Colossians

New Christians Who Are Being Misled

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The meat! And what to do about it!

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Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Colossians is to study carefully the essence and nature of the deceptive heresy that was being taught to the new Christians (listen to the podcast). This letter is actually one of the most straightforward arguments of the books of the New Testament, but as with every book of the Bible, the meaning becomes apparent only when the context of the author and recipients have been properly understood.

 


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above to hear an audio version of Colossians.

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

 


Read
Read

Easy:   Read the four chapters of Colossians straight through. This should take you around 10-15 minutes. If at all possible, read this letter aloud – since it was intentionally written to be read aloud to the assembled community of believers.

 

Main:   If you are really serious about getting to grips with Colossians then read it through every day for a month. Start by praying specifically for the Holy Spirit’s help and make your own notes as you read. In this way, as you immerse yourself in this process the Holy Spirit will begin to show you profound insights into the meaning of the letter and will begin to highlight the areas in your life that the Lord is wanting to change next.

 


Watch
Watch
Watch here

Colossians 3:1-17 is one of the finest ‘blueprints’ on discipleship and the process of discipleship in the New Testament. The film Whiplash is about extreme mentoring, even to the point of abuse and bullying. Within the context of Jazz music, an aspiring apprentice sets out to be the greatest student of his era. The film explores the desires and hopes, the fears, the rivalry, the real dangers and extreme trials, the successes, and the sacrifices entailed in the pursuit of greatness. It is very definitely non-Christian. There is no grace in the story, only the pressure of the driven and the proud. Whatever the outcome in the story, the apprentice of Jesus will learn much from this film about how NOT to follow Christ, who said; ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30). This film is therefore a foil to true and genuine discipleship and mentoring as evidenced by the gracious way Paul writes, and the content of discipleship as expressed in Colossians, especially Colossians 2:20-3:17.


Study
Study

The letter of Colossians contains both straightforward (almost elementary) Christianity written to very new Christians, along with some of the most profound theology about Christ in the New Testament. The significant issues to study would include: the nature of the divine image (1:15), the sufferings of Christ in our lives (1:24), and the nature of the Colossian heresy (2:16).

Since Paul’s letter to the Colossian church is closely related to his private letter to Philemon, it is important to study this letter as well. Study the people Paul mentions in Colossians 4:7-17 and Philemon 1,2,23-24. Study the way Paul instructs slaves in general (and at length) in Colossians 3:22-25, and Onesimus and Philemon directly in his letter to Philemon.


Meditate
Meditate

Begin your time with God each day by taking one or two verses and ‘wallowing in them deeply’ and then live the rest of the day in the light of their glorious truths ….

 

Suggested verses for meditation

 

 

1:5   ‘the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.’

 

1:10   ‘in order that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.’

 

1:15   ‘He is the image of the invisible God’

 

1:22   ‘But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.’

 

2:6   ‘So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thanksgiving.’

 

3:1   ‘Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

 

4:17   ‘Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”’

 

 

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians:

 

1:9-12   ‘For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father….’

 

 

Paul’s leading imperative to the new Christians at Colossae:

 

2:6-7   ‘So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thanksgiving.’

 

 

Paul’s summary exhortation on discipleship:

 

Colossians 3:1-17


Challenge
The Challenge

The Challenge

 

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘Colossians’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

 

Easy:

Q1  Who planted the church at Colossae?

 

Q2  Which personal letter did Paul write at the same time as Colossians?

 

Q3  What are the two great works of Christ that Paul describes?

 

 

Straightforward:

Q4  Who was Archippus (4:17)?

 

Q5  What is the leading heresy taught by the false teacher at Colossae?

 

Q6  Which three features demonstrate the existence of a genuine community of believers in Jesus?

 

 

Difficult:

Q7  What is Paul’s leading instruction to the new Christian community at Colossae?

 

Q8  Why does Paul write detailed instructions to the slaves in the new Christian community at Colossae (3:22-25) but give only the very briefest exhortations to the other household categories (3:18-21) (compare Ephesians 5:21-6:9)?

 

Testing:

Q9  In Colossians 3:5-14 Paul gives a series of exhortations about the lifestyle of the new Christian community. What part of Jesus’ teachings does this follow closely?

 

 Q10  What is so astonishing about Paul’s view of the Judaism he had so faithfully practiced as a Pharisee?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:

A1 – Epaphras (1:7, 4:12).

A2 – Philemon – compare the names in 4:7-17 with Philemon 1 & 23-24.

A3 – Creation (1:16), and Reconciliation, (1:19,22).

A4 – Philemon and Apphia’s son (Philemon 1:2).

A5 – He denied the divinity of Christ – see 1:15-20, 2:3, 2:6, 2:9.

A6 – Faith in Christ, love for each other, and an expectation of our future with Christ (our hope) (1:4-5).

A7 – That they follow Christ as Lord! (Colossians 2:6,7) “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.”

A8 – Paul addresses all the slaves at Colossae, but he has Onesimus specifically in view (Philemon 1:8-19).

A9 – Paul follows Jesus’ leading lifestyle instructions in the Sermon on the Mount  (Matthew 5:21-48), in almost the same order: anger, lust, truth telling, revenge and love.

A10 – Paul states that God’s atoning work through Christ has relegated Judaism to the level of ‘the principalities and powers’; ‘the basic principles of the world’ (1:13, 2:8, 2:10, 2:15-17).

 

 

 

 

Maps

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Summary & Exhortation -
    • Summary & Exhortation

    Summary & Exhortation

     

     

    In ‘Colossians’ Paul brings his overarching gospel, as magisterially stated in Romans, to a small Christian community of new believers who he has never personally met, but who are being misled by false teaching. As such, this letter is an outstanding summary of the essence of the gospel and the life of community discipleship.

     

    ‘Colossians’ is a delightful little letter full of gentleness, kindness and correction, focused on the divinity and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Written by Paul (the arguments for his authorship of this book outweigh those against) from his prison cell in Ephesus to a little church one hundred miles east at Colossae, it parallels his general letter titled ‘Ephesians’, which was written from Ephesus to all the satellite churches founded during his three years of revival ministry in the capital city of the province of Asia (present day Western Turkey).

     

    The letter is directly twinned with Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon (both letters mention the same colleagues and contexts). So, strictly speaking, we should read Philemon immediately after reading Colossians because the context, themes and argument, tone and style complement each other like a jigsaw puzzle.

     

    The problem at Colossae was that after the church had been started by Epaphras, one of Paul’s missionary team, the new believers came under the influence of a teacher who denied that Jesus was divine, and placed him alongside the powers and authorities of the world. Since this man taught the necessity of circumcision, keeping the sabbath and certain festivals, along with rules about not eating certain foods and practicing harsh aesthetic spiritual disciplines, he was most probably encouraging the new believers to become fully Jewish.

     

    Paul states that the fullness of deity dwells in Christ (2:9), that he is Lord and is pre-eminent, and that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him. Because Christ is above all powers, authorities and rulers, because he has forgiven our sins and cancelled the religious charge that stood against humanity for breaking God’s covenant law and nailed it to the cross, all powers and authorities have lost their right and power to make any charge against those ‘in Christ’. So, all disciples of Jesus are now free to put away the lifestyle of the ‘sinful nature‘ (3:5): immorality, verbal aggression, lying, revenge and hate; and live the life of a community of love, peace, worship in the Spirit.

     

     

    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Do you know anyone who follows Jesus as a teacher, prophet, or wise man, but does not believe Jesus is divine?


    Question 2 -

    Do you have friends who, for religious reasons, refrain from eating certain foods and drinking certain drinks, and practice religious festivals on special days?


