THE NEW TESTAMENT
Paul writes Colossians
FROM THE NKJV PERSONAL STUDY EDITION, Thomas Nelson
The Book of Colossians is closely related to the books of
Ephesians and Philemon. It was written at the same time as
Philemon, and both were delivered by Tychicus and
Colossians was probably written before Ephesians, with which it
shares main ideas and a general outline. Ephesians seems to
expand some of the key ideas of Colossians.
AUTHOR AND DATE
Paul wrote this epistle from prison, as he did Ephesians
Philippians, and Philemon. Most scholars believe this was during
his first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:16-31).
Colossians was probably written about A.D.62, not long before
Colossae was located on the south bank of the Lycus River new
Laodicea and Hierapolis in western Asia Minor. It lay about a
hundred miles (160 km) east of Ephesus on the important trade
route between Ephesus and the Euphrates Valley. Trade brought
people there from many nations.
Paul had never visited Colossae, but the gospel had been preached
there, as well as in Laodicea and Hierapolis, while he was in
Ephesus. The message had been carried to Colossae by Epaphras and
others, who were converted under Paul's preaching. Only five
years after leaving Ephesus the apostle found himself a prisoner
in Rome. He was visited in prison by Epaphras, leader of the
church in Colossae, who told him of a doctrinal problem there.
This caused Paul to write the letter now called Colossians.
This epistle was written primarily to deal with the doctrinal
heresy reported by Epaphras.
This strange false doctrine is not described directly, but we can
infer its nature from what Paul says. It was ... some early form
of Gnosticism which taught that Jesus was superhuman, but not
truly God. He was greater than human beings, but not great enough
to be the Savior. Thus those who believe in Christ must also go
through angels to get to the deeper levels of spirituality. In
response, Paul wrote that Christ is "all and in all" (3:11). He
created all things (1:16). He is all we need. Paul does not deal
harshly with these Christians who have been misled, but he makes
it clear that Christ is above all beings ever created. He is our
only hope of salvation....
The apostle does not directly argue with the Colossians about
their false doctrines! Rather, beginning in the first chapter, he
builds a positive case for the Christian truth in order to show
them the futility of their ideas.
The epistle has the same general form as Paul's other letters,
beginning with greetings (1:1,2) and closing with the mention of
persons known in the church to which he is writing (4:7-18). In
the main body of this letter we have Paul's usual doctrinal
discussion (1:3-3:4) followed by the ethical application
Colossians touches on important aspects of the Christian faith.
In 1:13-18 is one of the Bible's greatest descriptions of the
glory and power of Christ. He is the center of the universe, as
well as head of the church. In 2:1-3:4 Paul gives a model
approach in dealing with false teaching: we should seek to help
people rather than to win arguments. In 3:5-4:6 is a strong
contrast between the unbeliever and the person transformed by
Christ. This book will well repay our prayerful study.
OUTLINE OF COLOSSIANS
1. Salutation ... 1:1,2
2. A prayer for the Colossians ... 1:3-12
A. Thanksgiving for their faith ... 1:3-8
B. Petition for their growth ... 1:9-12
3. The preeminence of Christ ... 1:13-29
A. The supremacy of Christ ... 1:13-18
B. Reconciliation through Christ ... 1:19-23
C. Ministry for Christ ... 1:24-29
4. False teaching denounced ... 2:1-3:4
A. Not human philosophy but Christ ... 2:1-10
B. In Christ we are saved ... 2:11-15
C. Not legalism but Christ ... 2:16-3:4
5. The new life in Christ ... 3:5-4:6
A. The old way and the new ... 3:517
1. The character of the old man ... 3:5-11
2. The character of the new man ... 3:12-17
B. New Christian relationships ... 3:18-4:1
C. The new way of living ... 4:2-6
6. Personal greetings ... 4:7-15
7. Closing exhortations and blessing ... 4:16-18
Very few people really understand what and why Paul wrote in
his second chapter of this fine epistle. I shall spend some time
expounding this chapter when we get there.
Paul give thanks to God for the faith shown by the
Christians at Colossae. They had been faithful since the day they
heard the Gospel. There is great hope laid up for them in heaven.
Paul does not say they will go to heaven when they die, or go
back to heaven with Jesus when He returns. He simply tells them
there is hope laid up in heaven.
Of course anyone who is in the Father and in Christ has this hope
of eternal life in heaven. Jesus is the resurrection to life
eternal. If we are in HIM, who is in heaven, at the Father's
right hand, then when He returns those in Him will be raised to
life from death or changed from moral to immortal, in the twinkle
of an eye.
All this we have seen in some detail in other parts of this
New Testament Bible Story.
Because of their faith Paul says he and other never cease to
remember them in their prayers, and included in those prayers are
petitions that they will be filled with the knowledge of the
Father's will, spiritual wisdom, spiritual understanding, so they
might walk worthy of the Lord, being fruitful and increasing in
the knowledge of God.
As Christians we are to be ever moving forward in all those
directions, ever growing in grace and knowledge, as Peter put it
in his epistle. It is one of the hardest things for a human being
to do, and that is to admit errors, mistakes, sins, be it in
body, mind, or spiritual theology concerning God and His will,
ways, and teachings, as given to us in His Holy Word the Bible.
When we first receive Christ as our personal Savior, we are just
beginning on the spiritual road to know and understand God. We
are as Paul wrote elsewhere, only babes in Christ. From that
point on we must feed and drink the milk of God's Word and yield
to the guiding power of the Spirit of God. Jesus did promise that
when the Spirit came it would guide us into all truth, but God
does not give all truth at one time. We must be ever willing to
be taught and led into truth until the very end of our lives.
Paul prayed that they would remain firm and steadfast to the
end, and that they would remember and give thanks to God for
their calling to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints of
light. For it was God who had even NOW in this physical life
moved us, translated us, brought us from the darkness of the
world into the very Kingdom of His Son. Who through His blood we
have redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins.
We have seen in previous chapters that there is a coming
Kingdom of God to be literally set up on this earth, when Jesus
literally returns to live again on this planet. Many Old
Testament prophetic books tell us about this future Kingdom of
God on earth. It is mentioned and explained over and over again
in dozens of passages in the prophetic books. But we should not
fail to see that the New Testament teaches that even now in
this present flesh and blood body, as children of the Father, we
are already in that Kingdom of Christ. We have been moved out of
the darkness of sin and death, into the light and truth of
Still talking of Jesus Paul shows that He is the very image
of the Father, He is the FIRSTBORN from the DEAD. He has
PRE-EMINENCE in ALL things, and that does include physical death
to immortal life in glory. Moses was not the first to gain
eternal life in glory! Elijah was not the first to receive
glorified eternal life! Neither was it Enoch, or David, or
Samuel, or any other human man or woman you want to mention. It
was Jesus Christ who was the VERY FIRST human to gain glorified
Paul is plain in saying that this person we know as Jesus
Christ, was BEFORE all things, existed before there was any
physical universe or even angelic beings. He was BEFORE ALL
THINGS, and in fact it was THROUGH HIM, that all things came into
existence. He, was the member of the Godhead that did the
creating. God the Father wanted it, but it was Jesus in eternal
God form, who did the work of creating.
And they should remember that it was the Father's pleasure
to bring them and all others to reconciliation through the cross
of Christ. People can be forgiven their sins, the evil, the
errors, the wicked ways of body and mind, through the death of
Jesus on the cross. And this is done for the purpose of making
those forgiven of their sins, to be holy and unblamable in His,
the Father's sight.
Yet all this must continue, the believer must continue in
the faith, grounded and settled, fastened securely, and never
moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which is being preached
to all mankind, Paul saying that he was one of the instruments
God was using in preaching that Gospel to all peoples and
Paul's mind for a moment focusses on himself being a called
minister to preach the Gospel, to help fulfil the will and work
of God. His mind goes to the great truths of God now being
preached, that in detail had been for centuries actually hidden
from the world. It was now in some detail and with a brighter
light being revealed to all the saints of God. And the largest
truth of all God's mysteries, was the truth that with Jesus
Christ IN the saints, DWELLING in them, through the Spirit, there
was the sure promise of the hope of GLORY - eternal glorified
life, just as Jesus had received when He remained faithful to the
Father, even unto death, and was then resurrected to GLORIFIED
Paul ends this section by realizing what a huge
responsibility was given to him and to others so called of God,
to preach the Gospel. There was a WARNING in the massage, and
there was spiritual WISDOM, all for the end result that those in
Christ should be perfect and mature.
Once again Paul ends up back where he started ... back to
the thoughts of verses 9-14. Growing in grace and knowledge,
moving forward in spiritual growth, remaining faithful and so
becoming more like Jesus Christ all the time.
Paul tells them in closing this chapter, that he was a
faithful worker in the Lord, for it was God who was mightily
working through him.
Paul has admitted that they are strong in the faith, but he
tells them he has great pain and discomfort. Though he is absent
from them in a physical way, he is present with them in a spirit
way, and he then beholds their order and steadfastness of the
true faith of Christ. He tells them it is only through God and
christ that true treasures and wisdom of knowledge can come. He
is confident they have the correct hold of things, but yet he
knows there are those in their midst who can use cunning and
enticing words of deceit, to beguile and lead them away from the
truth they received and held fast to when they heard the Gospel
Paul encourages them to stay with Christ, to walk with Him,
to let Him live in them. If they look to how Christ lived and
walked, while on earth, if they have their roots in Him, they
will be established in the true faith, and will abound in the way
they were taught. They will have thanksgiving as it really is,
with the true way of Christ Jesus the Lord.
Now Paul starts to get to the main problem the Christians
were encountering at Colossae. Verse 8 is a key verse. There were
men among them who were using the slight of hand of "philosophy"
- "vain deceit" - AFTER ... notice it "the TRADITIONS of MEN,
after the elements of the WORLD, and NOT after Christ.
Staying with Christ, how He lived and what He did in word
and action and observances, one can NEVER go wrong. But as soon
as you allow the "traditions" and "elements" of men and the world
to enter, then you are on a slippery path to the ditch of
spiritual destruction. It is Christ that is the complete answer,
in Him is the fullness of the Godhead. Listening to the ideas of
men, who want to follow the traditions of men and elements of the
unconverted world, is a sure way NOT to follow Christ.
Paul gives emphasis that it is Christ they need to look as
to how to live their lives, in all actions, thoughts, and in what
they observe. He reminds them that they are circumcised with the
true circumcision that is the putting away of sins of the flesh,
through Christ. They have had the baptism which is in Christ, and
have risen through faith from sure death to life, by the
forgiveness of those sins. All our sins as it were, were
written down on paper like a legal document, for all to see that
we were sinners and so had come under the penalty of sin - death.
This document of our sins stood against us, to condemned us, it
proved we were sinners, hence worthy of the judgment of sins -
the penalty of sins - death. But Jesus came along and said He
would take our sins upon Himself and die on the cross for us. He
had His blood shed in dying for us, in our stead, and it was as
if His blood was taken and thrown all over that document of our
sins, hence blotting our those sins. They could no longer be
found on that legal document, for blood had covered them all. No
one could read or see any of our sins listed on that paper.
This was God's answer to all those legal documents of the
sins of all people - the blood of Christ blotted them out and
away. There was indeed great TRIUMPH for God. It was shown to all
the universe in an open way when all the universe could see Jesus
dying on the cross, shedding His blood for all sinners and all
sins ever committed by any human. God and Jesus triumphed over
the evil fallen angels and powers of darkness of Satan and the
way of sin.
"Let no man" - which no man? Was Paul telling them to NOT
follow him and others who had preached the true Gospel to them?
This can hardly be the case when we consider what Paul had
already said to the Christians at Colossae. The CONTEXT would
clearly show it was the men of verse 8 that Paul was speaking
about - the clever philosophic talkers who wanted to follow the
traditions of men and the elements of the world. It was THESE MEN
who Paul said should NOT judge, or govern, or decide this or
that way of living, for true Christians. Christians should never
let those who still wanted to cling to the ways of men and the
ways of the deceived world, even if cloaked in some "mystic"
religion of the world that looked "religious" or pious or
theologically sanctimonious (verses 18-23), but were still bottom
line, after the commandments and doctrines of men and not God
Verse 16 and "Let no man judge you" should be joined with
"but the body of Christ" at the end of verse 17. What is between
is parenthetical. Paul often wrote with parenthetical thoughts,
as most scholars who have seriously studied how Paul wrote
know. This is one of those parenthetical thoughts. The word "is"
in verse 17, is NOT in the Greek. The whole complete sense is
"Let no man judge you, but the body of Christ." As Paul wrote
elsewhere, the body of Christ is the CHURCH of Christ. There is
correct judgement in the body of Christ (a classic example is 1
Corinthians 5). The body of Christ, does have the right to judge
matters as Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 6.
The Christian Colossians had received the truth of the
Gospel. They had been slaves to sin and the traditions and
elements of the world. They had been Gentiles in the main,
following traditions of Sunday worship, Eater worship, Christmas
worship, and a whole host of other traditions NOT FOUND in the
Word of God. They had followed mystic religions, spiritual angel
worship religions, outward forms of what looked like pious
theology (like cutting yourself, or walking a mile on your knees
to a god's throne), or not eating chocolate bars during the
"lent" season (putting it in modern terms). They had followed
this or that idea and commandment of MEN, from whatever crazy
imagination men thought up as a way to worship his gods, which
were and still are, many.
Then the Colossae Christians found the true way of the true
God, and in reading and studying that way in God's Word, they
discovered God's weekly Sabbath, God's festivals, God's calendar
and when the new month start. They now got in harmony with
the Father's true customs and observances, which DO HAVE A
MEANING FOR WHAT IS YET TO COME, they do have a SHADOW that is
cast forth that leads you back (follow the shadow) to the ways
and teachings and plans of the true God.
Then after getting in harmony with the true ways of the true
God, here come along these men with vain deceit and philosophical
talk, based on religious falsehoods of the traditions and
elements of the world, which had an outward look of pious
worship, with a physical element of the body (like the giving up
of candy or wine or pizza, during the "lent" season), who were
judging the Colossae Christians, and telling them they needed
to worship THEIR way, with their commandments, doctrines, and NOT
to look into the Bible to see how and in what way they should
live, think, act, and certainly NOT to observe the only festivals
that can be called God's festivals as found in Leviticus 23.
Paul very plainly tells the Colossae Christians NOT to
follow such deceitful talk by those men of the world, who follow
the commandments of men, traditions of men and elements of the
darkened world. They are to follow Christ. They can NEVER GO
WRONG if they follow Christ. And Christ DID observe the Sabbath
and Festivals of the Lord as found and proclaimed in Leviticus
TO BE CONTINUED