Colossians Chapter 1: Understanding Jesus and His Sufferings

Nov 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Colossians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Colossians Chapter 1: Understanding Jesus and His Sufferings

Col. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

Col. 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colosse was situated close to Laodicea and Hierapolis. At the end of this epistle, the Apostle Paul asked that it be read to the class at Laodicea and apparently also to a certain individual named Archippus (Col. 4:16,17).

The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written while Paul was a prisoner under house arrest at Rome. In Ephesians 3:1 and 4:1, Paul called himself a “prisoner.” And Philippians 1:1 is similar to Colossians 1:1, showing not only that Timothy was with Paul when these two letters were written but that they were written about the same time. However, Timothy was not necessarily with Paul when Ephesians was written earlier.

In Philippians, Paul used the word “bonds” to indicate he was a prisoner in Rome (Phil. 1:13). As Colossians is studied, we will see evidence that he was a prisoner then too. Paul was wealthy at this time in his life. Thus when his case was due to be heard at the end of his house arrest, he actually appeared in the presence of the Caesar, who was Nero.

Col. 1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

The Greek word kai, translated “and,” should be “even.” “We give thanks to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”

Col. 1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

Verse 4 indicates Paul had never visited Colosse. Someone else, probably Epaphras, had started the ecclesia. Evidently, Epaphras (Epaphroditus) received instruction from Paul at Ephesus and then returned to Colosse, where he was resident, and started the class there (Col. 4:12).

Apparently, it was through Philemon that Paul heard of the love the Colossians had “to all the saints.” Paul sent a special letter to Philemon about his servant Onesimus, a runaway slave who had become a Christian. Philemon was a wealthy man, and Paul was trying to get Onesimus back into his master’s good graces. The “love” the Colossians gave “to all the saints” might have been financial help and support from some personages in Colosse, of whom Philemon was one. Incidentally, because Hierapolis was a pleasure resort with its white cliffs and mineral springs, wealthy people had estates there.

Col. 1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

Paul was praying (verse 3) that the hope laid up for the Colossians in heaven would come to fruition. He was praying that they would retain that hope and ultimately finish their course successfully.

Col. 1:6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

Up to the point in time that Paul was contacting them, the faith and love of the Colossians had been warm and constant. Nevertheless, he was earnestly taking them before the throne of grace in the hope that they would successfully conclude their career.

Col. 1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

Epaphras was “a faithful minister of Christ” for the Colossians. Evidently, he had a great deal to do with nurturing them in the truth. There is evidence to this effect elsewhere in Scripture.

Col. 1:8 Who [Epaphras] also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

Col. 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Ever since Paul heard about the Colossians, he kept them in his prayers. Notice that he wanted them to develop in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Their faith was unquestioned, and their love and desire to please God were manifest in their actions. However, he wanted them to develop a greater maturity in understanding.

The Diaglott rendering for the last half of the verse is, “… that ye may be filled, as to the exact knowledge of his will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Paul desired more doctrinal understanding for the Colossians.

How encouraging for Paul there in prison to realize that one he had taught, Epaphras, was spreading the gospel and that a class had been started as a result! This news was joyous indeed, for at other times, he received discouraging news. And that has been the experience of the Church down through the Gospel Age. Paul said, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me [have forsaken me]” (2 Tim. 1:15). Although individuals such as Timothy, Aquila, Priscilla, and Epaphras remained faithful and loyal to Paul, the ecclesias did not hold to his teachings, for inroads were made that denigrated their respect for him as an apostle. A damaging philosophy (mostly Asian) subtly entered the Church—not as an enemy but as a friend. It added to the gospel message, but in doing so, it actually subtracted and thus had devastating effects upon the Church at that time.

Col. 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Col. 1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

The emphasis was as follows: “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

Col. 1:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

As in verse 3, the emphasis is on the Father, who does the initial work in each Christian by or through Jesus.

The Vatican manuscript rendering of part of verse 12 is that the Father “hath called and qualified us.” In other words, He made us fit to be “partakers of the inheritance” of the Little Flock. The Father initiates the whole process. He draws us through Jesus to consecration and dedication. It is a progressive process of drawing, calling, consecration, justification, Spirit begettal, etc. After being obedient to all these leadings, we will become a part of the Little Flock if we remain faithful and continue to grow into Christlikeness. Begettal with the Holy Spirit is the earnest, pledge, or down payment of what awaits us if we are faithful. In other words, the earnest of the inheritance is received in the present life, and it will become an actual possession if we develop properly and remain loyal and steadfast to the end of our course.

Col. 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

God has delivered us. The term “his dear Son” is rendered “the Son of his love,” a tender expression, in the King James margin and the Diaglott.

In this epistle, Paul pursued a theme quite different from that in his letter to the Philippians; namely, he pursued the theme of Jesus’ role. Paul gave the advice, yet in this very area, the Colossians fell as a class. Individuals, however, were faithful and steadfast. Thus Paul’s advice was a safeguard to those who heeded it.

To start with, Paul emphasized the Father, showing Him to be the Author of salvation, but he could see that there would be a forsaking of Jesus—that the Colossians would not give Jesus the role in their lives that he should have. Paul was aware of the dangerous philosophy that would come in, and thus he harped on the role of Jesus. He even feared for the Philippian brethren, despite the fact he considered them to be the most loyal and dearest possession, his “joy and crown” (Phil. 4:1). He anticipated that some would come into the ecclesia and cause a lot of damage. Nevertheless, he was hopeful that the majority in Philippi would respond properly. In other locations, such as Colosse, only a minority responded properly.

As was done in verses 12 and 13, Paul frequently contrasted light and darkness in his writings.

Col. 1:14 In whom [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Col. 1:15 Who [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Verse 15 emphasizes Jesus not as the Logos but as the firstborn of the New Creation. Proof is verse 18, which stresses Jesus’ preeminence as the Head of the body. Also, it calls him “the firstborn from the dead.” Thus the emphasis is on the New Creation in Christ Jesus, which God had in mind.

Verse 14 verifies this thought because there was no redempti on and deliverance until Jesusdied on Calvary. Therefore, the reference is not to the original creation of the Logos but to the “firstborn” of the Church.

Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” Angels are called the sons of God, and even man was created in God’s image. However, verse 15 is speaking of the express image of God. When raised above thrones, principalities, and powers, Jesus became the express image of God on the divine plane of being. The one who obtained to the express image of God was once down here in the flesh, manifested to men. The angels also beheld his character, doctrine, and behavior. Now Paul was emphasizing: “Look what became of Jesus, the one we knew or heard about. Our Savior obtained the high plateau on the divine plane, and the New Creation will be a divine family with Jesus as the Head under the Father.”

Col. 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

The Diaglott interlinear is good with regard to preposition changes. Earlier Paul gave thanks to the Father, but these things were done in the Son. Some of the Greek prepositions can be variously translated. Obviously, those with Trinitarian prejudices selected prepositions to support their view.

God had in mind a pyramidal structure. In heaven, there is to be a divine family, listed in descending order: God, Jesus, Little Flock, angels. Then comes the earthly realm. All (except the Father, who is above all) are to be submissive to the Son. God purposed a New Creation with Christ as the Head, through whom all will be brought into subservience. God is the Author above the whole arrangement.

The prepositions and the second rendering of the verb as “created” must be adjusted to avoid a  conflict with Revelation 4:11, which speaks about the Father. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou [the Father] hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” There the priority goes to the Father.

Verse 16 is showing that there is the physical creation and there is also the spiritual creation.

However, what starts as a new spiritual creation with the Little Flock will become physical later on. For example, the Ancient Worthies existed under a former arrangement, but they will be princes in all the earth under the new arrangement (Psa. 45:16). In addition, there will be a new Israel and a new world of mankind—all resulting from Jesus’ death on the Cross. All of this work started with a spiritual New Creation, which will eventually filter down to the physical realm. Hear Jesus’ words: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). They were created once in the past, but this New Creation will embrace, in the final analysis, the whole saved world of mankind and the disobedient angels who are reclaimed, or saved. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Both the Cross and the resurrection had to come first. Then all except the Father will be lifted up under Jesus.

Incidentally, God did not live in a vacuum before He created Jesus. Other beauties in the spiritual realm were created by Him previously.

Col. 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

The Diaglott interlinear reads, “And he is in advance of all, and the things all in him has been placed together.” The Diaglott translation is, “And he precedes all things, and in him all things have been permanently placed.”

The King James word “consist” reminds us of the pyramidal structure. All things will be bound together under the new arrangement.

Col. 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Jesus is “the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Paul was emphasizing Jesus’ role as the Head and the beginning of the New Creation. His preeminence is under the Father, as shown by the next verse. Jesus’ preeminence in importance, as well as in time, is shown in the Tabernacle offerings of the Old Testament. He is the beginning—the one who first ran the race course (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1).

Col. 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

The Father was pleased “that in him [Jesus] should all fulness dwell.” This verse refutes the Trinity by showing that the Father, a separate personality, masterminded the plan to subordinate all things under Jesus. It pleased the Father to bring forth a plan to elevate His Son. The words “the Father” are italicized, and thus supplied, but the context bears them out. (See verse 12 on.) Verse 19 is part of a continuing exposition in a unit of thought.

Col. 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Again the starting point is shown to be the blood of the Cross. All things in heaven and earth are, and will be, related to the Cross and, of course, Jesus’ resurrection.

He will “reconcile all things unto himself … things in heaven [that is, the repentant fallen angels, who will be retrieved].” The holy angels, who did not sin at the time of the Flood, do not need reconciliation.

Col. 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

“And you [brethren at Colosse], that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” Jesus reconciled the Colossian brethren to the Father.

Col. 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

“In the body of his flesh through death.” Jesus reconciled “you,” the Colossian brethren (and of course us), through the sacrifice of the flesh of his body (his human nature).

The great danger to the churches in Asia Minor was the Eastern philosophy, part of which was the thought that Jesus was like a phantom—that he did not really die but only appeared to do so. Our redemption is not merely because Jesus was a way-shower (one who showed the way), but because he was the Redeemer in a much more realistic sense. Blood was involved. The false philosophy claimed Jesus was all spirit, not human, and that he only appeared to suffer but did not actually do so.

The philosophy gained strength that those Christians who repented for sins and suffered disease, violence, and death through persecution were not living up to their privileges. They were regarded as lesser Christians, not God’s elite. Feeling that the elite class lived above the sufferings, followers of this philosophy did not see the need for suffering and humility. They wanted all the honors, emoluments, and prestige—the future honors of the reign—without any of the suffering. Over and over Paul tried to show that his role as an apostle was made valid by his sufferings. What he suffered was a mark of his apostleship, not the reverse. Those with the wrong thinking argued that if he were an apostle, he would not suffer. By extension, then, they reasoned that Jesus could not have really suffered or died. This erroneous philosophy made tremendous inroads into the Church as time went on. This thinking fit right into the Trinitarian doctrine later on—that God could not die, that He was immortal, and that Jesus was God.

However, the Scriptures show that blood redemption and the giving of Jesus’ flesh were essential. It would have been deceitful if Jesus had only pretended to die. The same principle applies to the followers of Jesus. Without suffering, there will be no crown. If we are legitimate children, we must suffer for truth and righteousness’ sake. We must be chastened and disciplined (Heb. 12:6-8).

“In the body of his flesh.” Paul was trying to counteract the Eastern philosophy that was beginning to make inroads as he was passing off the scene. (This letter to the Colossians was written near the end of his life.) The Apostle John took over and wrote more on this subject in his epistles. Although his writings are usually not understood, John decried this philosophy.

Col. 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

“The hope of the gospel … was preached to every creature” in a qualified sense, for certainly Paul did not preach to every single individual. He went around to main cities in the then known Roman world. As an indirect result of his ministry, the gospel message got to Colosse, even though he did not go there personally. Paul instructed Epaphras and others who, in turn, preached to the Colossians.

The Diaglott interlinear is more accurate: “… of that having been published in all [the] creation that under the heaven….” The gospel was published throughout an area but was not preached to every single person.

Col. 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

Paul filled up “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” in his flesh for the body’s sake.

He was imprisoned for the cause of Christ and suffered many afflictions for the body’s sake; that is, even though he did not personally know the Colossian brethren, he was indirectly responsible for their understanding the truth, to the degree that they did, through his instructing of others, who then instructed the Colossians.

Just as Jesus suffered in the flesh on the Cross—his humanity was involved—so Paul and other Christians suffered in their flesh. It is true that Jesus’ “body” is the Church in the spiritual sense, but here Paul was saying that the vessel in which the new creature resides must have some discomfiture and hard experiences along the narrow way. The sin offering was not just the blood being taken into the Most Holy but also the consumption of the flesh on the altar.

Col. 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

Instead of the word “dispensation,” the Diaglott has “stewardship.” When Paul initially received the vision on his way to Damascus, God told what was planned for him. “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Not only was Paul a steward, but he was a steward in the areas of Asia Minor, Rome, etc.

The King James margin matches the Diaglott interlinear: “to fully set forth [or preach] the word  of God.” Elsewhere Paul said, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Paul more fully expounded the Scriptures than any other apostle.

The Diaglott reads, “of which I became a servant, according to that stewardship of God which was given to me for you, fully to declare the word of God.”

Col. 1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

Col. 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Paul was to declare to the Gentiles the “mystery,” or secret, of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The implication is that the class at Colosse consisted predominantly of Gentiles.

Trinitarians say the Trinity is a mystery, yet here Paul was saying that the “mystery” was in the past. It was hidden, or concealed, for ages but “now is made manifest to his saints.” The “mystery” is that the Messiah is not merely an individual (Jesus) but a class—a composite body (the Church, the Little Flock) with Jesus as its Head. The anointing is in us as Christians; hence we have the “hope of glory.”

Col. 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

The teaching responsibility includes admonition. The object of teaching “all wisdom” is that each of the consecrated might become mature in Christlikeness. Balanced teaching includes both comforting hopes and admonitions. It is a blending of strict justice with mercy and love.

Comment: The pronoun “we” shows that it is a group effort or responsibility to build up one another. We have a responsibility not just for ourselves but for our brethren too.

Reply: At the time the epistle was penned, Paul probably had in mind “we the apostles” in a specialized sense because of the newness of the religion. The apostles were Christ’s special representatives, and in that early period of the Church when the Bible was not available, Christians had to associate with one or another of the apostles to get their questions answered.

Only the Old Testament was reasonably available to early Christians.

Q: Since the epistle was addressed to the Colossians from Paul and Timothy, wouldn’t the “we” in verse 28 refer to them?

A: We are not inclined to think so. Timothy was also mentioned in the beginning of Philippians, but just two verses later Paul made it obvious that the letter was really from him: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:1,3). Timothy had no input in the letter. Probably Paul’s reason for mentioning Timothy’s name was to acquaint the classes with the close association between the two of them. Paul knew his time in the present life was drawing to a close. It was now about AD 64, and approximately two years later he was executed. He called himself “aged” (Philem. 9). Thus it was necessary to recommend a faithful brother who could teach the brethren after his demise. In chapter 4, Paul mentioned Aristarchus, Marcus, etc., but not Timothy. Thus by mentioning Timothy right at the beginning, Paul was recommending one who could carry on in his absence. Between Paul’s death and John’s arrival in Ephesus from Jerusalem, there was at least a three-year period in which Timothy took a leading role. Apparently, Paul never went to Colosse.

Col. 1:29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

The Diaglott has, “For which I also labor, ardently contending, according to that energy of his which operates in me with power.

It is interesting that Paul wrote this epistle as a prisoner. While in that condition, the truth invaded right into Caesar’s household. Considering that Caesar at that time was Nero, it seems almost like an impossibility that the truth could have penetrated the household. Nero was against both Jews and Christians, even though he had a Jewish consort. In certain times of crisis, she prevailed on him to be more lenient with the Jews, but he generally opposed them.

In fact, Aquila and Priscilla, both prominent Jewish Christians, had to leave Rome in accordance with a decree. They stayed at Corinth for a while and then took up residence in Ephesus.

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