In combating the evil philosophy that had affected the members of the church at Colosse, Paul sets forth the gospel of the headship of Christ. Rather than to turn from this world in an evil spirit of asceticism, Paul exhorts them to see its glory in relation to Christ the Head of all things.
A BRIEF OUTLINE OF THIS LETTER
1.The salutation (Col. 1:1, 2). Paul identifies himself as the sender of this letter and includes Timothy who is with him at Rome (Col. 1:1). He also addresses the church at Colosse as saints and faithful brethren and extends to them the apostolic greeting (Col. 1:2).
2.Paul expresses thanks for the Colossian Christians (Col. 1:3-8). He directs his thanks to God, Who is also the Father of Christ, for he acknowledges that He is the real source of all the spiritual virtues present in the church (Col. 1:3). He also rejoices in that God was pleased to use Epaphras as His mouthpiece to bring to them the good news of the gospel (Col. 1:7). This same Epaphras reported to Paul that the Colossian believers excelled in faith, love, and hope as the manifest fruits of the gospel which was preached to them (Col. 1:8, 4-6).
3.The inspired apostle assures the Colossians that he prays continually for their welfare (Col. 1:9-12). He mentions specifically that they may be filled with knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9), that they walk worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10), that they be strengthened unto patience and longsuffering (Col. 1:11), and that they may give thanks unto the Father for being made partakers of the inheritance (Col. 1:12).
4.He now sets forth the glorious truth that Christ is the exalted Head of all (Col. 1:13-23). Christ possesses a kingdom into which we are translated through the redemption and forgiveness of sin (Col. 1:13, 14). He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the firstborn of every creature (Col. 1:15); He is before all things, hence all things were created by and for Him. This includes all things in heaven and earth, and by Him all these things consist (Col. 1:16, 17). He is the Head of the church (Col. 1:18); He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead (Col. 1:18); He has the preeminence for in Him all the fullness dwells (Col. 1:18, 19). By His blood on the cross He has reconciled all things unto the Father, things in earth and heaven (Col. 1:20), including the Colossian believers who in time past were alienated, were enemies, and committed wicked works, but are now holy and un blamable (Col. 1:21, 22). They will remain such as long as they continue in the faith (Col. 1:23).
5. Paul the minister, now reminds the Colossians that he was made a minister in order to serve the church by bringing the gospel to them (Col. 1:24-29). This included his suffering for the gospel which he considered a way of filling up Christ’s suffering for the sake of the church (Col. 1:24). The message he brings is the Word of God which was hidden for ages, but is now manifest to the saints, namely, that Christ is preached, the hope of glory (Col. 1:25-27). That preaching includes warning and teaching in order that every man might be presented perfect in Christ (Col. 1:28, 29).
6. In chapter two, Paul deals more directly with the vain philosophies that were affecting the church. In the opening statement of this chapter he assures them that he cares for them (Col. 2:1-7). Even though he has not seen them face to face he has great conflict for them (Col. 2:1). His burden is that the believers may be knit together in love and have full assurance of understanding, that is, that in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God are hidden (Col. 2:2, 3). If they do this, they will not be beguiled by enticing words (Col. 2:4), for in Christ alone they are rooted and built up and stablished in faith, by which they are thankful and able to walk as God would have them walk (Col. 2:5-7).
7. The way that Paul deals with the heresies that were attacking the church is to show how poor they were compared to the gospel of Christ’s headship over all (Col. 2:8-23). There are four heresies referred to in this chapter. First, Paul deals with the vain philosophies, that is the deceitful notion that one must be worldly wise or be considered a fool. The answer to this is that such a notion will spoil a man. On a much higher plane, Paul points out that knowledge in Christ is complete, for in Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:8-23). There are four heresies referred to in this chapter. First, Paul deals with the vain philosophies, that is the deceitful notion that one must be worldly wise or be considered a fool. The answer to this is that such a notion will spoil a man. On a much higher plane, Paul points out that knowledge in Christ is complete, for in Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:8-10). Second, he combats the evil influence of Jewish ceremonialism which insisted that one must be circumcised, watch what he eats and drinks, observe holy days, Sabbaths, and moons if he is to be right with God. The answer to this is that through faith in Christ we are spiritually circumcised and baptized and quickened to spiritual life which is expressed in a far greater way than external observances. Christ, through His death and resurrection, blotted out the ceremonial laws and triumphed over all earthly powers and now reigns over the saints in a new life. He warns the Colossians not to let anyone judge their spiritual condition on the basis of what they eat or drink, etc. (Col. 2:11-17). Third, there was present the heresy of angel worship, as if angels might help us in our prayers to God. In dealing with this Paul points out that those who advocate this idea are vainly puffed up and are intruding into things which are not seen. Rather we are to turn to Christ our Head, from Whom we receive all the blessings of God (Col. 2:18, 19). Finally, the error of asceticism was present. They taught that one could attain unto spiritual perfection by abstaining from earthly things. His answer to this evil is that we are dead with Christ from the rudiments of this world and through His resurrection are alive to serve God. All denials, such as, “Touch not, taste not, handle not” are of men. All who confide in them will perish for they have a show of wisdom and humility, but not after God (Col. 2:20-23).
