Southern Christian University

The Prison Epistles #3

James A. Turner


Please read all the references. They will help in a better understanding.

Beginning Colossians 


Introduction To Colossians

The Colossian letter is in the main, as was mentioned in the introduction to Ephesians, a shorter form of the letter to the Ephesians with only a few exceptions. The primary exception is Colossians 2:16 – 23 where instruction is given concerning the false doctrines that the Colossians were being confronted with.


Another exception is that it is written to brethren that Paul had never met face to face. He had only heard about them through Epaphras (Colossians 1L7-8, 4:12-13) who had been their faithful preacher and teacher, and also to the churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Please look on a map and see that these churches were only about thirteen to twenty miles apart, and they made up the field of labor for Epaphras.


Another exception is that in this letter Paul tells that the gospel had gone forth into “all the world” bearing fruit and increasing (Colossians 1:5-6), and that the gospel, “was preached in all creation under heaven (Colossians 1:23).” Colossians 1:5-6 and 1:23 and Matthew 24:14) and 24:14-22 show definitely that the gospel had been preached in the “whole world” before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman armies.


These references also show that some of our brethren are using Matthew 24:31 wrongly when they speak of the angels going forth “with a great sound of a trump” being messengers of the gospel to “carry the gospel” to the “whole world’. Men, and not angels, are sent to proclaim the gospel. During the miraculous age of the church an angel told Philip to leave Jerusalem and go to Gaza (Acts 8:2), but it was Philip the earthen vessel (II Corinthians 4:7) that told the eunuch from Ethiopia what he needed to do in order to be saved (Acts 8:29-39).


We will let this suffice for an introduction to Colossians, and now we will begin the reading and study of this epistle.


“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren at Colossae; Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” Paul needed to speak of his apostleship to let the brethren at Colossae know that he was speaking to them by the authority of Christ. Note that Timothy was with him at the time of writing, and he was with him part of the time during that two years imprisonment at Rome (Acts 28:30-31).


Verses three to nine, “We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have toward all the saints, because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, where of ye heard before in the word of truth of the gospel, which is come to you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as ye learned of Epophras our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit (1:3-8).” Can a good reader read all of the epistles of Paul and not be impressed with the fact that he was thankful for his brethren every where, and prayed for them on a regular basis, and he always expressed confidence in his brethren; and let us learn how important it is to express confidence in our brethren.


Beginning with verse nine, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins;”


Verse thirteen is another reference, which shows that the premillennial doctrine is a false doctrine. Advocates of that doctrine say that Christ came to establish a kingdom, but because the Jews rejected him he ushered in the church age, and that the kingdom age is yet to come and he will return to earth to set up a kingdom in the land of Israel, and reign as an earthy king for a thousand years. According to Harold Lindsey another temple must be established on the sight of the old temple, and that the law will be reestablished including animal sacrifices etc. Don’t you think that it is a little strange that Paul did not have that great wisdom of Harold Lindsey. Paul correctly said that those Colossians had “been translated out of the power of darkness (devil’s kingdom) into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”


Every person who obeys the gospel is translated out of the devil’s kingdom into the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Please remember that Jesus could not have pleased the Jews more if he had accepted Satan’s challenge to become an earthly king (Matthew 4:8-11). In fact that would have pleased his apostles (Acts 1:6), but Jesus did not come to be an earthly king (John 18:36), when they were ready, to make him an earthly king by force, Jesus left their presence (John 6:12-15). But false teachers like Harold Lindsey think he is still going to be an earthy king.


Verse fifteen, “Who is the image of the invisible God;” Hebrews 1:3 reads, “the effulgence of his glory and the very image of his substance,”    the first born of all creation; for in him (Christ) were all things created, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him, and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body the church: (Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:4) who is the beginning, the first born from the head; (first born to die no more) that in all things he might have the preeminence.”


In Acts 13:33, Paul quotes from the second psalm, “this day have I begotten thee,” and applies it to the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  And, of course, Christ is the firstborn of all creation, in that he is the “first-fruits of them that slept,”  in that he was raised from the dead to die no more.  John says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of the world (John 1:1-3).  And John came to be a witness of the light.  He was not the light, but he came to bear witness of the light. John 1:14 reads, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and, we beheld him as the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth."  The Bible teaches very definitely that God made the worlds through Christ, that all things were made through him. 

