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Colossians Chapter One


Colossians 1

The Epistle to the Colossians looks at the Christian as risen with Christ, but not, as in that to the Ephesians, as sitting in heavenly places in Christ. A hope is laid up for him in heaven; he is to set his affections on things above, not on things on the earth. He has died with Christ and he is risen with Him, but not sitting in heavenly places in Him yet. We have in it a proof of that which other epistles demonstrate, namely, the blessed way in which our God in His grace turns everything to the good of those that love Him.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians the Holy Ghost had developed the counsels of God with regard to the church-its privileges. The Christians of Ephesus had nothing to be reproached with: [1] therefore the Holy Ghost could use the occasion furnished by that faithful flock to unfold all the privileges which God had ordained for the church at large, by virtue of its union with Jesus Christ its Head, as well as the individual privileges of the children of God.

It was not so with the Colossians. They had in some measure slipped away from this blessed portion, and lost the sense of their union with the Head of the body; at least, if it was not actually so, they were assailed by the danger, and liable to the influence of those who sought to draw them away from it, and subject them to the influence of philosophy and Judaism, so that the apostle had to occupy himself with the danger, and not merely with their privileges. This union with our Head (thank God!) cannot itself be lost; but as a truth in the church, or of realisation by individuals, it may. We know this but too well in the church of the day we live in. This however gives occasion to the Spirit of God to develop all the riches and all the perfection which are found in the Head and in His work, in order to recover the members of the body from their spiritual feebleness, or maintain them in the full practical enjoyment of their union with Christ, and in the power of the position gained for them by that union. For us this is abiding instruction with regard to the riches that are in the Head.

If the Epistle to the Ephesians delineates the privileges of the body, that to the Colossians reveals the fullness that is in the head, and our completeness in Him. Thus in that to the Ephesians the church is the fullness of Him who filleth all in all; in that to the Colossians, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily, and we are complete in Him. There is another difference however, which it is important to remark. In the Epistle to the Colossians we do not--save in the expression, "love in the Spirit "--find any mention of the Holy Ghost. He is fully brought forward in the Ephesians. But on the other hand, we have Christ as our life far more fully developed, of equal importance in its place. In Ephesians we have more largely the contrast of heathenism with christian privilege and state. The formation of the soul in living likeness to Christ is largely developed in Colossians. It is more, in the well-known expressions, Christ in us than we in Christ, though these cannot be separated. A further important difference is that in Ephesians the unity of Jew and Gentile in one body holds a large place. In Colossians the Gentiles only are in view, though in connection with the doctrine of the body. These differences well noted, we may say that the two epistles have a great resemblance in their general character.

They commence in nearly the same way. [2] Both are written from Rome, while the apostle was a prisoner in that city, and sent by the same messenger and on the same occasion, as well probably as that to Philemon: so the names and salutations give us reason to believe. The address to the Ephesians places them perhaps more immediately in connection with God Himself, instead of presenting them as in brotherly communion on earth. They are not called brethren in Ephesians 1:1, only saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. They are viewed as walking on earth in Colossians, though risen. Hence there is a long prayer for their walk, though on high and holy ground as delivered. In Ephesians it begins with the full purpose and fruit of God's counsels. In that epistle the apostle's heart expands at once in the sense of the blessings enjoyed by the Ephesians. They were blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ. For the Colossians there was a hope laid up in heaven. And there is a preface of many verses referring to the gospel they had heard, and introducing his prayer for their walk and state down here. This brings us where Ephesians 1:7 brings us, but with a much more enlarged development of the personal glory of Christ, and more in an historical way of God's actual dealings. It is also a more personal church address than the Ephesians.

But let us consider more closely that which is said to the Colossians. The blessed calling of which the apostle speaks (Eph. 1:3-10), and the privileges of the inheritance (11-14), are wanting in Colossians; risen but on earth, they are not sitting in heavenly places, all things being thus their inheritance. It is not they in Christ there, but Christ in them the hope of glory, and the prayer referred to above fills up the chapter till we come to the common ground of Christ's glory in Colossians 1:15; and even here the divine glory of Christ is brought out in Colossians, the simple fact of the purpose of God as to Christ in Ephesians. And not only we have not God's inheritance ours; but in Colossians the Spirit as earnest of it is not spoken of. This indeed we have seen is characteristic of Colossians. The Spirit is not spoken of, but life. We have the Person and divine glory of Christ, and our completeness in Him, more insisted on in Colossians; but not the saints' place with God in the same way. Further, as the saint is looked at as on earth, not in Christ on high, his responsibility is brought in. (Chap.1:23.) Colossians 1:3 answers to Ephesians 1:16: only one feels that there is more fullness in the joy of Ephesians 1:16. Faith in Christ and love to all saints are found in each exordium, as the occasion of the writer's joy.

The subject of his prayer is quite different. In the Ephesians, where he develops the counsels of God with regard to the church, he prays that the saints may understand them, as well as the power by means of which they participated in them. Here he prays that their walk may be guided by divine intelligence. But this belongs to another cause, to the point of view from which, in his discourse, he looks at the saints. We have seen that in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he views them as sitting in the heavenlies. Their inheritance consequently is that of all things which are to be gathered together under Christ as Head. Here he prays for them in view of a hope laid up for them in heaven; his prayer therefore refers to their walk that it may be in harmony with the object which they had set before them. As on earth and in danger of not adhering to the Head, the believers in Colosse were in danger of departing from that object. He prayed therefore in view of that heavenly hope. They had heard of this perfect and glorious hope. The gospel had proclaimed it everywhere.

It was this gospel preached in view of a hope laid up in heaven which had produced fruit among men, fruit that was characterised by its heavenly source. Their religion, that which governed their heart in these relationships with God, was heavenly. The Colossians were in danger of falling back into the current of ordinances, and of the religious customs of man living in the world, whose religion was in connection with the world in which he dwelt, and not enlightened, not filled with heavenly light. There is nothing but conscious union with Christ which can keep us securely there. Ordinances to reach Him can have no place where we are united to Him; the philosophy of human thoughts none, where we possess livingly divine ones in Christ.

Nevertheless how precious it is-even if we are not in the full height of our calling-to have an object set before our hearts which delivers us from this world, and from the influences which hide God from us! Such is the apostle's object in this scripture. He directs the eyes of the Colossians to heaven, in order that they may see Christ there, and regain that sense of their union with the Head which they had in some measure lost, or were in danger of losing. The ground work was however there-faith in Christ and love to all saints. They only needed realising their union with the Head; which moreover could alone maintain them in the heavenly element above ordinances, above human and earthly religion.

The apostle, in order to raise them up, sets out as usual from the point where he found good in the saints to whom he wrote. This heavenly hope had reached them and had produced fruit. It is this which distinguishes Christianity from all other religions, and in particular from the Jewish system, which-although individuals who were in it by grace sighed for heaven-hid God behind the veil, and enveloped the conscience in a series of ordinances at a distance from Him.

Now, based upon this hope which placed the inner life of the Christians in connection with heaven, the apostle prays that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of the will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. It is the fruit of a risen man's connection with God on the earth. This is very different from commandments and ordinances. It is the fruit of intimate communion with God, of knowledge of His character and of His nature by virtue of this communion; and, although it refers to practical life, as belonging to the inner life, it leaves ordinances completely behind. The apostle had to begin at this practical end, at christian life. Perhaps the Colossians did not at first understand the bearing of these instructions, but they contained a principle which, already planted in their heart and capable of being re-awakened, led them to the point which the apostle aimed at, and was at the same time a very precious privilege, the value of which they were in position to apprehend. Such is charity. The apostle develops their privileges in this respect with force and clearness, as one to whom such a walk was well known, and moreover with the power of the Spirit of God. They are not in heaven but on earth, and this is the path that suited those risen with Christ and looking to heaven from the earth. It is divine life on earth, not the Holy Ghost putting the soul of the believer at the centre of divine counsels, as in Ephesians 3 through Christ dwelling in the heart by faith.

The first principle of this practical heavenly life was the knowledge of the will of God-to be filled with it, not to run after it as a thing without us, nor in indecision, in uncertainty, as to what it was, but to be filled with it by a principle of intelligence which comes from Him, and which forms the understanding and the wisdom of the Christian himself. The character of God was livingly translated in the appreciation of everything that the Christian did. And remark here that the knowledge of God's will is based on the spiritual state of the soul-wisdom and spiritual understanding. And this is of all practical importance. No particular direction by man as to conduct meets this at all-rather saves us from the need of spiritual understanding. No doubt a more spiritual mind may help me in the discernment of Gods will; [3] but God has connected the discovery of the path of His will, His way, with the inward state of the soul, and causes us to pass through circumstances-human life here below-to test and to discover to ourselves what that state is, and to exercise us therein. The Christian has by his spiritual state to know God's ways. The word is the means. (Compare John 17:17, 19.) God has a way of His own which the vulture's eye hath not seen, known only to the spiritual man, connected with,flowing from, and to, the knowledge of God. (Compare Exod.33:13.) Thus the Christian walks worthy of the Lord; he knows what becomes Him, [4] and walks accordingly, that he may please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the knowledge of God.

It was not then only the character of life: this life was productive; it bore fruit, and, as life grew up, by increasing knowledge of God. But this connection with God brings in another very precious consideration. Besides the character and the living energy which are in relationship with this knowledge, [5] is developed in it also. They draw strength from Him. He gives it that they might walk thus. "Strengthened," he says, "with all might, according to the power of his glory." Such is the measure of the Christian's strength for a life in harmony with the character of God. Thus the character of this life is revealed in the heavenly glory on high-Jesus Christ. On earth its manifestation-as it had been in Jesus Christ-is realised in all patience and long-suffering with joy, in the midst of the sorrow and afflictions of the life of God in this world. This form of the life too is striking: all divine strength according to His glory given in order to be patient, to endure. What a character it gives to the Christian's life in this world ! And there is a generous bearing with others which it enables us to maintain. Nor is anything a more manifest fruit of power than this. Will too is here subdued. Thus, in spite of all we have to endure, we have with God constant joy. It is a blessed picture of the form in which divine life manifests itself.

And here the apostle connects this life of endurance with that which is its source, its aim, and its present possession by faith. Walking thus we are full of joy, [6] us meet to share the portion of the saints in light. Here are the saints established in their proper relationship with God (their Father) in heaven-in the light, that which God is, and in which He dwells. Thus we have the state of the soul, the character of the walk, and the strength in which we accomplish it. As to meetness for God in light, we possess it. Moreover we are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.

The means employed, and the practical character of the work which sets us in the light, are then presented, introducing us (as far as Colossians does) into the counsels of God, but in a practical way-in their results future or present, not in counsel or as the mystery of His will.

The Father has delivered us from the power of darkness, and transported us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. It is not a Jewish rule for man; it is an operation of the power of God, who treats us as altogether by nature the slaves of Satan and of darkness; and places us by an act of that power in an entirely new position and relationship with Himself We see indeed here, if we examine the principles in their origin, the same thing as in Ephesians 1:4,5; 2:1-6, as to our position before. But it is evident that the fullness and definiteness of a new creation are wanting. [7] "The inheritance of the saints in light," "the kingdom of the Son of his love," remind us of Ephesians 1:4, 5; but it is not the thing itself, as it is in God's mind, but our having been made meet for it when here; nor consequently the development of a position with which one is familiar as standing in it. The power and the love of the Father have made us meet for it, and although the character of God is necessarily there as light and love, according to His relationship to His Son, yet what we have here is not our own relationship with God Himself, outside the question of whence He took us, but the work in general which places us there in contrast with our previous position. He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; we have part in the inheritance of the saints in light: but where is the saint " without blame before him in love?" where our relationship to Him, according to the counsels of Him who saw only the good which He purposed in His own heart? where the "children unto himself by Jesus Christ," through His predestination before the world was?

In Ephesians deliverance is brought in as a consequence of the position in which the heirs, the objects of the eternal counsels of God, are seen. [8] Here deliverance is the chief subject. How dangerous and disastrous it is to depart from the Head, and to lose the full consciousness, in the light, of our union with Him! How perfect and precious is that grace which takes notice of our condition, and brings us out of it to God, to make us enjoy-according to the power and grace of God-the inestimable position which He has given us in Christ!

The means which the Spirit here employs to accomplish this work of grace is the development of the glory of the Lord, of the Son of His love.

Here alone, I believe, is the kingdom called the kingdom of the Son; and, I think, it is only as introducing His Person as the centre of everything and giving us the measure of the greatness of the blessing. It is the kingdom of One who has this place, the Son of His love, into which we are introduced. It is indeed His kingdom; and in order that we may apprehend the character of this kingdom as it is now for us, and our nearness to God as having part in it, it is called the kingdom of the Son of His love. It is this which is the present foundation and characteristic of the relationship with God of those who are truly in and of it. As the kingdom of the Son of man, it is His manifestation hereafter in glory and in government. Here it is characterised by the relationship of the Son Himself to the Father, in His Person, with the addition of that which gives us a full title to share it-redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

The apostle, having thus introduced the Son in His relationship to the Father, as the central and mighty object which was to attract the heart of the Colossians and set them free from the yoke of ordinances sketches now the different parts of the glory of that Person. If therefore the assembly's own glory is wanting, that of Jesus is so much the rather set in stronger relief before us. Thus God brings good out of evil, and in every way feeds His beloved people.

