Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The book of Colossians

The letter to the Colossians written by the apostle Paul, a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ, one who bore remarkable sufferings for the spreading of the gospel  and counted  it all as joy. This tireless  apostle who validates joy in all circumstances due to his understanding of  the riches of the glory of God in the face of his Lord Jesus Christ and the abundant grace that was poured upon him in all measure knew it was his duty to strengthen the brethrens by preaching  the Lord Jesus, “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). The apostle Paul, hearing of the indisputable faith of the Colossians, the faith which bears fruit of love and hope (Colossians 1:4-5) from Epaphras also a faithful minister of Christ, thought it splendid that he should write to the colossians warning them and teaching them in all wisdom that they may be perfect in Christ Jesus.  Paul, having a zeal for the Colossians to be “filled in knowledge of the will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding”, (Colossians 1:9) prayed fervently for them that they may not err and depart from the truth of the gospel or corrupt the truth of the gospel by “taking delight in false humility and worship of angels” (Colossians 2:18); but that they should hold fast to the Head (Jesus Christ) and not be cheated of their reward “through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). In doing this Paul is warning the Colossians, teaching them and most important of all enriching them with his immense knowledge of the mystery of God of both the Father and the Son, explaining to them the surpassing worth of Christ and His all satisfying deity for us to cherish; and we are to worship Him not angels. We are to walk according to Christ and not to the doctrines of men “so that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work”, (Colossians 1:10).

How does this book connect with other books in the new testament

In tackling and answering this question, the word connect has a diverse of meanings so I’ll replace the word connect with unite in terms of how does Colossians support the other books in the new testament in regards to its unity and its unbreakable coherence.

The letter to the Colossians was written by the apostle Paul and thirteen other epistles are ascribed to him (although some are disputed). The apostle Peter speak of Paul’s epistles as “some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the scriptures” (2Peter 3:16). It is clear that Paul had had a real theological training as he states of himself in Philippians 3:5-6 that he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee…..concerning the righteousness which is in the law blameless”.  Paul saw himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ called to be an apostle to minister and preach the word of the Lord instructing and teaching, correcting and rebuking revealing the word of the Lord to the saints, so that they may walk worthy and be without error concerning the doctrines of Christ and how to live in Christ. This is clearly seen in the text if we ponder on Colossians 3 where Paul is telling the Colossians how they ought to live and conduct themselves in Christ Jesus. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Then Paul goes on to say in Colossians 3:9-10 that “do not lie to one another since you have put of the old man and his deeds and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him”. Comparing this to other text found in other epistles written by Paul, there is a striking resemblance of the same words or imagery of ‘putting on the new man’ used to convey to the recipients of what it means to receive Christ.         2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes that, “therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away: behold all things have become new”.  Paul also says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that the church at Ephesus should “put off concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt…. And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness”.  With this unbreakable coherence of words from epistles to epistles it shows that the letter to the Colossians unites itself with other epistles written by Paul, and the message that can be found in the book of Colossians can also be known in other books of the new testament.

Below is an outline of the letter to the Colossians and Ephesians. From the table we can see that both epistles have almost identical structures, with the same chain of thoughts and message thus proving the consistency of Paul’s theology and how Colossians can be seen to support other books in the new testament.

Source of table: (http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Colossians&Ephesians.htm)

Colossians

Letter Opening (1:1-8)
Sender & Recipients (1:1-2a)
Formulaic Greeting (1:2b)
Thanksgiving: Faith, hope, love of the community (1:3-8)
Letter Body (1:9—4:6)
Prayer for the well-being of the community (1:9-14)
The exalted Christ as source of our heavenly salvation (1:15—2:23)
Hymn to Christ as image of God and Savior (1:15-20)
Apostle's ministry reveals God's salvation (1:21—2:7)
Against those who preach a false salvation based on "angelic worship" (2:8-23)
Living the Christian life (3:1—4:6)
Holiness manifests the "new creation" which Christians have become in baptism (3:1-17)
"Household code": Behavior of wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters (3:18—-4:1)
Continue in prayer and wise conduct outsiders (4:2-6)
Letter Conclusion (4:7-18)
Tychicus & Onesimus will report about Paul's welfare (4:7-9)
Individual greetings from Paul's associates (4:10-14)
Greetings to the Laodiceans & instructions for exchanging letters (4:15-17)
Final appeal and Blessing (4:18)

