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Colossians

PURSUING OUR FULLNESS IN CHRIST

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
COLOSSIANS

 

Our New PotentialThe fullness of Jesus Christ (1-2)

 

Our New Responsibility—To live as those who possess the fullness of Jesus Christ (3-4)

 

INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION ABOUT
THE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS

1. The church at Colossae:  It is believed that the church at Colossae was a product of Paul's approximately three years of ministry in the neighboring city of Ephesus (Acts 19:10, 20:31).  The church at Colossae was started as result of Paul's disciples from Ephesus migrating to other parts of Asia Minor (Acts 19:10).  Epaphras, who started this church when he shared the Gospel with them, may have been one of Paul's disciples from Ephesus who later moved to Colossae (Colossians 1:7-8, 4:12,13)There are two spellings for Collosae and Colosse.  The New International Version uses Colosse.  I have used the most common spelling – Colossae.

2. The city of Colossae: like Ephesus, it was also located in Asia Minor (our modern-day Turkey).

3. The letter of Colossians:  Paul was visited by Epaphras while he was in jail in Rome (Col. 1:7-8, 4:12-13; Acts 28:16-31).  Paul heard from him that the church at Colossae was being attacked by false teachers and was in danger of moving away from the basic message of the Gospel.  He learned also that the members of this church were in danger of becoming confused about how the Christian life is to be lived.  In the letter of Colossians, Paul seeks to remind the Colossian Christians that when they have Jesus Christ they have all they need for a full and complete life.  He warns them of how the false teachers at Colossae are luring them toward their paths, which will tragically lead them away from Christ and toward emptiness.  Following these leaders will prevent them from experiencing the riches they have in Christ.  Finally, he urges them to seek to walk or live in the fullness that they already have in Christ. 

 

THE MESSAGE OF COLOSSIANS

A need that is a driving force within each one of us is the longing to be fulfilled, full, and complete.   Mankind strives to attain whole-hearted satisfaction in many ways.  We can seek after this type of satisfaction, for example, by pursuing success and possessions.  Many in our world also pursue after this ever-illusive sense of contentment and completion through seeking to have the wildest life possible—sex, parties, drugs, etc.!  Many who have been successful in Hollywood have tragically chosen this path that has even led to their early deaths.  Others continually seek after the perfect mate. We who are Christians, though, may be still seeking after fulfillment in many of the very same ways as those who do not know Jesus Christ—while not realizing that we are already full and complete because Christ is in us!  If our eyes are opened, though, to the truths that are stated clearly in this book of Colossians—that God's fullness is in Jesus Christ and that the fullness of Jesus Christ is in us right now—then we will come to see that we have in Jesus Christ all that we need for afull and complete life!

In this study, the key words in Colossians are italicized.  These key words are complete and fullness.  False teachers will lead us towards believing that Jesus Christ in us is not enough—we need something more, we need to do something more.  The Bible teaches, however, that when we have Christ in us, we have all we need.  We are complete in Jesus Christ.  Colossians helps us to understand this completeness that each of us who are Christians have in Jesus Christ.  All that is needed is for us to live out and experience the full and complete life that is even now in us.

Certainly, one of Satan's primary goals is to lead us away from understanding about all we have in Christ.  In Paul's time, Satan was seeking to lead the Colossian Christians away from believing that they were already complete through their relationship with God's Son. In this letter to the Colossians, Paul is seeking to lead them back again to all that is available to them in Christ.  This book, of course, can also lead us toward understanding and experiencing our fullness in Jesus Christ.  For it is a wonderful reality that each of us who have become a Christian through belief in the Gospel is right now complete in Christ!

Our New PotentialThe Fullness of Jesus Christ  (1-2)

1. Salutation (1:1-2)
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father."

Paul begins this letter to the Colossians by establishing God's involvement in each of their lives.  He is an Apostle "by the will of God," and they are "holy" and set apart by God.  God's Apostle is writing to God's people.  He also encourages them for their faithfulness in their walk with God.  We can (and they could) immediately see that this is a letter of great importance.

2. They have this new fullness of Jesus Christ: Paul has heard of their faith and love. (1:3-8)
"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saintsthe faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you and that you have already heard about in the Word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.  All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.  You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit."

Thought Question:  Paul packs verses three through eight with a large amount of content.  Write down briefly everything that you observe in five minutes.  You will discover that there is much more in these verses than you noticed when you simply read through them.

 

 

Thought Question:  He says that "faith and love spring from hope."  How can "faith and love spring from hope"?

 

 

Here, he reveals to them (and to us) that it is possible to see whether or not someone has believed in the Gospel message.  How?  It will show in their lives.  They showed that they believed in God by a faith and love that was visible.  Paul had heard about their lives of faith and love.

Thought Question:  Can people see by the way you live that you believe in God?   Is your faith and love obvious to people?  List some visible examples of your faith and love that people can see and testify about.

 

 

Paul states here that their visible faith and love was a result of their hope.  But, how does hope produce faith and love?  When our eyes are opened to see spiritual truths, we see (1) that our eternity has beentotally provided for by a loving and merciful God, and (2) that He has made the ultimate sacrifice to make this hope ours.  It is, then, the most appropriate, consistent, and reasonable response for us to trust in such a loving God with our whole life; and to love others as He has loved us.  When God hastotally taken care of us for eternity, all that is left is for us to be concerned about others; especially those who do not have the hope that we now have.  The gospel message has had this type of effect throughout time and all over the world, just as it did in Paul's time.  At Colossae, it began when Epaphras shared the gospel message with them.  It also began in us when the gospel message was shared with us and we believed it!

Has the gospel message had this type of impact on your life?  Immediately after first becoming a Christian, I had such a wonderful realization of what Paul talks about here.  I knew at once that I was loved by God and set for eternity.  The grass was greener and the sky was bluer.  The God who created them all loved me.  I was taken care of for all eternity.  All that was left was for me to tell others about it.  The routines and trials of life can dull that type of realization.  Nevertheless, it is still just as true for me today as it was in 1968.  I am loved by the Creator and set for eternity.  All that is left is for me tell others about what they can also have in Christ.  How about you?  Do you believe that all of this is true for you as well?  Do you realize that you are loved by the Creator and set for eternity?  Are you, therefore, eager to share what you have in Christ with others?

3. Paul prays that they will experience their fullness in Jesus Christ. (1:9-14)
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

Thought Question: According to these verses, why do you believe that Paul prays for what he does in 1:9-14 in the order that he prays for them?

 

 

We can see from what Paul says in these verses that our belief in the Gospel is not the Christian life, it is only our introduction into the Christian life.  We are to move beyond the starting point and to move down the path towards experiencing the fullness of life that is now available to us in Jesus Christ.  Paul prayed for these early Colossian Christians that they would grow in their understanding of their life in Jesus Christ and experience it fully.

In these few verses is described for us the type of Christian life that Paul himself experienced.  It is also that type of powerful Christian life that has been experienced by men and women who have wholeheartedly sought God throughout the history of the church.  And it is the type of Christian life that is available to each of us today.  In sports, there is a term that is often used to describe it when a team is beginning to function as a team.  The word is "momentum."  Here, Paul describes what happens when Christians and a church get their spiritual momentum going.

These verses are Paul's prayer for these Colossian Christians.  You also know those who have just started the Christian life (children, family members and/or friends).  What Paul prays for in these verses is what you also desire for those whom you are praying for:  (1) that they would understand with spiritual insight God's will for their lives, (2) that they would actually make God's will for them the pattern of their lives, (3) that they would grow into a deeper knowledge of God's ways,  (4) that they would experience God's power to live the Christian life, and (5) that they would persevere in the Christian life.  In short, Paul prays that they would know God's will, do God's will, and persevere in God's will.  Paul's prayer also summarizes what is necessary before each of us can be assured that we are a Christian.  Are we growing and persevering in doing God's will?   See also Romans 2:6-11 and II Peter 1:3-11

a. First, he prays that they will be filled with the knowledge of God's will. (1:9)
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

Thought Question:  Why does Paul pray first of all that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will?

 

 

Christian spiritual momentum starts only with the knowledge of God's will and a heart to seek after His will.  Christians who are excited and involved in God's work can look back to special times at conferences and retreats, through Christian speakers, through Christian books, through the words of friends, through personal Bible studies or in many other ways where God has revealed to them His will for their lives or has powerfully given them insight into His ways.  Spiritual momentum begins when God spiritually opens our minds and hearts to understand the beauty of His ways and His plan for our lives.  What occurs at that moment is that you and I choose to leave our selfish plan for life, and we choose to seek after His pure and glorious plan for life.  We begin this process of seeking after the life He wants us to live when we embrace His will and desire that it be done in our lives ("Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven").  Notice also Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23  See James 1:5

When we begin the Christian life, as Paul says in verse thirteen of this chapter, we go from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.  From this moment on, we look at our world totally differently.  We may have seen no value in serving others, but now we see that service is greatly valued in God's kingdom.  We may have seen nothing wrong with some of our activities, but now we see that in God's light they are immoral and wrong.  This transformation process, however, does not end when we first become Christians, for as Paul says in Romans 12:2, we as Christians are to be going through a continual transformation process by the "renewing" of our minds.  Throughout our Christian life, the darkness is to be replaced by light.  And so, we are to pray for each other that God will continue to fill each of us with His light and the "knowledge of his will." (See also Ephesians 5:8-20 and I John 1:5-2:11)

b. Second, he prays that this new knowledge of God's will might lead them to a new type of living. (1:10a)
"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:" This new knowledge of God's will for our lives starts the ball rolling spiritually for us and leads us to a new type of life before God.  We actually begin to want to leave the self-centered life (the way we lived before God opened our hearts to understand His ways), and we now desire to live for Him.  We begin to want to do what will please Him.

c. This new life will begin to bear fruitit will begin to have an effect for good on their world (1:10b)
"bearing fruit in every good work,"  A godly life will begin to produce a godly effect on the world around us.  We are to be light and salt in our worlds.  When we are living a life "worthy of the Lord," people will be drawn to God through our life and through our ministries.

d. They (and We) will begin to grow to understand even more about God and His ways. (1:10c)
"growing in the knowledge of God,"  In Hebrews 5:14, we are told that it is by living the Christian life that we come to gain knowledge about the difference between good and evil.  So, knowledge of God leads to a fuller life in Christ; and the fuller life leads to still more knowledge.  Instead of a vicious and downward spiral (momentum where everything gets worse and worse), we have a glorious and upward spiral (momentum where everything gets better and better).

As it says in Proverbs 4:18, "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."  As we seek to live the Christian life, the light gets brighter and God's ways become clearer to us.

e. This process will lead, then, to our experiencing God's strength and power. (1:11-12a)
"being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father," 

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Paul says that power will come as we develop a pattern of living the life of Christ?

 

 

As we begin to seek to live our new life in Christ, we also begin to experience God's strength and power to do it.  God always gives us His power so that we can do what He wants us to do!  What does God give us His power for—to work miracles? to speak boldly?  Here, Paul tells us that God gives us His power so that we can endure.  Why do we need God's power?  Primarily, we all need God's power so that we can continue day after day to respond to every type of difficulty in the Christian life with love, righteousness, patience, gentleness, and humility.  We need not only the power to do it, but as we see in this verse, we need the power to do it with joy, thankfulness, peace, and love.

Are there weaknesses in your life that you are aware of?   Do you lack the faith to believe that God can change you in these areas?  We can be confident that God will always give us His strength to do His will.  God can change you and me in our areas of weakness.  Paul's prayer in these verses describes the process of change.  With God's light, life, and strength, all things are possible.

Thought Question: Can you think of someone you would desire to pray for in the same way that Paul prays for these Colossian Christians in 1:9-14?  List them below and begin to pray for them—following Paul's pattern, in the way that God wants you to pray for them. 

