Persuasive arguments. Deceptive philosophies. Our culture if full of them. In this summary of Colossians 1, we will see that they were just as common during the life and days of Paul as they are now.
So, what’s the answer? How do we, as believers, need to respond when these modern-day philosophies attempt to distort our beliefs about the truth we find in the Word of God and in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
What is the Main Message Paul is Conveying in Colossians?
Colossae was located along the main trade route in the southern part of ancient Phrygia. This brought an interesting mixture of backgrounds and beliefs to this area. Lots of different ideas and doctrines were discussed among and around the Colossian church. Legalistic rules, mystical teachings, additions, and prophecies that couldn’t be supported in the Word of God are just a few of the beliefs that were circling this region during the time this letter was written.
Paul may have never met the people in Colosse personally, but we can understand his concern for them not to be taken captive by the persuasive philosophies and traditions of men that had become prevalent in the area.
Paul encourages his readers by reminding them of the foundational doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ. He then exhorts them to continue in their faith according to a true knowledge of Christ.
We see glimpses of Paul’s heart threaded throughout this letter. His greatest desire was to present all men perfect, or complete, in Christ.
What is the Purpose of Colossians 1?
In this first chapter, Paul is establishing God’s Work in Christ. He discusses redemption, the excellence of Christ, and our redemption through Him. Paul also discusses his calling as a minister of the gospel.
Summary of Colossians 1
Let’s take a look at Colossians chatper 1 verse by verse and pull out some life application.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope reserved for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth; 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, 8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
In this first Colossians 1 Bible verses, we see Paul’s greeting. It’s interesting how Paul refers to himself throughout his different epistles.
For example, in his letter to Philippians, Paul introduces himself as a bondservant of Christ. In this letter to the Colossians, he introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
It seems as though these different descriptions of himself are connected with the general themes and ideas he focuses on in each epistle. It makes sense that he calls himself a bondservant to the Philippians as he is writing to exhort them to find joy in serving Christ in the midst of suffering.
He refers to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ to the Colossians, because much of his letter focuses on the person and work of Christ. In this initial greeting, Paul is stating his credentials to speak to them regarding these doctrines.
Beginning in verse 3, we see a description of the Colossians. We learn that the gospel initially came to them through Epaphras who had brought back a report to Paul regarding their circumstances.
It was during his ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10) that Paul had sent Epaphras to spread the gospel in the Lycus Valley. Epaphras subsequently established the church at Colosse. – Source: Holman Study Bible pg. 2018
Here are some more things we learn about the Colossians in this passage:
- They had faith in Christ
- They had shown love for the saints
- The gospel was increasing in them and bearing fruit since the day they heard it from Epaphras
We also learn that these things were the reason for Paul’s thanksgiving in verse 3.
Faith in Christ and love for the saints are the two marks of true Christianity. We need to be walking according to them in increasing measures.
Watch the Bible Study Video of Colossians 1
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard about it, have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all perseverance and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He began by saying, “For this reason…” Verses 4-8 give the reason.
Then, Paul goes into describing how he had been praying for them.
He says that he prays that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual widom and understanding”.
Before moving on, let’s take a look at some of the original meanings of a few of the words in this verse.
- Knowledge: precise and correct knowledge, participation in acquiring knowledge from the learner
- Wisdom: the capacity to understand and act wisely
- Understanding: a mental putting together to comprehend, reason out, the abiitly to understand concepts and see relationships between them
Believers get to know God more and more through spending time His Word and by His indwelling Spirit. This is how we participate in acquiring this knowledge.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2
God’s Word is what transforms and renews our minds.
We also see that this wisdom is of a spiritual nature.
Spiritual insight is based on God’s Spirit and His Word, not on man’s wisdom or the world’s wisdom. This doesn’t mean that we can’t seek counsel or wisdom from another believer, but knowing the Word of God enables one to recognize when man’s ideas are not in alignment with God’s wisdom.
Then, starting in verse 10 we see the purpose of Paul’s prayer – that they would walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord by conducting themselves in the following ways:
- Bearing fruit in every good work
- Increasing their knowledge of Him
- Strengthened with the power that God provides
This leads to…
This conduct is produced in us as we live in the light of our inheritance.
God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints! He did this by rescuing us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the Kindom of His Son, in whom we have redemption.
We have been given a new life and the hope of eternity. God strengthens us to walk in a manner worthy of HIm as we live and walk in the light of our eternal inheritance. We must keep our gaze set on this hope we have been given.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: 16 for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
In this section of Colossians 1, Paul is laying some foundational doctrine about who Jesus is and what God has accomplished through Him. As we continue in this epistle, we will see that this information about Jesus is the foundation for the continued exhortations Paul gives in this book.
- He is God
- Firstborn of all creation
- Firstborn from the dead
- He is creator
- He is timeless—before all things
- He holds all things together
- He is the essence of all existence
- All fullness is in Him
- He reconciled all things to the Father through the cross
Hebrews 1:1-4 teaches us that Jesus is the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.
Throughout the New Testament, we see evidence of the deity, or oneness, of Christ and the Father.
We also need to understand that the word “firstborn” does not mean that Jesus was a created being. Rather, it shows His priority or ranking as supreme over all creation. Think of it as the firstborn son of a king is the one who inherits the fathers kingdom and rule.
One verse that really stood out to me in this passage was “…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything…”
God has given Christ first place in ALL things. Doesn’t He also deserve to have first place in ALL areas of my life?
Summary of Colossians 1:21-23
21 And although you were previously alienated and hostile in attitude, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His body of flesh through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
I love this passage because it shows the contrast of who I was before Christ reconciled me and who I am now. Christ offered His body for death that He may present me as holy and blameless before the Father.
However, we must also notice that there is a condition to this. We must continue (to stay with, abide, persevere) in faith.
Believers will be presented holy and blameless only if they do not abandon faith in Jesus according to the true gospel. This was Paul’s concern for the Colossians (as we will see in chapter 2), and why he lays the foundation of Christ’s supremacy and lordship in the previous verses.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am supplementing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions in behalf of His body, which is the church. 25 I was made a minister of this church according to the commission from God granted to me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles is, the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose I also labor, striving according to His power which works mightily within me.
As I was reading this passage, two questions came to mind:
- How is Paul filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?
- What is the mystery that has been hidden?
Let’s start with the ‘mystery’ that Paul is referring to. Ephesians 3 gives us some more insight.
By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to mankind, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel – Ephesians 3:4-7
The mystery is the gospel – that Christ has come to offer all (including the Gentiles) salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This was Paul’s calling and ministry. He was to take the gospel to all men.
So how was Paul filling up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions?
If we back up to verse 22, we saw that Christ suffered in His body in order to present us holy and blameless.
Do you see any connection between Paul’s desire in verse 28 with what we read in verse 22?
Paul rejoiced in his suffering for the sake of the gospel because he knew that he was participating in Christ’s purpose to present all men as holy and blameless.
Let’s make sure there is no confusion here. There is nothing that is lacking in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. That is not what this passage is saying.
Paul is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions by continuing to spread the gospel and taking it to the Gentiles, to present every man complete in Christ. This is also the reason for his suffering. Paul rejoices in this suffering because it’s causing the gospel to spread.
Summary of Colossians 1 Final Thoughts
The greatest takeaway I got out of this chapter was that I need to continually examine my beliefs. Does what I’m believing about Jesus align with scripture? If I’m going to continue in faith according to the gospel, I must have accurate knowledge and understanding of it. Knowing God’s truth is the only way I will be able to identify lies and discern a false gospel.
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