The Lord Jesus is the image of the invisible God. It is in the Son of His love that we see what God is. (Compare John 1:18; and also 1 John 1:2.) This is the first character of His personal glory, the essential centre of all the rest. Now, in consequence of this proper character of His Person, He takes by right the position of representing God in the creation. Adam was created in some sort in the image of God, and placed as centre in a creation that was subjected to him. But, after all, he was only a figure of the Christ, of Him who was to come. The Son, in His very Person, in His nature (and for us as in the bosom of the Father), is He who makes God known, because He presents Him in His own Person and in a full revelation of His being and of His character be fore men and in the whole universe; for all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Him. Nevertheless He is a man. He is thus seen of angels. We have seen Him with our eyes or by faith. Thus He is the image of the invisible God. The perfect character and living representation of the invisible God have been seen in Him. Wondrous truth for us with regard to the Person of our Saviour!

But then what place can He have in creation when He has come into it according to the eternal counsels of God? He could have but one, namely, that of supremacy without contestation and without controversy. He is the firstborn of all creation; this is a relative name, not one of date with regard to time. It is said of Solomon, " I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." Thus the Creator, when He takes a place in creation, is necessarily its Head. He has not yet made good His rights, because in grace He would accomplish redemption. We are speaking of His rights-rights which faith recognises.

He is then the image of the invisible God, and, when He takes His place in it, the firstborn of all creation. The reason of this is worthy of our attention-simple, yet marvelous: He created it. It was in the Person of the Son that God acted, when by His power He created all things, whether in heaven or in the earth, visible and invisible. All that is great and exalted is but the work of His hand; all has been created by Him (the Son) and for Him. Thus, when He takes possession of it, He takes it as His inheritance by right. Wonderful truth, that He who has redeemed us, who made Himself man, one of us as to nature, in order to do so, is the Creator. But such is the truth.

In connection with this admirable truth, it was a part of God's counsels that man should have dominion over all the works of His hands. Thus Christ, as man, has it by right, and will take possession of it in fact. This part of the truth of which we are speaking is treated in Hebrews 2; we shall consider it in its place. I introduce it here merely that we may under stand the circumstances under which the Son takes possession. The Spirit speaks of the One who is Man but the One who is at the same time Creator of all things, the Son of God. They were created by Him, they were necessarily then created also for Him.

Thus we have hitherto the glory of the Person of Christ and His glory in creation connected with His Person. In Him is seen the image of the invisible God. He has created all things: all is for Him; and He is the firstborn of all that is created.

Another category of glory, another supremacy, is now presented. He takes a special place in relation to the assembly in the power of resurrection. It is the introduction of divine power, not in creation but in the empire of death; in order that others may participate in His glory by redemption, and by the power of life in Him. The first glory was, so to speak natural-the latter special and acquired (although in virtue of the glory of His Person) by undergoing death, and all the power of the enemy in it. Accordingly it is connected, as we have just said, with redemption, and with the introduction of others into the participation of the same privileges. He is the Head of the body which is the assembly, the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. He is the Firstborn of creation, [9] according to the power of resurrection, in this new order of things in which man is predestined to an entirely new position, gained by redemption, and in which he participates in the glory of God (as far as that which is created can do so), and that by participating in divine life in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and everlasting life; and, as regards the assembly, as members of His body. He is the First born of creation, the Firstborn from among the dead; the Creator and the conqueror of death and the enemy's power. These are the two spheres of the display of the glory of God. The special position of the assembly, the body of Christ, forms a part of the latter. He must have this resurrection-glory, this universal preeminence and superiority also, as being man, for all the fullness (namely, of the Godhead, see chap. 2:9) was pleased to dwell in Him. What place could He have except that of first in all things! But, before speaking of that which follows, some important remarks are yet to be made on that which we have been considering.

The Son is here presented to us as Creator, not to the exclusion of the Father's power, nor of the operation of the Spirit. They are one, but it is the Son who is here set before us. In John 1 it is the Word who creates all things. Here, and in Hebrews 1, it is under the name of Son, that He, who is also the Word, is revealed to us. He is the Word of God, the expression of His thought and of His power. It is by Him that God works and reveals Himself. He is also the Son of God; and, in particular, the Son of the Father. He reveals God, and he who has seen Him has seen the Father. Inasmuch as born in this world by the operation of God through the Holy Ghost, He is the Son of God. (Psalm 2:7; Luke 1:35.) But this is in time, when creation is already the scene of the manifestation of the ways and counsels of God. But the Son is also the name of the proper relationship of His glorious Person to the Father before the world was. It is in this character that He created all things. The Son is to be glorified even as the Father. If He humble Himself, as He did for us, all things are put into His hands, in order that His glory may be manifested in the same nature in the assumption of which He humbled Himself. And already the power of life and of God in Him is manifested by resurrection, so that He is declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection. This is the proof of it.

In the Epistle to the Colossians that which is set before us is the proper glory of His Person as the Son before the world was. He is the Creator as Son. It is important to observe this. But the persons are not separated in their manifestation. If the Son wrought miracles on earth, He cast out devils by the Spirit; and the Father who dwells in Him (Christ) did the works. Also it must be remembered, that that which is said is said, when He was manifested in the flesh, of His complete Person, man upon earth. Not that we do not in our minds separate between the divinity and the humanity; but even in separating them we think of the one Person with regard to whom we do so. We say, Christ is God, Christ is man; but it is Christ who is the two. I do not say this theologically, but to draw the reader's attention to the remarkable expression, "All the fullness was pleased to dwell in him." All the fullness of the Godhead was found in Christ. The Gnostics, who in later years so much harassed the assembly, used this word " fullness" in a mystical and peculiar sense for the sum and source (and yet after all, in the sense of a locality; for it had a "oros", limits which separated it from everything else) of divinity which developed itself in four pairs of beings--syzygies-Christ being only one of a pair. [10]

It is not necessary to go further into their reveries, except to observe that, with different shades of thought, they attribute creation to a god either inferior or evil, who also was the author of the Old Testament. Matter, they said, did not proceed from the supreme God. They did not eat meat; they did not marry; at the same time they gave themselves up to all sorts of horrors and dissoluteness; and, strange to say, associated themselves with Judaism, worshiped angels, and etc.

The apostle was often in conflict with these tools of Satan. Peter also mentions them. Here Paul sets forth, by the word of God, the whole fullness of the divinity of Christ. Far from being something inferior, an emanation, or having a place however exalted in those endless genealogies, all the fullness itself dwelt in Him. Glorious truth with regard to the Person of the Lord our Saviour! We may leave all the foolish imaginations of man in the shade, in order to enjoy the perfect light of this glorious fullness of God in our Head and Lord. All the fullness was in Him. We know indeed the Father, but revealed by Him. We possess indeed the Spirit, but the fullness of the Spirit was in Him, and because, having accomplished our redemption and our purification, He then received that Spirit for us. And God Himself in all His fullness was revealed, without any reservation, in the Person of Christ; and this Christ is ours, our Saviour, our Lord. He has been manifested to us and for us. What a glorious truth for us! It is for His own glory, no doubt, that He should be known as He is, as love; but it is not the less true that this revelation was in connection with us. It is not only the Son revealing the Father, sweet and precious as that fact is; it is the fullness of the Godhead as such that is revealed and shewn forth in Christ. It was the good pleasure of the fullness to dwell there. But Christ was not only the Head of creation in virtue of the divine glory of His Person, and the Head of the assembly as risen from among the dead and victorious over the power of the enemy; creation, and all those who were to form the assembly, were alike far from God, and the latter were so even in their will; to be in relationship with God they must be reconciled to Him. This is the second part of the glory of Christ. Not only was it the good pleasure of the fullness of the Godhead to dwell in Him, but by Him to reconcile all things to itself, having made peace by the blood of the cross. This reconciliation of things in heaven as well as on the earth is not yet accomplished. Peace is indeed made by the blood, but the power has not yet come in to bring back the whole into actual relationship with God according to the value of that blood.

Thus, in Israel, the blood was put upon the mercy seat, and expiation-peace, was made; but besides this everything was sprinkled, and the sins of the people were confessed. This, with regard to Israel and to creation, has not yet been done. As to that which is outward, it remains still at a distance from God, although peace is made. We know that it is the good pleasure of God to reconcile all things in heaven, and on the earth, by virtue of this blood. All things shall be restored to order under a new rule. The guilty, remaining in their sins, will be outside this scene of blessing; but heaven and earth will be completely freed from the power of evil (and even from its presence during the millennium, as regards manifestation--still later, absolutely from its presence itself), according to the virtue of that blood which has separated between good and evil, according to the character of God Himself, and so glorified God that peace is made. God can act freely for blessing; but here the work is twofold,like the glory of the Person of Christ, and refers to the same objects as His glory. It is in the counsels of God to reconcile unto Himself all things in Heaven and on the earth through Christ. But Christians He has already reconciled. Once not only defiled, like the creature, but enemies in their minds, He has already reconciled them in the body of His flesh by means of death. The perfect work which Christ accomplished in His body, blotting out our sins and perfectly glorifying God His Father, has brought us into relationship with God in His holiness according to the efficacy of that work; that is to say, it is efficacious to present us, perfectly reconciled, holy, without blemish and without blame, before His face; and with the consciousness of it, and of the love that has wrought it, and the favour into which we are brought, so that in the sense of this the heart is brought back to God: we are reconciled to God. This supposes that we continue steadfast in the faith unto the end.

The position of the Colossians gave room for this warning, being viewed as walking on earth. [11] We have seen that they had a little departed, or were in danger of departing, from the realisation of their union with Christ.

It will be noticed also, that the apostle speaks of his gospel as spread abroad in all the world. Grace had overstepped the narrow limits of Judaism and the expectation of the Messiah, in order to make known the testimony of the perfect love of God in the whole creation under heaven, of which Paul was the instrument as the apostle of the Gentiles. [12] Hitherto, then, the Spirit of God has set before us the two preeminences of Christ, that over creation and that over the assembly, and the two reconciliations which answer to them, namely, first, that of the things over which Christ is set as Head, that is, of all things in heaven and earth; and second, that of Christians themselves: the latter already accomplished, the former yet to come. The ministry of the apostle had now the same double character. He has not undoubtedly to preach in heaven; but his ministry is exercised in every place under heaven where there is a soul to hearken. He is a minister of that gospel; and then he is a minister of the assembly, a distinct service or ministry, making known its true position and its privileges, connected indeed with the other, in that the gospel went out also to the Gentiles to bring them in. (Vers. 23, 25) By this last instruction he completed the word of God: an important principle with regard to the exclusive authority of the written word, which shews that its totality already exists, demonstrated by the subjects which it comprises; subjects which are entirely completed, to the exclusion of others which people may seek to introduce. The circle of truths which God had to treat, in order to reveal to us the glory of Christ and to give us complete instruction according to His wisdom, is entire, when the doctrine of the assembly is revealed. There were no others to be added. [13] It is not a question here as to the dates of the books, but of the circle of subjects. The law, the kingdom, the Person of Christ, redemption and the ways of God, had already been brought out; the doctrine of the assembly was then to be revealed, in order to make the communications of God complete as to their subjects.

But this doctrine in particular exposed the apostle to persecution and sufferings, which the Jews especially, and the enemy sought in every way to inflict upon him. But he rejoiced in this as a privilege, because Christ had suffered on account of His love for the assembly-for His own. The apostle speaks here, not of the efficacy of this death, but of the love which led Him to suffer. Looked at in this point of view, the apostle could participate in His sufferings, and we also in our little measure; but the apostle in a peculiar manner, as the special witness-bearer to this truth. If Christ had been content to accept the position of Messiah according to man, He would have been well received. If Paul had preached circumcision, the offence of the cross would have ceased: man could have taken part in the religion of God, if His religion had recognised man in the flesh. But if God is revealed, if His grace extends to the gentiles, if by this grace, and without having respect to the Jew more than to the Gentile, He forms an assembly, which is the body of Christ, sharing the heavenly glory of His Son-this is what the flesh cannot endure. To be thus shut out as nothing worth before God, even in its religion, take what pains it might-this is unbearable. This is the source of the enmity of the Judaising spirit, which is founded on the flesh, on man, and which is constantly reappearing in the apostle's history, whether as exciting the hatred of the heathen, or as corrupting the doctrine of Christ and the simplicity of the gospel. Religion in the flesh boasts its own peculiar privileges. (See Phil 3)


[1] How painful it is to see this beloved church taken afterwards as an example of the first love being lost! But all tends to the end.

[2] The name of Timotheus is not found in the address to the saints at Ephesus.

[3] It is one of the deceits of the heart that, when we really know God's will quite well, we go to ask advice of one no more spiritual than ourselves.

[4] There are three measures given of the Christian's walk in this form: worthy of God who has called us to His own kingdom and glory; worthy of the Lord, here; and worthy of the vocation with which we are called, that is, the Holy Ghost dwelling in the church, Ephesians 2; developed as it is in the end of chapter 3.

[5] The antecedent is, I think, here the Lord; but the Lord and God are greatly merged in one thought.

[6] Take especial notice here, that it is not said "will make us meet," as a thing yet to be done, and in which we make progress.

[7] We shall also see, further on, that the starting-point is somewhat different, and, though Ephesians ground is partially referred to, brings in man as he isfound living in sin, and less absolutely to God, who finds him already dead in sins, and creates him according to His own counsels. But of this hereafter. Further, in Ephesians 1:6 our place is full grace in Christ; in Colossians 1 it is present actual deliverance from the power of darkness and translation into the kingdom of the Son of His love-not 'charis' or 'charitosis en to egapenenoo'.

[8] This belongs to the principle mentioned above. In Ephesians, all is seen from the point of view of God's eternal counsels before evil existed, the good which He purposed in Himself although redemption was necessary when evil had come in, and the glory of God Himself and the basis of our glory in the accomplishment of them, was made good in it. In Colossians man in evil is the object of grace.

