Studies in Colossians. Presentation 10. The Structure of the Book. 1v1-2 Introduction 1v3-14 Paul’s Prayer 1v15-23 The Supremacy of Christ 1v24-2v5 Paul’s Labour for the Church 2v6-7 The Danger of Seductive Teaching 2v8-15 Know Your Enemy – Part 1
1v3-14 Paul’s Prayer
1v15-23 The Supremacy of Christ
1v24-2v5 Paul’s Labour for the Church
2v6-7 The Danger of Seductive Teaching
2v8-15 Know Your Enemy – Part 1
2v16-19 Know Your Enemy – Part 2
2v20-23 New Teacher’s Bondage
3v18-4v1 Christian Households
4v2-6 Further Instructions
4v7-18 Personal Greetings
To date we have seen how Paul has described the way in which practical holiness should be in evidence in every area of our lives not just within the Christian fellowship but within the family and in the workplace.
This holiness has been made possible because, in the first instance, to be a Christian is to be united to Christ. We have his life within us.
And secondly, we have been provided with a blueprint for the development of holiness, a twofold process which involves negatively mortification and positively the nurturing of Christian graces.
In these closing verses a twofold theme is unpacked which involves:
1. Speaking to God about men
2. Speaking to men about God
In v2 Paul encourages his readers to ‘devote themselves to prayer’.
We have already looked in detail at an example of Paul’s prayer in 1.9. Clearly, prayer was one of the defining characteristics of the early church.
cf. Epaphras 4.12.
See also: 1 Thes. 5.17,
Thes. 3.1, 1 Tim. 2.8,
Jude 20, Jas 5.16
This commitment to prayer goes beyond having set times of prayer each day [the Jews prayed three times daily]. The word translated ‘devote’ is used in Mark 3.9 to describe a boat that was being ‘kept ready’ for Jesus’ use.
It is this kind of readiness that is in Paul’s mind. Having a heart attitude that is in regular communion with God. Keeping in close contact with the head of the Church, who gives
guidance, counsel and strength,
is of tremendous importance.
Paul uses two words which help focus on the kind of praying Christians should be engaged in: ‘be watchful’ and ‘be thankful’.
The first, is a reminder that the Christian is involved in
a spiritual conflict where dangers abound.
cfEph 6.10-18 and especially v18.
In a prayerless church the enemy will be actively
engaged in a work of disruption or distraction.
With good reason Jesus admonished his
disciples to ‘watch and pray’ so that they
would not fall into temptation [Mark 14.38].
Secondly, they are told to ‘be thankful’ - were the false teachers making them discontent? As these teachers spoke of the wonder of their experiences and the spiritual riches that their secret knowledge had brought them, did the poor Christians at Colossea feel that God had deprived them of his best? If so, then this could so easily have prevented them from glorying in the fullness of
God’s provision in Christ.
In addition to which praise and
thanksgiving fuel our prayers.
There is also the subtle temptation that comes to those, who are more established in the faith. They think that they do not need prayer to the same extent as they did in their spiritual infancy. That view is shattered when the mighty apostle says, ‘pray for us’!
He meant it!
Think about this, Jesus himself found it necessary
to rise a great while before daybreak in order to
pray. If Jesus found it necessary to pray for the
day ahead how presumptuous we are to think
that we can cope without it.
Note that the substance of Paul’s prayer request wasn’t that he might be released from prison but that he would find opportunities for service while in prison. Paul wanted a different kind of ‘open door’ from an open cell door that would allow him to escape. He wanted an open door for his message: 1 Cor. 16.9, 2 Cor. 2.12.
Paul longed for doors of opportunity to share
the gospel. He was left to rely upon God to
provide opportunities since his freedom
to seek them out by himself had been
restricted by his imprisonment.
‘We may proclaim the mystery of Christ.’ cf. 1 Thes. 3.1 The word translated ‘proclaim’ is used only here in Paul’s writings. He describes the proclamation of something previously hidden.
Paul sees preaching as a part of the process of revelation.
This startling concept needs rediscovery today!
The revelation of God in Christ has already
been given in history, and written is
scripture. But it must also be spoken
by God’s servants, if men’s minds
are to be opened to the truth.
In this regard we should pray that
every sermon is an “eye-opener”
cf Acts 26:18.
Not only did Paul want opportunity, his readers are encouraged to pray that he proclaims the gospel ‘clearly’. The one is of little value without the other. He wanted clarity of
A number of people say of Christians,
‘they seem very nice people but I
cannot understand a thing they say!’
As far as Paul was concerned praying
for the preaching of the Word was to
become a priority of the church.
Not all Christians are called to preach but all are called to be gospel communicators v5-6. Here we have instruction on how to answer those who have questions about the Christian faith. “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity”.
What did Jesus say, ‘be wise as serpents, harmless as doves’ Matt. 10.6. Some Christians ruin the opportunities that God gives them.
They talk without thinking and as a result make the
gospel a repugnant rather than an attractive thing.
Paul’s thinking on the subject of making use of opportunities for witness and service is further sharpened in v6 where the terms ‘grace’ and ‘salt’are used.Grace because we are not to go out of our way to be offensive. Salt because we are not to be bland but faithful in our witness. In Job 6.6, Job asks, ‘Is tasteless food eaten without salt’.
Salt not only gives flavour, it acts as a preservative
- it keeps some foods from rotting.
Godly conversation has a restraining effect in society.
It acts as a restraint upon immoral and godless chatter.
As we come to the close of the epistle we find that it is unusually rich in personal messages and greetings. What are their purpose?
1. Paul is strengthening his ties with the Colossian church aware that his imprisonment could imperil the churches from which he has been forcibly separated. He knows what mischief-makers can do.
2. He wants them to realise how closely he is concerned for them and how deeply he feels about their problems.
3. He wants them to know about his affairs and realises that without frequent news, no relationship can flourish. He realises too, that good communications are the essence of influence.
4. Paul had a tremendous capacity for people. He cared so deeply for so many. Was this in part due to the fact that he had no family of his own? He could give himself unstintingly to the Lord's family. One of the reasons Paul was loved so greatly was that he loved so greatly.
5. We see his capacity for sharing his ministry. Cf. his language ‘fellow workers’, ‘fellow servant’. He was willing that they should share in the privilege of ministry. Paul was happy to bring other mature believers into partnership with himself. He wasn't building a personal empire.
6. Paul had a tremendous capacity for acknowledging the work of others and expressing his gratitude for it; loyalty and hard work are high on his list. v7,9
Tychius v7. A trusted colleague from Asia minor [Acts 20.4]. He would carry Paul’s letter to them and share further details verbally.
Onesimus v9. The fugitive slave mentioned in Philemon 10. Colossea was his home town and he is commended as a ‘dear brother’.
Aristarchus v10. Part of the fruit of Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica and one of his travelling companions Acts 20.4. He was also with Paul on his final sea journey to Rome. Acts 27.2.
Mark v10. Mark had run away from missionary service during Paul's first missionary journey. Perhaps because he feared persecution. His desertion at Pamphylia was the cause of Paul and Barnabas splitting up Acts15.36ff. Pamphylia was near Colossae and so
they would have heard of Mark’s failure .
But Paul, had learned that God does not write
off failures. Mark had proved himself in God's
service and Paul is the first to want others
to know this. cf 2Tim.4.11.
Jesus called Justus v11. There is no other mention of him in the N.T. His Jewish name was fairly common and was often translated as Joshua.
Epaphras v12. He was clearly noted for the intensity of his prayer life. Paul uses an image from athletic competition - wrestling - to describe the intensity of his prayers.
Luke v14. The doctor and travelling companion of Paul. He was the author both of a gospel and the book of Acts.
Demas v14. In a short space of time Demas would turn his back on the gospel he once helped proclaim. 2Tim. 4.10.
Nympha v15. A reminder that the church met exclusively in homes and would continue to do so for the next 200 years. Nympha is thought to have been a wealthy inhabitant of Laodicea a city close to Colossea.
It is clear from v16 that Paul also wrote a letter to Laodicea which has not been preserved. What is clear is that churches were encouraged to circulate apostolic correspondence and this explains
why so many early copies of the manuscripts
were in circulation.
Paul closes his letter by signing it personally,
Thus authenticating the document which
Timothy probably wrote acting as Paul’s