(last updated 12/30/13)
Paul wrote a letter to the church at Colosse to combat heretical teachings of the Gnostics, who were adding to and subtracting from the true Christian faith (just as the Judaizers added the keeping of the Law to faith in Christ). "Gnosis" was the Greek word for "knowledge;" Gnostics claimed to have secret knowledge and enlightenment outside of and beyond Scripture, and held false ideas about the identity of God, especially of Jesus Christ. We will see that Gnosticism is still alive and well today. The emphasis of this short book is the person of Christ.
1-2 Paul begins with his authority as an apostle, by which he will be refuting false teachings in this church; he is not self-appointed. Writing from prison, Timothy is there with him. What two terms does he use for Christian or believer? Grace (salvation: God's gift) leads to what? Peace with who?
3-6 Paul has a huge prayer list; he prays for all the churches we read about. He shares with them how he prays for them; what does he do first? Why is he thankful for these believers? He has only "heard of" their faith; he has never been to this city. Today it's popular to talk about being people of faith, but is faith actually powerful, or is it who or what we put our faith in? Faith in Christ is revealed by what? Is our focus to be on the best life possible here on earth, as many teach? Twice Paul emphasizes that the message of the gospel is what? What happens in people's lives when the gospel is preached, understood and believed?
7-8 Epaphras apparently founded this church; he is with Paul as he writes, 4:12, perhaps also as a prisoner. He may be the leader or pastor of their church. God is often described as faithful; believers are also to be faithful--what does that mean? Are unbelievers able to love others? What is the difference if you love "in the Spirit"? So Paul is speaking to believers--those "in the Spirit," and 4, those with "faith in Christ Jesus."
9-10 This passage teaches us how to pray for others, regardless of their physical situation. What is the first thing he prays for? Not just knowledge, for the purpose of pride, but knowledge of what? So does that mean we CAN know God's will? Yes, the Bible teaches us what God's will is for our lives. Knowledge of God's will is for what purpose? Some get so down on themselves as sinners that they don't feel capable of pleasing God, but is that what we read here? Some may get hung up on that word, "worthy," because we are not, and do not feel, worthy of what Christ did for us; the Greek means "as becoming to" or "in a godly way." Knowledge of God's will for us will help us to live the way He wants us to. This includes bearing what? Some think this means saving souls, but what does it say next? So increasing in knowledge of God and His will results in MORE knowledge of Him!
In 9 and again in 10, Paul prays that each of them will increase in the knowledge of God; this knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding is not limited to a select few, like the Gnostics taught, but is available to all believers. How do we access knowledge of God? It is not something subjective (feelings, "messages") but rather He has given us objective truth about Himself in His written Word. What will this knowledge result in? Changed behavior and even more knowledge.
11-12 We have read in numerous other places that the Holy Spirit indwells us with power; here, this power is not for the sake of pride, but is for what? Is it easy to have patience? His power helps us develop patience. It also leads to joyfulness and what else? Even if you are so down that it seems like there is nothing in your life to give thanks for, what ought we to always be thankful for, 12? This makes it clear that the word "worthy" in 10 has nothing to do with our own qualifications based on anything we do or have done. When do we receive an inheritance? After death more awaits us. Depending on your translation, "light" may or may not be capitalized; when we walk in Christ, we are walking in the what? (Many Gnostics believed that the light and dark were two equal powers--as many still do today.) So are we all at the same place in the process Paul has explained in 9-12? What is the doctrinal term for this growth process? Sanctification. He has shown how we are affected by all three persons of the Trinity, and now goes on to explain more about the Father and the Son.