[9] One of these preeminences depends on His divine rights as Creator, the other on His work and on the power displayed in His humanity in the act of resurrection. He holds all as man and all by divine power, but in some sort it may be said that one part of His glory depends on His divinity, the other on His victory as man.

[10] Indeed added to the four as supplementary.

[11] When the Christian is viewed as in Christ, there is no "if:" we are in Him. When he is viewed as a pilgrim here, we are on the road to actual glory, and have to reach the goal, and here "if" comes in, and danger, and the need of being kept. But then we have the fullest assurance that we shall be kept and never perish, and be confirmed to the end, and the good work completed. Thus dependence on God is maintained in the saved, and confidence in His faithfulness.

[12] Note here how clear and full the statement is: verse 14, redemption and forgiveness, verse 21, reconciliation with God; verse 13, deliverance and introduction into the kingdom; verse 12, we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. All this we have, and so are called to walk worthy of the Lord.

[13] It is not a question here as to the dates of the books, but of the circle of subjects. The law, the kingdom, the Person of Christ, redemption and the ways of God, had already been brought out; the doctrine of the assembly was then to be revealed, in order to make the communications of God complete as to their subjects.

── John DarbySynopsis of Colossians


Colossians 1

Chapter Contents

The apostle Paul salutes the Colossians, and blesses God for their faith, love, and hope. (1-8) Prays for their fruitfulness in spiritual knowledge. (9-14) Gives a glorious view of Christ. (15-23) And sets out his own character, as the apostle of the Gentiles. (24-29)

Commentary on Colossians 1:1-8

(Read Colossians 1:1-8)

All true Christians are brethren one to another. Faithfulness runs through every character and relation of the Christian life. Faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces in the Christian life, and proper matter for prayer and thanksgiving. The more we fix our hopes on the reward in the other world, the more free shall we be in doing good with our earthly treasure. It was treasured up for them, no enemy could deprive them of it. The gospel is the word of truth, and we may safely venture our souls upon it. And all who hear the word of the gospel, ought to bring forth the fruit of the gospel, obey it, and have their principles and lives formed according to it. Worldly love arises, either from views of interest or from likeness in manners; carnal love, from the appetite for pleasure. To these, something corrupt, selfish, and base always cleaves. But Christian love arises from the Holy Spirit, and is full of holiness.

Commentary on Colossians 1:9-14

(Read Colossians 1:9-14)

The apostle was constant in prayer, that the believers might be filled with the knowledge of God's will, in all wisdom. Good words will not do without good works. He who undertakes to give strength to his people, is a God of power, and of glorious power. The blessed Spirit is the author of this. In praying for spiritual strength, we are not straitened, or confined in the promises, and should not be so in our hopes and desires. The grace of God in the hearts of believers is the power of God; and there is glory in this power. The special use of this strength was for sufferings. There is work to be done, even when we are suffering. Amidst all their trials they gave thanks to the Father of our Lord Jesus, whose special grace fitted them to partake of the inheritance provided for the saints. To bring about this change, those were made willing subjects of Christ, who were slaves of Satan. All who are designed for heaven hereafter, are prepared for heaven now. Those who have the inheritance of sons, have the education of sons, and the disposition of sons. By faith in Christ they enjoyed this redemption, as the purchase of his atoning blood, whereby forgiveness of sins, and all other spiritual blessings were bestowed. Surely then we shall deem it a favour to be delivered from Satan's kingdom and brought into that of Christ, knowing that all trials will soon end, and that every believer will be found among those who come out of great tribulation.

Commentary on Colossians 1:15-23

(Read Colossians 1:15-23)

Christ in his human nature, is the visible discovery of the invisible God, and he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Let us adore these mysteries in humble faith, and behold the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus. He was born or begotten before all the creation, before any creature was made; which is the Scripture way of representing eternity, and by which the eternity of God is represented to us. All things being created by Him, were created for him; being made by his power, they were made according to his pleasure, and for his praise and glory. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are upheld. Christ as Mediator is the Head of the body, the church; all grace and strength are from him; and the church is his body. All fulness dwells in him; a fulness of merit and righteousness, of strength and grace for us. God showed his justice in requiring full satisfaction. This mode of redeeming mankind by the death of Christ was most suitable. Here is presented to our view the method of being reconciled. And that, notwithstanding the hatred of sin on God's part, it pleased God to reconcile fallen man to himself. If convinced that we were enemies in our minds by wicked works, and that we are now reconciled to God by the sacrifice and death of Christ in our nature, we shall not attempt to explain away, nor yet think fully to comprehend these mysteries; but we shall see the glory of this plan of redemption, and rejoice in the hope set before us. If this be so, that God's love is so great to us, what shall we do now for God? Be frequent in prayer, and abound in holy duties; and live no more to yourselves, but to Christ. Christ died for us. But wherefore? That we should still live in sin? No; but that we should die to sin, and live henceforth not to ourselves, but to Him.

Commentary on Colossians 1:24-29

(Read Colossians 1:24-29)

Both the sufferings of the Head and of the members are called the sufferings of Christ, and make up, as it were, one body of sufferings. But He suffered for the redemption of the church; we suffer on other accounts; for we do but slightly taste that cup of afflictions of which Christ first drank deeply. A Christian may be said to fill up that which remains of the sufferings of Christ, when he takes up his cross, and after the pattern of Christ, bears patiently the afflictions God allots to him. Let us be thankful that God has made known to us mysteries hidden from ages and generations, and has showed the riches of his glory among us. As Christ is preached among us, let us seriously inquire, whether he dwells and reigns in us; for this alone can warrant our assured hope of his glory. We must be faithful to death, through all trials, that we may receive the crown of life, and obtain the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Colossians


Colossians 1

Verse 2

[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 saints-This word expresses their union with God. And brethren — This, their union with their fellow-Christians.

Verse 3

[3] We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

We give thanks — There is a near resemblance between this epistle, and those to the Ephesians and Philippians.

Verse 5

[5] For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

Ye heard before — I wrote to you.

In the word of truth, of the gospel — The true gospel preached to you.

Verse 6

[6] Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

It bringeth forth fruit in all the world — That is, in every place where it is preached.

Ye knew the grace of God in truth — Truly experienced the gracious power of God.

Verse 7

[7] As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

The fellowservant — Of Paul and Timotheus.

Verse 8

[8] Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

Your love in the Spirit — Your love wrought in you by the Spirit.

Verse 9

[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;

We pray for you — This was mentioned in general, Colossians 1:3, but now more particularly.

That ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will — Of his revealed will.

In all wisdom — With all the wisdom from above.

And spiritual understanding — To discern by that light whatever agrees with, or differs from, his will.

Verse 10

[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;

That, knowing his whole will, ye may walk worthy of the Lord, unto all pleasing - So as actually to please him in all things; daily increasing in the living, experimental knowledge of God, our Father, Saviour, Sanctifier.

Verse 11

[11] Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

Strengthened unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness — This is the highest point: not only to know, to do, to suffer, the whole will of God; but to suffer it to the end, not barely with patience, but with thankful joy.

Verse 12

[12] Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Who, by justifying and sanctifying us, hath made us meet for glory.

Verse 13

[13] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Power detains reluctant captives, a kingdom cherishes willing subjects.

His beloved Son — This is treated of in the fifteenth and following verses. Colossians 1:15

Verse 14

[14] In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

In whom we have redemption — This is treated of from the middle of Colossians 1:18. The voluntary passion of our Lord appeased the Father's wrath, obtained pardon and acceptance for us, and, consequently, dissolved the dominion and power which Satan had over us through our sins. So that forgiveness is the beginning of redemption, as the resurrection is the completion of it.

Verse 15

[15] Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Who is — By describing the glory of Christ, and his pre-eminence over the highest angels, the apostle here lays a foundation for the reproof of all worshippers of angels.

The image of the invisible God — Whom none can represent, but his only begotten Son; in his divine nature the invisible image, in his human the visible image, of the Father.

The first begotten of every creature — That is, begotten before every creature; subsisting before all worlds, before all time, from all eternity.

Verse 16

[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:

For — This explains the latter part of the preceding verse. Through implies something prior to the particles by and for; so denoting the beginning, the progress, and the end.

Him — This word, frequently repeated, signifies his supreme majesty, and excludes every creature.

Were created all things that are in heaven — And heaven itself. But the inhabitants are named, because more noble than the house.

Invisible — The several species of which are subjoined. Thrones are superior to dominions; principalities, to powers. Perhaps the two latter may express their office with regard to other creatures: the two former may refer to God, who maketh them his chariots, and, as it were, rideth upon their wings.

Verse 17

[17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

And he is before all things — It is not said, he was: he is from everlasting to everlasting.

And by him all things consist — The original expression not only implies, that he sustains all things in being, but more directly, All things were and are compacted in him into one system. He is the cement, as well as support, of the universe. And is he less than the supreme God?

Verse 18

[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.

And — From the whole he now descends to the most eminent part, the church.

He is the head of the church — Universal; the supreme and only head both of influence and of government to the whole body of believers.

Who is — The repetition of the expression { Colossians 1:15} points out the entrance on a new paragraph.

The beginning — Absolutely, the Eternal.

The first begotten from the dead — From whose resurrection flows all the life, spiritual and eternal, of all his brethren.

That in all things — Whether of nature or grace.

He might have the pre-eminence — Who can sound this depth?

Verse 19

[19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

For it pleased the Father that all fulness — All the fulness of God.

Should dwell in him — Constantly, as in a temple; and always ready for our approach to him.

Verse 20

[20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Through the blood of the cross — The blood shed thereon.

Whether things on earth — Here the enmity began: therefore this is mentioned first.

Or things in heaven — Those who are now in paradise; the saints who died before Christ came.

Verse 21

[21] And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

And you that were alienated, and enemies — Actual alienation of affection makes habitual enmity.

In your mind — Both your understanding and your affections.

By wicked works — Which continually feed and increase inward alienation from, and enmity to, God.

He hath now reconciled — From the moment ye believed.

Verse 22

[22] In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

By the body of his flesh — So distinguished from his body, the church. The body here denotes his entire manhood.

Through death — Whereby he purchased the reconciliation which we receive by faith.

To present you — The very end of that reconciliation.

Holy — Toward God.

Spotless — In yourselves.

Unreprovable — As to your neighbour.

Verse 23

[23] If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

If ye continue in the faith — Otherwise, ye will lose all the blessings which ye have already begun to enjoy.

And be not removed from the hope of the gospel — The glorious hope of perfect love.

Which is preached — Is already begun to be preached to every creature under heaven.

Verse 24

[24] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up — That is, whereby I fill up.

That which is behind of the sufferings of Christ — That which remains to be suffered by his members. These are termed the sufferings of Christ, 1. Because the suffering of any member is the suffering of the whole; and of the head especially, which supplies strength, spirits, sense, and motion to all. 2. Because they are for his sake, for the testimony of his truth. And these also are necessary for the church; not to reconcile it to God, or satisfy for sin, (for that Christ did perfectly,) but for example to others, perfecting of the saints, and increasing their reward.

Verse 25

[25] Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

According to the dispensation of God which is given me — Or, the stewardship with which I am intrusted.

Verse 26

[26] Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

The mystery — Namely, Christ both justifying and sanctifying gentiles, as well as Jews. Which hath been comparatively hid from former ages and past generations of men.

Verse 27

[27] To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Christ dwelling and reigning in you, The hope of glory - The ground of your hope.

Verse 28

[28] Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

We teach the ignorant, and admonish them that are already taught.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Colossians


