INTRODUCTION TO COLOSSIANS 1 & 2
(Various Scriptures), 03-5-17 & 03-12-17
Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming
Pastor Daryl Hilbert
A. The letter was named after those to whom it was written. They were the brethren in Christ who were at “Colossae” (Col 1:2).
B. Nevertheless, the letter was to be distributed and read by the Christians who were at Laodicea (Col 4:16).
A. The apostle Paul identified himself as the author several times in the epistle (Col 1:1, 23; 4:18).
B. He identified several of his co-laborers who not only would suggest genuineness for the letter to the Colossians but also for his letter to Philemon (Timothy - Col 1:1; Epaphras - Col 1:7; Onesimus - Col 4:9; Aristarchus - Col 4:10; Mark - Col 4:10; Luke - Col 4:14; Demas - Col 4:14; Archippus - Col 4:17 cf. Phm 1:1, 2, 10, 23, 24). “If this was a forgery, it was a bold one” (Schaff in loc.)
C. In addition, Colossians was identified as Paul’s letter by early church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius).
III. PLACE OF WRITING AND DATE
A. Though some have suggested that Paul wrote his “Prison Epistles” from Caesarea or Ephesus, it most likely that he wrote them from Rome.
B. The four “Prison Epistles” are Ephesians (Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), Philippians (Php 1:7, 13, 14, 17), Colossians (Col 4:3, 10, 18), and Philemon (Phm 1, 9, 10, 13, 23). Philemon was the master of Onesimus and lived in Colossae).
C. It is generally accepted that Colossians and Philemon were written near the same time from A.D. 60-62.
IV. CITY OF COLOSSAE
A. Colossae was located in the region of Phrygia, which was in the Roman province of Asia. This is now modern day Turkey. It was situated on the Lycus River, one of the branches of the Meander. It was along the great highway that lead to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, as well as other important cities. Mt. Cadmus, the 8,013 ft. high mountain range, can be seen just three miles from the city. It was 13 miles from Hieraloplis and 10 miles from Laodicea.
B. Colossae’s greatest period was during the fifth century B.C when King Xerxes marched there. However, during Roman times, the highway bypassed Colossae while its new route passed through Laodicea and Hierapolis. At the time of Paul’s writing the city was substantially smaller than its neighboring cities.
C. Whether Paul actually visited Colossae remains a mystery. At the time of his letter, he obviously had not visited either Colossae or Laodicea (Col 2:1). Nevertheless, he had planned to visit after his release. Paul was acquitted from his first Roman imprisonment in A.D. 62. It is quite possible that Paul made a trip to Spain (“farthest limits of the West” 1 Clement) immediately following his release. However, we do know that Paul visited various regions and churches. Though we do not know the exact routes, Paul’s final three epistles (1Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy) reveal some of the places visited. He visited the island of Crete and left Titus there (Tit 1:5). It is possible that at some point, Paul may have visited Colossae according to prior plans (Phm 22 cf. Col 4:7-9). Paul visited Miletus where Trophimus took ill was left behind to get better (2Ti 4:20b).
D. The city was decimated by an earthquake in the 60s AD, and was rebuilt independent of the support of Rome. The city was later overrun by the Saracens in the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Colossae was destroyed, ultimately, by the Turks in the 12th century, with the remnant of its population relocating, among other places, to nearby Chonae
A. Epaphras evangelized Colossae (Col 1:7), started a church, and was most likely its pastor (cf. Col 4:12).
B. But just as Peter taught that false teaching had been present from the beginning and it will continue in every age (2Pe 2:1), the church at Colossae was being attacked by false teaching.
C. Evidently, Epaphras made a thousand-mile plus trip to visit Paul and inform him not only of their faith in Christ and growth (Col 1:2, 6), but also of the false teaching that was attempting to make inroads into the church.
VI. COLOSSIAN HERESY …
A. Pre-Gnostic Philosophy …
1. The first heresy assailing Colossae is difficult to name because whatever philosophical false teaching it brought, it had not yet become a full-fledged system. However, by the second century, its elements had developed into the heresy called Gnosticism.