          Verse 16, "For in him were all things created, in the heavens,  and upon the earth, things visible, and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:  All things have been created through him, and unto him:  And he is before all things."  Before the heavens and the earth were created, Christ was. He is eternal! "He is before all things, and in him all things consist."  As the Hebrew writer said, “upholdeth all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3).  "And he is the head of the body, the church (parallels Ephesians 1:22-23) who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead  (raised to die no more)  that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell and through him to reconcile all things unto himself; having made peace through the blood of his cross, through him I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in heavens.  And you, being in times past alienated  (The church at Colossae was made up primarily of Gentile people, like the church at Ephesus.)  and enemies in your mind and your evil works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before him."  It will not to be on the basis of our goodness that he will present us without blemish, but when we follow him, and when we know that we have done wrong, and repent, and pray for forgiveness, we are forgiven through his blood, and thus he can present us as though we had never sinned, without blemish and unreprovable before him.  But notice the condition on which he will present us without blemish and unreprovable, "If so be that you continue in the faith."  But if a person does not continue in the faith, Christ cannot present him without blemish.  "If so be that you continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation unto heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister."  There are those who want to take issue with what is plainly stated in this book that the gospel had been preached in the entire world.  Every place where there were people, the gospel had been preached, according to Colossians 1:6 and Colossians 1:23.  And then some of our brethren come with the idea that the gospel was going to be preached in such a greater way after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the gospel had been preached to all the world in a period of about thirty years.  What should that tell us about our situation today? 


Verse twenty-four, " Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church, whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation  (stewardship) of God which was given me to you ward."  Christ chose Paul as an apostle especially to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentile people.  "To fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations  (parallels Ephesians 3:1-3) but now hath it been manifested to his saints:  To whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Whom we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ."  Every man who has been converted to Christ can be presented if he is willing to be presented as perfect in Christ.  "whereunto I labour, also striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily."  Paul, with great faith and dedication, and with all that miraculous ability that God had given him, it surely had worked in him mightily. 

Chapter two

"For I would have ye know how greatly I strive for you and for them at Laodicea.  Laodicea was about thirteen  miles from Colossae.  Paul had not been to Colossae, or to Laodicea.  And as for many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that your hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that ye may know the mystery of God, even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge hidden.  This I say, that no man delude you with persuasiveness of speech, for though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ."  Epaphras had told Paul about them, and although he had not seen them, he was joying and beholding their work from what he had told them of the steadfastness of their faith in Christ.  In verse six he begins to warn them against the false teachers.  "As therefore ye receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,  Epaphras had been a faithful teacher.  He had taught them correctly, but now there are false teachers among them, trying to pull them away from the right way.  rooted and built it up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."  So continue in that good and faithful way that Epaphras taught you to walk in. 


Verse eight "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."  Any philosophy, any teaching that is contrary to the teaching of Christ is false doctrine.  When men start teaching the traditions of men and the rudiments of the world, they've turned away from Christ.  "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."  Paul emphasized that in the Ephesian letter, that in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead.  "And in him we are made full."   We are complete in Christ, and as is mentioned later, we do not any “voluntary humility,” to worship angels and other things that they were being encouraged to do.  In Christ we are made full, we do not need any man made requirements.  "Who is the head of all principality and power.  In whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands.  In the putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ:  Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him, through faith and the working of God who raised him from the dead."  Some have concluded on the basis of the reading of verse twelve that baptism took the place of circumcision.  No, baptism just marks the place where that inward circumcision takes place.  If baptism took the place of circumcision, then females wouldn't be supposed to be baptized, right?  But we read about them being baptized, “both men and women” (Acts 8:12), but baptism is where the old man of sin, the old man of the flesh is put away.  And that is real circumcision (Romans 2:28-29).  So it is at the point of baptism that that old man is put to death.  "Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him wherein ye were also raised with him, through faith and the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  (parallels Romans 6:3-7). 


