Book 12 - PAUL'S LETTER TO
With people, places, definitions, map ......
Writer: The apostle Paul
Date: c AD62; sent with the Letters to the Ephesians, and to Philemon
Where written: Under house arrest in Rome
Reader: The church at Colossae in Asia Minor, probably established by Christian workers from Ephesus. Colossae does not appear to have been visited by Paul
Why: Colossians is a general message of love and friendship to a church Paul has not visited. In it, he warns them against false prophets who teach a mixture of Jewish tradition and Greek philosophy and mysticism which belittles Christ's coming. In doing so he makes clear exactly who Jesus is, and his part (Paul's) in teaching the true Gospel as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Map - Paul Writes from Prison in Rome
Map Key: Letter for Colossae sent from 1 to 2
GREETINGS, THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER
GREETINGS TO THE CHRISTIANS OF COLOSSAE
Colossians 1:1-2 - Paul, messenger of Jesus Christ by God's will, and brother Timothy send this greeting to all faithful Christians at Colossae: grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
PAUL GIVES THANKS FOR THEIR FAITH AND LOVE
Colossians 1:3-8 - I want you to know by this letter that we here (in Rome) are constantly praying for you, and whenever we do we thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because you believe in Christ Jesus and because you are showing true Christian love towards other Christians. We know that you are showing these qualities because you have grasped the hope reserved for you in Heaven - that hope which first became yours when the truth was brought to you. It is, of course, part of the Gospel itself, which has reached you as it spreads all over the world. Wherever that Gospel goes, it produces Christian character, and develops it, as it had done in your own case from the time you first heard and realised the amazing fact of God's grace.
You learned these things, we understand, from Epaphras ....
Epaphras - He established the churches in Colossae, Laodicea and Hieropolis (Colossians 4:12-13), and is now visiting Paul in prison to report on the progress of the churches in the Colossian area. In Philemon, verse 23, Paul confirms that Epaphras is staying in Rome as his fellow-prisoner or companion -
....who is in the same service as we are. He is a most well-loved minister of Christ, and has your well-being very much at heart. As a matter of fact, it was from him that we heard about your growth in Christian love ....
PAUL'S PRAYER THAT THEY WILL KNOW GOD'S WILL AND STRENGTH, AND LIVE ACCORDINGLY EVEN IN HARD TIMES
Colossians 1:9-14 - ..... so you will understand that since we heard about you we have never missed you in our prayers. We are asking God that you may see things, as it were, from his point of view by being given spiritual insight and understanding. We also pray that your outward lives, which men see, may bring credit to your master's name, and that you may bring joy to his heart by bearing genuine Christian fruit, and that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper.
We pray for you to have real Christian experience
As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God's boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage. You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light. For we must never forget that he rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of light. For it is by his Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven.
WHAT GOD HAS DONE THROUGH CHRIST
CHRIST IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, CREATOR OF ALL THINGS, HEAD OF THE CHURCH AND RECONCILES MAN TO GOD
Colossians 1:15-20 - Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body (the Church) which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.
HOW THEY PREVIOUSLY LIVED, THEIR CHANGED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, AND THE GOSPEL THEY HEARD
Colossians 1:21-23 - And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and, in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach. This reconciliation assumes, of course, that you maintain a firm position in the faith, and do not allow yourselves to be shifted away from the hope of the Gospel, which you have heard, and which, indeed, the whole world is now having an opportunity of hearing.
PAUL'S MINISTRY AS AN APOSTLE
EVEN IN PRISON PAUL'S MINISTRY IS TO PROCLAIM THE GLORY OF CHRIST TO ALL PEOPLE
Colossians 1:24-29 - I myself have been made a minister of this same Gospel, and though it is true at this moment that I am suffering (in prison) on behalf of you who have heard the Gospel, yet I am far from sorry about it. Indeed, I am glad, because it gives me a chance to complete in my own sufferings something of the untold pains for which Christ suffers on behalf of his body, the Church. For I am a minister of the Church by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God's word - that sacred mystery which up to now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendour of his secret plan for the sons of men. And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.
To preach and teach Christ is everything to us
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me.
HIS LONGING THAT THE COLOSSIANS & LAODICEANS WILL CONTINUE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LOVE AND CHRIST
Colossians 2:1-3 - I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you, and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have never met me. How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love. How I long for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself. May your spiritual experience become richer as you see more and more fully God's great secret, Christ himself! For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
PAUL DENOUNCES FALSE TEACHING; HE PROCLAIMS GOSPEL TRUTHS
AVOID ANY ATTEMPTS TO DECEIVE YOU; LIVE ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS YOU WERE TAUGHT
Colossians 2:4-8 - I write this to prevent you from being led astray by someone or other's attractive arguments. For though I am a long way away from you in body, in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him - in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.
Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense. Such stuff is at best founded on men's ideas of the nature of the world and disregards Christ!
YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN; BECAUSE CHRIST DIED AND ROSE AGAIN GOD HAS GIVEN YOU TOTAL FREEDOM
Colossians 2:9-15 - Yet it is in him (Jesus) that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he set himself in Christ). Moreover, your own completeness is only realised in him, who is the authority over all authorities, and the supreme power over all powers.
The old Law can't condemn you now
In Christ, you were circumcised, not by any physical act, but by being set free from the sins of the flesh by virtue of Christ's circumcision. You, so to speak, shared in that, just as in baptism you shared in his death, and in him are sharing the miracle of rising again to new life - and all this because you have faith in the tremendous power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!
SO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MAN-MADE RELIGIOUS RITUALS AND SPIRITUAL IDEAS; YOU HAVE CHRIST
Colossians 2:16-23 - In view of these tremendous facts, don't let anyone worry you by criticising what you eat or drink, or what holy days you ought to observe, or bothering you over new moons or sabbaths. All these things have at most only a symbolical value: the solid fact is Christ. Nor let any man cheat you of your joy in Christ by persuading you to make yourselves "humble" and fall down and worship angels. Such a man, inflated by an unspiritual imagination, is pushing his way into matters he knows nothing about, and in his cleverness forgetting his head. It is from the head alone that the body, by natural channels, is nourished and built up and grows according to God's laws of growth.
So if, through your faith in Christ, you are dead to the principles of this world's life, why, as if you were still part and parcel of this world-wide system, do you take the slightest notice of these purely human prohibitions - "Don't touch this," "Don't taste that" and "Don't handle the other"? "This", "that" and "the other" will all pass away after use! I know that these regulations look wise with their self-inspired efforts at worship, their policy of self-humbling, and their studied neglect of the body. But in actual practice they do honour, not to God, but to man's own pride.
CONCENTRATE ON HEAVENLY NOT EARTHLY THINGS
Colossians 3:1-4 - If you are then "risen" with Christ, reach out for the highest gifts of Heaven, where your master reigns in power. Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in Christ. One day, Christ, the secret centre of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent dénouement.
STOP BEHAVING IN THE WICKED WAYS THAT ARE SO NATURAL ON EARTH
Colossians 3:5-11 - In so far, then, as you have to live upon this earth, consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty-mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lust for other people's goods, which last, remember, is as serious a sin as idolatry. It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him. And never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life.
But now, put all these things behind you. No more evil temper or furious rage: no more evil thoughts or words about others, no more evil thoughts or words about God, and no more filthy conversation. Don't tell each other lies any more, for you have finished with the old man and all he did and have begun life as the new man, who is out to learn what he ought to be, according to the plan of God. In this new man of God's design there is no distinction between Greek and Hebrew, Jew or Gentile, foreigner or savage, slave or free man. Christ is all that matters for Christ lives in them all.
LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
AS GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE, LEARN TO FORGIVE AND ABOVE ALL TO LOVE
Colossians 3:12-14 - As, therefore, God's picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.
ENJOY CHRIST'S PEACE, WORSHIP TOGETHER, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Colossians 3:15-17 - Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, remembering that as members of the same body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you.
Let Christ's teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God's praises with joyful hearts. And whatever you may have to do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:18 - Wives, adapt yourselves to your husbands, that your marriage may be a Christian unity.
Colossians 3:19 - Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don't let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.
Colossians 3:20 - .... children, your duty is to obey your parents, for at your age this is one of the best things you can do to show your love for God.
Colossians 3:21 - Fathers, don't over-correct your children, or they will grow up feeling inferior and frustrated.
Colossians 3:22-25 - Slaves (employees), your job is to obey your masters, not with the idea of currying favour, but as a sincere expression of your devotion to God. Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as into work done for God, and not merely for men - knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from God, since you are actually employed by Christ, and not just by your earthly master. But the wicked man will be punished for his misdeeds, and naturally no distinction will be made between master and man (employee).
Colossians 4:1 - Remember .... you employers, that your responsibility is to be fair and just towards those whom you employ, never forgetting that you yourselves have a heavenly employer.
PAUL ENCOURAGES THEM TO PRAY, ASKS FOR PRAYER AND REMINDS THEM HE IS IN PRISON; HE ALSO ADVISES THEM ABOUT RELATIONS WITH NON-CHRISTIANS
Colossians 4:2-6 - Always maintain the habit of prayer: be both alert and thankful as you pray. Include us in your prayers, please, that God may open for us a door for the entrance of the Gospel. Pray that we may talk freely of the mystery of Christ (for which I am at present in chains), and that I may make that mystery plain to men, which I know is my duty.