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    Question 3 -

    Where in the world do you see people who are working hard to prove their commitment to God?


    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Paul's argument in Colossians

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes
    • The false teaching at Colossae

    The false teaching at Colossae

    Discipleship in 'Colossians'

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

    The church at Colossae was started by a man called ‘Epaphras’, who was both a ‘Colossian’ in that Paul describes him as ‘one of you’ (4:12), and a member of Paul’s missionary team (1:7). It seems that Epaphras had been taught by Paul in the daily teaching sessions in the lecture Hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10), after which he then returned to his home town to start a church.  It is more than likely that Philemon was also trained and involved in the same way (Philemon 1:1,17), and possibly Nympha also (Col 4:14). Epaphras then went to Laodicea (2:12, 4:13,16), and Hierapolis (4:13) where he also planted churches. When Paul wrote this letter, Epaphras was with him in Ephesus, but was not in prison.

     

    Paul writes the letter to the Colossians in order to address and correct deceptive teaching perpetrated by a man who was misleading the new Colossian believers. While we do not know exactly what the heresy was, we can reliably state the following: this false teacher denied that Jesus was God, taught the new believers to obey Jewish laws about food, drink, special religious festivals and circumcision, and imposed rules about not touching certain things. In order to validate his authority, he claimed to have had powerful spiritual experiences, especially encounters with angels. He imposed a harsh religious discipline on those who ‘followed’ him. However, it is not appropriate to state that this was a Gnostic heresy as ‘Gnosticism’ only properly emerged in the 2nd Century CE and was a general umbrella term for a wide breadth of ideas.

     

     

    Paul: The apostle Paul describes himself both as ‘an apostle of Christ’ (1:1) and a ‘servant’ (1:7,23,25) of the church, through God’s commission to him.

     

    Date: Paul was in prison in Ephesus when he wrote the three letters: ‘Ephesians’, ‘Colossians’ and ‘Philemon’, so we should date this letter towards the end of the period, 52-55CE.

     

    Genre:

    The structure and the development of ‘Colossians’ closely follows that of the other leading Pauline letters to the new churches. The essence of this letter is an argument promoting the unique Lordship and all-sufficient fullness of Christ against the claims of human, man-made religion. ‘Colossians’ is essentially a summary of Paul’s central gospel of the life lived with Christ the Lord, in his kingdom.

    The two letters ‘Ephesians’ and ‘Colossians’ are closely aligned in theology, structure, content and emphasis. Both letters, along with Paul’s private letter to Philemon, were written at the same time during an imprisonment in Ephesus. ‘Ephesians’ is a general letter to all disciples throughout ‘the province of Asia’, (Acts 19:10), while ‘Colossians’ draws strongly on ‘Ephesians’ but is carefully adapted to address a specific ‘heresy’ (or ‘deception’, 2:8) that was influencing the young church in the city of Colossae. The private letter to Philemon is so closely allied to ‘Colossians’ (compare 4:7-17 with Philemon 1:2,23,24) that it can almost be considered to be a ‘private’ fifth chapter of ‘Colossians’.

    Paul had never met the Colossian Christians (apart from a handful of people that he names) so he writes courteously and gently (in contrast to his letter to the Galatians, even though in both letters he is addressing very similar issues).

    We should also note that this straightforward letter uses various examples of Paul’s leading ‘thought categories’. Firstly, faith, hope and love are cited as the leading reasons for his thanksgiving in the opening verses (1:3-5). Secondly, hope, inheritance and power, the three leading features of the opening intercession for all disciples in the general letter of Ephesians (1:18-19), are cited in the letter’s opening section (1:5,11,12). Finally, the exhortations to reject the lifestyle of the flesh are listed around Paul’s classic framework: sexual immorality, idolatry and hatred.

    The Structure of the letter to the Colossians

    Introduction

    1:1-2   Opening Greeting

    1:3-8   Thanksgiving

    1:9-12  Prayer

     

    1:13 – 2:5   Paul corrects the false teaching at Colossae: all the fullness of God is in Christ

    1:13-20   Christ’s universal supremacy

    1:21-23   The new believers must continue in the faith

    1:24-2:5   Paul’s apostolic work for the gospel

     

    2:6 – 3:17   Believers must continue to follow Christ as Lord. Our characters are not changed through obeying religious rules, but through loving Christ, rejecting the behaviour of our sinful natures and putting on the nature of Christ

    2:6-7   Exhortation: continue to follow Christ the Lord

    2:8   … and don’t be deceived by philosophy and ‘human tradition’

    2:9-10   … for you are in Christ who is all the fullness of deity!

    2:11-15  Christ has ‘circumcised’ our sinful nature, forgiven our sins, cancelled the Old Covenant Law and publicly defeated the ‘powers and authorities’

    2:16-19   … therefore do not let anyone insist that you live under the now redundant religious laws (despite anything this false teacher at Colossae may claim about special spiritual experiences endorsing his authority to teach)

    2:20-23   Since you died with Christ, the commands of dead religion are now completely and utterly redundant!

    3:1-4   Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts and your minds on the life of Christ (in the kingdom)…

    3:5-11   ...put to death all the evil behaviour of your earthly nature …

    3:12-17  … and clothe yourselves with the characteristics of love.

     

    Final Exhortations

    3:18-4:1   The Christian household

    4:2-6   The Christian community

    4:7-18   Paul’s mission team

     

     

    Themes:

    1) Jesus is divine: the whole fullness of God dwells in Christ the Lord. He is the creator and reconciler. He is supreme over all things.

     

    2) Through faith, evidenced by baptism, the believer is united with Christ in his death and resurrection and is now ‘in Christ’, where all the fullness of God dwells.

     

    3) The disciple of Jesus must put to death the behaviour and lifestyle of the sinful nature and put on the lifestyle and behaviour of Christ.   

     

    4) Human, man-made, religious instructions are useless in changing our lifestyles and behaviour.

     

    Literary Genre >
      Paul's argument in Colossians -

    Paul’s argument in Colossians

     

    The key to unlocking the dynamic of Colossians is to study carefully the essence and nature of the deceptive heresy that was being taught to the new Christians (I suggest you listen to the podcast). Paul’s letter to the Colossians contains one of the most straightforward arguments in the New Testament, but as with every book of the Bible, the meaning only becomes properly apparent when the context of both the author and recipients have been fully understood.

     

    The context Paul is addressing: the challenge he faces

    Paul is writing to new Christians in a church planted by Epaphras, one of his trainee missionaries. After Epaphras had left Colossae, Paul became aware that someone else was teaching the new believers in Colossae that Christ was not divine, that Christ was somehow subservient to the ‘powers and authorities’ and that the new Christians should practice a harsh religious discipline: to be circumcised, abstain from certain foods, and keep certain religious festivals. This false teacher was endorsing his authority to teach by claiming that he had had experiences of angels.

     

    Paul writes to the Colossian believers from prison in Ephesus. In an astonishing ‘God-incident’, Paul has recently led a run-away slave called Onesimus to faith in Christ, and he now takes this opportunity to send Onesimus back to his ‘owner’ Philemon, who is himself a believer, with the accompanying private ‘letter to Philemon’ in which he exhorts Philemon to welcome Onesimus as a ‘dear brother’ (Philemon 1:16).

     

    Paul argues that not only is Christ the very image of God, but that all the fullness of God lives in Christ.  He writes that because Jesus Christ has created all things, and reconciled all things to himself through his atoning death, all believers must follow him as Lord. Through our baptism into his death our old lives are ended, our sins are forgiven, we are holy and blameless in Christ and the old religious practices have been publicly declared useless and redundant. Believers must therefore ‘clothe themselves’ (3:12) with the lifestyle of Christ.

