You and I may send e-mails, post blogs or text our friends; the Apostle Paul had his words dictated onto a scroll with a quill pen and ink. The purpose was the same: to communicate and to try to preserve the message for as long as possible and for as many readers as possible. Given the world shortage of photocopiers at the time, and the low level of literacy outside Jewish communities, there were still far more ‘hearers’ than ‘readers’ of Paul’s work!
Colossians was written to the church at Colossae in modern day Turkey, in about AD 60, the same year as the letters to the church at Ephesus and to Philemon were penned. Its purpose is to demonstrate the supremacy of Christ over all other people and religions, and the superiority of the true gospel over human philosophy and religious heresy. Many false teachers had attempted to infiltrate the Colossian church, planted by one of Pauls’ co-workers, Epaphras. The heresy had many strands, including religious ceremonies, asceticism (‘anything you enjoy must be evil’), worship of angels, denying the deity of Christ, reliance on human traditions rather than the scriptures, and having a secret knowledge that only the ‘inner group’ had access to.
Paul counters this with an emphasis on Christ as the image of God, the Creator, the Head of his church, the first one resurrected, the total representation of God in bodily form, and the mediator between mankind and God the Father. The title ‘Christ’ is used 29 times in just four chapters! He is the First and the Supreme one!
In the first fourteen verses of chapter one, Paul explains his purpose in writing, which was to impart to them a deep knowledge of God, from the power of the Holy Spirit in these believers, and to encourage them to live a life that pleases Christ in every way. He reminds them that they have already been transferred to the Kingdom of the Son, their ultimate inheritance, where full redemption and complete forgiveness is found. No longer can the king of darkness rule over them!
Verses 15-20 are probably an early Christian hymn of praise to Christ – supreme both in creation and in redemption. He is the image of God (see also 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Hebrews 1:3) – the image of the invisible God! He reveals and exposes the One who has never before been seen by human eyes (John 1:18). He is fully God and fully perfect man. He is the Firstborn over all creation – firstborn in the preeminence and inheritance sense, and not implying that Jesus the Son was ever created himself. In fact, anything that was created was created through him, so he himself could not be anything other than eternal. Furthermore, everything that has been created is held together by Jesus (1:17), the Living Word.
Through the physical death of Christ on the cross, God has made peace with those who have been reconciled to him and are now free from accusation and set apart for glory. More than that: “To them, God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. The Spirit of Jesus dwells in our individual bodies and in his corporate church, and we are therefore filled with hope and destined for glory. His presence gives us incredible power and wise maturity.
This is a chapter to meditate on, as much as to study.