UNDERSTANDING COLOSSIANS (NIV)
- 1. Introduction
About A.D. 61 -62 when Paul was in prison in Rome for the first time, he wrote four epistles (letters) to four churches. They were Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. The church in Colosse was likely founded in about A.D.55.
The epistle (Colossians) is similar in style to the letter to Ephesians, yet very different in emphasis. The latter calls all believers,” the body of Christ” and asks them to keep the unity of the Holy Spirit in Christ (Ephesians 4: 5 – 6), whereas the epistle to the Colossians talks about the Head of the body, Jesus Christ. In this, the Christ of the church is emphasized.
Chapters 2:18 seem indicating to us that the Colossians church was invaded by heresies such as the calling of the worship of angels and a strict observance of Jewish ceremonies (2: 16-23). All these are a mixture of Jewish, Greek and Oriental religions.
When Paul was in Ephesus preaching the gospel for three years, Epaphras, his coworker in Christ, had already spread the gospel to the Colossians. (1: 7). While the church there was being affected by heresies as observed by him, Epaphras went to Rome to tell Paul all about it. These false teachings denied Christ as the Head of the church. Therefore, Paul sent this letter back with Epaphras to the Colossians. He wrote especially on the deity of Christ for Christ is all in all. Christian life is the life “hidden with Christ in God”. (3:3).It is real and sufficient, for we are complete in Him. (2:10).
Colosse is now a site of ruin, about 100 miles east of Ephesus in Asia Minor (now Turkey). It had lost its commercial importance in the first A.D.
- 2. Deeper Life – Chapters 1: 1 – 29 – 2:1 – 7)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, and Timothy wrote this letter to the brothers in Christ at Colosse. Paul called them “holy and faithful” (1: 1 -2) for their work.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
Paul gave thanks to God for what they had heard about the good news that brothers in the church had faith, love and hope Paul wanted everyone to have faith in Christ, love toward others and hope in heaven. (1: 3 – 5). For this reason Paul continued praying for the church of Colosse asking God:
- To fill them with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (1:9).
- To enable them to live a life worthy of the Lord: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (1: 10).
- To strengthen them with all power so that they might have great endurance and patience. (1:11).
In his prayer, Paul joyfully gave thanks to the Father for He “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption of the forgiveness of sin”(1: 12 – 14).
The Supremacy of Christ
- Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (1:15). “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18).
- By Christ Jesus “all things were created: things in and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1: 16 – 17).
- Christ Jesus is “the head of the body, the church…the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead.” He has the”supremacy” (1:18).
- God has his entire fullness dwelling in Christ, Jesus “and through him to reconcile … all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (1: 19 – 20).
- Now God “has reconciled us by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (2: 2 – 3).
Paul was struggling for the Colossians. His purpose was to encourage them “in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding …know the mystery of God,…Christ… in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”(2: 2 – 3).
From what Paul had said, we could see that heresies and different teachings so called ”fine-sounding arguments” were evading the Colossians (Colossians 2: 4). But Paul asked them to continue to live in Christ Jesus, rooted and built up from the foundation of Christ, with strengthened in faith and overflowing with thankfulness. (2: 6 – 7).
How can we Christians be protected for not being tempted and misled by others’ hollow teaching? And, or deceptive philosophy?
- 3. Freedom from Human Regulations through Life with Christ–Chapter 2: 8 – 23
To be free from human tradition and the basic principles of this world, Christians must consciously, gradually, and inexorably grow up on the foundation of Christ It’s the very truth that Christ Jesus is the foundation on which we must build our character (our beings)–no other foundation (i.e., worldly philosophy).should take its place. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form . . . (2:9).
All believers who have received Christ Jesus as their redeemer are children of God given fullness in Christ “who is the head over every power and authority (2:10). In Him we were circumcised–not done by the hands of men but by Christ; through our baptism, we have died (to the past) and been buried with Him and raised with Him (because of His resurrection) through our faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (2:11).
Since we Christians have died and risen with Christ, our lives are free from original sins. We are new beings with new clothes… All “the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us” (2: 14) has been taken away. All the powers and authorities have been disarmed–we have in Christ triumphed over them by the cross. (2: 15).
Paul’s teaching to the Colossians is summarized neatly as follows: (2: 16 – 23)
- Do not let others judge you by what you eat or drink.
- Do not let others judge you with regard to religious festival such as a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
- Only find reality in Christ Jesus. He is all in all.
- Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualifying you for the prize. (That is being swayed or carried away by false teaching.)
- Their unspiritual mind puffs them up with idle notions. Please note, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4: 6)
- “They have lost connection with the Head of the body (church) that grows as God cause it to grow” (2:19). (That is deviating from the teaching of the gospel and Jesus Christ.)
- Since the Colossians had died and risen with Christ, they should not revert to the basic principles of the world and submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” ( 2:21). (Also see Romans 14:14).
- The basic rules of the world appear to have wisdom but with self-imposed worship, false humility and harsh treatment of the body, they are in vain. Paul reminded us Christians that when Jesus Christ died on the cross. He freed us from the law. We need not keep fast days. There is nothing Christian in punishing the body or in fasting, as the ascetic has done through the centuries. The true sacrifice to God is a broken spirit not a beaten body. (2:23). Only through faith in His blood we are justified. (Romans 3:25).
4. Rules for Holy Living–Chapter 3: 1 – 25
Live a new life –
- Christians having been raised with Christ must set their hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We should seek those things in heaven to the best of our ability the goal of our life. (3: 1 – 2).
- “… All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death–we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised for the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life” (Romans 6: 3- 4).
- A new life is not a being in isolation. We will cautiously, gradually and inexorably build up in Christ. Christ should be the believers’ life and he/she in Him. The life that is in Christ is in the believers. He is the vine and we are the branches. (John 15:5).
Face the Challenge of a new life
- Our new life in Christ makes us less interested in worldly things. We will be hidden with Christ as we gradually discover the beauties of the Lord Jesus. (3: 3 – 4).
- Put to death our earthly nature: sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed (which is “idolatry”(3:5).
- Rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from our lips. (3:8).
- Do not lie to each other. The new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image. There is no difference in race or color for Christ is all, and is in all. (3:9 – 11).
- As God’s chosen people we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (3:12).
- Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances we may have against others. (3:13).
- Forgive as the Lord forgave us. (3:13). This will improve interpersonal relationships.
- Over all the virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (3:14).
Principles in a new life –
- Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Whatever we do, trust God for He is righteous. And be thankful. (3:15).
- Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. (3:16). As we rooted in Christ, our life is in Him.
- Sings psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God. A Christian’s heart should be a singing heart expressing his/her joy in hymns etc. (3:16).
- Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. We know we live because He lives. He has a specific purpose for our life. (3:17).
- Give thanks to God the father through Jesus Christ. (3:17).
Rules for Christian Households
Paul addressed the issue of human relationships that are essential to be harmonious to raise smoothly families, to appropriately behave in our work place, society and church community.
- Wives should submit to your husbands. For the benefit of the families and their stability wives should help and cooperate with the husbands.( 3:18).
- Husbands should love your wives, provide security and protection. (3: 19).
- Children should obey your parents in everything. They have good life experience and could be the immediate source of advice. (3:20).
- Fathers must not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Bridge generation gaps with understanding. Give support and advice by way of persuasion, not by force.
- Slaves should obey your earthly masters in everything. (3:22). Nowadays, this principle should be applicable to the relationships between employers and employees (or your bosses). Loyalty and obedience are the essential factors in the discharge of your duty as though you’re serving the Lord. In fact, it is the Lord Christ you are serving–not the men. (3: 23 – 24).
- Masters should provide your slaves with what is right and fair. (4:1). Again today employers should treat their employees fairly, paying them in commensurate with their responsibility and respect them as your co-workers for the mutual benefit of your business.
4.Further Instructions– Chapter 4: 2 – 18
Paul gave further instructions on the importance of prayers. There are essential points that we should note:
- Devotional prayers–Christians should devote themselves to prayers, seeking God’s will first in whatever they do, and waiting for guidance. Let the Holy Spirit lead the way. (4:2).
- Watchful in prayers–Be humble and wait for advice from the Holy Spirit. Watch out what is happening around us, in our home, work places, church and community etc. (4:2).
- Thankful prayers–Always give thanks to what we have. Enjoy the tasty doughnut as a whole with thanks, not just looking at the hole of the doughnut and complaining. (4:2).
- Pray for those who work and suffer for spreading the gospel. (4:3).
Paul sent Tychius and Onesimus back to the Colossians so that they might know about Paul’s circumstances. What was happening with Paul and his fellow servants in the Lord would encourage the hearts of the Colossians. (4: 7 – 9).