2. We have knowledge of Gnosticism mainly because of the writings of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, called “Against Heresies” in A.D. 180. These writings give an incredibly detailed account of Gnostic beliefs and writings as well as other heresies plaguing the 2nd Cent. Church.
3. In 1945, a discovery was made in Nag Hammadi, Egypt of 12 leather-bound papyrus codices (books) containing a collection of Gnostic texts, including “The Secret Book of John,” the Gospel of Thomas,” “The Gospel of Mary,”and the Gospel of Judas” to name a few.
4. The Secret Book of John and the Gospel of Judas almost verbatim confirm Irenaeus’ description of Gnostic beliefs.
5. 2nd Cent. Gnosticism held that the true God (“The One”) was an unknowable spirit Mind. In order to learn something of him and spiritual truths, men had to receive “gnosis,” mystical and esoteric knowledge.
6. The Gnostic writings begin with the assertion that the true God manifested himself through emanations (lesser beings) called “aeons” that came from him.
7. One of these aeons named Sophia, erroneously emanated an offspring by the name of Ialdabaōth. Ialdabaōth was a deformed and inferior aeon who was malevolent, arrogant, and ignorant. In order to bring glory to himself, he created the universe as we know it. According to the Gnostics, Ialdabaōth is the God of the Bible.
8. This also explains the Gnostic belief that material is evil and only spirit is good.
9. Ialdabaōth, essentially created man, but Ialdabaōth was tricked by the true God who shared some of his own divine spirit with man. So, when Ialdabaōth commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he was actually preventing them from receiving “gnosis,” true knowledge of spiritual truth, namely that they themselves partake of divinity (cf. Gen 3:5).
10. There is no way to know how much of this had been developed when false teachers assailed the church at Colossae, but Paul’s letter appears to contain some warnings against this developing philosophy (Col 2:8).
11. According to the Gnostics, Jesus was a mere emanation (aeon) who came to aide man in regaining gnosis, not the Son of God. Paul, therefore, exalts Christ to His true position as the Son of God who was:
a. Fully God (Col 1:15, 19). “Fullness” is the Greek word plęrōma. Gnosticism’s plęrōma equaled the whole realm of aeons. Paul’s plęrōma was the fullness of deity in Christ.
b. Perfect humanity (Col 1:22; 2:9). Gnosticism (and Doecticism) could not view an aeon taking a material body (cf. 1Jo 4:1-3).
c. Creator of all things (Col 1:16-17). Though the malevolent Iadabaōth created the world, according to Gnosticism, the true God would be responsible for creating his emanations and dominions. However, all things have been created through God the Son (Agent) and for God the Son (Architect).
d. All Treasures of Wisdom (Col 2:3). Instead of the esoteric gnosis of Gnostics, all the treasures of true wisdom and knowledge are found in the Person and Work of God the Son.
e. Mysticism and Gnōsis (Col 2:18). According to the Gnostics, gnōsis (knowledge) was not attained through the study of truth from God’s Word (Col 3:16), rather it was attained through mysticism, divine revelations, and visions.
12. Ultimately, Gnosticism denied the sufficiency and salvation in Christ but holds that salvation is self-enlightenment gained through esoteric gnosis. …
B. Judaistic Legalism …
1. The second heresy, or another aspect of the Colossian heresy was Judaistic Legalism. The question could be asked, “How could Judaistic Legalism and Pre-Gnosticism be a part of the same heresy?” The answer is in realizing that the majority of heresies are syncretistic, that is, they often incorporate aspects of other false teaching. Take for example the sect of Kabbalah, which is a Jewish mystical (and Gnostic) religion.
2. Circumcision - Contrary to the true gospel, this heresy taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Paul refuted such false teaching by declaring that salvation was not the result of physical circumcision. Rather, spiritual circumcision and cleansing was the result of faith alone in Christ (Col 2:11 cf. Col 3:11).
