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Survey of Colossians

Book Type: Pauline Epistle, also one of Paul’s Prison Epistles, 12th book of the New Testament.

Author: The apostle Paul and Timothy (directly named in Colossians 1:1)

Audience: Colossians is one of four Prison Epistles written by the apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. This was a period of house arrest around AD 60–62. During this time, Paul also wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. The city of Colossae was about 100 miles east of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. Christianity may have reached this city during Paul’s mission work in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). However, Epaphras was the person noted for the major growth of the church in the city. Paul knew some of the Christians in the area (Colossians 2:1), but it was his connection with Epaphras that let him know the condition of the church (Philemon 1:23).

Multiple themes are packed in the short letter of Colossians. False teachings such as Jewish legalism, blending of religions, Greek philosophy, and mysticism are decried by Paul. He mentions food, special days (Colossians 2:16), those who worshiped angels (Colossians 2:18), and ascetic practices. Paul speaks against such false teachings in this letter, affirming that Christ alone is sufficient as the basis for the believer's faith and life.

Date: Approximately AD 60–62, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:18).

Overview: This four-chapter letter focuses on Paul’s teachings regarding the deity of Jesus (Colossians 1:15–20; Colossians 2:2–10), as well as key areas such as forgiveness and the nature of the church. Paul also strongly condemns various false teachings in chapter 2.

Chapter 1 includes a greeting (Colossians 1:1–2) followed by gratitude for the faith of the Colossian Christians (Colossians 1:3–8). Paul then includes a prayer intended to encourage the growth and maturity of believers in this city (Colossians 1:9–14). The letter then transitions to a focus on Christ’s greatness, including his character (Colossians 1:15–23) and notes regarding Paul's own ministry (Colossians 1:24–29).

Chapter 2 addresses various false teachings which were threatening the Colossian believers. These include ungodly philosophy (Colossians 2:1–10), Jewish legalism (Colossians 2:11–17), mysticism (Colossians 2:18–19), and ascetic living (Colossians 2:20–23).

Chapter 3 transitions to practical matters within the church. First, Paul addresses topics related to Christian conduct (Colossians 3:1–17). Second, he addresses Christian households, including bondservants or slaves (Colossians 3:18–4:1).

Chapter 4 focuses on two major themes. First, Paul discusses how a Christian speaks (Colossians 4:2–6). Finally, he presents concluding remarks, addressed to his many friends (Colossians 4:7–18).

Key Verses:

Colossians 1:15–16: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him."

Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

Colossians 3:12–13: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."

Colossians 4:5-6: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."

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