prayer. Given society's tendency toward self-interest and modernity's emphasis on self-sufficiency, we believers need constant reminders that prayer allows us to express our core conviction that God is faithful. And it is in the context of worship, within our various expressions of thanksgiving, that the congregation of believers is empowered to be for and with others in prayer.
The second half of verse 12 is transitional. The words share and inheritance link Paul's thanksgiving (1:3-12) to his confession of Christian faith (1:13-23). These two words are often found together in the Old Testament to describe the distribution of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel (e.g., Deut 32:9). In this context, land is a metaphor or type of God's salvation. Like salvation, land is a good gift given by God to the faith community. In fact, to occupy the land of God's promise was to experience God's salvation and to know with certainty that the Lord is a promise-keeper. Now Paul locates the saints (compare 1:2) in a new promised land, the kingdom of light. As before, the people of God are led there by divine grace; for it is the Father who has qualified the saints for entrance into the kingdom (v. 13). The aorist tense of this verb suggests that God has already made a positive verdict about the believing community. The saints have, in effect, already been granted entrance into the kingdom, since they are "in Christ" and God's Son already rules there.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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