The Apostle Paul encourages the Colossian church and reminds them that Jesus has rescued them from the power of darkness, and now they are citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Through this lesson, students should:
1. Be encouraged to seek being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
2. Be encouraged to grow in our knowledge of God as we bear good fruit.
3. Be strengthened in patient endurance.
Catch up on the Story
The letter to the Colossians was probably one of the later Pauline writings. There is much debate as to who exactly wrote this letter. There are many similarities between Colossians and other undisputed Pauline texts but also many differences. At the same time, scholarly consensus agrees that it is most likely that the Apostle Paul did not write this letter. A disciple writing under the authority of a teacher was not uncommon, and it is apparent that Colossians was written by someone within the Pauline school at the very least.
Additionally, it appears that Paul did not begin the work of the church there and did not have plans to visit the Colossian church. It seems most likely that Paul was lending his authority to an already well-established church that needed some encouragement and help in combating an unknown (to us anyway) “error” in thinking presented to the Colossian people. It is also most likely that Epaphras was the primary spiritual leader in this community. He is known to Paul and speaks highly of his faith community. It may be that Ephapras has written to Paul for help in guiding his flock.
Paul begins with a standard greeting accompanied by declaring how thankful Paul and his companions are for the Colossians because he has heard of their faithfulness. They have faith in Jesus Christ, which seems closely tied to their love for all of the saints.
At this point, Paul isn’t just saying that the Colossians should love only fellow believers. He will specify later in the letter how important it is to love all people. For the moment, though, it seems Paul is making a connection between the Colossians loving the faithful and their faith in Christ Jesus.
The love of which Paul speaks is “an active concern for one another among the Colossian Christians which did not stop short at self-sacrifice of personal interests – and not just for one another, if the “all the saints” is taken seriously” (Dunn, 58).
Furthermore, their love for the saints seems to be driven by the eschatological hope that Christ has given them. Paul has already mentioned that the Colossians have faith and love; now, he mentions their hope.
This is more than a hope that we all get to go to heaven when we die. It is a hope in the second coming of Christ, in the redemption of all things, and that the full purposes of God will be unveiled at the end of time. This hope for God’s ultimate working in the world is part of what spurs the Colossians toward loving all the saints.
Moving on, Paul connects the hope of which he was speaking with the gospel of truth the Colossians had heard from the beginning. This gospel of truth is the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which brings about redemption and the forgiveness of sins. This is the gospel that has been bearing fruit all over the world. Just as it has been bearing fruit worldwide, so are the Colossians allowing it to produce fruit in their own lives and ministries. This is the gospel that Epaphras brought to them, which allowed them to believe. Paul tells us Epaphras is a faithful minister of Christ and has communicated the Colossians’ love to Paul.
This section ends with verse 8. Paul has used this extended thanksgiving to encourage the Colossians to continue doing the things they were taught to do from the beginning. The Colossians need to know that Paul has faith in them to continue to grow in grace.
Prayers for the People
The second section moves from extended opening thanksgiving to Paul’s prayers for the people. This letter was meant to be read aloud during a regular gathering, and as such, both encouraged the Colossians and made them aware of the areas for which they were being prayed.
Paul begins this little section by declaring that he knows they have heard that he has not stopped praying for them as a church. Paul has several things for which he is praying: Paul is praying that the Colossians may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. He has prayed this so they may lead lives worthy of the Lord. Lives that are fully pleasing to God bear fruit as the Colossians seek to do the work of God’s kingdom.
These two requests may only be one. It is clear, however, that Paul believes that bearing good fruit/doing good works is contingent upon being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. There needs to be some relationship between God and people before they can begin to do or be anything pleasing to God.
Paul prays that the Colossians are made strong with the strength that comes from God’s power so that they may endure everything with patience while giving joyful praise to God.
Paul can pray these things for the Colossians because they have been enabled to walk in the light because they have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God. In this new kingdom in which the Colossians are now living, they have received redemption and the forgiveness of their sins.
Paul, while he is giving thanks for the Colossians, is also encouraging them in their walk with Christ. There are certain things that they must continue to do in response to their new citizenship in the kingdom of God.
I think the opening to this letter speaks to us in a few different ways.
First, we as a group/church have received the good news, the truth of the Gospel, and have faith in Christ. We love the saints, although I think we could do a better job sometimes.
Second, Paul’s prayer is similar to what I would pray for each of us. I desire that each one of us would be full of the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. I hope that each of us leads lives worthy and pleasing to God so that we might bear good fruit as we labor together. I also desire that all of us would be filled with the strength to endure all kinds of things with patience while joyfully praising God.
Finally, we have indeed been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and are now living as citizens of the kingdom of God, where we have found redemption and the forgiveness of sins.
We must ask ourselves: How do we go about being filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all Spiritual wisdom and understanding? How do we gain the strength to endure all things with patience and joyful praise?
Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
In verse 3, Paul says he has heard of the Colossians’ faith. What things do you think they were doing that would have made it back to Paul? What things might our church do or have done that would receive a similar word of praise from Paul?
In verse 6, Paul says that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world. How do you think the gospel was bearing fruit worldwide at that time? How might the gospel be bearing fruit around the world today?
In verse 9, Paul prays that the Colossians may “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding….” What do you think Paul means by this? How does being filled with the knowledge of God’s will help us “lead lives worthy of the Lord?”
In verse 11, Paul prays that the Colossians may be prepared to endure everything patiently and in joyful praise. Why would Paul pray this way? What type of things might the Colossians be facing?
How have you been reduced from the “power of darkness” (verse 13)? What does it mean to be transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son?
What would you say if you were to write a similar letter to our church? What would you have reported that you’ve heard about us? How would you offer prayer for us?
Dunn, James D. G. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press, 1996).