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The Book of Colossians

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:03
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I. Introduction

One of the first things you should do when coming to a book study is to try to grasp the big picture of the book. What is it all about? Why was it written? If you had to sum up the message of the book of Colossians in a few sentences or even a few words what would you say? If someone where to ask you, “what is the book of Colossians all about?” What would be your immediate answer? This is the purpose of the introduction. To give us a frame work understanding of the book, to ensure that we are interpreting the text as close as possible to the original meaning that Paul gave it.
In order to do that we need to answer some basic questions about the book:

Question #1- To whom was the letter written?

Colossians 1:1–2 KJV 1900
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The city of Colossae, at one time, was a city of great importance. In the fourth and third centuries BC it was a thriving textile center, and its importance was due especially to its location at the crossroads to two well-traveled highways. Later on those roads were moved and the city declined in importance by Paul’s day.
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The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon I. To Whom Was the Letter Written? Colossae and the Colossians

The diversity of population and exposure to the latest ideas via travelers on its major highway meant that Colossae was a place where many different religious and philosophical viewpoints thrived and probably mixed together. This diversity helps explain the apparently syncretistic religious movement that was affecting the Colossian Christians and that gave rise to the letter.

As far as we know Paul never went to Colossae, and he certainly did not found the church
Colossians 2:1 KJV 1900
1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
Epaphras was most likely the founder of the church.
Colossians 1:7–8 KJV 1900
7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
Colossians 4:12–13 KJV 1900
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
Interestingly, Epaphras was a convert of Paul from the time of Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19).
Acts 19:10 KJV 1900
10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
We assume that Epaphras was one of the number that dwelt in Asia and heard the gospel, got saved, and then took the message of Jesus back to his home city of Colossae and started a church.
This means that the church in Colossae was founded around A.D. 53-55, about seven to ten years before Paul wrote this epistle.
So Epaphras gets saved, takes the gospel back to Colossae and starts a church. 7-10 years go by and there is a problem that creeps into the church, so Epaphras travels to where Paul was in prison for the sake of the gospel and was eventually imprisoned himself.
Philemon 23 KJV 1900
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
Now with Paul and Epaphras in prison, Paul writes the letter to the Colossians and commissions Tychicus to deliver the letter.
Colossians 4:7–8 KJV 1900
7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: 8 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon I. To Whom Was the Letter Written? Colossae and the Colossians

Epaphras’s reason for making this trip to visit Paul was almost certainly that he wanted to enlist the apostle’s help in dealing with a dangerous yet slippery variation on the Christian gospel that had arisen in the community. Paul writes to a community, then, that he has “grandfathered” through his “son,” Epaphras.

Paul, then writes this letter to a primarily Gentile church, whom he has never met, but has a burden for due to his relationship with former convert Epaphras.

Question #2- Who wrote the letter?

The Apostle Paul- some debate, mostly among liberal scholars.

Question #3- When was the letter written?

The question of when is tied to the question of where. We know that Pau is in prison at the time of writing the letter.
Colossians 4:3 KJV 1900
3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
Colossians 4:18 KJV 1900
18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
There are several options to pick from, but it probable that Paul wrote the book of Colossians from his Roman imprisonment around A.D. 60-61.
Some scholars suggest that Paul met Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, while he was in prison.

Philemon probably belonged to the church at Colossae, and Paul took advantage of the situation to address his other concern: the problem which Epaphras had discussed with him. Epaphras had earlier journeyed to Paul to help him in whatever way he could, representing the three churches of the Lycus valley. Further, since Onesimus and Tychicus had to travel through Ephesus to get to Colossae, Paul took advantage of the occasion to write to his good friends at Ephesus.

Question #4- Why was Colossians written?

One of the primary reasons Paul wrote Colossians was to deal with false teaching that had crept into the church.
Colossians 2:4 KJV 1900
4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:16 KJV 1900
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Colossians 2:18 KJV 1900
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Rather than fall prey to false teaching Paul wants these believers to remain strong in the faith.
Colossians 2:5 KJV 1900
5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
Colossians 2:7 KJV 1900
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

The purpose of the letter, then, is to provide the resources that the Colossian Christians need to fend off some kind of false teaching to which they are exposed.

Epaphras has journeyed all the way to Rome, thousands of miles, just to present to his mentor, the apostle Paul, with the problem and to enlist his help in responding to it.
What was the content of this false teaching?
Hollow and deceptive philosophy
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
2. Depends on human tradition
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:22 KJV 1900
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
3. depends on the elemental spiritual forces of this world
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
4. Does not depend on Christ
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
5. Advocating the observance of certain food restrictions and of certain Jewish “holy days”
Colossians 2:16 KJV 1900
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
6. These false teachers practiced ascetic disciplines
Colossians 2:18 KJV 1900
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Colossians 2:23 KJV 1900
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
7. They focused on angels
8. they made a great deal about visions
9. They were proud
10. They were loosing their connection with the head of the body, Christ
Colossians 2:19 KJV 1900
19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
11. These false teachers were teaching a set of rules, that Paul calls worldly, as an important means of spiritual growth.
Colossians 2:20–23 KJV 1900
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

The false teachers were probably people from within the Colossian Christian community who were bragging about their ability to find ultimate spiritual “fulfillment” via their own program of visions and asceticism. This program was drawn partly from Judaism, particularly in its focus on rules about eating and observing certain days. They were preoccupied with spiritual beings, probably because they viewed them as powerful figures capable of having a significant influence on their lives.

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

The false teachers were appealing to spiritual beings, visions, and rules to find security in this very uncertain universe. In doing so, they were questioning the sufficiency of Christ.

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

Here is the essence of the false teaching: it is “not according to Christ” (2:8)

Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

Any teaching that questions the sufficiency of Christ—not only for “initial” salvation but also for spiritual growth and ultimate salvation from judgment—falls under the massive christological critique of Colossians.

What Paul wants for these believers is to be firm, mature believers in Christ. Believers that need not look anywhere other than Christ. Christ is to them central, He is sufficient, He is preeminent!
Colossians 1:9–10 KJV 1900
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 1:28 KJV 1900
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Colossians 1:29 KJV 1900
29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
Colossians 2:6 KJV 1900
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Colossians 2:7 KJV 1900
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:17 KJV 1900
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Colossians 4:12 KJV 1900
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Paul’s desire is for maturity in the faith! And the message He wants to get across is that the only way for one to be grounded, faithful, and mature is through Christ!
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon IV. Why Was Colossians Written? The False Teaching

Any teaching that questions the sufficiency of Christ—not only for “initial” salvation but also for spiritual growth and ultimate salvation from judgment—falls under the massive christological critique of Colossians.

Colossians 1:15–17 KJV 1900
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Colossians 1:18–19 KJV 1900
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
This is the message of Colossians. Jesus Christ is: Central, Sufficient, Preeminent!
Don’t be fooled by man made philosophies that are not according to Christ. Rather,
Colossians 2:6–7 KJV 1900
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
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