The beautiful city of Colosse was nestled in the Lycus River Valley near the junction of the Lycus and Meander Rivers. The Lycus Valley was noted for two things: earthquakes and a high chalk content in its water. During its hey-day, two industries caused the market to hum. The first was textiles; the second wool dyeing. Colosse was so well known for these two related enterprises it had its own “brand” of wool. Paul never established a church in Colosse, but while he was based in Ephesus, residents of Colosse heard the Gospel and then brought it to the city where a mixed congregation grew. As it often happens in cosmopolitan places a large blend of religious philosophies were evident in the culture and their influence upon the church in Colosse was a cause for concern. Paul wrote this letter from his imprisonment in Rome around 62 AD.
It is obvious from reading this short but powerful book that Paul’s goal was first and foremost to refute the teachings of Stoicism, Skepticism and the Epicureans by examining the person of Christ. Secondly Paul wished to address the impact Christ then has on the way one lives. The book can be outlined as such: The faith and love of the Colossians is praised and Paul prays for their spiritual growth (1:1-14); Paul highlights some of Christ’s unique qualities which demonstrate His divinity and His humanity and establishes His role as Creator and Reconciler (1:15-23); In response to some of the philosophies which separated the material and immaterial realms and generated “mystery” religions (that is secretive societies that practiced hidden rituals), the blessings of the Gospel are not mysterious and they have been made known by Christ Himself (1:24-2:5); Man-made philosophies are worthless so be on guard that you are not taken in by them. Our focus is to be on Christ who was both God and man (2:6-15) and has removed the barrier between Jew and Greek as well as offering the forgiveness of sin; The worship of heavenly beings such as angels, practicing self-abasement, basing faith on legalistic lists of dos and don’ts or the observance of ritualistic practices have no intrinsic spiritual value and cannot subdue the sin which is part and parcel to our fleshly nature. Only Christ can do that (2:16-23); The Christ-follower sets his/her mind on the things of Christ and seeks to live as He lived (3:1-11); True spirituality is demonstrated in how one relates to other members in the body of Christ, and everything that a believer does should be done in His name and for His glory (3:12-17); The way we interact with one another (spouses, children, parents, slaves) must be dominated by love (3:18-4:1); Instructions on Christian conduct and wisdom (4:2-6); Greetings to specific people, up-dates on Paul’s activities in Rome, and a final blessing (4:7-18).
When I was teaching Apologetics to my high school students a few years ago I began to see how crucial our view of Jesus really is as Christians. For everyone has something to say about Him! Pop Culture philosophies and teachings about Christ still manage to tickle Christians’ ears (and books on them are even sold in Christian book stores!) and I’m alarmed at how many of them are accepted without question. Paul’s warning in Col. 2:8 seems just as appropriate today as it did when Paul first penned it. What we believe about Jesus will most certainly be borne out in how we live. What does your lifestyle say about your understanding of Him? Let Col. 1:15-19 be your guide in understanding Christ and Col. 3:1, 17 be your standard of Christian conduct. You will never be misled by following God’s Word, but as Paul points out in Colossians, following the prescriptions of man has no value. Christ is our standard and there is no one better than Him (Col. 2:9-10).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 10/25/2015