05/09/2022 – 30/10/2022
Chapter One: verses 1-29.
William Barclay once said, “It is not until a man finds his faith opposed and attacked that he really begins to think out the implications of that faith. It is not until the Church is confronted with some dangerous heresy that she begins to realize the riches and the wonder of orthodoxy.” This particular quote could very well fit every epistle Paul wrote as a stark reminder to each body of believers, who faced their own situations, wherever Paul’s letters finished up.
After reading the whole of chapter one, there’s no mention of anything detrimental happening to the Colossian church, especially in relation to false teaching, but a lot of encouragement. Chapter two has some general do’s and don’ts. In fact the whole epistle is not so much about false teachers as in actual people like the Judaisers but about the allure of false teaching in other words, heresy. As to what the specific heresy is, we’re not sure but it could be any number of the following:
- Gnosticism. (matter and spirit – matter bad, spirit good). Verses 16-17.
- Some form of Essene thought. (all male, no resurrection, no public life).
- Merkabah Mysticism. (loosely based on Ezekiel’s vision with the chariot, mixed up with the Ashkenazy movement).
- Or whatever was non apostolic teaching as subtle as it may have been.
- Possibly the first of Paul’s prison epistles.
- The church at Colosse was not founded or visited by Paul but probably founded by Epaphras.
- Philemon and Onesimus were from Colosse.
- The letter was written to encourage a group of believers who were growing spiritually.
- The letter was written to warn a group of believers who were being confronted with false teaching which undermined the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.
- Very similar in style and vocabulary to Ephesians.
- Colossae was one of three cities located about 100 miles inland from Ephesus. The other two cities were Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col. 4:13, 16).
- These three were like sister cities in the Lychus valley in what is now south central Turkey.
- Once an important city, by the time of Paul, Colosse had become a small market town.
- The population was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles (11,000 Jews by a.d. 62).
- The cities of the Lychus valley were prosperous despite frequent earthquakes.
- Manufacturing and exporting wool products were the principal industries.
- A trade route between East and West. All kinds of philosophies mingled in this cosmopolitan area, and religious hucksters abounded. There was a large Jewish colony in Colossae, and there was also a constant influx of new ideas and doctrines from the East. It was fertile ground for religious speculations and heresies.
How did the Colossian church begin? It was the outgrowth of Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19; 20:17–38). So effective was the witness of the church at Ephesus that “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). This would include people in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.
When we examine the persons involved in the prison correspondence of Paul (see Eph., Phil., Col., Phile., and 2 Tim.), we can just about put the story together of how the Colossian church was founded. During Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, at least two men from Colossae were brought to faith in Jesus Christ—Epaphras and Philemon (see Philemon 19). Epaphras apparently was one of the key founders of the church in Colossae, for he shared the Gospel with his friends there (Col 1:7). He also had a ministry in the cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea (Col 4:12–13).
Philemon had a church meeting in his home (Philemon 2). It is likely that Apphia and Archippus, mentioned in this verse, were respectively the wife and son of Philemon, and that Archippus was the pastor of the church (Col 4:17).
There is a good lesson for us here: God does not always need an apostle, or a “full-time Christian worker” to get a ministry established. Nor does He need elaborate buildings and extensive organizations or programs. Here were two ordinary hicks who were used of God to start ministries in at least three cities. It is God’s plan that the Christians in the large urban areas like Ephesus reach out into the smaller towns and share the Gospel. Is your church helping to evangelize “small-town” mission fields?
The Colossian believers were predominantly Gentile. The sins that Paul is talking about (Col 3:5–9) were commonly associated with the Gentiles, and his statement about the mystery applied more to the Gentiles than to the Jews (Col 1:25–29). The church was probably about five years old when Paul wrote this letter.
Paul’s greetings here are typical of (Phil 1:1 and 2 Cor 1:1), where his authority is established and where Timothy is also upheld. Paul’s authority wasn’t the result of some secret ambition but upheld and verified by the Holy Spirit in him through the personal appearance of the Lord.
Paul identifies that these are saints, called, set apart and made holy by the will of God. He calls them faithful, being steadfast and planted firmly in the knowledge of Christ. Finely he calls them brothers, being part of the same family as Paul is. Would Paul say any different about us despite our differences in opinions, our race, our cultures or whatever part nature and nurture played in our growing up?
“Since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.” As Paul said in (Eph 1:15), he was greatly encouraged by the faith of these believers and deliberately made mention of three things that would be evident in any believer growing and maturing in the Lord. These things are “Faith, Love and Hope.” These virtues should be evident and increasing in our lives and Faith is the kick-starter so to speak.
“And the Love which you have for all the saints.” Verse 4, Paul talks about love in many ways throughout his epistles. Paul tells us in (Gal 5:6), “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” The love that faith in Christ produces possesses a unique quality. It’s inclusive, and it’s nonselective. We don’t pick and choose whom we love: Paul specifically says that it is love for all the saints. It’s easy to love the lovely or those who love you. Genuine Christianity is evident when we love the undeserving the same way God has loved us. Love is not a feeling; it is an attitude and an action. Love is sincerely wishing for another person’s best interest and taking whatever action is necessary to see that it is accomplished.
(Gal 5:14) “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
(1 Cor 13:13) “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:4) “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
There are so many references to love in the Bible in Peter, Jude, John, Matthew, Hebrews, Luke and the squillions of times it’s mentioned in the OT.
The Good News of the Gospel was not native to their city. It had to be brought to them; and in their case, Epaphras was the messenger. He was himself a citizen of Colossae (Col. 4:12–13), but he had come in contact with Paul and had been converted to Jesus Christ. This was probably during Paul’s great three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
- The gospel centres on a factual person – Jesus.
- It is the truth, from God and can be trusted – “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). There are many messages and ideas that can be called true, but only God’s Word can be called truth. Satan is the liar; to believe his lies is to be led astray into death (John 8:44). Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6); when we trust Him, we experience life. Men have tried to destroy God’s truth, but they have failed. The Word of truth still stands as a testimony that “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Have a look at (Deut 8:3).
“In all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing,” is Paul imagining the future? After all it was Paul who wrote “God wants all men to be saved.” The Word of God is the only seed that can be planted anywhere in the world and bear fruit.
Two words in the Christian vocabulary are often confused: grace and mercy. God in His grace gives me what I do not deserve. Yet God in His mercy does not give me what I do deserve. Grace is God’s favor shown to undeserving sinners. The reason the Gospel is good news is because of grace: God is willing and able to save all who will trust Jesus Christ.
If ever there was a “worldly wise man” John Selden (1584–1654) was a leading historian and legal authority in England. He had a library of 8,000 volumes and was recognized for his learning. When he was dying, he said to Archbishop Ussher: “I have surveyed most of the learning that is among the sons of men, and my study is filled with books and manuscripts on various subjects. But at present, I cannot recollect any passage out of all my books and papers whereon I can rest my soul, save this from the sacred Scriptures: ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men’ (Titus 2:11).
“Just as you learned it from Epaphras.” This Epaphras was a Godley leader in the church at Colossae. By Paul’s words we know that he was a discipler of men. He didn’t church plant then rack off. His interest was in grounding believers in the faith so that their faith matured and so that they would grow. The word translated “learned” in verse 7 is related to the word disciple in the Greek language. It is the same word Jesus used: “Learn of Me” (Matt 11:29) so in a sense the Lord was saying “Become My disciple.”
The gospel seed, which bears fruit in individual believers and grows all over the world, just like Paul is saying must be planted. Wouldn’t it follow then that God’s plan is that those of us who have received the seed are to plant the seed. That’s what Epaphras did for the Colossians. The gospel came to them when they “learned it from Epaphras.” The most significant day in the history of Colosse was not the day Xerxes rested in the city on his march against Greece, nor was it the day Cyrus marched his Greek army through the city.
No, the most significant day in the history of Colosse was the day Epaphras came to town and planted the seed of the gospel. No banners unfurled in the wind, nor did trumpets blare in the breeze; but lives were changed and destinies were eternally altered when the gospel was planted. Epaphras came to Paul in prison with a good report on the spiritual progress of the Colossian believers. Part of that report was their love in the Spirit, which refers to the love that is produced by the enabling of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22).
Once again Paul faithfully reassures the Colossians that much prayer is being given on their behalf as in verse 4. The “Love which you have for all the saints,” can only come through “Your love in the Spirit.”
I don’t know what you guys would want as a continuing prayer but I couldn’t think of anything better than to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And to live in a way that is pleasing to others. Some may think that this knowledge is manmade or some kind of intellectual phenomenon.
True knowledge or the truth can only come through a right relationship with Jesus and the Word and it starts in the OT, (Prov 1:7, Ps 111:10, Prov 9:10).
- Right relationship à right knowledge à right behaviour.
If there is such a thing as spiritual intelligence (and I believe there is) then that would be the desire of my heart. So, what do I mean by this?
- What would be the desire of your heart?
- Are there any dangers to spiritual intelligence Vs worldly intelligence?
Paul stressed how important it is for all believers to be filled with the knowledge of His will. Every believer needs to have “the knowledge of His will.” The Greek word translated “knowledge” in this verse carries the meaning of “full knowledge.” There is always more to learn about God and what He has in store for our lives, and that takes trust. No born again believer would ever dare to say that he had “arrived” and needed to learn nothing more. Like the college freshman who handed in a ten-page report on “The History of the Universe,” that Christian would only declare his ignorance.
The will of God or knowing what God wants is important for us to live a Christlike life.
- The question is does God want us to know His will (Acts 22:14) and understand it (Eph. 5:17). God is not a distant dictator who issues orders and never explains. Because we are the Lords friends, can we know what He is doing and why He is doing it (John 15:13–15).
- Is there a general will of God? If so, is there a specific will of God?
But how does this take place? How can believers grow in the full knowledge of God’s will? Paul’s closing words of Colossians 1:9 tell us: “By means of all wisdom and spiritual insight” (literal translation). We understand the will of God through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit teaches us as we submit to Him (John 14:26; 16:13). As we pray and sincerely seek God’s truth, He gives us through the Spirit the wisdom and insight that we need (Eph. 1:17).
The general will of God for all His children is given clearly in the Bible. The specific will of God for any given situation must always agree with what He has already revealed in His Word. The better we know God’s general will, the easier it will be to determine His specific guidance in daily life. Paul did not encourage the Colossians to seek visions or wait for voices. He prayed that they might get deeper into God’s Word and thus have greater wisdom and insight concerning God’s will. He wanted them to have “all wisdom”—not that they would know everything, but that they would have all the wisdom necessary for making decisions and living to please God.
“That you may be filled.” The word filled is a key word in Colossians. It was also a key word in the teachings of the false teachers who had invaded the Colossian church. Paul used it many times (see Col. 1:19, 25; 2:2, 9–10; 4:12, 17 [complete = “filled full”]). The word carries the idea of being fully equipped. It was used to describe a ship that was ready for a voyage. The believer has in Christ all that he needs for the voyage of life. “And you are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). “And of His fullness have all we received” (John 1:16).
As we study His Word and pray, we discover new and exciting truths about God’s will for His people.
Like scripture says “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (1 Cor 8:1). However, and it’s truth in both cases (Prov 18:15) says “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
So, what do we make of these two verses? One verse says knowledge puffs up and the other says knowledge is something to behold. There’s a saying “Knowledge is power,” is that the kind of knowledge Corinthians is talking about?
James explains this paradox in the epistle of James when he talks about knowing/knowledge and not doing something with it versus knowing/knowledge and doing something about it.
So after verse 9 talks about being filled with knowledge, all wisdom and understanding (and that’s all packed into faith), verse 10 indicates that something must be done about it “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.” Paul had to implore the Ephesians in (Eph 4:1). Paul also said in (Eph 5:10) that its all a learning experience, we need to keep on learning! “…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Believers please God when they are bearing fruit in every good work. Good works are not a means to achieve salvation, but a natural result of it. Good works in the life of the believer please God because good works are God’s plan for the believer (Eph. 2:8–10).
God is pleased when believers are growing in the knowledge of God. The more we know of God’s character, his ways, and his expectations, the more we are able to bring our lives into conformity with what pleases him. One scholar said it this way “The end of all knowledge is conduct.” Because, as Archibald Robinson said about this quote “This is the way for fruit bearing and growth to come.”
After all, our purpose in life is not to please ourselves, but to please the Lord. We should walk worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1) and worthy of the Gospel (Phil 1:27), which means we will walk worthy of God (1 Thes 2:12). All up, we should walk to please God (1 Thes 4:1).
We don’t who work for God, God works in us to produce the fruit of His grace (Phil 2:12–13). The work that we do is the outward sign of the life that we live. Its only by abiding in Christ that we can produce this kind of fruit (John 15:1ff).
Following on directly from verse 9 and 10, the Word says “… Strengthened with all power.” Cross referencing that with (1 Cor 16:13) “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” which is addressed to men only and is a similar word in the Greek meaning enable, be strong, the strength to endure, strength to persevere, strength to be patient.
- (Eph 3:16) “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,”
- (Eph 6:10) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
“According to His glorious might.” Sometimes I forget that God is all powerful, a worrier, just and holy. We aren’t balanced enough to go it alone, that’s why we rely on God’s “glorious might.” We usually think of God’s glorious power being revealed in great feats like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, or David leading a victorious army, or Paul raising the dead. But the emphasis here is on Christian character: patience, long-suffering, joyfulness, and thanksgiving. The inner victories of the soul are just as great, if not greater, than the public victories recorded in the annals of history. For David to control his temper when he was being maligned by Shimei was a greater victory than his slaying of Goliath (2 Sam. 16:5–13). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).
“for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” In other words, conduct. Knowledge V9, conduct V10, service and character V4-5. We need to know God’s will in order to obey it. It follows then that by obeying it, we serve Him and grow in Christian character.
- Why steadfastness and patience? (Rom 5:3-4). I think steadfastness and patience in light of what James says in (James 1:2-4) “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Always “giving thanks to the Father” (Phil 4:6-7, Ps 107:1-3, Col 3:17, 1 Thess 5:16-18). This epistle is filled with thanksgiving. Paul gave thanks for the church in Colossae (Col. 1:3), and he prayed that they might grow in their own thanksgiving to God (Col. 1:12). The Christian life should abound with thanksgiving (Col. 2:7). One of the evidences of spiritual growth in our Bible study is thanksgiving (Col. 3:15–17). Our prayers should always include thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). The Christian who is filled with the Spirit, filled with the Word, and watching in prayer will prove it by his attitude of appreciation and thanksgiving to God.
We know what our inheritance is, I just want to read one of the most illuminating and encouraging verses in line with this (Eph 1:13-14) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
But this word “Light” what does it mean?
The cross-reference is a statement from the Lord (Acts 26:18) “…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” The word “light” (phos in the Greek) is where we get our English word phosphorus. The Vines Expository Dictionary defines light as Man, naturally, is incapable of receiving spiritual light inasmuch as he lacks the capacity for spiritual things, 1 Cor. 2:14. Hence believers are called ‘sons of light,’ Luke 16:8, not merely because they have received a revelation from God, but because in the New Birth they have received the spiritual capacity for it.
“Apart from natural phenomena, light is used in Scripture of (a) the glory of God’s dwelling place, 1 Tim. 6:16; (b) the nature of God, 1 John 1:5; (c) the impartiality of God, Jas. 1:17; (d) the favour of God, Ps. 4:6; of the King, Prov. 16:15; of an influential man, Job 29:24; (e) God, as the illuminator of His people, Isa. 60:19, 20; (f) the Lord Jesus as the illuminator of men, John 1:4, 5, 9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 36, 46; Acts 13:47; (g) the illuminating power of the Scriptures, Ps. 119:105; and of the judgments and commandments of God, Isa. 51:4; Prov. 6:23, cf. Ps. 43:3; (h) the guidance of God Job 29:3; Ps. 112:4; Isa. 58:10; and, ironically, of the guidance of man, Rom. 2:19; (i) salvation, 1 Pet. 2:9; (j) righteousness, Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 11:14, 15; 1 John 2:9, 10; (k) witness for God, Matt. 5:14, 16; John 5:35; (1) prosperity and general well-being, Esth. 8:16; Job 18:18; Isa. 58:8–10.”
Qualifying verse 12, “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness.” That word “domain” literally means authority. The authority darkness had over us or the authority that death had over us or both. It took the Lord Jesus to break that authority by taking the keys of death and hades (Rev 1:18). When we say “took the keys,” it wasn’t a literal bunch of keys, the Lord is never described as having a bunch of keys rattling on His belt. To my mind, He redeemed the authority that was given to Satan and abolished the curse of death for those who believe. In other words He delivered us.
He also “transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” this word “transferred NASB,” “conveyed NKJV,” “translated AV 1873 and KJV 1900.” Whichever word you want to use was used to describe the deportation of a population from one country into another. History records that Antiochus the Great transported around 2000 Jews from Babylonia to Colossae. Obviously when the Lord delivered us He never left us in that position, you know, to wander about scratching our heads. He translated us from one kingdom to a far better one.
“Of His beloved Son,” literally means “The Son of His love,” (Eph 1:6) says “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” We may compare his language in (1 Cor 15:24), where Christ, after reigning until all things are put under His feet, delivers up the kingdom “to God the Father”; Christ’s mediatorial sovereignty then gives place to the eternal dominion of God.
Knowing that we are forgiven makes it possible for us to fellowship with God and each other, Forgiveness was never given for us to please ourselves but to love the Lord and the power to live in obedience. And, because we have been forgiven, we can forgive others (Col. 3:13). “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant makes it clear that an unforgiving spirit always leads to bondage (Matt. 18:21–35).
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” What does He mean by “image” The Greek word is (eikon) actually meaning “an image” The VED says (The word involves the two ideas of representation and manifestation. “The idea of perfection does not lie in the word itself, but must be sought from the context” (Lightfoot);
Now that’s a good point, when the Lord was with his disciples in the courtyard watching people giving money to Ceasar He was asked a question, so He said “whose likeness and inscription is this?” If you have ever seen a Roman coin you’ll notice that the image is just a rough representation of the reigning king. Now in context as (J. B. Lightfoot is saying) there is an amazing passage in (John 14:7-15 read) in relation to this reference of image in Colossians.
Vines goes on to say “the following instances clearly show any distinction between the imperfect and the perfect likeness, as does the coin I just mentioned.
The word is used (1) of an “image” or a coin (not a mere likeness), Matt. 22:20; Mark 12:16; Luke 20:24; so of a statue or similar representation (more than a resemblance), Rom. 1:23; Rev. 13:14, 15 (thrice); 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4; of the descendants of Adam as bearing his image, 1 Cor. 15:49, each a representation derived from the prototype; (2) of subjects relative to things spiritual, Heb. 10:1, negatively of the Law as having “a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things,” i.e., not the essential and substantial form of them; the contrast has been likened to the difference between a statue and the shadow cast by it; (3) of the relations between God the Father, Christ, and man, (a) of man as he was created as being a visible representation of God, 1 Cor. 11:7, a being corresponding to the original; the condition of man as a fallen creature has not entirely effaced the “image”; he is still suitable to bear responsibility, he still has Godlike qualities, such as love of goodness and beauty, none of which are found in a mere animal; in the Fall man ceased to be a perfect vehicle for the representation of God; God’s grace in Christ will yet accomplish more than what Adam lost).
If that hasn’t convinced you then (John 1:1) should, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Also (Heb 1:3). Is all this about the invisible now the visible?
“The firstborn of all creation.” (Rom 8:29) says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” What do you make of this verse?
There is so much doctrine and theology connected with just this one verse that you could hold an all day lecture on it, containing:
- The glory of God in Christ.
- The pre-existing Christ.
- Man and the image of God.
- Facts that are undeniable regarding eternity.
Verses 15-17 should be read as one sentence, because it’s the (John 1:1-4) truth. “For by Him all things were created,” (Eph 1:10) among other things, contains the “End Game” for humanity including all created things, “ Ephesians chapter one is often called “The Blessings of Redemption” and verses 9-10 explains in part what the “End Game” is about. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which “He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him.” Christ, then, is before all creation and, as the firstborn of God, is heir to it all. So, if we are in Christ, what then follows?
Another point, (Eph 6:12) says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So, in this context what does this actually mean for us? “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isa 41:10). If we are redeemed by Christ, nothing in this universe has holds any terror for us because we know that our Redeemer is also Creator, ruler and goal or “end game” of all.
Verse 17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Prov 8:22-36 read) has something incredible to say about this little verse not to mention (Heb 1:2, 10:5ff), (John 1:1, 8:58), (Rev 1:17, 2:8, 22:13).
The teaching of vv. 15 and 16 comes together in verse 17 “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”, (Gen 1:1) but in that beginning, says John, which was the beginning of all created beings, the Divine Logos already existed (John 1:1). No matter how far back we may press in our imagination, we can never reach a point of which we may say, “There was a time when He was not.”Because He is “before all things.”
As for the statement that all things hold together or bind in Him, this adds something to what has been said before about His agency in creation. He maintains in being what He has brought into being. Similarly, in Heb. 1:2f. the Son of God is not only the One through whom the worlds were made but also the One who maintains them in being by His almighty and enabling word. He is not only the sustainer of the universe, meaning inanimate creation, but also He’s the giver, sustainer and finisher of life.
“He is also head of the body.” Not only is He the firstborn, not only has all things been created by Him, through Him and for Him, not only does He hold all things together, but the title “Head of all” gives our Lord as scripture says “authority over all things, the final authority that is,” in other words “the author and finisher of our faith.” (Eph 1:22-23) says “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
“The church,” of course is His body. How it should work together is outlined in (1 Cor 12:15-26) and (Col 2:19).
“He is the beginning.” Jesus is many things for example, the very origin, absolutely the beginning of all things, of God as the Eternal, the First Cause, (Rev 21:6) He is the bookends of all creation, similarly, of Christ, Rev 22:13; of Christ as the uncreated principle, the active cause of creation, Rev 3:14; in his relation to the Church, Col 1:18.
“The firstborn from the dead.” In relation to His resurrection, being the first to be resurrected so that we can understand and follow after Him. Otherwise we wouldn’t know what Thessalonians is talking about.
According to (Acts 26:23) “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” I tend to think that the Lord was the first to start the ball rolling for us in terms of suffering, proclaiming and being resurrected.
No denomination or local assembly can claim to be “the body of Christ,” for that body is composed of all true believers. When a person trusts Christ, he is immediately baptized by the Holy Spirit into this body (1 Cor. 12:12–13). The baptism of the Spirit is not a post conversion experience—for it occurs the instant a person believes in Jesus Christ.
Likewise, no believer or unbeliever on earth is the head of the church. This position is reserved exclusively for Jesus Christ. Various religious leaders may have founded churches, or denominations; but only Jesus Christ is the Founder of the church which is His body. This church is composed of all true believers, and it was born at Pentecost. It was then that the Holy Spirit came and baptized the believers into one spiritual body.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, and the Beginning of the church; and He is also the Firstborn from the dead. We saw this word firstborn in Colossians 1:15. Paul did not say that Jesus was the first person to be raised from the dead, for He was not. But He is the most important of all who have been raised from the dead; for without His resurrection, there could be no resurrection for others (1 Cor. 15:20ff).
It seems odd that Paul used the word born in connection with death, for the two concepts seem opposed to each other. But the tomb was a womb from which Christ came forth in victory, for death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24). The Son was begotten in resurrection glory (Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33).
One word may not seem to hold a lot of power. However, one word can make or break a moment, it can change the trajectory of a situation, one word can make a difference in defining God. I once was at a conference where we were discussing different religions around the world. Something that many Christians may not realize is that the Muslim Qur’an uses the word beget in the exact opposite way of the Bible. Qur’an 112.3 says, “He begets not, nor was He begotten.” This is the exact opposite of what God has told us in (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What is the meaning of begotten?
Monogenes is the Greek work for “only begotten.” Monogenes is a compound word. Monos means “only” and kenos means “kind of race.” When the two are put together the word means, ‘only kind’ or ‘unique.’ “That is, Jesus is the only begotten Son. We have now studied three arguments for the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ: He is the Saviour, He is the Creator, and He is the Head of the church. These arguments that Paul is presenting shows the Lord’s relationship with lost sinners, with the universe, and with believers. But what about His relationship with God the Father?
“It was the Father’s good pleasure.” (Eph 1:15) tells us “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,”
“For all the fullness to dwell in Him.” The word “fullness” in the Greek is (pleroma) meaning (the sum total of all divine attributes and power), and the word “dwell” means (to be at home permanently), but it doesn’t stop there, (John 1:16) points out that not only has Jesus been given the fullness from the Father but we have received the fullness from the Lord “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”
The Father would not permanently give His fullness to some created being. The fact that it “pleased the Father” to have His fullness in Christ is proof that Jesus Christ is God. “And of His [Christ’s] fullness have all we received” (John 1:16). “For in Him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
Verse 20a verifies what John says “and through Him to reconcile (meaning completely reunited after being lost for so long) all things to Himself.”
- Can we receive fullness without being reconciled?
- So, what’s the purpose of being reconciled and dwelling in fullness etc?
Because Jesus Christ is God, He is able to do what no mere man could ever do: reconcile lost sinners to a holy God. When the first man and woman sinned, they declared war on God; but God did not declare war on them. Instead, God sought Adam and Eve; and He provided a covering for their sins. The natural mind of the unsaved sinner is at war with God (Rom. 8:7). The sinner may be sincere, religious, and even moral; but he is still at war with God.
(2 Cor 5:18) says “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,” what’s the root cause of reconciliation? (Eph 2:16) says “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
- In the end, is everything about the Father?
- Did Jesus ever say He did stuff to please Himself?
- I am the way, the truth and the life etc.
- In my Father’s house etc?
How can a holy God ever be reconciled with sinful man? (John 3:16).
Can God lower His standards, close His eyes to sin, or compromise? (Mal 3:6). If He did, the universe would be in a mess. In our way of thinking we know God must be consistent with Himself in other words He must maintain His standards, as if God needs to do that. For you Oh Lord are a Holy God, a Righteous Judge and a Loving Father and that is the standard that never changes, (Num 23:19, James 1:17, Heb 13:8, 2 Tim 2:13) as for the Word of God (Ps 119:89).
By our very nature, we were separated or alienated from God as verse 21 says. The sinner is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1ff), meaning there’s not a thing we can do to save ourselves or to please God (Rom. 8:8).
If there is to be reconciliation between man and God, the initiative and action must come from God. It is in Christ that God was reconciled to man (2 Cor. 5:19).
- How did reconciliation happen?
- Was it the fact that He embodied God in the flesh?
- Was it His example to us?
No, It was through His blood in other words His death that peace was made between God and man. He “made peace through the blood of His cross” verse 20.
“Having made peace.” Peace after reconciliation that is, and again according to (Rom 5:1) without Christ we could never enter into God’s rest “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Warren Wiersbe told the story of a man who came to see him because he had difficulties at home. He was not a very well-educated man and sometimes got his words confused. He told me that he and his wife were having “martial problems” when he meant to say “marital problems.” (Later I found out that they really were “at war” with each other, so maybe he was right after all!) But the word that caught my attention was in this sentence: “Pastor, me and my wife need a recancellation.”
He meant to say reconciliation, but the word recancellation was not a bad choice. There can be peace and a reunion of those who are at war only when sin has been cancelled. As sinners before a righteous God, we need a “recancellation.” Our sins were cancelled on the cross.
God is pleased when His Son, Jesus Christ, is honoured and given pre-eminence. There are people who tell us they are Christians, but they ignore or deny Jesus Christ. “We worship the Father,” they tell us, “and that is all that is necessary.”
But Jesus made it clear that the Son is to be worshiped as well as the Father “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him” (John 5:23–24).
The late Dr. M.R. DeHaan, noted radio Bible teacher, told about a preacher who was confronted by a cultist who rejected the deity of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus cannot be the eternal Son of God, for a father is always older than his son,” the man argued. “If the Father is not eternal, then He is not God. If Jesus is His Son, then He is not eternal.”
The preacher was ready with an answer. “The thing that makes a person a father is having a son. But if God is the eternal Father, then He must have an eternal Son! This means that Jesus Christ is eternal—and that He is God!”
Jesus Christ is the Saviour, the Creator, the Head of the church, and the Beloved of the Father. He is eternal God … and in Our lives He deserves to have the pre-eminence.
“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,” You being Jews and Gentiles, remembering that there were only two classes of people in the known world, Jews and non-Jews (Eph 2:3) “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” The Jews were given a covenanted promise but it doesn’t mean they accepted it in it’s proper context of course. You know that saying “you are what you eat” well you could apply that to verse 21. You were alienated and hostile in mind, why?, because you engaged in evil deeds.
- If you are not in Christ then you are in Satan, in other words his power and dominion, as (read 1 John 3:1-10) confirms.
The process of Reconciliation formally began as a result of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991. The government formed the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, setting a 10 year timeframe to advance a national process of reconciliation. The basic definition of this kind of reconciliation is:
- Becoming friendly again.
- To bring together Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians.
- To promote elements of truth, justice, forgiveness, healing, reparation, and love.
- To work to overcome division.
- To address the differences in health, income, living standards and life expectancy, but also prejudice and racism.
I’m saying all this because all this is impossible, just like it’s impossible to reconcile man to God. For all of this to take place one must be willing to submit and gratefully accept all terms and conditions.
Paul used the analogy of jews and Gentiles because it was the foremost barrier in the then known world. When Jews and Gentiles are both reconciled to God in Christ, they are by that very fact reconciled to one another. (read Eph 2:14-16). Paul emphasized the physical body of Jesus Christ that was nailed to the cross. The false teachers denied the Incarnation and taught that Jesus Christ did not have a real human body. Their philosophy that all matter was evil made it necessary for them to draw this false conclusion. But the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus did have a fully human body, and that He bore our sins on that body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
One of the most important things in our Christian lives is not how we look at ourselves, or how others see us, yes we have to examine ourselves and yes others may or may not see us as hypocrites (1 Cor 4:1–4) but how we are seen in God’s sight.
Paul said in verse 22 that the work Jesus did was to present us holy, blameless and beyond reproach.
- Are we holy?
- Are we blameless?
- Are we above reproach?
In verse 23, is Paul saying that there is a condition to all of this, or is he referring to something future?
“The hope of the Gospel” What is the “hope of the gospel?” does it mean that blessed hope of our Lord’s return (Titus 2:13), “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”
Paul’s already mentioned this hope, “The hope which is laid up for you in heaven” verse 5 and 27. There was a time when these Gentile Colossians and us were without hope (Eph 2:12), “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” We were all separated because we were without God. But when we were reconciled to God, we were given a wonderful hope not only of glory but in glory.
All of God’s children will one day be with Christ in heaven (John 17:24), “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
In fact, so secure is our future that Paul stated that we have already been glorified! (Rom 8:30), “and these whom He predestined, He also called, and these whom He called, He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” All we are waiting for is the revelation of this glory when Jesus Christ returns (Rom. 8:17–19).
Getting back to verse 23 is Paul casting some sort of doubt on our future glory? Is it possible for a believer to lose his salvation? No, the if clause does not suggest doubt or lay down a condition by which we “keep up our salvation.” “If” is a general assumption.
Maybe Paula was using an analogy of a house, firmly set on the foundation. Because the town of Colossae was located in a region known for earthquakes. Maybe Paul was saying, “If you are truly saved, and built on the solid foundation, Jesus Christ, then you will continue in the faith and nothing will move you not even an earthquake. You have heard the Gospel and trusted Jesus Christ, and He has saved you.”
In other words, we are not saved by continuing in the faith, but we continue in the faith because we’re saved. Each professing Christian is to test their own faith and examine their own hearts to be sure he is a child of God (2 Cor 13:5) “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail the test?” and (2 Peter 1:10-21 read).
“In all creation under heaven.” Was Paul rightfully assuming what (Mark 16:15) said, when the Lord said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” I think Paul was obviously meaning the known world then but I can’t help thinking he was also considering the future, (Acts 2:5) says “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.” Also confer to verse 6 in this chapter.
- How much of the world was actually known in the Lord’s time on Earth?
This is one of those verses where you can make anything you want of it, the Roman Catholic Church has. Read some of the tenets of the council of Trent 1546.
The Geneva Bible has a better translation: “Now rejoice I in my sufferings for you, and fulfil the rest of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his bodies sake, which is the Church.”
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings.” Paul’s enemies made much of the fact that the great apostle was a prisoner of Rome. The false teachers in Colossae probably ridiculed Paul and used this as a weapon to fight the truth of the Gospel. But Paul turned this weapon around and used it to defeat his enemies and to build a closer relationship with the church in Colossae.
“Instead of being ashamed of my suffering, I am rejoicing in it!” How could anyone rejoice in suffering? To begin with, Paul was suffering because of Jesus Christ. It was “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Like the early Apostles, Paul rejoiced that he was “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). A Christian should never suffer “as a thief or as an evildoer”; but it is an honor to “suffer as a Christian” (1 Peter 4:15–16). There is a special blessing and reward reserved for the faithful believer who suffers for the sake of Christ (Matt. 5:10–12). 1.2 million Armenians 1915, Turks, Islam.
Charlie Garrett once said, “There’s no shame in suffering if there is coming glory which that suffering leads to.”
“filling up in his turn the leftover parts of Christ’s sufferings” The word afflictions refers to the “pressures” of life, the persecutions Paul endured. This word is never used in the New Testament for the sacrificial sufferings of Jesus Christ. Once again I think (Phil 3:10) sums it up, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” I do my share on behalf of His body which is the church, says Paul. For he realized that by bearing hardship on behalf of the people of Christ, he was entering into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings—a fellowship which, as he told his friends at Philippi, he desired to know more fully. “In my own person”,he says, “I am filling upthose afflictions of Christ which have yet to be endured on behalf of His body, the church.”
Think about it, all sufferings don’t add to the atonement that Christ gave us, it’s the sufferings of the church when we bring the Word of God to the world or anything connected to that.
“of this church,” out of the seven translations I’ve got up on screen, the NASB is the only one with this beginning phrase. Verse 25 “I was made a minister” resuming immediately from verse 23.
“according to the stewardship from God” Paul, to my way of thinking was made a steward of the Gentiles (Eph 3:2), likewise Peter to the Jews.
“so that I might” the literal translation is “to make full the Word of God.” Paul is not meaning that he needs to add or take away from scripture but to give a fuller explanation, as a preacher, of salvation for example. I wonder if we ever think about the fact that Paul is addressing us literally given what he said in verse 23. If Paul hasn’t convinced you then maybe God will (read Acts 13:47 and then Isa 49:6). In other words the Servant’s mission, meaning us, of giving the gospel among the nations is the responsibility of the disciples of Christ, and on top of all that the Servant’s sufferings are also to be carried on by the disciples of Christ.
“(that is) the mystery” What is this mystery Paul’s referring to? It comes in the next verse, the idea that salvation has not only come to the Jews but also the Gentiles. This was a mystery because as far as Israel were concerned salvation was not coming to the Gentiles, even though Isaiah speaks exclusively about Israel being a light to the Nations (Isa 49:6). For us today, a mystery is and Agatha Christie novel or something spooky but this wasn’t what Paul was meaning. False teachers even used this word to describe the inner secrets of their religions. A mystery in Paul’s day was a “sacred secret,” hidden in the past and now revealed by the Holy Spirit (read Eph 3:1–13).
We know God called the nation of Israel to be His people. He gave them His Law (including the priesthood and sacrifices), and He gave them a wonderful land. He promised them a King who would one day establish a glorious kingdom and fulfill the many promises made to Abraham and David. The Old Testament prophets wrote about a Messiah who would suffer, and a Messiah who would reign. They could not explain the seeming contradiction (read 1 Peter 1:9–12). They did not understand that the Messiah first had to suffer before He could enter into glory (read Luke 24:13–27).
A lot of things can be missed when we pick and choose what we want to believe from the Word of God. Then there’s other factors that cause us to miss what the Lord is saying, pain, tiredness, just a general lack of understanding, preconceived ideas etc. Take Peter for example, it took Peter some time to actually recognise that salvation has come to the Gentiles, (read Acts 10:9-23).
Here’s an example of a mystery that to us of course is obvious, but to the Jews it was either an anathema or mystery, you decide; (John 5:38-39 “He is saying that the words you are reading testify of me, then John 5:44-47)”
“Which has been hidden from the (past) ages and generations.” Time and space.
“But has now been manifested (to make visible, clear, known) to His saints.” How is this made possible? What did the Lord say in (Matt 13:11)?
“To whom (the saints) God willed.” Everything that has to do with redemption is God’s will which He knew before time (Rev 13:8) “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
“What is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.”
“To whom God willed to make known.” In other words God finally revealed what the OT prophets couldn’t reconcile, because it was hidden (1 Peter 1:9-12).
“Which is Christ in you.” (Eph 2:8-9). And now we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20).
“The hope of glory.” Jesus is our victory for He was glorified and so are we, but not yet. (Rom 8:28-30) ”And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
“We proclaim Him.” Paul not only preached (the word means “to announce with authority as a herald”), but he also warned. While it is good to proclaim positive truth, it is also necessary to warn God’s people against the lies of the insidious enemy (Acts 20:31). In fact, God’s people should be alert to warn one another like it says in (Col. 3:16). I think Paul considered himself a kind of spiritual father to the local churches, and it was his duty to warn his children (1 Cor. 4:14).
But Paul was also a teacher of the truth. It’s probably not enough to warn people, surely we have to teach them the truths of God’s Word. How far would we get in our travels if the highway signs told us where the roads were not going? Not very far! It is good to bring someone to Christ and obviously important to teach that convert the basic truths of the Christian life. As they start maturing, then to warn him about the dangers ahead.
“Admonishing every man.” instruct, teach on proper behaviour and belief, warn, advise on the consequences of a wrong action.
“And teaching every man in all wisdom.” Like we saw before, Paul not only preached Christ, he also “taught Christ,” for in Christ are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). It was not necessary to introduce any new teaching, for all that a believer needs to know is related to Jesus Christ (Gal 1:8, 2 Cor 11:4). “Teaching every man in all wisdom” was Paul’s concern (Col. 1:28). Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. False teachers then, like today, promised to give people a “hidden wisdom” that would make them “spiritually elite.” But all true spiritual wisdom is found only in Jesus Christ, nothing more, nothing less.
“So that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Remember in verse 22 “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach, that is a done deal. But there is still a process we have to through, so when Paul says “complete” he is meaning firstly that we have been inducted into the believing community and secondly, brought to maturity. This idea is based around the Greek word (teleios). He wanted to present every believer “perfect in Christ Jesus.” The word perfect was a favourite word with the gnostic teachers. It described the disciple who was no longer a novice, but who had matured and was fully instructed in the secrets of the religion. Paul used it to mean “complete, mature in Christ.” This is the goal of all preaching, warning, and teaching.
What’s the evidence of this spiritual maturity, how do we recognize it, how do we gauge it, ? Paul described them next (Col. 2:2).
“For this purpose also I labour, striving.” The literal meaning is “For this I labour to the point of exhaustion, agonizing.” So with what do we equate the word labour and Paul? One thing I equate with Paul is his incredible prayer life, prayer and fasting.
“striving according to His power (working).” “Striving” (Gr agonizomai, meaning strive to do with intensity and effort as in athletic games or warfare). “According to His power,” there is plenty we can do in our own strength, just look around you, and we can appreciate what man has achieved. Little does he know that all those skills and abilities have been bestowed by God, but these are only temporal benefits.
It’s only when we have come to the full realization that firstly “you can do nothing without me” nothing meaning anything that has any lasting or intrinsic value. Secondly we need the power of God to overcome our old nature and to fulfill our calling, (2 Tim 1:12) “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
“Which mightily (lit, in power) works within me.” What power is he talking about?
- (Eph 1:19) says “and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.”
- (2 Tim 1:7) “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
All of us are not called to be apostles, but each one of us does have a God-given ministry. We can share the Gospel and be soul-winners (evangelists). We can suffer for Christ, we can strive in prayer like prayer warriors do) for God’s people and encourage them to mature. Paul took time to minister to individuals. Have a look at verse 28 again note the repetition of “every man” in Colossians 1:28. If we minister to only a few believers, we are helping the whole church. Each one of us has a God given ministry, we just have to ask ourselves are we fulfilling it?