Study Notes from Colossians 1
Colossians is a very dense book that's worth your time to spend in serious study, as some great doctrines are elaborated on here. Please check out the notes below and we'll see you next week for Colossians 2!
Known as one of the prison epistles because Paul probably wrote this while imprisoned in Rome in the early 60’s.
Colossae was apparently a fairly small city which no longer exists but some ruins of it still do, though they are largely unexcavated.
The city was about 100 miles inland from Ephesus.
This letter is only 4 chapters but is very dense with doctrine.
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
Paul right away makes it clear that his agenda is not some man-made agenda; he was sent specifically by God. He’s even more clear about this in Galatians where he needs to defend his apostleship, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”
Timothy was with Paul at this point, and he may have been the scribe that composed the letter.
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.
Always grace and peace.
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
Prayers for the church he’s writing to is in almost all of Paul’s letters, but it seems like we don’t do that often today. Perhaps we pray for our own church but not so much others. Why is he giving thanks to God regarding this church? See next verse!
4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
Faith and love. Ephesians 1:15-16 has a very similar greeting: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
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;
Hope: Expectation of good things. Wonderful things await us in Heaven.
We have faith, love, and hope in verses 4 and 5 here. Sounds familiar, right? 1 Corinthians 13:13
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:
What has come unto them that brings forth fruit? The gospel. The gospel changes you on day 1.
Titus 3:14 says, “And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.”
7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
We don’t know who this guy was except probably a Colossian local who stepped up to serve and guide the people of this church. See Colossians 4:12. Epaphras either visited Paul in prison or he wrote him letters to provide updates on this church.
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;
Again, like in verse 3 we see a big emphasis on prayers for the believers of this church. What does this church need? What we ALL need: Knowledge of God’s will in wisdom and understanding.
People always ask what God’s will is for their lives, and usually they are looking for answers regarding family vacations, their job, or things of that nature. My response is typically that we need to seek God first (Matt. 6:33), He’ll be with us wherever we go (Josh. 1:9; Matt. 28:20), and that He desires our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3) and our gratitude for all He has given us (1 Thess. 5:18). The cares and worries of this world grow smaller in relation to the closeness of our walk with Christ.
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;
Again like verse 6, “bringing forth fruit.” We also have an encouragement to grow in knowledge of God which is why Bible studies are so important.
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
Don’t just endure tough times, endure them with joyfulness! James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Romans 8:16-18 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
What an unbelievable inheritance!
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
“Hath delivered” – If you are in Christ you are saved, you have eternal life right now! You have been translated (or transferred to a different location, μετέστησεν) into the Kingdom of Heaven. As citizens of this Kingdom, we should act like we belong there.
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Not through anything else, but His blood and sacrifice alone.
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Now we get to some verses that are making very clear statements to the diety of Jesus Christ.
The “firstborn” doesn’t always mean born first chronological like we often take it to mean, but here it means of highest importance like Philippians 2:7-9 that says, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”
Also see John 1:14, and then look at Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27 for different ways that “firstborn” is used in Scripture.
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:
This shows us how it’s impossible for Jesus to be merely a creation, because He is the Creator!
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
“By Him all things consist” is an interesting statement that makes me think of the motion of the planets, gravity, and the internal bond of atoms. He holds the universe together.
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.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
“The Father” is not in the original Greek but was added for clarification by our translators. The verse literally reads, “For in him pleased all fulness to dwell.”
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.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
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;
This verse does NOT teach the false idea of “universal salvation” but shows that genuine faith will have continuance.
Paul was made a minister (or servant) to preach the gospel, and in verse 25 we see he was also a minister to guide congregations and help them grow in faith and knowledge.
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:
Paul rejoices in the sufferings he has to endure in order to obey Christ! What an example!
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;
Dispensation here means “stewardship” or more literally, “house-manager.”
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
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:
This is the mystery that we also read about in Ephesians, that the whole world would have access to God through Jesus Christ. The mystery of the church, now revealed.
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Look at the first few words: “WHOM we preach” – we preach a PERSON, Jesus Christ! Not theology, not behavior, but the person of Jesus Christ our savior and God. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 we read, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
This is a great verse and I think it’s very important to remember that when we share the gospel we are giving a WARNING. It’s great news for those that receive it, but for those who reject freely-offered salvation, they are headed towards a horrible end. Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
The word for striving refers to a competitive fight. That is our Christian walk in this world, a competitive fight.