     

     

    Paul develops his argument as follows …

     

     

    Introduction

    1:1-2   Opening Greeting

    Paul follows his usual practice of adapting the standard ‘greeting’ pattern of a mid-first century CE Roman letter in order to introduce the arguments he will develop in the letter: his apostolic authority, and the focus on Christ Jesus.

    1:3-8   Thanksgiving Paul thanks God for the new believers’ faith, love and hope, and affirms Epaphras who started the Colossian church as a faithful minister of Christ.

    1:9-12   Prayer Paul prays that God will give the believers spiritual wisdom so they live a life worthy of the Lord, that they are strengthened by his power, and participate in the inheritance of the kingdom.

     

     

    1:13 – 2:5   Paul corrects the false teaching at Colossae: all the fullness of God is in Christ

    1:13-20   Christ’s universal supremacyPaul now immediately makes his main point: that Christ is divine, that Christ created all things, that Christ is the ‘head of the body’ (the church) and that Christ is reconciling all things to himself through his atoning work.

    1:21-23  The new believers must continue in the faithAlthough they were alienated from God, Christ has now reconciled them and made them holy, so they must continue firmly in their faith in Christ the Lord.

    1:24-2:5   Paul’s apostolic work for the gospel Paul elaborates God’s commission to him to present the gospel to the Gentiles.

     

     

    2:6 – 3:17   Believers must continue to follow Christ as Lord. Our characters are not changed through obeying religious rules, but through loving Christ, rejecting the behaviour of our sinful natures and putting on the nature of Christ

    2:6-7   Exhortation: continue to follow Christ the Lord With this leading exhortation of the letter, Paul stresses that the new believers must continue to follow Christ as Lord and be built up in Christ.

    2:8   … and don’t be deceived by philosophy and ‘human tradition’The exhortation of v6-7 is contrasted with this warning, because the new Colossian believers are being deceived by a philosophically-based heresy.

    2:9-10   … for you are in Christ who is all the fulness of deity!Paul again emphasises that Christ is fully divine (1:13-20) and that every believer is already ‘in Christ’.

    2:11-15  Christ has ‘circumcised’ our sinful nature, forgiven our sins, cancelled the Old Covenant Law and publicly defeated the ‘principalities and powers’… – This is the very heart and substance of Paul’s argument and closely parallels his argument in Romans 6:1-10.

     2:16-19   … therefore do not let anyone insist that you live under the now redundant religious laws (despite anything this false teacher at Colossae may claim about special spiritual experiences endorsing his authority to teach) – Religious practices about food, drink and special festivals are now all completely irrelevant – they were at best only a shadow (a sign) of the reality that is in Christ. So do not allow any religious leader to persuade you otherwise, regardless of whatever spiritual experiences he may claim to have had.

    2:20-23   Since you died with Christ, the commands of dead religion are now completely and utterly redundant! – Paul now returns to, and applies, his argument about ‘baptism & resurrection’ (2:11-15) and demonstrates that the basic principles of human religious practice, however impressive they may seem to be, are utterly futile in addressing and restraining sensual indulgence and changing us to be like Christ.

    3:1-4   Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts and your minds on the life of Christ (in the kingdom) – Paul now applies the second part of his argument about ‘baptism & resurrection’ (2:12-13): since we have been joined, by baptism, into Christ’s death and resurrection, all believers must set their hearts and minds on living with the resurrected Christ.

    3:5-11   Put to death all the evil behaviour of your earthly nature…  – Put to death sexual immorality (v5-7), hate-filled speech (v8) and lying (v9), because you are being renewed and made into the image of God; that is, Christ himself (1:15).

    3:12-17  … and clothe yourselves with the characteristics of love – In a passage that parallels ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul exhorts the Colossians to ‘clothe’ themselves with the loving characteristics of ‘the image of the Creator’ (v10).

    3:18-4:1   The Christian Household – Paul’s first four exhortations are the briefest summaries of Ephesians 5:22 – 6:4. But in his extended elaboration of his ‘general’ instructions to slaves (v22-25), Paul has Onesimus in view, as per his separate, parallel letter, ‘Philemon’.

    4:2-6   The Christian Community – Paul ends his letter to the Colossian church with a series of short exhortations focusing on: prayer, the proclamation of the ‘mystery of Christ’, and an appeal that they are all wise in their conduct and gracious in their speech.

    4:7-18   Paul’s mission team – Before closing his letter to the believers in Colossae who he has never met, Paul takes time and space to pass extensive greetings from his missionary team, thereby building relationships between his team and the new church.

     

     

     

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Broken relationships are around us in every part of life, but have you ever seen two warring parties reconciled?


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    Question 2 -

    What ‘ministry have you received in the Lord’ (Colossians 4:17)?


    Question 3 -

    Should Christians join Hindus in not eating beef, and Muslims not eating pork? Should Christians go on pilgrimage to the Ganges, or Mecca?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 1:1 - 12 Introduction & Prayer
    • /
    • 1:13 - 2:5 Christ is Divine
    • /
    • 2:6 - 4:6 Being Disciples of Christ the Lord
    • /
    • 4:7 - 18 Paul's team and situation

    Introduction

     

    1:1-2   Opening Greeting

    Paul follows his usual practice of adapting the standard ‘greeting’ pattern of a mid-first century CE Roman letter in order to introduce the arguments he will develop in the letter: his apostolic authority, and the focus on ‘Christ Jesus’. The greeting is exactly the same as the one he uses to open his general letter to all Christians, the letter entitled ‘Ephesians’.

    V2   Paul emphasises the fact that the new Colossian believers are already ‘holy’ in contrast to the false teacher who is enforcing human religious laws in order to make people ‘holy’ (2:16-23). Everyone ‘in Christ’ is already ‘holy’ – set apart for God’s use.  Hebrews 10:14 is probably the strongest (and most astonishing) statement in Scripture on this subject.  ‘Grace and peace’ come, not from Caesar as the Roman version of the greeting states, but from God himself as a specific and direct result of Christ’s atoning work.

     

     

    1:3-8    Thanksgiving Paul thanks God for the new believers’ faith, love and hope, and affirms Epaphras – who started the Colossian church – as a faithful minister of Christ.

    Paul begins his letter to this small young community of disciples, who he has not yet personally met, by thanking God for the three essential defining evidences that a person is a disciple of Jesus: their faith, love and hope. ‘Faith’ is belief in Jesus. ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9). Faith is like getting on a bus. Every person on the bus believes the driver will take them to the destination. If they did not believe then they would get off the bus. ‘Love’ is the evidence that ‘faith’ is genuine. Jesus taught: ‘by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35). Paul wrote; ‘the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love’ (Galatians 5:6), and James wrote: ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:17). ‘Hope’ is the quiet certainty of our future in Christ, both here on earth and later with Christ after we die. Our ‘hope’ is our ‘assured pension’; everything we have in Christ, given to us on the basis of his atoning work, which we are already beginning to experience and live through the dynamic reality of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Galatians 4:6, Romans 5:5). This message of God’s grace to us in and through Jesus continues even today to spread out throughout the world. Love’ fulfils all the law (Galatians 5:14), it is the one command of Christ (John 15:17), it is the first fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and it is the evidence of the Spirit’s work (Romans 5:5), so with this axiomatic truth Paul sums up his introductory thanksgiving.

