Colossians is one of the four prison epistles; the other three were Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon.
Paul had never visited Colossae. Ch. 1:7, 2:1
There are some who believe that the church at Colosse was founded by Epaphras. Ch. 1:7, 4:12
Colosse was one of the tri-cities of the Lycus Valley, situated one hundred miles inland from Ephesus. The other cities are Laodicea and Hierapolis.
The church assembled in the house of Philemon, who apparently was one of its active members.
Tychicus was the messenger who took the epistle to the various churches and also to Philemon.
Occasion for Writing
There was heresy or heresies presented in the church.
These heresies were being propagated by false teachers.
Among these heresies were:
1. Judaistic legalism – circumcision 2:11; 3:11.
2. Ordinances – food, holy days 2:14.
3. Severe asceticism 2:16, 20-23.
4. Worship of angels 2:18. Gnosticism
5. Glorification of human knowledge 2:8.
These heresies were a direct attack on the deity of Christ. They also rejected the completeness of Christ’s atoning work.
For all these errors Paul had one remedy, a full knowledge of the fullness of God in Jesus Christ.
His devastating answer to the Gnostics was that in Christ the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell. Ch 1:19, 2:9.
Also, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embodied in Him. Ch. 2:3.
Paul’s message throughout the epistle is in support of the deity of Christ, the efficacy of His atoning blood, His sovereignty and supreme Lordship, and His continuing mediator-ship.
In other words, Paul sets forth the eternal glory of the pre-existent, omnipotent, exalted and eternal Son of God.
No passage in the N.T. more fully sets these cardinal truths forth.
Colossians and Ephesians have been called twin epistles because of their many similarities.
Paul associates himself with Timothy.
Timothy found Christ in Lystra under Paul’s ministry.
The brethren there commended him to the work as he manifested the spiritual graces that gave evidence of spiritual gifts.
Paul took Timothy with him in the work after the brethren had solemnly laid their hands on him for special service.
v. 1 Paul was an “apostle” by the will of God.
God had commissioned him to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ among the Gentiles.
Paul also graciously links himself with the young man called Timothy.
v. 2 The epistle is addressed “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.”
The word “saints” means consecrated ones.
“Faithful brethren” means those who are consecrated live holy, devoted lives.
They are loyal, steadfast, dependable, devoted, conscientious.
Note the terms “in Christ” and “at Colosse”. The two spheres of Christian life, the heavenly and the earthly.
Grace and peace are again linked in the salutation.
Grace is God’s undeserved favor which we experienced in our salvation.
The thought here is that grace which is connected with our service, Romans 12:6, and with our growth in the Lord. 2 Peter 3:18.
“Peace” is the outcome as we experience that “grace” in our lives.
It garrisons our heart in the day of evil and supports us in disquieting circumstances.
v. 3 Note Paul’s thanksgiving.
With one exception, the epistle to the Galatians, Paul’s letters always begin with thanksgiving. This thanksgiving was to God and Christ.
“Praying always for you” – we constantly pray for you.
Paul knew, as few men have ever known, the great need for thanksgiving and for intercessory prayer for the people of God.
v. 4-5 There are three reasons given for this thanksgiving and prayer.
1. “Their faith in Christ Jesus.”
2. Their love for all saints—fellow believers.
3. The hope that is laid up for you in heaven.
We begin our spiritual life by faith, we end it in hope, and the two are linked together in love.
Faith lays hold on the Christ of the Cross. Hope looks on to the glory. Love is the power that binds and secures the believers in view of both.
This faith, love, and hope are an evidence of the new nature imparted at the new birth.
It is also an evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Hope also looks forward to the rapture, to the realization of the hope laid up in heaven.
This is the consummation of the believer’s life of faith, love, and hope.
These truths and more are all revealed in the gospel when it is preached in its fullness.
v. 7a Stress the importance of preaching a full gospel and telling it to the nations
The gospel revealed – it came unto you.
The gospel received – since the day you believed it.
The gospel reproduced – and bringeth forth much fruit.
v. 7 At this point we are introduced to Epaphras.
This man probably founded the church at Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.
He was a man of God. To Paul he was a dear fellow-servant, a faithful minister. He also was a man of prayer. Ch. 4:12.
He visited Paul in prison and it was his report of conditions at Colosse that moved Paul to write this letter and asked that it should be read in Laodicea.
Who declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
This is the only reference to the Spirit in the epistle.
This is a precious testimony to the happy state of the young believers.
So recently converted from paganism, now called unto Jesus Christ, they were characterized by that love which the Spirit shed abroad in the hearts of believers.
Paul’s prayers and thanksgiving for the Colossians v. 9-14
This section is divided into two parts.
1. In v. 9-11 Paul prays that certain blessings would come upon them.
2. He gives thanks for other blessings which are ours in Christ. v. 12-14.
There are some blessings which we have in Christ from the moment we believe and which we can never lose.
There are: 1. Our inheritance v.12; 2. Our deliverance v.13; 3. Our redemption v.14.
Then there are supplementary blessings for which Paul prays and for which we need to pray constantly, lest we miss them and lose the enjoyment of them.