 

 

f. All this was their inheritance because they had left Satan's kingdom of darkness and had entered Jesus' kingdom of light. (1:12b-14)
"who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

Thought Question: What was it like for you to leave the kingdom of darkness and to enter the kingdom of God's Son?

 

 

We have left the old life and the vicious and downward spiral that began with darkness (no spiritual knowledge of God and His ways) and resulted in selfishness, lies, bitterness, and greed which lead to even more selfishness, lies, bitterness and greed.  Now, we have entered the new life and the glorious and upward spiral that began with light (God revealing the truth about His goodness, love and purity) which created in us a desire to also be good, loving and pure.  Our obedience to God leads us forward toward even more growth in each of these beautiful qualities.  See I John 1:5-2:6

This glorious circle started with God's forgiveness of us.  For it all was begun when because of God's infinite generosity and mercy, Jesus died for us and set us free from the kingdom of darkness.  It continues as we seek to walk in the light of His love and purity, and as we live our lives remembering who it was that died for us!

What was the kingdom of darkness like for you?  How is it different for you now in the kingdom of light?  Can you with Paul and the Colossian Christians say that you have left the kingdom of darkness and entered into the kingdom of light?

4. He is the fullness of God: Paul reveals that God's fullness is in Jesus Christ. (1:15-23)
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusationif you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

Thought Question #1:  From these verses, list three of the false teachings about Jesus Christ that you believe Paul was correcting in these verses.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some false teachings about Jesus Christ that need to be corrected today?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What teaching about Jesus Christ in these verses stands out to you right now?

 

 

In these verses, Paul is correcting some false teachings about Jesus Christ.  Can we figure out from what Paul says here, which false teachings Paul was correcting?  Scholars believe that the false teachers of Colossae were teaching the "Gnostic" view about Jesus Christ.  Gnosticism, a false religion of that time, taught that Jesus was a lower "emanation" from God who was not God and was not sinless.  Paul is making it clear in these verses that Jesus is not some lower being and distinct from God, but He is fully God.

There are also many false teachings about Jesus Christ in our twenty-first century world.  What are some false teachings about Jesus Christ that are misleading people today, that also need to be corrected just like the false teaching of the Gnostics?  The description of Jesus Christ given by Paul in these verses will provide us with a true standard of who Jesus Christ is.  It will enable us to recognize the counterfeit versions of Jesus Christ when we encounter them.  Who, then, is Jesus Christ according to Paul's words in these verses?

a. Jesus is the Center of the universe (1:15)
To non-Christians, man and "I" is the center of the universe; but our Christian eyes have been opened and we see the truth—Jesus is the Center!

(1) Who is Jesus Christ?  He is the image of the invisible God!
"He is the image of the invisible God,"  Jesus Christ is a perfect representation of what God is like.  Jesus is God and He shows us in human form what God is like.  God is no longer invisible.  When we see the God/man Jesus Christ we see God!  We can now get to know God by getting to know Jesus Christ.

(2) He is not only God, but He is also a man.
"the firstborn over all creation."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Paul is teaching here that Jesus was created?

 

 

He is the "firstborn."  This means that He is the most highly honored of all men.  In the Jewish family, the firstborn was the most highly honored and received the richest inheritance.  Jesus is the most highly honored of anyone born of man and receives the richest inheritance.  In Revelation 5 we see that Jesus, the "firstborn," regains man's inheritance and the deed to the earth, and He is the most highly honored by the angels and by all of God's creatures.

False teachers often use the word "firstborn of all creation" to argue that Jesus Christ has not existed forever and that He is not God.  "He is born just like us and he is a part of creation just like us," they say.  But, their viewpoint is denied in this very section of verses.  For, Paul will say in the verses that immediately follow this verse that Jesus Christ was the Creator of all things.  It is obvious that He could not have been created and the Creator of all things at the same time.  But, just as the "firstborn" in a Jewish family had the place of preeminence among the children of a Jewish family, so Jesus Christ has the place of preeminence among all of mankind.

b. Jesus is the Creator of the universe. (1:16-17)

(1) Everything was created by Him:
Many do not know that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ created the universe (no small task!).  The man Jesus Christ who walked on this earth in the same way that we do, also made the stars He walked under. ("through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made"  John 1:3; "in the last days he has spoken to us by his Son .... through whom he made the universe" Hebrews 1:2)

(2) Everything was created for Him:
"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him."

Thought Question #1:  Here it says that Jesus created everything.  In Genesis 1:1 it says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Do these verses contradict each other?  Who was the Creator, the Father or the Son?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How was all creation created for Him?

 

 

In Bickersteth's classic book titled, The Trinity, He compares verse after verse showing that what is attributed to the Father is also attributed to the Son.  The Bible says that the Father is the Creator and the Son is also the Creator.  The reason that both can be true and are true is because the Father is fully God and Jesus Christ the Son is fully God.  What the Father did, the Son did also.  The Father is not a part of God, nor is Jesus a part of God; each is fully God.  The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit was also the Creator, "and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:2)  Here, we have the mystery of the Trinity.  Three persons, yet indivisibly one. See Isaiah 44:24; Romans 8:9-11

All this universe was created by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ to fulfill God's plan for Him. Someone has said that history is His story.  Adam, the first man, did not fulfill God's plan for man on earth.  Jesus Christ, the last Adam, has come to fulfill God's plan for man.  So, all that was created was created for Him!  See Hebrews 2:5-18 for a summary of God's plan for Jesus Christ and for man.

(3) He existed before there was even a universe:
"He is before all things,"  Jesus said, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58)  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1,2)  "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:5)  He who created the universe obviously existed before the universe.  "He is before all things."

(4) It is because of Him that all of this universe is still here:
"and in him all things hold together."

Thought Question:  What do you believe is the significance of Jesus holding all things together?

 

 

Scientists have been heard admitting that they do not know what holds our universe together. We learn in science classes about electrons circling around a nucleus in an atom, molecules holding together, our solar systems holding together, and galaxies holding together.  What holds all of them together?  These verses are clear, Jesus Christ holds them together!  Jesus Christ has His hand on the power switch of the universe.  He throws the switch to the off position and all that is here suddenly vanishes!  He is not an absentee landlord; the deists' view, but He is actively holding all things together. See II Peter 3:10

c. Jesus is the Head of the church. (1:18)

(1) Without Him, the church would be like a man without a head (1:18a)
"And he is the head of the body, the church;"

Thought Question:  How is Jesus' headship of the church like your head's headship of your body?

 

 

What would we be like without our heads?  This question helps us to understand what the church would be like without Jesus Christ.  Jesus is not the ceremonial head of the church.  Without Him the church ceases to be the church.  Without the head on our physical body, we would be without life or direction.  Without Him the church would also be just as dead and without any direction.  In the past and today, whenever Jesus Christ is only the ceremonial head of a church, that church has been lifeless and without direction.

In England, the Queen is the ceremonial head of England.  She is little more than a ceremony that England participates in.  She has no real power over that country.  The dean of students at the seminary that I once attended joked that he at one time had thought that he had his hands on the steering wheel of that seminary.  But, he had come to realize that the steering wheel that he was so eagerly turning was like the child's steering wheel that is attached to nothing and has nothing to do with controlling the direction of the car.  Sadly, there are institutions that call themselves churches, but to them, Jesus Christ is merely part of their ceremony.  The true church submits to Jesus Christ as its Head.  Jesus Christ is in charge of His Body, the true church as the human head is charge of the human body.  Though the false church does not submit to Jesus as their head, He remains the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.  Though they do not submit to Him as their Head today, one day they will join with all who have ever lived and bow their knees before Him. See Philippians 2:9-11 Those in the true church bow their knees to Him as Head of the church today.

(2) Without Him, the church would not even have begun. (1:18b)
"he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead."

Thought Question:  What is meant by Jesus Christ being the "firstborn from the dead"?

 

 

The church began with Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  "Firstborn from the dead" does not mean that He was the first to be raised from the dead, for there were those who rose from the dead in the Old Testament time period; there were others who were resurrected miraculously through His ministry; and there were resurrections at the time of His death.  "Firstborn" means that as the first-born in a family in Bible times held the highest place of honor among the sons in a family, Jesus is supreme among those who have risen from the dead and will rise from the dead.  Satan rules this present unresurrected world system.  One day, however, a new world will be inhabited by those who have risen from the spiritual and physical death caused by sin.  In the resurrection world, Jesus our God and Creator, who alone deserves to rule, will be given His rightful Supremacy as
". . . . the firstborn from the dead!

d. The fullness of God is in Him. (1:19)
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,"  What is God like?  God has communicated to us in human form what He is like:  Look at Jesus the man and we see God showing us what He is like.  He expressed His divine life to us in human flesh so we can understand Him on our human level.  Jesus Christ is not some being inferior to God as the Gnostics taught; He is fully God.

e. Jesus, who is the fullness of God has reconciled man to God. (1:20-23)
"and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

Thought Question #1:  List everything you can find in these verses that is true of us who are Christians that is not true of those who are not Christians.

 

 

Do you actually believe that all you listed in question #1 is true of you?  (Do you feel that it is true?)  Part of growing in your faith occurs as God enables your faith to grow from a head understanding to a heartfelt believing.

Thought Question #2: According to these verses, how has the blood of Christ changed your relationship with God?  Do you ever doubt that this is true?  What can you do to help yourself grow in confidence that your relationship with God has been changed by the blood of Christ?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What does Paul mean in verse 23 when he says, "if you continue in your faith established and firm, not moved from your hope…"?

 

 

Without Jesus Christ, the gap between holy God and unholy man would be infinitely too great!

(1) God was pleased to have the fullness of God to dwell in a man (Jesus Christ), so He could be a bridge between God and us. (1:19)

(2) God was pleased through the blood of Jesus Christ the God-man to remove the barrier between Him and us. (1:20)
"and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Because we chose to rebel against God and His holy ways, we were at war with God.  He, the offended One, became the peacemaker at great cost to Himself.  Now, because of the blood of His Son there is peace where there once was war.

We could not reconcile ourselves to Him.  Only He could remove the barrier between Himself and us that is caused by our sin.  He was pleased to do it even though it meant that the blood of His Son was the cost.

(3) Jesus' blood totally changed our relationship to God. (1:21-22)
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…"  Jesus' blood changed us from God's enemies to His friends, from condemned by God to being totally freed from any accusation!  (The full reconciliation between God, man, and the full universe will take place when Jesus returns.)

(4) This will all be true in our life......if (1:23)
"if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

We will experience this reconciliation with God if we continue on in our faith!  How do you know if your faith is real?  One way you can know that your faith is genuine is by whether or not you continue to believe and do not lose hope.  The men of faith in the Bible continued in their faith even when it was very hard to keep on believing, trusting, and hoping. See Hebrews 3:6,14 and Hebrews 11  Do you also have this type of persevering faith?  If your answer is, "yes," then all that is provided by the blood of Jesus the God-man is yours!

5. Paul's ministry: to lead them to experience their new fullness in Jesus Christ (1:24-2:5)
Paul reveals to us what God's plan for ministry is for us today.

a. Paul's cost: Paul was willing to suffer as Jesus suffered. (1:24)
"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church."

Thought Question:  Did not Jesus suffer completely for us when He was on the cross?  How, then, could Paul say that there was still something lacking in "Christ's afflictions"?

 

 

Paul's life was dedicated to one mission, no matter how he might need to suffer.  And that one mission was to reveal what had been unknown before his time—that Jesus Christ, who was the Creator of the universe and became the God-man, now lives in every Christian.

Jesus' ministry is now completed.  He completely paid for our sins and He fully lives in each person who truly believes in Him, but the work of revealing this to mankind continues up to this day.  Jesus was God's messenger to a godless world.  He was loved by the few who received Him, but hated by the many who rejected Him.  Paul continued Jesus' unfinished ministry.  He knew that he also would need to suffer.  He was filling up what was still lacking in "Christ's affliction."  Christ's afflictions are still not complete and we also will suffer as we continue the unfinished work of reaching out to our world with the gospel message about Jesus Christ's death on the cross for our sins.  Still, today, there is the need for those who will, like Paul, labor and suffer to get the message about Jesus Christ out in spite of any opposition.

The primary opposition group that Paul faced at Colossae were the Gnostics.  They taught that Jesus Christ was not enough and that Christians were not complete in Him.  They taught that Christians needed additional mystical knowledge about the emanations from God that were only available to the few enlightened ones.  Paul continued to labor and suffer so that the church at Colossae and elsewhere would know that all who believe in Jesus Christ have all they need.  The missing part of us has been filled up with the full and complete person of Jesus Christ.  "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form and you have been given fullness in Christ."  See Colossians 2:9

b. Paul's message: Christ in us, our hope of glory (1:25-27)
"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullnessthe mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Thought Question #1:  Colossians 1:27 could be the key verse in Colossians:  "Christ in you the hope of glory."  How can Christ be in us right now and our hope at the same time?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What other words could replace "glory" in 1:27? (it might help to put "great" in front of these words?.)

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why is it all right for us to want to experience this "glory" that comes from having Christ in us?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  Reread 1:24-27  What message was so important to Paul that he was willing to suffer, if need be, to get it out?

 

 

We do not need to look elsewhere to find out what is missing in our lives.  We already have all we need in Jesus Christ.  He is our hope to have a full and complete life; even a glorious life.  For example, each of us desires that our life will mean something and be of value.  "Great value" is included in the meaning of the word "glory."  "Christ in us," our hope of "great value."  We now have "great value" because Jesus Christ, God, is in us!  He and He alone can fill the emptiness in each man and woman.  For the Christian He has already come to live in each of us.  We do not need to look elsewhere anymore.  We only need to grow in our understanding and faith, so that we can experience more fully the fullness of Jesus Christ who is already fully in us.

What can fill the emptiness in our lives, that longing to be someone of significance?  For each Christian, we already have significance, for Jesus Christ lives in us right now.  What we are longing for is that we would be used by God to bring Him glory.  That alone is what will fill the emptiness in our lives.  We already have Jesus in us, our hope for glory.  So, all that is left is for us to grow in the experiencing of our fullness in Jesus Christ!

There is that which is inglorious—shameful, disgraceful.  Glorious is the very opposite—that which is of great value and great beauty.  Glorious is that which is pure, noble, majestic, honorable, and many more superlatives.  Because we have Jesus Christ in us, we have in us He who is of great value, of great beauty and many other greats.  Our certain hope is that we will someday be channels to fully express Christ's glory. See I John 3:2  When we see Him we will be like Him.  But, we can also grow in experiencing His glory right now   In II Corinthians 3:18, we are told that as we look on Jesus in our present Christian life, we are growing in experiencing His glory.  "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

(1) We first need to know ourselvesthat we are already complete in Jesus Christ.
Knowing that thefullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ and that Jesus fullylives in us is the starting point for each of us who are Christians.  Because we already have the full glory of Jesus Christ within us, we already have all we need to show forth God's glory to our world.

(2) Humanly, our natural inclination is to seek meaning and value by doing that which brings glory to ourselves.
Our fleshly and prideful motivation is to think we are our hope of glory (our hope for value and meaning).  But, we do not find value if we receive the glory.  Life only reaches its fullest meaning for us when Jesus Christ receives His rightful glory through our lives.

c. Paul's methods: proclaiming, admonishing, and teaching (1:28)
"We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling, with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

Thought Question #1:  When Paul says "so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ," is he saying that he wants to proclaim that Christians are already perfect in Christ or does he desire to do all that he can so that we may mature and become perfect or complete in Christ?  (The answer to this question, I believe, is a key to understanding the book of Colossians!)  (See Colossians 2:9-10)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you learn from these verses about what the Christian ministry should be like?

 

 

How can we work toward helping men and women to believe in Christ and to experience their fullness in Jesus Christ?  "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."

(1) We are to "proclaim Him."
When we look at Jesus Christ, we see (if we see) what God intended for man.  He is beauty, wisdom, love and all that will fill the deepest desires of our heart.  We are to continually keep Him before the eyes of the world.  For the Christian, a transformation takes place when Jesus is held up before each of us (As we gaze on His glory, we are transformed from one degree of glory to another.  See II Corinthians 3:18; I John 3:1-3).

(2) We are to admonish each other "with all wisdom."
Admonish means that we are to wisely point it out when someone is going down a dead-end road rather than toward experiencing the satisfaction that there is in Jesus Christ.  Paul in the book of Colossians admonishes the Christians at Colossae not to be deceived by the Gnostic teachers who were leading them down a dead-end road that would not lead to true knowledge or freedom, but to a false hope and to slavery.  We are to admonish our world not to drink from fountains that hold no water, but drink from the living water that Jesus provides.

(3) We are to teach each other "with all wisdom."
We are to wisely teach other Christians about Jesus Christ and all that is presently ours through Him being fully in us right now.  The Colossian Christians needed to learn about all they possessed in Jesus Christ so they could tell the true from the false; so that they would not be led astray by false teachers.  We also need to teach our world the truth so that we are not led astray by the even greater number of false teachers today.

(4) The goal of the "proclaiming," "admonishing," and "teaching" is that we "may present everyone "perfect in Jesus Christ."
The Gnostics and the mystery religions used the word "perfect" "to describe those who had become possessors of secrets or knowledge boasted of by the particular religion. . . . But in Christ every believer is one of the perfect."  Taken from NIV Study Bible.  Copyright 1985 by Zondervan Publishing House."  Paul corrects these false teachers of gnosticism and the mystery religions.  For every Christian is already "perfect" in Christ.

We are not to seek to help Christians toward becoming "perfect in Christ," for we are already "perfect in Christ." The Colossian Christians did not need the mysteries of Gnosticism to become "perfect."  Because Christ was in them, they already werecomplete.  Today, we need to do all we can to reveal to our world that Jesus will fill the void in their lives.  When they have Him, they will have all that they need.  When they believe in Him, we can present them "perfect in Christ."  And we can present every Christian as "perfect in Christ."  We also are to "proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ." See also 2:9-10

d. Paul's type of effort: laboring to (1) exhaustion with (2) God's strength (1:29)
"To this end I labor, struggling, with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

(1) He and we are to labor to the point of exhaustion.
There is a need for those who will work with all the energy God provides to help the church to see that we are complete in Christ.  Paul was willing to work even to the point of exhaustion so that the church of Jesus Christ would realize itsfullness in Jesus Christ.  We also need those today who are willing to follow Paul and are willing to pay any price so that the church of this century will realize that when men and women believe in Jesus Christ they have received the fullness of God.

We are all willing to suffer for a goal that is important to us.  We suffer to earn money, complete college, get in good physical shape, and to complete many tasks that are important to us.  Paul suffered so that the Christians of his day would experience the riches in Christ that they already possessed.  There is a need for modern-day Pauls who will also be willing to pay the same price to accomplish the goal of helping today's people to believe in Jesus Christ and to experience their riches in Him.

Why is it necessary for us to labor to "present everyone perfect in Christ"?  It is understandable why we would need to labor to encourage people to grow as Christians until they reach maturity.  But, if we are already "perfect in Christ," why do we need to labor to help Christians and others to realize their fullness in Christ?  Actually, maturity in Christ is the heartfelt realization that we are complete in Christ, and the life of obedience to Christ that flows from this realization.  When we realize that fullness of life is found in Christ alone, we will forsake all empty endeavors and fully focus our hearts and lives on becoming who we now are in Christ.  There are innumerable lies out there.  We need to labor to help people realize that in Jesus alone is found true life.

Thought Question:  What have you struggled to attain that was worth the suffering for you to attain?  Write down some reasons why the goal of presenting "everyone perfect in Christ" is a goal worth struggling for. 

 

 

(2) We can accomplish this goal because we do not labor in our strength, but with the strength that God "so powerfully works" in us.
When we seek to proclaim Jesus Christ and that each Christian is already complete in Him, we are in agreement with God's greatest goals for our world.  We, therefore, can count on it that we will not be doing this alone.  As it was true with Paul, so it will also be true for us.  We also will be struggling with all God's energy that will so "powerfully" work in us!

Thought Question:  Can you think of one time when you recognized that God's power was working in you as you sought to accomplish His goals?  It may have been a time when you were sharing the gospel or it may have occurred as you worked in some ministry in the church.  Describe what happened at that time.

 

 

e. Paul's intermediate goals: to encourage them and to unite them in love (2:1-2a)
"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodiciea, and for all who have not met me personally.  My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,"

Thought Question #1:  Paul was "struggling" for them.  Yet, he did not know many of them and he was in prison in Rome at the time.  How could he be "struggling" for them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why was it so important to Paul that they be "encouraged in heart and united in love"?

 

 

(1) Paul said he was struggling for them.
The word translated "struggling" comes from the Greek word that we get our word "agony" from.  He was agonizing for them.  Yet, at that time, Paul was in prison.  How could he agonize with them while he was in prison?  Any parent who has had a son or daughter actively involved in an athletic team knows how you can agonize for your child while you are only sitting in the stands watching.  Paul was concerned about them in their spiritual lives like a father who is wrestling as hard in the stands as his son is wrestling down on the mat (struggling to pin an opponent or to not be pinned by him.)

(2) What was Paul struggling for?
He had two intermediate goals for them that would lead them to the highest goal of all.

(a) That they would be "encouraged in heart"
When we are up against Satan's attacks, such as false doctrines, opposition, and lies, it is easy to lose heart and to become discouraged.  When we do give up, we become the Devil's victim.  He is the victor and we are the vanquished; he is the conqueror and we are the conquered.  Paul was struggling so that they would not become discouraged, but encouraged.  Because the fullness of Jesus Christ lived in them and because He is the conqueror of Satan, they (and we) are the victors and not the victims.

(b) That they would be "united in love"
Paul tells us here that when Christians are encouraged in heart and united in love it creates an atmosphere where we can together get to know Jesus Christ.

We can see how discouragement and disunity prevent us from together getting to know Jesus Christ.  Discouragement and disunity are certainly two primary goals Satan has for the church.  Encouragement and unity are two primary goals God has for the church.  It is obvious which two we in God's strength should be struggling towards.

f. Paul's goal: that they may know Jesus Christ (2:2b-5)
"so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.  For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is."

Thought Question:  Who can you think of today who offers us "fine-sounding arguments"?

 

 

Thought Question:  Give reasons why you believe that Jesus Christ is superior to those who have these "fine-sounding arguments."

 

 

When we get to know Jesus who is the Creator of the universe, we will find in Him all the wisdom we need so that we can learn to enjoy the riches He created us to experience.  He is the One source of wisdom, but He is not the only one who claims to have the answers.

Cults, sects, philosophers, science, college professors, radio talk show celebrities, authors, congressmen, and others all offer themselves as the source of true wisdom and knowledge.  We are not to be fooled by their "fine-sounding arguments."  With seductive reasoning, they often offer pleasure, sexual freedom, independence, our rights, possessions, success, religion, chemical ecstasy, rebellion, glamour, physical fitness, and many other human answers as the wisdom that will lead to the fullest life.  Paul offers the truth.  Fullness in life only comes through the fullness of God in Jesus Christ!

