Paul writes this letter from prison to the church in Colossae, in order to confront false teaching that threatened the church there and to encourage them to go back to the simple truth of the gospel. Paul didn’t plant this church, nor had he ever visited it, so it’s perhaps not surprising that his approach is noticeably different than in his letter to the Galatians* who found themselves in a similar position. Rather than calling on his apostolic authority, he moves through a relationship-building opening to an unparalleled hymn of praise to Jesus to remind the Colossians of their “first love”. Paul reinforces all that Jesus has already accomplished in them, reminds them that the basis of Christian behaviour is rooted in thegospel, and sketches out what Christian living should look like.
As you read…
§ “He is the image of the invisible God” Pause to spend some time meditating on Ch1: 15-23 – some of Paul’s most powerful lines expressing the divinity of Christ.
§ Freedom from legalism. There can be a fine line between practices that help our faith, and practices we come to think are essential to earning God’s favour.Paul reminds us that Christ’s completed work is entirely sufficient to restore our relationship with God – we don’t need to (and can’t!) supplement it with church attendance, regular quiet times, ways of worshipping, tithing or anything else.
§ Freedom to a new life in Christ Paul reminds his readers that they have been “raised with Christ”, and that this new life is marked by changed hearts,minds and behaviour. The freedom Jesus brings us is not license to return to sinful practices, but instead an opportunity to act in a manner that brings glory to the God who has already saved us. This is demonstrated by individual submission to Christ and those around us, but also demonstrated by the community of believers in the way the interact with one another as they gather to worship.
§ Freedom for making Christ known How we interact with people who don’t yet know Jesus is tremendously important. Paul exhorts us to pray for opportunity, to be wise in how we conduct ourselves, and to be both bold and full of grace when opportunity presents itself (4: 2-6).
*Paul had founded the Galatian church and they knew him well.