Colossians 001

Key Verse 1:18

Introduction to Colossians, Part I

 
  1. If someone who never read the Bible asked what the book is about, how would you answer?
    1. Some would say it is a rule book from God on how to live.
    2. Others might say it is the book that tells us how to be saved.
    3. Some might say it is a book of Christian doctrine.
    4. Others might describe it as a spiritual history of the world.
    5. While there might be an element of truth in each of these answers, they have all missed the mark.
    6. The Bible is about God. Period.
    7. The book of Colossians is no exception – it too is about God. In particular, it is a book about ChristHis Person and His work.
    8. In Colossians, Paul holds up the Lord Jesus Christ… He is elevated… magnified… presented as Deity to be worshipped…
  2. His Person.
    1. He is Divine (1:15)
    2. He is Creator (1:16)
    3. He is the One FOR whom all things were created (1:16c)
    4. He is the One who holds all things together (1:17)
    5. He is called the Head; the beginning; Firstborn; Preeminent One (1:18)
    6. He is the One in whom all Divine fullness dwells (1:19)
    7. He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (2:9)
  3. His Work.
    1. He is the Deliverer (1:13)
    2. He is the Redeemer (1:14)
    3. He is the Reconciler (1:20-22)
  4. In relationship to our personal walk and Christian life:
    1. He is the Source of all wisdom and knowledge (2:3)
    2. He is the One in whom we are complete (2:10)
    3. He is the One who blotted out the handwriting against us (2:14)
    4. He is the Victor over Satan and the powers of darkness (2:15)
    5. He is the Source of our growth (2:19)
    6. He is the glorified Savior and the One in whom our affections are to reside (3:1-2)
    7. He is the One in whom our life is hidden (3:3)
    8. He is our Life (3:4)
    9. He is the One whose Word is to dwell in our hearts (3:16)
    10. He is the One we are to serve heartily (3:23)
    11. He is the One to whom we are all accountable (4:1)
    12. He is the One about whom we are to speak (4:3)
  5. Clearly the book of Colossians is about Christ.
    1. Don’t ever let this thought fade from the forefront of your thinking as we study Colossians.
    2. If ever there was a book designed to cause us to become refocused on Christ, it is the book of Colossians.
    3. If ever there was a book that utterly refuted the modern notion that the church’s primary purpose is to minister to men, to cater to men, entertain men, it is the book of Colossians.
    4. If ever there was a book designed to shake us out of our earthly, temporal mindset of Esau and cause us to mind eternal things, it is the book of Colossians.
    5. If ever there was a book designed to humble self and exalt Christ, it is the book of Colossians.
    6. If ever there was a book designed to replace our earthly affections with heavenly affections, it is the book of Colossians.
    7. If ever there was a book designed to protect us from error and false teachings, it is the book of Colossians.
    8. If ever there was a book designed to teach us how to glorify God in our daily lives, it is the book of Colossians.
    9. I think those are good reasons to study this book. SO if it takes us a year or two to go through these four short chapters – it will be time well spent.