13-14 Who has rescued or delivered us? Does the kingdom of Christ speak of heaven? No, we are not there yet. Does it speak of the earthly millenial kingdom of Christ? No, that time has not yet come. So he is speaking of the spiritual aspect of the kingdom, just as we saw Jesus speak of both aspects in the Gospels. Paul spoke of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit; what power does he contrast it with? Darkness is contrasted with what? So Christ's kingdom is contrasted with whose? Everyone is a citizen of one kingdom or the other--no gray area! Even "good" unbelievers are of the kingdom of darkness--of Satan. Christians like to talk about the importance of sharing Christ's love with the unsaved, but that's not what Paul stresses; what do we need to tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ, 14? Like many today, the Gnostics taught that Christ's blood was not needed for the atonement of sins, nor faith in Christ--just the secret knowledge of Him they claimed to have.
15 The Gnostics taught that Jesus was a created being, as do Unitarians, Jehovah Witnesses, and others. Paul goes on to clarify who Christ is. Do these three verses contain the words "Jesus is God"? But do they say that? How? Compare 15a to John 1:18 and 14:9. Firstborn does not mean He came into existence at some point; it means the Son proceeds from the Father. He is forever the Son, from eternity past (not beginning at any point in time, such as in Bethlehem at His physical birth). He existed before anything was created. The Gnostics believed that a remote supreme cause (the "demiurge") created a creature below him that created something below him ("emanations") and so on, until Christ was created; Yahweh of the Old Testament is merely one in that process, not the one true God. The female goddess Sophia is one of them (her name means wisdom); today Sophia worship is becoming popular again.
16-17 Paul clarifies Christ's relation to the creation. He was not created, He is the Creator; therefore, He is who? Only God can create, and God did not create Himself--He is eternal. We think of creation as earth and its inhabitants; what else did He create? The physical AND the spiritual realm, the host of heaven--angelic beings of various rankings (some of which later became demons). ALL things, by and for Him. He "is" before all things, not was, because Christ is the I Am of Ex. 3:14 and John 8:58. Before He was the incarnate Christ (in a human body) He was the pre-incarnate Christ, who appears occasionally even in the Old Testament "as the angel of the Lord." Whenever God appeared to men, it was in the form of the Son, the second person of the Trinity; the Father is Spirit and no man can see Him.
18 In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that the church is the body of Christ; in Colossians, he emphasizes that Christ is the head of the church. In Philippians, we see how the church looks as it walks in this world. He was the first to be resurrected, promising the same to us. Does Christ have first place in everything today? When will that happen? God's plan, His Big Picture, is moving toward this event. Following the rapture, the seven years of tribulation, and the Second Coming, Christ will reign on earth for 1000 years, and finally, every knee will bow.
19-20 Paul found many ways to state that Christ is fully God and fully man, trying to make this clear to the Colossians. "Fulness" was a term the Gnostics used for the demiurge; Paul takes their term and uses it to show that Christ was not just a man who reached godhood through wisdom, as they believed. He clearly summarized what Christ accomplished and the importance of His blood. What does reconcile mean? Why was Christ's blood required to accomplish this? The Law called for a lamb without blemish--sinless. Is wisdom enough? Things in earth and heaven: all creation was affected by sin, and because of Christ, one day everything will be in harmony with God again. 20 is an overview of God's Big Plan--what the Bible is all about in a nutshell.
21-22 Now Paul takes God's Big Plan of 20 and personalizes it--he helps them internalize what it means to THEM. Here's how it works out in real life. Are we actually holy, blameless and beyond reproach? The key phrase is "before Him" (NASB) or "in His sight" (KJV); He sees us this way because of who? This is our position, not our condition. Again answering the Gnostic heresies, Paul makes it clear that Christ, who he just proved is indeed God, came in a human fleshly body to shed His blood on the cross.
23 The first half of the verse speaks of an "if"--does continuing in the faith keep us saved, or does it prove that we are indeed truly saved? Compare I John 2:19. "Not moved away" would be another warning against the false teachers. Paul, on the other hand, is not a false teacher, because he reminds them he was not self-appointed but chosen by God: "made a minister." The second half of the verse informs us that "all creation under heaven"--the whole world--has heard the Gospel. Compare Rom. 1:20, Psalm 19. And Paul reached the known civilized world of his day through his missionary endeavors, his letters and those he trained up for ministry. "The gospel you have heard"--do they have the complete written Word of God yet?