    V7   Paul affirms Epaphras as ‘faithful’, and his ministry as Pauline. He does this in order to give complete endorsement to Epaphras’ teaching over and against the unnamed false teacher who is deceiving (2:8) the new Colossian disciples, and in opposition to whom this letter is written. Epaphras is himself a ‘Colossian’ (4:12), but has been trained by Paul in the daily teaching sessions in the Hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10). He then returned to Colossae where he ‘planted’ the Colossian church, and quite possibly the churches at Laodicea, (2:1, 4:15-16), and Hierapolis (4:13) as well.

     

     

    1:9-12   Prayer Paul prays that God will give the believers spiritual wisdom so they live a life worthy of the Lord, that they are strengthened by his power, and participate in the inheritance of the kingdom.

    Jesus not only repeatedly encouraged his disciples to pray, but he taught them that true prayer will always be answered, or ‘rewarded’, by God. The key to receiving answers to prayer is to learn how to ask God for the very things that God already wants to do (‘Thy will be done’ (Matt 6:10), not, ‘this is what I want you to do God’). This is why Paul’s written prayer for the new Colossian Christians is so important for all who seek to learn how to pray. At first sight, verses 9-14 are a bit confusing as they contain a whole number of phrases and ideas from Ephesians 1, nevertheless, Paul’s prayer can be simplified to the following four essential requests: first is a request that the Colossians are filled (passive tense) with ‘the knowledge of His will’. This is of course closely aligned with the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, and the answer comes through wisdom and understanding in the Spirit. Secondly, once we know God’s will we can begin to live ‘a life worthy of the Lord’. The word ‘worthy’ originates directly from Jesus (Matthew 10:11,37), and is specifically used by Paul and Barnabas in their charge against those at Pisidian Antioch (only 200 miles East of Colossae) (Acts 13:46). This is precisely why Paul makes it the focus of his prayer. The great call on every disciple is to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ. Paul’s third petition is that we are strengthened with ‘power’ so we can patiently endure. In Pauline language, ‘power’ is closely aligned with ‘the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:4,13). ‘Endurance’ is a leading feature of mature discipleship (Matthew 24:13). The proper response to grace is always ‘thanksgiving’, and this is the fourth and last focus of Paul’s prayer. Instead of being known as someone who ‘complains’, mature disciples will be known for being at peace, and for being deeply grateful.

    V12   Paul usually refers to ‘inheritance’ in terms of ‘the kingdom’ (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 15:50, Ephesians 5:5). We should also note that Paul has mentioned the three key petitions of his prayer in Ephesians 1:18-19 (hope, inheritance and power) in the opening verses of Colossians (v5,11,12).

     

    1:13 – 2:5   Paul corrects the false teaching at Colossae: all the fullness of God is in Christ.

     

    1:13-20   Christ’s universal supremacyPaul now immediately makes his main point: that Christ is divine, that Christ created all things, that Christ is ‘head of the body’ (the church) and that Christ is reconciling all things to himself through his atoning work.

    Paul begins his correction of the deception at Colossae with this leading statement about Christ’s divinity, his work in creation and reconciliation, and his supremacy over all things. The argument has three parts: V13-14 describe the great Exodus achieved by Christ on the Cross through which believers have been redeemed, their sins have been forgiven, and they have been ‘delivered from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves’. The community of disciples are God’s new humanity, reflecting the image of the divine Saviour to all humanity. V15-20 are a brilliantly constructed comparison demonstrating God’s creation of all things through Christ, with his second creation of the church through his reconciling work.

    V15   This is a leading definition and concept for understanding Christ’s divinity. The interface, the point of contact, between the divine and humanity is Jesus Christ. We see what God is truly like when we see and encounter Jesus, and only when we see and encounter Jesus. God created everything in Christ, through Christ and for Christ; all God’s fullness dwells in Christ and through his death on the cross, Christ is reconciling everything to himself. Since he is therefore pre-eminent, he must be pre-eminent in everything.

    V16   Paul labours the point that Christ is not in authority alongside other ‘powers and authorities’ (as seems to have been the teaching of the heretic Colossian teacher (2:8)), but is himself the creator of all ‘powers and authorities’. These ‘powers and authorities’ are earthly powers, such as the governors of nations, and spiritual powers at work, which NT Wright explains as “unforeseen forces working in the world through pagan religion, astrology, or magic, or through the oppressive systems that enslaved, or tyrannised human beings”. Paul’s exhortation to Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a ‘dear brother’ is a perfect example of Christ’s power ‘to reconcile to himself all things’ and also make a public display of his Lordship over and defeat of slavery, an earthly ‘power’, at the Cross (2:15)!

    V17   ‘He is before all things’ because Christ was not created but ‘begotten’, that is, he has always existed because he IS God.

    V19-20&22   Paul choice of ‘reconciliation’ as the atonement motif is exceptionally well illustrated in his companion letter to Philemon where he brings together ‘in Christ’ his ‘fellow-worker’, ‘partner’ and ‘brother’ Philemon, and his ‘son’ Onesimus. The ‘atonement theory’ of Colossians 1:18-22 is therefore illustrated through the living example of the reconciliation of Philemon and Onesimus in the new community of believers at Colossae.

     

     

    A1. The Son is the image of the invisible God,

    A2. The firstborn over all creation.

    For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on

    earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or

    rulers or authorities;

    A3. All things have been created through him and for him.

    A4. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

     

    B1. And he is the head of the body, the church;

    B2. He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,

    so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God

    was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,

    B3. And through him to reconcile to himself all things,

    B4. Whether things on earth or things in heaven,

     by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

     

    Comment:

    A1-B1              Christ is the image of God and the head of the church

    A2-B2             He is first in creation and in the new-creation

    A3-B3             He created everything and has reconciled everything

    A4-B4             He holds together everything in creation, and through

    his death, everything in heaven and earth.

     

     

    A B Comment
    The Son is the image of the invisible God (v15) And he is the head of the body, the church (v18) He is the image of God himself on this earth
    The firstborn over all creation (v15) he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead (v18) He is first in the old creation and the new creation
    all things have been created through him and for him (v16) and through him to reconcile to himself all things (v19) He created all things and all things are reconciled to him
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (v17) … to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven (v20) He holds everything together

    (This material is drawn from N.T Wright’s commentary ‘Colossians & Philemon’)

     

     

    1:21-23  The new believers must continue in the faithAlthough they were alienated from God, Christ has now reconciled them and made them holy, so they must continue firmly in their faith in Christ the Lord.

    Paul now applies the argument of 1:15-20 to the new Colossian believers by contrasting their previously sinful state (v21) with their new holiness (v22) before introducing the necessity of continuing to hold faithfully to the gospel – the gospel of which Paul is the leading ‘servant’ (v23).

    V22   Three statements affirming our status before God: holy, without blemish, free from accusation (see also Romans 8:1, Hebrews 10:14). Wow! This truth is almost too astonishing to believe!

    V23   Paul introduces himself as a servant of the Gospel. Although he introduced himself as ‘an apostle’ (1:1), Paul was careful to affirm Epaphras’ faithful ministry in 1:7, but from this point Paul quietly exerts his authority in order to correct the Colossian heresy. The edict has been made – ‘proclaimed to every creature under heaven’ – our task is to ensure that everyone hears and understands the divine edict.

     

     

    1:24-2:5   Paul’s apostolic work for the gospel Paul elaborates God’s commission to him to present the gospel to the Gentiles.

    V24   ‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake’ (ESV); the teacher at Colossae who is deceiving the new believers is most likely disparaging Paul because of his imprisonment, and arguing that this is evidence of God’s disapproval of Paul and his gospel and conversely evidence that he (the false teacher) is right. Paul turns the argument around, asserting that his prison sufferings are part of his ministry for, and partnership with, Christ. There is certainly no hint that Paul’s suffering is redemptive, in the way that Christ’s sufferings are redemptive, as 1:19-20 and 2:15 make quite clear. Paul seems to be referring to the inevitable tribulation that will accompany the proclamation of the gospel in the context of ‘the dominion of darkness’ (1:13). Paul expresses the ‘cruciform’ nature of apostolic ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. In 4:8 Paul specifically states that he is sending Tychicus ‘for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances’, in other words, Paul is sending Tychicus to give the Colossians the true facts about Paul’s imprisonment.

    V25   Paul again (1:23) refers to himself as the servant of the gospel, although the acknowledged meaning is that he has been commissioned by Christ as the ‘leading servant’.

    V26   The ‘mystery’ is how the Gentiles are now included in the new covenant people of God (3:11). But we should recognise that Paul uses this word in several ways even in the letter to the Colossians (4:3).

    V27   The ‘hope’ is our assured future in Christ, guaranteed by the gift of the Spirit to us.

    In this section Paul writes about his own ministry as the one commissioned by God to proclaim and teach the gospel of Christ and bring disciples to maturity. These verses contain several rather complicated phrases, so it is helpful to refer back to the parallel longer section in Ephesians 3:1-13. Paul speaks of his hard and dedicated work in bringing people to faith and maturity. All this is so that the new Colossians Christians might understand that everything they need, specifically true wisdom and knowledge, is found exclusively in Christ.

    V28-29   Paul returns to describe further his own ministry as the apostle of the gospel. Paul’s energy and determination to preach the gospel and make mature disciples in Christ is a powerful example and motivation for all who have given their lives in obedience to Jesus’ commission in Matthew 8:19-20.

    2:3   Paul uses the word ‘mystery’ again (1:26,27), but now references it as ‘Christ’ ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’. He then explains that he is specifically stating this over and against the false teacher(s), who appeal to philosophy (2:8), and to spiritual experiences (2:18), and enforce aesthetic commands (2:21).

    V5   A rare insight into Paul’s prophetic gifting as he prays and intercedes for the new Colossian community of believers. Paul could sense in the Spirit the spiritual state of the believing community at Colossae when they worshipped in the Spirit. He liked what he encountered and was not afraid to encourage them.

     

    2:6 – 3:17   Believers must continue to follow Christ as Lord. Our characters are not changed through obeying religious rules, but through loving Christ, rejecting the behaviour of our sinful natures and putting on the nature of Christ

     

    2:6-7   Exhortation: continue to follow Christ the Lord With this leading exhortation of the letter, Paul stresses that the new believers must continue to follow Christ as Lord and be built up in Christ.

    Paul now gives the central exhortation of the letter: Paul’s imperative to them is that since Christ is Lord, they must continue to follow Him as Lord. It seems that although the new believers had received Christ as Lord, they had subsequently been taught that Christ is somehow inferior to, or at least not superior to, ‘the principalities and powers’ of this world. Verses 6 and 7 are therefore the leading imperative of the letter: they contain four exhortations stating that discipleship is centred from beginning to end on obedience to Christ as Lord.

     

     

    2:8   … and don’t be deceived by philosophy and ‘human tradition’The exhortation of v6-7 is contrasted with this warning, because the new Colossian believers are being deceived by a philosophically-based heresy.

    This verse is a clear statement and warning against the false teacher at Colossae. This person is basing his heretical teaching on human philosophy and tradition (which are elaborated in greater detail in v16, 18, 21-23).

     

     

    2:9-10   … for you are in Christ who is all the fullness of deity!Paul again emphasises that Christ is fully divine (1:13-20), and that every believer is already ‘in Christ’.

    Paul’s leading argument is that since ‘in Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form’, and that all believers ‘have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority’, there is absolutely NO need for believers to behave as if we were still bound to the basic principles of the world! Indeed to do so would be sheer madness.

     

     

    2:11-15  Christ has ‘circumcised’ our sinful nature, forgiven our sins, cancelled the Old Covenant Law and publicly defeated the ‘principalities and powers’ – This is the very heart and substance of Paul’s argument and closely parallels his argument in Romans 6:1-10.

    A man became a member of the Old Covenant by being circumcised – the human act of cutting off the foreskin – this was the evidence that the person believed that through obeying the Old Covenant law they would be in right-standing with God. But Christ’s work on the cross is far superior because, through our faith in him, God removes not the foreskin from the male body, but the evil sinful nature that ruins every person’s standing before God. A person becomes a member of the New Covenant through believing in Jesus and giving evidence of this faith by being baptised. (In Romans 6:1-10, especially v4,6, Paul gives a much fuller explanation of how the sinful nature is removed from us through our baptism into Christ’s death on the cross). Paul adds in v14 that God did not only forgive all our sins, but he even cancelled the legal charge that condemns us, (because all humanity has failed to keep ‘the Law’ (the Torah)), and nailed it (this cancelled charge) to the cross. If the civil law states that I must not drive over 30 miles an hour in a built-up area then I am guilty as charged if I drive at 45 miles an hour. But if the law is repealed then not only is everyone free to drive over 30mph, but no one has any right to charge me and punish me if I do! In the same way, Christ not only paid for all the sins of humanity when he died on the Cross, but he ‘repealed’ the whole Old Covenant law, so no one can bring any charge against us! So not only have ‘the powers and authorities’ lost their right to charge us, but through Christ’s death they have themselves been publicly rendered completely powerless! The one tool they had, accusing us of failing to keep the OT law, has been removed! The cross therefore publicly demonstrates that they are impotent and redundant! Douglas Moo summarises: “We can imagine the false teachers at Colossae feeding on a widespread ancient fear of various celestial spirits. In response, Paul insists that God, by sending Christ to the cross as the final and definitive means to take care of the sin problem, has removed any power that these evil spirits might have over us. This victory, celebrated and displayed in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, is what believers need to grasp as their own. Christ’s authority over the rulers and authorities (v10) has been decisively manifested; and “in him” believers share that authority” (p216).

     

     

    2:16-19   … therefore do not let anyone insist that you live under the now redundant religious laws (despite anything this false teacher at Colossae may claim about special spiritual experiences endorsing his authority to teach) – Religious practices about food and drink, and special festivals are now all completely irrelevant – they were at best only a shadow (a sign) of the reality that is in Christ. So, do not allow any religious leader to persuade you otherwise, regardless of whatever spiritual experiences he may claim to have had.

    V16   Look all over the world and you will see everywhere the practices of earnest human religion, of attempts to restore our relationship with the Creator by proving our obedience through ‘human tradition’. Instructions either to eat certain foods, or not to eat certain foods, to wash in certain ways, to cut (or not to cut) our hair in certain ways, to go on pilgrimage to certain places, to honour certain times and places, to honour certain people, or to reject other people. Through Christ’s atoning work, every single such religious tradition has been publicly demonstrated to be utterly useless. Only through faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice and resurrection, are men and women restored to right-standing before God.

    V18   Every ‘human religious law’ is ‘false humility’.

    V19   For the first time Paul describes the spiritual state of the false, heretic leader who is deceiving the new Colossian believers. Paul states that this man has lost connection with Christ, the Head of the Church. Paul does not say he is not a Christian, but states that this man has lost connection from the ‘head’, that is, he has become a ‘cancerous cell’ acting independently from the ‘brain’.

     

     

    2:20-23   Since you died with Christ, the commands of dead religion are now completely and utterly redundant! – Paul now returns to, and applies, his argument about ‘baptism & resurrection’ (2:11-15), and demonstrates that the basic principles of human religious practice, however impressive they may seem to be, are utterly futile in addressing and restraining sensual indulgence, and changing us to be like Christ.  