Paul was delighted that though Satan had offered his false wisdom to them, they were still strong and still clear-thinking in their faith in Jesus Christ. Satan had attacked, but their army was not in disarray.  It was still in its ranks and they were still strongly holding on to their faith.  He pictures an army under attack who has not yet allowed the enemy to cause them to break ranks.  They still were maintaining a strong wall against Satan's attacks.

6. Our part: to grow in the faith that we now possess the fullness of Jesus Christ (2:6-7)

a. We are to continue our Christian life of faith as it was begun. (2:6)
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,"

Thought Question #1:  What does this verse tell us about how we should live the Christian life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  There is a debate in Christian circles about whether we receive Jesus Christ as Savior or as Savior and Lord.  Paul here clearly teaches that we received Jesus "as Lord."  How can we receive Jesus as Lord and our salvation still be wholly by grace?

 

 

 
We began the Christian life by believing in Jesus Christ and believing that He meets man's greatest needs.  How do we continue in the Christian life?  We continue to believe that He is the answer! We do not start the Christian life by trusting in Him for forgiveness and a new life, and then continue the Christian life by trusting in ourselves.  We are to continue in the Christian life just as we began our new life with Him, by putting our total reliance on Him for everything.

Notice that Paul says that we began the Christian life by receiving Jesus as Lord.  This is a clear answer to the debate about whether we can receive Jesus Christ as Savior, but not as Lord.  A Christian is one who has received Jesus as Lord!  When we were non-Christians Jesus was Lord, we just did not acknowledge Him as Lord.  Our sin blinded us to the truth and we were unable to see and believe the truth about who Jesus is.  When we became Christians, we turned to Him as the Lord that He is and received His forgiveness through the blood He shed for us.  We turned from voluntarily not believing in Him to acknowledging Him for who He is.  He saved us from our sin—He is our Savior—so that we could know Him as Lord.

b. We are to grow stronger in the same faith that we began. (2:7)
"rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

Thought Question:  What can you learn from this verse about what will be evident if you are growing as a Christian?

 

 

At the beginning of our Christian life, we were "rooted" in Jesus Christ.  Since that time, as our faith grows, we become "built up" and "strengthened" in our faith.

How can we tell if we are growing stronger (like a tree that is growing taller and stronger)?  We can see when a tree grows by its change in size and strength.  One way that we can see that we are growing in the Christian life is by a steady increase in our thankfulness.  Growing Christians grow until they are overflowing with thankfulness for all that they have in Jesus Christ.

If we are not thankful, it is a sure sign that Satan's winning a battle in our lives.  The Christians at Colossae may have been becoming discouraged, and they may have needed this encouragement from Paul.  We may be getting discouraged, and we may need Paul's encouragement also.  If we see the Christian life as a struggle that we are doing on our own, we will be overwhelmed with weight of our battle.  But, if we see that we are to put our faith in the Almighty Son of God for this battle, our discouragement will change to confidence and gratitude for the One who strengthens us.  See Matthew 11:28-30

7. Our part: to resist false teaching that will lead us away from
experiencing the fullness of Jesus Christ (2:8-23)
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  In him you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.  He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.  Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:  'Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!'?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Thought Question:  There are many characteristics of false religion in these verses, see if you can find five of them.

 

 

a. Paul warns them that false teaching is empty ("hollow") and deceptive. (2:8a)
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,"  Satan's typical tactic is to offer us much, but in the end we get little or nothing.  In the mail, we receive many get-rich schemes.  But, those of us who take the bait do not help ourselves, but we only help those who are sending the letters.  They, not us, are the ones who get rich quick.  We end up with nothing more than a false hope and a dashed dream.  Satan also dangles bait out for us, and those who take Satan's bait are added to the untold numbers he has already victimized.  They become his captives.  They find out in the end that what he offered only leads to emptiness.

b. Paul warns them that false teaching depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world. (2:8b)
"which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."  What Satan offers is just another form of the schemes the world concocts to provide happiness.  His schemes are the same old stuff in different garb.  The world offers happiness through get-rich-quick offers, secret cures, pulling yourself up by your own boot-straps, and other schemes.  Eventually, you get to the end of their list and they just repeat themselves.  There are only so many ways you can try to find happiness outside of Jesus Christ.  False religion just takes one of these ways and repackages it with religious garb and offers the worldly old and basic answer as something new that will bring happiness.

The religious evangelist who offers a get-rich-quick plan is really no different than the fast-talking salesman who offers the same plan.  The Gnostics offered the Colossian Christians a ladder up to God through becoming one of the elite who would learn the mysteries of God.  They would climb up a ladder towards God as their knowledge of these mysteries increased.  Just as the pyramid method of becoming rich is seductive to listeners, so this opportunity to learn of the mysteries of God had its appeal to the early Christians.  But, Paul tells them that what the Gnostics offered them was nothing new, just the same old stuff that does not work and will never work no matter how seductively it is presented.

Be cautious when someone offers you a step-by-step plan that will guarantee you material or spiritual riches.  For just as Satan sought to get the church off-track hundreds of years ago through a way to climb up to God, he is just as eager to get the church off-track today.

c. Because we already have completeness and fullness in Jesus Christ, we do not need any of what the false teachers offer us.
(2:9-10)
"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."

Thought Question:  What is meant in these verses by "you have been given fullness in Christ."  (What does it mean to you?)

 

 

Jesus is fully God and He is fully in us.  When you have eaten a full meal and your stomach is completely full and someone asks, "Do you want something more?"  Your answer is that you have all you need.  Satan asks, "Do you want something more?"  The Christian who understands that we are full in Christ, says, "No, I already have all I need.  Jesus is all I need!"

We do not ever need to look anywhere else.  We have God in us.  What else do we need?  We do not need more of Jesus Christ, for He is fully in us already!

d. Paul uses five pictures to help us to see what God did for us when we became complete in the fullness of Jesus Christ. (2:11-15)
"In him you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

Thought Question:  What do the five pictures in 2:11-15 tells us about how we "have been given fullness in Christ."  (What does it mean to you?)

 

 

(1) Picture #1Circumcision
"In him you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,"  God told the Jewish people to cut away a tiny piece of skin from each of their baby boys.  It was a picture to teach the Jewish people that their old life of being separate from God was over and that they were now God's people.  It was to become a picture of how the Jewish Messiah Jesus Christ cuts away the old life from those who believe in Him, so that they can become a new people.  Circumcision is a picture of God cutting away the old man we were before we were Christians and making us a new man.  We are complete in Christ because the old man is completely cut away!

(2) Picture #2Baptism
"having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ."  Baptism is a picture of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection; as well as a picture of how the believer died with Jesus, of how his or her old life was buried, and of how he or she was raised to a new life. You and I are complete in Christ because you and I have been completely raised from the dead to a completely new life; Jesus' life in us!

(3) Picture #3A court case
"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; he took it away nailing it to the cross."  In court the charges are read against the accused.  Paul pictures the charges that are against us being canceled because they were all nailed to the cross—paid for on the cross.  All of us have a record of the charges against us in our consciences.  We know we have not measured up even to our own standards for living.  On the cross, the just charges against us were completely paid for and canceled in God's court and we now stand legally free from guilt.  We are complete in Christ because the penalty for all of our sins is completely paid for!

(4) Picture #4The Cross
"he took it away nailing it to the cross."  The charges against us were nailed to the cross.  Before Jesus' death on the cross, each man was deserving of death.  Apart from the cross, each of us would now be on death row.  "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23)  That is what each of us justly deserves.  But, instead, because of God's love, we did not hang on the cross, but our sins hung there on Jesus.  So, we who have believed in Jesus are no longer criminals before God and no longer on death row.  Our sins have been erased like words that have been totally removed from a blackboard—with no residue!.  It is as if the guilt never existed.  This is a truth that is too wonderful to be true. We are complete in Christ because all of our sins were nailed to the cross, and we have been completely pardoned!

(5) Picture #5Disarming an enemy in war time
"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."  The demonic powers and authorities that are opposed to us have had their primary weapons removed from them.  Because Jesus' death removed our guilt, they can no longer point at us and say that we are guilty and deserve to be punished.  And they would be glad to heap accusation, guilt and condemnation on us.  But, they have been disarmed because our guilt has been paid for in full.  We are complete in Christ because Satan's forces have been completely defeated!

e. Paul gives us five ways to recognize false, man-made religion. (2:16-18)
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."

Thought Question:  Before you look at the notes, what do you believe are five ways that Paul gives in these verses that will help us to recognize false religions?

 

 

(1) There is an emphasis on regulations. (2:16)
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."  Asceticism is the attempt to become holy by depriving ourselves of worldly enjoyments.  The more you deprive yourself, the more holy you supposedly become.  The ascetic Simeon Styletes of the Middle Ages attempted to get very holy by living on the top of a pillar for thirty years.  Those who seek after this route towards holiness, usually have a list of "do nots" and "dos" on paper somewhere or in their heads.  They seek to become holier than others by how well they obey these regulations.  The Old Testament regulations were a picture of our sin and our need for a Savior.  Their purpose was not to provide a way to holiness through obedience to rules or by depriving oneself of food and drink. See also Romans 7

From this verse—2:16, we can see that there were those who were judging others in Colossae by what they ate or drank, and by whether or not they practiced certain religious festivals.  Jesus said it is not what we do on the outside that makes us holy, but it is what is on the inside and comes out that determines whether or not we are holy.  These false teachers were judging the Christians in Colossae on what they did or did not do.  They, of course, were prideful because they believed that they were more successful in obeying these regulations than the Christians at Colossae were.

(2) There is an emphasis on rituals. (2:17)
"These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."  The Old Testament rituals were a picture or a shadow of what was to come.  They were a picture of Jesus Christ; His life and His death for our sins.  Jesus Christ is the reality, the Old Testament regulations are like a hand drawing of Him.  We have the rituals of baptism and the Lord's Supper that point back to Him.

The problem is that man-made religion tends to emphasize the ritual rather than the reality that the ritual is pointing to.  Our Christmas celebration is like this: there is much empty ritual during the Christmas season, and there is often more emphasis on the ritual than on the One the ritual is pointing to.  In man-made religion, ritual tends to become more and more important, and God and the meaning of His words tend to become correspondingly less and less important.  The ritual finally becomes an end in itself.  See 2:20Hchu23

(3) There is an emphasis on false humility. (2:18a)
"Do not let anyone who delights in false humility . . . disqualify you for the prize."  What is false humility?  Hindu holy men provide us with an example of this type of humility.  Are men like Gandhi truly humble?  The Bible teaches that true humility comes when we follow the pattern of the tax collector found in Luke 18, "God be merciful to me a sinner."  Did Gandhi ever do that?  If he did, he was truly humble.  If not, his humility was false.  All who give an appearance of being religious, but do not admit their sins before God and seek His forgiveness are not truly humble.

(4) There is an emphasis on intermediaries between God and man and on angels. (2:18b)
"Do not let anyone who delights in . . . the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."  In man-made religion, the focus of worship shifts from God to someone or something else.  Catholicism worships Mary, the saints, and the Pope.  Mormonism focuses on Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni.  The New Age religion focuses on spirit guides and enlightened masters.  Hinduism focuses on their holy men.  And even evangelical Christians can focus too much on charismatic leaders.  We have tragically come to learn in recent years that many of these leaders that we once idolized are mere men like us, who are also capable of falling into sin.

(5) There is an emphasis on revelations or visions. (2:18c)
"Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions."  Part of the false religion that Paul deals with in the book of Colossians is a false religion whose adherents were making the claim that they were seeing visions.  False visions are a part of many false religions.  Islam is based on visions that Mohammed reported that he received from the angel Gabriel.  Mormonism is based on visions that Joseph Smith claims that he received.  Those in New Age religion report that they receive messages from spirit guides.  Within Christendom there are visions that are equally as suspect as the visions from these other religions.  We can tell by Paul's words here that we need to be very cautious when someone says that God has spoken to them.  Especially when they come across as believing that their vision from God makes them superior to other men.  See Jeremiah 23:16-40

f. Paul closes by explaining what is wrong with this type of false religion that presents itself as being from God. (2:19-23)
"He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.  Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!"?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, in what ways is being complete in Christ superior to being a part of a false religion?