Chapter 1. The Glory of Christ

Endurance and Patience

I. Give Thanks to God for Believers

  1. Faith in the Gospel
  2. Knowledge of God's Will
  3. Experience the Power and Authority

II. Brought into the Kingdom of Christ

  1. Share in Inheritance
  2. The Kingdom of the Son He Loves
  3. Have Redemption

III. Have Supremacy in Everything

  1. Abundant Revelation
  2. Every Creature Under Heaven
  3. Christ's Body
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter One General Review
1) To see the relationship between understanding the grace of God and
   bearing fruit
2) To examine Paul's prayer for the Colossians for the keys to 
   successful Christian living
3) To appreciate the preeminence of Christ in creation and our 
Paul begins with his customary salutation followed by an expression of 
thanksgiving and prayer.  Hearing of their condition from Epaphras, he
is thankful for their faith, love, and hope (1-8).  His prayer is that
they be filled with the knowledge of God's will, walk in a manner
worthy of the Lord, strengthened by God's glorious power, and ever
thankful that the Father has qualified them to be partakers of the
saints' inheritance.  Especially since they were delivered from the 
power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, 
where there is redemption and forgiveness of sins (9-14).
He then broaches the theme of this epistle, which is the preeminence 
and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Paul first proclaims 
the preeminence of Christ in creation, and then His preeminence in 
redemption (15-20).  The Colossians' own conversion is offered as a 
case in point in reference to the latter, and with a warning for them
to remain steadfast (21-23).
The chapter ends with Paul's description of his ministry, in which he
gladly suffered on behalf of Christ and His church.  He views himself 
as a steward entrusted with a wonderful "mystery", which is being made
known after having been hidden for ages.  This "mystery" pertains to
the Gentiles, and how Christ would be in them (24-27).  Paul therefore 
worked diligently to preach Christ, with the goal of presenting every 
man perfect in Him (28-29).
   A. SALUTATION (1-2)
      1. From Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1a)
      2. And Timothy, "our brother" (1b)
      3. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are in 
         Colosse (2a)
      4. Grace and peace from God and Jesus Christ (2b)
      1. His thanksgiving for them (3-8)
         a. Given to God, with unceasing prayers in their behalf (3)
         b. Given since he heard of:
            1) Their faith in Christ Jesus (4a)
            2) Their love for all the saints (4b)
         c. Given because the hope laid up for them in heaven (5)
            1) Which they had heard by way of the gospel
               a) Which had come to them as to all the world, bringing
                  forth fruit (6a)
               b) Even in them, since the day they heard and knew the
                  grace of God (6b)
            2) Which they had heard by way of Epaphras
               a) A dear fellow servant and faithful minister of Christ
                  on their behalf (7)
               b) Who declared to Paul their love in the Spirit (8)
      2. His prayer for them (9-14)
         a. Offered unceasingly since he heard of their progress (9a)
         b. Asking that they might...
            1) Be filled with the knowledge of God's will in wisdom and
               spiritual understanding (9b)
            2) Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him (10a)
               a) Being fruitful in every good work (10b)
               b) Increasing in the knowledge of God (10c)
            3) Be strengthened with all might (11a)
               a) According to His glorious power (11b)
               b) For all patience and longsuffering with joy (11c)
            4) Give thanks to the Father (12a)
               a) Who qualified us to be partakers of the saints' 
                  inheritance (12b)
               b) Who has delivered us from the power of darkness (13a)
               c) Who has translated us into the kingdom of His dear 
                  Son (13b)
                  1/ In whom we have redemption through His blood (14a)
                  2/ In whom we have forgiveness of sins (14b)
   A. IN CREATION (15-17)
      1. He is the image of the invisible God (15a)
      2. He is the firstborn over all creation (15b)
      3. All things were created by Him (16)
      4. He is before all things (17a)
      5. In Him all things consist (17b)
   B. IN REDEMPTION (18-23)
      1. He is the head of the body, the church (18a)
      2. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead (18b)
      3. That He might have the preeminence in all things (18c)
      4. It pleased the Father...
         a. That in Him all the fullness should dwell (19)
         b. That by Him all things were to be reconciled to Himself,
            making peace through the blood of the cross (20)
      5. The Colossians as a case in point (21-23)
         a. They were once alienated and enemies in mind, through 
            wicked works (21a)
         b. Yet now reconciled...
            1) In the body of His flesh through death (21b-22a)
            2) To be presented holy, blameless, and irreproachable in
               His sight (22b)
            3) If they continue in the faith...
               a) Grounded and steadfast (23a)
               b) Not moved away from the gospel
                  1/ Which they heard (23b)
                  2/ Which was preached to every creature under heaven
                  3/ Of which Paul became a minister (23d)
   A. HIS JOY (24)
      1. In suffering for their sake (24a)
      2. For in his flesh he fills up what is lacking in the 
         afflictions of Christ (24b)
      3. All is done for the sake of His body, the church (24c)
   B. HIS MINISTRY (25-29)
      1. Made a minister according to the stewardship from God (25a)
         a. Given to him for them (25b)
         b. To fulfill the word of God (25c)
            1) The mystery which has been hidden for ages and 
               generations (26a)
            2) But now has been revealed to His saints (26b)
               a) To whom God willed to make known the riches of the 
                  glorious mystery among the Gentiles (27a)
               b) Which is Christ in them, the hope of glory (27b)
      2. Proclaiming Christ (28-29)
         a. By warning and teaching every man in all wisdom (28a)
         b. That he might present every man perfect in Christ (28b)
            1) Laboring toward this end (29a)
            2) Striving according to His working which works in him 
               mightily (29b)
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Introduction (1-14)
   - The Preeminence of Christ (15-23)
   - The Apostle Of Christ (24-29)
2) Who joins Paul in the salutation of this epistle? (1)
   - Timothy
3) What three things had Paul heard about the Colossians, for which he
   gave thanks? (3-5)
   - Their faith in Christ Jesus
   - Their love for all the saints
   - Their hope laid for them in heaven
4) How long had the gospel been bringing forth fruit in their lives? 
   - Since the day they heard and knew the grace of God in truth
5) Who had informed Paul of their condition? (8)
   - Epaphras
6) List four things for which Paul prayed concerning the Colossians 
   - To be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and 
     spiritual understanding
   - To have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him
   - To be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power
   - To give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers
     of the inheritance
7) Into what have we been translated? (13)
   - The kingdom of the Son of His love
8) What does one enjoy in Christ? (14)
   - Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins
9) List five things which illustrate Christ's preeminence in creation
   - He is the image of the invisible God (15a)
   - He is the firstborn over all creation (15b)
   - All things were created by Him (16)
   - He is before all things (17a)
   - In Him all things consist (17b)
10) List four things which illustrate Christ's preeminence in 
    redemption (18-20)
   - He is the head of the body, the church
   - He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead
   - In Him all the fullness dwells
   - By Him all things are to be reconciled
11) What was the former condition of the Colossians?  How were they
    changed? (21-22)
   - Alienated and enemies in their mind by wicked works
   - Reconciled in the body of Christ's flesh through death
12) Upon what condition would they be presented as holy, blameless and
    irreproachable? (22-23)
   - If they continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast
   - If they are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which they
13) What is said about the "mystery" which has been hidden? (26)
   - It has now been revealed to His saints
14) What is the glorious nature of this "mystery"? (27)
   - Christ in you (i.e., the Gentiles), the hope of glory
15) What was Paul's goal in preaching Christ? (28)
   - To present every many perfect in Christ Jesus


Introduction To The Epistle (1:1-2)
1. Some questions to consider...
   a. Do the heavenly bodies have any influence over our lives?
      1) The millions of people who consult their horoscopes each day
         would say "Yes!"
      2) In the U.S., there are about 1750 newspapers, and 1220 of them
         carry astrological data
   b. Is there any relationship between diet and spiritual living?
   c. Does God speak to us immediately, in our minds, or only through
      His Word, the Bible?
   d. Do the "eastern religions" have something to offer those who are
2. These questions sound very contemporary, don't they?
   a. Yet they are the very issues Paul dealt with in his epistle to the
   b. For this reason, we need this important letter today just as they
      needed it when Paul wrote it in 60 A. D.
[In Co 1:1-2, Paul addresses the brethren at Colosse.  To help us
appreciate more what we will study later, let's consider some background
information on this epistle...]
      1. 100 miles E of Ephesus in Asia Minor (consult map)
      2. Very close to Hierapolis and Laodicea - cf. Co 4:13,16
      1. Hierapolis was a place known for health, pleasure, relaxation
      2. Laodicea was known for commercial trade and politics
      3. Colosse, however, was simply a small town
      1. It was a pagan city, with a strong intermingling of Jews
      2. In 62 B.C., there were 11,000 Jewish "freedmen" in the tri-city
      3. This helps us to understand the nature of some of the problems
         that arose within the church (problems of both pagan and Jewish
      1. We are not sure when the church began, for the scriptures do
         not say
      2. It is likely that Paul himself did not start it
         a. He had not seen them in person - Co 2:1
         b. Rather, he had simply heard of their faith - Co 1:4
      3. It is possible that it was started by Epaphras
         a. From what Paul writes in Co 1:4-8
         b. Who evidently also had some contact with those in Hierapolis
            and Laodicea - Co 4:12-13
      1. Epaphras
         a. Possibly the founder of the church (see above)
         b. A native of Colosse - Co 4:12
         c. Described as a servant of Christ (Co 4:12), fervent in
            praying for others (Co 4:12), and having great zeal for
            his brethren (Co 4:13)
         d. A "fellow-prisoner" with Paul at this time - cf. Phile 23
      2. Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus
         a. By comparing Colossians and Philemon, we can conclude they 
            were at Colosse
            1) Concerning Archippus - cf. Co 4:17 with Phile 1-2
            2) Concerning Onesimus - cf. Co 4:9 with Phile 10-17
            3) Epaphras - cf. Co 4:12 with Phile 23
         b. It is likely that the church met in their home - cf. Phile 2
         c. Many think they may have been members of the same family
            1) Philemon, the father
            2) Apphia, the mother
            3) Archippus, the son
         d. It is possible that Archippus served as the preacher at
            Colosse - cf. Co 4:17
      3. Onesimus
         a. He was Philemon's slave who had run away, found by Paul in
            Rome, and was converted
         b. He was being sent back to Philemon (cf. the epistle to
            Philemon), along with the letter to the Colossians - Co 4:
      1. Epaphras had brought news to Paul concerning the church at
         Colosse - Co 1:3-8
      2. For the most part, it was very favorable - Co 1:3-4,8; 2:5
      3. But from the content of the letter, Paul must have also been
         informed of a two-fold "peril" affecting the church
      1. There was the danger of their relapsing into paganism with its
         immorality (implied by comments such as Co 3:5-11)
      2. There was the danger of accepting what some call the "Colossian
         a. Which denied the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ...
            1) For salvation
            2) For overcoming the indulgences of the flesh
         b. This "Colossian Heresy" involved...
            1) False Philosophy, which denied the all-sufficiency and
               pre-eminence of Jesus Christ - Co 2:8
            2) Judaistic Ceremonialism, which attached special
               significance to the rite of circumcision, food
               regulations, and observance of special days - Co 2:16-17
            3) Angel Worship, which detracted from the uniqueness of
               Christ - Co 2:18
            4) Asceticism, which called for harsh treatment of the body
               to control its lusts - Co 2:20-23
         c. The "Colossian Heresy", then, was a syncretism, that is, a
            mixture of Jewish and pagan elements
      1. To warn the brethren at Colosse
         a. Against relapse - Co 1:21-23
         b. Against the "solution" being urged upon them by those who
            denied that Jesus was all they needed - Co 2:8-10
      2. To direct their attention to Jesus Christ
         a. The "Beloved Son" - Co 1:13
         b. The "all-sufficient" and "pre-eminent" Savior - Co 1:14-18
   B. THE THEME OF THE EPISTLE:  "Jesus Christ:  The pre-eminent and
      all-sufficient Savior" - Co 1:18
      1. Doctrine:  Christ's Pre-eminence Declared (Chapter One)
         a. In the gospel message (1:1-12)
         b. In redemption (1:13-14)
         c. In creation (1:15-17)
         d. In the church (1:18-23)
         e. In Paul's own ministry (1:24-29)
      2. Danger:  Christ's Pre-eminence Defended (Chapter Two)
         a. Beware of empty philosophies (2:1-10)
         b. Beware of Judaistic ceremonialism (2:11-17)
         c. Beware of man-made disciplines (2:18-23)
      3. Duty:  Christ's Pre-eminence Demonstrated (Chapters Three and
         a. In personal purity (3:1-11)
         b. In brotherly relations (3:12-17)
         c. In the home (3:18-21)
         d. In daily work (3:22-4:1)
         e. In sharing the gospel (4:2-6)
         f. In serving one another (4:7-18)
1. The value of this letter to the Colossians is that it increases our
   understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ
2. From this epistle, we learn that He truly is "the WAY, the TRUTH, and
   the LIFE" - Jn 14:7
3. Once we understand that He is indeed the "pre-eminent" and "all-
   sufficient" Savior and live our lives accordingly...
   a. We will live victorious lives as Christians!
   b. We will assure that we do not relapse, nor be carried away by
      false religions and philosophies of men
Future lessons in this series on Colossians will expand upon this theme,
but for the time being, have you accepted and obeyed Jesus Christ as
YOUR all-sufficient savior?
Note:  The basic outline for this introduction was adapted heavily
from The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 2, by Warren W. Wiersbe,
pages 102-105.


The Church At Colosse (1:3-8)
1. After introducing himself and greeting the brethren in verses 1-2,
   Paul expresses thanksgiving to God concerning some things about the
   church at Colosse (read 3-8)
2. As we consider what Paul wrote, we learn some encouraging things
   about the church at Colosse which are worthy of our emulation as a
   congregation of Christians
[For example, notice that as a church...]
      1. Some churches are known for:
         a. Being "dead on the vine"
         b. Being "lukewarm" (cf. the Laodiceans, Re 3:15)
      2. But here is a church so strong in its faith in Jesus, that word
         had made its way to Paul
      3. In this, they were like the church at Thessalonica - 1 Th 1:2-
         3, 6-10; 2 Th 1:3
      1. Because they really trusted in Jesus Christ ("trust" is a key
         element in the matter of faith)
      2. Because their faith was a "steadfast" one - Co 2:5
         a. They were not faithful one day, then unfaithful the next
         b. Through "thick and thin", they maintained their faith in
            Jesus and did His will!
      1. Every church has one, whether it be good, mediocre, or bad
      2. Wouldn't it be wonderful if others could say of us, "We have
         heard of your faith in Jesus Christ"?
      3. If we remain steadfast in our faith, in time they will!
[Notice also that as a church...]
      1. Toward Jesus, they showed faith; toward their brethren, they
         demonstrated love!
      2. Not only love for each other, but love for ALL the saints,
         including those in other places
      3. Again, in this they were like the church at Thessalonica - 
         1 Th 4:9-10
      1. We can be diligent in our love for one another, making efforts
         to become better acquainted and to serve one another
      2. We can demonstrate our love for ALL the brethren, by taking
         advantage of meetings and singings to be together
      3. We can ask the Lord to help us increase in this - 1 Th 3:12
      4. We can urge each other to increase in this virtue - 1 Th 4:9-10
[A truly strong faith in Jesus and love for the brethren is such a 
rarity in many churches, that any church which excels in these virtues 
will soon be known for such!
But as we continue in our examination of our text, we notice also that 
at the church at Colosse...]
      1. Not only in THEIR lives, but throughout the whole world (1:6)
         - cf. Co 1:23
      2. We have seen the kind of fruit being born by the gospel:
         a. Faith in Jesus
         b. Love for the brethren
      3. In bearing such fruit,  they proved that they were truly
         disciples of Jesus! - Jn 15:8
      1. Notice that they had been bearing fruit "since the day you
         heard and knew the grace of God in truth" (1:6)
      2. By knowing (understanding, NAS) the grace of God, they were
         properly motivated to bear fruit
      3. So it is today, those who truly understand the grace of God
         will more likely respond in grateful service to God!
      1. Simply put, it is the "unmerited favor" which God has shown us
         through Jesus Christ!
      2. We can summarize this grace of God by defining several key
         a. CONDEMNATION - Being guilty of sin, we stand condemned in
            the sight of God and in danger of everlasting death - Ro 3:
            23; 6:23
         b. ALIENATION - Being guilty of sin, we also find ourselves
            separated from God - Isa 59:1-2
         c. PROPITIATION - but in love and mercy, God sent Jesus to be
            our sacrifice for sins to appease God's just and righteous
            anger - 1 Jn 4:9-10
         d. JUSTIFICATION - by responding in obedient faith, we can be
            justified (declared not guilty) by virtue of Jesus'
            sacrifice in our stead - Ro 3:21-26
         e. RECONCILIATION - Free from the guilt of sin, we can now be
            reconciled with God through Christ Jesus our Lord - 2 Co 5:
         f. SANCTIFICATION - By virtue of Christ's death, we may also be
            "set apart" in service to the glory of God - Ro 6:17-18,
      3. The more one understands these concepts and their implications,
         the more likely they will also bear fruit!
1. Through Epaphras, the church at Colosse had heard of this wonderful
   grace of God - 1:7
2. And through Epaphras, Paul had heard of their wonderful love which
   was the fruit of their responding to this grace - 1:8
3. Indeed, the church at Colosse had admirable qualities, which we do
   well to emulate...
   a. Not for any glory for ourselves, but rather that God and His Son
      might be glorified
   b. For it is only by His grace that we would be able to imitate the
      church at Colosse
4. Brethren...
   a. Do we have faith in Jesus?
   b. Do we love the brethren?
   ...Let's be sure to allow the grace of God to have its desired effect
      in our lives!
If you have never responded to the grace of God, why not now?


