Colossians Colossians        

A Bible Study

Thanksgiving, Prayer and the Centrality of Christ  13-18
Reconciled with God  119-23
Mystery Revealed  124-29
The Struggle Continues  21-5
If then you were raised with Christ ...  31-4
Household Rules  318 - 41
Further Instructions and Requests  42-6
Final Greetings  47-18

Introduction        [Contents]

Written in AD 60 during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome.
Once a leading city, Colosse had become a small market town.
It is not mentioned that Paul went to Colosse on his journey to Ephesus,
      though he must have passed within a few miles. (3rd missionary journey)
The church was started by Epaphras (converted during Paul's time in Ephesus).

This letter was written at the same time as Philemon, a leader at Colosse.
      It was Paul's response to a visit to Rome by Epaphras,
      who was concerned about growing heretical attacks.
The heresies were centred on:
      Jewish ceremonial law and tradition
      human wisdom with secret knowledge (i.e. not based upon scripture)
      worship of angels (later became Roman prayers to Mar and the saints)
      concentration on anything except forgiveness by Christ crucified for our sin.

Author was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.  11
      God chose and equipped Paul for this vital task; it was not his own idea.
Paul adds Timothy, who was with him in Rome, as a signatory of the letter.

His greeting to the church was typical and written in earnest; not just words.
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  12 (nkjv)

Thanksgiving, Prayer and the Centrality of Christ  13-18       [Contents]

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.

When we think of the church, is our first thought one of thanks to God?
This was not Paul 'buttering up' the church, but his genuine 1st thoughts of them,
      and he then tells them why he is so glad.
      we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
      and of the love you have for all the saints.

This news brought thanksgiving and true joy to his heart - and the Lord God's.

Secondly, what does he see? How does he view the Colossian church?
      He sees what the believed revelation of Christ has done for them.
      the love you have for all the saints ... your love in the Spirit.  14,8
      the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.  15
      the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.  15,6
      this gospel is bearing fruit and growing ... among you since the day you heard
            it and understood God's grace in all its truth.
So after thanksgiving, Paul prays asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his
      will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Clearly knowing God's will is an ongoing task throughout our christian service.
      It involves God's plan for ourselves and for the church, Israel and the world.
      This discernment is gleaned primarily from God's word, morning by morning.

We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  110-12
It is Jesus Christ who is our Advocate. He, qualifies us,
      not our theological knowledge and not our zeal to do good works.

The most essential part of this progress in holy living is to know the 'rescue';
      and not just know it but to continually experience God's forgiveness.
      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, the forgiveness of sins.
Let us continually rehearse God's forgiveness by Christ dying in my place.
If this grace and mercy of God ever becomes dulled,
      we will soon be distracted and prone to error and sin.

Unlike many church leaders today, Paul is always keen to emphasise
      the centrality and the supremacy of Christ.

1.  He is the image of the invisible God.  115a
      He made the One who is invisible able to be seen and be the exact likeness.
      Jesus, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
      We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,
      who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  Jn 114
      He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
            the world did not recognise him.  Jn 110

2.  The firstborn over all creation.  115b
      Thus Jesus is the preeminent One and the heir, the king of all creation.
      He has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things,
      and through whom he made the universe.
  Heb 12

3.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  116
      He created all things from nothing.
      He spoke to nothing and it became something.
      He also created time.
      Some scientists call it the Big Bang.
            Maybe there was; but who provided the massive 'Bang' energy? e=mc2
            And who designed the atomic building blocks and the amazing living cells,
                  each having its own interacting division and protection instructions?
            With infinite care and precision God created this beautiful 'blue planet'
                  with correct orbit, rotation, tilt, atmosphere, energy supply, protection,
                  and such a variety of life on land air and sea with ability to relate.
            In a nuclear bomb only a few grams of matter are transformed into energy.
            Imagine the energy required to create the trillions of tons of just this earth.
                  (6,000 million million million tons. Sun's mass is over x300,000)
                  Our solar system is only a tiny part of the Milky Way Galaxy.
                  And each of the millions of stars we can see are other galaxies!!

      The Word of God describes it all with stunning simplicity:
            In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Gen 11

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  Jn 11-3

4.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  116-18

      The supremacy of Christ is revealed.
            How can anyone just ignore him? Some even enjoy ridiculing him!
            The fool says in his heart there is no God.  Ps 141
            Many distinguished men have great knowledge, but are sadly fools,
                  simply because they think they can manage very well without God.
                  Their conscience is dimmed by pride or some poor church experience.

