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Overview of Earlier Colossian Bible Studies
Up to this point, we have studied all of Colossians 1 and the background of this letter through eight Bible studies. The first study taught us the background of the Colossians. In that study, we learned the Colossae Christians lived in a multi-cultural and multi-religion geographical region called Asia Minor. Different intellectual teachings abounded there. The one that affected the Colossians believers most was an early form of Gnosticism. This Gnosticism proclaimed advanced thought brought salvation. They considered Jesus Christ’s salvation as insufficient. (see Background of Paul's Letter to the Church at Colossae)
The second Bible study came from Colossians 1:1-2. In this study, Paul wrote who he and Timothy were and helped the Colossian Christians identify with them since these men had never personally met the Colossians. He stated his Jewish and Christian background and explained they both came from the same geographical region as the Colossians. By doing this, Paul would have more credibility, and the believers in Colossae would trust what he told them in his letter. (see Identification)
In Colossians 1:3-8, Paul began his prayer to God by thanking Him for the Colossian Christians’ growth in their faith and in their love for God and the saints. He thanked God that they bore fruit and matured, which showed their faith. Paul spoke of Epaphras, too, the founder of the churches in Colossae and Laodicea. He said Epaphras was a man they could trust because he discipled him. Paul said, Epaphras is like himself, a “beloved fellow bond-servant” of Christ. (see Thanksgiving in Colossians)
In his prayer, after he gave thanks for the Colossian church, Paul interceded for them. In Colossians 1:9-12, he asked God to grow them in Christ so they would be well-pleasing to Him. Paul asked they have the knowledge of God and that He would give them His strength, power, steadfastness, and patience. At the end of this prayer, he asked God to give the Colossian Christians a sense of thankfulness to Him, the One who qualified them to inherit eternal life with the saints and His Son. (see Glorious Might)
Colossians 1:13-14 is Paul’s explanation of who the Father is, the One to whom he alluded in verse twelve. This Father is the One who would give them the gifts for which Paul asked for the believers in Colossae. He rescued them from their sins and eternal death and transferred them into His Son’s kingdom. Verse fourteen is the segue to Paul’s Christology he would write in verses fifteen through twenty. (see Snatched and Delivered)
Colossians 1:15-20 records what Paul taught about Jesus, the Son of God. He said Jesus is the exact embodiment of God. The Son of God and God have the same mind. Paul wrote Jesus is preeminent over all creation and existed and created all things with the Father and Spirit out of nothing, ex nihilo. This meant angels, as created beings, are lower than the Son of God. His teaching went against the teaching of the Gnostics and others who proclaimed angels were greater than Jesus, whom they considered was just a man. The Gnostics did not consider Jesus equal to God because Jesus had a mortal body. Material things, to them, were worth nothing. Paul taught Jesus holds all things together and is the Head of the body, the Church. He taught the Father shared His “fullness,” His superabundance, with the Son. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, enabled reconciliation of people to the Father through His sinless life, death, and resurrection. By these, He redeems each person who trusts in Him from the power of sin and death. Jesus paid the sin penalty for each person with His death on a sinner’s cross. (see Superabundant Peace)
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:21-23 using a teaching and writing technique called conditional clauses. These “if-then” statements, protasis-apodosis statements, teach if something happens, then another thing will occur. Paul used this technique to teach if the Colossian Christians would believe in Jesus, He would save them from their sins and their just death penalty. Before this conditional clause, he reminded them of what they were before God rescued and transferred them to His Son’s kingdom. Paul told the Colossian church the Son redeems and reconciles them to God. Nothing else need happen for people to receive salvation from their sins and gain eternal life with God. The Gnostics taught otherwise. (see Attaining Hope)
With the conclusion of Colossians 1, Paul told, in verses twenty-four through twenty-nine, of his calling by Jesus and his stewardship of God upon which he felt compelled to proclaim. His calling was to serve Christ and His church by proclaiming clearly the Gospel. Within the act of clearly proclaiming, Paul said God told him to teach and admonish. He was to preach the “word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations.” The mystery that God hid until then is that Jesus made salvation available for each person, Jew and Greek, slave and free, men and woman. Paul explained the blessing of this mystery is salvation and the indwelling of each believer by Jesus’ Spirit, the hope of glory. Jesus Christ made all things, redeems those who trust in Him, and indwells each believer. Finally, Paul said in verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine, Jesus called him to admonish with God’s gentle persuasion. This persuasion would tell of His love for each person and the salvation Jesus offers. It would convince and convict each person to turn away from their sins and accept the salvation Jesus provides. By doing this, God rescues and transfers people who act upon the faith He gives. He transfers them to the kingdom of His Son by their trust in Jesus as their Savior for salvation. The Gnostics taught against this point. They strove to prove it to anyone who would listen to them about their philosophical thought on advanced religion. The Gnostics said Jesus was just a man and His death did not give salvation. Paul taught otherwise. (see God's Power and Gentle Persuasion)
Paul’s Pastoral Care of the Colossian Church
Paul had a pastoral care for the Christians in Colossae, though he had never met them. His concern came from the love which Jesus instilled in him. This love is for each person to become a Christian and grow in the full knowledge of God with His power, steadfastness, strength, and patience. Paul wanted these Christians to have the full knowledge of God so they could stand against heresies, thoughts, and beliefs that tried to convince them to abandon God. He struggled for them. This care of the Colossian Christians by Paul included rejoicing at the growth and stability in their faith in Christ. His own struggles and resultant rejoicing during and after the difficulties showed Paul’s pastoral care of the Colossian and Laodicean churches.