Paul's Prayer For The Colossians (1:9-14)
1. In the epistles of Paul, we customarily find him telling his readers
   what he prayed for on their behalf
2. So it is in his epistle to the Colossians...
   a. Though he had not met many of them personally, he had heard of
      their faith and love  - 1:3-8
   b. Which prompted him to pray unceasingly for them
3. For what did he pray?  The answer is found in Co 1:9-14, and by
   closely studying this passage...
   a. We can learn not only what Paul desired for the Colossians
   b. But also what God would desire for ALL Christians, including us
[As we examine this prayer of Paul, let's do so with this in mind:  
First, God desires that we be...]
      1. "FILLED"
         a. Not just a small measure
         b. But satiated, with a full measure
         -- It is not God's desire that we try to "just get by with as
            little as necessary"
         a. This is what God desires us to be filled with
         b. The Greek word for "knowledge" in this passage is EPIGNOSIS
            1) Knowledge which is the result of practical and personal
            2) I.e., not just academic or intellectual knowledge
         c. Thus, our knowledge of God's will is to be something we have
            come by through practice and application in our lives
         a. To possess a knowledge of God's will in ALL WISDOM requires
            prayer - Ja 1:5
         b. To possess a knowledge of God's will with SPIRITUAL
            UNDERSTANDING requires reading the word - Ep 3:3-5
         -- Therefore, prayer and Bible study are essential elements for
            the Christian!
      1. Because God's people have always been destroyed by a lack of
         knowledge - cf. Hos 4:6
      2. It is essential to our renewal in becoming like Christ - Co 3:
[Is this prayer being answered in OUR lives?  Are we doing anything to
assure that it is?
Next, notice from Paul's prayer that it is evidently God's desire that
      1. To conduct ourselves in a manner WORTHY of the Lord - Ep 4:1
         a. The Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is
            certainly a "worthy" one!
         b. Our conduct should be one to honor Christ, not shame Him!
      2. To conduct ourselves in a manner FULLY PLEASING HIM
         a. There is conduct which displeases Christ - Lk 6:46
         b. But conduct coming from one who is first FILLED with the
            knowledge of God's will is more like to FULLY please Him!
            (note the play on words)
      WE ARE:
         a. Not just "one", but "every" good work - cf. Ti 2:14; 3:1
         b. For this we have been "created in Christ Jesus" - Ep 2:10
         c. Why?  So that God may be glorified - Mt 5:16
         d. What sort of good works - cf. Mt 25:37-40; Ja 1:27
         -- Are we being fruitful?
         a. We need to grow in the knowledge of God HIMSELF, not just
            His will - cf. Jer 9:23-24
         b. How can one truly know God?
            1) Through CREATION - Ps 19:1; Ro 1:18-20
            2) Through inspired REVELATION (e.g., the Psalms and the
            3) But especially through JESUS - Jn 14:7-9; Co 2:9
         -- Are we daily increasing in this knowledge of God?
         POWER" (11)
         a. It is God's desire that we be strong in our living for Him 
            - 2 Ti 1:7-8
         b. There is "glorious power" available to the Christian, of
            which Paul often wrote:
            1) He experienced it in his own life - Ph 4:13
            2) He wanted others to know about it - Ep 1:15-20
            3) He identified it with the working of the Spirit in the
               inner man - Ep 3:16
            4) He describes its greatness in Ep 3:20
         c. What is the purpose of such power?  Notice our text...
            1) "for all PATIENCE and LONGSUFFERING with JOY" (is this
               not the "fruit" the Spirit is supposed to produce? - cf.
               Ga 5:22-23)
            2) I.e., so that even as we experience trials in this life,
               we may do so with joyful perseverance!
         -- Are we experiencing this strength which God gives to those
            who do His will?
      4. "GIVING THANKS TO THE FATHER" (12-14)
         a. Christians should always have the "attitude of gratitude"
            - 1 Th 5:18
         b. In our text, Paul mentions several REASONS TO BE THANKFUL...
            1) God has "qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance
               of the saints in the light" - cf. 1 Pe 1:3-5
            2) God has "delivered us from the power of darkness" - cf.
               Ep 2:1-5
            3) God has "translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His
               a) In Whom we have "redemption through His blood"
               b) In Whom we have "the forgiveness of sins" - cf. Re
         -- Are we ever giving thanks to the Father for these wonderful
1. Such was the prayer of Paul for the Colossians; what can we learn
   from it?
   a. What God desires of us as well!
   b. What kind of conduct that is necessary to be fully pleasing to the
2. May this prayer of Paul be one...
   a. That we ask for OURSELVES
   b. That we ask for OUR BRETHREN
   c. Indeed, that we desire for ALL!
3. Have you been "QUALIFIED" to be a partaker of the inheritance of the
   a. Has God "DELIVERED" you from the power of darkness?
   b. Has He "TRANSLATED" you into the kingdom of His Son?
   -- Through an obedient faith (He 5:9) and baptism into Christ (Jn
      3:5; Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38) on your part, God is willing to do so to
      you today!


The Pre-Eminent Christ (1:13-20)
1. When Paul first met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he did not know at
   that time who Jesus really was ("Who are you, lord?" - Ac 9:3-5)
2. But when we come to Paul's epistle to the Colossians, we learn that
   Paul had come to a much fuller understanding of exactly who Jesus
3. In this lesson, we shall look at Co 1:13-20, and notice Paul's
   description of "The Pre-Eminent Christ"
4. In so doing, I hope we will be impressed with the fact that Christ is
   certainly our ALL-SUFFICIENT and PRE-EMINENT SAVIOR, who is worthy of
   our love, adoration, and obedience
[Who is this Jesus called "Christ"?  Our first point can be gleaned from
a comment made in verse 13, where Paul was giving reasons why we ought
to be giving thanks to the Father.
That is, Jesus is...]
      1. He claimed to have a kingdom, and even came into this world to
         proclaim the truth that He is a king - Jn 18:36-37
      2. After his resurrection, He claimed the extent of His rule: 
         authority over all heaven and earth! - Mt 28:18; cf. Ep 1:20-23
      1. He is "the ruler over the kings of the earth" - Re 1:5
      2. He has made His disciples "kings and priest" (or, "a kingdom of
         priests") to His God and Father - Re 1:6
      3. Those in Christ Jesus are in His kingdom - Re 1:9
      4. Those who persevere to the end will rule with Him even as He
         now reigns! - Re 2:26-27; Re 3:21
      5. He is truly "Lord of lords and King of kings!" - Re 17:14;
["King of kings"...certainly an indication of "The Pre-Eminent Christ"!  
But notice that He is also...]
      1. The word "redemption" (Greek, apolutrosis) means "a releasing
         effected by payment of ransom"
      2. I.e., we have been "released" from the bondage of sin through
         the payment of Jesus' blood shed on the cross - cf. Mt 20:28
      1. "Forgiveness" (Greek, aphesis) means "release from bondage or
      2. In Christ, we have "forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting
         them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the
[As pronounced by the Angel to Joseph, "you shall call His name JESUS, 
for He will save His people from their sins." (Mt 1:21)
A "king" capable of providing "redemption" and "forgiveness" from sins;
truly indications of pre-eminence!  But there is more, for He is
      1. Comes from the Greek eikon {i-kone'}
      2. Meaning "an image, figure, likeness"
      1. No man has ever seen God, but Jesus has "declared" (made
         manifest) Him - Jn 1:18
      2. As Jesus Himself said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"
         - Jn 14:7-9
      3. As expressed by the writer to the Hebrews, Jesus is:
         a. The brightness of God's Glory
         b. The express image of His Person - He 1:3
      4. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians...
         a. Jesus is the "image of God" - 2 Co 4:4
         b. In the "face of Jesus Christ" is "the knowledge of the glory
            of God" - 2 Co 4:6
      5. From these passages, we learn that Jesus accurately and fully
         expresses the being and perfection of God!
      6. I.e., by looking at Jesus (as He is revealed in the Word of
         God), we can see and know the Father, who is invisible!
[The next description of "The Pre-Eminent Christ" is one that confused 
many and caused some to draw erroneous conclusions.  We observe that 
Jesus is also...]
      1. It can mean "the first one born" (or created)
         a. Some have therefore concluded from this passage that Jesus
            is a created being, the first of all God's creations
         b. For example, those led by the Watchtower Society (who call
            themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses")
      2. But it is also used in the Scriptures as a metaphor to describe
         one who occupies the rank and privilege of being firstborn
         (without literally being "firstborn")
         a. Used by God in this way to refer to the nation of Israel 
            - Exo 4:22
         b. Used by God in this way to refer to David, who was the
            youngest of eight brothers - Ps 89:20,27
      3. Therefore, any interpretation of this term must be in harmony
         with what is taught about Christ elsewhere...
         a. And Jesus is clearly proclaimed to be the creator of ALL
            things - Jn 1:1-3; Co 1:16
         b. It could not be stated that He is the creator of ALL things
            if He Himself was a created being!
         c. Which is why the JW's try to get around these passages by
            inserting the modifier "OTHER" four times in their NWT
            translation of Co 1:16-17!
            1) To let it read as written by Paul, it destroys their
               doctrine that Christ is a created being
            2) So they must "add" to the Word of God...
      1. To stress that Jesus is pre-eminent over all creation, He has
         all the rights of one as IF He were a "firstborn"
      2. Just as God...
         a. Declared Israel to be His "firstborn" over the nations of
            the earth (though certainly not the first nation to exist)
         b. Declared David to be His "firstborn" over the kings of the
            earth (though certainly not the first king either)
         ...so God has declared Jesus to be the "firstborn" over all
            creation (though He  Himself was not a created being!)
[As already touched upon above, we learn from Paul that Jesus is
      1. John in his gospel - Jn 1:3
      2. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews - He 1:3
      1. Jesus was the CREATIVE AGENT by which everything came into
      2. Everything was created FOR Him also!
      1. It only follows that He existed before anything that was
      2. Which seems to be the idea of 17a ("He is before all things")
[In addition to being the CREATOR of all things, as we continue in 
verse 17 we learn that Jesus is also...]
      1. That is, in Him all things are kept in their present state
      2. Their existence, order, and arrangement are continued in the
         present form by HIS power! - cf. He 1:3
      1. Every created thing would fall into disorder!
      2. Or sink back into nothingness!
[Truly in regards to CREATION, Jesus is "The Pre-Eminent Christ!"  But
His preeminence also extends to the realm of REDEMPTION, as suggested
earlier in verses 13-14, and now developed further in verses 18-20]
      1. The word "church" comes from ekklesia {ek-klay-see'-ah},
         meaning a congregation or assembly made up of people who have
         been "called out"
      2. Those called out by the gospel of Christ into His kingdom form
         a great assembly or congregation
      3. The term "church" is used in two senses:
         a. Universal - the body of saved believers throughout the world
         b. Local - a congregation of saved believers in one locality
      4. In the context of Co 1:18, Paul is speaking of the church
         "universal" (though what we are about to say in the next point
         would be true in a "local" church as well)
      1. As we have already seen, He has all authority in heaven and
         earth - Mt 28:18
      2. How much more so, should He hold the rank of preeminence in His
      3. He is the One, therefore, who controls the destiny of those in
         His church! - cf. Rev 2 & 3
[Jesus is also...]
      1. Comes from the Greek, arche {ar-khay'}
      2. Various shades of meaning include...
         a. Beginning, origin
         b. The person or thing that commences, the first person or
            thing in a series, the leader
         c. That by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active
         d. The first place, principality, rule, magistracy
      1. It does not necessarily mean the FIRST one, but can refer to
         the PRE-EMINENT one
      2. Jesus was not the first person to rise from the dead (cf.
         Jairus' daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus)
      3. But He is the first to rise, never to die again, and is
         declared elsewhere to be the "FIRSTFRUITS" of the resurrection 
         - cf. 1 Co 15:20,23
      4. The term "firstfruits" suggests "the cream of the crop", i.e.,
         that which is pre-eminent
      1. Jesus is BOTH the "origin, active cause" (the beginning) and
         the "firstborn from the dead"
      2. He is the "active cause" of the resurrection:  "in Christ all
         shall be made alive" - 1 Co 15:22
      3. By His own resurrection, never to die again, He is the 
         "firstborn from the dead", the "firstfruits", i.e., the pre-
         eminent one!
[Two more points are made by Paul in regards to "The Pre-Eminent Christ"
in this passage.  The first is that in Jesus dwells...]
      1. We have seen that He is "the image of the invisible God" - Co
      2. Paul later declares that in Jesus "dwells all the fullness of
         the Godhead bodily" - Co 2:9
      1. In Him we have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
         of sins" - Co 1:14
      2. In Him we have "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" 
         - Co 2:3
      3. Yes, we are "complete in Him" - Co 2:10
[Finally, we learn that Jesus is...]
      1. "things on earth"
         a. Which includes sinful man - cf. 2 Co 5:18-20
         b. Both Jews and Gentiles - cf. Ep 2:14-18
      2. "things in heaven"
         a. Admittedly, a difficult phrase
         b. It would be easy to fall into vain speculation as to what
            this means (e.g., what things in heaven need reconciliation
            to God?)
         c. Whatever Paul may be alluding to, the point is clear:  Jesus
            is to be the reconciler of ALL things to God!
      1. "having made peace through the blood of His cross"
      2. Through the death of His Son, it is now possible for sinful man
         to be reconciled to God! - Ro 5:10; Co 1:21-22
1. Paul had certainly come a long way in his understanding of Jesus
   since that day he met Him on the road to Damascus!
   a. From saying "Who are you, lord?"
   b. To proclaiming Jesus to be:
      1) The king over His kingdom
      2) The savior from our sins
      3) The image of the invisible God
      4) The firstborn over all creation
      5) The creator of all things
      6) The sustainer of all things
      7) The head of the body, the church
      8) The beginning, the firstborn from the dead
      9) The fullness of all things
     10) The reconciler of all things to God
2. I trust that our own understanding and appreciation of Jesus has
   increased as a result of studying this passage!
3. Perhaps we can also appreciate why Jesus received so much praise and
   adoration in heaven - cf. Re 5:11-12
4. What are WE doing to show our appreciation to Jesus, our "pre-eminent
   and all-sufficient Savior?"
5. Consider the words of Jesus in Luke 6:46...implying that the best
   way we can praise Him is by obeying Him
Have you obeyed Jesus in responding to His Gospel (Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38)?
Are you obeying Jesus by living a faithful life as His disciple (Re 2:


The Conversion Of The Colossians (1:21-23)
1. We noticed in the previous lesson that Paul was describing "The
   Pre-Eminent Christ" - 1:13-20
2. The last point made by Paul was that Jesus was "The Reconciler Of All
   Things" - 1:20
3. As a case in point, Paul reminds the Colossians they too had been
   "reconciled" to God through Jesus Christ - 1:21-23
[In this study we will examine "The Conversion Of The Colossians" as 
described in this passage, with a view towards understanding and 
appreciating our own reconciliation with God...]
      1. Paul said they were "alienated and enemies"
         a. The word "alienated" comes from apallotrioo
            {ap-al-lot-ree-o'-o}, which means:
            1) to alienate, estrange
            2) to be shut out from one's fellowship and intimacy
         b. The word "enemies" is from echthros {ech-thros'}, and
            describes that which is:
            1) hated, odious, hateful
            2) hostile, hating, and opposing another;
            3) used of men as at enmity with God by their sin
      2. Why were they this way?
         a. Because in both THOUGHT and DEED they were sinners!
         b. As Paul writes:  "...enemies in your mind by wicked works"
      1. How so?  Two things are mentioned in the context...
         a. Earlier, in verse 20, Paul mentions "the blood of His
         b. Now, in verses 21-22, Paul says they were reconciled "in
            the body of His flesh through death"
         -- Both of these phrases emphasize that Jesus suffered IN THE
            FLESH, something some people in those days denied - cf. 
            2 Jn 7; He 2:9,14
      2. Through the offering of Jesus' body and blood, they were now
         reconciled (brought back) to God; they are now presented to God
         a. "holy" - sanctified, set apart for God's use
         b. "blameless" - without being guilty of anything worthy of
         c. "irreproachable" - guilty of nothing that can be called into
            to account; unreproveable, unaccused, blameless
      3. Note that this wonderful condition is how GOD viewed them ("in
         His sight")!
      1. They "continue in the faith"
      2. They remain "grounded and steadfast"
      3. They "are not moved away from the hope of the gospel"
[In "The Conversion Of The Colossians," we have seen...
   1) That they had been grave sinners, enemies and alienated from God
   2) Yet, they had been reconciled to God
      a) Through Jesus' death on the cross
      b) Such so they were now "holy, blameless, and irreproachable in
         His sight"
   3) But their reconciliation appears conditional, dependent upon their
      continued faithfulness and steadfast hope!
Now let's make some...]
      1. True, they had been wicked sinners, enemies, and alienated from
      2. But so were we all! - cf. Ep 2:1-3; Ti 3:3
      3. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant of:
         a. The terribleness of sin
         b. The awesome holiness and justice required of God's character
      4. To better understand how the opposition of sin and God's
         a. Consider what ONE sin will do:  make us as guilty as though
            we have broken the entire law! - cf. Ja 2:10
         b. Consider the price necessary to redeem us from sin - the 
            death of God's Beloved Son!
         c. Contemplate the "words of anguish" uttered by Jesus as He
            bore our sins upon the cross ("My God, My God, why have You
            forsaken Me?") - Mt 27:46
      1. Good works cannot reconcile us back to God
         a. Such as "church-going", acts of mercy and kindness, etc.
         b. If so, then Cornelius would have been saved by them
            1) For he certainly was a "good man" - cf. Ac 10:1-2
            2) But as recounted by Peter, the angel told Cornelius that
               he still needed to have Peter tell him what to do to be
               saved - cf. Ac 11:13-14
      2. Though "good works" are essential as disciples of Jesus Christ
         (cf. Ti 2:14; 3:1,8,14), the bottom line is this:
         a. We are "justified" (declared "not guilty") by Christ's blood
            - Ro 5:9
         b. Only the "blood of His cross" can cleanse us from sin! - Ep
            1:7; 1 Jn 1:7
      3. The crucial question, then, is how can one benefit from the 
         blood of Jesus?
         a. At first, through a penitent faith when we are baptized into
            Christ - Ac 2:38
            1) For in baptism, we are united with Christ in His death - 
               Ro 6:3-8
            2) And in baptism, we are "clothed with" (or "put on")
               Christ - Ga 3:27
            -- So united with Christ and clothed with Him, we enjoy all
               the spiritual blessings to be found by being in Him,
               including "redemption through His blood"! - Ep 1:7
         b. Then, as needed, we have access to the blood of Jesus
            through repentance and prayer -  1 Jn 9; e.g., Ac 8:22
      4. Only in this way can we be "holy, blameless, and
         irreproachable" in God's sight!
      1. Notice again that Paul says "IF INDEED YOU CONTINUE..." - Co 
         a. Once saved (reconciled to God), we can still be lost!
         b. What about "the security of the believer?"
            1) Though the Bible does teach the security of the BELIEVER
            2) It also teaches the insecurity of the UNBELIEVER
            3) And it teaches that a BELIEVER, if not diligent, can
               become an UNBELIEVER! - cf. He 3:12-15; 16-4:2,11
      2. And so, Paul emphasizes that we must "continue in the faith",
         which involves:
         a. Being "grounded and steadfast" (thus the need for follow-up)
         b. "not moved away from the hope of the gospel," which can
            occur through:
            1) Error or false doctrine - cf. 2 Pe 3:17
            2) Temptations to sin - cf. 2 Pe 2:20-22
            3) Trials and hardships in life - cf. Re 2:10
1. What have we learned from "The Conversion Of The Colossians"?
   a. First, a reminder to those who are Christians...
      1) Of where they once were
      2) Of the blessings they now enjoy in Christ
      3) Of the need to remain faithful to the end
   b. But also, a lesson to those not Christians...
      1) Pointing out where they are right now in their sins, as God
         views them
      2) Revealing where they can be, if they will respond so as to
         benefit from the blessings of Jesus' death on the cross
      3) That being a Christian will require continued steadfastness and
         growth on their part
2. We close with an observation concerning Paul's remark about the
   gospel, which even in his day "was preached to every creature under
   heaven" (1:23)...
   a. In this lesson, I have shared the basics of the gospel to every
      person who receives this lesson
   b. Have you obeyed the gospel?  If not, why not now?  Remember it was
      Jesus who said:
      Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every 
      creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;
      but he that believeth not shall be damned. - Mk 16:15-16


Paul As A Minister (1:24-29)
1. At this point in his epistle, Paul provides some insight into how he
   viewed his work as a minister of the gospel of Christ - Co 1:24-29
2. This passage can be of value to both:
   a. Preachers of the gospel, in giving them insight as to how they
      view themselves and the work they are to perform
   b. All Christians...
      1) First, to give them a better understanding of the work of a
         minister and what to expect from them
      2) And second, since all Christians are to imitate the example of
         Paul (1 Co 11:1), to learn those attitudes we should have
         toward our brethren whether we serve as "full-time" (i.e.,
         fully-supported) ministers or not
[With that in mind, we notice first of all that...]
      1. As he outlined in his second epistle to the Corinthians - 2 Co
      2. In this, he was not much different the rest of the apostles 
         - 1 Co 4:9-13
      1. As he said, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you" - Co 1:24
      2. He expressed the same thoughts to the Philippians - Ph 2:17-18
      3. Remember, at the very time he wrote both of these epistles he
         was suffering as a prisoner at Rome in service to Christ and to
      1. One reason is given in this passage:  "to fill up in my flesh
         what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of
         His body, which is the church."
         a. This is not to suggest that there was anything lacking in
            the atoning value of Christ's sacrifice! - cf. Co 2:14; He
         b. The following quotation I have found helpful:  "We should
            bear in mind that although Christ by means of the
            afflictions which he endured rendered complete satisfaction
            to God, so that Paul is able to glory in nothing but the
            cross (Ga 6:14), the enemies of Christ were not satisfied!
            They hated Jesus with insatiable hatred, and wanted to add
            to his afflictions.  But since he is no longer physically
            present on earth, their arrows, which are meant especially
            for him, strike his followers.  It is in that sense that
            all true believers are in his stead supplying what, as the
            enemies see it, is lacking in the afflictions which Jesus
            endured.  Christ's afflictions overflow toward us."
            (Hendrickson, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of
            Colossians and Philemon, p. 87)
         c. Passages offered in support of this interpretation are Mt 
            10:25; Mk 13:13; Jn 15:18-21; Ac 9:4,5; 2 Co 1:5,10; Ga
            6:17; Ph 3:10; Re 12:13
      2. Paul gives another reason elsewhere he suffered joyfully for
         his brethren:  for the same reason parents joyfully suffer for
         their children! - 2 Co 12:14-15
         a. Children are the parents' "pride and joy", and the parents
            will gladly sacrifice for their children!
         b. So Paul viewed his brethren - 1 Th 2:19-20; Ph 4:1
      1. Not only are we willing to share in the afflictions of Christ,
         but are we willing to suffer gladly for our brethren?
      2. Do we consider our brethren as a source of great joy and pride?
      3. Are we willing to joyfully expend time, energy, even "blood,
         sweat and tears" in serving them? - cf. 1 Jn 3:16
      4. Can we truthfully say "yes" if we...
         a. Won't make the effort to assemble with them every 
            opportunity that is available?
         b. Won't try to encourage them when they are weak in the faith,
            or admonish them when they stray from the faith?
         c. Aren't willing to love them, to patiently endure them, to
            quickly forgive them, even when they offend and sin against
[Let the example of Paul be our model, for in reality he was simply 
following the example of Christ (cf. 2 Co 8:9).
Next, we notice that...]
      1. The word "minister" is diakonos {dee-ak'-on-os}, and means
         "one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master; a
         servant, attendant, minister"
      2. This is exactly how Paul viewed himself and other preachers 
         - 1 Co 3:5-7
      3. How different from views held today by some preachers and their
         brethren, who exalt preachers above their brethren!
      4. In particular, Paul considered himself a servant...
         a. Of the church - Co 1:24-25
         b. Of Jesus Christ - Ph 1:1
         c. Of the gospel - Ep 3:6-7
      1. He had received a "stewardship" (KJV, dispensation) from God
         a. The word used is oikonomia {oy-kon-om-ee'-ah}
         b. It means "the management of a household or of household
            affairs; specifically,the management, oversight,
            administration, of other's property"
      2. He had been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ!
         a. Which is called in this passage a "mystery", for it had been
            hidden for ages
         b. But has now been revealed to His saints (Co 1:26), indeed
            to all nations (Ro 16:25-26)!
         c. What is this "mystery"?  To paraphrase Paul:  "It is Christ
            in you (the Gentiles), the hope of glory" - Co 1:27
      3. Paul considered it his duty as a "steward" to faithfully share
         that gospel to the nations  - cf. Ep 3:8-9; 1 Co 4:2
      1. Do we consider ourselves "servants"?  We should! - cf. Mk 
      2. Do we serve one another?  We should! - Ga 5:13
      3. Do we consider ourselves "stewards" of the gospel?
         a. That we have been entrusted with the riches of the gospel?
         b. That to be faithful we must share them with others?
[Whether or not WE view ourselves this way, it is how GOD views us, and 
we will be judged by how we have served as stewards (cf. Mt 25:14-30).
The third and final point we can glean from our text is that...]
      1. He was not out just to preach, just to make converts
      2. He wanted to make mature disciples, who had become complete in
      1. He preached Jesus Christ!
         a. He proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ
         b. His life, His teachings, His death, His resurrection
         -- Only by so presenting Christ to the man, can a preacher hope
            to present the man to Christ as complete and mature - cf. 
            2 Co 3:18
      2. He warned when necessary!
         a. His preaching was both positive and negative!
         b. Yes, there is a place for "negative preaching"
            1) Cf. The Ten Commandments; also, the "reproof" and
               "correction" mentioned in 2 Ti 3:16
            2) Negative preaching serves as "restraining rails" on the
               strait and narrow path to life!
         c. Of course, it must be properly balanced with positive
            1) Otherwise, we will simply bounce around and get hung up
               on the "restraining rails", never making progress in our
            2) Positive preaching will assure that we keep progressing
               on the right track!
      3. He "taught" as well as "preached"!
         a. He did not limit himself to the public forum
         b. He taught with private instruction as well - Ac 20:20
         c. To present every man "perfect in Christ Jesus", there is
            often a need for personal instruction that one does not find
            in the public assemblies of the church
         d. Of course, wisdom helps to determine when - Co 1:28
      4. He expended effort and emotion!
         a. He "labored" toward this one goal of his
         b. He "agonized" in doing so (the Greek word is agonizomai
            {ag-o-nid'-zom-ahee}, to endeavor with strenuous zeal,
      5. He depended upon God in his labors!
         a. He realized that without God he was nothing, and could do
            nothing worth lasting - 1 Co 15:10
         b. So he always looked to God for help in accomplishing his
            goal - 2 Th 3:1; Co 4:3-4
1. In concluding this lesson, again I seek to make application by
   a. Are we imitators of Paul?
   b. Are we concerned about whether or not our brethren and others are
      being presented "perfect in Christ"?
   c. Are we willing to expend the effort and the emotion necessary to
      reach this end?
2. If we will...
   a. View our ourselves as Paul viewed himself, as servants and
   b. Consider our suffering for our brethren a great privilege and
      source of joy
   ...then I am convinced that we gladly devote ourselves to the same
      goal Paul had!
3. Let's think on these things, and consider what we can be doing to
   "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus"!
For those who have not been obedient to the gospel of Christ, perfection
in Christ begins with that first step of faith...