Colossians and Hebrews

  1. The book of Hebrews was also about Christ. Isn’t that a fair assessment?
    1. He was the logos of God (1:2)
    2. He was the brightness of God’s glory (1:3)
    3. He was the express image of the Father (1:3)
    4. He upheld all things by the word of His power (1:3)
    5. He purged our sins (1:3)
    6. He is better than the angels (1:4)
    7. He is called God (1:8)
    8. He is creator (1:10)
    9. He is eternal (1:12)
    10. He is greater than Moses (3:3)
    11. He is greater than Aaron (ch. 4-5)
    12. His sacrifice is greater… His blood is greater… His priesthood is greater…
    13. He is our Redeemer, our hope, our confidence…
  2. In this sense, Colossians is similar to Hebrews… they both are about Christ – His person and His work.
    1. Hebrews also holds up the Lord for all to see:
      • 3:1 – Consider Him – the Apostle & High Priest
      • 12:2 – looking unto Jesus…
      • Both books challenge us to keep our eyes focused on Christ throughout life.
    2. Colossians also holds up the Lord Jesus for all to see; behold; consider…
      • 3:1-2 – set your affection on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God…
  3. Hence, both books exalt the Lord Jesus and exhort their readers to look to Him… but reveal Him in a different role
    1. Hebrews exalts the Lord Jesus as the Great High Priest… interceding in the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf. (Heb. 3:1)
    2. Colossians exalts the Lord Jesus as the Head of the Body… the One who, from heaven, directs His body which is on the earth.
      • 1:18 – the head of the Body
      • 2:19 – not holding the head
    3. Hence, Christ is exalted – but in a different role in each epistle.
  4. Hence, both books exalt the Lord Jesus and exhort their readers to look to Him… BUT — for different reasons.
    1. Hebrews exhorts us to look to Jesus:
      • 3:1, 12 – lest we depart from God and backslide…
      • 3:13 – lest our hearts become hardened in sin
      • 5:6 – He is our great High Priest, therefore, (6:1) let us go on to perfection!
      • 10:14 – He is our perfect redeemer, (vs.20) therefore, let us have boldness to enter into the holiest by Him… (vs. 22) and draw near
      • 12:2 – looking unto Jesus, we are exhorted to run the race with patience.
      • 12:3 – consider Him – lest we be wearied.
      • Throughout Hebrews, the author elevates Christ’s work and Person in order to challenge us to keep on running the race… not to grow weary… but to go on to perfection.
      • The problem the Hebrew believers faced took on many shapes and forms: departing; bitterness arises; heart becoming hardened; slipping away; not going forward; growing weary…
      • But whatever form the problem took, the answer was always: Christ! Look unto Jesus! Consider Him!
      • Hence, Hebrews was a book of exhortations – but those exhortations were borne up by many chapters of doctrine concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
    2. Colossians also points us to Christ… Paul exhorts us to consider Him, but for a different reason.
      • In Colossians, the believers are also exhorted to look unto Jesus… but not to keep them from growing weary in the race, but rather to keep them from running off course
      • Colossians points us to Christ in order to keep us from doctrinal error.
      • Paul was in prison and had never been to the city of Colosse (1:4; 2:1)
      • 1:7 – Epaphras reported to the imprisoned apostle on the condition of the believers in Colosse.
      • Paul heard about a growing disease in the body… an error that was beginning to foment… and would eventually develop into full blown Gnosticism. (We will examine this in detail at a later date…)
      • But for now, suffice it to say that there were at least three important elements to the incipient Gnosticism in the church.
        1. Jewish legalism
        2. Greek philosophy
        3. Pagan asceticism
      • We will look at each of these errors in much more detail as we approach those portions in our study.
      • But for now – it is enough for us to see HOW Paul dealt with those three issues.
      • For each error, Paul pointed his readers to Christ – the exalted Head of the Body.
        1. Jewish legalism and traditions: 2:16-17 – the problem was Jewish holy days, Levitical dietary laws, Sabbaths, etc. The answer was Christ! A proper understanding of Christ IS the answer to those issues!
        2. Greek philosophy: 2:8-10 – the problem was the influence of philosophy on their faith. It was wreaking havoc on the faith of some. What was his answer? He points them to Christ! He is all we need! We are complete in Him!
        3. Pagan asceticism: 2:20-23 – the problem here was the influence of asceticism in the church. Paul answered this problem by pointing out that the real error was that they were not holding the Head! (2:19)
  5. It didn’t matter what kind of error the church faced, the answer was always to know Christ – His person and His work!
    1. Christ is STILL the answer to all of our problems today too… and just as much today as in the first century.
      • Whether we are weary and sliding backwards spiritually, the answer is to focus on Christ: His Person and His Work!
      • Or whether we are being attacked by false teachers, the answer is to focus on Christ: His Person and His Work.
      • Or if we seek to grow and mature as a believer: behold the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image!
      • Christ is always the answer… with our eyes on Him… single-minded focus on the Risen Savior – we will be held up and protected…
    2. The problem was false teachers in Colosse.
    3. The church is STILL plagued by modern forms of Jewish legalism, philosophy, psychology (man’s wisdom), and asceticism (a religion that dotes on external things).
    4. The error that existed in the Colossian church developed into Gnosticism – which is exactly the same basic error as is repeated today by the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other cults.
      • Their problem? They don’t know Christ – His Person and His work.
      • The answer for us? How are we protected? Know Christ!
    5. Is it necessary for us to study all the cults – to know what they believe – so that we can answer all their objections? (That can be a bit intimidating… overwhelming… there are so many – and new ones are being formed every day!)
    6. The real value comes in knowing Christ… who He is… His finished work…
    7. If we learn WELL what Colossians says about Christ and His finished work on Calvary – we will have all we need to answer any objection from one of the cultists.
    8. In order to spot a counterfeit, you don’t spend all your time studying the counterfeit. You study the original – and know it like the back of your hand… so that when a counterfeit comes along, you can instantly identify it as a fake.
    9. We don’t need to become experts in all the religious beliefs out there. We simply need to know Christ (Phil. 3:10).
    10. Grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (I Pet. 3:18).
    11. The key to staying on course and sound in the faith is not to allow the devil to distract us on to side issues: keep focused on Christ. Know Him. Seek Him. Set your affection on Him. Be single-minded.
    12. When that is the case, we are safe indeed. We will not be deceived.
    13. Even the simple minded believer… the feeble one who is not well educated… doesn’t possess superior intellect… is he going to be left to the wolves to devour him spiritually? Will the false teachers deceive him and lure him away? Did the Lord simply leave us with a book – and only those that are good at book learning will be preserved from error?
      • No! Knowing Christ is NOT an intellectual pursuit.
      • It is a relationship to a Person…
      • 3:1-2 – if we are seeking Christ and our heart affections are on things above, then we will simply REST in His arms… safe as a baby in his mother’s arms.
      • 2:19 – as we hold the Head, we grow and mature in Christ.
      • The feeblest of saints, as he holds on to Christ and rests in Him, is surrounded by and hidden away in One in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
      • John 10:3-4 – those sheep who have a living relationship to Christ KNOW Him… they know His voice – and will not follow another.
      • When Christ has the preeminence in our lives and in our assembly, we will automatically be delivered from all kinds of errors that otherwise might be threatening.
      • All of this safety is ours as we KNOW Him… and knowing Him EXALT Him… and exalting Him LOVE Him…
      • Even the feeblest of saints who knows Christ in that way will never be deceived by another Jesus… another spirit… another form of worship… a philosophy of men… a man centered ministry…
      • They will smell that stench a mile away! That doesn’t smell anything like the sweetness of the Lord Jesus!
      • No matter how simple minded they may be, you could never deceive such an one with the philosophies of man… or with Jewish legalism… or with religious ceremonialism… or with asceticism…
      • They may have no idea of what those philosophies are – but they know it doesn’t smell like the Lord they love! It leaves a funny taste in their mouths. They may not be able to put their finger on it – but they know something is wrong…
  6. A different audience:
    1. Hebrews was written to Hebrew believers of the first century…
    2. Colossians was written to a predominantly gentile church
    3. It didn’t matter what their background was – Christ was the answer for them… and for us too!
    4. Red, yellow, black or white; rich or poor; male or female; bond or free – Christ is the answer… to know Him and the power of His resurrection!