In the context these blessings are:
1. That we might be filled with a deeper knowledge of God’s will which comes from true spiritual insight and understanding v.9.
2. That as our knowledge of God increases, our walk may become God-like and Christ-like. v. 10.
3. That we might experience that same spiritual dynamic and power that raised Christ from the dead, so that no matter our circumstances we can endure with patience, perseverance, and joy. v. 11.
Paul’s thanksgiving centers around three things: our inheritance, our deliverance, and our redemption.
What an inheritance the believer has – an inheritance among them which are sanctified; it is eternal, it is incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs of Jesus Christ.
What a deliverance the believer has – we have been delivered from the powers of darkness, from the course of this world, from the prince of the power of the air, from error, from impurity, from the unrestrained and tyrannical power of Satan.
We not only have been delivered, but we have been transferred into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
This kingdom is already in existence as a spiritual reality.
This would be the invisible church.
In the next age this kingdom will be visibly manifested.
What a redemption the believer has – it is through the blood of Christ, one of the accompanying blessings is the forgiveness of sins.
Notice the three “haths”, and the one “have”. These speak of present possession.
The Person and Work of Christ v. 15-22
The majesty of the incomparable Christ.
The pre-eminent glories of Christ.
Note the similarity of truth in John 1 and Hebrews 1.
Note the seven-fold superiorities of Christ in this passage.
Compare the seven-fold, self-humbling of Christ in Philippians 2.
v. 15 “Who is the image of the invisible God.”
Christ is the visible expression, the representation and manifestation of God.
Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at anytime, the only begotten Son, He hath declared Him, He hath perfectly told him forth.
God has existed from eternity as three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, but never became visible to angels or men until Christ was born in Bethlehem.
John 14:9 “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”
Hebrews 1:3 “Christ is the brightness of God’s glory” i.e. the outshining radiance.
He also was “the express image of God” i.e. He is the flawless expression of God.
“Oh fix our earnest gaze, so wholly Lord on Thee; That with Thy beauty occupied, we elsewhere none may see.”
The first expression here describes Christ’s relation to God the Father.
The second expression: “the firstborn of all creation,” describes His relation to creation.
This term refers to priority of position rather than of origin.
The meaning is clear in Psalm 89:27
“I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.”
The Lord is the principle and cause of creation. He is far above all creation. He is the Head as well as the Source.
Paul declares that Christ, as the eternal Son, holds the precedence over all creation for He is eternally preexistent and sovereign.
v. 16 Note Christ’s absolute supremacy over creation.
“In Him were all things created.” Note the prepositions, v. 16.
“All things have been created ‘through’ Him.”
“Creation has been created ‘for’ Him.”
Things visible and invisible were created by, in, and through Him.
Thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers were created for His glory.
He is superior to all of these, for He brought them into being.
v. 17 “He is before all things.”
As the Eternal Word, He existed before them all. See John 1:1, quote.
The authoritative statements of v. 16 and 17 express the priority, sovereignty, and continuity of Christ in relation to all creation.
He it is Who sustains the universe, for by Him all things hold together.
He holds the stars in their courses, directs the planets in their orbit, controls the laws of the universe.
“He is over all, God blessed forever.”
v. 18 Christ’s relation to the Church, the new creation.
“He is the head of the body, the church.”
The thought of Christ as the head of the body implies three great principles, life, unity, and sovereignty.
The Lord, in His relationship to the church, is the source of our spiritual life. He is the Guarantor of our spiritual unity. He is the supreme spiritual authority.
As the head, He bestows all life, controls all believers, they in turn should render to Him love and loyalty.
Chris then described as “the beginning.”
He is the originating power, the great energizing origin in connection with the church, His body.
Then follows a further statement: He is “the firstborn from the dead.”
This is in relation to time and is associated with His resurrection.
How important to the believers is the resurrection of Christ.
Our salvation and justification depend upon it. 1 Cor. 15.
Before the resurrection He was the Eternal Son of God.
In Romans 1:4 in the resurrection He was declared to be the “Son of God with power.”
By His resurrection, Christ became the Source of all spiritual power to all who receive Him.
Then finally God has made His Son head over creation, head over the church which is His body.
“That in all things He might have the preeminence.”
The Lord is above all others. He excels in all others. He is foremost among angels and men. He is supreme. He is first in everything.
He is first in the universe. He made it.
He is first in the church. He is the foundation and its head.
God has given Him this place in His economy. Let us give Him His place in the church and in our lives.
Christ’s relation to Redemption v. 19-20
“It pleases the Father that in Him should all fullness permanently dwell.”
This “fullness” encompassed all the attributes of deity.
All the divine perfections, the full nature of God, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit dwell in Him in full measure.
Deity in all of its perfection was manifested in Jesus our adorable Lord.
Here is divine truth that should stir the soul to thanksgiving and worship.
As we gaze upon His blessed face may we say: “Gazing on it we adore then, Blessed, precious, holy Lord; Thou the Lamb and ever worthy; This be earth’s and heaven’s accord.”