 

 

(1) It separates us from Jesus, the Head of the church. (2:19)
"He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow."  False religion that emphasizes regulations, rituals, worshipping intermediaries, false humility, and visions separates us from Jesus Christ who is the Head and the source of life and growth for the church.  False religion puts the focus on us and what we are to do, and on anything or anyone but Jesus Christ.  Christianity is solely based on Jesus Christ, what He has done for us and what He can do in us.  Those who become involved in false religion are, above all, separated from Jesus Christ.

(2) It does not work. (2:20-23)
"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:  'Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!'?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Man-made religion may seem very pious, sacred, and wise.  But it has a very important flaw; it does not help us into a relationship with God or toward a godly life.  It also does not solve our basic problems nor meet our basic needs.  It leaves us a slave to sin and still in our guilt!  As we have all learned when we have made our New Year's resolutions, we need more than just a greater human effort to change who we are.  The Bible and our experience tell us that our fleshly desires are stronger than our wills. See Romans 8:7

All the man-made religions with their human efforts to reach above this human world are as futile as trying to fly without the use of any flying device.  The results of our effort to try to harness and control the flesh is summed by Paul's words in Romans 7:24:  "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?"  Worst of all, those who follow these religions are separate from Jesus Christ, the true way to God and godliness!

Our New ResponsibilityTo live as those who possess the fullness of Jesus Christ (3-4)

1. We are to focus our hearts on our new goal—our new life in the heavenly realm. (3:1-4)
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Thought Question:  What is meant by setting our hearts and minds on "things above"?

 

 

We are to seek that which is "above" where Christ who is in us now dwells.  He is both in us and above us at the same time.  It is also true that we are in two places.  We are physically in this world, but in our spirits we have access to the very throne of God.  Hebrew 4:16 says we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence."

a. Baptism symbolizes our dying to the old life and being raised to a new life.
Our responsibility is to focus our hearts on what is above and on this new life we now have in Christ.  We have a new life and this new life comes from Jesus Christ who is now seated at the right hand of God.  Our new life does not come from this earth but from heaven.

b. We are to set our hearts on this new life from Jesus Christ.
Most people have their hearts set on something.  A man may have his heart set on being a good tennis player, another's heart may be set on being successful in business, and still another may be dedicated to remodeling his house.  We Christians are to set our hearts on developing our new life in Jesus Christ.  It is to be our supreme goal and task in life!  When we set our hearts on things below, we set our hearts on sexual immorality, greed, resentment, and other ugly things.  When we set our hearts on things above, we set our hearts on compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness and other beautiful qualities of Jesus' life.

2. We are to get rid of our old, ugly, worldly ways. (3:5-10)
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is our part and what is God's part in living out the Christian life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to 3:5-10, when is the new self put on?  (many times, few times, one time? done in the past or present?)

 

 

Thought Question #3:  According to 3:5-10, what are some of the reasons we should want to leave the ways of the old life?

 

 

a. Why we must get rid of the old style of life (3:5-7)

(1) It is ugly! (3:5)
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."  Sexual immorality (that type of sexual practice that is a perversion of God's good and pure plan for sexuality), impurity (all that is not pure and good), lust (insatiable desires for more and more and more), evil desires (desires for that which is evil rather than for what is pure and good), and idolatry (worshipping gods that are really demonic) are all ugly!  This is what the non-Christians are like, they want things that are not clean and good, and they never get enough of it.  Why would we now desire to seek after that which is ugly when God has opened our eyes to that which is pure and good; and has filled us with the life of Christ so we can seek after purity and beauty with His desire and heart?

(2) It is because of this ugliness that the Bible calls sin that God is going to punish the world. (3:6)
"Because of these, the wrath of God is coming."  Why would we Christians who know God, want to do that which we now understand is the reason that God will bring horrible judgment and punishment down on men?

(3) These ways were part of our old life, but not part of our new life. (3:7)
"You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived."  We used to be just like them, for we used to desire that which is impure and even that which is evil.  But, now Christ is in us, and that old man with his old impure, insatiable cravings is no longer who we are.  We are new people in Christ.  We may not fully believe that this is true, but it is the truth.  We are not who we once were; we are somebody different now that Jesus is in us.

b. What we must go that was part of our old life (3:8-9a)
"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other,"

(1) We must get rid of the following:
anger (animosity we hold on to toward someone for a long time), rage (explosive anger), malice (wanting something bad to happen to someone), slander (saying something for the purpose of doing some type of damage to someone), filthy language (profanity of all kinds), and lying (not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth).

(2) Although we are new people in Christ, we still have the habit patterns from our old life.
We still have our human flesh, are still influenced by the world around us, are still tempted by the Devil, and still have the habit patterns from our old life.  Therefore, it is necessary for us to continually work at getting rid of the ugliness that is still part of our life. 

c. The reason we can now live a new life is because when we became Christians, each of us took off the old self with its ugly practices and put on the new self which is "being renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator." (3:9b-10a)
"since you have taken off your old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."  Paul tells us here and in other places that when we became Christians we put on a completely new life.  It is like taking off our work clothes, taking a shower, and then putting on our best set of clothes.  We took off the old man and put on the new man when we became Christians.  As it says in II Corinthians 5:17, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Because we are new people in Christ, we now are in the process of being renewed and becoming who God created us to be.  What was God's goal when He created us?  He created us to be in His image.  We lost what God created us for at the fall of Adam.  But, Jesus Christ the last Adam has restored what the first Adam lost.  When we believed in Jesus Christ, you and I personally received His ability to fulfill God's goal for mankind.  God's original goal that we might be like Him has been restored to us.  "and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

Many Christians believe that these two verses are saying that we as Christians need to rededicate ourselves by taking off the old self and by putting on the new self or the new man.  We do not need to take off the old man now, because that already happened when we became Christians.  But we do need to get rid of the old practices that were part of our old life.  These old practices are not who we now are in Christ, but they are still hanging on to us from the old life.  We are not the old man, but we can act like the old man.

Romans 6:6 and Ephesians 4:20-24 also describe what we did when we became Christians.  The "old self" in Romans 6:6 is you and I before we became a Christian.  "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with."  The "body of sin" was "done away with" because the person we were without Christ in us has been done away with.  That person was a slave to sin.  Putting on the "new self" in Ephesians 4:20-24 took place when we became a Christian.  For in Ephesians 4:20 Paul says, "You, however, did not come to know Christ that way."  Then, in verse 22, he says, "You were taught, [when you came to "know Christ"] with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires," [the "body of sin" in Romans 6:6].  Then, in verse 24 he says, "and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  When we became a Christian, we put off the old self and put on the new self, and became a completely new person with God's potential in us.  As Christians we are to become in practice who we already are in potential. See also II Peter 1:3-7

3. We are to act as those who are filled with Jesus Christ; we are to act in holy, loving ways toward others. (3:11-16)
"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how can you recognize when your Christianity is authentic and motivated by Jesus Christ?

 

 

a. We are to act as one! (3:11)
"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Thought Question:  Who are those that we tend to look down on in our society today?

 

 

There are no divisions among Christians.  "One of the great effects of Christianity is that it destroys barriers.  In it, there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free men.  The ancient world was full of barriers.  The Greek looked down on the barbarian; and to the Greek any man who did not speak Greek was a barbarian, which literally means a man who says 'bar-bar.'  The Greek was the aristocrat of ancient world and he knew it.  The Jew looked down on every nation.  He belonged to God's chosen people and the other nations were fit only to be fuel for the fires of hell.  The Scythian was notorious as the lowest of barbarians; more barbarian than the barbarians, the Greeks called him; little short of being a wild beast, Josephus called him.  He was proverbially the savage who terrorized the civilized world with his bestial atrocities.  The slave was not even classified in ancient law as a human being; he was merely a living tool, with no rights of his own.  His master could thrash or brand or maim or even kill him at caprice; he had not even the right of marriage.  There could be no fellowship in the ancient world between a slave and a free man.  In Christ all these barriers were broken down.  J.B. Lightfoot reminds us that one of the great tributes paid to Christianity was paid not by a theologian but by a master linguist.  Max Muller was one of the great experts of the science of languages.  In the ancient world no one was interested in foreign languages, apart from Greek.  The Greeks were the scholars and would never be deigned to study a barbarian tongue......Max Muller wrote: 'Not till the word barbarian was struck out of the dictionary of mankind, and replaced by brother, not till the right of all nations of the world to be classed as members of one genus or kind was recognized, can we look even for the first beginnings of our science of language . . . This change was affected by Christianity."  William Barclay's commentary on Colossians, pages 154,155.  "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975."

There are also many barriers between people and even Christians in our world—between races, between denominations, between rich and poor, and others.  If we see the truth, we will realize that we are one in Christ.  God's desires to remove the barriers that divide us so that we will experience our oneness in Christ.  For in Christ, there is also no Baptist, no Pentecostal, no black, no white, but Christ is in all of us and we are one in Him.

b. We are to clothe ourselves with compassion. (3:12a)
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion,"  Barclay makes the following comment on the importance of compassion within Christianity in his commentary on Colossians:  "If there is one thing the ancient world needed it was mercy.  The sufferings of animals were nothing to it.  The maimed and the sickly went to the wall.  There was no provision for the aged.  The treatment of the idiot and the simple-minded was unfeeling.  Christianity brought mercy into this world.  It is not too much to say that everything that has been done for the aged, sick, the weak in body and in mind, the animal, the child, the woman has been done under the inspiration of Christianity."  "Taken from The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975." 

Churches are not successful when they have large church buildings filled with people.  They are only successful when these large numbers of Christians are showing compassion for the needy in their community to such a degree that the people in the community are being profoundly impacted by the mercy of Jesus through them.  If our Christianity does not have compassion for the needy, it is a Christianity that is void of one of the most important qualities of Jesus' life.

c. We are to clothe ourselves with kindness. (3:12b)
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with . . . kindness,"  Many of us can remember this quality in an early kindergarten, first grade, or second grade teacher who was most likely a woman.  But, this quality is not just for women, it is also to be the quality of Christian men.  Jesus was kind.  When the world looks at the church and at Christians they should see Jesus' kindness.

d. We are to clothe ourselves with humility. (3:12c)
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with . . . humility,"  First, we need to be willing to admit the truth about ourselves.  We need to be willing to admit it when we are wrong or do wrong.  We need to be willing, as Jesus was, to do whatever it takes to best serve others.  Jesus left Heaven.  We need to be willing to leave our suburbs, nice homes, and pride behind and stoop down before people and wash their feet as Jesus washed His disciples' feet.  They should not see the Christians around them as those who appear to think they are "holier than thou," but as those who think they are less holy than thou and infinitely much less holy than Thou!

e. We are to clothe ourselves with gentleness. (3:12d)
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with . . . gentleness,"  We need to exercise self-control and seek to not be any stronger with people than is necessary for their good.  Gentleness is the ability to endure the difficulties which we all experience in this world without lashing out.  Christianity should be characterized not by retaliation, harshness, sharp words, and abuse, but by the quality of long-suffering, softness and appropriate responses.

f. We are to clothe ourselves with patience. (3:12e)
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with . . . patience,"   Patience means that we are to be long-suffering with each other.  Christians are to persevere when it is difficult to bear with each other.  The world should be observing how long-suffering we Christians are toward each other and toward them.

g. We are to clothe ourselves with forgiveness. (3:13)
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  We are to forgive each other as Jesus has forgiven us.  The world should be helped to believe that Jesus offers them forgiveness for their sins by the forgiveness that they see us Christians having toward them and toward each other.  Without God's forgiveness of us, we and they would not be able to have a relationship with Him.  Without our world seeing the forgiveness of Christians toward each other and toward others, they will be unable to see in our lifestyles the primary message that God wants us to communicate to the world—that God's forgiveness is available to them.  The same forgiving love that they should see in our lives is the love and forgiveness God has for them.

h. We are to clothe ourselves with love. (3:14)
"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."  If we genuinely love each other, we will be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and forgiving.  Love is the motive that produces all the other qualities of the new self in Christ.  When others see Jesus in us, they see love in us!  "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

4. We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. (3:15a)
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,"  God desires that peace rule in our hearts; Satan desires that we lose Christ's peace and that anxiety and fear rule in our hearts.  The way that you can know there is something wrong between God and you is when peace is not the ruler of your heart.  Also, Satan is winning when there is not peace in God's church.