    Not only are we saved by faith in Christ (and not through circumcision), but we are changed through being raised with Christ, and not through obeying irrelevant religious laws that are powerless to ‘restrain sensual indulgence’.

    V23   The root problem at the heart of the ‘sinful nature’ and all human sin is ‘sensual indulgence’ (Romans 8:12, Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4:19, James 1:14-15).

     

    3:1-4   Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts and your minds on the life of Christ (in the kingdom) – Paul now applies the second part of his argument about ‘baptism & resurrection’ (2:12-13): since we have been joined by baptism into Christ’s resurrection, all believers must set their hearts and minds on living with the resurrected Christ.

    The starting point of transformation to be like Christ is to love Christ. Paul therefore exhorts the new Colossian believers to set their hearts and minds – what they love and what they think about – on Jesus. What we love, we think about, and what we think about shapes our lives and our behaviour, so that Paul’s prayer for all believers is that we are so strengthened with might by the Spirit in our inner being that we may know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God ( Ephesians 3:16-19). At this point in the parallel arguments in Galatians, Ephesians, Romans and 2 Corinthians, Paul is more explicit about the Spirit’s transforming power, but because of the risk that any ‘Spirit reference’ might be manipulated by the false teacher to endorse the very claims that Paul has dismissed in 2:18, 23, Paul uses ‘Christ’ language to focus the believers on the Lord, as per 1:15, 2:9 and 2:6-7.

     

     

    3:5-11   Put to death all the evil behaviour of your earthly nature – Put to death sexual immorality (v5-7), hate-filled speech (v8) and lying (v9), because you are being renewed and made into the image of God; that is, Christ himself (1:15).

    Paul lists the very issues Jesus addresses in the Sermon on the Mount in almost exactly the same order: anger (3:8 // Matt 5:21-26), lust (3:5 // Matt 5:27-30), lying/integrity in speech (3:9 // Matt 5:33-37), revenge/forgiveness (3:13 // Matt 5:38-42), love (3:14 // Matt 5:43-48).   

    V5   God brings change to us by uniting us (through our faith) in the atoning work of Christ; our part in living the new life in Christ is to turn away from, that is ‘put to death’, all that ‘belongs to our earthly nature’. Once again, Paul lists sexual immorality as the first issue that new Christians must change in their lives (1 Thessalonians 4:3, Galatians 5:19, 1 Corinthians 5 and 6, however in Ephesians this is the sixth and last issue mentioned (Ephesians 4:25-5:7)).

    V6   The wrath of God is elaborated by Paul in Romans 1:18-32 and is probably best understood as the direct results of sinful behaviour (for example, Matthew 18:35). In other words, we shall all ultimately receive the full consequences of what we do; if we lie, we shall receive the full consequences of being distrusted by others for being a liar. In contrast, in Christ, all who pursue the life of the kingdom will inherit the life of the kingdom.

    V8-11   Paul usually groups human sin into three categories; Sexual immorality, idolatry and hatred (Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 1:19-32), so his focus here on issues of verbal anger (v8), lying (v9), his repeated emphasis on the transformation and renewal into the image of the Creator (v10), and his direct citation of the equality of all ethnic groups in Christ strongly implies that he is specifically addressing issues of religious and ethnic racism and pride in the church at Colossae. This view is strongly endorsed by Paul’s repeated emphasis throughout this letter on the leading necessity of ‘thanksgiving’ in the new life in Christ (1:3, 2:7, 3:15,16,17, 4:2). In his last exhortation to the Colossians, in the body of the letter Paul again exhorts them to ‘gracious’ speech (4:6).

     

     

    3:12-17  … and clothe yourselves with the characteristics of love – In a passage that parallels ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul exhorts the Colossians to ‘clothe’ themselves with the loving characteristics of ‘the image of the Creator’.

    The community of Christ should be characterised by peace, Christ’s teaching, worship and thanksgiving.

    V16   Once we recognise that throughout 3:5-14 Paul is not only following Jesus’ teaching on the key areas of the life of the kingdom, but is doing so in the very order that Christ himself did in Matthew 5:21-48, the phrase ‘the word of Christ’ is surely a direct reference to the wider teachings of Christ. We could add some other parallels: Colossians 4:5 // Matthew 10:16, and Colossians 4:6 // Matthew 5:13.

     

     

    3:18-4:1   The Christian household – Paul’s first four exhortations are the briefest summaries of Ephesians 5:22 – 6:4. But in his extended elaboration of his ‘general’ instructions to slaves (v22-25), Paul has Onesimus in view, as per his separate, parallel letter ‘Philemon’.

    V22-25   When addressing the whole Colossian church community, Paul exhorts Onesimus, and all the slaves in the Colossian church, to serve ‘the Lord Christ’ (following the leading exhortation of Colossians: 2:6) through their service to their masters, while in the parallel letter to Philemon, Paul exhorts his fellow worker Philemon to work through the full implications of the fact that he and Onesimus are now ‘dear brothers’ in the Lord (Philemon 16).

     

     

    4:2-6   The Christian community – Paul ends his exhortation to the Colossian church with a series of short exhortations focusing on: prayer, the proclamation of the ‘mystery of Christ’, and an appeal that they are all wise in their conduct and gracious in their speech. 

    In these final exhortations Paul is addressing the church’s engagement with the outside community. He exhorts the new Christian community at Colossae to ‘devote themselves to prayer’, especially for Paul’s own proclamation of the gospel. He urges them to be wise in the way they interact with outsiders, and to ensure their ‘conversation is full of grace’. There is a clear ‘evangelistic’ undertone to these admonitions.

    4:7-18   Paul’s mission team – Before closing his letter to the believers in Colossae who he has never met, Paul takes time and space to pass extensive greetings from his missionary team, thereby building relationships between his team and the new church.

    Paul’s letters to the Roman church and the new community of believers at Colossae were both written to people Paul had never met, and in both cases (and nowhere else in his letters) Paul takes time to refer to a whole number of individuals. In the case of ‘Romans’ he lists numerous people who he knows personally, but in the case of Colossians, since he knows only a very few (Philemon, Apphia, Archipus, Nympha) he passes on greetings from his missionary team. The very close parallel between the circumstances mentioned in these verses and those articulated in Philemon 1-2, 23-24 demonstrate that Paul’s letter to Philemon is a private letter written perhaps a day or two later; it is effectively a fifth chapter of Colossians. There are four ‘sections’ to these final verses.

     

    V7-9   Tychicus appears to be Paul’s ‘Postman’ (Ephesians 6:21; Acts 20:4). A central member of Paul’s missionary team, who is sent to Colossae with the returning runaway slave Onesimus who Paul affirms as a committed disciple.

    V8   This begs the question; why was Paul so very concerned that the Colossian believers needed to be aware of what was going on him and his missionary team? A likely answer is that Paul was concerned that adverse publicity following his imprisonment in Ephesus might be unsettling the new Colossian believers and playing into the hands of the ‘deceptive’ false teacher of 2:4, 8, 18-20. Tychicus’ task would therefore include teaching and pastoral governance for the new believing community. It is interesting to reflect that in Romans 16:1, Paul commissions Pheobe to do the same in Rome!

     

    V10-11   Paul passes on the greetings of three Jews in his team; Aristarchus, Mark and ‘Jesus who is called Justus’. Paul actually introduces them with the phrase ‘men of the circumcision’, which immediately takes us back to the ‘Judaising’ influence of the false teacher at Colossae who is ‘deceiving’ the new believers (2:8-23). Perhaps Paul deliberately highlights these ‘fellow workers for the kingdom of God’ as examples of believers whom the Colossians should aspire to emulate.