The other names mentioned or recommended were Aristerchus, Mark (cousin of Barnabus) and Jesus (called Justus). They were Jews together with Paul as fellow workers for the kingdom of God. Paul said, “They have proved a comfort to us” (4: 10 – 11).
Epaphras who was one of the Colossians was working as servant of Christ Jesus. He was wrestling in prayer that the Colossians might stand firm in all the will of God. Furthermore, he was working hard for those at Laidicia and Hierapolis. (4:13).
Luke (the doctor) and Demas also sent greetings to the Colossians. (4:14).
Paul sent greetings to Nympha and the church in her house and the Colossians to circulate his letter to the church of the Laodiceans for reading. (4: 15 – 16)
Finally, Paul admonished Archippus to complete the work given to him. (4:17).
In closing, Paul signed his letter in his own hand with the usual greetings. (4:18).
SUMMARY OF UNDRSTANDING COLOSSIANS
- About AD 61 – 62 Paul wrote four epistles to four churches: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians.
- The epistle to the Colossians talked about the Head of the church, Jesus Christ.
- The church of Colosse was invaded by heresies. So Epaphras who founded the church went to see Paul and reported about the false teaching, which denied Christ as the Head of the church.
- Paul wrote to the Colossians emphasizing the deity of Christ and is complete in Him.
Chapter 1:1 – 29
- Paul gave thanks to God for what he had heard about the Colossians who had faith, love and hope.
- Paul’s prayer for the Colossians for spiritual wisdoms and understanding, bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, strength, endurance and patience.
- The supremacy of Christ who is the One and Only–Creator of all things, the head of the church through him to reconcile all things through his blood shed on the cross.
- Paul asked the Colossians to root up from the foundation of Christ to stand against the teaching of deceptive philosophy.
Freedom from Human Regulations through Life with Christ
- Build character from the foundation of Christ.
- In God we were circumcised by Christ through our baptism–died and have been buried with Him and raised with Him.
- Paul taught the Colossians to find reality in Jesus–not to be judged or misled by other false teaching in false humility, worship of angels, pride and human rules. Only through faith in His blood we are justified.
Rules of Holy Living Chapter 3: 1 – 25
- Live new life–Seek things above as our life goal. Consciously, gradually and inexorably build up our character in Christ.
- Face the challenge–Hidden with Christ, put to death our earthly nature, and rid ourselves of all such things (anger, rage, malice, filthy language) being renewed in knowledge in the image, gentleness and patience, bear with each other, forgive grievances against one another. Finally, put on love.
- Principles in a new life–relationships relating to wives and husbands, children and parents, slave and masters (employers and employees).
Chapter 4:2 – 18
Paul gave further instructions on devotional prayers, watchful prayers, and thankful prayers etc. talked in graceful manner and be prepared to answer questions among non-believers.
REFLECTION ON UNDERSTANDING COLOSSIANS…
- Can you see the difference of emphasis in the epistle to the Colossians from the one to the church of Ephesians?
- What was the main purpose for Epaphras to come to see Apostle Paul in Rome?
- What do you know about the city of Colosse? Is it still in existence?
Chapter 1: 1 – 29; Chapter 2: 1 – 7
- In the beginning of the epistle Paul commended the Colossians as “holy and faithful”. What make you think Paul would say this?
- In Paul’s non-ceasing prayers for the Colossians, he prayed for them things like:
- The knowledge of God’s will
- Spiritual wisdom and understanding
- Bearing fruit in every good work
- Growing in the knowledge of God
- Strength, endurance and patience
Will you share with us your experiences in your Christian life respecting the above? Explain why they are so important for the growth of a Christian life?
- What do you know about “the mystery of God Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?
- How can Christians be protected for not being tempted and misled by others?
Chapter 2: 8 – 23
- What do you understanding by “salvation”?
- What is the meaning of having died and risen with Christ?
- Do you consider yourself having been reborn in Christ? Explain.
- How can we be free from the rules and regulations of this world and live a new life?
Chapter 3: 1 – 35
- How to live a holy life according to the Bible teaching?
- A follower of Christ should live harmoniously with people. Give some relationship examples.
Chapter 4: 1 – 1
- Why prayers are essential? Share with us your experiences and understanding of prayers.
- In trying to proclaim the gospel to non-believers, how should be your attitude in facing the challenge and answering their questions?
- What was the purpose Paul wanted to achieve in closing by mentioning the names of his coworkers?
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