John T. Willis

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Paul Encourages Christians at Colossae

After attempting to work through the little Book of Philemon in several blogs, it seems natural to turn to another small letter of Paul, the Book of Colossians. Colossians is closely tied to Philemon.

1. Paul specifically refers to Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, and Epaphras by name in both letters (Philemon 10, 23-24; Colossians 4:9, 10, 12).
2. Paul deals with the issue of masters and slaves in both letters (the entire Book of Philemon; Colossians 3:22-4:1).
3. Paul explicitly says that he is in prison while he is writing these letters (Philemon 1, 10; Colossians 4:3, 18).
4. In both letters, Paul states that he is writing "with his own hand." Philemon 19; Colossians 4:18).

Paul states that he had never seen Colossae--Colossians 2:1. When Paul was on his third missionary journey, he went to Ephesus--Acts 19. Colossians 1:7-8 implies that Paul sent Epaphras from Ephesus to Colossae, and then on to Laodicea, and in those places Jesus Christ established the church through the efforts of Epaphras--Colossians 2:1.

The entire Book of Colossians is primarily a letter of encouragement to Christians at Colossae and Laodicea. At the same time, Paul devotes one section of this Book to refute false teaching taking place at Colossae. A careful study of this letter suggests that perverted Jewish and pagan ideas were disturbing the church there. Colossians 2:8-23 confront a heretical "philosophy"--verse 8. Four primary ideas emerge: (1) ascetic practices; (2) worship of angels; (3) cosmic elements; and
(4) attempts to gain access to the full knowledge of God, possibly through the mystery cults. We will discuss each of these issues as we work through the Book of Colossians.

Several religious themes arise in the Book of Colossians. (1) Paul exalts God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit at key places in this book. (2) Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication reflects various types of prayer in this book. (3) Christ's forgiveness of sins and his position as "head" of the church are important. (4) The significance of Christians being buried with Christ by baptism and putting off the old person and putting on the new is central.
(5) Godly living is very important in this book.

The Book of Colossians falls into three parts.
I. Introduction. 1:1-8.
II. The Body of the Letter. 1:9-4:6.
A. Explanation of the Gospel of God through Jesus Christ. 1:9-2:7.
B. Warnings against False Teachings. 2:8-23.
C. Teachings and Exhortations concerning Godly Living. 3:1-4:6.
III. Conclusion. 4:7-18.

Think and pray with me as we work through this little letter passage by passage in the blogs to come. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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