Introduction to the Epistle of Paul to the Colossians

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Why study this book?

Paul wrote his Epistle to the Colossians because of a report that they were falling into serious error (see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”). False teachings and practices in Colossae were influencing the Saints there and threatening their faith. Similar cultural pressures pose challenges for Church members today. Part of this epistle’s value lies in how it identifies and exposes falsehoods while emphasizing Jesus Christ’s divinity and saving work. By studying the book of Colossians, students can deepen their conversion to the Savior and receive protection from deception and sin.

Who wrote this book?

The Epistle to the Colossians was sent by Paul and Timothy (see Colossians 1:1, 23; 4:18). Paul apparently handwrote his own salutation at the close of the epistle (see Colossians 4:18), indicating that a scribe, perhaps Timothy, had assisted him in writing the body of the letter.

When and where was it written?

Paul wrote this epistle during his first imprisonment in Rome, around A.D. 60–62 (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Pauline Epistles,” scriptures.lds.org). Paul probably wrote the Epistle to the Colossians around the same time he wrote Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon.

To whom was it written and why?

This epistle was written to the faithful Saints in Colossae, a site in modern-day Turkey. Paul instructed the Colossian Saints to share the letter with the members of the Church in nearby Laodicea (see Colossians 4:16).

Paul wrote this epistle “after he was visited by Epaphras, the evangelist of the Church in [Colossae] [see Colossians 1:7–8]. Epaphras told Paul that the Colossians were falling into serious error—they thought they were better than other people because they carefully observed certain external ordinances [see Colossians 2:16], denied themselves certain physical wants, and worshiped angels [see Colossians 2:18]. These practices made the Colossians feel they were being sanctified. They also felt they understood the mysteries of the universe better than other Church members. In his letter, Paul corrected them by teaching that redemption comes only through Christ and that we are to be wise and serve Him” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Colossians, Epistle to,” scriptures.lds.org).

What are some distinctive features of this book?

In the Epistle to the Colossians, Paul countered the false teachings in Colossae by emphasizing the divinity, saving mission, and preeminence of Jesus Christ (see Colossians 1:15–23). He taught that Christ is the very image of God the Father, the Creator, the Head of the Church, the first to be resurrected, and the Redeemer. He is “the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10), and He fulfills His divine mission under the direction of the Father (see Colossians 1:19; 3:1).

Paul warned against those who taught that true spirituality was gained through special rituals, festivals, and diets (see Colossians 2:16–18, 20, 23). He taught instead that spiritual maturity and knowledge of God is manifest through setting our “affection on things above” (Colossians 3:2), eliminating unrighteous acts (see Colossians 3:5–9), and developing Christlike attributes (see Colossians 3:12–17). Paul counseled his readers to become “grounded and settled” in the gospel (Colossians 1:23) as well as “rooted and built up in [Jesus Christ], and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:7).

Outline

Colossians 1:1–23 Paul greets the Saints in Colossae and declares that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer, the Firstborn among all creation, the Creator, and the Lord of all divine perfection, in whom is the reconciliation of the universe. Paul exhorts the Saints to establish their faith in Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:24–2:23 Paul warns against believing any false philosophy or tradition of men, including worshipping angels and going to extremes in denying oneself basic physical needs as a form of spiritual discipline.

Colossians 3:1–4:18 Paul exhorts the Saints to set their hearts on things which are above, to abandon the sins of their former lives, and to be merciful to one another. He gives instruction about how Saints should worship and then gives counsel to wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, and masters. He closes the Epistle to the Colossians with commendations, greetings, and final instructions and blessings.