Struggling for the Church
“1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” (Colossians 2:1-4 [NASB])
Paul said he struggled on behalf of the churches at Colossae and Laodicea. He wanted them to be aware and understand well what he endured for them. This struggle is like his striving wrote about in Colossians 1:29. In Colossians 1:29, the striving connoted a striving or struggling like in an athletic contest or in warfare, battling difficulties and dangers. In Colossians 2:1, Paul’s struggle is his internal battle of wanting to be in Colossae to confront the heresy with them while he was in prison. It concerned Paul that the Colossian Christians could not fight the fallacies of the false teachers. As a teacher of the Gospel, Paul struggled and fought with them by writing the truths the Christians needed to know and remember to counter the heresies taught in these cities.
Paul’s concern for the Colossians is four-fold. His first concern was that, while they struggled and lived with these false teachers, their hearts would receive encouragement. Paul wanted these believers to experience comfort and strength because Jesus is their Savior. He wanted them to know and remember they have the hope of an eternal reward with Jesus in heaven. Paul wanted these Christians to remember to hold fast to the fact they do not combat life alone but are with other believers and God is with them.
Later, in verse two, Paul said he wanted them to remember Christ united them in love with other Christians. They did not live through hardships alone. The Christians had the love of Christ in them, knitting them into a oneness to help, encourage, and stand with each other. This love was not the phileo love of the Greeks. It was not love for mankind. This love Paul wrote about is God’s agape love. God’s character defines it. He is the fount of agape love.
Paul concerned himself with reminding the believers in Colossae and Laodicea that they “attain to all the wealth” that comes from being a believer in Jesus Christ. This wealth is like the “riches of God’s glory” in Colossians 1:27. Just as those riches, the wealth is the mystery of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Paul worked to make sure these believers remembered what they gained within themselves when they trusted in Jesus. This wealth of their faith, the saving knowledge of Jesus, comes from the full assurance of understanding. The full assurance is complete confidence and conviction of insight in the knowledge God gives about His mystery. Remember, God gives faith to people. People must act upon that faith, seek Him, and trust in Jesus for salvation to “attain all the wealth” that comes from God. Acting upon this faith results in a “true knowledge of God’s mystery,” in knowing Jesus Christ Himself (vs 2).
Paul, in his pastoral concern for the believers in Colossae and Laodicea, made sure they knew the mystery is true knowledge and wisdom found only in Christ. In Colossians 1:27, the mystery was Christ living in the Gentiles. In Colossians 2:3, Christ holds within Himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Again, Paul used the terms riches and wealth. The wisdom and knowledge of God are treasures and are in Christ. This countered what the Gnostics taught that the way to God and salvation is through philosophical thoughts. The only way to have the highest wisdom and knowledge, God’s wisdom and knowledge, is through Jesus Christ. The path is first to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, then get the knowledge hidden in Him. A person’s trying to get absolute knowledge first as the way to get salvation, as the Gnostics taught, is impossible. Included in the salvation Jesus Christ gives are all wisdom and knowledge, not just what a mortal being can conceive. It includes all the riches in God’s storehouses. Why content yourself with Gnostic teaching when you can go above and beyond that. God has superabundant knowledge and wisdom hidden in Jesus Christ, and when you accept Him as the Son of God and trust in Him for salvation, you have this wisdom and knowledge available to you.
The last struggle Paul mentions he has for the Christians in these two cities is to ensure the false teachers do not delude them by persuasive arguments but, instead stand firm in their conviction of salvation through Christ. He wrote to these people to make sure false teachers did not beguile them into trusting in a false teaching. The words “persuasive argument” come from the Greek word pithanologia, a speech made intending to persuade someone to one’s way of thinking. This way of speaking strives to gain an acolyte to one’s beliefs. Contrary to that is God’s gentle persuasion to lead people to truth and salvation. God’s gentle persuasion comes from the two Greek words pistis/pistos and prosecheuchomai. These words in English are faith and prayer. Remember, God gives each person faith for them to act upon and trust in Jesus for their salvation. Added to this, as we pray and commune with God, His indwelling Spirit puts into our heart, soul, and mind those things for which He cares about so we can pray in agreement with Him. God’s persuasion benefits the listener, not the speaker. The Gnostics spoke for their own benefit to get people on their side.