INDIFFERENCE   by Studdert Kennedy

When Jesus came to Golgatha they hanged him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned him with a crown of thorns, red were his wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed him by,
They never hurt a hair of him, they only let him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

      But not all are indifferent, some are willing to admit their need,
            some are made aware there is something missing in their lives,
            they just long for God - but where is he? where can I find him?
      To all such men it is written,
            Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Joel 232

Almighty God was pleased that Christ was able to reconcile and make peace
            with wicked men through his blood, shed on the cross.
      It was no easy task that he achieved, but he saw it through to the end.
            It is finished! Jn 1930
      Paul details the supremacy and work of Christ not as a theology,
            but as the reason for great and continual thanksgiving.

Reconciled with God  119-23       [Contents]

For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  119-22

Peace with God, reconciliation is without doubt man's greatest problem.
It affects not only our life here on earth, but eternal life;
      will it be in the bliss of heaven or the agony of hell?
      Humanists believe that this life is all there is; so make the most of it.
      These deceived people say Jesus Christ (and all religions) are pure fantasy.
But God's Word is clear - we all need reconciliation, and Jesus provides the way.
He is the one and only means for us to be made holy, and free from accusation.
      Sin requires capital punishment - justice.
      Jesus was crucified in my place; he had done nothing wrong.
      It was the agreed price for our reconciliation, our salvation.
The Colossian church needed to hear this foundational message - so do we.

There is one proviso:
      if you continue in your faith, established and firm,
            not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. 123
So let us be sure that we do not turn aside,
      but maintain the truth of Christ crucified for our sin
      and thus to reconcile us with Almighty God.
Such undeserved kindness.

Mystery Revealed  124-29       [Contents]

Paul's God-given commission was to present to you the word of God in its fulness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.  125,26

1.  What was this hidden mystery?
      Christ in you, the hope of glory.  127
      Described as being water in the bucket and the bucket in the ocean.

2.  To whom was it revealed?
      To Jews, and surprisingly, also to Gentiles.
      Let us never forget the wonder of this privilege.

3.  How is the mystery revealed?
      Revelation is the work of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God.
      See the way it happened in Lu 2427,32,45  Act 835   Also Jn 1426 1613,15

4.  The Objective: to present everyone perfect in Christ.  128
      A high calling that the Lord has promised to complete.  Phil 16

The Struggle Continues  21-5       [Contents]

I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea.
The Colossians were not alone in the ongoing struggle:
      that they may have the full riches of complete understanding,  21
      in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
      in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  22,3

Let us be united in our high calling:
      God wants us to know more and more and more of the mystery of Christ.
      There can be no greater treasure or wisdom.

I tell you this so that no-one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.  24
There always was a grave danger for even Christians to be deceived.
For the Colossians it was some special revelation given only to a few elite.
Now it is often either charismatic popular personalities or inter-faith toleration.
      Few are willing to stand for the basic gospel truths :
            the natural sinfulness of all men
            the present and future consequence of sin,
            there is nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous,
            only Christ can save us and give us new birth for eternal life.
      Many compromise on at least one of these four basic truths;
            either adding, modifying or subtracting from them.

Therefore be rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (for God's mercy).  27
Christ must always be the centre of our thoughts and lives.

See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  28
For the early church tradition was often a problem;
      the law, it's sacrifices and Jewish customs especially regarding the Sabbath.
      Each point to Christ and what he would do to gain our salvation,
            but they became more directed towards the efforts of men.
Paul emphasises that righteousness and salvation is a gift from God:
      You have been given fulness in Christ.  210
      Buried with him in baptism
            and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.
      It all depends upon our being in Christ and with Christ. It cannot be earned.

This is made even more clear that the gift was given when we were 'dead'.
      When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, ... he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  213-15

So our salvation does not depend upon circumcision (211), kosher food (216a),
      religious festivals and Sabbath keeping (216b) or worship of angels  (218).
      Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, ...
            but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Today we have many church traditions, habits and practices and 'church going'
      that can give a godly appearance.
Though sincere, it can often be little more than 'religion' and vague hope.
      In such cases faith is very dim.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.  Heb 111
      The Holy Spirit has revealed the truth of what Jesus has done for us.
      Our certainty is based upon what he has achieved,
            not what I strive to do, and too often fail.
Hypocrisy, deception and falsehood are still a problem in the church.

Paul emphasises the key questions:
      To be saved Christ had to redeem me on the Cross.
      Have I died with Christ?
      Do I live with Christ?
      Do I know the mystery of Christ in me?
If the answer to each of these is 'Yes', then there are consequences.
      Consequences that affect our eternal destiny and our current behaviour.

