The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians he had never met. He probably wrote around A.D. 60, during his first imprisonment in Rome, the same place where he wrote the rest of his “prison letters” (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon). Although he didn’t personally begin the church at Colossae, a market city in Asia Minor, Paul was concerned when he heard about false teaching being spread in the church.
Scholars still debate exactly what that teaching was, but it seemed to mix elements of Jewish legalism with some kind of mystical asceticism. Paul heard the news from Epaphras, who had become a believer during Paul’s three years of ministry in Ephesus and had taken the gospel to Colossae, some 100 miles away. When the church he planted began to struggle with heresy, Epaphras visited Paul, under house arrest in Rome. Paul responded by writing this letter to remind the Colossian saints to hold on to—and live out—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul encourages the church in Colossae in their growing maturity, reminds them of the beauty of Christ and the power of the gospel, and exhorts them to act like the church. Because he’d heard the Holy Spirit was working in their lives, he prays the Colossians will be full of spiritual wisdom and understanding so they can follow God appropriately. He also reminds them of the gospel: God has taken them out of the darkness of their sins and brought them into the hope and joy of Jesus. And in response to this gospel, the Colossian church has a mission: to proclaim Christ and work to present all Christ-followers mature in Christ.
Paul had never met the Colossians, but he’s concerned these young believers were getting derailed by competing philosophical and religious ideas. The problem with these ideas was not that they were logical or plausible; the problem was their advocates were such good people, so the Colossians seemed incline to believe them! But Paul is clear: these wise and spiritual people aren’t connected to Christ. So Paul’s encouragement to the Colossian believers is simple: “Hold on to Christ.”
Notice the three commands in Colossians 3. The first step is to treasure the things of the kingdom of God. The second is to put off the old ways of sin. The third step in the cycle of growth is to “put on” the character of Christ: compassion, patience, and, above all, love. Those seeking the things of the kingdom should submit to the rule of Christ’s peace. Instead of seeking their own, they are to let Christ’s word overflow from them to bless others.
Paul closes by discussing relationships with other believers and with outsiders. He urges the Colossian saints not to tire of praying for one another. When it comes to people outside, they should “walk in wisdom . . . making the best use of the time” (4:5). This God-given way of seeing and understanding life enables the Colossians to stay rooted in Christ, living as His ambassadors to all those who do not yet believe.
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
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