COLOSSE (or COLOSSAE)
The city of Colosse was located in the province of Asia about 125 miles east of Ephesus. Neighboring cities were Laodicea and Hiefapolis, where Christian churches were also established (4:13). Colosse was best known in ancient times for its special kind of wool which the Colossians dyed purple.
THE COLOSSIAN CHRISTIANS
The church at Colosse was probably established during Paul’s third missionary journey at the time of his three-year stay inEphesus. There is no record that Paul himself visited Colosse or established the church there. But Luke tells us that when Paul was at Ephesus everyone in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10). This would include the people of Colosse. A Colossian named Epaphras returned to Colosse, established the church and served as one of its ministers (Col. 1:7). Philemon and Archippus also helped to serve the church at Colosse (Phm. 2 and Col. 4:17). Onesimus, the slave of Philemon, was also one of the Colossian Christians (4:9). Sometime after Epaphras had preached the Gospel of free grace and established the Colossian church, false teachings were making their way into the church. The false teachers tried to mix their own ideas with pure Christian teaching and wanted to harmonize the two. (This is sometimes called “syncretism.” An example of modern “syncretism” is the attempt to combine traditional African superstitious ideas with Christianity and make a common religion of the two.) These seem to be the ideas that the false teachers were trying to mix with the pure Gospel: 1) that the Jewish laws must still be observed; the teaching of the Judaizers (2:11 & 16); 2) that the human body must be denied basic things and even be treated harshly (2:21-23); this idea is sometimes called “asceticism;” 3) that angels are to be worshipped (2:18). By trying to add these human ideas to the Gospel, the false teachers were really saying that Jesus Christ is not enough for life and salvation. But by seeking to “improve” Christianity, they were actually destroying the Gospel and removing Christ. If the Colossians followed these teachings, they would be taken captive by man-made ideas and would lose Christ and his salvation (2:8).
THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
Paul was in prison when he heard from Epaphras what was happening at the Colossian church (4:3 & 18). This would again be his first imprisonment in Rome, 61-63 A.D. By letter Paul wanted to address the Colossians because of the report he had gotten through Epaphras. First he wanted the Colossians to know that he was deeply thankful to God for the work the Gospel of Christ had done in their hearts (1:3-7). Then he wanted to expose the false teachings and present Christ clearly as the One who has everything they need for life and salvation. Paul evidently sent his letter from Rome to Colosse by the hands of Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9). Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon may all have been sent at the same time through the same men. The Colossians were instructed to exchange letters with the church at nearby Laodicea (4:16). “The letter from Laodicea” may be the same as Ephesians.
THEME AND CONTENTS
“CHRIST IS OUR ALL-SUFFICIENT SAVIOR”
1.Nothing needs to be added to Christ and his Gospel. (1-2) Paul shows that Christ is in every way God and that he has fully accomplished our salvation. No human ideas should be added to Christ and his Gospel. Key passages in this section: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (2:9). “God was pleased to have all his fullness 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” (1:19-20). “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” (2:8). “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (2:16-17).
2.Live for your all-sufficient Savior. (3-4) Paul encourages his readers to live holy lives because of the new life our Savior has given. Some of the key passages: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (3:2). “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lost, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). “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” (3:16).
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