Setting

In the opening of this epistle, Paul greets the readers as saints. Just as for the Ephesians, he give thanks to God and prays that the Colossians will be enlightened about certain spiritual truths and realities.

Key Verse

(1:9)

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Outline

  • Salutation
    (1:1-2)
  • Thanksgiving for the Colossians
    (1:3-8)
  • Prayer for the Colossians
    (1:9-14)

Segment Analysis

  • 1:1-2

    1.

    What qualifies a person to be called a saint?

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    Sanctification of the Spirit (1Cor 1:2; 1Pet 1:2), through the truth (Jn 17:19), by the blood of the covenant (Heb 10:29). In effect, a person who is baptized into the true church is washed by the blood of Jesus and if he maintains his sanctification by spiritual nurture in the Holy Spirit and through the Word of God, he remains a saint in God’s eyes. Note also that the saints in Paul’s letters were Christians who were living at the time of writing. This is contrary to the belief that only a few selected believers can become saints and that also only some years after their death.

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  • 1:3-8

    2a.

    See if you can find the three abiding spiritual qualities made famous in 1 Corinthians 13 in this passage.

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    Faith in Christ Jesus (1:4); love for all the saints and love in the Spirit (1:4,8); the hope which is laid up in heaven (1:5). These three abiding virtues must be present in any living church of God.

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  • 2b.

    What is the source of these abiding qualities?

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    The word of the truth of the gospel (1:5,6) preached by the faithful ministers of God (1:7).

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  • 3a.

    In what ways does the gospel bring forth fruit (6)?

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    The fruit is a symbol of a person’s speech, conduct, and life. When a person receives the gospel and bears fruit, it means that he has become a new person, whose life exhibits Christ-like characters.

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  • 3b.

    What is the condition for the gospel to bringing forth fruit in a person’s life? Has the gospel brought forth fruit in your life?

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    Consider the parable of the sower (Mt 13:3-9,18-23). The word of the gospel is invariably good but the bearing forth of fruit is not inevitable. This depends on the ground, which is the heart of him who receives the word. In order for the gospel to bear fruit in our lives, we need to accept God’s word with faith, and our hearts need to be free from the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. In addition, we also need to patiently put God’s word into practice (cf. Lk 8:15).

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  • 4.

    Who is Epaphras (7; Col 4:12; Phm 23)?

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    Epaphras, a Colossian himself, was one of the early workers in the church at Colosse. At this time, he was with Paul at Rome and kept Paul informed on the situation of the church at Colosse. In his epistle to Philemon, Paul called him “my fellow prisoner.” Notice that in all the epistles and not just Paul’s alone, names of persons are mentioned as a source of encouragement or greeting and never as a support of doctrinal truth. This is to say that one will not encounter name-dropping such as “with regard to this doctrine, even the apostle Peter agrees with me”. See Gal 1:15-19 and 2:1-14 for an interesting example of just the opposite. Here Paul says that he approached those of some reputation (Gal 2:2) out of humility and thanked God that all agreed in the Lord but in the same passage was not afraid to oppose them when they swayed from the truth (Gal 2:11-14). It is important for Christians to have a faith that is based solely on the Scriptures and not because such and such a minister said so. Also, while personal greetings are welcome in writings, sermons and speeches, such is not true for name-dropping and flattery. As an example, it is always nice to hear something like “A personally asked me to convey his greetings and fond thoughts for everyone in the church” but not “It is my honor to convey the greetings of Elder A, the Chairman of B Committee.”

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  • 1:9-14

    5a.

    What does Paul ask for in his prayer? Compare this with your own prayers.

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    He prays that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (9).

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  • 5b.

    5b. What lessons can we learn from Paul’s prayer?

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    1. He intercedes for the believers, and his intercession never ceases
    (9). Doing so requires great love and patience.
    2. He prays that God’s will be done in the lives of the believers (cf. Mt
    6:10, 31-33). His priority in prayer is spiritual growth, not material or
    physical blessings.
    3. He is always thankful (Col 1:3) and prays that the believers may also
    be thankful (12).

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  • 6.

    What is necessary in order to be filled with the knowledge of the will of God (1:9)?

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    Wisdom (Jas 3:13-18) and spiritual understanding (Jn 16:13; 1Cor 2:10-16). In general, the will of God for us is found in the Bible. Reading the word of God with wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit, the Christian understands the will of God for himself. It is more the exception rather than the rule that God would reveal His will to an individual through a sign, a vision or a message. A person seeking the will of God should concentrate on reading the word of God and praying in the Spirit, not for signs or messages, but to be in communion with God and to let the Holy Spirit fill him with wisdom and understanding.

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  • 7.

    List the purposes of knowing the will of God (10).

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    a. To walk worthy of the Lord.
    b. To fully please Him.
    c. To be fruitful in every good work.
    d. To increase in the knowledge of God.
    Does it surprise you to see that the list is not the selfish one that most of us have? Some would like to know the will of God with regard to their field of study while many others would like to know with regard to their choice of a career or spouse. In many of these situations, seeing beyond the immediate choice to the purposes stated above will immediately tell one what the will of the Lord is. Is it the will of God that because of the lack of choice in the church we marry someone who is not in the Lord?
    Expand this question to the following:
    Can I then walk worthy of the Lord with my unbelieving partner?
    Will I please the Lord?
    Will I be able to be fruitful in every good work after marriage?
    Can I increase in the knowledge of God or would I be hindered from going to church?
    The will of the Lord will then be clear.

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  • 8.

    Based on this paragraph, explain the phrase “walk worthy of the Lord” (10).

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    Paul prays that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God so that they may walk worthy of the Lord. Verse 10 also adds, “fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Thus, we can infer from the context that walking worthy of the Lord means living up to the Lord’s will.

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  • 9.

    How do we carry out the will of God (11)?

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    a. With might obtained through His glorious power.
    b. With all patience and longsuffering.
    c. With joy.
    These seem to suggest that it is not easy to carry out the will of God but also that with the right attitude and understanding, it is a joy to do so (Acts 5:41). The best example of one who did the will of God is Jesus Himself (Mt 26:38-42; Heb 10:5-9).

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  • 10.

    Discuss the will of God—for Christians on the whole and for individual members in the Bible Study group.

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  • 11a.

    For what should we be thankful to the Father?

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    We thank the Father because He has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (12-13).

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  • 11b.

    How did God deliver us from the power of darkness and convey us into His kingdom?

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    Through the redemption of Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of sins (14).

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