Colossians and Galatians

  1. Ephesians is book which is rich in doctrine concerning the Christian life.
  2. 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.
    1. Galatians also deals with the same subjects: justification (Gal. 3:11) and sanctification by faith (Gal. 3:1-3).
    2. But the purpose of the two books differs.
    3. Romans is a treatise on those subjects.
    4. Galatians is a polemic – in which Paul wages war against the Judaizers who were introducing false doctrine (legalism: salvation and sanctification by works).
    5. Romans is longer and outlines these wonderful doctrines. Galatians is much shorter and (like a little attack dog) attacks those who are introducing error into the churches.
  3. Someone once put it this way: Colossians is to Ephesians, what Galatians is to Romans.
    1. Colossians is like the smaller attack dog that attacks those who are introducing error.
    2. There is much similarity between Romans and Galatians, but Romans is a teaching book; Galatians is polemic – attacking error.
    3. 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.

Colossians and Ephesians

  1. These two books are similar in MANY ways.
    1. They both emphasize our union with Christ – IN Christ. (Col. 1:2 cf. Eph. 1:3)
    2. 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)
    3. They both emphasize the relationship between the Head and the Body. (Col. 1:18 cf. Eph. 1:22)
    4. They both have a section on the family (husband/wife; parent/child; master/servant). (Col. 3:18-25 cf. Eph. 6:1-9)
    5. They both 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; position, then condition)
  2. Yet there are some important distinctions between the two books.
  • Ephesians emphasizes the BODY of Christ. (Eph. 4:12-16)
  • The BODY is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (1:23)
  • Colossians emphasizes the HEAD of the Body. (Col. 1:18)
  • The HEAD is the fullness of deity (1:19; cf. 2:9)
  • Ephesians emphasizes the believer in Christ. (Eph. 1:4, 6, 7, 11 – in Him)
  • Colossians emphasizes Christ in the believer. (Col. 1:27)
  • John 14:20 – Jesus said, “ye in me, and I in you.”
  • Ephesians emphasizes “Ye in Me.”
  • Colossians emphasizes “I in you.”
  • Ephesians emphasizes us IN Him in heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3)
  • Colossians emphasizes Him in us down here on earth. (Col. 4:5 – and warnings against the influence of earthly men and worldly wisdom)
  • Ephesians mentions the Holy Spirit many times (about a dozen times). (Filled with; grieving; sealing; access to the Father by the Spirit; habitation of God through the Spirit; the sword of the Spirit; praying in the Spirit; etc.)
  • 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.

Conclusions:

  1. 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.
  2. It is my goal that after a year or so in Colossians, we will be a more Christ centered church – and less man centered.
  3. It is also my prayer that in each of our individual lives, we will personally become more Christ centered and less self centered.
  4. He must increase – we must decrease. That in all things HE might have the preeminence. And isn’t that the point of this book?
  5. I can’t think of a more noble pursuit in the next few years than that.
  6. 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!)
    1. Folks will be wanting us to lighten up on the worship…
    2. Folks will be wanting us to get some more peppy music… something that will excite the kids…
    3. 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…
  7. What we are going to offer folks is CHRIST – the crucified, and risen, and glorified Savior… who is OUR life.
    1. Those who love Christ will love it.
    2. We are going to DE-emphasize programs designed to cater to men and emphasize Christ and Him crucified.
    3. Those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God will quickly become discontented here.
    4. Some will leave huffy… others will just leave.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.”
    7. We aren’t here to please the crowd. We are here to please Christ.
    8. Our goal is that in all things pertaining to our individual lives… and in all things pertaining to Salem Bible Church – that HE might have the preeminence. May God help us to be faithful.

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-1 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies