Colossians Chapter 1

by Matt Slick

Greetings  (1:1-2)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,Paul presents himself as an official representative of the Savior. His appointment as apostle is not by the will of men, but by the Lord Jesus Himself.
“By the will of God” means that he had attained his high office neither through aspiration, nomination, nor usurpation. Paul’s call was by divine preparation: “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,” (Gal. 1:15-16). (For further references of this type see 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

The NASB, RSV, and KJV say, "To the saints..." In Greek the word ‘saints’ is γιος, hagios, which means "holy ones," or those set apart to glorify Him. This is significant because it is how the Christian is seen -- as holy. The Christian is holy because of the blood of Jesus Christ and being justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). We belong to the Lord Jesus, have been bought with a price, and are called to do God’s will. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Grace is God’s spontaneous and unmerited favor in action. It cannot be earned.

Peace is the result of God’s grace that is freely bestowed upon those whom He loves -- those whom have received reconciliation through the blood of Jesus.

When the grace of God works in a person, the Holy Spirit is powerfully active. This work of Grace and the Spirit results in fruit.

 

Reasons for Thanksgiving  (1:3-8)

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

With Paul, thanksgiving and prayer, are often united: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy" (Phil. 1:3-4). And, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," (Phil. 4:6).

Jesus is the Son by nature. We are children by adoption. Jesus has the right to call God "my Father" (Matt. 26:39, 42) and make the claim "The Father and I are one," (John 10:30).

Notice the work of grace in verses 3 - 5:  Thankfulness, intercessory prayer, faith, and love (vv. 3-5).

 

4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints --

Apparently, the faith of the Colossians was strong enough that the grace of God was evident in them; hence, Paul had heard of their faith as it spread throughout the land — this is a great witness and testimony.

Faith is always operating through love: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love," (Gal. 5:6).

 

5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel

To faith and love Paul adds hope. This is a familiar triad with Him. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," (1 Cor. 13:13).

Faith, hope, and love have their source in heaven.

What is this hope that is stored in heaven? First of all, Christian hope is not mere wishing. It is a fervent yearning, confident expectation, and patient waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a Christ centered assurance. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Pet 1:3).

Second, the hope is spoken of in different terms throughout the New Testament:

"...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light," (Col. 1:12).

"and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you," (1 Pet. 1:4).

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us," (Rom. 8:18).

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth," (Heb. 11:13).

The Bible does not really describe exactly what is in store for us in heaven. However, we will be in the presence of the Lord Jesus, in our new resurrected bodies, and without the temptation to commit sin.

 

6 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.

The gospel message, which is defined in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, bears fruit. Because of the nature of the message, fruit must be born. The gospel message is about Jesus, of which the entire Bible is also about (John 5:39); it is powerful for salvation (Rom. 1:16), and is the very word of God which will not come back empty without accomplishing what God wishes it to (Isaiah 55:11).

Since the gospel message is the root of all hope, a pure and holy root, it is only natural that holy fruit -- salvation and sanctification -- would come forth.

Salvation is the initial conversion, the initial regeneration that occurs in the soul of the new believer. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in character as we encounter life with all its hardships, rewards, and variations.

It is the second kind of fruit that is probably being spoken of here, the kind where the Colossians were becoming more Christlike.

Are you bearing fruit in the gospel? Are you witnessing? Is there some way that you are sharing your faith with someone?

2 Cor. 3:2, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men."

7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,
Epaphras was with Paul during part of his Roman imprisonment. He is the missionary who probably converted the Colossians.
8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Love is the most important fruit of the Spirit: See Col. 3:14 and Gal. 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."

 

Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians (1:9-12)

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.

In the Greek, this verse is the beginning of a 106 word sentence. It spans from here to verse 20. It is translated into the English into 218 words.

"Beginning at verse 15, and continuing through verse 20, Christ’s Pre-eminence is set forth." (Hendrikson)

For what reason? For all the evidences of God’s grace in the lives of the Colossians described in verses 3-8.

The first petition is to know the will of God. It is foolish to try to serve God without knowing His will. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will," (Romans 12:2).

How do you discover the will of God for you? You need to attend church. You need to obey the word of God. And, you need to pray -- see the next verse.

 

10 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,

Paul was a firm believer in prayer. He states that living a life worthy of the Lord is connected with prayer.

In order to pleas God in every way, we must pray. This means that we must ask to discover His will for us. Sometimes, Christians do not pray enough and when they do pray that ask for too little. The Lord wants us to seek Him out, regularly, fervently, and specifically.

To live a life that is worthy of the Lord is to bear fruit. What kind of fruit is he speaking of? See Gal. 5:22-23.

Paul gives high regard to bearing fruit in every good work.

Verse 10 should be our daily prayer. Life a life worthy of the Lord; please Him in every way, bear fruit, grow in the knowledge of God.