If then you were raised with Christ ...  31-4       [Contents]

1.  Set your hearts and minds on things above.  31,2
            Jesus taught his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God ...  Math 633
            Also Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Math 621

2.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  35
      Advertising today is obsessed with encouraging sex and greed;
            and the media reveals much deception and a thirsting for power.
      The challenge is great for all, but especially for Christian youth.
      Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  36
      This warning is now even more urgent.
            All political parties in all Western countries now support homosexuality
                  and abortion, as well as evolution instead of creation.
            In Ro 1 Paul warns us how the wrath of God is being revealed,
                  and how God gave them over to their shameful lusts.

3.  You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other.  38,9a
      Let us never excuse such sins by saying everyone does this ... or that ...
Paul reminds them, you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  69b,10
      Let us strive to be constantly and consistently like our Master and Saviour.

4.  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  311
      The Kingdom of God knows no barriers due to Gentiles, class, or nationality.
      We are 'all one in Christ Jesus'. (Keswick Convention motto)

5.  As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  312
      Such characteristics mark the character of a Christian; one who is 'in Christ'.
      We are utterly unable to walk this way without him.

6.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  313
      This command remains a challenge - and a prayer to be fulfilled.

7.  Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  314,15
      There can be both love and peace in all of life's ups and downs.
            But only in Christ, and through Christ.

8.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  316
      It is the word of God that brings revelation, truth and assurance.
      Keep reading. There is always more to learn. Let it be the basis of prayer.
      Trust and obey; it is Almighty God's word to us all. The Maker's instructions!

9.  Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  317
      There should be no part of our life that Jesus is not involved with.
      Some circumstances are difficult or painful,
            but we can always be grateful that we are never alone.  Ro 828-39
      Pray earnestly for those being persecuted or suffering injustice.
      For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross ...
            Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
            so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.  Heb 122,3

Household Rules  318 - 41       [Contents]

Wives, submit to your husbands ...
Husbands, love your wives ...
Children, obey your parents in everything ...
Fathers, do not embitter your children ...
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything ...
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair ...

The objective is justice and family harmony.
For 2000 years some have questioned whether these are God's rules, or Paul's.
Modern sociology would probably delete them from scripture,
      but it is not for us to cut and paste, or patch and match.

Further Instructions and Requests  42-6       [Contents]

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 42
"7 days without prayer makes one weak." So does one day.
Daniel served Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar as Prime Minister for over 40 years.
This demanding king and his vast empire kept him more than busy;
When in his 80's he was made PM by the Persian king Darius.
Throughout all these years he prioritised his time to pray 3 times every day.
      What an excellent example to follow.
The Son of God found prayer essential.  Math 1423 1913 2636 Lu 612 111 Jn 171
Prayer includes worship, confession, thanksgiving, intercession, protection.
We need early detection of Satan's wily ways.
We need the revelation of God's truth.
Use scripture to guide our prayer.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  43
Evangelism was always Paul's greatest goal and purpose;
      not through modern compromising inclusivism,
      but to convert men to Christ by repentance and faith.
His concern was not for his own comfort and well-being,
      but always for the eternal destiny of all those he met.
      See his advice to Timothy in 2Tim 45.

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace. 44,5
Let us ensure there is neither pride nor fear in our conversations.
Be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of others, yet also bold.
We may be the only person they will meet who can truly tell them of Christ.
No gossip. Any criticism must be well measured and come from a humble spirit.

Final Greetings  47-18       [Contents]

Initial and final greetings in these letters can easily be seen as unimportant;
      but in the days before telephones & emails they were a vital part of friendship.

Tychicus was one of the Gentile converts Paul took to Jerusalem
as a representative of the Gentile churches (Acts 204).
He was a reliable companion of Paul and a capable leader,
since he was considered as a replacement for Titus and Timothy on separate occasions (2Tim 412 Titus 312).
He had the responsibility to deliver Paul's letters to the Colossians, the Ephesians (Eph. 621), and Philemon (19).

Onesimus was a runaway slave whose return to his master was the basis for Paul's letter to Philemon.

Aristarchus was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 204 272).
He was one of Paul's companions who was seized by a rioting mob in Ephesus (Acts 1929)
and also accompanied Paul on his trip to Jerusalem and his voyage to Rome (Acts 274).

Mark, who had fallen out of favour with Paul for some time (Act 135,13), is seen here as one of Paul's key helpers (2Tim. 411)

Luke was a close friend who travelled frequently with him. The doctor wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts.

Demas was committed to the Lord's work before the attraction of the world led him to abandon Paul and the ministry (2Tim. 49,10 Philem 124)

Archippus was probably the son of Philemon (Philem 12). Paul's message to him to fulfill his ministry is similar to the exhortation to Timothy (2Tim. 45).

Paul usually dictated his letters, but would often add his own greeting in his own writing at the end of his letters (1Co 1621 Gal 611 2Thes 37 Philem 119).

Remember my chains.  418
Not self pity; but a reminder to them that faithfully proclaiming the gospel has both a cost - and a reward.