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Read A Sample
Date: Around AD 61
Audience: Christians in the city of Colossae
When I first began thinking about this Biblical Study series, I wondered, “Are these books resources that people will really be interested in?” I concluded that they could help people greatly because the Bible--especially the New Testament and certain Old Testament books--is full of practical answers for everyday living.
The Bible is more than a book about theology or a story about eternal life when we die. It also offers us the wisdom we need to live victorious, peace-filled, joyful lives on earth. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (AMP). This verse is not only talking about enjoying life when we go on vacation or when something delightful happens. John 10:10 is talking about the fact that God offers us the ability to relish ordinary, everyday life. If the only time we can enjoy ourselves is when something exciting happens, we will miss out on the joyful, abundant life Jesus died to give us. But if we learn to live according to God’s Word, which requires study and obedience, we can savor each day.
Any time we familiarize ourselves with the Scriptures, it is good for us. But we need to do more than simply read God’s Word; we need to study it deeply. We may read only one verse or passage for several days, but if we are really examining it and digging deep to understand what it means in our lives, that’s when it will begin to transform us. The Bible teaches and empowers us in amazing ways, and we can only discover them when we diligently study it.
Most of the New Testament letters, called the Epistles, were written to young churches and believers who needed to grow in their faith and learn to live God’s way. The writers--including the apostles Paul, James, Peter, and John--were trying to help new believers become established in their relationship with God and learn how to live godly lives. That’s why they contain not only valuable theological principles but also important advice for our practical, everyday lives. I am excited to know that I will one day go to heaven, but I also want to enjoy the life I have today and every day before I go there.
One reason Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is so important for us to study and understand is that it is all about Jesus. From start to finish, this letter exalts Jesus and affirms His lordship. The theme of the epistle is the headship of Christ, and the primary lesson of these four chapters is to put Jesus first all the time, above and before everything else. We are to put Him first in our time, finances, thoughts, conversations, decisions, and relationships. If we keep Him first, we will never have to strive for or chase after anything. The blessings of God will chase us and overtake us (Deut. 28:2).
In Matthew 6:31, Jesus spoke about people who do not keep Him first and the fact that they worry about their lives, saying, “‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”
He went on to say that people who do not know God “run after all these things,” but that “your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matt. 6:32).
Then He said: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33, emphasis mine). When we keep Jesus first and seek His kingdom above all else, we can live in love, peace, joy, power, and blessing.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians focuses so intensely on Jesus and encourages us to keep Him in first place in our lives because Paul knew that the believers in Colossae had been exposed to a false spiritual teaching that said Jesus was not really God. This popular belief system of the day, called Gnosticism, questioned Jesus’ lordship, sufficiency, and supremacy. At the time Paul wrote Colossians, Christianity would have been in jeopardy of being completely overwhelmed by false religions had God’s grace not protected it. He understood the extreme danger this heresy presented to the Christians in Colossae and responded to it strongly with this epistle, emphasizing the importance of exalting Jesus over everything else. Out of his love and care for them, he confronted the heresy in this letter so they would realize how harmful it was to their faith and would be able to stand against it.
Gnosticism is a strange mixture of all kinds of different so-called religions, including Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy, and Eastern mysticism, all interwoven in a most cunning and deceptive way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 refers to this as “the mystery of lawlessness” (AMP). Gnosticism teaches that human beings cannot know God. I cannot imagine anything sadder than for a person to be committed to a religion, diligently practicing it day after day, week after week--and to know they will never have a personal connection with the god they worship. As Christians, we believe that Jesus did not die for people to subscribe to a religion but for us to have a personal, intimate relationship with God.
While Gnostics say human beings cannot know God, Christians believe knowing God is the central theme and goal of life. Gnosticism is filled with human reasoning and is therefore attractive to the human mind. But it is satanic in origin. Some scholars even believe what was going on in the church of Colossae was the root of what is called Christian Science today. The purpose of Paul’s letter to the early Christians in Colossae was to urge them to beware of such deception and hold fast to Jesus as Lord.
Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians while he was in prison in Rome around the same time he wrote to the Ephesians and the Philippians. He had never been to Colossae or met the believers there. Most likely, a man named Epaphras, who was probably the leader of the church at Colossae and had converted to Christianity under Paul’s ministry, asked Paul for his help. Though Paul did not know the people in the church personally, he cared about them and wanted to help them combat Gnosticism and strengthen them in their faith.
His letter to the Colossians defends, explains, and promotes the lordship of Jesus Christ more than any other book of the New Testament. One reason Colossians matters so much right now is that we are living in a day when we are not encouraged to put God first. In fact, some people are mocked or even persecuted for doing so.
We don’t hear the word Gnosticism used to reflect what is happening in our contemporary society. But like the Colossians, we, too, are faced with false teachings that aim to cause us to stray from God with mixtures of theologies and philosophies that can leave us feeling confused and empty.
Another reason Paul wrote to the Colossians was to instruct the early believers in how to walk in this world as a Christian--a follower of Christ who lives in personal relationship with Him--in practical ways. The first chapter of Colossians alone includes twelve different lessons that will help you enjoy your life and stay strong in your faith each day. You may not be able to incorporate all of them into your life right away, but if you choose a few of the ones that seem most important for you and study them and apply them to your life, they will help you mature and live the life Jesus died for you to live.
Other highlights of Colossians include but are not limited to:
- The fact that we have been rescued from darkness and forgiven of sin (Col. 1:13–14)
- The truth that we are reconciled to God through Christ and can live in right relationship with Him (Col. 1:21–23)
- Paul’s powerful teaching that Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
- The reminder that Christ has reconciled us to God and that in Him we are complete, lacking nothing, and fully forgiven (Col. 1:22; 2:10, 13)
- Paul’s comments on the importance of representing God well by being compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, and loving toward others (Col. 3:12–14)
- The instruction to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15)
- The exhortation to do everything as though we are doing it for God, not for other people (Col. 3:23)
My prayer for you as you make your way through this book is that Jesus will become more real to you than ever, and that Paul’s devotion and passion for Jesus will inspire you to love Him and walk with Him even more closely than you already do, putting Him first in every area of your life.
Key Truths in Colossians:
- Jesus deserves first place in every area of our lives, and putting Him first should be a priority for us (Col. 1:15–20).
- Jesus’ victory on the cross empowers us to overcome spiritual darkness and confusion (Col. 2:15).
- We are to set our minds on the things that have eternal value and keep them set on them, not allowing our thoughts to waver (Col. 3:1-4).
- The words of our mouths are powerful, and they are to be filled with grace (Col. 4:6).
An Overview of Colossians 1
Colossians chapter 1 is one of the most powerful chapters in the New Testament. It includes Paul’s greeting to the Colossians, which is more meaningful than a casual reading of it would suggest, and twelve key lessons for anyone who wants to grow spiritually. Learning and applying all these lessons could take years, but if you choose just a few to start with and focus on them over and over again and begin practicing them, they will transform your life and keep you on the path toward spiritual maturity. I will elaborate on each one in my commentary on their corresponding verses, but I am listing them here for you so you can begin to see what a powerful chapter Colossians 1 is.
- The most important thing you can do in your practical, everyday life is to make sure you are living in the will of God (Col. 1:1).
- Living holy lives should be our goal (Col. 1:2).
- Being thankful can change your life and make every day better (Col. 1:3).
- Focusing on your faith and living by it—trusting God no matter what—will keep you spiritually strong (Col. 1:4).
- Love is what distinguishes believers from those who do not know Christ, and we are to live lives of love (Col. 1:4).
- Whatever you do, hold on to your hope and do not let the devil steal it (Col. 1:5).
- Paul’s apostolic prayer will help you understand all that belongs to you in Christ, and it is a life-changing way to pray for yourself and others (Col. 1:9–12).
- We have everything we need in Christ (Col. 1:13–14).
- Jesus is before and above everything else. Put Him first (Col. 1:15–18).
- Christians can rejoice in suffering (Col. 1:24).
- Part of the Christian life involves being willing to be a servant to God and others (Col. 1:24–25).
- Christ in you is the hope of glory, and Paul’s goal was to present every believer mature in Christ (Col. 1:27–28).
Colossians 1 is filled with insight and revelation for your life. Many people, myself included, have studied this chapter for years and are still finding new treasures and spiritual strength in it. I pray the same will be true for you.
Which lessons from Colossians 1 do you believe you need most in your life right now?
The Importance of Being in God’s Will
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.
Colossians 1:1 is a short verse, but as we study it carefully, we realize that it is packed with meaning. Notice first that Paul says he is “an apostle,” which in this case simply means a person sent by God. Next we see that Paul is an apostle “of Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine). This is important because it tells us that Paul is serving God, not himself or other people. Before Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–9), he was known for the zeal with which he persecuted Christians. He did everything he could to stop the cause of Christ. Once God touched him and changed his life, he poured all of his energy into loving Him and building His kingdom. The greatest fulfillment in life comes from belonging to God. And the best way we can spend our lives is to be in His will, enjoy being in a personal relationship with Him, serve Him, and help others know and grow in Him.
Notice also that Paul is an apostle “by the will of God.” This is important because, as Christians, we want to follow God’s will. If we are not doing what we do because we truly believe it’s God’s will for us, how can we ever do it well or enjoy it?
Many times when I teach about being in the will of God, people ask, “How can I know if I am in the will of God?” Here are two simple ways:
1. You will enjoy it.
I mentioned John 10:10 in the introduction to this book. It tells us that Jesus came so that we may “have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (AMP). God’s will for you will not be something that makes you miserable all the time. You may face challenges as you pursue it, or you may be required to make sacrifices, but if it is God’s will for you, He will give you the wisdom and grace to overcome any difficulty. And I believe you will enjoy the work you do in serving God.
2. You will be equipped for it.
I believe that when what we are doing is in the will of God, we will be good at it. God gives us the skills, gifts, and abilities to fulfill His will for our lives. He does not call us to do something without equipping us for it.
You may have to work, study, or prepare in some other way to carry out His call on your life, but you will have an aptitude for it and feel at ease in it. I have become very comfortable doing what I do as a teacher of God’s Word. I have learned some lessons about doing it effectively, and I do work at it, but teaching is not hard for me because I teach by the will of God.
Think about a woman who is called and designed to be a stay-at-home mom. If that is what God wants her to do, but she tries to do something else because she thinks it is what she needs to do to be a modern woman, she will be miserable. She needs to know what God’s will is for her life and put her time and energy into that, as well as being a wife and mother. It may sound like a daunting task, but God can enable you to do whatever He wants you to do.
My hope for you is that you reach the point where you can say, “I want to do what God wants me to do. I’m not going to compare myself with anybody else. I won’t compete with anybody else. I just want to be in my place doing what God wants me to do.”
Finding God’s will for your life is not difficult: You step out and try things until you find what is comfortable for you. “Comfortable” doesn’t necessarily mean easy. You will likely have to work at it, but you will know in your heart that it is what you are supposed to be doing, and it will bring you peace and joy.
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