Philippe R. Sterling
Jesus Christ is supreme in His person and work and fully sufficient for the lives of those who have received Him by faith and live by faith in Him.
Colossae was an inland city in Asia Minor about 100 miles from Ephesus. A trade route between East and West passed though the city. There was a Jewish colony in Colossae. Philosophical and religious ideas from East and West captivated minds of people living there. Believers in Christ went to Colossae during the time of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Epaphras and Philemon, two men Paul led to Christ, started a church. During the time of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, false teachers began to subvert the truth of Christ in Colossae. Epaphras goes to Rome to seek Paul’s help. Paul writes a letter to affirm the truth and attack the error.
Literary Structure and Content
Letter Opening: Paul greets and offers thanks and prayers for the Colossians (1:1-14).
- Greeting: Paul and Timothy write to the faithful believers in Colossae by the will of God (1:1-2).
- Thanks: Paul gives thanks for the faith, hope and love of the believers in Colossae of which he has learned from Epaphras (1:3-8).
- Prayers: The good beginning of the Colossian believers leads Paul to pray for their increase in the knowledge of God’s will so they may live worthy of the Lord (1:9-14).
The believers of Colossae needed to know and do the will of God so as not to be attracted to false teaching. Paul does not begin by attacking the false teachers but by exalting the Lord Jesus.
Letter Body: Christ is supreme and sufficient for the believer’s life (1:15 – 4:6).
I. Declaring the Truth of Christ: Christ is supreme in His person and work (1:15 – 2:3).
The mention of Jesus in v. 14 leads Paul to teach the Colossians about His supremacy and sufficiency for their spiritual life.
A. Person of Christ: Christ is supreme in His person (1:15-19).
1. In relation to God, Jesus is His image – worship Him as God (15a).
2. In relation to creation, Jesus is its Creator – worship Him as Creator (15b-17).
3. In relation to the church, Jesus is its Head – worship Him as Lord (18-19).
B. Work of Christ: Christ is supreme in His work (1:20 – 2:3).
1. Reconciliation: Christ reconciles all things to Himself (1:20-23).
2. Proclamation: Christ completes his work of reconciliation through our proclamation of him (1:24 – 2:3).
We fill up that which is lacking in Christ’s work by fully carrying out the preaching of the word of God. He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (see 2 Cor. 5:18-21).
II. Defending the Truth of Christ: Believers need to guard against those who oppose the supremacy and sufficiency
of Christ by their precepts and practices (2:4-23).
Paul has established the truth of Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency. He now attacks the false teachers who oppose His supremacy and sufficiency.
A. Believers need to be on guard against false teaching (2:4-5).
False teachers can be persuasive. We are to maintain good order and stability of faith in the face of false teaching.
B. Believers guard against false teaching by becoming established in true teaching (2:6-15).
1. True teaching is based on faith (6-8).
We need to continue in faith as we have begun in faith. The best way of meeting persuasive argument is to walk in faith. Human philosophy cannot answer the questions of origins, purpose, or the afterlife. We know these things through divine revelation not human reasoning.
2. True teaching has Christ for its content – Christ is all . . . and all I need (9-12).
3. True teaching brings new life, forgiveness of sin, and spiritual victory (13-15).
C. We guard against false teaching by preserving our freedom against legalism, mysticism and asceticism
1. We need to reject legalism (16-17).
2. We need to reject mysticism (18-19).
3. We need to reject asceticism (20-23).
III. Displaying the Truth of Christ: Believers have life in Christ and need to express that life in daily living (3:1 – 4:6).
Paul’s task is not complete with simply declaring and defending the truth of Christ. Believers need to demonstrate the truth of Christ in their daily lives. Paul applies the truth of the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ to the daily lives of believers.
A. Believers have life in Christ (3:1-4).
B. Believers are to reveal their life in Christ in daily living (3:5 – 4:6).
1. We are to reveal our life in Christ in our personal life (3:5-17).
a. We are to put off the sins of the old life (5-11).
b. We are to put on the virtues of the new life (12-17).
2. We are to reveal our life in Christ in our domestic life (3:18 – 4:1).
a. We are to reveal our life in Christ through our relationships as husbands and wives (3:18-19).
b. We are to reveal our life in Christ through our relationships as parents and children (3:20-21).
c. We are to reveal our life in Christ through our relationships as employers and employees (3:22-25).
3. We are to reveal our life in Christ in our public life (4:2-6).
a. We are to pray for an open door for the word of Christ (2-4).
b. We are to conduct ourselves with wisdom towards outsiders (5).
c. We are to speak with grace to each person (6).
Letter Closing: Paul closes the letter with personal commendations, instructions, and farewell (4:7-18).
- Commendation: Paul commends his faithful fellow workers (4:7-15).
- Instruction: Paul gives instructions for the distribution of this letter (4:16-17).
- Farewell: Paul gives a personal farewell (4:18).
Theological Reflection and Application
One of the key features of the letter to the Colossians is its Christology.
- In Christ there is redemption and forgiveness of sins.
- Christ is the image of the invisible God.
- Christ is the Creator of the world.
- Christ is the Head of the church.
- Christ is the God-Man. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (2:9).
- Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
- Christ will be revealed in glory.
Christ is supreme over all. Christ is sufficient for all. Jesus is all . . . and all I need!
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (Col 1:28).