'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.' Col.2:10
3. EIGHT STUDIES IN COLOSSIANS
[10 pages when printed]
Introduction: Colossae was a small town in the west of what we now call Turkey, about 10 miles further up the river valley from Laodicea and on the main road from Ephesus to the East. The churches in Colossae, Laodicea and nearby Hierapolis were closely allied in Paul’s mind: he asks that this letter be read there too (4:16). Paul did not found these churches. The Gospel was taken there by Epaphras, a Colossian, who was converted in Ephesus and took the message back to his home town.
At the time of writing Paul is in prison in Rome. From what he says at the beginning of the letter, he clearly holds the Christians in Colossae in high regard, but he is also very disturbed to receive a report that false teachers are at work in the church with teaching which is both subtle and dangerous. It was drawing some of the Christians into a false spirituality. What upset Paul was that, in essence, this teaching was saying that faith in Christ was not enough; that if they wanted to have a deeper experience of God in their lives, then they needed to add certain other things to what they had already in Christ. Paul is incensed by the idea that who Christ is and what He had done was in any way not enough for Christian belief and conduct. So he wrote this letter to counteract the false teaching.
The false teachers were telling the other Christians that for a fuller Christian life, they needed:- a greater involvement with mysticism and the spirit world - apparently they even recommended the worship of angels (see 2:18); more observance of special days, and rules and regulations about food and drink; and even of re-introducing the Jewish practice of circumcision (see 2:16, 20-23); and a superior knowledge or enlightenment (see 2:4,8).
Paul responds with some of the New Testament’s finest teaching on the sufficiency and supremacy of Jesus Christ - and how it should work out in our lives ....as we shall see!
THE KEY VERSES IN COLOSSIANS ARE 2:6,7 -"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
A recommended commentary: 'The Message of Colossians and Philemon' by R.C.Lucas in the 'Bible Speaks Today' series pub.by IVP
STUDY ONE COL.1:1-14 "THE FRUIT OF THE TRUE MESSAGE"
Please read chapter 1:1-8
1. In the greeting, what are the two signs of true spirituality in the Colossians that Paul highlights? How do they come to be like that? The greetings to almost all Paul’s letters include the aspiration for ‘Grace and peace’ for his readers. What does this mean and why is it important?
2. Paul commends the Colossian Christians (1:3). How does it make us feel when someone appreciates what we are or what we do? Are we usually appreciative enough of one another? Why? On the other hand, what does criticism do to us? Note that Paul is a Jew and the Colossians are Gentiles. What has the Gospel achieved here?
3. From vs.4 to 8, what are the things about the Colossian Christians for which Paul is thankful? How are these qualities seen in a person or a church fellowship? Can they be seen in our fellowship: could Paul say the same about us?
4. In v.5 Paul says that their faith and love are based on what they hope for - “which is stored up for you in heaven”. See 1 Peter 1:3-5. How does this hope bring about faith in Christ and love for other Christians? What do people who do not believe in Jesus, put their hope in?
5. What has helped your faith and love to grow? Can you give specific examples? It would be good to share our experiences.
Please read vs.9-14
6. In v.9 Paul says he is praying that they will know God’s Will with all wisdom and understanding. That sounds very spectacular; but what does Paul say in v.10 should be the result in our ordinary lives of knowing God’s Will like that? How do we know that we are growing in our knowledge of God - what signs should we look for in ourselves? Note the ‘fill‘ and the ‘all’s and ‘every’s‘.
Note that Paul speaks of us being qualified by God, in contra-distinction to the false teachers who were dis-qualifying the Colossian Christians by suggesting there was a higher realm of understanding that they should aspire to (see 2:16-23).
7. Again in vs.11,12a Paul wants them to have all strength from God’s glorious power, which sounds very dramatic. But from these two verses, what three things to do with our ordinary lives will result (“so that ...”) from having this strength? Are you a bit disappointed with the answer; were you expecting something much more impressive? What experience have you had of these? How hard is it to ‘endure’, ‘be patient’ and ‘joyfully give thanks’ in daily life?
