Someone once put it this way: Colossians is to Ephesians, what Galatians is to Romans.
Romans is a lengthy treatise on the gospel — the doctrine of justification by faith (1-5) and sanctification by faith (6-8)… and some practical applications of those truths.
Galatians also deals with the same subjects: justification (Gal. 3:11) and sanctification by faith (Gal. 3:1-3).
But the purpose of the two books differs.
Romans is a treatise on those subjects… didactic… teaching…
It has a lengthy section dealing with WHY man needs justification: He is a condemned sinner – regardless of his background: heathen, religious man, or the Jew – all have sinned. (1-3)
It has a lengthy section on justification by faith (4-5) Paul elaborates on the fact that justification is not by the law… and he proves it with OT references.
It has a section on sanctification by faith (6-8) Here is found the most comprehensive section in the Bible on how to live the Christian life…
Galatians is a polemic – in which Paul wages war against the Judaizers who were introducing false doctrine (legalism: salvation and sanctification by works).
Gal. 1:6-9 – he begins immediately with a diatribe against those promoting a false gospel of works.
Gal. 3:1-3 – he rebukes them for listening to the false teachers.
Gal. 4:17-20 – Paul warns again and states that he was perplexed at how easily they were deceived! (Doubt = to be perplexed; to be at a loss)
Gal. 5:8-12 – his strongest words yet – he wishes the false teachers were “cut off.”
While Galatians does teach about justification by faith, it attacks those who oppose this basic doctrine.
Romans is longer and teaches these wonderful doctrines. Galatians is much shorter and (like a little attack dog) attacks those who are introducing error into the churches.
Ephesians is book which is rich in doctrine concerning the Christian life.
Colossians is like the smaller attack dog that attacks those who are introducing error.
Col. 2:4 – he warns that they were in the process of being beguiled by false teachers…
Col.2:8 – he warns about the methodology of these false teachers: philosophy; traditions of men…
Col.2:16 – he warns of those judging others about holy days and foods…
Col.2:18 – he warns about an overemphasis on angels and visions…
He uses the same approach in Colossians as in Galatians, although he is less abrasive in this book.
There is much similarity between Romans and Galatians, but Romans is a teaching book; Galatians is polemic; one promotes truth; the other attacks error.
There is much similarity between Ephesians and Colossians. Ephesians teaches many of these marvelous truths about Christ and our relationship to Him. Colossians attacks those who introduce error.
Each book has its place in the cannon of Scripture… each is necessary.
Of course, Colossians is not exclusively polemic. It does much more than attack error. It highlights rich, important doctrinal truths too!
Colossians and Ephesians
They both begin with a lengthy prayer for believers to be strengthened with God’s power (Col. 1:9-11 cf. Eph. 1:16-19)
In each of these epistles Paul teaches us HOW to pray… and WHAT to pray for.
I think we will discover here that our prayer life needs some adjusting… refocusing… from the earthly to the heavenly… from the physical to the spiritual… from temporal to the eternal things.
We are so inclined to pray for our physical lives – sometimes almost to the exclusion of spiritual things. (Listen to the prayer requests at prayer meeting some time – it sounds like an organ recital.)
Consider what Paul prayed for in Col. 1:9-11:
knowledge of His will
a worthy walk
increasing in the knowledge of God’s person
patience, longsuffering, joyfulness
They both emphasize the relationship between the Head & the Body. (Col. 1:18 cf. Eph. 1:22)
Both epistles deal extensively with the church as a Body and the relationship of the Head to the Body.
As we go through these sections we will discover how far the evangelical world has strayed from this Christ centered view.
We will discover how selfishwe have become… and how warped a concept has developed with respect to the purpose of the local church.
Colossians makes it clear that the church members gather together to hold up Christ – to worship Him – to give Him the preeminence.
We are not here primarily to “get”, but to “give” worship and praise… obedience and service as an offering to Christ…
The Head is what gets all the attention… not the kidney or the toe!
We have such a tendency to put ourselves first… to put our needs in the preeminent position. That is like putting body upside down – with the body on top, and the head on the bottom… a body standing on its head. That makes for a difficult walk… and not a very noble or worthy walk either!
They both speak about the church as a mystery. (Eph. 3:3,4,9; Col. 1:26,27; 2:2; 4:3)
We will be looking into the church as a mystery… and hopefully demystifyit! It is no longer a mystery. It is now fully revealed.
It is our pleasure to study God’s program for the church in this age.
Col. 1:27 – While Ephesians tells us much about the mystery, the “riches of the glory of the mystery” is revealed in Colossians: Christ in you!
They both emphasize our union with Christ – In Christ. (Col. 1:2 cf. Eph. 1:3)
Col. 3:3 – our life has been hidden away– united to – Christ.
Col. 2:12-13 – we are unitedwith Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Col. 2 expands on this subject in a way Ephesians does not.
Col.2 is like a condensed version of Romans six.
They both include a lengthy section on the relationship between the old man and the new man in Christ.
Col. 3:9-10 – we have put off the old man…
Eph. 4:21, 24 – the same truth is taught in Eph.
In each epistle, the position of our old man (dead) and the position of our new man (raised up – alive in Christ) is the BASIS for walking in newness of life… it is the basis of having victory over sin… it is the basis for his exhortations to a high and holy walk.
We don’t HAVE to live as if we were still enslaved to sin. We have been set free by means of our union with Christ in His death… and are ABLE to walk in newness of life because of our union with Christ in His resurrection.
Our old man is dead… we are new creations in Christ… complete in Christ – with new privileges and new capabilities.
They both have a section on the family (husband/wife; parent/child; master/servant). (Col. 3:18-25 cf. Eph. 6:1-9)
As our culture declines, we are seeing more and more families fall apart…
And this is not just happening in the world. It is happening in the churches… even men in the ministry… elders, deacons, pastors…
It isn’t even shocking any more… it’s almost expected.
But not in the WORD.
In both Ephesians and in Colossians, Paul sets forth the Biblical pattern for the home: the husband is the head; the wife is in a role of submission. This is anathema in many circles today — and is even being questioned in so called Christian circles.
Children are to obey their parents.
These are the only two sections in the NT dealing with the Christian home. There are scattered verses dealing with related issues – but Ephesians and Colossians have the only sections where the entire household is addressed.
They both follow the customary Pauline format: the epistles each begin with a lengthy section on doctrine, explaining our position in Christ – followed by a section of exhortations, relating to the condition of our lives. (doctrine, then practice; first position, then condition)
Body / Head Emphasis
Ephesians emphasizes the BODY of Christ.
The BODY is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (1:23; 3:19c)
Eph. 4:12-16 – Ephesians includes a lengthy section on how the body functions.
Colossians emphasizes the HEAD of the Body. (Col. 1:18)
The HEAD is the fullness of deity (1:19; cf. 2:9)
In Colossians the emphasis is on Christ the Head.
In 2:19, even when Paul DOES mention the functioning of the Body, it is in relationship to the Head.
Relationship to Christ
Ephesians emphasizes the believer in Christ.
Eph. 1:4,6,7,11 – in Him.
Colossians emphasizes Christ in the believer. (Col. 1:27; 3:11)
John 14:20 – Jesus said, “ye in me, and I in you.”
Ephesians emphasizes “Ye in Me.”
Colossians emphasizes “I in you.”
Heavenly / Earthly
Ephesians emphasizes us IN Him in heavenly places.
Eph. 1:3 – In heavenly places in Christ.
Eph. 2:2,5-6 – we were part of the world system, but now have been raised upin Christ.
Colossians emphasizes Him in us down here on earth.
Col. 4:5 – and warnings against the influence of earthly men and worldly wisdom.
Col.2:20 – “as though living on the earth…”
Col.3:5 – “your members which are upon the earth…”
Whereas the emphasis in Ephesians is on “the believer in Christ in heavenly places”, the emphasis in Colossians is on “Christ in you and manifesting His life down here on earth.”
