SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Colossians 1:1 through 4:18
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)
Colosse was a city of Phrygia Pacatiana, now a part of Turkey in Asia Minor. Not much is known about this ancient city, which was situated between Laodicea and Hierapolis and about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. Colosse has been extinct for well over eighteen hundred years and it is believed that an earthquake destroyed Colosse, as well as Laodicea and Hierapolis. The city that was raised in the place of Colosse was called Konos, a name it bears today.
The Book of Colossians is one of the epistles Paul wrote during his imprisonment in Rome, around A.D. 60, about the same time as the epistle to the Ephesians was written.
The church at Colosse was probably started during Paul’s third missionary journey. It is not known whether or not Paul ever personally visited the church.
Whether the Colossians, whom the apostle addressed in this epistle, were Jews or Gentiles, cannot be absolutely determined. It is most probable that they were a mixture of both.
The problem Paul was combating in the Colossian church was the early stages of Gnosticism, a heresy that attacked Christianity in several basic ways. Gnostics taught that: (1) Christ was a created being, greater than man but less than God, thus stripping Him of His deity, which negated His propitiatory work at Calvary; (2) salvation was obtained through knowledge; and (3) the body was evil.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Who was the pastor of the Colossian church, and how did Paul describe him? What qualities are suggested by Paul’s words regarding him? Colossians 1:7
Paul described Epaphras (the pastor) as a dear fellowservant and faithful minister. Discuss with your class that the meaning of the word “faithful” in this passage is “trustworthy, true, sure.” Epaphras visited Rome and, while there, told Paul about the problem with the heresy impacting the Colossian church, and this prompted Paul to write the letter to the Colossians. Epaphras is also mentioned in Philemon 1:23.
- Though Paul had never met the Colossian believers, he faithfully prayed for them. What are some specific areas of prayer support we should weave into our prayers for others, based upon Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12?
Answers may include: that the ones for whom we pray will understand the will of God, gain wisdom and spiritual understanding, please and honor God, do good things for others, know God better, be strengthened by God, have grace to endure, retain the joy of God in their hearts, always be thankful.
- The Colossian church seemingly had several misconceptions about Christ, and Paul addressed their concerns in this epistle. Summarize how Paul refuted each of the following false beliefs.
Allow time for your students to share their summaries of the verses that refute the heresies Paul was addressing. You may wish to include these points.
Christ could not be both human and divine.
Christ had more than a resemblance to the Father; He was a manifestation of Him. In the incarnation, the Son of God, part of the triune Godhead, became visible in Christ; deity was now clothed with humanity. Christ was the first-born, not the first created.
Christ did not create the world.
The preposition “by” indicates that Christ was the divine agent of creation. The preposition “for” indicates that all things were created for God’s use and for His glory. The tense of the Greek word “created” indicates that creation was a definite, historical, and completed work.
Christ was not the unique Son of God.
The word “he” in verse 18 is emphatic. Representing the Godhead, Christ controls, guides, and governs the Church, which is His body. He is its head and its life.
Christ is not the source of salvation.
Christ’s death made a way for all people to come to God. The only way to become blameless in the sight of God is through trusting Him to forgive our sins.
- In verse 24 of the first chapter, Paul indicated his willingness to endure suffering in order to further the Gospel. List ways in which you might be called on to “suffer” for Christ’s cause. What are the benefits of enduring?
Your discussion should bring out that in some countries, persecution and death await some believers. However, Christians may suffer ridicule even in peaceful environments. Ask for class participation in developing a list of the benefits of enduring. Suggestions might include: strengthened faith, a witness to unbelievers, an encouragement to others who are also suffering, and an eternal reward. Focus on the thought that an unwavering and strong stand in our Christian convictions may be very persuasive. Even if results are not seen immediately, it does not mean there will not be results later.
- Having established the significance and preeminence of Christ, Paul moves on in chapter 2 to give a warning. What did Paul caution the Colossians about? (See verses 4, 8 and 18.) How might his warning apply in our day?
He warned them of the danger of being misled by false teachings or by worldly philosophies that might sound good, but that were rooted in something other than Christ’s Gospel. While the particular false teachings that were impacting the Colossians may be different than the ones we face today, the principle remains the same: we must guard against being influenced by religious trends or teachings that direct our attention away from Christ, and toward man’s philosophies or efforts, as the answer to man’s problems.
- Chapter 2 addresses the dangers of the legalistic teachings of the Gnostic teachers in Colosse. Paul referred to the distinction of meats and drinks — foods that had been classified as clean or unclean under the law — and the requirement of observing certain holy days or festivals, such as those relating to the new moons and particular sabbaths. He let the Colossians know that Christ had released them from delusive and oppressive rules, and that there was no need for them to submit themselves to Jewish traditions which served to supplant God’s Word. All these had been taken out of the way when Jesus was nailed to the Cross, and they were no longer of moral obligation. How might such regulations have deceived these believers?
The Colossians could have been led to believe that practicing religious routines would make them righteous in God’s eyes, and cause them to feel content in their own righteousness. However, the Gospel makes clear that salvation from sin is only through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
- Having laid a doctrinal and theological foundation in the first two chapters, Paul proceeds in chapter 3, to lay out principles for the Colossians to put into practice the message they had just heard. What are some specific ways we can put into practice Paul’s admonition found in Colossians 3:2?
Generate a list with your class. Thoughts that could be brought out include:
• Become more informed and alert to those in need.
• Respond to the needs you observe.
• Sacrifice for others.
• Develop the perspective that material possessions and wealth are secondary to spiritual things.
- In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul addressed how Christians are to act toward unbelievers. What do you think Paul meant by the following phrases?
Thoughts brought out in class discussion may include:
Walk in wisdom
The word “walk” refers to behavior. The point is that it takes wise behavior as well as wise words to win the lost to Christ.
Redeeming the time
Making wise and sacred use of every opportunity to let our lights shine.
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt
Our words should be gracious, pleasant, and full of sensitivity and tact, but not flat, dull, or tasteless. Christians are to have an edge of liveliness, and to be marked by purity, wholesomeness, and pungency when appropriate.
Know how ye ought to answer
We should be able to adapt the message to the situation and speak appropriately to everyone.
Paul’s epistle appears to have provided not only the most complete description of Christ in any of the letters to the members of the Early Church, but it also contains excellent and timeless instructions to Christians of every era. As you read Colossians, you can acquire a new appreciation for Christ as “the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and the only source for living the Christian life.