What does Colossians 1 mean?
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). Paul 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).
The greeting follows Paul's typical custom; he states his name and information about himself, his recipients and information about them, and follows this with a brief greeting (Colossians 1:1–2). Unlike other churches Paul wrote to, he had not personally met the believers in Colossae. The letter is co-authored by Timothy, who often collaborated with Paul on his missionary work.
In verses 3–8, Paul speaks of his prayers for the Colossian Christians (Colossians 1:3–4). Their faith is increasing and being spread to the whole world (Colossians 1:6). This faith was taught to them by Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), who shared with Paul what he had seen of the Colossian believers (Colossians 1:8). Epaphras is mentioned in the book of Philemon as a "fellow prisoner" with Paul (Philemon 1:23).
Verses 9–14 offer an important prayer by the apostle on behalf of the Colossians. Paul seeks for these believers to grow in wisdom and knowledge, as well as their spiritual strength. Paul makes a distinction between knowing God, in the theological sense, and knowing the will of God, in terms of a personal application to our lives.
Verses 15–23 shift to an expression of worship regarding who Jesus is: "The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15). All things were made through Him (Colossians 1:16). This is a crucial passage as it sets the tone for the rest of the letter. Part of Paul's purpose in writing is to counter heresy. False teachers were telling the believers in Colossae that they should view the body as evil, worship angels, and put their trust in worldly philosophy. By describing Christ as absolutely supreme, Paul prepares to destroy those false claims.
Verses 24–29 speak of Paul's own ministry. He had suffered for the sake of other Christians, including those at Colossae (Colossians 1:24). He had shared God's Word (Colossians 1:25), and served as a missionary among the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27). He proclaimed Christ (Colossians 1:28) with all of his energy (Colossians 1:29). Paul sees this suffering as a service done for the sake of Christ.
Colossians 1:1–2 is typical of Paul's greetings in his letters to churches. This text is a message to the believers of Colossae, a town in Asia Minor near Laodicea. This is one of the few churches Paul writes to which he has not personally evangelized. Rather, Epaphras is credited with founding the church in this community. As with several other letters, this one is co-authored by Timothy.
Colossians 1:3–8 expresses Paul's gratitude for the growth of the Colossian church. As a result of Epaphras' efforts, the believers there are growing in their faith. In particular, Paul is hearing positive things about their Christian love. Paul also connects his gratitude to the growth of Christianity in other places around the world.
Colossians 1:9–14 is a prayer on behalf of the Colossian Christians. Paul prays for their continued spiritual growth, including knowledge of God, knowledge of His will, and wisdom. Paul also prays for their strength and endurance. In so praying, Paul reminds the believers of Colossae that salvation is entirely the work of God, who drastically changed their fate by rescuing them from sin.
Colossians 1:15–23 is an extensive praise of Jesus Christ. In this passage, Paul explains that Jesus is eternal, just as God is eternal, and all created things were created by Him, and through Him, and for Him. After describing Jesus as absolutely supreme, Paul then explains that it was His sacrifice which allowed the Colossians—and all saved believers—to be reconciled to God.
Colossians 1:24–29 completes this passage with an emphasis on Paul's work as a minister. According to Paul, his suffering is a service he offers for the sake of Christ, on behalf of the other believers. Paul's work for the sake for the church is just that: work. He is striving, fighting, and ''toiling'' on behalf of his faith. All the same, Paul recognizes that anything he accomplishes is only through the power given through Christ.
In chapter 1, Paul introduces himself, along with his co-author Timothy. As he often does, Paul gives thanks for what he hears about the faith of the believers in Colossae. Paul includes a prayer for their growth and spiritual strength. The letter then transitions to praise of Jesus, describing Him as absolutely supreme. All created things were made through, by, and for Him. And, since it was His sacrifice which saved us from sin, we can have confidence in our eternal destiny.
Colossians chapter 1 is mostly focused on describing Christ as supreme. Jesus is not only the God of creation, He is the ultimate authority over all created things. The penalty for sin has been completely removed because of His perfect sacrifice. These are foundational ideas which Paul will use to set up his later points. In chapters 2, 3, and 4, Paul will explain why contrary claims are untrue, and show the right way for Christians to live out what we believe about Jesus.
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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