The epistle identifies the recipients as the church in Colosse (1:2), which was probably established during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:10). It may have been the converts of Paul who brought the gospel to this city as well as the nearby towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Colosse was situated on the bank of the Lycus River and was about a hundred miles east of Ephesus. Hundreds of years before Paul’s day, Colosse was a prominent city in Asia Minor because of its location on the east-west trade route from the Aegean Sea to the Euphrates River. But after the road system was changed in the first century A.D., the city declined in its social and economic status and eventually became an insignificant market town.
Although the epistle provides no information on its place of origin, many believe that Paul wrote this epistle around 62 A.D while he was imprisoned in Rome. It was during this period that Paul also wrote the epistles of Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians.
Epaphras had come to Rome and brought Paul reports about the situation in the Colossian church (1:8). While the believers have made great progress in their faith and love, they were also facing the threat of heresies. In response to this danger, Paul wrote this letter and asked Tychicus and Onesimus to bring it back to Colosse (4:7-9). Thus, the main purpose of the epistle was to counter the false teachings and to strengthen the believers’ faith in Christ. Other than achieving this main objective, Paul also wrote the epistle to exhort the believers to forsake the sinful living of the pagans and lead a Christcentered life. Paul does not describe the teachings of the heretics in the epistle. But we can infer from Paul’s polemics that the false teachings consist of the following errors:
1. Adherence to circumcision (2:11, 3:11) as well as strict regulations about food, drink, and festivals (2:14, 16).
2. Asceticism (2:21-23).
3. Exaltation of human knowledge and philosophies (2:8, 18).
4. Worship of angels (2:18).
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (2:6-7).
1. Read through the entire epistle and record section headings in chart E.
Look up the list of references under each theme and summarize its related teachings.
Supremacy of Christ
Salvation through Christ
In this age of pluralistic thinking, the doctrine that Christ is the only way of salvation has come under severe attacks. Today, many believe that there is no single objective truth and that one religion is just as good as another. As a result of this seemingly encompassing attitude towards all religions, people often view Jesus Christ as simply a moral teacher who died for a good cause. Therefore, facing the challenges of secular philosophies, believers today need to reaffirm that Christ is our only Savior and that He is the fullness of God. The message to the Colossians to remain steadfast in Christ also serves to strengthen our faith today.
As with many of the other epistles, the exhortations on Christian living are timeless. The command to put off the old man and put on the new man is applicable to everyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. The teachings on interpersonal relationships, and, in particular, family living, are all the more necessary for Christians who live in a time when family values have greatly declined.
Whether in terms of our salvation or daily conduct, Colossians offers Christians today valuable insights. A careful and prayerful study of this epistle will serve as an opportunity for us to deepen our knowledge of Christ and renew our commitment to Christ.
Map & Chart
Map A Geography in the time of the early church