Verse thirteen, And you, being dead through your trespasses (dead in sin) and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him  (parallels Ephesians 2:1) having forgiven us of our trespasses; having blotting out the bond written ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."  So verse fourteen is saying, that when Christ died on the cross, he took the law out of the way.  And, again, some of our brethren in coming with false arguments to meet Premillennialism, have reasoned that the law was not completely taken out of the way until 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed.  Well, the destruction of Jerusalem pretty well took away that system of worship by the Jews, but the law was fulfilled when Christ died on the cross, or else this inspired writer is a liar.  So when Christ died on the cross, the law was completely fulfilled.  The unbelieving Jews had continued with that system of worship, and the destruction of the temple did away with that system, but the law was completely fulfilled when Christ died on the cross.  Jesus said, “I came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill.”  One way, in which Christ fulfilled the law, is that he kept every provision of the law perfectly, and then when he died on the cross, he took that law out of the way, nailing it to his cross.  "Having despoiled the principalities, and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” 


Verse sixteen, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day.” All of those things pertained to the Old Testament religion. They had the clean, and unclean meats, and they had those three annual feast days, plus they were to offer sacrifices at each new moon; and they were to keep the Sabbath, or Saturday as a holy day.  So one of the false doctrines that they were being confronted with was those Judaizing teachers trying to get them to keep requirements of the Old Testament, and Paul is saying, do not let them judge you and require you to do any of those things.  Verse seventeen, “which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ."  The Adventists people try to reason that Christ just fulfilled some of the ceremonial things in regard to the law that the Ten Commandments had been enforced from the beginning of time, and the Sabbath day is still binding.  There is no reference that any one kept the Sabbath until God gave the ten commands unto the Israelites after they came out of Egypt (Exodus 19,20), and the Sabbath was given them as a day of rest in remembrance of their bondage in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Well, here he says that all of those things were a shadow of things to come, but the body is Christ. 


Another false doctrine that they were being confronted with was,  "Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshiping of the angels."  The reasoning was that man is so corrupt and so sinful that he cannot approach God or Christ directly, but he needs to do it through the medium of angels.  Well, Paul says if you let them ward off that false religion on you, it will rob you of your prize, and the prize would be eternal life at the end of the way. And so if they followed that philosophy, they would be robbed of their salvation in Christ, and eternal life at the end of the way.  "Let no man rob you of your prize."  Think how the Catholics want to worship through the medium of Mary. This passage tells us that it is wrong, that is “voluntary humility,” and not according to God's will.  "by a voluntary humility and worshiping of the angels, dwelling in the things, which he hath seen, vainly puffed  up by his fleshly mind."  A fleshly mind does not think correctly.  "And not holding fast to the Head, (Christ) from whom all the body being supplied and knit together, through the joints and bands increases, with the increase of God.  If you died with Christ."  The emphasis is just as surely as you died with Christ.  “From the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances."  This is another false doctrine.  There were those who were saying, do not handle this, do not taste this, do not touch this, that the Bible does not say that we are not to touch or taste.  Think of the Catholic doctrine again and Paul foretelling that in I Timothy 4, “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received of them which believe and know the truth.”  So any time people try to ward off on you something that the word of God does not restrict you in, if you let them do it, you are doing the wrong thing.  In other words their man made ordinances, do not handle this, do not taste this, and do not touch that.  "All things, which are to perish with the using; after the precepts and doctrines of man."  Those are just precepts and doctrines of men, which have just “a show of wisdom.” 


Verse twenty-three, "Which things have a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility and severity to the body, but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh."  One of the theories of that day on the part of some was that all material things are fleshly things and wrong, and, therefore, we have to punish the body, because it is so corrupt.  But I do not think that lasted very long until it turned to the other extreme, that we cannot control the body, so we might as well do as we please, eat, drink, and be merry and live as Paul reasoned in I Corinthians 15:32-33.  In other words they reasoned that all matter is sinful,  and therefore the body itself is so sinful that we have to punish the body, and, deny ourselves of this, and deny that, and the other, which God has not restricted.  And here Paul says that they have a show of wisdom, and will worship, and humility, and it looks like it would make a fellow better, but it does not make him any better!  "And severity to the body, but are not any value against the indulgence of the flesh."  So unless God says do not do it, you are not to listen to man who says do not do it. If it is right in the sight of God, then it is right. 

