During Paul’s prolonged ministry in Ephesus, a man named Epaphras planted the Colossian church. Some years later, Epaphras grew distressed when error crept into the church. Paul was imprisoned in Rome by that time, so Epaphras visited him to share his heartache. In response, Paul wrote a letter to the Colossian church, defending sound theology, defining Jesus Christ in all His glory, and declaring that Christ is the image of the invisible God. Paul proclaimed that Christ alone is enough. No other person, knowledge, or system is needed.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… the head of the body, the church… the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:15, 18).
Jesus Christ is Lord of all, sufficient for all our needs, and worthy of all our worship and obedience.
Don’t fall for false doctrine. Claim the truth of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit by encouraging yourself in the Lord.
Since we have been raised with Christ, we set our heart on things above, where Christ reigns, and we do everything "heartily, as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).
Insights Into Colossians From The Jeremiah Study Bible
Why Did Paul Write Colossians? Reflection Points
The first two chapters of Colossians are theological; the last two are practical, telling us how to live out the truth of Christ in daily life by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we follow sound teaching, it will lead to a strong testimony. Correct doctrine leads to a winning walk with the Lord. The more we focus on Jesus, the more our hearts overflow with the reality that He must be preeminent in all things.
By affirming authentic biblical doctrine, Paul’s letter has equipped generations of believers to detect false teaching. It also reminds us that disruptive events don’t have to distract us; they can redirect our passion toward God’s eternal purposes. Consider these truths from chapter 3.
Paul’s Message: Accept No Substitutes for Jesus Christ
Our identity in Christ.
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ…. Your life is hidden with Christ…. You also will appear with Him in glory.” Christ did not die on our behalf; He died in our place. We were crucified with Christ. Our old self is dead; our new self is alive and victorious in Christ.
Our authority with Christ.
What image comes to your mind when you think of Jesus? Do you envision Him as “lowly, meek, and mild” or the Lion of Judah? Mental images make a difference. The reality is that Jesus is risen, seated at the right hand of the Father; and when we see Him again, He will appear in all His magnificence. When we focus on His power and authority, our faith surges and the allure of substitutes fades.
Our security with Christ.
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Part of the meaning of “hidden with Christ” is that our identity and purpose in life are hidden from those who are outside of Christ. They don’t understand us, but we know we are secure in Christ.
Our destiny with Christ.
Part of being with Christ is becoming more like Him. When He appears at the end of this age, “then [we] also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). The change will be sudden and dramatic. All who have called Him “Savior” will be fully renewed in spirit, mind, and body.
Whenever you’re being pulled down, look up. Set your mind on the risen, enthroned Christ, who is in all, through all, and over all. That is Paul’s message to the Colossians… and us.
Paul’s Warning: Root out Counterfeit Doctrine
The U.S. government has a website telling us how to detect counterfeit money before someone swindles us. The key is knowing the qualities of genuine bills—the realistic nature of the portrait, the distinctive depiction of the seal, the fine lines of the border, the singular style of the serial numbers, and the tiny fibers embedded in the paper.
In the same way, we detect false teaching by knowing true biblical doctrine. That litmus test is at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, ESV).
Paul’s Invitation: Embrace the Sufficiency of Jesus Christ
Without exception, false teaching distorts the doctrine of Christ in some way. Paul’s letter to the Colossians addresses that, calling Jesus “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). The marvelous truth is that, though we were dead in our sins, we have been raised to life in Him and through Him (Colossians 2:13). Since we have been raised with Christ, Paul calls us to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
We embrace the sufficiency of Jesus Christ by meditating on Scripture. Many believers have experienced going for long walks or pacing around their houses during periods of discouragement, quoting Bible verses and singing hymns of praise, deliberately shifting their thoughts and emotions upward toward the throne of God. It takes effort to lift our eyes to heaven. We have to dispense with self-pity and toxic anxiety and refocus on Him. But when we set our gaze upon Him, the things of earth grow “strangely dim.”
The Colossian church was an outgrowth of Paul’s intensive ministry in Ephesus (approximately AD 53–56), recorded in Acts 19. Apparently Epaphras, a native Colossian and most likely Paul’s convert, had journeyed from Colosse to Ephesus, received the message Paul preached and taken that message back home to share with others. As a result, scholars have credited him with founding the church at Colosse.
Given the parallels between parts of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, both were probably penned about the same time. But the heart of Paul’s letter to the Colossians deals with a problem peculiar to that church: a heresy being promoted that challenged the deity and sufficiency of Christ.
Paul could have combated these heresies like an apologist: dismantling the false tenets one by one. Instead, he went on the offensive, presenting Jesus in all His glory and majesty, declaring that Christ “is the image of the invisible God” and that “it pleased the Father that in [Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (1:15, 19, 20). In other words, Christ alone is enough.
True spirituality does have rules. But the rules are God’s, not humanity’s. The rules are rooted in the sufficiency of Christ. They are the pathway to freedom, not a road to bondage. They produce the fruit of selfless obedience, not the selfishness of rote legalism.
Why Did Paul Write Colossians? Reflection Points
- Read Romans 6:4-5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:6; and Colossians 3:1. What do these verses say about our identity in Christ?
- What are some ways that people try to earn salvation today? What Scripture could you share with them?
- Read Galatians 5:1. Ask God to reveal any tendencies toward legalism that might be detracting from the freedom that is yours in Christ.
- Ask the Lord to help you apply the message of Colossians:
Lord, You are all I need. Help me not to set my heart and mind on things here on earth but to keep my focus on things above with You. In the all-sufficient Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.