     

    V12-14   Paul then passes on the greetings of three Gentiles in his team: Epaphras, Luke and Demas. The Colossian church had been planted by Epaphras (1:7), and Paul again affirms him, but here it is because he, like Paul (1:9-12, 2:1), is wrestling in prayer that these new believers will ‘stand firm in all the will of God’.

    V13   Paul referred to the church at Laodicea (see the map) in 2:1, but this is the first mention of the neighbouring church at Hierapolis. It is quite possible that Epaphras planted all these churches.

     

    V15-18   These tantalizing instructions shed fascinating details on the dynamics of these very early communities of believers.

    V15   Perhaps Nympha was the leader of the church at Laodicea, or perhaps another church nearby.

    V16  It is more than likely that the ‘letter to the Laodiceans’ is in fact the general circular letter that Paul wrote from prison in Ephesus to all the new churches in the region, which we now entitle “The Letter to the Ephesians”. It is a summation of Paul’s ‘Alpha Course’ that he taught daily to the disciples in the lecture Hall of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:10). The result of this ministry was that the whole of western Turkey ‘heard the word of the Lord’, as men such as Epaphras then took the gospel to their home towns and planted churches.

    V17   A delightful exhortation to this young man, the son of Philemon and Apphia (Philemon 2). In Christ every disciple is an ‘Archippus’! Jesus (John 17:4) and Paul (Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:7) both stated that they had completed the work God had given them to do. What is the ministry task the Lord has specifically given you to complete before you die?

    V18   Finally Paul signs off the letter with his own signature. Those who argue that this letter was written by a pseudo-author usually conveniently overlook the logic that if this was the case then this verse is a blatant white lie in a letter that expressly forbids lying (3:9)!

     

     

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    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of ‘Colossians’:

    Paul wrote to the new Christians at Colossae in order to correct the false teaching that Christ was somehow subservient to the powers and authorities of this world. Christ is divine, the very image of God, the creator and reconciler of all things, and since all the fullness of God dwells in him, he is Lord, and every believer should live rooted and built up in him. Believers must therefore leave their old lifestyles characterised by sexual immorality, anger, lying, unforgiveness and ingratitude, and be changed, not through obeying petty religious laws about food and special festivals, but through loving Christ above everything else.

    The leading imperatives:

    2:6,7 – So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving.

    2:8 – See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

    2:16 – Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

    2:18 – Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.

    3:1 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above where Christ is …

    3:2 – Set your minds on things above …

    3:5 – Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

    3:8 – But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, slander and filthy language from your lips.

    3:9 – Do not lie to each other …

    3:12 – Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.

    3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

    3:14 – And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …

    3:15 – Be thankful.

    3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another …

    3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    3:18 – Wives submit to your husbands…

    3:19 – Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them…

    3:20 – Children, obey your parents…

    3:21 – Fathers, do not embitter your children.

    3:22 – Slaves, obey your earthly masters … with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

    3:23 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.

    4:1 – Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, …

    4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful.

    4:3 – Pray for us that God may open a door for our message …

    4:4 – Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should …

    4:5 – Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

    4:6 – Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you may know how to answer everyone.

     

    (4:10 – Welcome Mark)

     

    The implied imperatives:

    1:3 When we pray we should start with thanksgiving

    1:9 We should model our prayers on the content and structure of Paul’s prayers

    1:10All believers should aim to ‘lead a life worthy of the Lord’

    1:23We must ‘continue in the faith’

    1:28 An important motivational verse for church leaders – ‘We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.’

    2:1Pastors should work diligently for those in their oversight

    2:4 Do not let yourself be deceived

    2:20Don’t submit to petty, irrelevant, redundant religious rules

    3:11 Racism is strictly out of place in the body of believers – we are all absolutely equal in Christ

    4:12Learn how to wrestle in prayer for others

    4:12Read and study Paul’s other letters

    4:17Every disciple should complete the work that Jesus commissions us to do!

    Applications:

    Do not let yourself be deceived by heresy

    Live and grow in Christ the Lord

    Put off the lifestyle of the old nature, and put on the character of Christ

    The Christian community must be characterised by love

    Practice thanksgiving

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Ideas:

    ‘Colossians’ is in its essence a delightfully straightforward presentation of Christ’s victory, his Lordship over all creation, and the life of discipleship that believers grow into as we are rooted and built up in him. Here are some of the Holy Habits specifically mentioned in ‘Colossians’.

    • Thanksgiving: start every time of prayer with thanksgiving
    • Set aside times in your life for practicing: ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ (3:12)
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    List all of the divine features of Christ that Paul mentions in Colossians.


    Question 2 -

    Does Colossians 2:16 give an answer to the question: “should Christians not drink alcohol?”


    Question 3 -

    Should disciples of Jesus keep the Sabbath (2:16)?


    watch video

    Question 4 -

    What changes when we are baptised into Christ’s death?


    Question 5 -

    What changes when, at baptism, we are raised with Christ?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -
    • A Prayer based on "Colossians"

     

    Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that through your death you have delivered us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into your kingdom of light. We ask that we may be so filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that we follow you as Lord, rooted and built up in you, living lives worthy of you, full of love, peace, worship and thanksgiving, for the glory of your name. Amen.

     

    Commentary on the Prayer:

    Lord Jesus Christ (1:3), we thank you that through your death (2:13-15) you have delivered us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into your kingdom of light (1:13). We ask that we may be so filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (1:9) that we follow you as Lord, rooted and built up in you (2:7), living lives worthy of you (1:10), full of love (3:14), peace (3:15), worship (3:16) and thanksgiving (3:17), for the glory of your name. Amen.

     

     

     

     

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries
    • Best Commentaries

    Commentaries on ‘Colossians’   

    (Updated: May 2018)

     

    Commentary Comment
    Douglas Moo

    Letters to Colossians and Philemon

    Pillar NT Series

    In my opinion this is the best commentary on Colossians available at the present time. Moo’s informed and even- handed presentation of the disputed arguments and issues throughout this letter steer the student’s understanding forward. His discussion of the authorship issue is especially helpful.
    N.T. Wright

    Tyndale Series

    (1986) Although now somewhat dated, this shorter commentary continues to hold illuminating insights into the argument of Colossians.
    English Standard Version Study Bible This contains good introductory material for the reader of Colossians.
      Suggested Sermon Series -
    • Suggested Sermon Series

    Sermon Series on Colossians

    (Updated: May 2018)

     

    Series Title:           Baptism, Lordship and Subversion

     

    Strategy: Preaching through a short New Testament letter is usually always best done by preaching systematically through the text section by section. However, in ‘Colossians’ I am suggesting a slightly rearranged order as follows …

     

     

    Text Title Subject
    Colossians 1:24-2:5 and 4:7-18   ‘Paul’s reasons for writing to the Colossians’ 1.     Introduction to Colossians

    ·       Paul’s situation in prison (Ephesus, the revival (Acts 19))

    ·       The Colossian situation: Epaphras, the Judaisers, and the false teacher!