8. How does Paul graphically contrast our condition before and after we became Christians (vs.12-14)? What is the dominion of darkness? What, in practice does it mean to be in this darkness? - see Ephesians 4:17-19 and compare with 20-24. (for ‘Gentiles’ read ‘heathen’) What is the connection between the ‘kingdom of light’ (v.12) and the kingdom of the Son he loves’ (v.13)? See John 8:12. What do we know because we are in the light and not darkness?
What is redemption (v.14) (see Mark 10:45); what have we been redeemed from (John 3:18-21 and Rom.5:9); and what is the connection between ‘forgiveness of sins’ and being qualified to ‘share in the inheritance of the saints’(v.12)?
Summary Note Paul‘s effort in this opening passage to drive home that what the Colossians already have is the genuine and complete Gospel as opposed to the additions offered by the false teachers: vs.3,4 - true Christianity. v.5 - true Gospel. v.9 - true knowledge. v.11 - true power. v. 13 - true salvation.
STUDY TWO: COL.1:15-23 "JESUS CHRIST, SUPREME LORD AND SUFFICIENT SAVIOUR"
Do you remember the key verses of Colossians, quoted in the Introduction? Complete the following words...
"So then, just as you ............... , continue to......................, rooted and ......................., strengthened in ................ as you were .................., and .................. with ............... ."
1. What are the common views people in your area, where you live, hold about Jesus? Who do they think He was? Why have they got such wrong or inadequate ideas? Where do they get them from? Do they think about Him at all? If not, why not, do you think?
Please read verses 15 to 20. How does that compare with the common views people hold?
2. The Colossian Christians were being told by false teachers that faith in Jesus was not enough; that they needed to add other ideas and practices. This suggested that who Jesus is and what He had done were insufficient. These verses are the beginning of Paul’s answer.
To help understand these verses, please note that there is an “order” to them which goes like this:
is supreme - in creation (vs.15-17)
Christ is supreme - in the church, His new creation (v.18)
Christ is sufficient - in who he is, fully God with us (v.19)
Christ is sufficient - in what he did completely, God for us (v.20)
Make sure you can see and understand this order before moving on.
3. We cannot “see” Jesus (“the visible likeness of the invisible God” v.15) but we have the eye-witness accounts of His life in the Gospels. From them, what do we learn that God is like?
4. If Christ is supreme over all spiritual powers (v.16), what does that say about the current interest in the occult and superstition? Do we sometimes find ourselves drawn into superstition? How? What should we do about it? What does Christ's supremacy mean here and now?
5. In view of vs.15-17 how would you answer someone who said that all religions lead to God?
6. To see how Paul expresses the completeness of Jesus, pick out in vs.15-17, the words like “all” in v.15 and “everything” in v.16.
If Jesus is the complete (supreme and sufficient) Saviour (v.20) what could we add to what He has done? Do you feel any of Paul's frustration at the idea that we could add anything? Why do we seemingly have this urge always to want to add something? In what ways?
If Jesus is Lord (ruler) of everything, how should that affect our lives?
Now please read vs. 21 to 23.
7. Again, there is an order in these verses: v.21 - what you once were, v.22 - where you now stand, v.23 - how you must go on. So what has God done for those who believe? (notice the past tense) How did He do it? And for what purpose?
In v.23 what is the “firm and sure foundation”? How do we help ourselves and others to “continue faithful”?
Close by reading Hebrews 1:1-3. Any comments?
STUDY THREE: Col.1:24 to 2:5 “PROCLAIMING GOD'S SECRET”
In this section of the letter, Paul further strengthens his appeal to the Colossian believers to stick with the Gospel that originally came to them. He wants them to stay loyal to it and not go off after other false teachers (see 2:4,5). He does this by portraying the Apostolic Ministry in which he is engaged in very vivid terms. He throws the full weight of his Apostolic authority behind what they heard from Epaphras, who first took the Gospel to them. And in so doing adds even more to what he has said already about the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ.
1. Was it an “easy ride” to be an Apostle? From 1:24, 25, 29 and 2:1 find out what it meant for Paul. Read how Paul graphically describes the experiences of the Apostles in 2 Cor.6:3-13.
In what ways is the work of modern “ministers of the Gospel” (in the widest sense; in this country and abroad) hard work or a struggle?
