Bro. Caleb Taft
Knowing our King | Colossians Overview
Introduction to the Book of Colossians
The Book of Colossians, like every other book of the Bible, is one whose content matter is totally applicable today. It is amazing to me as you begin to dig into the scriptures and even the history surrounding the issues of the people, places, and things to which the scripture was addressing at the time of its inspiration, you find that the very same people, places, and things that were an issue then are still an issue now. I Personally believe that as God was setting forth his word that the problems and matters dealt with in the scriptures were providentially guided by God and that God was allowing those believers and churches to face timeless problems, that would affect his people and his churches throughout history. We owe quit a lot to these small, troubled congregations, their experiences, encouragements, admonitions, and examples have been set forth in the Word of God as a guide for the church in that age and in this age. As Paul commanded that this Epistle be read also in the church of Laodicea [Col 4:16], so also is it being read in Churches in America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and all over the world from that time until the present. These letters have been being read to, and ministering to His people from the time of their inspiration until now, and because his Word is timeless, we should assume the issues being dealt with are timeless and not outdated and confined to the day and age in which the letter was written.
The People of this Letter
The Book is named Colossians because it was written to a group of believers that lived in the city of Colossae. The Author is the Holy Ghost by the heart of Paul and possibly by the hand of Tychicus. By that I mean, Paul may have dictated what was to be written and Tychicus was the one who penned it down, or Paul himself could have penned it down. There are so many personal names mentioned in this book, especially in chapter four. The names mentioned carry with them an amazing story within themselves, and when a cross reference is done, you will see how influential these people were for the gospel ministry. The two that we must make mention in the introduction of this book are Epaphras and Onesimus. These two were residents of Colossae.
Epaphras was the founder of this church and most likely the pastor, although a brother by the name of Archippus has been left in charge in Epaphras’s departure [Col 4:17]. Epaphras was most likely converted during Paul’s time at Ephesus in Acts 19. This is commonly believed because of the testimony of the work that took place during that time[ Act 19:10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks | Act 19:20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed..]and that Epaphras most certainly was from Asia minor. It is safely presumed that he was saved at Ephesus and took the gospel back to his home town, we know he was a Colossian because of how Paul addressed him in Chapter 4:12 “Epaphras, who is one of you.”
Onesimus was a runaway servant from this very Church. The book of Philemon is written concerning this man Onesimus. Philemon is a letter of good conduct and Paul’s approval of this man as a new born Christian and he should be accepted and forgiven of the wrong he had done to his master, Philemon. Philemon was one of the congregants and the hosted the Colossian church in his house [Philemon 1:2]. Onesimus had stolen from him, and ran away to Rome, where he meets Paul and is born again [Philemon 1:10]. These 2 letters give us a glimpse into the small church at Colossae and the people who made it up.
The Place of this Letter
This is one of Paul’s prison epistles, that means that this letter was written in Rome while Paul was being held captive by the Roman government. From the last chapter of Acts we learn that Paul is on house arrest with a personal guard but is allowed many visitors and for a period of 2 years many people come to him and hear the gospel. It is in this time, we believe, that Onesimus is saved and Epaphras comes all the way from Colossae to Rome to visit Paul in his imprisonment and to report to him of the faith and health of the Colossians Church. Paul writes this letter and sends it back to Colossae by the hand of Tychicus and Onesimus while, apparently Epaphras stays in Rome to ministry to Paul in his imprisonment [ Col 4:7-10, Col 4 :12-13]. It is evident that Paul had never met these people from the language he uses in chapter one and in the book of Philemon and from his remark in Chapter 2:1. He is addressing a small-town church from the metropolis of Rome. The two places and inhabitants could not be more different but the same God that is at work in Paul’s hired house in the city is at work in the house of Philemon in the Phrygian countryside. A proof that God is in the Big City Churches and in the small countryside churches, and his message is the same for both. There is no different method or message to be employed in either, but the Gospel that works at Rome works at Colossae.
The Problem of this Letter
From a careful reading through of this letter you will see that Paul is dealing with some issues that have arisen. That is why they say this is one of Paul’s Polemic letter’s, meaning he is dealing with a problem. Although he is much more gentle with this congregation than the others that required correction. The Galatians were called fools, The Corinthians were given a proper tongue lashing, so severe that in the second letter to Corinth he said that they should not “over sorrow.” His lightness is mostly likely due to the level of corruption that the Colossian church was in. It seems that the church had not been overrun with false teaching but was in danger and Paul’s letter is more of a preventive maintenance than a full break down. Which is a very practical lesson to pastors and leaders in the church. We would much rather do preventative maintenance week in and week out than to have to have a full break down every 2 years. The issue being addressed in this letter was the issue of philosophy intermingling with the gospel message and diluting the importance of Christ. In chapter 2:4 Paul gives us the purpose of his writing, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” Similar also in chapter 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” The word assigned to this philosophy is “Gnosticism.” What they believed is not as important as what is laid out in this letter to combat it. Your time would be much better spent investigating the truths laid out in this epistle than the lies laid out in the teaching of Gnosticism. The Gnostics were preaching another Jesus, they had prominent Jesus, that was important, but they did not have the Preeminent Jesus that is supreme and so it is with many Christians and churches in this day. A timeless problem throughout the history of the church in this Epistle is met with a timeless solution, the truth of God’s word.
The Purpose of this Letter
It is difficult and sometimes even damaging to try to assign a theme to a entire book of Scripture. We can begin to try to see the book through that lens instead of just letting it speak for itself. With that being said, the most prominent theme in this letter is the theme of Christs’ Supremacy. Keep in mind that the preeminence of Christ is that solution to the philosophy and enticing words of mans wisdom. How many theories of man have been hypothesized about the existence of man? In Christ we have the answer: Col 1:15-17 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 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: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
What about the questions and concerns of men concerning wisdom and knowledge? Shouldn’t we be concerned about wisdom and knowledge? Herein is the answer: Col 2:3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. A person could devote their life to the study of Christ and in Him you would find more wisdom and knowledge than all the libraires of past, present, and future could hold.
What about the spiritual world, which is something that people are particularly interested in today. Men are giving themselves to the study of spiritualism, in search of spiritual truth but “in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” [Col 2:9] In him dwells all the fulness of the “Father of spirits.”
Many are looking to fill the void in their heart, assuming that philosophy, wisdom, knowledge, spiritualism, and traditions of men are going to fill that void and complete them, but we are told where a man is completed: “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” [Colossians 2:10]. Dear reader, Jesus is the answer! Christ reigns supreme and the only hope of completion is in him! The Purpose of this epistle is to introduce us to the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Purpose is for us to get to know the preeminent Jesus, The one who “By all things consist” the one who is “The head of all principalities and powers,” the one who “delivered us from the power of darkness,” the one in whom we have “the redemption through his blood; even the forgiveness of sin,” the one who is “The image of the invisible God.” For this reason, we are naming our studies in the Book of Colossians “Knowing our King.” Bank tellers meet fake currency daily, but in their training, they never study fake currency, only legal tender notes. They become so familiar with the real thing that when a fake passes through their hand they know this is not legal tender. Our prayer for the Study of Colossians is for us to know the real Jesus, the Jesus of the scripture. That way, when the jesus of philosophy passes by we will know it is not our Jesus, when the prominent jesus of mysticism shows up we will know it is not our preeminent Jesus of the Scriptures. Examine The Preeminent Savior in this letter “lest any man beguile you with enticing words.”