Chapter Three

"If then you be raised together with Christ, (meaning just as surely as you have) seek the things that are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God."   Think of the many passages, which emphasize the fact that Christ is seated on the right hand of God.  David never actually had a throne, the throne was God's, (I Chronicles 29:23) and Christ is now sitting on David's thrown at the right hand of God.  "Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth; for ye died."  When you obeyed the gospel, you died to self.  Remember Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  So they died to self when they obeyed the gospel.  "And you died and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory". 


Verses five to fifteen is a parallel to the putting off and putting on passage of Ephesians 4:22-32. Really, it is the same passage, just put in different words.  "Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (parallel to Ephesians 5:3) for which things' sake cometh the wrath of God on the sons of disobedience."  Those who are going the way of fornication, and uncleanness, and passion, and evil desire, and covetousness are going away from God.  They are following Satan, and the wrath of God will come upon them unless they turn.  "For which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience:  Wherein ye once walked (before you became Christians) when you lived in these things, but now do ye also put them all away, anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth.”  Those things are just as bad as some of those mentioned in verse five.  "Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him.  Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, or circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman:  But Christ is all and in all." God does not save a Greek one way, and a Jew another way, and a circumcised person one way, and an uncircumcised person another way, but God saves all men alike.  They are all subject to the law of God in the same way, whether bondman or freeman, all are subject to the will of Christ, as given in the New Testament. 


Verse twelve, "Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion."  When you feel for the heartaches and the needs of others, you have a heart of compassion. When Jesus looked on the people and saw them as sheep not having a shepherd, he was moved with compassion, and asked them to pray that the Lord of harvest would send laborers into the harvest fields (Matthew 9:36-39).  So we are to have a heart of compassion.  "Kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another in love, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any."  From time to time we all have some complaints, but here is what we are supposed to do about it,  "even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.  (of completeness in Christ)  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were also called in one body; and be ye thankful. A spirit of thanksgiving helps us to have real peace and contentment.


Verse sixteen, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,  in wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace  (instead of melody as given in Ephesians 5:19) in your hearts unto God. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  We have a good song based on verse seventeen entitled, Do All In The Name Of The Lord, meaning that everything that we do is to be done in keeping with the authority of Christ.  


Colossians 3:18-4:8 is almost identical to the parallels in Ephesians. Note that 4:7-9 shows that Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, was with Tychicus the carrier of the three letters, and Paul says of Onesimus “who is one of you”, and this shows the close relationship between Colossians and Philemon and also in verse seventeen he tells them, “and say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.”


From verses twelve and thirteen we learn that Epaphras their faithful teacher (1:7-8) was with Paul, and that he “hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.” These three churches must have been the field of Epaphras’s labor. They were about thirteen to eighteen miles apart. On the basis of verse sixteen some reason that there was a Laodicean epistle that has been lost, but it reads, “that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea.” The epistles were to circulate from one church to another (I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 1:1; I Peter 1:2; and also Colossians was to be read in the assembly of the church, and then it was to go to Laodicea and be read in the church there. The epistle “from Laodicea” was probably the Ephesian letter that it would circulate among the churches of Asia, and the Colossian brethren would receive it from Laodicea.


Verse eighteen, “The salvation of me Paul with my own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.” Galatians 6:11 reads, “See how large letters I write unto you with mine own hand.” II Thessalonians 3:17, “The salutation of me Paul, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” And Romans 16:22 reads, “I Tertius who write the epistle saluteth you, and Quartus the brother.” These references and also Colossians 4:18 show that it was Paul’s pattern to have some one else to do the writing of the epistles, but he wrote enough with his own hand to show that it was from him, and thus guard against forged epistles in his name (II Thessalonians 2:2).

We have about covered everything in chapter four.  I would like to go back to verse three, "With all praying for us also that God may open unto us a door for the word to speak the mystery of Christ for which I am also in bonds, that I may make it manifest as I ought to speak."  From Philippians we learn that Paul must have been standing in that open door, but he had not realized it!