2. What according to 1:25 is Paul’s task? Who is he serving?
3. What is God’s plan and what are the two mind-boggling aspects of His secret (v.27b) [Note: Here God’s “secret”, or “mystery", was once hidden but has now been made known through Jesus Christ]
In 1:19,20 Paul has vividly described what Christ has done for us. Now he wants to emphasise the inseparable truth of Christ in us. Read the parallel passage in Eph.3:16-19.
Well! How broad and long, how deep and wide IS Christ’s love? Have a go at describing it.
How do we have Christ in us? See Galatians 4:6,7. From these verses who is the Spirit?
In view of what is said in Col. 1:15-19, what thoughts and feelings does the idea of “Christ in you” arouse?
4. But Paul’s calling is to do more than “proclaim”. From v.28 what else does he see his job to be (perfect means mature)? What does “mature” mean? Consider what happens when a child “grows up”. Think about what he/she is able to do that they couldn’t do before. Try to think of all the things we mean by “mature” or when we say someone is “mature”.
Now apply those same ideas to being a “mature” Christian. So what are the characteristics of a “mature Christian” (v.28 end) ?
In Chapter 2 v.2 Paul explains why he has been working so hard for them. What 4
or 5 things does he want for them?
What factors work against us having those desirable things? And to what extent are they individually private and to what extent are they corporate i.e. experienced in the church family?
6. What does 2:3 tell us about Jesus? [Remember that in the Bible “wisdom” means knowing how to live to please God] How do we obtain this wisdom?
If Jesus is the key (2:3 in GNB) , who or what else is not the key?
FOUR: Col.2:6-19 “FULNESS OF LIFE”
In our last study, in 2:3, what did we discover are to be found in Jesus Christ?
We were also very struck by what Paul said about God’s plan to make known His secret which is (1:27) 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'
So how central should be Jesus Christ to all our believing and all our living? What does this mean in practice?
Now please read Chapter 2 vs.6,7 and 9,10
1. In v.10, Paul says we have been given ‘fulness in Christ‘. What do you think he means by that in terms of our practical everyday lives, as well as our long-term future? Be as specific as you can.
2. Verses 6 and 7 are the key verses of the whole letter.
(a) What does Paul mean when he says ‘as you received Christ Jesus as Lord”? (Note he does not say ‘Saviour’) How do we continue to do that, and what should be the results?
(b) How can we be ‘rooted and built up in him’ in our normal life? What has helped you to grow spiritually?
(c) How does understanding our faith better help us to put it into practice and cope with whatever life presents us with? Try to think of particular examples. Is there something about the Christian faith that you have come to understand better in the last year?
(d) Paul talks about circumcision because the false teachers are saying Christians should use it.? Explain what Paul is saying in vs.11 and 12.
Please now read chapter 2 verses13-15
3. In v.13 how does Paul compare our spiritual conditions before and after we come to faith in Christ? (Note the parallel in Eph. 2:1-5) What is the connection between Col.2:13 with Col.1:13 and 21?
What, in 2:14 is the “the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us” ? In what way do we owe God a debt? What did God do with our debt to Him (a) figuratively? (b) actually ? (see Ps.103:12 and Is.43:25)
4. In Col.2:15, Paul uses the picture of a triumphant Roman General returning to Rome at the head of a victory procession with all his bedraggled prisoners stumbling along behind, and with the crowd cheering the general and jeering at the captives.
Who are Christ’s prisoners according to v.15? See Christ’s prediction of this in John 12:31.
Now please read vs. 8 and 16-19
In these verses Paul returns to his main theme, which is to convince the Colossian Christians that Christ’s victory on the Cross was so complete that faith in that was sufficient for them to have the abundant life Christ had promised. They need not add extra observances of any kind. Note: verse 8 begins “See to it ...”: v.16 begins “therefore do not let...”and v.18 begins ‘Do not let ..’.
5. In v.8 how does Paul describe the result of following ideas which do not come from Christ? How do we see evidence of this in our society today? How does that compare with the believer’s true state in 1:13,14? How might someone's teaching 'disqualify' us (v.18)?
From v.18 and beginning of v.19 what do we learn about the effect the false teachers had had on the Church at Colossae? How does that compare with God's desire for the church in v.19?
STUDY FIVE: Col. 2:20 to 3:11 “DYING AND LIVING WITH CHRIST”
read Chapter 2 vs.20 to 23
In 2:15 what did we see that Christ had set himself free from? Now in v.20 what does Paul declare we have been set free from too? So what is result of that? In what ways might we submit to the worlds rules (v.20)?
