AT-A-GLANCE

Chapter 1:1 – 3:4

Seek the Things that Are Above

Chapter 3:5 – 4:18

Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly

QUICK FACTS

Author: Paul the Apostle

Original Readers: the church in Colossae

Date Written: c. AD 60-62

Written From: Prison in Rome

Key Verse: 1:19-20; 2:9-10

Major Themes: Greatness of Christ; Maturity in Christ

DISCOVER THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF COLOSSIANS

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE INDUCTIVELY

OBSERVE

What does the text say?

There’s no better way to understand the literary context than carefully observing what is said.

INTERPRET

 What does the text mean?

In light of both the literary and historical context, what was the original intended meaning of this passage?

APPLY

How do I apply what the text means?

In order for us to grow and mature more into Christ’s likeness, we must apply the truths we discover in our lives.

Chapter 1:1-14 — Paul’s Thankfulness for the Colossians

OBSERVE

  • 1:3-8 — What are the qualities of the Colossians that Paul highlights?
  • 1:9-12 — What is Paul’s prayer for the Colossians? Why?
  • 1:12-14 — What has the Father already done for His people?

INTERPRET

  • 1:2-13 — In light of what we know from the historical background of this church, why would Paul emphasize to the Colossians that God has already done these things for them? Why emphasize that they have already been transferred into the kingdom of the Son?

APPLY

  • 1:9-10 — What can I do to further fill myself with ‘the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’?

Chapter 1:15-2:5 — Christ Has Reconciled You

OBSERVE

  • 1:15-20 — Make a list of all the things said about Jesus in this passage.
  • 1:20 — What did God do through Christ? How?
  • 1:21-22 — How does Paul describe life before Christ, with life after Christ?
  • 1:21-23 — What is the responsibility of the followers of Christ?
  • 1:24-26 — What is Paul’s role as an apostle?
  • 2:2-4 — What does Paul want for his readers? Why?

INTERPRET

  • 1:15 — What does Paul mean when he says that Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God’? 
  • 1:15, 18 — How is Jesus the ‘beginning’ and the ‘firstborn’?
  • 1:15-20 — In your own words, summarize what this passage says of who Jesus is, and what He has done.
  • 1:15-20 — The Colossians believed that physical matter and this realm was inherently evil. What can we learn about how God views creation in this passage?

APPLY

  • 1:15-20 — Reflect on who Jesus is and what He has done. Are there areas of my life that these truths have not permeated? What changes or decisions can I make in my life that would reflect these truths?
  • 1:23 — What can I do to keep myself stable and steadfast in the faith?
  • 1:24-26 — How can I imitate Paul’s leadership example in my life?

  * HELPFUL NOTES

  • 1:15-20 — Because of the rhythm and style of language in this passage (that is easier to see in the Greek), scholars suggest that Paul is likely quoting an existing Christian hymn of Christ for all or most of this passage.
  • 1:15 — In the Old Testament, Israel is also called God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22). Along with this, Psalm 89:19-27 says this same thing about the Messiah.
  • 1:27 — For a description of the mystery that Paul is talking about here, see Ephesians 2:11-3:6.
  • 1:27 — Paul says something similar in Romans 8:10. Alternatively, “Christ in you” could also be understood as “Christ among you”. The Greek word for ‘you’ here is plural, referring to Gentiles. In this sense, Paul would be saying that the mystery is “Christ among you Gentiles” in the same way as God dwelled among the Israelites in Numbers 35:34. 

What is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions – 1:24

Paul says that he is completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What is he talking about? Is there something lacking in what Christ did?

In this video, we unpack this statement, and come to an understanding of what Paul means when he says this confusing statement.

Chapter 2:6-3:4 — Filled in Christ Alone

OBSERVE

  • 2:9-10 — Compare this passage with the parallel one in 1:19-20. What is said about Jesus? What was given to us?
  • 2:11-15 — Observe all that God has done for us in this passage. What does he say we have to do to warrant these acts of God?
  • 2:16-19 — What are the reasons Paul says that they are not to let anyone pass judgment on them, and disqualify them in these areas?
  • 2:20-23 — What does a life that has died with Christ look like?
  • 3:1-4 — What does a life that has been raised with Christ look like?

INTERPRET

  • 2:9 — Why would Paul mention that ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ to the Colossians? What are the truths that we can learn about Jesus?
  • 2:10 — What does it mean that we have been filled in Christ?
  • 2:11-15 — In your own words, describe the process of forgiveness as Paul lays it out here. How does Paul seem to be addressing the struggles of the Colossian Christians?
  • 2:16-23 — Why would Paul be concerned with these specific areas in this church?