5. We are to "be thankful." (3:15b)
"And be thankful."  When we see the truth about God's love and grace toward us, we will be thankful.  When we are experiencing the full life of Christ that is in us, we will be thankful.  Three sure tests to see whether or not there is something wrong in our Christian walk is to check and see if we are, right now, thankful, whether we have God's peace within us, and whether we have love in us for others.  If we fail these three tests, we need to seek to discover the reason why we are no longer experiencing God's grace and Christ's life within us.

Thought Question:  Here is Colossians 3:12-15 again:  "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful."  Pick two of these Christ-like qualities of life that you believe that God wants you to most work on in you life right now.  What are they?  How can you begin to work on them?  (Rereading my notes might help you on where you can start.)

 

 

6. We are to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. (3:16-17)
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  Here is Ephesians 5:18-20 a similar, but also different section of verses:  "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  How are Colossians 3:16-17 and Ephesians 5:18-20 the same and different?

 

 

Thought Question:  How do we "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly?

 

 

Thought Question:  How can you tell if you are letting "the word of Christ dwell in [you] richly?

 

 

a. What does it mean "to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly?
If we compare Ephesians 5:18-20 with these two verses, it will be obvious that letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly and being filled with the Spirit are different ways of saying the same thing.  Also, because the whole book of Colossians is about experiencing the fullness of Christ, being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly also describe how we experience the fullness of Jesus Christ in us.  It is being filled and controlled by God's Spirit, God's Word and God's Son.  It is being filled with God's character, purity, and love.

b. How do we let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly?
It only happens when God's Word is our greatest treasure.  Everyone has something that is his or her greatest treasure.  If one's house is burning down, it is that person's greatest treasure in the house that he or she will try to save first.  Also, whatever is our treasure, we will hold on to and store up.  In Proverbs 2:1-4 it says, "My son if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning you ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as silver and search for it as for hidden treasure..."  That is what leads to the Word of Christ dwelling in you richly.  When you see that God's Word is a treasure that comes from a loving Father and that the Creator of the universe has revealed to you His wisdom, then His words will be much more precious to you than gold, silver, or any other treasure that is found on this earth.  As you treasure His words not just in your mind, but in the deepest parts of your heart, you will more and more get to know the God who made us.

c. What is the evidence that we are letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly?
If the Word of Christ dwells "in us richly," your life and my life will begin to overflow with what is found in these two verses.  You, I and other Christians will enjoy doing each of the following:  We will desire to "teach and admonish one another with all wisdom."  One of our greatest joys will be to teach others what God is teaching us in His Word.  We will be greatly concerned when we see people going astray or being led astray from God's ways.  Our concern will lead us to do that which will help them to get back on God's path.  We "admonish" someone when we correct that person when he or she is going in the wrong direction and help them get back on the right path.  We will experience great satisfaction when we "sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your [our] hearts towards God."  We will do what we say and do "in the name of the Lord Jesus." We will do what we say and do as an expression of our being His representative on this earth.

The opposite of letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, is to have the world's attitudes dwell in us: ingratitude, self-promotion, bitterness, glorying in the ugly, gossip, and factions, and more of all that belongs to Satan's kingdom.  Being filled with God's Spirit, God's Son, and God's Word, is the very opposite and leads to encouraging one another, gratitude and hearts overflowing with joy expressed in all types of singing.

7. We are to be loving and submissive to those in authority. (3:18-4:1)
Everyone who has tried to keep their house neat and orderly knows how easy it is for things to get disorderly.  This is particularly true also in our relationships with others in society.  In these verses we see God's plan for society.  Paul gives us God's plan for relationships between husbands and wives, fathers and children, and masters and slaves (in our world—bosses and employees).

As we look at these instructions, the human tendency is for us to focus on how the other person should be treating us rather than focusing on our responsibility.  The husband's ears perk up when the wife's responsibility is being taught, but not when his responsibility is being emphasized.  It is only when we each seek to do our part that God's plan will function as He meant it to work.  As we go through God's plan, let us focus primarily on our roles in God's plan.

Another tendency in our society is to focus more on our "rights" than on our responsibilities.  Also, as we go through God's plan, let us focus not on our rights or the way we should be treated, but on how we should treat others!

a. God's plan for relationships between husbands and wives (3:18-19)
"Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

Thought Question #1:  Why are some people to submit to others?  Does that mean that some people are not equal to others?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is God's plan for marriage better than the plan for marriage that is popular today where there is no leader in the home?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Why does Paul emphasize that husbands are not to be harsh with their wives?

 

 

(1) "Wives, submit to your husbands." (3:18)
 "Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord."

(a) How does man's plan work?
Man's plan today is that there is to be no head of the home and no one is to submit to the other (they would say it is demeaning for the wife to submit to her husband).  Does this plan work?  Do we elect two presidents of the U. S. (we came close to it in 2001!), two governors of a state, or two mayors of a city?  When you have two heads, it usually results in a struggle for domination.  One ultimately wins out and becomes the dominant one.  God's plan is different than man's plan, where there is no head of the home and which often results in a struggle for domination in the marriage.  God has designated who is to be the head of the home.

(b) Which is more stable, when there is a battle for headship or when someone designates who the head will be?
Is it better to have an owner of a store appoint a store manager or for the employees to fight it out over who will be the boss?  The answer is obvious.  Our Creator has designated that the husband is to be the head of the home.

The person who is in the position of leadership should not be looked upon as superior to the person who is to submit.  If this were true, then the Father would be superior to the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But, all three are equally God.  The Father, however, has the leadership role in the Godhead.  There are many situations within churches where the leadership roles switch, where the person who was a leader is now submitting to someone who had been submitting to him.  An elder may be part of a Sunday school class.  In that Sunday school class the elder submits to the leader of the Sunday school class.  But in other matters of the church, the Sunday school teacher submits to the elder.  The wife is not inferior to the husband, but for the sake of order in the home, she is to submit to the leadership of her husband.

(c) What is God's plan?
When we get to the husband's role, we will see that the husband also has a servant's role toward the wife.  God's plan is not for the husband to dominate and the wife to serve, but for both to serve each other.  Though, each serves in different way and each has a different servant role within the marriage.

(d) What is the wife's role in God's plan?
The wife is to submit to her husband's leadership.  Just as a basketball team is to submit to the coach's leadership, so a wife is to submit to her husband's leadership.  The coach, not the team, provides the game plan for the team.  The husband's role is to give this type of leadership for the family.  He is to give the family a plan for their spiritual life, financial budget, sharing of the work, nurturing of the children, and for other family areas.  The wife's role is to submit to her husband's leadership.

(2) "Husbands, love your wives.” (3:19)
"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

(a) Jesus gave His pattern for our role with each other when He washed the disciples' feet.
We are to serve each other.  Husbands are to love (serve) their wives.  We are not harsh to someone we love and serve.  This completely rules out the harsh, dominating, abusive husband.  God's plan is not for the husband to dominate his wife ("I am the boss and you are my slave" type of attitude).  Though it is much easier for the husband to be impatient, irritable, resentful, and harsh, each husband is commanded by God to be a servant to his wife and to be patient and gentle with her.  Harshness is a husband's normal fleshly, selfish response to his wife.  Because the full life of Jesus lives within each Christian husband, we who are Christian husbands are to be loving and gentle toward our wives as Jesus is loving and gentle towards us.

Because the husband is usually bigger and stronger than his wife, the husband can tend to be the bully in the home.  God is, of course, much bigger and stronger than we are.  He does not bully us, but is gentle with us.  Christian husbands (and any husbands) are not in any way to bully their wives, but to be gentle with their wives as God is gentle with us.

(b) Instead of two independent, selfish people fighting over who is going to get their way, God's plan for marriage is for both to serve the other.
The wife is to submit and the husband is to love and to not be harsh.  When the husband is loving and a servant to his wife, she finds it easier to submit to him.  When the wife shows by her actions that she is willing to submit to her husband, it makes it easier for him to be loving and caring toward her (he is disarmed by not having to fight for leadership in the home).  As a result, the two are drawn together rather than driven away from each other.  The two grow toward oneness. 

At the beginning of a church camp, the counselors and volunteers go to camp expecting to serve.  The children, on the other hand, tend to go to camp expecting to be served.  If we go into a marriage like the children going to church camp, and expect to be served, we are heading toward disaster.  However, if we go in to marriage with the same attitude as those who are volunteering to help at church camp—expecting to serve, we will be moving toward experiencing the type of marriage that God wants us to experience.

b. God's plan for relationships between parents and children  (3:20-21)
"Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."

Thought Question #1:  Why is there so much rebellion among children in our society today?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can fathers embitter or discourage their children?

 

 

(1) "Children obey your parents." (3:20)
"Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."

(a) God's plan for everyone is that they learn to live under authority.
Primarily, we are to learn to live under His authority.  He has set up positions of authority underneath Him.  One of those positions of authority is the parents' authority over their children.  Children's obedience to their parents starts them along a path of being able to obey other authorities in their lives.  The child who is disobedient at home is going to find it difficult to obey school teachers as a young person and, when he is old enough to be employed, he is going to find it difficult to obey his boss.

(b) Paul predicted in II Timothy 3 that the last days will be characterized by children being disobedient to their parents.
We see this pattern of children rebelling against their parents growing today.  Our society has become more concerned about children's rights than with preserving the parents' authority role.

As it says in Proverbs 29:15, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother."  Children need to be under their parents' authority and guidance or they will do what is foolish as a lifestyle and bring their parents to shame and disgrace.

(2) "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." (3:21)
Fathers are to be careful not to discourage their children.  We can discourage our children in many ways: by nagging, by not listening to them, by comparing them to other children in the family and outside of the family, by not appreciating their attempts to improve, by not noticing their accomplishments, by seeking to dominate them, by becoming resentful toward them, by complaining about them, by arguing with them, by not controlling our tempers, by being harsh, and in many other ways.  It is never right for us who are fathers to do what is wrong.  Because we are fathers, we are not free to act in any way we choose toward our children.  We need to be very careful in how we act toward our children and seek not to do what is wrong toward them, so that we do not discourage them and embitter them toward us.

c. God's plan for relationships between masters and slaves (today—the relationship between bosses and employees). (3:22-4:1)
"Slaves, obey you earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.  Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a Master in heaven."

Thought Question:  How do these instructions to masters and slaves apply to how bosses and employees should treat each other in our society?

 

 

(1) "Slaves, obey your earthly masters." (3:22-25)
"Slaves, obey you earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism."

Submitting to our bosses does not just mean doing a good job when our bosses are watching us, but true submission for a slave at Paul's time (and in our times as an employee) was to be submissive to their master's desires even when he was not watching.  For the Christian, the most important BOSS is the One who is always watching us.  We are to continually work wholeheartedly to please the Big BOSS.  For we know that our final and most important reward does not come from our earthly bosses, but from God.

