THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
“Colosse was a celebrated city of Phrygia, in Asia Minor. It was in the southern part of that province, was nearly directly east of Ephesus, north of Laodicea, and nearly west of Antioch in Pisidia.
“The gospel was first preached in Phrygia by Paul and Silas, accompanied also by Timothy, Acts 15:40-41; 16:1-3, 6. It is said that they ‘went throughout Phrygia,’ which means, doubtless, that they went to the principal cities and towns. In Acts 18:23, it is said that Paul visited Phrygia again, after he had been to Philippi, Athens, Jerusalem, and Antioch. He ‘went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.’” --- Barnes New Testament Notes.
The epistle presents a considerable resemblance to Ephesians both in thought and language, yet has a distinct message of its own. In Ephesians Paul dwells upon the thought of the church as the BODY of Christ, while in Colossians he emphasizes Christ as the HEAD of the church. The warning against trusting in worldly wisdom which appears in 1 Corinthians reappears in Colossians.
Writer: The apostle Paul.
Date: Probably written from Rome between 60 and 64 A.D.
To Whom Addressed: The church at Colosse, a city of Asia Minor
Purpose of the Epistle:
1) In a General way, a message of good will, to exhort and edify believers.
2) In a Special way, to counteract doctrinal errors growing out of the mixture of Judaistic teaching, combined with the vagaries of oriental and philosophic speculation. These heresies tended to obscure the divine glory of Christ.
Synopsis: The epistle may be divided into six parts:
I. The Introduction and Prayer for the Church
A. The Apostolic greeting and commendation, Colossians 1:1-8.
B. The prayer for the church.
1. That it might be filled with wisdom, fruitful in good works, and strengthened with divine power, Colossians 1:9-11.
2. Thanksgiving for the spiritual inheritance, the great deliverance, and redemption from sins, Colossians 1:12-14.
II. The glory of the Person and Work of Christ.
A. His glorious Preeminence.
1. As the Image of God, Colossians 1:15.
2. The Creator of all things, Colossians 1:16.
3. His Preexistence, Colossians 1:17.
4. His Head-ship of the Church, Colossians 1:18.
5. The Divine Fullness of God dwells in Christ, Colossians 1:19.
6. His Work of Reconciliation, Colossians 1:20-23.
7. The Mystery of His Indwelling of Believers, Colossians 1:24-29.
B. Paul’s concern in regard to the state of the church:
NOTE: “In this chapter the apostle expresses his great concern for the Colossians, and others he had never seen; exhorts them to constancy in the faith of Christ; warns them of false teachers, and their tenets; takes notice of various blessings and privileges they had by Christ, and cautions against several superstitions and corruptions, which were obtaining among the churches of Christ.” –- John Gill’s Expositor.
1. That the members might be united together in love, having a fuller understanding of the spiritual blessings and privileges of the Father and of Christ, Colossians 2:1-3.
2. He warns against false doctrines, several superstitions and corruptions and enjoins steadfast faith in Christ, Colossians 2:4-7.
III. Doctrinal and Polemical Section.
A. The peril of the love of worldly wisdom and legalism, Colossians 2:8-12.
B. He represents the privileges of Christians, Colossians 2:13-15.
C. The Liberating Power of the Cross of Christ in abolishing the old ceremonialism, Colossians 2:14-17.
D. Warnings concerning Angel Worship, and false mysticism which dishonor Christ as the Head of the Church, Colossians 2:18-19.
E. Warnings against Ceremonialism and Asceticism (the doctrine that a person can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing self-denial, self-mortification, and the like), Colossians 2:20-23.
IV. The Exhortation Section.
A. To Heavenly Goals and Affections, Colossians 3:1-4.
B. To Die to Fleshly Lusts and Desires, Colossians 3:5-7.
C. To Lay aside the evil passions and vices, and to put on Christian Graces and Virtues, Colossians 3:8-14.
NOTE: The apostle proceeds to exhort to mutual love and compassion: Put on therefore bowels of mercy, Colossians 3:12. We must not only put off anger and wrath (as Colossians 3:8), but we must put on compassion and kindness; not only cease to do evil, but learn to do well; not only not do hurt to any, but do what good we can to all. --- Matthew Henry.
D. To submit ourselves to the government of the peace of God, Colossians 3:15.
E. To let the word of Christ dwell in us richly and let everything be done in the name of Christ, Colossians 3:16-17.
V. The Family Section.
NOTE: “The apostle concludes the chapter with exhortations to relative duties, as before in the epistle to the Ephesians. The epistles which are most taken up in displaying the glory of divine grace, and magnifying the Lord Jesus, are the most particular and distinct in pressing the duties of the several relations. We must never separate the privileges and duties of the gospel religion.” --- Matthew Henry.
A. He begins with the duties of wives and husbands, Colossians 3:18-19.
B. The duties of children and parents, Colossians 3:20-21.
C. The duties of servants and masters, Colossians 3:22---4:1.
VI. The Fellowship Section.
A. Paul’s request for prayer and advice concerning social conduct, Colossians 4:2-6.
B. He closes the epistle with the mention of several of his friends, of whom he gives an honorable testimony, Colossians 4:7-18.