Colossians

Introduction: Colossians is a letter written to the church in Colossae, founded by an associate of Paul named Epaphras.  The letter claims to be by Paul, but scholars are in dispute about whether it actually is.  According to my study bible, it is similar to the undisputed letters in structure, language, and theology, but uses new theological vocabulary and views believers’ current lives as completely transformed (3:1-4), whereas Paul emphasizes that full enjoyment of Christ’s benefits must wait until the resurrection (Rom 6:4).  Because of the many striking similarities between Ephesians and Colossians, one letter is probably written based on the other, with the majority of scholars believing Colossians to be the earlier document.

Colossians: We know about your love for the Spirit, and have not ceased praying for you so that you may lead lives fully worthy of the Lord.  God rescued us from the power of darkness and redeemed us through his Son, by whom we have forgiveness of sins, even though you once did evil deeds.  Jesus is before all things; all things were created through him and for him.  I am struggling for you, and I want all believers to be united in love and to have knowledge of God’s mystery–that is, Christ himself.

Beware false teachers who teach human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ.  You have a spiritual circumcision–you were buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with him through faith in God.  Therefore let nobody impose Jewish dietary laws, festivals, new moons, or sabbaths on you.  These regulations are just human commands.  Instead, set your mind on things above; avoid fornication, impurity, passion, greed, anger, wrath, malice, and lying; clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness.  Wives, obey your husbands; husbands, love your wives.  Children, obey your parents; fathers, do not provoke your children.  Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; slave masters, treat your slaves justly.  Devote yourselves to prayer and conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders.  I have sent Tychicus and Onesimus to tell you about everything here; meanwhile, give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to the church in Nympha’s house.

Commentary:

  • In 2:12, believers are said to already be raised with Christ (“when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God”).  Paul advances a slightly different view elsewhere.  For example, Romans 6:4 reads “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his”.  Here, resurrection is a future event, not something that has already happened.
  • The author claims, in 3:11, that “In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”  However, this theological belief doesn’t translate into beliefs about soceity.  Just a few verses later, the author tells slaves to obey their earthly masters in everything, “not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord” (3:22).
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