The Epistles Outlined (8): Colossians

The Author

It is generally accepted that the apostle Paul is the author: see the introduction (ch 1:1) and the salutation (ch 4:18).

The Place and Time of Writing

This is one of Pauls prison epistles written during his first imprisonment at Rome, when he was allowed to dwell in his own hired house. It was written and sent at the same time as Ephesians and Philemon. Colossians and Ephesians are linked together by the fact that Tychicus was the bearer of both epistles (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-8). Colossians and Philemon are linked together by the mention in both of Onesimus being sent to Colosse (Col 4:9; Philemon 10-12).

The Planting of the Assembly

Although some have suggested that the apostle Paul planted the assembly in Colosse, the internal evidence of the epistle seems to indicate that Paul had not visited the city (ch 1:4, 9; 2:1). It appears that the assembly was planted through the preaching and teaching of Epaphras (ch 1:7-8) who was himself a Colossian (ch 4:12).

Its Companion Epistle

About 80% of the verses in Colossians have a marked resemblance to Ephesians; these epistles complement each other while retaining their own distinctive features. The time and location of the writing of both epistles as well as their topics are the same. There is a similarity in language in both and there are exhortations to the same groups of people (husbands & wives, children & fathers, servants & masters). Both epistles present the church as the body of Christ. In Ephesians, however, we see what the church is to Christ (1:23), and in Colossians we see what Christ is to the church (2:19).

The Purpose

The epistle was written to combat false teaching which threatened the spiritual well-being and testimony of the assembly. News of the assemblys planting, spiritual condition, and danger from heresy was conveyed to Paul by Epaphras (ch 4:12-13). This false teaching was a mixture of Judaism and Gnosticism. The Judaistic element is clearly seen in regard to food, holy days, the new moon, and Sabbath days (ch 2:16); the Gnostic element is seen in regard to philosophy, worshipping of angels, rudiments of the world, and the doctrines of men (ch 2:8, 18-23). The full import of this false teaching was, 1) To claim superior knowledge of God; 2) To undermine the Person and work of Christ; and 3) To remove moral and social responsibility. The apostle Paul, under divine inspiration, writes to combat these three major attacks. In ch 1:1-14 he combats their claim of a superior knowledge in writing of the Full- knowledge of God and uses three times the Greek word epignosis meaning full knowledge. He writes of fully knowing the grace of God in truth (v.1:6), of the full knowledge of His will (v.1:9) and of the full knowledge of God (v.1:10). In ch 1:15-3:4 he combats the undermining of the Person and work of Christ by writing of the Fulness of Christ in relation to creation (vv.15-19), reconciliation (vv.20-23) and the church (1:24-3:4). He states that in Christ, all fulness dwells (1:19), all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid (2:3) and all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. In ch 3:5-4:6 he combats the error that removes moral and social responsibility by unfolding the Features of the people of God – the deportment that should characterize the believer in personal, family, domestic, and secular life. He ends the epistle by writing of Fellow labourers (4:7-23).

The Key Thought – “That in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” He should have first place in our daily lives – in personal, family, business, social, or assembly life.

The Key Verses – 2.9-10. Believers are filled full in Christ. He is all that the believer needs in every sphere of life.

The Key Words – Fulness, knowledge, head, body, saints (vv 15-18).