Note at this point the ascendancy in Paul’s spiritual exercise.
1. We see him at prayer v. 9-11.
2. He engages his soul in thanksgiving v. 12-14.
3. He ascends to the highest of spiritual activities, he loses himself in worship.
v. 20-23 In the previous verses the Lord is presented as:
The head of all creation and the head of the church, His body.
Christ as the mediator.
In the following verses He is presented as the mediator through whom reconciliation to God is brought to man and also to the universe.
There are two words in this verse which are very important, made peace and to reconcile.
Peace comes “through the blood of His cross.”
This “peace” is the result of reconciliation with God.
The Scripture presents this peace in a twofold way.
1. Peace with God Romans 5:1.
2. Peace of God Philippians 4:9.
Both have their source in the God of peace Philippians 4:9.
The acceptance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice through faith brings peace to the soul.
The truth of reconciliation is an important one.
It takes place in two spheres.
1. There is the present aspect.
2. There is the future aspect.
The present aspect is that the believer is reconciled to God at conversion.
The Lord brought about this reconciliation to God and the resultant praise through the blood of His cross.
This is amazing for v. 21 tells us that we were alienated and enemies by wicked works. Yet now we are reconciled through the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. V. 22. See Ephesians 2:12 “Made right by the blood of Christ.”
In the second part of v. 22 we have the purpose of the redeeming work of Christ, that He might present you Holy – inward and outward, without blemish – absence of disfigurement, unreprovable – the impossibility of any accusation against him.
The future aspect of this reconciliation is interesting.
“Reconcile all things unto Himself.” V. 20
This statement has in view the new heaven and new earth, where redeemed man and elect angels will dwell in absolute harmony with God.
Sin broke this harmony, but the death of Christ will bring back reconciliation again.
Notice here that it is all things “in earth” and “in heaven” that are reconciled. V. 20
In Philippians 3 there are those spheres mentioned, heaven, earth, and under the earth.
The thought here is “subjugation,” not “reconciliation.”
There will be a total submission to Christ, willingly or unwillingly, in order that He may be acknowledged by all as Lord. Philippians 2:11.
v. 23 The first phrase of this verse has disturbed many.
“If ye continue in the faith.”
This has nothing to do with “eternal security.”
A paraphrase of the verse would be “As you continue in the faith, grounded in Christ, and settled in your own minds.”
The object here was that of testing profession.
There were some in fellowship who were grounded and settled in the faith and who had not been moved away from the hope of the gospel.
There were others, mere professors, who had accepted the heresies of the false teachers.
In doing so they had divorced themselves from all the blessings the gospel brought.
Note also the progress of the gospel. It had prospered throughout the Roman world, and had spilled over into other cultures, all within one generation.
v. 26 Paul rejoices in his suffering. He was in prison at the time of writing.
I rejoice in my sufferings for you for in these I am helping to complete the remainder of the sufferings of Christ for you, His body, the church.
As the servants of God endure suffering for the Church of God, they do so on behalf of Christ.
He suffers with them for the perfecting of the saints, for the body’s sake which is the church.
v. 25 Paul was primarily a bond-slave of Jesus Christ.
He also was the servant of the church.
In the capacity of his God-given commission or stewardship, he made known the whole counsel of God, which was given to him by direct revelation.
This mystery was to past generations a “sacred secret.”
God had not disclosed it to angels or men.
But now God had revealed it through Paul, now the sacred secret was an open secret.
The full wonder and splendor of God’s plan for the Gentiles is that Christ is in them without degree or reservation.
Believing Jews and Gentiles are united by the baptism of the Holy Spirit into one Body.
Racial barriers have been swept away. The middle wall of partition has been removed.
The riches of the glory of this mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
v. 28 “Whom we preach.” We tell all who will listen about Christ.
Christ, the divine person, the anointed Savior, the revelation of god, the atonement for sin, the guide, satisfaction, and completion of life. He is the refuge of the past, the stay of the present, the hope of the future.
In reaching out to men with the Word, Paul warned them. “Warning every man.”
Warning the sinner of the wrath to come, warning the indifferent and careless, the presumptuous and willful.
Warning the delinquent believers, the Corinthian church.
“Teaching all men.”
Teaching is needed at every stage of the believer’s earthly pilgrimage.
The young believers need the milk of the Word.
Some others who have progressed need instruction proportionate to their capacity.
The fathers, the veterans, must have the strong meat of divine truth.
The warming and the teaching has to be done in all wisdom.
The ultimate aim/goal of this ministry is “that we might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Paul had a pastor’s heart and it was his ambition to bring every believer to full maturity in Christ. “Perfect.”
Stress the though of sanctification.
This is God’s will even your sanctification.
All true Spirit-given ministry is Christocentric = Christ centered.
It lifts up the Lord Jesus before the admiring gaze of His people who become so occupied with Him, that they lose sight of all else, and are transformed into His likeness.
v. 29 These truths expressed Paul’s ardent desire for the people of God.
He strove to this end = He labored to the point of fatigue. Earnestly, contending.
Striving with superhuman energy as he was energized by Christ’s almighty power.