Ephesians

Letter Opening (1:1-14)
Sender & Recipients (1:1)
Formulaic Greeting (1:2)
Blessing Prayer: heavenly mysteries in Christ (1:3-14)
Letter Body (1:15—6:20)
Prayer for the faith, love and hope of those whom God has made part of the body of the heavenly Christ (1:15-23)
Through the apostles God has made the Gentiles alive in Christ (2:1—3:21)
Contrast between their old "death" in sin and life in Christ (2:1-10)
Reconciliation of the Gentiles to God in the one body of Christ (2:11-22)
Paul's suffering and ministry to bring the Gentiles into the body of Christ (3:1-13)
Prayer for faith and love among Paul's converts (3:14-21)
Christian life in the world (4:1—6:20)
Unity of the body of Christ which is built up by different ministries (4:1-16)
Old life in darkness" contrasted with new life as "children of light" (4:17—5:21)
Household code: Marriage in Christ; children and parents; slaves and masters (5:22—6:9)
Letter Conclusion (6:21-24)
Paul is sending Tychicus, a faithful minister (6:21-22)
Generic greetings to the whole community (6:23)
Final Blessing (6:24)


The major theme that flows through the book of Colossians that unites it with other books of the new testament is its outstanding focus on the supremacy of Christ (Colossians 1:13-2:23).  It reveals the glorious deity of Christ, that He is God (1:15), He is the heir (1:15), He is the creator (1:16), He is supreme over all things (1:18), the divine fullness dwells in Him (1:19) and has redeemed all things through the blood of His cross (1:19-20). This is what Paul revealed to the Colossians exclaiming in excitement the person of Christ, He is to be worshipped and Christ is all and in all. Do not worship angels but Christ and by doing so you’re honouring the Son and likewise the Father at the same time. Jesus says in John5: 21-22 “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgement to the Son, that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father”.  In Philippians 3:20-21 Paul writes that “For our citizenship is in heaven…. He is able even to subdue all things to himself ”. Colossians supports this statement when Paul writes “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power”. With Christ being the head of all principalities and powers, the church can rejoice and be amazed and marvel at the glorious deity of Christ and not be shaken by any threats of the enemies. This glorious truth that was revealed to the Colossians in chapter 1:16 is that Christ created everything; “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities and powers, all things were created through Him and for Him”. This is not to say that Christ created the evil powers to be bad, but originally they were created good as Jude 1:6 says, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgement of the great day”. The letter to the Colossians strives in unity with the other books in the new testament as it aims to warn and teach, to enrich us in wisdom of the supremacy of Christ, and that the main focus of our hope is Jesus Christ and not to look anywhere else. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”(Corinthians 1:30).

What spiritual vitamin deficiency would we have if the book was missing to us?

The book of Colossians is filled with glorious words on the supremacy of Jesus Christ because true spirituality is full of Christ and can look to no other person or turn to any other spiritual force because in “Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9). With this deep measure of concentrated description of Christ glory, one can only praise God for this inspired words given to the apostle that enriches the wisdom of the church  and nourishes the soul with joy beyond description, strengthening the individual who delights in meditating on the supremacy of Christ. Colossians 1:14-20 reveals amazing truth on the person of  Jesus Christ. John Piper says on these verses that “they are worth memorizing. If your heart ever wavers and grows cold, go here; memorize this litany of glories and ask God to give you affections that correspond to the measure of this greatness. If any person or any power or any wisdom or any love awakens any admiration or any amazement or any joy, let it be the greatest Person and the greatest power and the greatest wisdom and the greatest love that exists—Jesus Christ.” For the church at Colossae it was important for them to know this spiritual truth about Jesus to prevent them from worshiping angels. John Piper explains it so well he states in his sermon on the passages of Colossians 1:14-20 on why God wants us to know the truth of Christ sovereignty.

Christ sovereignty by John Piper

But let me close with five summary statements for why God wants us to know the truth of Christ’s sovereignty over “the rulers and authorities.”
It is objectively true, not merely opinion or idea—like the seat you are sitting on. And people perish for lack of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

These truths make clear that Christ is the only being worthy of worship. There were people in Colossians saying that “the worship of angels” (Colossians 2:18) was part of the way up to God. No, Paul says, these angels that some think are so great were created by Christ and for Christ. Don’t worship them. Worship the one who made them.

Paul was concerned that in the pluralistic, intellectual atmosphere of Colossae Christians could be captivated by high-sounding heresies. “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 2:8). With these great truths about Christ, Paul is protecting us from philosophies and traditions that do not cherish the supremacy of Christ. When you embrace truths like this, you are not easily swept away by man-centered trends or traditions.


Paul wants to make crystal clear that when Christians, who feel so small and vulnerable, hear about hostile “thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities,” they know beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ has all authority over them, and they cannot do anything apart from his sovereign permission (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31).


And therefore, finally, Paul tells us these things because he wants us to see and feel that our salvation in Christ is invincible. When Christ died for sin and rose again, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities” (Colossians 2:15). Have you put your trust in him? If so, here is what he says about you in Colossians 3:3-4: “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” You are secure forever in Christ. 


(http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/2/2305_All_Things_Were_Created_Through_Him_and_for_Him/)

The book of Colossians provides healthy spiritual vitamins that without it, it would be a major loss to us and thus not enriching the knowledge of the church on the supremacy of Christ Jesus.

K.Oni

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