Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book of Colossians

Introduction to the Book of Colossians

Written by George Goldman

Colossae was an ancient city of about 500 years when Paul wrote this letter. It was known for a peculiar purple wool (colossinus). The city stood on a trade route from Ephesus to the Euphrates. However, the trade route changed and the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis became the greater cities. Colossae was the last prominent city to which Paul wrote. Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of an ancient church there.

The church of Colossae was probably established on Paul’s third missionary journey during his ministry in Ephesus. The congregation was not started by Paul himself (Col. 2:1) but by Epaphras (Col. 1:7, 12f). Archippus was a minister there (Col. 4:17). Members included Philemon and Onesimus (Phile. 1; Col. 4:9).

Paul wrote to the Colossians while a prisoner (Col. 4:3, 10, 18), probably during the first Roman imprisonment (62 A.D.). He wrote this insignificant out-of-the-way place where he had never been because of the erroneous doctrine beginning there. The exact origin of this false teaching is unknown. Some say it was Essenism; or Gnosticism; or even contemporary Judaism with a syncretism of local Phrygian ideas.

Paul met these errors by presenting the all-sufficient Christ. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom, knowledge, and divine perfections (Col. 1:15-23). On the cross, Jesus Christ revealed his importance and freedom from corruptions and newness of life is found in His death and resurrection (Col. 2:8-15).

The letter has four parts:

  1. Salutation and thanksgiving (1:1-8);
  2. Doctrinal section (1:9 – 2:5);
  3. Ethical section (2:6 – 4:6); and
  4. Concluding salutations (4:7-18).

Towards the end of the epistle (Col. 4:16), Paul asks this congregation at Leodicea to which he had also written. This gives the most accurate picture of how the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were collected. Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans has perished (cf. 1 Cor. 5:9).

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