--《Executable Outlines


Colossians 1 – The Greatness of Jesus Christ

A. Greeting and giving of thanks.

1. (1-2) Paul greets the Christians in Colosse.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

a. Paul: According to the custom of writing letters in that day, the author’s name is given first. Therefore the author was Paul; he wrote the letter while in Roman custody (Colossians 4:3, 4:10, and 4:18), probably from Rome and around a.d. 63.

i. Paul probably wrote the letter because of the visit of Epaphras from Colosse (Colossians 1:7). It is likely that Paul himself had never visited the city (Colossians 2:1).

b. An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God: Paul was qualified to write this letter of instruction to the Colossians, though he had never met them personally, because he was an apostle.

i. “The literal meaning of apostolos is ‘one sent’; but at its deepest level it denotes an authorized spokesman for God, one commissioned and empowered to act as his representative.” (Vaughan)

ii. And Timothy our brother: Timothy was an honored companion of Paul, but he was not an apostle. “Though Timothy is here joined in the salutation, yet he has never been understood as having any part in composing this epistle. He has been considered as the amanuensis or scribe of the apostle.” (Clarke)

c. To the saints and faithful brethren: When Paul addressed the saints, he did not separate some Christians from others in the Colossian church. Every true Christian is a saint. However, Paul may make a distinction with the phrase faithful brethren. He may refer to those who haven’t embraced the false teaching that concerned Paul so much in this letter.

d. Who are in Colosse: The city of Colosse was probably the smallest and least important city that Paul ever wrote to. It might surprise us that Paul would turn his attention to the Christians in Colosse at a time when he had so many other concerns. Yet he apparently thought the situation in Colosse was important enough for apostolic attention.

i. Paul wrote because there were problems among the Christians in Colosse, but the doctrinal problem – sometimes described as “The Colossian Heresy” – is difficult to precisely describe. It probably was a corruption of Christianity with elements of mystical and legalistic Judaism perhaps combined early Gnosticism.

ii. The first century religious environment was much like our own. It was a time of religious mixing, with people borrowing a little from this religion and a little from that religion. The only difference was that in the first century, one joined a group who did the borrowing. In our modern culture one does the borrowing one’s self.

iii. Whatever the problem was precisely, Paul dwelt on the solution: a better understanding of Jesus. Knowing the real Jesus helps us to stay away from the counterfeit, no matter how it comes packaged.

e. In Colosse: The city of Colosse is not even mentioned in the Book of Acts. All our Biblical information about the church there comes from this letter and a few allusions in the letter to Philemon.

i. From these sources we learn that Epaphras was responsible for bringing the gospel to the Colossians (Colossians 1:6-7). He was a native of the city (Colossians 4:12), and also got the message out to neighboring towns in the Lycus Valley like Hierapolis and Laodicea (Colossians 4:13).

ii. Perhaps Epaphras heard the gospel himself when Paul was in Ephesus. As Paul taught in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10). It would not be surprising if some people from Colosse heard the gospel at that time.

iii. Historically, Colosse was a prosperous city, and famous (along with other cities in its region) for its fabric dyes. Yet by Paul’s time the glory it had as a city was on the decline.

iv. Adam Clarke adds an interesting comment: “That this city perished by an earthquake, a short time after the date of this epistle, we have the testimony of Eusebius.” Tacitus also mentioned this earthquake, which happened around a.d. 60.

f. Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ: Paul’s greeting was familiar but heartfelt. “Grace is God’s unconditioned goodwill toward men and women which is decisively expressed in the saving work of Christ.” (Bruce)

i. This letter – full of love and concern, written to church Paul had neither planted nor visited – shows the power of Christian love. Paul didn’t need to see or meet or directly know these Christians in order to love them and be concerned for them.

2. (3) Paul’s habit of prayer for the Colossians.

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

a. Praying always for you: Though he had never met most of them, the Christian of Colosse were on Paul’s prayer list. He prayed for them not only often, but always.

b. We give thanks: When Paul did pray for the Colossians, he did it full of gratitude. Perhaps those who pray the most end up having the most reasons to thank God.

3. (4-8) Why Paul was thankful.

Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

a. Since we heard: Paul was thankful for their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all the saints. Genuine faith in Jesus will always have a true love for God’s people as a companion.

b. Because of the hope: Paul was thankful for the hope laid up for them in heaven. He was thankful when he considered the destiny of the Colossian Christians.

i. We notice the familiar triad of faith, hope, and love. These were not merely theological ideas to Paul; they dominated his thinking as a Christian.

c. Which you heard before in the word of the truth: Paul was thankful that their eternal destiny was affected by the truth of the gospel, brought by Epaphras (as you also learned from Epaphras).

i. Epaphras is described as a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf. This doesn’t mean that Epaphras was superior to the other Christians in Colosse. The word minister does not mean “superior”; it means “one who serves.”

d. And is bringing forth fruit: Paul was thankful that the gospel was bringing forth fruit over all the world, even while Paul was in a Roman prison.

i. The phrase “in all the world” was  “A legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire.” (Robertson)

ii. “The doctrine of the Gospel is represented as a traveller, whose object it is to visit the whole habitable earth . . . So rapid is this traveller in his course, that he had already gone nearly through the whole of the countries under the Roman dominion, and will travel on until he has proclaimed his message to every people, and kindred, and nation, and tongue.” (Clarke)

B. How Paul prayed for the Colossian Christians.

1. (9-11) Paul petitions God on behalf of the Colossians.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

a. To ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will: First, Paul prayed that they would have a knowledge of His will, informed by a true spiritual understanding. To know God and what He requires of us is our first responsibility.

i. “If you read this epistle through, you will observe that Paul frequently alludes to knowledge and wisdom. To the point in which be judged the church to be deficient he turned his prayerful attention. He would not have them ignorant. He knew that spiritual ignorance is the constant source of error, instability, and sorrow; and therefore he desired that they might be soundly taught in the things of God.” (Spurgeon)

b. That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him: Second, Paul prayed that they would live according to the same knowledge they received, living out a walk worthy of the Lord.

i. This is a familiar pattern, repeated over and over again in the New Testament. Our walk is based on our knowledge of God and our understanding of His will.

c. Being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. This is how we can be fully pleasing to God and how we can have a worthy walk.

i. This is an echo of Jesus’ thought in John 15:7-8: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

ii. “ ‘Fruitful in every good work.’ Here is room and range enough – in ‘every good work.’ Have you the ability to preach the gospel? Preach it! Does a little child need comforting? Comfort it! Can you stand up and vindicate a glorious truth before thousands? Do it! Does a poor saint need a bit of dinner from your table? Send it to her. Let works of obedience, testimony, zeal, charity, piety, and philanthropy all be found in your life. Do not select big things as your special he, but glorify the Lord also in the littles – ‘ fruitful in every good work.’ ” (Spurgeon)

d. Strengthened with all might: As we walk worthy of the Lord, His strength is there to help us meet all of life’s challenges, and to endure and overcome problems with circumstances (patience) and people (longsuffering) with joy.

2. (12-14) Paul’s specific thanks to the Father.

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

a. Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us: In the divine administration, the Father is mentioned in connection with the broad sweep of His plan of redemption. He is the Person of the Trinity who initiates the plan of the ages.

b. To be partakers of the inheritance of the saints: It is the Father who qualifies us, not our own works. We gain this as an inheritance, instead of earning it as a wage.

c. He has delivered us from the power of darkness: Christians have been delivered from Satan’s domain. The word has the idea of a rescue by a sovereign power.

i. Another place where this same phrase for power of darkness is used is in Luke 22:53, where Jesus spoke of the darkness surrounding His arrest and passion in the same terms. “These words refer to the sinister forces marshaled against him for decisive combat in the spiritual realm.” (Bruce)

ii. The power of darkness may be seen in its effects, and for those who have been delivered . . . from the power of darkness these effects should be less and less evident in the life.

·         The power of darkness lulls us to sleep.

·         The power of darkness is skilled at concealment.

·         The power of darkness afflicts and depresses man.

·         The power of darkness can fascinate us.

·         The power of darkness emboldens some men.

iii. “Beloved, we still are tempted by Satan, but we are not under his power; we have to fight with him, but we are not his slaves. He is not our king; he has no rights over us; we do not obey him; we will not listen to his temptations.” (Spurgeon)

d. And conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love: According to Barclay, the word we translate conveyed had a special significance in the ancient world. When one empire conquered another, the custom was to take the population of the defeated empire and transfer it completely to the conqueror’s land. It is in this sense that Paul says we have been conveyed into God’s kingdom. Everything we have and everything we are now belongs to Him.

i. The Son of His love is a Hebraic way of saying “God’s dear Son.”

e. In whom we have redemption through His blood: Redemption has the idea of release by a legal ransom. The price for our release was paid by the blood of Jesus.

i. This is one reason why pleading the blood of Jesus – in the right sense, not in a magical or superstitious sense – has such great significance in spiritual warfare. It shows the “receipt” of our lawful purchase as redeemed people.

ii. One of the great sticky questions of theology is to whom was the price paid? Some say it was to God that the ransom price was paid, but we were prisoners of Satan’s kingdom. Others say it was to Satan that the ransom price was paid, but what does God owe to Satan? This question probably simply extends the metaphor too far.

f. The forgiveness of sins: The word translated forgiveness is the ancient Greek word aphesis, most literally rendered “a sending away.” Our sin and guilt is sent away because of what Jesus did on the cross for us.

i. “It thus speaks of the removal of our sins from us, so that they are no longer barriers that separate us from God.” (Vaughan)

3. (15-20) Paul’s meditation on the person and work of Jesus.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

a. He is: Paul started out thanking the Father for His plan of redemption (Colossians 1:12). He couldn’t do that without also thinking of the Son, who is the great Redeemer.

i. Most scholars think that Colossians 1:15-20 came from a poem or a hymn in the early Church that described what Christians believed about Jesus. This is entirely possible, but can’t be proven one way or another.

b. He is the image of the invisible God: The word translated image (the ancient Greek word eikon) expressed two ideas.

·         Likeness, as in the image on a coin or the reflection in a mirror.