 

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully

Continuing in Paul’s "lesson on prayer" he stresses being strengthened with power. This power is from the Holy Spirit; that is why it is according to His glorious might. Only with the power of the Spirit can you have endurance, patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father through thick and thin.

We cannot accomplish the words of verse 10 without the power of God spoken of in this verse.

 

And we need that power from God because we need to have endurance and patience in the fields of life where true fruit of the gospel is born.

 

12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

The Colossians were Gentiles.  But it was the Jews who had the revelation of God. They knew God’s law, His name, His will, etc. They were His people. "He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD," (Psalm 147:19-20, NIV). So, Paul, a Jew, is assuring the Colossians that they too share in the inheritance promised (mentioned in verses 13-14) through the word of God found in the O.T.

The inheritance of the saints is guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) and can "never perish, spoil or fade" (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

Eph. 1:13-14, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory."

1 Pet. 1:3-5, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

On the day of judgment Jesus will say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world," (Matt. 25:34).

Christ’s preeminence (1:13-23)
In Creation (1:13-20)

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

Verses 13 and 14 summarizes God’s work of redemption.

Where we were, as unbelievers, being ruled by the powers of darkness, we were going about doing the will of the evil one.  But now, by God’s grace, we have been moved into the kingdom of light, into the kingdom of the Son.

We have the H.S. living in us.

Jesus is the King of the Kingdom.

Jesus' three offices.  As Prophet He is the mouthpiece of God and represents God to man. As Priest He represents man to God and restores fellowship between them by offering Himself as the sacrifice that removed the sin of those saved. As King He rules over His kingdom. By virtue of Christ creating all things, He has the right to rule.

 

14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Redemption means deliverance by a payment.
Eph. 1:7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace."
Rom. 3:24-26, "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Jesus is the image, the material representation of God.  Heb. 1:3 says, "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature,"

Anyone who saw Christ, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, has thereby seen God indirectly.

Firstborn, this does not mean that He is the first created thing. There is a Greek work for "first created" (protoktizo) and it is not used here. Instead, the word for first born is used, prototokos.

In the biblical context, "first born" means several things:

1.  It can mean the first one born in a family;

2.  It can mean the one who was pre-eminent, and it naturally held by the eldest son in a family. If there were no sons, then the eldest daughter took the position.  In Psalm 89:20, 27 it says, "I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him...I also shall make him My first-born."

3.  Firstborn title is transferrable:  Gen. 41:51-52, "And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." Jer. 31:9, "...for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn."

Jesus, as God’ Son, was God’s agent in creation and hence has authority over all created things.

He preceded the whole Creation, and He is Sovereign over all Creation.

 

16 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.

This is one of the most profound scriptures in the book of Colossians. Here it is stated that Jesus is the creator of all that exists.

Jesus is called the creator. That is for God alone...yet it is applied to Jesus.

Isaiah 44:24, "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone."

John 1:1-3, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

 

The Jehovah's Witnesses add the word "other" four times in the text in their so called New World Translation.  Their text says, "because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities.  All [other] things have been created through him and for him.  Also he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist."

The Jehovah's Witnesses put brackets around the word other to signify it is not in the original text.  This is an obvious attempt to alter the original meaning to suit their false theology.  Furthermore, there are two words in Greek for "other" -  'allos' means another of the same kind, and 'heteros' means another of a different kind.  Neither one is used in the original Greek.

 

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Paul is clearly trying to show that Jesus is preeminent, the creator, and divine.

The atom consists of proton, neutron, and electron. The nucleus is a group of protons and neutrons with the electrons circling. The protons are positively charged and the electrons are negatively charged. The neutrons have no charge. According to the known laws of physics, the nucleus of every atom should not exist. This is because like charges repel each other.

Yet here in Colossians Paul states that it is by Jesus the firstborn that all things are held together.

 

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The idea of the church being the body of Christ is a familiar theme in the Bible. It is found in Eph. 1:22-23 "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Also Eph. 4:15; Col. 2:19;

In 1 Cor. 10-12 Paul speaks of us all being parts of the body of Christ. But in those verses he is speaking of the peoples' relationship to each other. Here in Colossians he is speaking of Jesus' relationship to the church.

Jesus is the beginning. The word "beginning" arche, can mean supremacy in rank, precedence in time or creative initiative.  This reflects the title of 'firstborn' of verse 15.

The church cannot function with out Jesus and you cannot function spiritually without being connected to Him too.

All Churches have replaced Christ with their tradition, their legalism, or their "new prophets" are not functioning under the power and the Spirit of God.  Rather, they're working in their own strength and will always lead to destruction.

The image of one body means that there is one church. The church is a whole, the invisible church. It is all who proclaim the true Jesus as savior in true saving faith.

