Introduction to Colossians

See all other content in this series.


Author

What do we know about the author and his relationship to the audience? What was his location and circumstances when writing (provenance)? How do these things inform and aid our understanding of the book?

Author: The apostle Paul (1:1).

  • Apostle of Jesus Christ.
  • Former persecutor of Christ’s church.
  • Paul apostle to Gentiles (cf. Col 1:24-2:5).

The book makes this claim (1:1). But it’s also supported by a considerable amount of personal and circumstantial details. The author talks about his personal ministry and sufferings (e.g., 1:24-2:5); he references his current circumstances (i.e., imprisonment, see 4:3-4, 18); he requests prayer (4:2-6); he provides specific names of his companions and fellow laborers (1:7; 4:7-17); and he concludes the letter by saying, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand” (4:18).

The claim to Pauline authorship is disputed among critical scholars for reasons of vocabulary, writing style, theological differences (supposed contradictions), and theological omissions compared to Paul’s other writings.

“No early Christian doubted Paul’s authorship, and the letter to the Colossians was received into the developing Christian canon of Scripture with no apparent controversy.” (Douglas Moo, PNTC)

Co-sender: Timothy is also mentioned (1:1).

“We” is used (5x) up until 1:9. After that the book shifts to first person singular pronouns (see 1:24) to refer to the primary sender of the letter, Paul.

“We” shows up again in 1:28. Although it occurs during a section with first person singular pronouns. Here Paul is describing his apostolic ministry and mentions “we” in 1:28 presumably referring to others engaged in similar ministry of proclaiming Christ. But the section is nonetheless a first-person account.

The use of “we” doesn’t show up again until the end of the book in 4:8 where it again seems to be referring to the group of people (Timothy included?) sending the letter.

In the final verse, Paul mentions writing the final greeting of the letter with his own hand (4:18), indicating that someone else served as his scribe to write down the rest of it for him. Paul likely dictated this letter to someone. And it very well could be that Timothy served as that scribe (amanuensis).

Relationship: Paul had never actually met the Colossians. He includes the Colossians among “all who have not seen me face to face” (2:1). Although he nevertheless considers himself laboring on their behalf (see esp. 1:24-2:5).

Circumstance: Paul is currently in prison.

4:3-4, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” // 4:10, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you…” // 4:18, “Remember my chains.”

He is in prison on account of the gospel, which helps explain his commitment to and suffering on behalf of the gospel, of which he refers to in the book.

Location: It seems Paul writes Colossians at the same time/location he writes Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Thus, these four have traditionally been referred to as Paul’s “prison epistles.”

  • The destination of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Philemon also resided in Colossae) are all near each other, being in Asia Minor.
  • In each letter, Paul mentions being in prison (Philemon 1:1, 9; Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil 1:14, 17).
  • The letter is sent by the hand of Tychicus and Onesimus (Col 4:7-9). Tychicus is also the individual who delivered the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 6:21-22). The statements in Colossians 4:7-9 and Ephesians 6:21-22 are very similar.
  • Also, given the significant overlap and similarity in material between Colossians and Ephesians, it makes sense that they would have been written close in time to one another.
  • And Onesimus, who helps deliver Colossians (Col 4:7-9) also delivered the letter to Philemon (Phil 1:10).
  • Timothy is present with Paul in sending both Colossians (1:1) and Philippians (1:1).
  • Philemon and Colossians both mention Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke as with Paul, sending their greetings (Phlm 1:23-24; Col 1:7; 4:10, 14).
  • Colossians (4:2-4), Philippians (1:12-14), and Ephesians (6:19-20) all share the outlook that Paul’s imprisonment is a providential opportunity for the gospel to advance. In both Colossians in Ephesians, Paul asks the churches to pray toward this end, that the word would go forward while he is in prison.
  • In both Philippians (1:25-26) and Philemon (1:22) Paul expresses a similar expectation that he will be released from prison.

The likely location of this imprisonment is Rome, the one we read of at the end of Acts (ch. 28). Suggested alternatives though have been Paul’s imprisonment while in Ephesus or Caesarea.

  • Remember, the runaway slave, Philemon, is with Paul as he writes these letters. It’s unlikely that a runaway slave from Colossians would run to Caesarea. There would be no reason to go there specifically. And it’s also unlikely he would go to Ephesus, just a relatively short distance from Colossae. Rome is the more likely option.
  • When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he was under house arrest and was still active in preaching the gospel (see Acts 28:15-31). This fits the situation he describes in these epistles where he speaks of being able to proclaim the gospel on account of his imprisonment (Col 4:2-4; Phil 1:12-14; Eph 6:19-20).
  • Phil 1:13 mentions the “imperial guard.” And in 4:22, saints from “Caesar’s household” offer their greeting.
  • Col 4:10 mentions a greeting from Aristarchus, a fellow prisoner of Paul’s.
  • From Acts 27:2, we know that Aristarchus was with Paul when they left Caesarea to embark on their imprisoned journey to Rome. Col 4:10 then mentions that Aristarchus is imprisoned with Paul.
  • We also know that Luke was with Paul during his travels to Rome (see the “we” pronouns of Acts 27-28) is also with him when he writes Colossians (4:14).
  • Does it make sense to “send” Tychicus to deliver a letter to Ephesus (Eph 6:22) is Paul is imprisoned there, especially if this group of letters indicates that Paul had relative freedom to preach and receive visitors (Eph 6:19-20; Col 4:3-4, 7-14; Phlm 23-24).

Date

When was this book written, and what bearing might this timing have on our understanding of the book?

The early AD 60s.

Enough time will need to have passed between the writing of Colossians and 2 Timothy where Demas has now deserted Paul (2 Tim 4:10; cf. Col 4:14).

There was also an earthquake that devastated Colossians in the early 60s. So the writing almost assuredly would have proceeded that (no mention of it).

During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, not his final, fatal one.

Audience

What do we know about the original, intended recipient of the book (e.g., their context and situation, place in redemptive history, etc.) that shapes and helps us better understand the message of this book?

Audience: The church in the city of Colossae (1:1).

Colossae: Colossae was a small, rather insignificant city in Asia Minor at the time of Paul’s writing. Although the city had not always been so. In prior times it was much more significant, until a major roadway was moved that previously had placed it on a major travel route. “Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul was addressed.” – J. B. Lightfoot.

Within one of Rome’s provinces.

This prior location on a travel route likely explains the diversity of religious influences we see in the book.

Composition: The church was likely composed mostly of Gentiles.

  • The Father has qualified them for inheritance, OT land language (1:12).
  • They have received the true circumcision (2:11); cf. the other mentions of circumcision in the letter (2:13; 3:11; 4:11).
  • Paul expresses a concern for division in the church, particularly one that might distinguish Gentiles from Jews, circumcised from uncircumcised (3:11), among other things.
  • Paul mentions his role as an apostle to the Gentiles, and he connects it to his ministry on their behalf (1:24-2:5).
  • Also, their former manner of life, as Paul describes it, probably better fits a Gentile audience than a Jewish one (1:21). The sins they once engaged in are more typical of a Gentile audience (3:5).

Origin: Paul had not met this church in person at the time of writing this letter (2:1). So he did not start this church. Rather, Col 1:7 mentions that a man named Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossians. Later Paul identifies Epaphras as a member of the church in Colossae (4:12), in addition to serving those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis (4:13). In Philemon 1:23, Epaphras is mentioned as imprisoned with Paul.

Some have theorized that maybe the church of Colossae was established during the time when Paul spent three years in nearby Ephesus during his third missionary. Maybe Epaphras heard the gospel, as preached by Paul in Ephesus, and traveled back to Colossae to share the gospel there. Supporting this idea—in Acts, Luke recounts that through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

It could be that Epaphras is one of the elders/pastors of the church in Colossae. Paul calls him a fellow servant and minister (1:7, 12) and one deeply concerned and laboring for that church’s welfare (4:12-13).

Apparently, Epaphras ends up as a fellow prisoner with Paul (see Phlm 23). Thus, he wasn’t able to make the return journey and deliver the letter himself. Paul sends Tychicus to do this instead (Col 4:7-8).

Other: Paul calls Onesimus “one of you” (Col 4:9). And in Philemon, when Paul is sending Onesimus back to him, Paul says that the church meets inside Philemon’s house (Phlm 1:1-2). So it seems the church of Colossians met inside Philemon’s house.

Occasion

Why was this book written? What need, circumstance, or situation is the author seeking to address?

Epaphras gives a report to Paul on the situation of the Colossian church (1:8). This likely included filling Paul in on the false teaching that was a threat there. In fact, maybe Epaphras traveled to Paul specifically to seek out his help in the situation because of how concerning it was.

Details on the false teaching:

  • A threat to sound faith:
    • It poses a threat of “delusion” (2:4) and being “taken captive” (2:8).
    • In 2:5-6, Paul sees it as a threat to their “good order” and “firmness in faith,” their continuing in the faith as they had received it.
    • In 2:4, Paul says that those who hold to these utilize use “plausible arguments.”
  • A man-made system:
    • In 2:8, Paul characterizes this false teaching as “philosophy,” “empty deceit,” and things that are “according to human tradition,” “according to the elemental spirits (or elementary principles) of this world,” and “not according to Christ.”
    • Likewise, in 2:20-22 he says it involves man-made regulations (or rules), human teachings—man-made religion.
  • What all is involved in it?
    • There are some clear Jewish elements to the false teaching. As we’ll see, they demanded following certain Jewish regulations. But some interpreters also see some potential pagan influences as well, maybe mixed in.
    • In terms of their regulations, we see in 2:16 that they sought to impose certain rules regarding what food and drink one was allowed to consume. In 2:20, Paul describes the regulations with the slogan, “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch,” referring to mere perishable things (2:21-22).
    • They also required the observance of the Sabbath and other religious holy days (2:16).
    • Paul’s mention of circumcision may indicate that the false teaching was requiring circumcision (2:11).
    • In 2:23, we see they practiced severity to the body or asceticism (2:23).
    • In 2:18, they claimed to experience visions.
    • In 2:18, we see that they worship angels. This would make sense of why, throughout the book, Paul mentions Christ’s superiority and defeat of angelic beings, what he refers to as “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities” (2:10; cf. 2:15; 1:16).
    • In ch. 1, we also see Paul making frequent mention of knowledge (1:9, 10: 2:2, 3; 3:10), wisdom (1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5), understanding (1:9; 2:2). It seems likely that Paul has the false teaching in view when he raises these matters. And so it’s quite possible that the false teaching holding up some alternative knowledge that they said was needed. Maybe this “knowledge” was connected to the visions they claimed to experience (2:18), and they were saying that such new revelations were needed in addition to the original gospel they had received.
  • The intention/rationale:
    • In 2:23, Paul says that these man-made practices have an appearance of wisdom but are of no value in actually stopping the flesh, our sinful tendencies (2:23). In other words, it seems that the false teaching promoted these things as a way of reaching spiritual maturity.
  • The effect on the church:
    • In 2:16, we see that those who held to this false teaching were passing judgment on the believers (2:16), presumably for not following their rules and practices. In 2:18, they were “disqualifying” the believers (2:18). Likely, the Colossians Christians were being judged as spiritually inferior, lacking something, by not participating in and following these religious observances.
    • Additionally, these practices may have had the effect of creating divisions, like a caste system between the truly spiritual, who observed these things, and the inferior, who abstained—and maybe especially between Jew and Gentile.
      • This might explain why in 3:11 Paul say that in Christ there is no “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,” etc. As he says, Christ “is all and in all,” 3:11, i.e., Christ is not only everything you need, but he is everything to all those who are in him.
      • This may also be why Paul stresses his apostleship to the Gentiles in 1:24-2:5. In fact, he says, Christ appointed him to proclaim that mystery that Christ now indwells the Gentiles (1:27)!
      • It may also be why in 2:11-13 Paul emphasizes that Christ provides believers the true circumcision, over against physical circumcision. Again, this false teaching may be creating something of a class system among the Christians based on Jewishness or the willingness of Gentile believers to take on certain Jewish requirements.

Additional observations:

  • Paul calls at least some of these things that the false teaching demanded “shadows” of Christ (2:17). This seems to indicate they refer to Jewish/Old Testament things then, since Paul wouldn’t call pagan things “shadows of Christ,” of which Christ was the antitype.
  • In 1:12, Paul takes about how the Father has qualified them (1:12). Contrast this with 2:18, where those promoting this false teaching are seeming to suggest they are disqualified (2:18) unless they follow their specific instructions, practices, and regulations.

Other notes:

  • If Jewish or OT regulations are in view, how could Paul call these human traditions? Weren’t such laws given by God? Two options: (1) If OT laws, yes, they were originally given by God; but to insist on them now after they have passed is to make man-made, not God-given, prescriptions at this point. Or (2) these “human traditions” and regulations refer to other non-OT rules (Jewish or pagan) they are imposing.
  • Nowhere does Paul specifically mention any false teacher(s). In other words, it may not be that there is a particular person or group of persons deliberately trying to infiltrate the church with false teaching. Paul may just be addressing dangers within the overall environment in which the Colossian church finds itself, that there were false ideas and people around them that held them, but not necessarily that there were specific false teachers putting the church in their crosshairs (i.e., proselytizing them). // Then again, Paul does say, “Let no one disqualify you” (2:18), seemingly indicating there are particular individuals who pose to do so, unless he just means this more as a matter of consequence from surrounding influences and less as a deliberate, intentional assault.
  • This false teaching stands in contrast to what they had received from Epaphras, who Paul therefore commends (1:3-7; 4:12) as a way of encouraging the church to continue in that original gospel.

Theories: Jewish Mysticism or some form of syncretism of Jewish and pagan elements.

Paul wants them to reach maturity and avoid this false teaching which offers a false alternative to maturity.

Top & Tail

What do the opening and closing portions of the book indicate about the overall burden or message of the book (consider the relationship between the two in terms of parallels, contrasts, or development)?

  • Thankful prayer:
    • Thanksgiving, give thanks (1:3, 12; 4:2)
    • Prayer (1:3; 9; 4:2, 3, 12)
  • Ministry themes:
    • Faithful brother (1:2; 4:9)
    • Ministry (1:7, 23, 25; 4:7, 12, 13, 17)
    • Servant (1:7; 4:7; 12)
    • Epaphras, servant of Christ on their behalf (1:7; 4:12)
    • Struggling or working hard (1:29; 2:1; 4:12)
  • Gospel/Word themes:
    • The Word going forth (1:5; 1:25; 4:3)
    • Mention of the gospel’s broader advancement (1:6, 23, 25-27; 4:3).
    • Mystery (1:26, 27; 2:2; 4:3)
  • Maturity/stability:
    • Maturity (1:28; 4:12)
    • Concern that the Colossians reach full assurance (2:2; 4:12).
    • The will of God (1:9; 4:12)

Macro-Structure

How does the organization of the book convey its message? What are its various parts? How might you outline it?

  • Opening (1:1-2:5)
    • Greeting (1:1-2)
    • Paul’s thankful prayer for the Colossians (1:3-14)
      • Why Paul gives thanks as he prays (1:3-8)
      • What Paul prays for them (1:9-14)
    • The supreme Christ in whom they have reconciliation (1:15-23)
      • Christ’s supremacy over the first creation (1:15-17).
      • Christ’s supremacy over the new creation (1:18-20).
      • Christ’s reconciliation of those who truly believe (1:21-23).
    • Paul’s ministry of suffering for them (1:24-2:5)
  • Body (2:6-4:1)
    • Addressing false teaching on maturity (2:6-3:4) [negative concern]
      • Continue in Christ in whom you are complete (2:6-15) // “Therefore”
      • Avoid human systems of regulation that are of no value (2:16-3:4) // “Therefore”
        • Let no one judge you (2:16-19)
        • If therefore you have died (2:20-23).
        • If therefore you have been raised (3:1-4). // “Therefore”
    • Addressing true maturity in Christ (3:5-4:6) [positive concern]
      • Live out your new humanity in Christ (3:5-3:17)
        • Put off the old (3:5-11) // “Therefore”
        • Put on the new (3:12-17) // “Therefore”
      • In your social spheres (3:18-4:1)
  • Closing (4:2-18)
    • Prayerful concern for gospel advancement (4:2-6)
    • Greetings from other gospel ministers (4:7-18)

Genre

What is the literary genre of the book, and how does this shape how its message gets communicated?

Epistle or letter, with a traditional greeting, body, and conclusion.

This is a personal correspondence in which Paul expresses his personal care for them as well as many personal details.

As an epistle (an “occasional” document), the message is tailored very clearly to a particular occasion that gives rise to it.

As an epistle, the message is also communicated in very clear, logical, propositional form.

Tone

What is the overall tone of the book and how does its tone inform its message?

Exhortation; serious warning (urgency); praise-filled; invested (toiling).

Repetition

What are any potentially significant repeated themes or concepts, words or phrases used throughout the book that might help convey its message?

  • Prayer
    • We pray for you (1:3).
    • We haven’t ceased to pray for you (1:9).
    • Continue in prayer (4:2).
    • Pray for us (4:3).
    • Epaphras struggles for you in his prayers (4:12).
  • Thanksgiving, give thanks.
    • We always thank God in our prayers for you (1:3).
    • We pray you will give thanks to the Father (1:12).
    • Paul longs to see them abounding in thanksgiving (2:7).
    • Be thankful (3:15).
    • Let the word of Christ dwell in you, giving thanks to God (3:16-17).
    • Be watchful in prayer with thanksgiving (4:2).
  • Rejoice, joy.
    • Paul prays for their patience with joy (1:11).
    • I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake (1:24).
    • I am with you in spirit rejoicing to see your good order (2:5).
  • Ministry, service, stewardship.
    • Fellow servant (σύνδουλος).
      • Epaphras, a fellow servant (1:7).
      • Tychicus, a fellow servant (4:7).
    • Slave/bondservant (δοῦλος).
      • Neither slave nor free (3:11).
      • Bondservants, obey (3:22).
      • Masters, treat your bondservants (4:1).
      • Epaphras, a servant of Christ (4:12).
    • Serving (δουλεύω).
      • Bondservants serve Christ by serving their earthly masters (3:24).
    • Eye-service (ὀφθαλμοδουλία).
      • Bondservants, don’t offer eye-service (3:22).
    • Minister/ministry (διάκονος).
      • Epaphras, a faithful minister (1:7).
      • Paul, a minister (1:23).
      • Paul, a minister (1:25).
      • Tychicus, a faithful minister (4:7).
      • Tell Archippus to full his ministry (4:17).
    • Stewardship (οἰκονομία).
      • The stewardship of apostolic ministry God gave Paul (1:25).
    • Fellow worker (4:11).
    • For (others’) sake, on (others’) behalf – 1:7, 24; 4:12; 13.
  • Struggling, toil.
    • Suffering (πάθημα).
      • I rejoice in my sufferings for you (1:24).
    • Struggle (ἀγών).
      • You know how great a struggle I have for you (2:1).
    • Struggling (ἀγωνίζομαι).
      • Paul struggles to present everyone mature in Christ (1:29).
      • Epaphras struggles for the Colossians in his prayers for them (4:12).
    • Toil (κοπιάω).
      • Paul toils to present everyone mature in Christ (1:29).
    • Energy, working:
      • Paul struggles with all his energy that God works in him (1:29, x2).
      • The powerful working of God (2:12).
    • Power:
      • Being strengthened will all power (1:11).
      • With all his energy God powerfully works in me (1:29).
  • Heard:
    • They heard the gospel (1:5, 6, 23).
    • Or Paul heard of their faith (1:4, 9).
  • Word
    • You heard the word of truth (1:5).
    • To make the word of God fully known (1:25).
    • Let the word of Christ dwell among you (3:16).
    • Pray for God to open a door for the word (4:3).
  • Teaching (1:28; 2:7; 3:16; contra. “human teachings” in 2:22).
  • Cross / salvation accomplished (1:14, 20, 22; 2:14).
  • Forgiveness.
    • The forgiveness of sins (1:14).
    • God made us alive with Christ, having forgiven all our trespasses (2:13, also 14-15).
    • Forgiving one another as Christ’s forgiven us (3:13; x2).
  • Dwelling
    • The fullness of God/deity dwells in Jesus (1:19; 2:9).
    • Let the word of Christ dwell in you (3:16).
  • Mystery (1:26, 27; 2:2; 4:3)
  • The gospel’s broader advancement (1:6, 23, 25-27; 4:3).
  • Mature (1:28; 4:12).
  • Assurance (2:2; 4:12).
  • Will of God (1:1, 9; 4:12)
  • Fill/filled.
    • Paul prays they be filled with knowledge (1:9).
    • The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ (1:19).
    • Paul fills up what’s lacking in Christ’s afflictions (1:24).
    • In Christ the fullness of deity dwells bodily (2:9).
    • They’ve been filled in Christ, the head of all rule and authority (2:10).
  • Knowledge, wisdom, understanding.
    • Knowledge:
      • Paul prays they will be filled with knowledge of God’s will (1:9)
      • Paul prays they increase in knowledge (1:10).
      • Paul struggles so that they may reach the knowledge of God’s mystery (2:2).
      • In Christ are hidden all treasures of knowledge (2:3).
      • Christ’s new humanity is being renewed in knowledge (3:10).
    • Wisdom
      • Paul prays they’d be filled with all wisdom (1:9).
      • Paul says he teaches everyone with all wisdom (1:28).
      • In Jesus are all the treasures of wisdom (2:3).
      • Contrast that to the false practices that only have the appearance of wisdom (2:23).
      • Paul exhorts them to admonish one another with all wisdom (3:16).
      • Walk in wisdom toward outsiders (4:5).
    • Understanding
      • (1:9; 2:2).
  • Grow, increase (αὐξάνω)
    • The gospel is increasing (1:6).
    • Increasing in the knowledge of God (1:10).
    • The body (church) grows with a growth that’s from God (2:19).
  • Faith, love, hope – triad.
    • The root for “love” occurs 11x, whether as a noun, verb, or “beloved.”
    • Faith (1:4, 23; 2:5, 7, 12); faithful (1:2, 7; 4:7, 9).
    • Hope
      • Hope laid up (1:5), hope of glory (1:27).
      • Hope of the gospel (1:23).
    • Peace
      • Grace and peace (1:2).
      • Jesus made peace by his blood (1:20).
      • Let the peace of Christ rule (3:15).
  • Heart.
    • Paul struggles for the churches’ hearts to be encouraged (2:2).
    • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (3:15).
    • Let the Word of Christ dwell among you…with thankfulness in your hearts (3:16).
    • Slaves, obey with sincerity of heart (3:22).
    • I am sending Tychicus to you to encourage your hearts (4:8).
  • Perseverance, continuing in the faith received (1:11, 23; 2:5, 6-7).
  • Walk
    • Walk in a manner worthy (1:10).
    • So walk in Jesus (2:6).
    • In these [vices] you too once walked (3:7).
    • Walk in wisdom towards outsiders (4:5).
  • Put on/dress and put off/undress
    • Having put on the new self (3:10).
    • Put on as God’s chosen ones (3:12).
    • Putting off the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ (2:11).
  • Union with Christ language, e.g., in Christ, with Christ, etc. (1:2, 4(?), 27, 28; 2:6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20; 3:1, 3, 4, 11, 18; 4:7).
  • Died/dead and raised/life.
    • Dead/died/buried with.
      • Having been buried with Christ (2:12).
      • With Christ you died (2:20).
      • You have died (3:3).
      • Put to death what is earthly in you (3:5).
    • Raised/life/from death/the dead.
      • Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (1:18).
      • You were raised with Jesus through faith (2:12).
      • God raised Jesus from the dead (2:12).
      • God made you alive with Christ (2:13).
      • If you have been raised with Christ (3:1).
      • Christ is your life (3:3, 4 – x2).
    • “Alive” to sin, or “dead” in sin.
      • You were dead in your trespasses and uncircumcision (2:13).
      • As if you were still alive in the world (2:20).
      • When you were living in these vices (3:7).
  • Creation // New creation
    • Creation (1:15-17).
      • He is the image of the invisible God (1:15).
      • The firstborn of creation (1:15).
      • For by him all things were created… all things were created (1:16, x2).
      • The gospel, which has been proclaimed in creation (1:23).
      • Old humanity (3:10).
    • New Creation (1:18-20).
      • New humanity, renewed after the image of its creator (3:10).
  • Holy, saints
    • Saints/holy ones (1:2, 4, 12, 26; 3:12).
    • Jesus died in order to present you holy (1:22).
  • Qualification, disqualified (1:12; 2:18).
  • Inheritance.
    • The Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance (1:12).
    • We know that from the Lord we will receive the inheritance (3:24).
  • Gentile, Greek.
    • The rich glory of God’s mystery among the Gentiles, Christ in them! (1:27).
    • Neither Greek nor Jew (3:11).
  • Circumcision, uncircumcision
    • In Christ, we were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by the circumcision of Christ (2:11, x3).
    • We were dead in the uncircumcision of our flesh (2:13).
    • In Christ there is no circumcised or uncircumcised (3:11).
    • Paul mentions “man of the circumcision” who are with him (4:11).
  • Flesh, σάρξ.
    • Jesus has reconciled believers in his body of flesh by his death (1:22).
    • Paul is suffering in his flesh (1:24).
    • Paul hasn’t seen the Colossians “face to face” (in the flesh) (2:1).
    • Paul is absent in the body (flesh) (2:5).
    • In Jesus we have been circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ (2:11).
    • We were previously dead in the uncircumcision of our flesh (2:13).
    • The false teachers have a sensuous (fleshly) mind (2:18).
    • Such regulations are useless in stopping indulgence of the flesh (2:23).
    • Paul refers to slaves’ earthly (fleshly) masters (3:22).
  • Body, σῶμα.
    • Christ is the head of the body, the church (1:18).
    • He has reconciled believers in his body of flesh by his death (1:22).
    • Paul shares in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of Christ’s body, the church (1:24).
    • In Christ, the fullness of deity dwells bodily (2:9).
    • In Jesus we have been circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ (2:11).
    • Such Jewish regulations and festivals are a shadow, but the substance (body) is Christ (2:17).
    • The whole body of which Christ is Head grows (2:19).
    • The false teaching advocates a useful severity to the body (2:23).
    • Believers have been called in one body (3:15).
  • Head
    • Head of the body (1:18).
    • Head of all rule (2:10).
    • Holding fast to the head (2:19).
    • Cf. The connections between head, body, growth, ligaments (2:19), and “new man” themes. God is building a new man/humanity in the “corporate person” that is Christ. Christ thus is the head. And all persons united to him form his body.
  • The church (1:18, 24; 4:15, 16).
  • Angels (rulers, thrones, dominions, authorities).
    • He has delivered us from the domain/dominion of darkness (1:13).
    • Jesus is the head of all thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities (1:16).
    • Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities (2:15).
    • Worship of angels (2:18).
  • The world.
    • The elemental spirits of the world (2:8, 20).
    • Why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations (2:20).

Literary Dependence

Does this book have any literary relationship with or dependence on other canonical material? If so, how will this impact how you go about interpreting this book?

The book of Colossians greatly parallels the material in Ephesians (hence they have been called “twin epistles”).

Parallel passages:

  • Colossians 1:1–2 and Ephesians 1:1–2
  • Colossians 1:3–11 and Ephesians 1:3–18
  • Colossians 1:24–2:5 and Ephesians 3:1–13
  • Colossians 3:5–4:1 and Ephesians 4:17–6:9
  • Colossians 4:2–4 and Ephesians 6:18–20
  • Colossians 4:7–9 and Ephesians 6:21–22

Argument

Based on these features of the book, how would you summarize its overarching argument? What is the author’s controlling message of which he intends to persuade his audience?

Continue in your faith in Christ as you’ve received it, avoiding false alternatives to spiritual fulfillment, fully assured that you have everything you need for maturity in him.