The Holy Spirit
Ephesians mentions the Holy Spiritmany times (about a dozen times).
Sealing – 1:13
Access to the Father by the Spirit – 2:18
Habitation of God through the Spirit – 2:22
Revelation from the Spirit – 3:5
Strengthened by the Spirit – 3:16
Unity of the Spirit – 4:3
Grieving – 4:30
Fruit of the Spirit – 5:9
Filling – 5:18
The sword of the Spirit – 6:17
Praying in the Spirit – 6:18
Colossians mentions the Holy Spirit only once. (Col. 1:8)
This is by design – not an oversight.
The whole point of the book of Colossians is to exalt Christ… to magnify Him. Hence, the Holy Spirit is only mentioned once in passing.
This is in keeping with the Spirit’s ministry. (John 16:13-14– He will glorify Christ.)
Whenever the emphasis is placed on the Holy Spirit, you know that it is not the HOLY Spirit who is in control… it is some other spirit. (I Cor. 12:3– the Spirit’s ministry is to exalt the Son)
A book designed to exalt Christ places the Spirit in the background.
In Colossians, Christ has all the preeminence.
That should be the case in our personal lives too… spiritual growth is based upon this premise: He must increase and we must decrease…
After a year or two in Colossians, it is my goal that we as a congregation will be more fully occupied with Christ and His interests… and less occupied with ourselves and our interests.
It is my goal that after a year or so in Colossians, we will be a more Christ centered church – and less man centered.
It is also my prayer that in each of our individual lives, we will personally become more Christ centered and less self centered.
He must increase – we must decrease. That in all things HE might have the preeminence. And isn’t that the point of this book?
I can’t think of a more noble pursuit in the next few years than that.
Rest assured, the enemy will not be happy with the direction we are taking. He will oppose. He will perhaps use some here today to oppose this goal… or others will come into our midst who have a different agenda. (If so – get him a tape of this lesson!)
Folks will be wanting us to lighten up on the worship…
Folks will be wanting us to get some more peppy music… something that will excite the kids…
Folks will be seeking after all sorts of ministries that cater to men… a long menu of programs and “offerings” for themselves… social activities… church soccer teams for their kids… support groups… groups that minister to every imaginable group on earth… youth, teens, preteens, pre-preteens, empty nesters, then the 30 somethings… and 40s, 50s, etc… etc… something wonderful for everyone!
What we are going to offer folks is CHRIST – the crucified, and risen, and glorified Savior… who is OUR life.
Those who love Christ will love this emphasis.
We are going to DE-emphasize programs designed to cater to men and emphasize Christ and Him crucified.
Those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God will quickly become discontent here.
Some will leave huffy… others will just leave.
But some will come and will find this church a breath of fresh air… an oasis in the midst of modern churches that more closely resemble houses of entertainment rather than houses of prayer and worship.
Clearly, the emphasis today is to entertain men… man has the preeminence in the average evangelical church today.
We are going to fight against that trend with every ounce of strength God gives. (And His resources are limitless – so I expect it to be quite a battle in the next few decades…)
The church growth movement folks will say, “Ok Delany. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. You’re not going to get a crowd that way.” To which I will reply, “I’ll gladly take a shot in the foot if Christ is honored in it all. Pursuing a route that is designed to please men is taking a deadly shot in the spiritual heart of the church.”
We aren’t here to please the crowd. We are here to please Christ.
Our goal is that in all things pertaining to our individual lives… and in all things pertaining to SBC – that HE might have the preeminence. May God help us to be faithful.
Studying Colossians will be edifying in the following ways:
It will teach us about the significance of the gospel
It will teach us how to pray…
It will teach us of so great salvation…
It will teach us of the mystery…
It will teach us of our position in Christ…
It will teach us about victory over sin…
It will warn us about false teachers… and false philosophies
It will challenge us to set our affections on things above…
It will help our family life…
It will challenge us to be faithful testimonies in the world…
But above all – it will teach us of the all sufficiency of Christ… and His preeminence in every realm… and in every nook and cranny of our hearts.