    ·       Tychicus and the Letter, and Philemon a test case for the gospel. The link between ‘Colossians’ and ‘Philemon’

     

    Colossians 1:15 – 2:7 ‘Jesus – the very image of God’ 2.     Jesus is Lord and God and must be pre-eminent in all things

    ·       All the fullness of deity dwells in Christ

    ·       He is the image of the invisible God

    ·       Pre-eminence

     

    Colossians 2:6-23

     

    ‘Baptised into Christ’ 3.     Judaism has now been relegated to the status of the powers and authorities

    ·       All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ (not the Law)

    ·       The church has passed through its own exodus (the death of Christ) and its own circumcision (baptism); the treasures of the Old Covenant are now all surpassed and are found in Christ – the features of the New Covenant were only preparatory and are now redundant because the Kingdom has come

    ·       No need to practice the rules of the OT law (don’t handle etc) because these are simply a preparation for the Kingdom that is now here

     

    Colossians 2:6,7, 2:13-15, 3:1-17 ‘Changing lives’ 4.     Changing to live the new life in Christ

    ·       Colossians is a description of conversion and baptism

    ·       Teach on the new life in Christ post-baptism (3:1-17)

    ·       Our love for Christ changes the way we live

     

    Colossians

    1:15, 2:6-7, 2:15, 3:18 – 4:6, 3:22-25

     

     

    ‘Subversion’ 5.     Subversion: of Caesar, Imperial Rome, all other creeds

    ·       Onesimus, Philemon and the challenge to reconcile and subvert the whole Roman system of slavery

    ·       This test case for the gospel is an incredible insight into the power of the gospel to subvert everything. The Roman empire collapsed because of the influence of Christianity

     

     

     

     

     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    What is Paul referring to when he speaks of ‘the principalities and powers’ (1:16)?


    Question 2 -

    How do you change a human being?


    watch video

    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions:

     

    QQQ             

    Do you know anyone who follows Jesus as a teacher, prophet or wise man, but does not believe Jesus is divine?

    Internet link: (none appropriate)

    Comment:

    Committed Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and many others would in different ways come into these categories.

     

    QQQ             

    Do you have friends who, for religious reasons, refrain from eating certain foods and drinking certain drinks, and practice religious festivals on special days?

    Internet link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxQdSoc8nEE

    Comment:

     

    QQQ             

    Where in the world do you see people who are working hard to prove their commitment to God?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    Pretty well everywhere, except in societies and cultures that are decidedly secular, or atheistic.

     

    Starter Course Questions:

     

    QQQ 

    Broken relationships are around us in every part of life, but have you ever seen two warring parties reconciled?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyPoqFcvt9w

    Comment:

    Reconciling two parties divided by conflict requires exceptional patience, wisdom and skill, but not only is it possible, it is the very essence of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

     

    QQQ             

    What ‘ministry have you received in the Lord’ (Colossians 4:17)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    Every disciple is an ‘Archippus’. Every disciple is called to complete the ‘general ministry’ of the kingdom as described in the New Testament. As we grow as disciples, the Lord guides us into special work and tasks for Him.

     

    QQQ 

    Should Christians join Hindus in not eating beef, and Muslims not eating pork? Should Christians go on pilgrimage to the Ganges, or Mecca?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    Paul boldly states that none of these are necessary to be saved and be in right-standing with God. We are saved by believing in Christ (and we should then make our faith public by being baptised). 

     

    Main Course Questions:

     

    QQQ 

    List all of the divine features of Christ that Paul mentions in Colossians.

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    He is the image of the invisible God (1:15); he is the creator (1:16); all the fullness of God dwells in Christ in bodily form (1:19, 2:9). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ (and not the Old Covenant law) (2:3). He is head over all powers and authorities in heaven and earth (1:16, 2:10).

     

    QQQ 

    Does Colossians 2:16 give an answer to the question: “should Christians not drink alcohol?”

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    Essentially, yes. Colossians 2:6 states that disciples of Jesus are free to eat and drink anything – Jesus himself provided huge amounts of wine at the wedding at Cana of Galilee (John 2). Nevertheless, there will be circumstances where we will abstain from alcohol out of love for Christ and love for others who struggle with addiction. For example, a church with lots of recovering alcoholics will not serve alcohol at its social events. Similarly, I would not serve pork chops at a barbecue with our Jewish or Muslim friends.

     

    QQQ             

    Should disciples of Jesus keep the Sabbath (2:16)?

    Internet link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw0AHOBHXmw

    Comment:

    There are certainly good benefits from having a proper day off each week, but it is faith in Christ’s atoning death that restores us to right relationship with God, not disciplined obedience to religious laws that Paul states have been cancelled (Colossians 2:14). Paul then goes further and warns us against allowing others to judge our freedom in this matter (Colossians 2:16).

     

    QQQ 

    What changes when we are baptised into Christ’s death?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    At baptism the believer is ‘buried with Christ’ (2:12); our sins are forgiven (2:13); the charge of the religious law is cancelled and dismissed (2:14).  The powers and authorities lose their rights over us (2:15). All and every religious law about food, religious festivals, regulations about not touching or handling various things are dismissed as utterly worthless – they are completely unable to either restore us into right standing with God, or change our characters to be like Christ.

     

    QQQ 

    What changes when, at baptism, we are raised with Christ?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    At baptism, the believer is ‘raised with Christ’ (2:12, 3:1). We are seated ‘in Christ’ at the right hand of God (3:1, 3:3); We are given ‘fullness in Christ’ (2:10) and through our discipleship, both individually and corporately, we live at peace with God and each other (3:15), we follow the teachings of Christ and worship him (3:16), and we gratefully obey him as Lord (3:17).

     

    Dessert Course Questions:

     

    QQQ             

    What is Paul referring to when he speaks of ‘the principalities and powers’ (1:16)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    Paul seems to have the following in view: the powers on the earth are the governments of the nations, but also all political ideas and movements such as communism, capitalism, fascism, utopianism, and every ‘ism’ that shapes the lives and communities of men and women. The powers in the heavens are spiritual powers such as magic, sorcery, witchcraft, paganism, every false religion and all idolatry.

     

     

    QQQ 

    How do you change a human being?

    Internet link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uFWPCb5Afg

    Comment:

    Change what a person loves. This is the essence of Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 3:14-19, and it is why Paul instructs the believers at Colossae to set their hearts on Christ (3:2), and why the first activity of the believing community is worship (3:16). God’s transforming work in us began with Christ’s reconciliation at the Cross; our part is to love him, and the evidence that we do love him is seen in our obedience to all that he wants (John 15:14). 

     

     

      Coaching Questions -
    Discipleship Coaching Session                                  Colossians

     

                Podder:   

    Start:    ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  How have you got on?

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  
    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

     

         How did you engage with ‘Colossians’?

    What were the verses/stories that made the greatest impression on you?

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Colossians’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    ·       Jesus is divine: the whole fullness of God dwells in Christ the Lord. He is the creator and reconciler. He is supreme over all things.

    ·       Through faith, evidenced by baptism, the believer is united with Christ in his death and resurrection and is now ‘in Christ’ where all the fullness of God dwells.

    ·       Human, man-made, religious instructions are useless in changing our lifestyles and behaviour.

    ·       The disciple of Jesus must put to death the behaviour and lifestyle of the sinful nature and put on the lifestyle and behaviour of Christ.  

         How can you and I change to be more like Christ?

    ·       What religious practices do not change us?

    ·       What Holy Habits do change us?

    ·       What is the motivation for change?

     

    *** Use some of the Menu Questions

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

     

    1)    ‘Put to death’… Do any of the things Paul lists in 3:5,8,9,13 need to be ‘put to death’ in your life?

     

    2)    ‘Clothe yourselves’ … Choose one of the things Paul lists in 3:12-14. What ‘Holy Habit’ can you practice to grow in this character of Christ?

    60 min: Prayer from Colossians: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that through your death you have delivered us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into your kingdom of light. We ask that we may be so filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that we follow you as Lord, rooted and built up in you, living lives worthy of you full of love, peace, worship and thanksgiving, for the glory of your name. Amen.