1. What is the fundamental characteristic of other world religions? But what is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian religion?
2. So what does Paul think about the religious observances that some of the Colossians were engaging in? Can you think of examples of how people have tried to win God’s favour by religious observances or rituals?
Do you notice that at the beginning of v.23, Paul comments that these wrong ideas often appear to be wise and sensible? How can we test whether they are right or not?
please read Chapter 3 vs.1- 4.
3. In what way have we been “raised with Christ” (v.1) and in what way have we “died” (v.3)? How are our true lives 'hidden'? Paul talks about this elsewhere. See how he puts it in Romans 6:5-11. Where and whom, according to Paul should be the focus of our lives?
Look up what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 and 31-34. What does all that add up to?
4. Why do you think Paul mentions both “hearts” in Col.3:1 and “minds” in v.2? What is the great promise here?
4. Earlier we have seen that God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (1:13). So what is Paul now talking about in vs. 5-11?
5. Why are the things listed in vs. 5 and 8 so inappropriate for Christians (v.6)? What does God think of them? What is it in vs.9,10 that Paul says we are? ....
6. What do we have to do? (vs,5,8) How do we do that? What is happening to us v.10? Why does Paul feel it right to say v.11? What is the connection with vs.1-4?
To what extent do you know or experience that you have changed or are changing? Is there any particular way in which you recognise that God has been at work in your life? Share your experiences.
6: COL. 3:11-17
'THE CHRISTIAN AND THE LOCAL
Last time we saw how Paul exhorts us to live with our hearts and minds set on Jesus Christ: please re-read chapter 3 verses 1 to 4. What this amounts to is that we should live under the Lordship of Christ, with every department of our lives subject to His teaching and guidance.
if you will look again at vs.9,10 you will recall that Paul reminded us that
because of our faith in Jesus we have taken
off our old selves and put
on our new selves.
1. If each individual believer is a new being (see also 2 Cor.5:17), then what does this say about the life of the gathered believers - which we call the (local) church? What sort of society ought that to be, do you think?
What is Paul saying in v.11 about this church? He is obviously using races, groups and strata of the society of his day. How would we express it if we were writing v.11 to apply today?
“As a result, there is no longer any distinction between ............. (GNB)”
2. The first sentence of v.12 must have been very difficult for a Jew to get used to, because this is what God used to say about the Jewish race. Look up Deuteronomy 7:6-8.
So Paul (who was a Jew himself) is referring to the church as the “New Israel”. Look up and read 1 Peter 2:9,10 to see how Peter (who was also a Jew, of course) described the church. What is the duty of the church?
Are we doing it?
3. Paul now goes on in vs.12,13 to describe seven qualities that ought to be found in this new society, which consists of the People of God. How did Jesus Christ demonstrate each of these qualities - can you think of specific examples?
4. The false teachers in the Colossian church were teaching things that sowed the seeds of disunity in the church there. So Paul now emphasises four aspects of unity amongst the believers in a church community.
3. “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” (v.16) Once again Paul is stressing the centrality of Jesus Christ - but this time His message. So a church will be happiest when the ministry of Bible teaching and study is “rich”. Do we agree with that? But look at the second half of the verse! What part do praise and thanksgiving have in making the message of Christ live in our hearts?
Try to pray about the things you have discussed.
STUDY SEVEN: Col. 3:18 - 4:1 “RELATIONSHIPS”
In chapter 3 from vs. 9 to 17 Paul describes what the local church fellowship should be like when Jesus is really Lord of all that goes on. We studied that last time.
Then in vs.18 through to 4:1 he gives a very pithy description of how relationships in the home and at work should be conducted - again lived under the Lordship of Christ.
In our Bibles there may be a title inserted between verses 17 and 18 of chapter three and this is not at all helpful because it tends to break the “atmosphere” between the two sections. So before going on with the questions below, please re-read vs.12-14 and 17. These set the tone for the ensuing passage.