3. Legalistic - This heresy included legalism which demanded that the keeping of Jewish dietary laws, Sabbath days, new moon festivals, and feasts were necessary for salvation. However, Paul exhorted the Colossians not to be intimidated into compromising the grace in Christ (Col 2:16-17).
4. Asceticism - In addition, such legalism exhibited itself is asceticism, the rigid self-denial and harsh treatment of the body, much like the first century sect of the monastic Essenes. Paul refuted this asceticism by teaching that the appearance of self-made religion, pseudo self-abasement, and severe treatment of the body was of no value against the flesh. The believer’s position in Christ was the only means for victory over the flesh (Col 2:20-23).
5. Ultimately, Judaistic Legalism added works to salvation thereby denying salvation through the sufficiency in Christ alone.
6. Whether this was part of a particular unnamed heresy or whether these were independent elements of various errors assailing the church at Colossae is beside the point. The point is that the correct understanding of the person and work of Christ is the truth and this truth refutes virtually all heresies and all elements of false teaching. …
VII. THEME …
A. Though the Colossian heresy had many elements, its underlying error was a denial of the sufficiency of Christ for salvation. This denial was based on an erroneous view of the person and work of Christ. It was based on the denial of Christ’s preeminence and supremacy.
B. Therefore, Paul declared that based on who Christ was and the work He accomplished, He Himself was “to have first place in everything” (Col 1:18 - lit. “in order that He might become in all things - Himself - first”).
C. Christ is Preeminent (Col 1:18), He is God (Col 2:9), He is Creator (Col 1:16), He is Savior (Col 1:20; 2:13-14), He is the head of the church (Col 1:18), He is the believer’s life (Col 3:4), He is all and in all (Col 3:11), and because it was the Father’s pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Col 1:19), the believer is complete in Him (Col 1:28; 2:10). Christ has first place in the believer’s doctrine, Christ has first place in the believer’s defense, and Christ has first place in the believer’s duty.
D. Colossians was Paul’s vivid portrait of the person and work of Christ and His supremacy. …
VIII. OUTLINE …
…SUPREMACY OF THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST …
I. SUPREMACY OF CHRIST IN DOCTRINE (Col 1:1-2:7) …
A. Personal Salutation (Col 1:1-2) …
B. Prayer of Thanksgiving (Col 1:3-8) …
C. Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom (Col 1:9-14). …
D. Proportion of Christ’s Supremacy (Col 1:15-18) …
E. Purpose of Christ’s Supremacy (Col 1:19-2:7) …
1. Christ the Reconciliation (Col 1:19-23) …
2. Christ the Hope of Glory (Col 1:24-29) …
3. Christ the Mystery of God (Col 2:1-2) …
4. Christ the Wisdom of God (Col 2:3-4) …
5. Christ the Model (Col 2:5-7) …
II. SUPREMACY OF CHRIST IN DEFENSE (Col 2:8-23) …
A. Polemic Against False Philosophy (Col 2:8) …
B. Polemic Against Insufficiency in Christ (Col 2:9-15) …
C. Polemic Against Legalism (Col 2:16-17) …
D. Polemic Against Mysticism (Col 2:18-19) …
E. Polemic Against Asceticism (Col 2:20-23) …
III. SUPREMACY OF CHRIST IN DUTY (Col 3:1-4:18) …
A. Principles of the Christian Life (Col 3:1-4) …
B. Practices of the Christian Life (Col 3:5-4:6) …
1. Christian Mortification (Col 3:5-11) …
2. Christian Virtues (Col 3:12-17) …
3. Christian Family (Col 3:18-21) …
4. Christian Employment (Col 3:22-4:1) …
5. Christian Testimony (Col 4:2-6) …
C. Personal Comments (Col 4:7-17) …
D. Personal Benediction (Col 4:18) ….
Grace Bible Church · 4000 E. Collins Rd · PO Box #3762 · Gillette, WY · (307) 686-1516