Paul struggled like an athlete or soldier to keep the Christians in the churches in Colossae and Laodicea strong in their faith as they stood against the false teachings in their cities. He reminded them Christ united them in faith with each other and with Himself. They were knitted together in love for God and each other with God’s unifying love for each of them. The Christians already had all the wealth of the true knowledge of God’s mystery, Jesus Christ. Hidden within Him are God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Why put trust in the partial knowledge the Gnostics proclaim when they have Jesus, who is all the wisdom and knowledge of God. Finally, Paul reminded these believers not to fall for the persuasion of the Gnostics who seek only to get more acolytes. Instead, stay steadfast in the faith, knowledge, and wisdom you received from God through Jesus. The first type of persuasion is egocentric, while God’s persuasion is other-centered.
Rejoicing Because of the Church
“For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5 [NASB])
Paul’s pastoral concern went beyond struggling within himself for the Christians because he could not be with them to fight the false teachers. As a man with a pastor’s heart, he rejoiced for and because of them, too. To grow a church and be part of a church requires growing in easy and hard times and the resultant rejoicing at where God has taken grown it.
In verse five, Paul reminded the Colossian and Laodicean churches he stood with them. Though they may have felt they stood alone in their contest with the Gnostics, Paul struggled with them. He was with them in spirit and proved it with his letter to the Colossians. Paul stood with them in the same Spirit and in the joining of their heart and purpose. He identified with these churches and with Christ. Paul rejoiced over them. He rejoiced over their “good discipline.” This phrase has a military connotation. It means to be in an orderly array, like in military ranks, so they are ready for whatever may come. These Christians had grown and were ready to battle the false teachings like an army ready to fight its enemy.
Along with that, Paul rejoiced to see the “stability of their faith in Christ.” This stability means being immoveable or having a solid front like a military battalion standing ready for battle. The Colossian and Laodicean believers were immoveable in their faith, in their persuasion, of who Jesus is. They understood Jesus Christ is the mystery. He holds all knowledge and wisdom and gives salvation to all who trust in Him. These Christians were steadfast because of their discipling by Epaphras and their spiritual growth as they met obstacles and relied on God to lead them. The Gnostics had moveable benchmarks for what they considered advanced thought. Each person based his or her idea of advanced thought on his or her own thinking. Whatever a person determined was never the ultimate. Only God’s superabundant knowledge, wisdom, and understanding can be the standard. Christ gives from this fount to each person who believes in Him as the Son of God. Paul rejoiced that the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea stood their ground in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul had a pastoral concern for the Christians in Colossae and Laodicea. They faced the Gnostic idea that advanced thought raises a person to the spiritual realm and saves him or her from evil. The Gnostics considered all things material as evil and all things spiritual as good. Colossian Christians battled this heresy. Paul wrote to encourage them and to rejoice at the way they steadfastly stood while battling this false teaching. He encouraged them and reminded them of their unity in God’s agape love. Paul wrote to remind them of their attaining all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, which results in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, Christ Himself. He taught them the mystery is Christ in them from chapter one. He then stated the mystery is that Christ is the wisdom of God. Because of this, they had access to God’s full wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Paul wrote to encourage the churches so no false teachers could delude (persuade) them to follow a manmade belief. Besides writing to encourage the Christians, Paul rejoiced over their growth so they could be ready for whatever false teaching tried to trick them into considering something Epaphras did not teach them. He rejoiced that the Colossian and Laodicean churches were steadfast and immoveable in their faith in Christ, even though the Gnostics had persuasive arguments. Paul’s letter was the letter of a pastor who cared for his flock, his church given to him by God to lead and protect.
Thoughts to Consider
Have you heard that doing enough good deeds during your life will earn your entrance to heaven? Have you heard that this life now is all you get, so do what you want no matter the consequences? These and other thoughts are manmade ideas to appease them of their sinfulness. Possibly, these thoughts came from Satan to assuage guilt and keep people tricked and not knowing the absolute truth. Satan’s thoughts and, often, humankind’s thoughts are untrue. They do not originate with God. The truth is agape love originates with God. Created things originated with God. Salvation originates from God with Jesus’ gift of His life as the sin sacrifice. The resultant knowledge of God’s mystery, Jesus Christ, and His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, comes to the people who believe in Him with the faith He gives to trust in Jesus as the Son of God and receive salvation from sins.
- What have you heard about life after death?
- What do you feel when you do wrong things?
- Do you proclaim your insights about heaven?
- Are your proclamations the same as Paul’s?
- Do you proclaim these insights to get people to assume you have more profound thoughts than they have heard?
- Whose teaching do you trust is being the right way to heaven?
- What keeps you from believing in Jesus as the Son of God and your Savior?
For next week’s Bible study, read Colossians 2, especially concentrate on Colossians 2:6-7.
“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7 [NASB])
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