We have now reached the group of letters known as the Prison Epistles. They are as follows: Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Colossians 2:1 would convey to us that Paul had never visited Colosse, but indirectly this church probably owed its existence to him. See Acts 19:10, which says “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus.” It is believed that Epaphras and Archipus heard Paul preach at Ephesus and carried the message to their hometown of Colosse. The result was the establishment of an assembly of Christians. The Colossian believers met together and held their meetings in Philemon’s house (see Philemon 2).
Why did Paul write this letter?
The apostle Paul probably heard of conditions in Colosse through Epaphrus, possibly a fellow prisoner while he was in the Roman prison. That there were errors in the church there is no doubt. This is what called forth the corrective ministry of the epistle. Judaism’s bondage was threatening their spiritual existence. (Note the references to meats and drinks, Sabbaths, new moons, circumcision, and holy days - see Col. 2:11, 14, 16).
There were also certain phases of the Gnostic heresy prevalent. Note the references to philosophy, angel worship, asceticism, and will worship in Col. 2:8 and Col. 2:18-23. Gnosticism attacked the deity and person of Christ. It taught that each revelation of God became successively weaker; so Jesus Christ being the last link in the chain was nothing more than a superman and was not divine. Paul replies to this heresy with an unparalleled description of the deity and glory of Christ (see Col. 1:13-22). Every believer should be familiar with this passage.
In this connection, please note Col. 2:9, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Contrast this with Gnosticism. Christ was divine and unique; Christ was God manifest in flesh. Christ is the heart of this epistle, as He is of all the Scriptures. The supreme dignity, glory, and unapproachable pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus are viewed from various standpoints:
Christ is seen as “All in all.”
- In Deity: He is equal with God, the image of God (Col. 1:15), and the fullness of God (Col. 1:19). See Col. 2:9.
- In Creation: He is the creator of the Universe (Col. 1:16). He is the cause, head, and goal of the created Universe.
- In Providence: He is the sustainer of the Universe (Col. 1:17). He is the origination, manifestation, sustentation, and consummation of the Universe.
- In Church: He is the Head of the Body (Col. 1:18). He is the supreme, paramount, predominant, and preeminent One.
- In Redemption: He is the only Redeemer (Col. 1:20-22).
- In Gospel Mystery: Christ in you is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
The heresy, which was enslaving some of the believers at Colosse, denied this and was closely connected with philosophy (Col. 11:8). It had a “show of wisdom” (see Col. 2:23). It therefore appealed to those of higher intellect (Intelligencia). Are we exempt from this today? What is being attacked more today than the deity of Christ? We need to be familiar with the “Christ of the Colossians” that we might avoid the “Colossian error.”
The epistle can be analyzed as follows:
I. Introductory Thanksgiving: Col. 1:1-8
A. Opening prayer for “fullness” and “worthy walk:” Col. 1:9-14.
B. The rest of the epistle is based on this prayer.
II. Doctrinal: “That ye may be filled with the knowledge of Christ who is:” Col. 1-2
A. The fullness of God in creation (Col. 1:15-18)
B. The fullness of God in redemption (Col. 1:19-23)
C. The fullness of God in the Church (Col. 1:24-Col. 2:7)
D. The fullness of God versus heresy (Col. 2:8-23)
III. Practical: “That ye may walk worthy” Col. 3-4
A. The new life – and believers individually (Col. 3:1-11)
B. The new life – and believers reciprocally (mutual-shared) (Col. 3:12-17)
C. The new life – and domestic relationships (Col. 3:18-21)
D. The new life – and employment obligations (Col. 3:22-Col. 4:1)
E. The new life – and they who are without (Col. 4:1-6)
IV. The Conclusion: Col. 4:7-18
We have stressed thus far the doctrinal side of the epistle, but let us now dwell a little on the practical side. Colossians 3:1-4 says that we should live Christ, we should seek Christ, we should show Christ and we should love Christ.
We are risen with Christ; this is our past.
Our life is hid with Christ in God; this is our present.
When Christ shall appear we shall also appear with Him in Glory; this is our future.
Colossians 3:5 says that we have to mortify our members; we have to crucify them. In connection with this, please study Colossians 3:5-9. Colossians 3:10 says that we have to put on the “new man.” In this connection, please study Colossians 3:10-17.
Following almost with unbroken sequence there come exhortations to wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants, and masters. There is a striking similarity between this portion of Colossians and Ephesians 5 and 6. In fact, it is worthy of note that there is a close affinity between Ephesians and Colossians. One has calculated that 78 out of the 95 verses in Colossians have a “marked resemblance” to verses in Ephesians.
Before leaving the epistle, let us hearken again to its superlative presentation of the all-pre-eminent God-Man Savior, who is the “fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
He is the visible form of the invisible God.
He is the heir of all creation.
In Him the universe was created.
He IS or WAS before the universe.
In Him the universe coheres.
He is the Head of the Body, the Church.
He is the firstborn from among the dead.
In conclusion, please note the sevenfold salvation, which is ours in Christ, the incomparable One.
Inheritance: “Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12)
Deliverance: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13)
Translation: “And hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13)
Redemption: “In whom we have redemption through His blood” (Col. 1:14)
Forgiveness: “Even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14)
Reconciliation: “And you hath He reconciled” (Col. 1:21)
Transfiguration: “To present you holy and blameless in His sight” (Col. 1:22)