APPLY

  • Are there areas in my life where my conviction comes more from what other people may think, than from God?
  • 2:20-3:4 — Are there areas in my life where I am not reflecting my identity as someone who has both died and been raised with Christ?

  * HELPFUL NOTES

  • “Elemental spirits” (sometimes translated as ‘basic principles of the world’ ~NKJV) — The Greek word (stoicheia) could be interpreted in two possible ways. One takes it as referencing to a Colossian belief in spirits and deities that rule over different nations and aspects of nature (NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV11). The other takes it as the basic fundamentals of human knowledge (NKJV, NIV, NASB). 

Fullness in Christ  1:19; 2:9-10

In Colossians 1:19 Paul says that, ‘in Jesus the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’.

Paul says almost the same thing again in 2:9 where he says that, ‘in Jesus the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form’.

What exactly is Paul claiming when he says this?

Chapter 3:5-4:6 — Do Everything in the Name of Jesus

OBSERVE

  • 3:5-17 — Observe all of the commands that Paul gives to the church as a whole.
  • 3:5-17 — Observe any repeated words.
  • 3:10 — Compare with 1:15.
  • 3:11 — Observe the list of people groups mentioned.
  • 3:12-17 — Observe all the commands Paul gives in this passage.
  • 3:18-4:1 — Observe the commands Paul gives to each household group. How much is said to each group?
  • 4:2-6 — Observe the commands Paul gives to the church as a whole in closing.

INTERPRET

  • 3:9-10 — Who is the new ‘self’ (‘man’ NET, NKJV, KJV) that Paul says we have clothed ourselves with? What is the image that we are being renewed towards?
  • 3:10 — What does it mean to ‘clothe yourself with the new self/man’? Compare this to 3:12ff.
  • 3:10-11 — What is Paul saying in this passage?
  • 3:16 — What does it mean to ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’?
  • 3:18-4:1 — Why do you think Paul gives more instructions to this one group over the others? How do you think the situation between Philemon and Onesimus affected these instructions? (If you haven’t studied the book of Philemon yet, please watch our Philemon video to understand the background to that book)

APPLY

  • Which of these commands do I need to improve in? What can I do to improve in these area(s)?
  • 3:10ff — How can I continue to clothe myself with who God has made me to be?
  • 3:11 — Are there any races, cultures or social groups that I do not see or treat as equal? How does Christ see them? What can I do to reflect this aspect of the Kingdom of God in my life?
  • 3:14 — How can I improve in the area of ‘putting on love’?

  * HELPFUL NOTES

  • 3:9-10 — The word often translated “self” (ESV, NRSV, NIV11, NASB) (Gk: anthropos) literally means “man” (NET, NKJV, KJV). Paul uses this same term in Ephesians 2:15, and Ephesians 4:22-24, referring to the new creation that God made Christians to be. 
  • 3:11 — Barbarian referred to non-Greek speaking people. Scythians were a people group from north of the Black Sea that they saw as exceptionally violent and savage at that time

Chapter 4:7-18 — Final Greetings

  * HELPFUL NOTES

  • 4:7 — Tychicus — He traveled and ministered with Paul, often delivering his letters (see Ephesians 6:21). He is also mentioned in Acts 20:4, 2 Timothy 4:12, and Titus 3:12.
  • 4:9 — Onesimus — This is likely the same Onesimus that is the subject of the letter to Philemon. Him being referred to as ‘one of you’, leads most scholars to believe that Philemon was in Colossae, and this letter was delivered at the same time as the letter to Philemon.
  • 4:10 — Mark — The cousin of Barnabas, who abandoned Paul and Barnabas during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). However, reconciliation eventually happened and Mark became an important part of Paul’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). This is quite possibly the same Mark who wrote the Gospel.
  • 4:12 — Epaphras — A Colossian who founded the Colossian church (Col 1:7), and likely the churches in the surrounding cities.
  • 4:14 — Luke — Luke becomes a faithful companion of Paul during their second missionary journey, beginning at Troas (Acts 16:7-10). He is the author of Luke and Acts.
  • 4:15-16 — Laodicea — About 11 miles (18 km) northwest of Colossae, it was the more major center in the region. While this letter to Laodicea has not survived, we do have a letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. 
  • 4:17 — Archippus — Paul calls him a ‘fellow soldier’ in Philemon 2. While we do not know what the task was that Paul encouraged him to complete, there is a later tradition that he eventually became the bishop of Laodicea.

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