It is also true (as it says in 3:25) that God will bring justice to the slave master of that time and the boss of today who mistreats those who are under his authority.  In James 5:1, James warns the wealthy Jewish landlords who were persecuting their poor Jewish Christian workers in the following way:  "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded.  Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.  You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workman who mowed your fields are crying out against you.  The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you."  God will not allow the evil that a slave-master or a boss does to go unpunished!

(2) "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair." (4:1)
"Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a Master in heaven."  Slave-masters, then, and bosses today do not have absolute authority over those under them, and they are not allowed by God to treat those under their authority in any way they choose.  They are not the final authority, and they themselves will someday meet the One they are accountable to.  They "also have a Master in heaven."  If bosses today treated those under them as God would have them treat their employees, there would be no real need for unions.

8. We are to devote ourselves to prayer. (4:2-4)
The next two areas that Paul focuses in on are two parts of the Christian life where we all recognize that we need improvement—prayer and reaching out to those outside the church with the Gospel message.  Paul was successful in both of these two areas.  If he were here with us today, this is part of what he would say to us to help us so that we can be more effective in our prayer lives and more effective in reaching out with the Gospel to non-believers.  First, he talks to the Colossian Christians and us about prayer.

a. Why don't we pray as often as we should? (4:2)
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

Thought Question:  Why is it too often true that we do not pray as often as we know we should?

 

 

Why do we feel cold, lack enthusiasm, and not get around to praying?  Paul gives us three pieces of advice to help us:

(1) We are to devote ourselves to prayer.
"Devote yourselves to prayer,"  Some things in life come easily.  We do not have to devote ourselves to eating.  But other activities in life are uphill-type struggles and require that we devote ourselves to them.  For example, we need to devote ourselves to cleaning up after ourselves, to being a good worker, to being a good parent, and to having a good marriage.

In the Christian life, there are many areas that require devotion.  Learning God's Word requires more than listening to Sunday school lessons or to sermons.  For, people can sit and listen for years and still not understand the Bible very well.  We need to devote ourselves to understanding God's book.  See Proverbs 2 and Psalm 119  We also need to devote ourselves to getting to know God, to loving each other, and to reaching our world with the Gospel message.

Also, we need to devote ourselves to prayer or we will not do it, or we will do it very little.  Do you agree?  Paul gives us here what he has learned about prayer.  We must make prayer a priority in our lives and continually be dedicated to prayer or we will not get around to it very often.  Otherwise, everything else will crowd it out of our lives.  In Ephesians 6:18, Paul said we are to "pray without ceasing."

(2) Another reason we do not pray is because we are not aware of the needs around us.
"being watchful"  We are to be in a constant state of "being watchful."  It is not unusual for each of us to be so absorbed in our own lives and with our own concerns that we miss all of the needs that are all around each of us.  We can even miss the needs of close family members.  There are many needs that are all around us.  If we are watchful, we will notice them.  What are some of the needs?  A family member may be going through an unusually pressured time.  We need to pray with them through this time.  A relative may be having trouble in his family.  We need to be alert to this need and be in prayer for them.  A friend may have a husband or wife who is not a believer.  We need to pray continually for this great need.  We all have neighbors who do not know God.  We need to be in prayer for them.  Our pastor is in a constant battle for the church he oversees.  We need to battle in prayer right alongside him.  In Ephesians 6:18, Paul says that Christians are to "be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."  Our government leaders need to be continually supported with our prayers.  As we learn of tragedies in our city, our state, our country, and across the world, we need to immediately ask for God's compassion towards those who are suffering.  We need to be praying for missionaries and for God's work in every corner of the world.  The needs are great and if we are constantly "being watchful" we will always have many needs that we can pray for.

(3) And we are to be "thankful."
"and thankful."  How can being thankful help our prayer life?  The opposite of being "thankful" is being full of self-pity.  When we are full of self-pity, we are also not motivated to pray for or even be concerned about anybody but ourselves.  On the other hand, when we are thankful for all we have through God's love and grace, we are motivated to pray.  Paul was in prison when he wrote Colossians (also Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon).  But, he says in Colossians 1:3, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you."  And he says in 1;9, "since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you."  Paul was thankful and it motivated him to pray for others and their needs.  When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we will find it hard to pray; when we are being "thankful," we will find it easy to pray.

b. We are to devote ourselves to praying for Christian workers. (4:3-4)
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

Thought Question:  Why is prayer essential for a successful ministry?

 

 

Paul asks the Colossian Christians to pray so that he would be helped in two ways:

(1) So that God would open a door for his message
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message,"  Anyone who has been involved in Christian work knows the difference between someone who is open to listening to God's message and someone who is not open to listening.  The difference is whether or not God has opened someone's heart to the Gospel message.  In Acts 16:14, we are told that when Paul gave the Gospel message to Lydia in Philippi that "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message."  It is God who opens our hearts so that we can understand and respond to God's message.  And, according to Colossians 4:3,4 (our verses here), He opens people's hearts in response to our prayers.  Does this not give us a totally compelling reason to pray that God would open people's hearts to His message today?  For examples of God opening doors, see I Corinthians 16:8,9 and Revelation 3:8.

(2) That he would be able to proclaim the gospel message clearly
"Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."  All of us have known times when the gospel message has been presented clearly and unmistakably by a speaker.  Billy Graham is used by God to present the gospel message clearly on a regular basis.  We also may have had times when we have found ourselves praying quietly for a speaker because the message has not yet been made clear.  Paul acknowledges here that it is God that enables someone to give God's message in a clear, simple and powerful way.  Paul puts it in these words in I Corinthians 2:4, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power."  Because the Gospel message will not touch hearts unless people's hearts are open and God's message comes to them clearly; and because God alone can do this, we need to be devoted to praying that God will open doors and that God's servants will give the message clearly!

9. Be wise towards outsiders. (4:5-6)

a. In these verses, we see that there is more to reaching the world than sharing the gospel message.
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Just as there is more to growing a crop than planting the seed and harvesting the crop (preparing the field, weeding, etc.), so there is more to reaching our world for Christ than sharing the gospel and enjoying people believing in Jesus Christ.  We also must labor at preparing the fields.  Paul gives us in these verses, the early steps that are necessary to prepare the fields (the world around us) for the gospel seed.

Thought Question:  According to 4:5-6, what can we do to help prepare the harvest fields to be ripe for harvest?

 

 

(1) Be wise toward outsiders. (4:5)
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, that we are to be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves."  In Proverbs we learn that the key to gaining wisdom and being wise is to listen before we speak.  We need to listen carefully so that we will be able to say the right thing to the right person at the right time.  An example of being wise toward outsiders was Jesus' way of dealing with the woman at the well in John 4.  He surprised her, created curiosity in her, and led her to be convicted about her sin; so that when He told her who He is, she was eager and ready to hear what He wanted to tell her.  In reaching our world, we need more than zeal; we need to develop the type of wisdom that Jesus used with this woman.  Instead of boring and turning off our world to God's message, we need to work hard at creating a curiosity, an interest, and a desire in people to hear Gods' message in our world-wide audience.

Each of us makes contact with people in our world each day.  Paul tells us here that we are to make the most of every opportunity.  Jesus made the most of his opportunity with the woman at the well in John four.  After He wisely dealt with her, she received Him as the Messiah.  Do we make the best of the opportunities that we have with people who do not know Jesus Christ?  Could there be people who would also be willing to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, if we dealt with them more wisely?

(2) Our words are to "be full of grace, seasoned with salt" (4:6)
A friend, who also edits these pages, said that she heard a preacher a long time ago preach about being salt.  He said, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  But you can make him awful thirsty."  Our Christian lives can also create a thirst for what we have in Christ.

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."  In I Thessalonians 4:11-12,  Paul says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."  In Philippians 2:14-15 Paul says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe."  And in I Peter 2:11, Peter says, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

We are not to concentrate on our rights, but on being gracious before men.  Our goal is to be like salt for God, creating in men an interest in our lives and why we are the way we are.  The symbol of salt may mean we are to create a thirst for God or that we are to make the Christian life tasty and desirable for those who do not know Him.  As it says at the end of 4:6, we are to be gracious and constantly careful so that we "may know how to answer everyone."  We are not to blurt out words that will turn men away from God, but we are to constantly be careful to choose those words that will draw men to God.

God is gracious toward us in many ways.  Before we were Christians, He allowed us to benefit from all the riches of His universe.  He did not punish us as we deserved.  See Romans 2:4  His greatest expression of grace is that He gave His only Son to die for us so that we might be forgiven and become part of His eternal family.  When we have been treated with such grace by God, should we then deal with others on the basis of law, requiring a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye?  The Bible teaches that we are to also be gracious to each other and to those outside the church.  We are to turn the other cheek, return good for evil, submit to leaders who are harsh, and be gracious toward those in our world. See Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:17-21; I Peter 2:13-24

We are to boldly speak the truth in love.  But, we are also to be long-suffering, gracious, and merciful.  Stephen provides the perfect example for us.  He boldly confronted the false teachers in Israel.  But he showed he had grace in his heart toward these arrogant religious leaders; for as they were stoning him, he cried out to God that He would not hold this sin against them.  He still hoped that God's message of mercy would get through to them later.  At least one of the religious leaders did eventually believe in Jesus Christ, for Paul the future Apostle heard Stephen's words that day. See Acts 7:51-8:1

Closing Words (4:7-18)

At the end of Paul's letters he makes his personal comments to the readers of these letters.  In Colossians and Romans, he makes his longest personal expressions to his readers.  It is in these conclusions to his letters that we get to know more about the personal side of Paul and his readers.  For example, we get to know a little about the personal interactions between the Christians of the early church.

In these verses, we will hear names that today are foreign to us. We should not allow names like Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Demas, Nympha, and Archippus to cause us to think that this section of Colossians is way beyond us.  These are just names for people.  In some parts of the world; John, Dick, Tom and Fred sound strange.  These unfamiliar names in Colossians are no more than the names that were used by the people of that time.  These people that are named were Paul's disciples and close followers, just as Peter, James, John, Martha, Mary and others were Jesus' disciples and close followers.

1. The two messengers who delivered the letter we call Colossians to the church at Colosse (4:7-9)

a. Tychicus (4:7-8) (a man after Paul's heart)
"Tychicus will tell you all the news about me.  He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts."

Tychicus was with Paul when he was forced to leave Ephesus (see Acts 20:4); he was with Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome (from these verses and see Ephesians 6:21,22); he was with Paul after he was released from prison and when he sent a letter to Titus in Crete (see Titus 3:12); and he was with Paul in his final imprisonment (from there he was sent by Paul to Ephesus; see II Timothy 4:12).  He was a close Christian friend and a follower of Paul; he was with Paul in heart.  Here, he would be one of two men who would deliver this letter to the Colossians (and he also delivered the letter we call Ephesians; see Ephesians 6:21,22).  It was as close as Paul could come to visiting them himself.  For Tychicus knew Paul's heart and Tychicus was united in heart with Paul.

Just as in Paul's time, the Christian message today is also primarily shared from heart to heart.  Two people who love God and are seeking to serve God, share God's message from heart to heart with each other.  Then, the same message is shared with others who also share the same openness and love toward God.  Paul was sure that Tychicus would be able to "encourage [their] hearts."

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Tychicus to you?  (someone who shares your heart and sending him or her would be like sending yourself)

 

 

b. Onesimus (4:9) (a man who was once useless to God) See Philemon 11
"He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you.  They will tell you everything that is happening here."  The second messenger is Onesimus a runaway slave from Philemon (a Christian at the church in Colosse).  See the book of Philemon  But, now Onesimus has become a Christian and a close disciple of Paul.  Here, in these verses, there is not even a mention that he is a slave.  Instead, he is a "faithful and dear brother, who is one of you."

Are there Onesimuses in the church today—those who were once useless before the Lord, but are now useful?  The answer, of course, is that all of us were once followers of Satan and were at that time useless to God.  But now that we have become Christians, we, like Onesimus, are now useful to God.  Onesimus, the former heathen slave who had become a Christian through Paul, would be able to show them firsthand how God was continuing to work through Paul.

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Onesimus?  (someone who was once very useless to God, but now is very useful)

 

 

2. Three Jewish Christians send greetings. (4:10-11)

a. Aristarchus (4:10a) (a man who was a fellow struggler)
"My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings,"  Aristarchus was with Paul in Ephesus when the riot broke out against Paul; in fact, he was one of the two that the mob grabbed (see Acts 19:29).  He was also with Paul when he left Ephesus and went to Macedonia and Greece (see Acts 20:4); he was with Paul on the ship when Paul was being sent to be a prisoner at Rome; and, here, he is still with Paul while he is a prisoner at Rome.  He is called here, a "fellow prisoner."  In Hebrews 13:3, the writer of Hebrews says, "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners."  We do not know if Aristarchus was in prison with Paul, but at the very least he was with Paul in heart while Paul was in prison.  Paul did not go through his struggles alone, Aristarchus and others went through all of his struggles with him.  The Christian life lived like Paul lived is not easy.  We all need our Aristarchuses—those who go through our struggles with us.  And we need to go through the struggles of others with them also.

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Aristarchus?  (someone who has gone through tough times with you)

 

 

b. Mark (4:10b) (a man who received a second chance)
"as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.  (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you welcome him.)"  Mark went on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but deserted them in the middle of the journey.  He asked to go on the second missionary journey, but Paul said, "No!"  But, here we see that Paul gave Mark a second chance.  Mark is now with Paul, and Paul instructs the Colossian Christians to "welcome him."  Later, just before Paul's death, Paul says to Timothy, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry."( II Timothy 4:11)  Paul gave Mark a second chance.  We also know that God gave Mark a second chance.  He used Mark to write the Gospel of Mark. 

Should we make room for the Marks in the church today?  Are there those like Mark who have failed in the past, but who have made a comeback and are now useful in the ministry?  The answer should be yes, because God is always the God of the second chance!

Notice that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas.  This may account for part of the reason that Barnabas sided with Mark when Paul would not allow him (Mark) to come on the second missionary journey. See Acts 15:36-41

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Mark?  (someone who has failed in the past, but has been given a second chance)

 

 

c. Jesus (4:11a) (a man we know nothing about)
"Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends his greetings." Jesus was a common Jewish name.  We know nothing about this man except that he was Jewish and was with Paul at this time.  But, we do know that he was important to Paul, and he was important to God.  Through the years of the church there have been hundreds and thousands of those who have served God faithfully whom we know nothing about, but they, like this Jesus, are as important to God as those who have become famous Christians.

d. These three were the only Jews that were among his fellow-workers at Rome.
"These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have proved a comfort to me."  He probably means that these were the only Jewish Christians who shared his heart and stuck with him in his imprisonment in Rome.  When times get tough and there are those who are opposed to us, it is then that we discover who are those who will truly stand with us in the Christian battle.

3. Three Gentile Christians send greetings. (4:12-14)

a. Epaphras (4:12-13) (a Pastor who was a prayer warrior)
"Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis." At the church in Colossae, he was probably similar to our modern-day pastor.  According to these verses, he was wrestling in prayer for them so that they would "stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."  He was praying for them so that they would continue to move forward and not be deluded and get off track because of the false teachers that were threatening to lead them astray.  Are there false teachers today that are a threat to delude us and lead us astray?  Clearly there is also a need today for those like Epaphras who wrestle in prayer against false leaders, so that we will not be led off course from God's truth and His plan for us.

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Epaphras?  (someone who is wrestling for you in prayer and has you constantly on his or her heart)

 

 

b. Luke (4:14a) (a doctor who was a sacrificial servant)
"Our dear friend Luke, the doctor,"  Luke was with Paul on his second missionary journey.  He stayed at Philippi.  He started up again with Paul when he passed through Philippi on the third journey.  We can tell when Luke was with Paul only by when Luke says "we" and "us" in the book of Acts.  When he says "we" and "us," he was with Paul and when he says "them" or does not say "we" or "us," he was not with Paul.  See Acts 16:11-13, 16, 17:1,20:5-6

Luke was the only one who was with Paul at his last imprisonment.   His last imprisonment is not recorded in the book of Acts.  When Paul wrote Colossians he was in the imprisonment described in the last chapters of Acts.  His last imprisonment is only talked about in the book of II Timothy.  See II Timothy 4:11  Luke was a doctor and possibly was with Paul because of a disease Paul had.  He was the first missionary doctor.  He gave up a rich profession to serve God and Paul.  He is like so many today who have given up riches to serve Jesus Christ.  Paul had this type of Christian friend.

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Luke?  (someone who has given up a rich, worldly life to serve the Lord)

 

 

c. Demas (4:14b) (a man who loved this world)
"and Demas send greetings."  In II Timothy, at the end of Paul's life, Paul has the following to say about Demas: "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." (II Timothy 4:10)  Some, today, are also like Demas.  At one time they were eager and zealous in their Christian life, but later their love of worldly pleasure put out the fire.  They then lose interest in Christian work when it begins to cost them something.

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Demas—someone who has left God's work because he or she loved this present world)

 

 

4. Final greetings and instructions (4:15-18)

a. Greetings to the brothers at Laodicea and the church that meets in Nympha's house (4:15)  (Nympha, a woman who was hospitable)
"Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea and to Nympha and the church in her house."  Christians did not meet in church buildings then like we do today.  Many Christians were willing to open their homes for God's work.  One of those church groups met in Nympha's house.  Today, it can be the Bible study that meets in a single woman's home.  Nympha had not only opened her heart to God's work, but also her home.  (Some ancient texts say "her" home and some say "his" home.  Greek scholars are not certain about which one is correct.)

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Nympha?  (someone who is willing to be hospitable to further God's work)

 

 

b. Instructions about how to use this letter that was written to the church at Colossae (4:16)
"After this letter has been sent to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea."  It was to be read by their church and then passed on to the church at Laodicea.  Both churches needed instruction and to be warned of false teachers.  Also, they were to read the letter to the Laodiceans.  Possibly this letter was the letter we call "Ephesians."  We can see that the pattern at that time was to pass letters from Christian leaders from church to church (similar to the way certain books become popular among the churches today).  Eventually, all the letters that carried Apostolic authority were put together and became our New Testament.

c. An encouragement to Archippus (4:17) (a man who was a fellow soldier)
"Tell Archippus:  'See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.'"  In Philemon 2, Paul says, "to Archippus our fellow soldier."  He was close to both Paul and Philemon (possibly Philemon's son).  He was a "fellow soldier."  He was someone who was fighting in God's army right alongside Paul.  But, we can see here that he needed encouragement.  "See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord."  We can be confident that these words from Paul meant a great deal to Archippus.  May we also take these words from Paul as what he would say to us today.  "Complete the work you have received in the Lord."

Thought Question:  Who do you know who is like Archippus?  (someone who is a fellow soldier in God's war with you)

 

 

d. Paul's final words to the Colossian Christians (4:18)
"I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.  Remember my chains.  Grace be with you."  Because Paul had a pattern of dictating his letters to someone who actually did the writing of the letter, it is possible that Paul had poor eyesight and was unable to write the letters himself.  See Romans 16:22  He, then, would end the letter with his own handwriting, so those who received the letter would know that it carried his authority.  See I Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; I Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 19 

In this letter to the Colossian Christians, he focuses on them and their needs throughout the letter.  He is in prison, but his greatest concern is for them.  At the very end of the letter he says, and "by the way, remember my need;" remember that I am in chains.  He puts concern for himself at the very end of the letter.  He was in chains, but his ministry was never in chains!  And he was not alone in his ministry.  He was filled with the fullness of Jesus Christ; he was writing to others who also possessed these same riches; and he was supported by a number of Christian friends who were united with him in the same great cause.  He was in chains, but his work was used of God to spread the gospel message and the message that the fullness of Christ and the fullness of God resides in all Christians.

The message of the book of Colossians is that the fullness of Jesus Christ is now in each of us who have believed in Him.  Because He is in us, we now have the power to live like Him.  We have the power to be genuinely kind, compassionate, humble, submissive, and loving.  When we have Him in us and live like Him, we will find the fulfillment in life that we are all looking for.  The result will be that Jesus in us, our hope of glory, will receive His rightful glory through our lives.

When He receives glory through our lives, we will find the happiness and completeness that every man and every woman is seeking after.  Then, we will be fulfilling the purpose for which God created us.  Paul was willing to suffer and work to the point of exhaustion in God's strength so that every man and woman might know what he had personally come to know and experience that the fullness of Jesus Christ is available to everyone through faith in Jesus' death for us.  And he was willing to dedicate himself fully in this selfless type of a way, so that we who are Christians might know that we already have the fullness of Jesus in us.  All we need to do is to believe that it is true and to live in the power of His life.

As you have gone through the book of Colossians, has God revealed to you His will for your life?  See Colossians 1:9-14  That was Paul's desire for the Christians that he wrote to so many years ago.  It is also God's desire that we see His will for us as we go through the book of Colossians today.  Do you see the beauty of what is now possible for each of us?  The power of His life is already in us, all that is left for you and me to do is for us to diligently and continually seek to live each moment in the beauty of Jesus' life.  Is not this majestic new reality and possibility worth making the highest goal of our lives?

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Other Digging For Gold Studies

The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol I
The Battle For The Sunshine Psalms Vol II
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 1-6
How To Live A Full Life In An Empty World Ecclesiastes 6-12
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 1-6
God Is Ruler Of The Times Of The Gentiles Daniel 7-12
When God Seems Far Away Habakkuk
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 1-7
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 8-14
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 15-22
The Good News About Israel's King Matthew 23-28
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 1-6
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 7-12
The Good News About The Son Of Man Luke 13-18
The Word Became Flesh! John 1-6
The Word Became Flesh! John 7-12
The Word Became Flesh! John 13-17
The Word Became Flesh! John 18-21
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 1-4
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 5-8
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 9-11
Christianity In The Courtroom Romans 12-16
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 1-6
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 7-11
The Battle For The Sunshine I Corinthians 12-16
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
Rediscovering The Joy Of The Gospel Galatians
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 1-3
Seeing The Church From God's Perspective - Seeing The Riches Of God's Grace! Ephesians 4-6
How To Be A Joyful And United Church Philippians
Pursuing Our Fulness In Christ Colossians
A Message To New Christians I Thessalonians
A Second Message To New Christians - A Wider Focus On The Christian Life II Thessalonians
God's Plan For Order In The Church I Timothy
How To Finish Strong In The Lord II Timothy
Doing What Is Good Titus
How To Motivate Others To Do What God Wants Them To Do Philemon
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 1-9
We Should Always Move Forward In Our Faith Hebrews 10-13
From Double-Minded To Single-Minded Christianity James
How To Live In Tough Times With An Eternal Perspective I Peter
How To Have Wholesome Christian Thinking II Peter
The Glorious Circle That Is Eternal Life I John
How Our Joy Can Be Complete &
Two Good Examples And One Bad Example
II & III John
What To Do When The Church Gets Off-Track: Contending For The Faith! Jude
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 1-5
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 6-11
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 12-16
The Unveiling Of The Glorified Jesus Christ And The End Of The Age Revelation 17-22