Be wise in your behaviour towards non-Christians, and make the best possible use of your time. Speak pleasantly to them, but never sentimentally, and learn to give a proper answer to every questioner.
TYCHICUS WILL BE PAUL'S MESSENGER AND ACCOMPANY THE RETURNING ONESIMUS TO COLOSSAE
Colossians 4:7-9 - Tychicus (a well-loved brother, a faithful minister and a fellow-servant of the Lord) will tell you all about my present circumstances. This is partly why I am sending him to you. The other reasons are that you may find out how we are all getting on, and that he may put new heart into you. With him is Onesimus one of your own congregation (well-loved and faithful, too). Between them they will tell you of conditions and activities here.
Onesimus - A slave who had run away from his master Philemon in Colossae, reached Rome and become a Christian through Paul's teaching. He is now returning to the city of Colossae with Tychicus, a brave decision for a likely thief and escaped slave. The short Letter from Paul to Philemon which follows, is in effect a "covering letter", asking him to take back and forgive Onesimus.
PAUL INCLUDES GREETINGS FROM FELLOW CHRISTIANS IN ROME
Colossians 4:10-14 - Aristarchus, who is also in prison here, sends greetings, and so does Barnabas' cousin, Mark. I believe I told you before about him; if he does come to you, make him welcome. Jesus Justus, another Hebrew (Jewish) Christian, is here too. Only these few are working with me for the kingdom, but what a help they have been!
Epaphras, another member of your Church, and a real servant of Christ, sends his greeting. He works hard for you even here, for he prays constantly and earnestly for you, that you may become mature Christians, and may fulfil God's will for you. From my own observation I can tell you that he has a real passion for your welfare, and for that of the churches of Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Luke, our beloved doctor....
Luke - The first of only three times Luke's name is mentioned in the New Testament. Yet according to tradition, he wrote the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and is the eyewitness in the four "we" and "us" sections of Acts summarised below:
(1) Acts 16:10-17 - In c AD50 during the Second Missionary Journey, Luke met Paul at Troas, and after Paul's vision of the man in Macedonia, sailed with him, Silas and Timothy across to Europe - to Neapolis and on to Philippi. He was then present at the conversion of Lydia, and certainly saw the girl with the clairvoyant spirit. However, Luke was not there in person when Paul drove out the spirit from the girl, and therefore escaped Paul and Silas' fate of a beating and imprisonment;
(2) Acts 20:5-15 - In c AD58, towards the end of Paul's Third Journey, Luke sailed from Philippi (where he might have stayed on with Lydia), to meet Paul's party at Troas. He was present when the sleepy young Eutychus fell from the window. Sailing to Assos, they met Paul, and reached Miletus where Paul addressed the elders of Ephesus;
(3) Acts 21:1-18 - From Miletus, Paul, Luke and the other companions journeyed on to Jerusalem and a warm welcome;
(4) Acts 27:1-28:16 - Luke was probably in Jerusalem when Paul was arrested, and followed him to Caesarea, possibly even writing his Gospel and drafting much of Acts there. Certainly two years later, Luke sailed with Paul on the voyage, via shipwreck in Malta, to Rome, arriving c AD61. Luke then remained with the imprisoned Paul for at least some of the time. Hence Luke's greetings from Rome to the Christians of Colossae (here in Colossians 4:14) and to Philemon (verse 24), in c AD 61-63.
Finally, Luke is again with Paul in Rome in c AD67, apparently the only person left by his side (2 Timothy 4:11) -
.... and Demas send their best wishes.
Demas - As one of Paul's prison companions, he is also included in the greetings to Philemon in Colossae (Philemon 24). However, by the time Paul is back in prison in Rome awaiting execution in c AD67, Demas has left him "for the world" and gone to Thessalonica (2 Timothy 4:10).
PAUL SENDS HIS OWN GREETINGS TO THE COLOSSIANS; AND INSTRUCTS THEM TO CIRCULATE HIS LETTERS
Colossians 4:15-17 - My own greetings to the Christians in Laodicea, and to Nymphas and the congregation who meet in her house.
When you have had this letter read in your church, see that the Laodiceans have it read in their church too; and see that you read the letter (now sadly lost) I have written to them.
A brief message to Archippus: God ordained you to your work - see that you don't fail him!
Archippus - From the Letter to Philemon written at this time, Archippus is usually identified as the son of Philemon.
A PERSONAL FAREWELL; A FINAL REMINDER HE IS IN PRISON
Colossians 4:18 - My personal greeting to you written by myself.
Don't forget I'm in prison. Grace be with you.
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