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Study Notes from Colossians 1

Updated: Apr 15

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!


Colossians 1

  • 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. We see here as we often do that every believer is a saint.

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. There's a fringe false doctrine out there that denies we will immediately be in Heaven after death and here's one of many verses that refutes that.

We have faith, love, and hope in verses 4 and 5 here. Sounds familiar, right? See 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 and subsequent conversion of sinners brings forth fruit everywhere including Colosse.

Isaiah 55:11, So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

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 likely visited Paul in prison and at some point became a prisoner with him.

Philemon 1:23, There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus

"Lightfoot suggests that Epaphras' relations with Paul at Rome may have excited suspicion and led to his temporally confinement; or that he may voluntarily have shared Paul's imprisonment." - Vincent Word Studies

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;

We are to walk worthy of the Lord by being fruitful in every good work.

We also have an encouragement to grow in knowledge of God which is why being part of a good church is so important.

Titus 3:14, And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

John 15:8, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

Don’t just endure tough times, go through them with joyfulness! It is in HIS power that we can be strengthened - not our own.

Ephesians 6:10, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

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:

He has made us fit to be partakers of inheritance and we are instructed to be thankful for such amazing blessings. Before our salvation we were unfit for Heaven, and nothing could make us fit except the cleansing blood of Christ.

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, and remember that we are just passing through this life as sojourners.

14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Not through anything else, but His blood and sacrifice alone. Our entire debt is paid, and our sin forgiven.

Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

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.

Being the image of God means that God has been made visible in coming to earth in the form of flesh (see John 14:9).

The “firstborn” doesn’t always mean born first chronological like we often take it to mean, but here it means of highest importance. See John 1:14, and then look at Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27 for different ways that “firstborn” is used in Scripture.

With context in mind, firstborn here would be synonymous with how its used in verse 18 below that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. The obvious meaning is that He is the first rise from the dead, never to die again.

In the following verses we see the supremacy of Jesus as He relates to creation, and then to His church.

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. We are created for Him, and it is best that we do not forget that.

The invisible things likely refer to angels, which we see mentioned in Colossians 2:18, where it cautions against the worship of them. In this context, these invisible beings are portrayed as mere creations, which the Lord Jesus Christ towers above in His supremacy. The passage emphasizes the need to recognize the divine hierarchy and avoid idolizing these heavenly beings.

Revelation 4:11, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

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.

I once heard a Jehovah's False-Witness attack the deity of Christ by asking how He could maintain all creation while in Mary's womb. How? I don't know how He does it now while sitting in glory at the right hand of the Father! He is God, so nothing is impossible for Him.

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.”

Preeminence means means supreme, or first place. For many Christians He is not preeminent in their lives but merely prominent. Very different things.

In verse 18 the church is spoken of as an institution which Jesus founded. Each church assembly is to have Christ as its head, and to submit only to Him, not any kind of denominational "authority."

"It says in v. 18 that he’s the head of the Body, the church. A lot of people will say see, there’s only one church. The church is a congregation and the Bible says that the husband is the head of the church as the husband is the head of the wife. Is there only one wife? The universal wife? The Catholic wife? No, there are multiple wives, multiple husbands. Well there are multiple churches, the church at Ephesus, the church at Smyrna, the church of Pergamus. And Christ the head of the church, it means an institution. That means each church has Christ as its head, of that local body, just as each husband is the head of that wife." - PSA

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.

In order for something to be reconciled, there must first have been some division or separation. The "problem" is that the verse mentions the reconciliation of all things. So does this mean all people will be saved? No, because we know from many other passages that this is not the case. Jesus' act of reconciliation has been completed and was successful for all mankind, but not all people have accepted that act and offer of reconciliation.

21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

There was no way this could have occurred without the cross. Salvation through Jesus was God's idea, and reconciliation to God is nothing we could have come up with on our own.

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;

If ye continue in the faith, you will be presented holy and unblameable in His sight. This is for a glorious entrance, for blessings.

1 John 4:17, Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

Paul was made a minister (or servant) to preach the gospel, and in verse 25 we see he was also a minister to the gentiles to guide 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.” God has dispensed to Paul his ministry to the gentiles.

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 KJV translators added the marginal note for verse 27, "Christ among you", which they apparently considered. The meaning is largely the same, and that Christ is revealed among you, to you, in you, as the source of the hope and future glory.

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 systematic theology, not logic and wisdom, 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. Though he had some series doctrinal issues, Spurgeon rightly 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, and we must rely on God for our strength every step of the way.


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