This blog is the first in a four part series on the book of Colossians.
Colossae was a city located about 100 miles inland from Ephesus, in modern Turkey. It doesn’t appear to have been one of those cities that Paul visited, as he focused on visiting major cities on his journeys. What seems to have happened is that when Paul visited Ephesus—which we read about in Acts 19—a number of people came to faith in Christ. Some of those, namely Epaphras and others, then took the message to Colossae, many believed, and a local church was established. Most of the congregation would have been gentiles and the church had been established for about 5 years by the time this letter was written.
While Paul was imprisoned in Rome, Epaphras came to visit and to encourage him, but also shared news from the church. It seems that there was a problem in the church at Colossae. It wasn’t the outward attacks or the pressures that were being put on believers. Persecution was rife at that time, but that wasn’t the cause of the concerns that were being brought to Paul. The problem was from the inside. Some new doctrines were being taught in Colossae and were invading the church and giving problems. Paul wrote this letter to deal with this problem.
So what was the problem? The honest answer is that no one knows exactly! There is no agreement on what the exact nature of the problem was, but from reading through the book, most commentators come to a general agreement that it was some form of mixture of teaching. A mixture of Judaism, Eastern religions, pagan cults, and an early form of Gnosticism. It seems that a couple of people in the church who were widely respected, with domineering personalities, had introduced the idea of ‘Jesus plus.’
The first thing that Paul does is to thank God for what has been done in their lives. Often we tend to look for the negatives and faults in people, but bear in mind that when Paul wrote this letter he was writing to address certain problems in the church, yet he stops here to encourage, to praise, to give thanks to God for the positive things that he saw in these believers. How are you with encouraging? Are you someone who always looks for the negatives and are always critical? Or maybe you are the other extreme and everything is always wonderful. Or are you real, and even though you can see problems, you can also see positives. Paul was a realist, and here in verses 3-8, he thanks God for what was evident in their lives.
The central theme of this entire book is simply that ‘it’s all about Him.’ Everything just points towards the Lord Jesus; who He is, what He has done, what He is doing. Continually Paul is highlighting who the Lord Jesus is and bringing attention to Him. Paul wanted the Colossians, and you, to see that it actually is all about Jesus. To get you to stop. Stop the focusing on problems, on doing church, on even doctrine (these things will be the result of a proper focus), and focus on Him. So, who is this person?
It is of course the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus hasn’t just saved you and that’s it. He hasn’t finished with you. He is interested in you right now, and He has a purpose to make you holy and blameless. For some of us there’s a lot more work required, but at the end of time He will present you holy, blameless and above reproach before Him. It really is all about Him.
I wonder do you need to get your sights focused back on Him?