Submission and Love -
Husbands and Wives
read vs18 and 19. (Ephesians 5:21 to 33 has a fuller account of what Paul means
-you will probably want to read that passage too but don't spend too much time
In the Ephesians passage what pattern does Paul use to illustrate the relationship between Christian husbands and wives? Considering all that Paul says, what reasons might there be for Christian wives to be upset about or fearful of “submitting”? Apart from love, what is the most essential thing that Christian couples (or any couples for that matter) should do?
What possible connection could there be between Paul in Col.3:18-21 and his concern about the impact of the false teachers on the Christians at Colossae? How important is the home in the Christian community?
2. Love and Discipline - Parents and Children
Now please read vs.19 and 20 and Ephesians 6:1-4. Why is children's obedience and parents' (particularly fathers') love and discipline so important in the Christian home?
What irritates and discourages children? What do children need to see in their parents that wins their love and obedience?
3. Diligence and Fairness - Employees and Employers
In Paul’s day most people would have been self-employed (eg. as a carpenter) or in a larger family business in which the household slaves were involved. Now please read vs.3:22 to 4:1.
How do these verses encourage an employee to make his standard of work a good witness to his faith? How from v.23 are employees set free from resentment? From vs.24, what is the implication for Christian employers?
What are Christian employees to remember in v.24 and Christian employers and managers to remember in 4:1? What ought managers to be “fair and just” about, do you think?
What typical difficulties do Christian employees have at work these days?
EIGHT Col.4:2-18 “PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE”
Well, we have reached our final study in the Book of Colossians. Among many things this letter has:
+ conveyed some tremendous truths about Jesus Christ (“He is the image of the invisible God”);
+ told us what God’s purposes are for those who believe in Christ (“Christ in you the hope of glory”);
+ urged us to focus on Christ ("set your hearts - set your minds")
+ exhorted us to grow to maturity under His Lordship (“continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him”);
+ and shown us what His church should be like (“You are the people of God - put to death - rid yourselves of - clothe yourselves”).
But the Book does not go out on a whimper: the final chapter is mostly about people. There are two distinct sections.
Please read 4: 2-6 “The Christian and the outsider” (See R.C. LUCAS cited in the introduction)
Again, this section divides into two parts:
vs.2-4 speaking to God about people
vs.5,6 speaking to people about God
Speaking to God about people
1. We all know how difficult it is to be persistent in prayer (v.2) . Why are we usually so poor at praying: what things about prayer itself or what external factors dissuade us from praying as we ought? What helps us to pray?
What happens to ourselves or our church if we do not pray? What can be done about it?
2. In vs.4 and 5 Paul talks about praying for those who are trying to spread the Gospel. What sorts of things are most commonly on missionaries prayer lists.? What might happen to Christian missionaries overseas if their prayer support was poor or too vague? What answers to prayer have you seen?
Speaking to people about God
3. Paul seems to take it for granted that while we may not be preachers, we will speak to others about God in answer or response to what they say. In v.5 what guidelines does Paul spell out? How and why do we sometimes excuse ourselves from saying anything at all?
In v.6 what do you think Paul is getting at by saying that about salt? How do we increase our ability to give “the right answer”?
please read vs 7-to the end
“Paul’s relationships with people”.
4. A comparison with others of Paul’s letters shows that (with the exception of Romans 16) this passage is unusually rich in greetings and personal messages. They tell us much about Paul himself:
a. Pick out the good things he says about people. Do we also count these highly in our own fellowship?
b. As far as we know, Paul had no close family: how do you think he sometimes felt as he went about on his missionary journeys? What does this make you think about the many single full-time Christian workers in this country or abroad? What can we do to help them?
c. Paul is glad to recognise those whose ministry complements his own - see references to Tychicus, Aristarchus; Mark and Justus.
d. What is it about Epaphras he so applauds (1:7 and 4:12,13)? How does Epaphras’s concern (v.12), support Paul’s concern for the Christians at Colossae?
And so Paul says his personal “farewell” to the Christians in Colossae (v.18).
What do you think might have been their response to his letter when they read it?
What has been your response to this letter? Recollect things you have learnt.....
Is Christ sufficient and supreme? Has He done all that is needed for our life and eternity? Do we need to add any tradition or observance to what He has done? Are we going to be satisfied with that or are we going to be constantly looking for something additional? a deeper experience? more enlightenment? a superior understanding? Are we keeping our hearts and minds set on Him?
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