 

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,

The Father was pleased at the incarnation of the Word.

Paul is directly contradicting the Gnostic error that was developing in the region. Gnosticism taught that God could not become flesh. That is why Paul uses the word "fullness" when describing Jesus having God dwell in Him.  In other words, "the word became flesh and dwelt among us," (John 1:14)

 

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.

Though all things hold together in Christ, yet there is still disharmony in creation due to the effects of sin.

Reconciliation properly applies not to good relations in general but to the removal enmity. The way to reconciliation lies through an effective grappling with the root cause of the enmity. Christ died to put away our sin. In this way he dealt with the enmity between man and God. He put it out of the way. He made the way wide open for men to come back to God.

Enmity means hostility, hatred, antagonism.  Eph. 2:14-16 says, "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity."

 

Christ's preeminence
In redemption (1:21-23)

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.

The remarkable transformation: The attitude of God toward the believer is changed.  There is no longer this hostility between God and man because of our breaking the law of God.

There was hostility between man and God because we have offended him by breaking his law. But, the Christian is no longer an enemy of God, no longer at odds with Him; rather, God is no longer at odds with the person who has become a Christian.

22 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 --

Again, a refutation of the belief that Jesus is not God in flesh.

Also, it could be that Paul was addressing the issue of Docetism, the belief that Jesus only appeared to be physical.

Jesus presents you holy to the Father. You possess Jesus' righteousness.

We  are presented holy before God because of the imputed righteousness of Christ to ourselves.  It is through the physical death of Christ on the cross where he bore our sins in his body (1 Peter 2:24).

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.

Firmness of the faith is the result of true reconciliation.

Assurance, confidence.

False teachers are everywhere.  We must make sure that we are not deceived by studying the Bible.

The Gospel:  1 Cor. 15:1-4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

2 Cor. 3:2, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men."

Every creature: does this mean cats and dogs also? This is obviously hyperbole.

Christ's preeminence
In his church (1:24-2:3)

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.

How many of us rejoice in our sufferings? Suffering is not pleasant. It is not something to be looked forward to. However, suffering for Christ is a privilege that God rewards with peace — when we keep our eyes on Him.

Have you been persecuted for Christ’s sake? What was it like? Did you feel the comfort of the Sprit?

What had Paul suffered? Shipwreck, beatings, stoning, prison, rejection from his people.

How can anything be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Paula was not speaking about the requirements for salvation.  He was speaking about the Christian service and future works that would be accomplished in the name of Christ.

The word affliction (thlipsis) is never used in the New Testament of Christ’s death.  "It means distress, or trouble. (which Paul had plenty of; 2 Cor. 11:23-29). Ordinarily it refers to trials in life, not the pains of death. Christ does indeed continue to suffer when Christians suffer for Him," (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Remember, Jesus approached Paul in Acts 9:4 and asked him, "Why do you persecute Me?" This is the type of affliction that is spoken referenced.

25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness --

Paul a servant of the gospel via the commission, the appointment of Christ calling him into a apostleship. Paul knew the power and depth of the gospel in fullness and was qualified and ordained by the Lord to present the truth to the Colossians, and thereby to us.

 

26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.

The mystery is reconciliation by Christ of both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body.

The mystery is that both Jew and Gentile would be redeemed by the same Messiah. The old testament spoke nothing of the church. The church is the body of Christ, indwelt by the holy spirit. The church is the blood bought possession of God. It was this mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament is now perfectly revealed in the new testament to the person of Jesus Christ. But, we must not make the mistake of assuming that the salvation of the Gentiles was unheard of in the Old Testament. This was clearly taught in Genesis 12:3 which is where God says that in Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall been blessed. This verse as quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:8 and he refers to it as the gospel.

 

27 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.

It was to the Christian believers that God chose to make known the mystery. That is, he made it known by including them in the covenant faithfulness of God as spoken to Abraham and Genesis 12:3.

The riches of this mystery is redemption and ultimately the teaching that our justification before God is not through works, but by faith. Furthermore, we look to the future in the hope based in Christ's work and promise that he would return. Our resurrection is guaranteed because of the resurrection of Christ. Our glorification is guaranteed because of the glory of Christ.

28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Paul was admonishing the Colossians teaching them about Christ. It is important to know who Christ is doctrinally so that we can properly ascertain how to worship him, how to love him, how to follow him, and so that we might not be deceived by false teachings. With proper understanding, we have proper behavior and the combination of the two helps to present is perfect in Christ. Of course, we are already perfect in Christ because of his work given to us.

 

29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Paul worked very hard to promote Christ and to equip Christians. He struggled with everything that he had in accordance with Christ who was working in him. Likewise, we should work with the same fervor and determination because we have the same spirit in us.

  

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison