An Overview Of The Book Of Colossians

The City Of Colosse

Colosse was a city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman province of Asia (Asia Minor) in what is now Turkey. The city was situated on the Lycus River not far from where that river joined with the Meander River. Colosse was located about 125 miles east of Ephesus near the cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea. These two cities were 10 and 13 miles respectively northwest of Colosse, which was the oldest of the three cities. Originally Colosse lay on the trade route from west to east. This location made it an important city. But then the main road was changed and moved north near Hierapolis and Laodicea. These two cities then grew in importance and surpassed Colosse in wealth and prestige. Colosse declined to a relatively small, unimportant village. It retained its fame for its wool and its municipal independence under the Romans.

The Church Of Colosse

Mission work in Colosse was done by a man named Epaphras. Paul called him his “dear fellow servant.” Epaphras had probably gone to Ephesus where he heard the gospel of Jesus from Paul. Afterwards he returned to his home in Colosse to start a congregation there. He likely did so under Paul's guidance. The church of Colosse appears to have consisted of mostly Gentile converts. Philemon was one of its members, to whom Paul wrote the letter we know now as the Book of Philemon.

The letter to the Colossians, like the letter to the Romans, was a letter addressed to a congregation which Paul had not established himself. Most of the members were unknown to Paul, as it appears from Colossians 2:1 in which he wrote: “I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for your sake, and for those in Laodicea and for all who have not seen me personally.” Yet Paul enjoyed a close connection with the church in Colosse, which was located in the same Roman province of Asia in which Ephesus was the capital and where Paul had labored for more than two years. People from that entire area came to hear Paul, no doubt from Colosse as well. Furthermore, those who worked with Paul as well as those who were converted by Paul's preaching carried the gospel of Jesus to the entire area, for Acts 19:10 states: “Now this happened for two years, with the result that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

The Writer Of The Letter To The Colossians

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, Colossians 1:1

For more information about Paul and his ministry, see An Overview Of The Book Of Acts.

The Recipients Of The Letter To The Colossians

The holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse, Colossians 1:2

The Date Of The Letter To The Colossians

About 60 to 61 A.D. See The Background For Paul's Prison Epistles: Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians.

The Occasion For The Writing Of The Letter To The Colossians

Epaphras, leader of the church in Colosse in Asia Minor (Colossians 4:12), came to Paul in Rome with good news and bad news about the church of Colosse. The good news was the gospel had born fruit among the Colossians (Colossians 1:6), who were continuing in the faith (Colossians 1:4) in Christ and in love for their fellow believers. The bad news was the Colossians were being troubled by a new teaching that was contrary to the gospel which Epaphras had been preaching to them. The new teaching claimed a profound knowledge apart from Christ (Colossians 2:8), an emphasis on following prescribed rituals (Colossians 2:16), the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18), and ascetic self-abasement (Colossians 2:18 & 20-23). The new teaching which included the worship of angels indicates that it invoked spiritual powers rather than calling on Christ in whom the fullness of God dwelt in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

The new false teaching in effect denied the total sufficiency of Christ for salvation and the completeness of Christ's atonement. The details of the new false teaching are difficult to describe, because Paul did not write about them point by point. Rather, Paul overwhelmed the false teaching and smothered it with the full and complete riches of Christ, his person and his redemptive work--the Christ who is the true God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Savior and God/Man who reconciled by his blood the sinners of the world to God, and who is the power of the believers' faith. In Christ is found the real knowledge, fullness, and completeness. Thus Paul asserted that Christians have no need for human philosophy and wisdom to be complete. They are complete in Christ, in whom they have the divine wisdom of his gospel and the perfect, complete salvation.

To deal with the new false teaching, Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians. Paul then dispatched his co-worker Tychicus to carry his letter to the church of Colosse (Colossians 4:7,8). Paul's letter was a circular letter to be shared with the other churches in the area, particularly nearby Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

When Paul dispatched his letter to the Colossians, he sent the slave Onesimus with Tychicus back to his master Philemon, who was a member of the church of Colosse. This may explain why Paul wrote a longer section on the slave/master relationship than on the other human relationships, and why Paul emphasized his readers should forgive one another as God forgave them in Christ.

Theme Of The Letter To The Colossians

“You have been made complete in him (Christ),” Colossians 2:10

Outline Of The Book Of Colossians

Part 1: The Introduction, Colossians 1:1-14

A. Greeting, Colossians 1:1,2

B. Thanksgiving for the faith and love of the Colossians in response to the hope of the gospel, which is the word of truth they had learned from Epaphras, Colossians 1:3-8

C. Prayer that the Colossians would be filled with a knowledge of God's will, Colossians 1:9-14

1. So they walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, Colossians 1:10

2. So they are strengthened by the power of God in endurance and patience, Colossians 1:11

3. So they give thanks to the Father for sharing in the inheritance of the saints of light, who were delivered from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of his Son, in whom they had forgiveness, Colossians 1:12-14

Part 2: The Complete Sufficiency of Christ And His Gospel, Colossians 1:15-2:23

A. The complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Colossians 1:15-23

1. According to his person, Colossians 1:15-18

a. He is the very image and manifestation of the true invisible God, Colossians 1:15
b. He is the Creator of the angels and their invisible realm, as well as of the visible realm of this universe, Colossians 1:16,17
c. He is the Head of the church, Colossians 1:18

2. According to his work, Colossians 1:19-23

a. He in whom the fullness of God dwells reconciled to God by his cross all things on earth and in heaven, Colossians 1:19,20
b. He reconciled the Colossians and us, the sinful humans that we were, by his death to present us to God as holy and blameless, so long as we continue to believe the gospel which was proclaimed in all creation, Colossians 1:21-23

B. The complete sufficiency of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:24-2:5

1. This gospel led Paul to rejoice in what he suffered for the sake of the church to preach it, Colossians 1:24,25

2. This gospel that God willed be made known to his holy believers consists of the formerly hidden mystery of Christ in you, the Christ who is the hope of glory, Colossians 1:26,27

3. This gospel is proclaimed to present every person complete in Christ, Colossians 1:28,29

4. This gospel gives the full assurance of understanding and true knowledge of God's mystery in the person of Christ, in whom are all the treasures of saving wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:1-3

a. From this gospel and faith in Christ do not be misled by persuasive, fine-sounding arguments, Colossians 2:4,5

C. The complete sufficiency of Christ and his gospel will free you from the heretical human regulations being imposed on you, Colossians 2:6-23

1. Walk in Christ Jesus the Lord and his gospel, for in him you have been rooted and built up, Colossians 2:6,7

2. Let no one take you captive by means of empty, deceptive philosophy, which is based on human traditions and worldly principles, rather than on Christ, Colossians 2:8-15

a. For in Christ all the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form, Colossians 2:9
b. For in Christ you have already been made complete. He is the head over every power and authority, Colossians 2:10-15

b.1 For in Christ you have the true spiritual circumcision of the heart, Colossians 2:11
b.2 For you were baptized into Christ's death and resurrection, Colossians 2:12
b.3 For God made you alive with Christ, forgave your sins, and canceled the legal code of the law that opposed us by nailing it to the cross, Colossians 2:13,14
b.4 For God disarmed the powers of evil when he gave us the victory over them through Christ, Colossians 2:15

c For Christ is the true reality and fulfillment of the Old Testament ceremonial laws, to which you are no longer bound, Colossians 2:16,17
d So let no one who delights in abasing himself as a humble person and who delights in the worship of angels deprive you of the prize that you have in Christ, Colossians 2:18,19
e And since you died with Christ to the basic worldly principles, do not submit to ascetic decrees of what you cannot taste and touch, for such “wisdom” is merely a self-indulgence of the sinful mind that has no value in restraining the sinful urges of the flesh, Colossians 2:20-23

Part 3: Live the new life that you have with the All-Sufficient Christ, Colossians 3:1-4:6

A. Having a new life in Christ, set your mind on the heavenly things, Colossians 3:1-4

1. Be dead to the sins you used to live in and live as the new spiritual person who is being renewed to be like God, Colossians 3:5-11

2. Display in your new life with Christ the virtues that are appropriate to be God's chosen, holy people, Colossians 3:12-15

3. Let the Word of Christ fill your heart in your worship services, and do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus with thanksgiving, Colossians 3:16,17

B. Let you new life with Christ be evident in your personal relationships, Colossians 3:18-4:1

1. In your marriage, Colossians 3:18,19

2. In your home as parents and children, Colossians 3:20,21

3. In your work place as slaves/employees and masters/employers, Colossians 3:22-4:1

C. Let your new life with Christ be evident in prayer and in your conduct with those outside of the church, Colossians 4:2-6

Part 4: Conclusion, Colossians 4:7-18

A. Tychicus and Onesimus will inform the Colossians about Paul's circumstances, Colossians 4:7-9

B. Personal greetings, Colossians 4:10-15

C. Closing instructions, Colossians 4:16,17

D. Paul's personal closing greeting, Colossians 4:18