8. Christ, the Head of all, is the source of our spiritual life. It involves mortification of the old man and the quickening of the new man (Col. 3:1-17). The spiritual power for this is our being crucified and raised with Christ. By this energy, we are to seek the things which are above (Col. 3:1-4). This includes the mortification of our members, that is, the putting away of former sins which were committed when we gave way to our evil nature. He lists many of them: various sexual sins, covetousness, anger, blasphemy, filthy communication, including lying (Col. 3:5-9). Rather, we are to put on the new man which is a renewal in the image of God. This includes practicing mercy, kindness, humility, forbearance and forgiving one another, charity (love), letting the peace of God rule our hearts and letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly so that we can be a blessing to each other in our singing and giving thanks to God (Col. 3:10-17).
9. The Colossian Christians are exhorted to demonstrate this faithfulness also in their domestic life (Col. 3:18-4:1). He mentions first that wives are to submit themselves unto their husbands in the Lord (Col. 3:18). Husbands are to love their wives and be not bitter against them (Col. 3:19). Children are to obey their parents in all things for this is pleasing unto the Lord (Col. 3:20). Fathers are not to provoke their children unto wrath lest they be discouraged (Col. 3:21). Servants are to obey their masters with a view to serving God and not men, for they will receive from Him their reward for doing either good or evil (Col. 3:22-25). Finally, masters also are to give their servants what is just, for they must remember that their Master is Christ Himself (Col. 4:1).
10. A closing thought is given, they are encouraged to be diligent in prayer and to include a prayer for Paul that a door may be opened unto him that he may preach the gospel (Col. 4:2-6). They are to live as a witness to those that are outside the congregation, being ready to testify to any man, having their speech seasoned with salt (Col. 4:5, 6).
11. Final greetings and salutations are given (Col. 4:7-18). Tychicus, who delivered this letter, would bring information of Paul’s affairs and comfort them (Col. 4:7, 8); Onesimus will add whatever he can (Col. 4:9). He extends greetings from those who are with him: Aristarchus (a fellow prisoner), Marcus (sister’s son to Barnabas, who was reconciled again to Paul, and Paul asks the Colossian to receive him, should he come), Justus (a Jew), Epaphras (a laborer in Colosse who did much for the church as pastor and was now with Paul), (Col. 4:10-13). Luke also extends greetings (he was Paul’s traveling companion and physician). Demas was still with Paul (though later he would leave him, see II Timothy 4:10). Now he in turn asks them to give his greetings to the church of Laodicea and to Nymphas and the church which met in his house, and to exchange greetings with the Laodicean congregation. He finally greets Archippus (Col. 4:15-17). The final salutation authenticates this epistle as being Paul’s own and he asks them to remember him while he is in prison. He closes with the benediction of grace (Col. 4:18).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. Describe something of the history of the organization of the church at Colosse. See this letter and the book of Acts.
2. Tell in your own words what necessitated this letter. Describe the evil philosophy that was attacking the church.
3. How does Paul’s emphasis on Christ, the Head of all things, demolish this evil philosophy?
4. Demonstrate from this letter that even though the church of Colosse was influenced by an evil philosophy, Paul showed them love and patience as he wrote them this letter. See Col. 2:1-7 especially.
5. When you read this letter, point out Paul’s repeated references to doctrine and life and that he shows over and over again that evil doctrine corrupts life while the truth sanctifies our life.
6. Show from this letter how deadly it is to have religion based on external behavior and not on the spiritual condition of the heart.
7. Discuss the beautiful section in which Christ’s Headship is explained (Col. 1:13-20). How are Christ’s two natures interwoven in this passage?
8. How does chapter three explain daily conversion.
9. Discuss the various areas of our everyday life that are affected by Christ’s Lordship as they are mentioned in this letter. See Col. 3:18-4:1. How can we apply this to our own life.