What We Learned Together on Sunday September 10, 2023
“To any astute observer of the contemporary scene at least in the West but not limited to the western world, most acknowledge that the church is facing challenging times. Living in an increasingly pluralistic and postmodern society where truth and morality are up for grabs, the church is facing incredible pressure to com promise in a whole host of areas including the theological and practical. However, for the most part, the kind of compromise we face is not an outright rejection of the truth of the gospel but a temptation to mix or blend biblical, orthodox Christianity with the current Zeitgeist, that is, the thought, mindset, and “spirit of the age.” The result is a syncretism—in doctrine and practice—which attempts to extract truths from the Bible, divorced from the entire framework and context of Scripture, and then attempts to mix these truths with alien, contradictory viewpoints so that the end result is a compromised gospel and a muting of the Word of truth. [“The Glory of Christ in Colossians” Stephen J. Wellum].
A man prayed several hundred years ago, “Pray to See Christ More Clearly, Love Christ More Dearly (Christian Devotion), and Follow Christ More Nearly (Christian Duty).” There is the emphasis of Christian Doctrine, Christian Devotion, and Christian Duty.
Let’s look at Colossians chapter one verse one to four as we begin an overview of the epistle to the Colossians written by the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the church to learn.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints . . .”
In these verse there is emphasized Writer . . . Readers . . . Greetings. First, we see the Identity of the Writer and Authority of the Writing [cf. 1:4; 2:1; 4:18]. Verse one, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God . . .” Paul would emphasize his position as an apostle [Acts 9, 13, 28]. The authority of God in this letter upon the life of the church and Christians. Throughout this epistle several words and phrases place Christ in His rightful place [Christ [11x], Jesus [7x], “in Him/with Him” [10x] “He” 13x]. These first few verses teach the focus and emphasis of Christ “Jesus . . Christ . . . Lord . . . Jesus.” Ans then Paul writes, “ . . . and Timothy our brother . . .” Timothy was his companion in ministry [Acts 16]. Second, Identity of the Readers and Necessity of the Writing. Verse two says, “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae” Look at this map of the area where Colossae was located. And finally, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Both benefits and blessings from God.
Lightfoot says of the Epistle to the Colossians, “The doctrine of the Person of Christ is here stated with greater precision and fulness than in any other of Paul’s epistles.” And also, “Without doubt Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of Paul is addressed." Several people written about by the Apostle Paul demonstrating the place Christ has in their lives and ministries: Epaphras [4:12] . . . Tychicus [4:7-9] . . . Archippus [4:17]. This clearly shows how the Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ directs the service of His disciples who serve the Lord Jesus as His slaves.
The reason for this is that the Colossian heresy attacked the Person of the Lord Jesus. Combination of legalism and mysticism in this Colossian heresy with elements of humanism [intellectuals], ceremonialism [rituals], asceticism [externals], and legalism [rules]. Recognize and Identify in our culture false teaching according to Scripture. This what Paul is teaching in this writing of this epistle [2:4, 8, 16, 18, 20]. You can find each of these elements throughout chapter two. With humanism presented by intellectuals in the form of philosophies of men this is stated in verse four and verse eight. Colossians 2:4 says, “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” And Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy . . .” With ceremonialism taught through rituals in the form of religions of men this is stated in verse sixteen, “Therefore, no one is to judge you . . .” With ascetism taught by externals in the form of disciplines of men this is stated in verse eighteen, “Let no one keep defrauding you . . .” And finally with legalism taught by rules in the form of moralities of men this is stated in verse twenty, “ . . . why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees . . .” With each of these elements Paul states clearly how Christ is the antidote for the poison of these false teachings. And also to degree Christ is in His rightful place in the life of the Christian and the life of the church such false teachings will not be convincing or tempting.
“Specifically, this is true for the Colossian church. This church, founded by Epaphras and situated in the Lycus Valley, knew what it was like to live in a pluralistic and relativistic age. The Roman Empire harbored every ideology and religion imaginable, united in ultimate allegiance to the Roman Emperor. In such a situation, this church not only knew the pressure to compromise and the pull of syncretism but she had also experienced false teachers in her midst. From the letter, we know that Epaphras had visited Paul while he was in prison in Rome and informed him of the state of the church. Even though much of the report was encouraging (1:8; 2:5), he also reported the rise of false teaching within the church, which if not countered, would undermine the gospel and return the people to spiritual bondage and darkness. In fact, it is to counter such false, aberrant teaching that Paul’s letter was probably written.” [“The Glory of Christ in Colossians” Stephen J. Wellum].
One writer said, “Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison for the sake of the gospel (see Col 4:3, 10, 18), hence its categorization as one of Paul’s captivity letters alongside Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon. For many reasons, throughout the ages, this letter has served the church well. Probably the most significant reason is due to its great and glorious subject matter: the Lord Jesus Christ. From the incredible Christological text or hymn of Colossians 1:15-20, and in every subsequent chapter, the person and work of God’s own dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is unpacked and unveiled before our eyes. Colossians, like no other Pauline letter, from beginning to end, presents the glory, supremacy, preeminence, and sufficiency of Jesus, the incarnate Son, as Lord of creation, redemption, the church, and every principality and power, not only in this age but also in the age to come (see Col 1:15-20; 2:8-15).” This could be explained by the phrase Christianity Centered in Christ. In our culture we often have to place the word biblical before the word Christianity to emphasize what we mean, where we stand, and what we believe. Another commentators said, “From these facts, it seems clear that the Colossian heresy was an eclectic blend of Jewish legalism, Greek philosophic speculation, and oriental mysticism combined together with a Christian flavor or element. In other words, like many of the cults and the eclecticism of today, it wore the mask of Christianity, but it was totally false. It used Christian words and Christian phrases, but with different meanings. It claimed to have something for everybody, but in essence provided only a delusion. It was a satanic deception in the following way: “While at its heart it was a combination of Judaism and paganism, it wore the mask of Christianity. It did not deny Christ, but it did dethrone him. It gave Christ a place, but not the supreme place. This Christian facade made the Colossian error all the more dangerous.” In other words, it taught that Christ was insufficient and that one must go beyond Christ into the fullness of what they had to offer. We find the same thing happening today with many of the cults that will likewise use some Christian terminology, but with completely different meanings. All the features found in this cult at Colossae would later be found in full-blown Gnosticism. So it may have been an incipient form of Gnosticism combined with elements of Judaism.”
The broad outline of The Epistle to the Colossians written by the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit can be presented in different ways. One such outline would divide the entire epistle into two parts: Preeminence of Christ [Chapters 1-2] and Practice of the Christian [Chapters 3-4]. The Preeminence of Christ meaning surpassing all others, or superior to all others. This is stated in verse eighteen, “And He is the head of the body, the church; Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The Practice of the Christian is stated in chapter three verse 15-17. These verses state, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians teaches both the Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ.
Here is another proposed outline for the Epistle to the Colossians containing three parts emphasizing the Sufficiency of Christ. First, Sufficiency of The Person and Work of Christ For All Explained Chapter One. This chapter would teach His Supremacy Over All [READ 1:15-20, 28-29]. Paul would state his points “Christ . . . He . . Him . . . He . . . Him.” In this section of the epistle we are taught and learn He Is Lord of Creation and Lord of the Church. Second, Sufficiency of The Person and Work of Christ in All Christians Examined in Chapter Two. This chapter would teach we are Complete in Christ [READ 2:4-7, 8-12, 17, 19]. There Paul writes the truths “Christ . . . in Him . . .with Him.” In this section of the epistle we are taught and learn His Is Lord of Salvation and Lord of the Christian. Third, Sufficiency of The Person and Work of Christ in All Matters Experienced in Chapters Three and Four. These chapters would teach our adequacy in Christ [READ 3:1-4, 11,15-17, 24; 4:7, 9, 11-12]. In these chapters Paul would present our relationship with Christ with the emphasis “Christ . . .Christ is all and in all . . . all in the Name of the Lord Jesus . . .” In this section we are taught and learn He Is Lord of My Life & Lord of My Christian Ministry.
Both the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. Christianity Centered in Christ. So let us conclude this introduction with a few points of application. First, Putting Jesus Christ in the right place in your life and the life of this church body because of the Book of Colossians being centered in Christ. Second, Let each of us have many conversations and personal discussions about the sufficiency of Christ because of our teaching through this epistle. Third, With this epistle will encourage one another here in this church body as we grow in our knowledge of Christ together and teach each other more. Fourth, receiving this teaching and having this correction in our lives and life of the church body so that we are more and more centered in Christ. And Fifth, Each week read the entire epistle throughout our time studying together.
Pastor Timothy J. Atkins
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Pastor, Teacher, Discipler, and Follower of Jesus.