Colossians 1

Colossians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
It is very likely that in its original form this letter was written on a scroll. With this being the case, it is understandable that the letter begins by identifying who wrote it. If the writer was not identified until the end, as is true of most modern letters, the scroll would have had to be wound to the end to see who wrote it and then wound back to the beginning to start reading. Both Paul and Timothy are mentioned as writers (Colossians 1:1). The letter was written to “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” (Colossians 1:2). In other words, this letter is written to all the Christians in the city of Colossae. See the introduction lesson to find out more about the writers and the church at Colossae. Paul’s greeting to the church includes the normal greeting of both the Greek, “grace,” and the Jew, “peace,” indicating that the church in Colossae included both (Colossians 1:2).

Colossians 1:3-8

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Paul’s comments begin with an expression of the thankfulness he feels toward God for three attributes that he has heard that the Colossians have demonstrated. These are (1) faith in Christ Jesus, (2) love for all the saints, and (3) hope laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:4-5). These three characteristics of the faithful are often mentioned by Paul (for examples see: Romans 5:1-5, I Corinthians 13:13, Galatians 5:5-6, I Thessalonians 1:3 and 5:8). These characteristics are the product of the gospel (Colossians 1:5) that they had heard. Some interesting statements about the gospel include that (1) it is “the word of truth,” (2) it has come to them and gone all around the world, (3) it bears fruit and grows, (4) it can be “heard and understood,” (5) a part of it is “the grace of God in truth,” and (6) it can be learned from others (Colossians 1:5-7). Their local minister, Epaphras is commended as a “fellow servant” with Paul and Timothy and a “faithful minister of Christ” (Colossians 1:7-8). What greater commendation could a preacher want or have?

Colossians 1:9-10

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Once Paul and Timothy had heard of the faithful Christians in Colossae, prayers went up on their behalf. The four parts to their prayer included that the Colossians would:

· “Be filled with the knowledge of his will” (Colossians 1:9)

· “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him” (Colossians 1:10)

· “Bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10)

· “Increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)

For Paul, the Christian life is a combination of knowing God and his will and then living it out in a lifestyle that has as its goal to be fully pleasing to God and bearing fruit by doing good work. These are things worth praying about!

Colossians 1:11-14

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The beauty of what God has done for us may be summarized by Paul’s statement that we are to give thanks to the Father “who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). Ultimately, it comes down to this: we cannot make it to heaven on what we do or the attempts that we make at righteousness. God qualifies us through what he and his son have done for us (see this summarized in one sentence in Romans 3:22-25). In the present passage, Paul shows this by saying, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). It is “in Christ” that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. See notes on Romans 6 and Ephesians 1 to better understand the concept of what it means to be “in Christ.” In this passage, Paul mentions that we are in the kingdom. Later in the chapter he will talk about Christ’s body and the church (Colossians 1:24). The New Testament uses these terms synonymously. In addition to Paul using the terms synonymously in this passage, it may be seen in Jesus’ statement about building his “church” (Matthew 16:18) followed immediately by talking about the “kingdom” (Matthew 16:19). Jesus was not talking about two separate entities; they were the same. Likewise, John demonstrates this synonymous usage of the terms church and kingdom when in Revelation chapter 1 he states that he is writing to the churches (Revelation 1:4) but says that Jesus had “made us a kingdom” (Revelation 1:6) and announces that he is a “brother and partner” in that kingdom (Revelation 1:9).

Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

After asserting that those who are saints (Colossians 1:2) have been transferred into Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13), Paul turns to who Jesus is. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15, see also Colossians 1:19 and 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, John 14:9 and John 1:1-14). He is the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). The term “firstborn” indicates his position over all creation, not that he was created first because that would be contradictory to what Paul plainly says in the next verse, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16) and what John writes in John 1:1-14. The term is used to indicate that Christ is in charge of all because he made it (see Hebrews 1 and Revelation 1:5). Since he is the creator of all things, “he is (notice the present tense = “always has been, is now, and always will be”) before all things” and just in case you wonder, “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17, see also Hebrews 1:3). Not only is he over all the physical creation, he is “the head” of the church and has proved dominance over death by being raised from the dead (Colossians 1:18, see Romans 1:4 and Revelation 1:5-6). Just in case there is any doubt, Paul makes the all-inclusive statement that “in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). Simply put, nothing is out from under his control (see Philippians 2:9-12). Paul now emphasizes for a second time that, “In him all the fullness (the completeness) of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19, see also Colossians 1:15 and 2:9). Since he is the full, complete God who is also the creator, only he could reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). The way that he did this was by God himself shedding his blood on the cross (see Ephesians 2:12-16 and Romans 5:1).

Colossians 1:21-23

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

As Paul considers the greatness of Jesus Christ, he wants the Colossians to understand how Jesus was able to bring about peace. The story begins with man being alienated and hostile towards God. It manifests itself in “doing evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21). This part of the story relates back to the beginning when Adam and Eve chose to not follow God’s will, thus sinning in the Garden of Eden, and it continues until now. Sin is rebelliousness against God (I Samuel 15:23). The result of sin is a separation between God and man (Isaiah 59:1-2). Once man had rebelled by sinning, there was nothing he could do that would be sufficient payment for what he had done. Thus, it took God himself to pay the price. What is the price? His own blood (Colossians 1:20) while taking on human flesh (Colossians 1:22). Because he paid the price, he can present us as “holy and blameless and above reproach” (Colossians 1:22). On what basis does he choose to do this? “…if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:23). Paul ends this section with an interesting statement regarding the gospel, that it “has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). The significance of this statement is that it shows the strength of the Christian witness in the first century. By 60 A.D., when this letter was written, Paul could say that the gospel had gone to the whole world. Thus, in less than 30 years, the disciples had carried out Jesus’ marching orders that he gave them after his resurrection, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Colossians 1:24-29

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

In the last section of this chapter, Paul shares some thoughts about his ministry. Even though he was in prison he could say, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Colossians 1:24). He was proud of the fact that he became a minister of the church because God had given him a stewardship that was “to make the word of God fully known” (Colossians 1:25). Paul states that this preaching included a mystery that he describes as having two parts. The first of these is the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God. While mentioned in this passage, Paul deals in detail with this concept in Ephesians 3:1-13. Students are encouraged to go to notes on that passage to learn more about the inclusion of the Gentiles. The second part of the mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). For more information about being in Christ, the student should see notes on Ephesians 1:3 and Romans 6:3-4. Paul ends this chapter with a statement about his ministry that should be echoed by every Christian. Using the J.B. Phillips translation, he says, “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 Jesus. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me” (Colossians 1:28-29).

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