24 On first glance, it sounds like Paul is saying that what Christ did for us is lacking in some way and Paul is doing something to make up for that. Could that possibly be true? The Bible makes it clear that, 1) Christ paid the full price for our sin, once for all, and 2) we can in no way atone for our sin, and there is nothing that we or anyone else can add to Christ's work. But note that Paul compares Christ's afflictions with his own suffering; that type of suffering, for the believer, is not yet complete. Paul says he is bearing his share, and implying that the church--the body of Christ--will also suffer as believers. His suffering is in his flesh; is it suffering in his spirit also? How does his spirit feel about this suffering? If we must ever suffer as believers, hopefully this will be our experience also. So now that Christ is no longer physically on earth, believers are the physical bodies through which He does His work on earth.
25-27 God chose Paul to preach what? Stewardship (NASB) or dispensation (KJV) refers to a particular time period in which God is doing things in a particular way; he explains in 26-27. What characterizes the present dispensation? We are in the church age, the dispensation of grace, Eph. 3:2. The mystery of the church is not something mysterious that can't be understood, but rather, a part of God's plan not previously revealed. In the previous dispensation, God was dealing with Israel, but now, this new body called the church includes who? In this dispensation, Christ is with us, not physically, but indwelling us through the Holy Spirit. Only the church has the indwelling Spirit--"Christ in you." After the church is caught up at the rapture, those who become believers during the tribulation will not have the indwelling Spirit--He will be with them as He was before the resurrection. In John 14:17, right before the crucifixion, Jesus tells His disciples that the Spirit will no longer just be "with" them, but soon (following the resurrection) He will be "in" them.
28-29 Paul and his co-workers proclaim what? If biblical teaching about Christ is not foundational in your church, you need to find a new church. Paul says preaching should include what two elements? We need to deal with sin--first as unbelievers repenting and coming to Christ in faith, then continuing to recognize and deal with our sinful tendencies. We need continued teaching from God's Word or we do not grow as Paul outlined in 9-12; "perfect" (KJV) means complete or mature. Again Paul refutes the Gnostic heresy: God's wisdom is available to ALL men, not just to a select few "elite." Can Paul bring about these things in his own power? Only because of the power of the indwelling Spirit--"Christ in you."
1-4 Had Paul visited Colossae or Laodicea? What deception has he been warning them about? IS there "secret" wisdom and knowledge that believers don't have access to? Where is it found? In Christ. It is not to be found by turning to Gnostic teachers that claim such hidden knowledge. Satan tempted Eve with false wisdom and knowledge outside of God's will and revelation. Are these treasures hidden to believers? Compare 2. What are some things here that we can pray for others, and that Paul desires to see in believers? Can false teachers always be easily identified, or can they be very persuasive? Do wealth and treasures speak of monetary prosperity for believers?
5 What else should characterize our Christian lives?
6-7 Note the as/so statement in 6; how did we receive Christ? (see end of 5) We receive salvation by faith, but then struggle to live the Christian life by depending on our good works, instead of continuing to walk by faith; Paul discusses this at length in Rom. 6-8. What two analogies does Paul use in the first half of 7? End of 7, what especially should characterize believers? When we get down about stuff, this is the best antidote. Paul will talk more about this in chapter 4.
8 Paul is again warning about the Gnostics and their teaching; do we still need this warning against deception? Is all knowledge good? Philosophy speaks of human wisdom, of the world system apart from God. We could put psychology in this category too; much of the church has been infiltrated by its humanism, where man is central (rather than God) and is basically good (rather than have a sinful nature). Many so-called Christian psychologists and counselors use the same basic principles and techniques of secular psychology. Evolution is another humanistic belief system prevalent today--denying a Creator, and insisting something can come from nothing.
9-10 The fulness of God speaks of not only God's nature, but the unity within the Trinity; the Son is the person of the Trinity through whom God appears in a visible form. Jesus was completely God in a completely human body. Exo. 25:10-11 describes the Ark of the Covenant, which pictures Christ; what two materials was it made of? Completely wood and completely gold, picturing the dual nature of Christ. And "in Him" what, 10? This is known as the doctrine of the sufficiency of Christ--not Christ plus anything else. Compare II Cor. 3:5. Those who claim to have "something more" than the Bible are actually offering something "different" than the Bible. Everything we need is found "in Him." He is over all principality and power (KJV), or rule and authority (NASB), which speak of angelic/demonic powers; He is not an angel or part of the angelic powers, as the Gnostics taught and many still teach, but as God Himself, is over them. We are not complete as God designed until we are "in Christ."
11-12 What does the physical removal of the flesh picture? The physical pictures the spiritual reality of being "in Him." (Circumcision does not picture salvation; it was a covenant God made with Abraham regarding what He promised to the nation of Israel.) So did they need to be circumcised, as the Judaizers taught? All believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, I Cor. 12:13, but we are also commanded to be baptized in water as a public testimony--picturing what? Compare Rom. 6:4. We died with Christ and are risen with Him.
13-15 Restating what he just said in 12, what did Christ do for us? Because we were dead in our sins, we needed to be born again. (If you're born once, you die twice; if you're born twice, you only die once.) How does Paul refer to the Law in 14? How and where did He disarm and triumph over the wicked angels? Paul again drives home the point that Christ is far above angels, contrary to Gnostic teaching. Satan's power was broken at the cross; the price was paid, even though not all men choose to accept the gift Christ offers them.
16-17 Paul warns this church against another group of false teachers: the Judaizers, who taught legalism--Jesus plus keeping the Law. What does Paul say about this? Do some today teach that Sunday is now the Sabbath and should be strictly observed as a day of rest, or that we should observe other restrictions of the Law? Might different Christians have different ideas about diet, dress and observance of various days? Should we judge Christians who do things a little different than we do, as long as they are not outside biblical guidelines? Are these practices the important thing? What is? These practices merely picture spiritual truth about Christ. The Jewish feasts pictured Christ; the Sabbath rest was fulfilled in Christ--through faith, we rest from works. In the Old Testament, believers were to observe the Sabbath in recognition of God resting on the seventh day from His work of creation--the defining truth about God of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we observe the first day of the week in recognition of Christ's resurrection--the defining truth about God of the New Testament.
18-19 Now Paul again warns against the mystical teaching of the Gnostics. When does the church receive rewards, II Cor. 5:10? If we allow ourselves to be derailed by false teaching, we may lose out on rewards. We are not to engage in fake spirituality or false humility; is there any value in self-punishment? Are we to worship anyone but Christ/God? Beware of those who make claims based on visions they have supposedly received from God or from an angel; does the Bible teach that Jesus will continue to speak to people beyond what He said in the Bible? False teachers encourage us to exalt Self rather than Christ. Christ is pictured in 19 as the what? And we are the what? If we follow God's pattern, what results?
20-23 Is Paul saying that for the Christian, now nothing is off-limits? The Bible forbids sin, and is clear on what is sin, but we are not to add man's rules and engage in legalism in order to make ourselves look or feel more spiritual. For a review of the concept of dying to Self, see Rom. 6-8. Paul reveals that living by rules denies the sufficiency of Christ's work, if you think that anything YOU do can add anything of value in God's eyes. "Religion" is man's efforts to reach God; true biblical Christianity is God's actions to reach out to man. Religion says "do"--Christianity says "done." Why are we so attracted to do's and dont's? Don't we like to feel like we have done something that will make us more acceptable to God, or better than others? PRIDE.
The Colossian church was being threatened both by religious legalism and ritualism, Gnostic mystical teachings and pagan philosophy. Is it any different today? Satan's attacks come from many directions.
This chapter, actually through 4:6, could be called "God's will in a nutshell." It is quite similar to Eph. 5. The Bible has much information about God's will for us--how we are to live. When people say they don't know God's will for their lives, they are usually wanting God to let them know how to make choices such as who to marry, where to go to college, which job or career to pursue, which house to buy, etc. The Bible doesn't give that kind of information, or even promise that God will tell us such things; He gives us brains, free will, scriptural principles, and wisdom if we ask in faith, James 1:5-8. God's will is clearly defined for us in Scripture--how a Christian is to live and be pleasing to God.
The Gnostics emphasized special experiences, secret knowledge, rituals, both self-denial and fleshly indulgence, and the separation of spiritual life from one's physical life, like those today who think Christianity is just for Sunday but should be left in the closet the rest of the week. Paul teaches instead the process of gradual change and growth, through the power Christ gives us, that we call sanctification.
1-4 In 2:20 Paul talks about what we should NOT engage in as a result of having died with Christ; he now compares what contrasting idea? He has talked a lot in various letters about resurrection power--the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is now available to believers. What is so important that he tells us twice, in 1 and 2? Compare Phil. 4:8. Keep seeking/set your mind/think on these things: these all speak of making choices. And why are we to do that? How can we control thoughts that do not want to be controlled? It is difficult to "stop" thinking something; instead, we are consciously choose to think about something else--about what
We are "in Christ," and where is Christ--where is our citizenship? What is Christ doing now? 3, obviously we are still alive, but Self has died. Review Rom. 6:5-14; Paul teaches these concepts to all the churches. But we won't be perfected until Christ is revealed; when will that take place? We will be transformed at the rapture (whether we are alive then or have already died).
Psychology teaches that Self is the most important thing--that we are to "actualize" Self, that Self is primary, that all the answers are already within Self, if we just listen to Self and embrace it, to love ourselves, to have high self-esteem. What does the Bible teach about Self, 3? Just the opposite!
5-6 As Paul said in Rom. 6, we are to mortify Self, to reckon/consider/believe the body, the old nature, to be dead, especially the sexual sins of the body. Are we to helplessly give in when faced with strong feelings and desires? What other sin does he include in this group? Greed (NASB)/covetousness (KJV) is a form of what? Because it is the worship of what? Money, things. These can actually take the place of God in people's hearts.
The Bible has quite negative things to say about commercialism--the cornerstone of the world system. 6, we find God pouring out His wrath in Revelation 17-18 on the interplay of godless commercialism, government and false religion. The "sons of disobedience" would be the unbelievers referred to often in Revelation as "those who dwell upon the earth"--earthdwellers, as opposed to those of us whose citizenship is in heaven. People say, "if there was really a God" or "if God was really loving or all-powerful," that He would do something about evil and evil people. One day God WILL judge this evil earth--why hasn't He done so yet? I Tim. 2:4, Rom. 9:22-24, so that more would have a chance to be saved, to know the riches of His glory.
7-8 So the sins he listed were still a problem to the believers in this church (and others). Is it really possible for a Christian to overcome sins that once controlled his life? Do they just disappear when you are born again? Sometimes--not always. What are we to do if we continue to struggle with them, 5? What are some other sins that Christians struggle with, 8? We may not see these sins manifested in church on Sunday (although it's possible!) but the rest of the week might be a different story. Blasphemy (KJV) may be against God, but it may also include evil speaking, railing, or slander (NASB) of others. Filthy communication (KJV) = vile, abusive language (NASB). 6 tells us that as unbelievers, we were slaves to sin, but now we have the power to say no to sin--does that mean it's easy to say no?
9-11 What sin gets its own verse? Why do you think it gets such emphasis? The old Self is characterized by habitual deeds/evil practices. How is the Christian to "dress"? Would God command us to put these off if it were not possible? The old Self is to be replaced by the new Self--like taking off and discard one set of clothing in order to put on another. Self is being renovated to gradually become Christlike and to have true knowledge of God, as man was originally designed by the Creator. Is salvation and sanctification equally available to all, regardless of class or nationality? So does God do all the work, or do we play a part in this process? Like Phil. 2:12-13, it's both. If these things just happened, Paul wouldn't have to write to Christians about the need to do these things.
12-13 What is this new Self like that believers are to put on? Will these things happen automatically, or do we need to make conscious choices of Christlike behavior? Is Self to be foremost, as psychology teaches? Humility is just the opposite; in all these things, we put others first and willingly take the lower position. Is there any room for the natural attitude that says, "How dare anyone treat me/speak to ME like that?" ME is not to be our highest priority.
14-15 What three important pieces of "clothing" are we to put on? Which is most important? What if we don't feel loving, peaceful, or thankful? Is love a feeling or an action, a choice? Can we choose to love someone we don't like? Is peace a feeling, or a fact to be trusted in? Is it possible to have peace when life is rocky? God's peace is to "rule" in our hearts, like an umpire; that implies what might be going on in there? So what does the umpire do? We can plaster a pleasant look on our face while our hearts are raging; this is not pleasing to God. Gratitude is the answer to most of our attitude problems; choose to focus on everything God has done for you and provided for you, and thank Him often.
16 What are we told about God's Word? How might that differ from just "reading the Bible"? To try to live the Christian life without being solidly grounded in God's Word will not result in the joy Paul continually refers to. What is the purpose of songs and singing? Is the context of this passage about how to "do church" or how to live the Christian life? So according to this, what makes a good Christian song? What is the biblical opposite of "spiritual"? Fleshly/carnal; might some Christian songs be fleshly? What criteria should those in the church use in choosing songs for congregation, Sunday School, VBS, etc?
17 What two things are we commanded here? How much of our lives are covered by "whatever"? Even things like doing dishes, taking out garbage, weeding, washing diapers, having to scold your kids? If you left everything else out of this chapter, wouldn't this pretty much cover it all? Back in Gal. 3:23-4:7, Paul explained that the Law was like a tutor or guardian over those who were not yet of age, but that once faith came, we are no longer under the tutor. Under the Law, numerous do's and don'ts were spelled out; under faith, we are given few do's and don'ts but rather, spiritual principles that we are to apply to our lives with the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Here is one of those principles. What does "in the name of the Lord Jesus" mean? As if directly to Him, under or by His authority, maybe as how we think He might do it? Again we see that because of Jesus, we have a relationship with God the Father.
18-4:1 Paul repeats in shortened form the instructions he wrote to the church at Ephesus in Eph. 5:22-6:9. What three reciprocal relationships are mentioned? He sums up the wife and husband responsibilities in one verse each. The wife often has a desire to usurp the husband's position of leadership and needs to deal with that lack of respect for his God-given position; the husband often fails to give his wife what she needs, to put his work first, so he needs to deal with that. In many cultures wives have even been looked on as property, not an equal to love and value. Does he say all women are subservient to all men? Children have what tendency that they need to deal with? And fathers tend to what? Obviously both parents discipline, but God holds the father responsible for the family.
We see equal value and standing, yet with different role. No one is a tyrant, no one is to show the other "who's boss." It's a structure that's not exactly a democracy--someone is designated to be in charge, to have the greater responsibility. The one is open and willing to take direction from the other. Even in the Trinity we see different roles.
Interestingly, Paul does not shorten his advice to slaves; it applies to many people! In our society, what segment of the population might we relate this advice to? Slaves, servants and employees have always been a large segment of society. Isn't this the same idea as 17?--but expanded on a bit more. Why do we struggle with this? Because Paul gives such advice to slaves, should we conclude that he/the Bible is in favor of slavery, and therefore the Bible is wrong, outdated and we should ignore parts of it? Is the Bible's message one of political and social transformation, or individual transformation? 24, slaves could not legally receive an inheritance, but in Christ they will! Under the Gospel, women, children and slaves are seen as of equal value to free men; this was quite radical. 25 speaks of the law of sowing and reaping that we find throughout the Bible; God has built this principle into life, for both believers and unbelievers. Humanly speaking, we are faced with partiality all the time; some may be surprised when they face a judge who won't bend the rules for them.
So summarize what it means to "put on Christ" as explained in this chapter in many ways.
2 Comparing Eph. 6:18, Phil. 4:6, I Thes. 5:17, what should we conclude? What should always go with prayer? Why the admonition to keep alert?
3-4 We can't pray for Paul and his companions; who might we pray this for instead? What does God sometimes provide? The context here, and elsewhere in the Epistles, is ministry, not making everyday life decisions. In looking for God's leading in our daily lives, we may look for "open doors," does the Bible teach us that every open door a sign from God that we should enter? In the context of giving out the Word, open doors are from God. The mystery of Christ: the Gnostics claimed to have secret knowledge that others could not have, but the Bible says that God's plan of salvation through Christ, a "mystery" not revealed in the past, is now available to all. Paul is in prison; are all the doors closed for him now?
5-6 How should we act around unbelievers? How does that wisdom manifest itself? What if we don't feel very wise? How might we get more wisdom? Are we witnessing even when we aren't "witnessing"? Why do you suppose Paul uses the example of salt? Should we be prepared with a little speech we give all the time?
7-9 From here on, Paul mentions many individuals by name. He had apparently never been to Colossae, but he knew many people there. Christians got around; networking was going on long before Facebook. Tychicus is a pastor; we read of Paul and Tychicus numerous times in Acts and the Epistles. Paul hadn't written them everything he wanted them to know.
Philemon, part of the Colossian church, had a slave, Onesimus, who had run away to Rome, where, through Paul, he became a believer (his name means "profitable"). Paul is returning him to his master with the letter to Philemon; perhaps this little drama is related to Paul's remarks on the responsibility of Christian slaves and masters, 3:22-4:1.
10-11 We read of Aristarchus in various other places; he may be literally a prisoner also, or the term may refer to a prisoner of the Lord. We met John Mark in Acts, with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, then deserting and causing a split between Paul and Barnabas. But later Paul speaks highly of him, and he wrote the Gospel of Mark. What can we learn from Mark's story--regarding Mark, Barnabus, Paul? Jesus Justus is only mentioned here. These three are said to be Jewish believers, so the others Paul will mention would be Gentiles.
12-13 Epaphras is apparently the pastor at Colossae, compare 1:7. What does Paul commend him for? So can any Christian truly say there is nothing they can do to serve the Lord? These two cities are near Colossae; he may have also been evangelizing and ministering there.
14-15 Here is the only place Luke is actually identified as a physician. He is often with Paul and may have served as Paul's own doctor. What did Luke do with all the knowledge of Jesus he gained from his time with Paul and other apostles? No details are given about Demas; what do we learn about him in II Tim. 4:10? So we might speculate on why Paul adds no commendation or positive details about him here--he may have already been showing his true colors. Different versions show the person in 15 as he, she, or they. Is meeting in homes the scriptural way to "do church"?
16-17 There are two possibilities here. 1) Paul was sending two letters at this time--the letter to the Colossians and one to Philemon. His earlier letter to the Ephesians had been circulated to Laodicea and would be coming to Colossae. 2)Paul was sending three letters at this time--the letter to the Colossians, one to the Laodiceans (not preserved in the Bible), and one to Philemon. We do see that the early circulated Paul's letters.
Philemon was the master of Onesimus, and also had a church meeting in his home, Phil. 1-2; in that letter Paul also mentions Philemon's wife, then Archippus, so some speculate he may be Philemon's son. (Note the many same names Paul lists at the end; there Demas is listed as a fellow-worker, but not in Colossians.) He seems to be some sort of leader/worker in the Colossian church, or in the group meeting with Philemon. It's interesting that the church is told to encourage him, but we don't know what his problem was.
18 Paul seemed to have a secretary or someone that wrote his letters; he then signed his own name. This may be an indication that his "thorn in the flesh" was an eye problem. Paul may be asking the church to pray for his release, or maybe just his bearing up, or the ministry opportunities in prison. Who do we need to be praying for? His benediction speaks of Jesus Christ with them (Jesus being the revelation of God's grace to man), and of the face that we live by grace now, not by the Law.
Copyright 2013 Jan Young
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