May 29, 2016
Colossians is part of 4 New Testament books known as Paul’s prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). These books were written when Paul was on house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16, 30). Most scholars place this two year period of imprisonment between 60 and 62 AD. From a reading of Acts, it is clear that Paul was guarded, but allowed to have people visit and also allowed to proclaim the gospel.
Paul did not plant the church in Colossae, nor had he ever visited there (Col 2:1). He had only heard about the work of God in the city and surrounding areas (Col 1:3, 9). A man name Epaphras had first proclaimed the gospel in Colossae (Col 1:7, 4:12). He was probably a convert of Pauls ministry in Ephesus which spread throughout Asia (Acts 19:10). Not only did Epaphras preach in Colossae, but also in the major cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, which were only miles away (Col 4:13). It is worth mentioning that the church at Laodicea is the famous church spoken to in Revelation 3:14. What is also worth mentioning is that this historic church had been planted by someone who had heard the gospel from Paul, and not Paul himself. It is truly amazing how God grows His kingdom through His Gospel.
Epaphras had come to visit Paul in Rome. Although Epaphras was not under arrest, Paul called him a “fellow prisoner” because he willingly stayed with Paul during his incarceration (Philemon 23). Epaphras shared with Paul how God was moving in Colossae, but also how some strange teachings were taking the place of Jesus in the young church. This prompted the writing of Paul to the Colossian church to help them understand the place of Christ in their fellowship and salvation.
Coincidentally, around the same time, Paul had met a runaway slave whose name was Onesimus. Onesimus had come to know and love Jesus under the teaching of Paul. Circumstances proved that a man named Philemon was the rightful owner of this slave. Philemon happened to also be the man who was allowing the church in Colossae to use his house to meet in (Philemon 1-2). His son, Archippus, was a leader within the church and many believe him to be the lead pastor (Col 4:17). This is why the letters of Ephesians, Philemon, and Colossians were sent by Paul and all delivered at the same time by Tychicus and Onesimus (Eph 6:21-22, Col 4:7-9).
ORTHODOXY LEADS TO ORTHOPRAXY
Paul shows in his opening statements to the Colossian church that he is very thankful for God’s work in them. He then shares that his prayer for them is to grow into all the knowledge and understanding of God. Being on a major trade route connecting west Asia from East Asia, Colossae was a place where many Eastern, Jewish, and Gnostic ideas were trying to synthesize into the culture… and the church! None of these belief systems were denying the person of Jesus outright, but they were trying to add additional knowledge and formulas onto Christ in a way that diminished His power and authority. Paul knows that right thinking leads to right living (Col 1:9-10). Unless the Colossians can understand that Christ is ALL (Col 3:9), they will never live to the fullness of being in Christ. It is in Jesus only that we have been moved from darkness to light. We are not saved by formulas, rituals, and other forms of spirituality. It is in Jesus only that we have redemption! It is in Jesus only that we have forgiveness for our sins! It is this truth that leads the people of God into the proper and correct ways to live, which reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.
Discuss the reality of churches near Pauls ministry that Paul did not plant. It was people under the influence of the gospel that continued the gospel proclamation moving forward and reaching new areas. Did Paul frown on this or was he thankful for it?
Why does there need to be orthodox Christian teaching (what the church has always believed)? Why must we be careful what we believe (Eph 4:13-16)?
Explain how right thinking leads to right living. How can our cognitive understanding inform our lives?