From Your Pastor: The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

Summary of Letter to Colossians/Sermon Series: Christ and His Gospel are sufficient to live as saints and faithful believers in this present age as exiles/pilgrims awaiting our heavenly homeland. God’s people are “in Christ” (a very important heavenly identity), and yet “at Colossae” (or located in a particular time and space in history, within a fallen world with threats, temptations, and trials of various kinds). God’s people need “nothing more” than the Gospel for salvation and sanctification. Maturity in Christ is the ultimate goal of believers, or “becoming what you already are in union with Christ” (Col. 1:28; 3:1-4; 4:12).

  • Who wrote it and when? Paul wrote this letter during his first imprisonment in Rome (1:1, 4:18; this is where we left off in Acts 28:29-31, concluding our sermon series on Acts), early 60s AD. The Letter to Colossians written at the same time period as Ephesian, Philippians, and Philemon. This letter is evidence of the boldness of the Spirit, and the unleashed manner that God’s word continued to extend and expand the kingdom (cf. Acts 28:31).
  • Who are the Colossians? Colossians was a church planted by Epaphras (Col. 1:7, 4:12; cf. Philemon 1:23) who had probably been converted to Christianity during the Apostle Paul’s 2-3 years of teaching about the kingdom in the Hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus (Acts 19:9-10). Colossian Church was probably planted in early 50s AD. It was a rather young congregation. Though the believers were faithful and maturing, they were being threatened and tempted to false teaching.
  • Colossae was located in the Lycus River Valley in southeast Asia Minor, what is now Turkey, east of Ephesus, and nearby to two other important early Christian congregations, Hierapolis and Laodicea (Col. 4:13, 15-16; cf. Rev. 3:14).
  • Primary motivation/message of Paul to Colossians? Paul wrote the church to teach the “saints” and “faithful brothers and sisters” (Col. 1:1-2) of heavenly truths and how to live them out in the midst of the earthly realities of threats from false teaching in a fallen world. The Colossians were to know that they were “in Christ” (in union with Christ) and yet were to live out their lives in this fallen world, knowing Christ is sufficient for all life and godliness, and that they were to keep their focus on the hope of the Gospel that they had heard, enduring steadfastly to the end (Col. 1:2, 1:23, 3:1-4).
  • What false teaching were the Colossians troubled with? The Colossian false teaching had two fronts: one had a non-religious, pagan face to it, the other was more of a religious, Jewish face, and perhaps there was a mixture of both (Hellenistic-Jewish syncretism). It’s hard to say what the false teaching was completely with accuracy. What is crystal clear from the letter is that these false teachings were tempting and threatening the young, healthy congregation to seek more than what God the Father had provided them in Christ and the Gospel.
  • Characteristics of the Colossian false teaching: 1. Offering a spiritual “fullness” that had yet to be experienced by believers (cf. Col. 2:10). False teachers were tempting the faithful brethren with a “new spirituality” or “something more” beyond what they already had in Christ. In other words, there was another avenue or way to maturity, and even perhaps free from suffering (“simple Gospel is not good enough, you need something more, etc.”). 2. Though the teachers offered a new “spiritual freedom” or “deliverance” of some kind, it was actually a new form of spiritual “slavery” and could not kill and subdue the sinful flesh (Col. 2:8, 18, 20ff). 3. The false teachers offered insight and special protection from the powers of evil beyond what they already possessed in Christ (2:10, 15). 4. False teachers were impressive in their external religious practices, especially acts of ascetiscm that seemed holy and wise, but was not—rather, was very dangerous. Though it promised maturity, it would actually make for very immature believers (Col. 2:18, 23; 3:5-8). 5. False teachers promised a deeper knowledge of God and more wisdom beyond what they already had in Christ (Col. 2:8-15). 6. False teachers were tempting the saints to go back to old forms of God’s revelation rather than focus on the substance of that revelation, which is Christ Himself (Col. 2:17).
  • An important application of the letter to KCPC today: We are “Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church” (note the location in time and space, as well as the heavenly reality that we are “in covenant” or recipients of the Covenant of Grace “in Christ”). As a congregation “in Christ” “at Ketoctin” or “at Purcellville”, let us learn from the Letter to Colossians that Christ and His Gospel must always have the preeminence in our lives. Christ is sufficient for all of our needs. The Gospel that saved us also sanctifies us by God’s power. Let us remember to keep all of our experiences, our reason, our search for wisdom, and our tradition submitted to the Lordship of Christ and His Word. Pastorally speaking, I see this as a most important primary application and relevant focus for us in the time in which we live.
  • Pray: Paul not only teaches the Gospel, he prays unceasingly (1:9-14; cf. 4:12). While studying Colossians, let us pray for our congregation to hear clearly what Christ would say to us during this next sermon series.
  • Edify/Build Up/Discuss/Ask: As we journey through this letter as pilgrims and exiles, revel in God’s grace in Christ to you, discuss with your family and one another, memorize and meditate upon the truths as much as you can, and bring your questions and answers to our monthly Q&A for more interesting discussion!

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs