Just as a child needs proper instruction early in life, so the early believers needed to be set on the proper path with correct teaching. Paul wrote this letter to deal with a doctrinal heresy that was creeping into the Colossian church. Although we are not told specifically what this heresy was, we can pick up clues from Paul’s response. The error was probably a mixture of Judaism and an early form of Gnosticism. The Colossian church was experiencing the same problems other early churches had encountered. Certain members were teaching that the observance of Jewish rules about food, the Sabbath, and special festivals would help believers to earn their salvation (see Gal. 3:23–25; 4:10, 11). At Colosse, however, some of the Gentile members were apparently also promoting a form of mysticism that claimed that Jesus was a higher being, but not God. Paul refutes these false doctrines by pointing to Christ. Jesus had been the focus of Paul’s preaching from the beginning. In Colossians, Paul reiterates the supremacy of Christ. It was because Jesus is divine that His death reconciles believers to their Creator.

As in all of his epistles, Paul seems to write as though he had our own society in mind. Even today, new cults claim to be Christian yet deny the deity of Christ and the basic beliefs of Christianity. Many today view Jesus as no more than “a great teacher.” Paul’s patient correction of the Colossian believers should remind us that we need to keep the worship of Jesus Christ central in our churches.

Author and Date • Pauline authorship of this letter has been universally recognized throughout church history. Paul identifies himself as the author of the letter three different times, describing himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” and as a servant of the gospel. Furthermore Paul closes the epistle with a handwritten greeting, a characteristic of several of his letters (see 1 Cor. 16:21; 2 Thess. 3:17). The Muratorian fragment (a document written around A.D. 180 that lists books considered by the early church to be divinely inspired) includes Colossians as a Pauline epistle. Many church fathers also upheld Paul as the author of Colossians. These include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

Paul probably wrote Colossians while imprisoned in Rome around A.D. 60. Some have argued for other places of origin, such as Ephesus and Caesarea, but there is not enough evidence to displace the traditional theory that Paul wrote from his prison in Rome. Colossians is one of the four prison epistles of Paul, along with Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. Because Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon have several similarities, many believe that the three were written at about the same time.

Setting • The city of Colosse was about a hundred miles east of Ephesus, in the valley of the Lycus River. During the Persian Wars of the fifth century B.C., Colosse was a large and strategic city. By the time of the apostle Paul, however, it had declined into the shadows of its two sister cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and had become a small merchant town on the trade route from Rome to the east.

Evangelization of Colosse probably took place during Paul’s three-year stay in Ephesus. Luke records in Acts 19:10 that people throughout the Asian region heard the gospel. Apparently Epaphras was converted in Ephesus, and after being instructed by Paul returned home to Colosse to proclaim the gospel. Evidently the church that emerged was largely composed of Gentiles, for Paul refers to their “uncircumcision,” a word employed by Paul to designate Gentiles (see 2:13; Rom. 2:24–27; Eph. 2:11).

The NKJV Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), Col.



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