AUTHOR AND TITLE:
Because of the greetings in 1:2, Colossians became known as Pros Kolossaeis, “To the Colossians.” As with the other epistles of Paul surveyed thus far, both the external and internal evidence strongly support Paul’s authorship. But the authorship of this epistle has been doubted by some on the grounds of the vocabulary and the nature of the heresy refuted in this epistle. Expositor’s Bible Commentary has an excellent summary of the key issues involving the authorship and date of Colossians.
That Colossians is a genuine letter of Paul is not usually disputed. In the early church, all who speak on the subject of authorship ascribe it to Paul. In the 19th century, however, some thought that the heresy refuted in ch. 2 was second-century Gnosticismdb01. But a careful analysis of ch. 2 shows that the heresy there referred to is noticeably less developed than the Gnosticism of leading Gnostic teachers of the second and third centuries.
Also, the seeds of what later became the full-blown Gnosticism of the second century were present in the first century and already making inroads into the churches. Consequently, it is not necessary to date Colossians in the second century at a time too late for Paul to have written the letter.
Instead, it is to be dated during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, where he spent at least two years under house arrest (see Ac 28:16-31).fn58
DATE: A.D. 61
Paul wrote all four prison epistles during his first Roman imprisonment. This means he wrote it in A.D. 60-61 (see the discussion on the date of Ephesians and Philippians).
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The theme is the fruitful and effective power of the gospel message which heralds the supremacy, headship, and the utter sufficiency of Christ to the church which is His body. In this little epistle, we see Paul’s
- “full-length portrait of Christ.”fn59
Colossians demonstrates that because of all that Jesus Christ is in His person and has accomplished in His work, He, as the object of the believer’s faith, is all we need for in Him we are complete (2:10).
In scope, Colossians presents the:
- all supremacy,
- all sufficiency,
uniqueness, and the fullness of the person and work of Jesus Christ as:
- the God-man Savior,
- the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and
- the total solution for man’s needs both for time and eternity.
It is a cosmic book, presenting the cosmic Christ: the
- Creator / Sustainer and
- Redeemer / Reconciler of man and all the universe.
Key words in this book are
- “supremacy” and
1:15-20. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. 18 He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead so that he himself may become first in all things. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him 20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross—whether things on the earth or things in heaven.
2:8-10. 8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
3:1-3. 1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
- Chapters 2 is key in that it demonstrates why and how the believer is complete in Christ and needs nothing added to the saving person and work of Christ.
- Chapter 3 then builds on this as root to fruit or cause and effect.
Because believers are complete in Christ (2:10) and are thereby risen with Him, they now have all they need for Christ-like transformation in all the relationships of life (3:1f.).
CHRIST AS SEEN IN COLOSSIANS:
Wilkinson and Boa point out: This singularly christological book is centered on the cosmic Christ.
- the basis for the believer’s hope (1:5, 23, 27),
- the source of the believer’s power for a new life (1:11, 29),
- the believer’s Redeemer and Reconciler (1:14, 20-22; 2:11-15),
- the embodiment of full Deity (1:15, 19; 2:9),
- the Creator and Sustainer of all things (1:16-17),
- the Head of the church (1:18),
- the resurrected God-Man (1:18; 3:1), and
- the all-sufficient Savior (1:28; 2:3, 20; 3:1-4).fn60
- I. Doctrinal: The Person and Work of Christ (1:1-2:3)
- A. Introduction (1:1-14)
- 1. Paul’s Greeting to the Colossians (1:1-2)
- 2. Paul’s Gratitude for the Colossians’ Faith (1:3-8)
- 3. Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians’ Growth (1:9-14)
- B. The Person of Christ (1:15-18)
- 1. In Relation to the Father (1:15)
- 2. In Relation to the Creation (1:16-17)
- 3. In Relation to the New Creation (1:18)
- C. The Work of Christ (1:19-2:3)
- 1. The Description of His Work (1:19-20)
- 2. The Application of His Work (1:21-23)
- 3. The Propagation of His Work (1:24-2:3)
- II. Polemical: The Heretical Problems in Light of Union With Christ (2:4-3:4a)
- A. The Exhortation Against False Teaching (2:4-8)
- 1. Exhortation Regarding the Methods of False Teachers (2:4-5)
- 2. Exhortation to Progress in the Life of Faith (2:6-7)
- 3. Exhortation Regarding the Philosophy of the False Teachers (2:8)
- B. The Instruction of the True Teaching (2:9-15)
- 1. The Believer’s Position in Christ (2:9-10)
- 2. The Believer’s Circumcision (2:11-12)
- 3. The Believer’s Benefits (2:13-15)
- C. The Obligations of the True Teaching (2:16-3:4)
- 1. Negative: Emancipation from Legalistic and Gnostic Practices (2:16-19)
- 2. Negative: Emancipation from Ascetic Ordinances (2:20-23)
- 3. Positive: Aspirations for the Heavenly Life (3:1-4)
- III. Practical: The Practice of the Believer in Christ (3:5-4:6)
- 1. In the Inward Life (3:5-17)
- 2. In the Home and Household Life (3:18-4:1)
- 3. In the Outward Life (4:2-6)
- IV. Personal: The Private Plans and Affairs of the Apostle (4:7-18)
- 1. His Special Representatives (4:7-9)
- 2. His Personal Salutations (4:10-18)