·         Manifestation, with the sense that God is fully revealed in Jesus.

i. If Paul meant that Jesus was merely similar to the Father, he would have used the ancient Greek word homoioma, which speaks merely of similar appearance. The stronger word used here proves that Paul knew that Jesus was God just as God the Father is God. It means that “Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father.” (Robertson)

ii. “God is invisible, which does not merely mean that He cannot be seen by our bodily eye, but that He is unknowable. In the exalted Christ the unknowable God becomes known.” (Peake)

iii. According to Barclay, the ancient Jewish philosopher Philo equated the eikon of God with the Logos. Paul used this important and meaningful word with great purpose.

c. The firstborn over all creation: Firstborn (the ancient Greek word prototokos) can describe either priority in time or supremacy in rank. As Paul used it here, he probably had both ideas in mind, with Jesus being before all created things and Jesus being of a supremely different order than all created things.

i. Firstborn is also used of Jesus in Colossians 1:18, Romans 8:29, Hebrews 1:6, and Revelation 1:15.

ii. In no way does the title firstborn indicate that Jesus is less than God. In fact, the ancient Rabbis called Yawhew Himself “Firstborn of the World” (Rabbi Bechai, cited in Lightfoot). Ancient rabbis used firstborn as a Messianic title: “God said, As I made Jacob a first-born (Exodus 4:22), so also will I make king Messiah a first-born (Psalm 89:28).” (R. Nathan in Shemoth Rabba, cited in Lightfoot)

iii. “The use of this word does not show what Arius argued that Paul regarded Christ as a creature like ‘all creation’ . . . It is rather the comparative (superlative) force of protos that is used.” (Robertson)

iv. Bishop Lightfoot, a noted Greek scholar, on the use of both eikon (image) and prototokos (firstborn): “As the Person of Christ was the Divine response alike to the philosophical questionings of the Alexandrian Jew and to the patriotic hopes of the Palestinian, these two currents of thought meet in the term prototokos as applied to our Lord, who is both the true Logos and the true Messiah.” (Lightfoot)

v. “Prototokos in its primary sense expresses temporal priority, and then, on account of the privileges of the firstborn, it gains the further sense of dominion. . . Whether the word retains anything of its original meaning here is doubtful.” (Peake)

d. For by Him all things were created: There is no doubt that Jesus is the author of all creation. He Himself is not a created being. When we behold the wonder and the glory of the world Jesus created, we worship and honor Him all the more.

i. Comets have vapor trails up to 10,000 miles long. If you could capture all that vapor, and put it in a bottle, the amount of vapor actually present in the bottle would take up less than 1 cubic inch of space.

ii. Saturn’s rings are 500,000 miles in circumference, but only about a foot thick.

iii. The star Antares is 60,000 times larger than our sun. If the sun were the size of a softball, the star Antares would be the size of a house.

iv. If the sun were the size of a beachball, and put on top of the Empire State Building, the nearest group of stars would be as far as way as Australia is to the Empire State Building.

v. A star known as LP 327-186 is a so called white dwarf. It is smaller than the state of Texas; yet it is so dense that if a cubic inch of it were brought to earth, it would weigh more than 1.5 million tons.

vi. The earth travels around the sun about eight times the speed of a bullet fired from a gun.

vii. There are more insects in one square mile of rural land than there are human beings on the entire earth.

viii. Bees make their own air conditioning. When the weather gets hot, and threatens to melt the wax in the hive, one group of bees will go to the entrance of the hive, and another will stay inside. They will then flap their wings all together, making a cross draft that pulls the hot air out of the hive, and draws cooler air inside

ix. A single human chromosome contains twenty billion bits of information. How much information is that? If written in ordinary books, in ordinary language, it would take about four thousand volumes.

x. According to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, all things were created has the idea of “stand created” or “remain created.” Robertson adds: “The permanence of the universe rests, then, on Christ far more than on gravity. It is a Christ-centric universe.”

e. Whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: As will be demonstrate in the rest of the letter, the Colossian Heresy seemed taken with an elaborate angelology, which effectively placed angels as mediators between God and man. Paul emphasized that whatever ranks of spirit beings there may be, Jesus created them all and they all ultimately answer to Him.

f. He is before all things . . . who is the beginning: Centuries after Paul wrote a dangerous – yet popular – teacher named Arius claimed that Jesus was not truly God, and that there was a time when He did not exist. Paul rightly understood and insisted that Jesus is before all things and is Himself the beginning.

i. “As all creation necessarily exists in time, and had a commencement, and there was an infinite duration in which it did not exist, whatever was before or prior to that must be no part of creation; and the Being who existed prior to creation, and before all things-all existence of every kind, must be the unoriginated and eternal God: but Paul says, Jesus Christ was before all things; ergo, the apostle conceived Jesus Christ to be truly, and essentially God.” (Clarke)

g. In Him all things consist: The idea that Jesus is both the unifying principle and the personal sustainer of all creation.

i. “Hence, God, as the Preserver, is as necessary to the continuance of all things, as God the Creator was to their original production. But this preserving or continuing power is here ascribed to Christ.” (Clarke)

h. Head of the body, the church: This describes Jesus relationship to the church. Here, head probably refers to Jesus’ role as source of the church, even as we refer to the head of a river.

i. That in all things He may have the preeminence: This is a fitting summary of verses Colossians 1:15-18.

i. Adam Clarke on Colossians 1:16-17: “Now, allowing St. Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God. . . . Unless there be some secret way of understanding the 16th and 17th verses, which God has nowhere revealed, taken in their sober and rational sense and meaning they must forever settle this very important point.”

j. Fullness: This translates the ancient Greek word pleroma, and was really just another way to say that Jesus is truly God.

i. The word fullness was “a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes.” (Lightfoot, cited in Robertson)

ii. According to Vincent, pleroma was used by the Gnostic teachers in a technical sense, to express the sum-total of divine powers and attributes “Christ may have been ranked with these inferior images of the divine by the Colossian teachers. Hence the significance of the assertion that the totality of the divine dwells in Him.” (Vincent)

iii. “The Gnostics distributed the divine powers among various aeons. Paul gathers them all up in Christ, a full and flat statement of the deity of Christ.” (Robertson)

k. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell: The ancient Greek word for dwell is here used in the sense of a permanent dwelling. There is an entirely different word used for the sense of a temporary dwelling place. Paul wanted to emphasize the idea that Jesus was not temporarily God, but is permanently God.

i. “Two mighty words; ‘fullness a substantial, comprehensive, expressive word in itself, and ‘all,’ a great little word including everything. When combined in the expression, ‘all fullness,’ we have before us a superlative wealth of meaning.” (Spurgeon)

ii. Once it pleased the Father to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10); now it pleases the Father than in Him all the fullness of God should dwell.

iii. “Thus the phrase in Him should all the fullness dwell gathers into a grand climax the previous statements - image of God, first-born of all creation, Creator, the eternally preexistent, the Head of the Church, the victor over death, first in all things. On this summit we pause, looking like John, from Christ in His fullness of deity to the exhibition of that divine fullness in redemption consummated in heaven.” (Vincent)

iv. The fullness has been put into Jesus Christ. Not into a church; not into a priesthood; not into a building; not into a sacrament; not into the saints; not into a method or a program, but in Jesus Christ Himself. It was put into Him as a “distribution point” – so that those who wanted more of God and all that He is could find it in Jesus Christ.

l. And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself: Jesus’ atoning work is full and broad. Yet we should not take Colossians 1:20 as an endorsement of universalism.

m. Through the blood of the cross: Again we notice where the peace was made. We don’t make our own peace with God, but Jesus made peace for us through His work on the cross.

i. However, we should not regard the blood of the cross in a superstitious manner. It is not a magical potion, nor is it the literal blood of Jesus, literally applied that saves or cleanses us. If that were so, then His Roman executioners, splattered with His blood, would have been automatically saved, and the actual number of molecules of Jesus’ literal blood would limit the number of people who could be saved. The blood of the cross speaks to us of the real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before God. That literal death in our place, and the literal judgment He bore on our behalf, is what saves us.

4. (21-23) How the greatness of Jesus’ work touches the lives of the Colossians.

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight; if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

a. Who once were alienated: The ancient Greek word translated alienated (apellotriomenous) is literally “transferred to another owner.” This transfer of ownership, from God to Satan and self, has affected us in both mind and behavior.

i. Belonging to the race of Adam, we are born alienated from God. Then as individuals, we each choose to accept and embrace that alienation with our wicked works.

ii. Once were alienated: This means that in Jesus we are no longer alienated. The difference between a believer and a non-believer isn’t merely forgiveness; there is a complete change of status.

b. Yet now He has reconciled: God’s answer to the problem of alienation is reconciliation, initiated by His work on the cross (reconciled in the body of His flesh through death). In the work of reconciliation, God didn’t meet us halfway. God meets us all the way and invites us to accept it.

i. One may use two different ways of understanding human need and God’s salvation.

·         We can see God as the judge, and we are guilty before Him. Therefore, we need forgiveness and justification.

·         We can see God as our friend, and we have damaged our relationship with Him. Therefore, we need reconciliation.

ii. Both of these are true; neither one should be promoted at the expense of the other.

iii. The phrase body of His flesh is redundant. Paul wanted to emphasize that this happened because of something that happened to a real man on a real cross.

c. To present you holy, blameless, and irreproachable in His sight: This is the result of God’s work of reconciliation. Taken together, these words show that in Jesus we are pure and can’t even be justly accused of impurity.

i. The idea of presenting us holy and blameless before God may recall the terminology used when priests inspected potential sacrifices. We are presented to God as a living sacrifice.

ii. A desire to be saved means a desire to be made holy, blameless and irreproachable, not merely a desire to escape the fires of hell on our own terms.

d. If indeed you continue in the faith: Those truly reconciled must truly persevere. Paul’s main focus is continuing in the truth of the gospel (continue in the faith . . . not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard). It is important for Christians to continue in godly conduct, but we are not saved by our godly conduct. So it is even more important for Christians to continue in the truth of the gospel, because we are saved by grace through faith.

i. “If the gospel teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it teaches at the same time that the saints are those who finally persevere - in Christ. Continuance is the test of reality.” (Bruce)

C. What Paul did for the Colossians.

1. (24) Paul suffers for their sake.

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

a. I now rejoice in my sufferings for you: Paul wrote this from a Roman jail. He was able to see that his sufferings worked something good for others, so he could say that his sufferings were for the Colossians and other Christians.

b. And fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ: This word afflictions is never used of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Most commentators see this as a reference to the affliction Jesus endured in ministry. These afflictions are not yet complete, and in this sense Jesus still “suffers” as He ministers through His people.

i. “Paul attaches no atoning value whatever to his own sufferings for the church.” (Robertson)

ii. “The term ‘afflictions of Christ’ is never associated with the redemptive suffering of Jesus upon the cross. It speaks, rather, of those ministerial sufferings which Paul bears because he represents Jesus Christ.” (Lane)

c. For the sake of His body, which is the church: Paul did not suffer for himself in the way that an ascetic might. Instead he suffered for the sake of the body of Christ.

i. Ascetics focus on their holiness, on their spiritual growth, and on their perfection. Paul followed in the footsteps of Jesus and was an others-centered person. Paul found holiness, spiritual growth, and maturity when he pursued them for others.

2. (25-26) Paul is a servant of the church, revealing the mystery of God that was once hidden.

Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.

a. Of which I became a minister: Paul was a minister - that is, a servant of the body of Christ, the church. He did not take this position on his own initiative, but according to the stewardship from God. God put Paul into this position, he did not put himself.

b. The word of God, the mystery which has been hidden: In the Biblical sense, a mystery is not a riddle. It is a truth that can only be known by revelation and not by intuition. Now it can be known, because it now has been revealed to His saints.

i. Hidden from ages and generations: This reminds us that there are aspects to God’s plan that were not clearly revealed in the Old Testament. The specific mystery Paul refers to here deals with many aspects of the work of Jesus in His people, but especially the plan of the church, to make one body out of Jew and Gentile, taken from the “trunk” of Israel, yet not Israel.

ii. “The mystery is this: that God had designed to grant the Gentiles the same privileges with the Jews, and make them his people who were not his people. That this in what Paul means by the mystery, see Eph 3:3, etc.” (Clarke)

3. (27) Part of the mystery: that Jesus would actually indwell believers.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

a. This mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you: The wonder and glory of the abiding, indwelling Jesus was not clearly revealed in the Old Testament, especially that He would abide in the Gentiles. Therefore, this aspect of the work of Jesus in His people was a mystery that wasn’t revealed until the time of Jesus and the apostles.

i. “This is the crowning wonder to Paul that God had included the Gentiles in his redemptive grace.” (Robertson)

ii. This means that God is revealed to us in Jesus. Classic theologians use the Latin term deus absconditus to refer to the “hidden God,” the God than cannot be clearly seen or known. The Latin theological term deus revelatus refers to the “revealed God.” In Jesus, the deus absconditus has become the deus revelatus.

b. Christ in you, the hope of glory: This is the Christian’s hope of glory. It isn’t our own hard work or devotion to God, or the power of our own spirituality. Instead, it is the abiding presence of Jesus: Christ in you.

4. (28-29) Paul’s motto for apostolic ministry.

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

a. Him we preach: This was the focus of Paul’s preaching. He didn’t preach himself, or his opinions, or even lots and lots of entertaining stories. He preached Jesus.

b. Warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom: Paul wanted the whole gospel for the whole world. He wouldn’t hold back in either area – it was for every man, and he presented it in all wisdom.

i. Some translate the word warning as “counseling.” The ancient Greek verb nouthetountes means, “To impart understanding,” “to lay on the mind or the heart.” The stress is on influencing not only the intellect, but also the will and disposition. It describes a basic means of education.

ii. The work of warning - or helping to impart understanding - was a passion for Paul in ministry (Acts 20:31). It is also the job of church leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and of the church body in general (Colossians 3:16), providing that they are able to admonish others (Romans 15:14).

c. That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: The goal of Paul’s ministry was to bring people to maturity in Christ, and not to dependence upon himself.

i. “Therefore, the aim of this epistle, and, indeed, of all apostolic work is admonishing and teaching every man toward the realization of perfection in Christ, because that issues in the perfecting of the whole Church.” (Morgan)

ii. This work was for every man. In contrast, the false teachers at Colosse “believed the way of salvation to be so involved that it could be understood only by a select few who made up sort of a spiritual aristocracy.” (Vaughan)

d. Striving according to His working which works in me mightily: Paul’s work was empowered by God’s mighty strength. But God’s strength in his life didn’t mean that Paul did nothing. He worked hard according to His working.

i. “The word ‘struggling’ [striving], whose root can mean ‘to compete in the games’, carries, as of then in Paul, the idea of athletic contest: Paul does not go about his work half-heartedly, hoping vaguely that grace will fill in the gaps which he is too lazy to work at himself.” (Wright)

―― David Guzik