Colossae was located 120 miles east of Ephesus in the Lycus River Valley in ancient Phrygia, part of the Roman territory of Asia Minor. It was one of a triad of cities in the area (the other two being Laodicea and Hierapolis), resting at the foot of Mount Cadmus. Its biblical significance lies in the fact that the book of Colossians was addressed to the church here (Col 1:2) and that Philemon lived in this city.
What is the price of Christianity? What is expected of those who chose to follow Christ? What are the responsibilities of the Church? The towns of the Lycus Vally numbered three and at one time all were of equal importance, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse. At the time of this writing of Paul they were part of the Roman province of Asia. I add this to aid in painting a picture of time, place and circumstance. As people of the faith we must acknowledge that things change and we will face things in our day that continue to challenge the church, it’s teachings and the authority of God’s word. We know a great deal of history about this area and in Revelation 3:17, John wrote that Laodicea was rich and in need of nothing. It is important to note that these lands between the River Lycus, for all the natural problems of nature, were capable of supporting three very thriving industries. The area was recognized as the greatest center of the woolen industry in the world. Laodicea was famous for its production of garments of the finest quality, as well as dyeing of cloth, the town of Colossae was famous for this type of industry. Hierapolis became a trade center and was famous for its spa. You could say that Laodicea was like a county seat of the area, the political center of the area. Colosse in its day was as great as the others, it controlled the roads to the mountain passes. As great as these cities were in time they passed away and even though there are still discernible ruins of the once great buildings of two of these great cities not even a stone remains to mark the possible location of Colossae. It holds a dubious place in biblical history as being the most unimportant town Paul ever wrote a letter to. Our reason of interest in this chapter in Colossians and this town of Colosse is the dispute that rose there about this developing heresy, which left unchecked could be the ruination of the Christian faith.
This is a church that Paul had not himself founded and he had never visited it. While history shows that this is true, there is no doubt that the founding of the church was his doing and on his instructions. While Paul was in Ephesus for three years the whole province of Asia was evangelized, both Greek and Jew had heard the word. Our focus today, Colosse was only 100 miles from Ephesus and thus during that campaign of expansion the Colossian church was founded. I have decided to cover as much of this book as possible and in no particular order, there being only four chapters. To start with I share with you from the Concise Commentary written by Matthew Henry, the book overview.
This epistle was sent because of some difficulties which arose among the Colossians, probably from false teachers, in consequence of which they sent to the apostle. The scope of the epistle is to show, that all hope of man’s redemption is founded on Christ, in whom alone are all complete fulness, perfections, and sufficiency. The Colossians are cautioned against the devices of judaizing teachers, and also against the notions of carnal wisdom, and human inventions and traditions, as not consistent with full reliance on Christ. In the first two chapters the apostle tells them what they must believe, and in the two last what they must do; the doctrine of faith, and the precepts of life for salvation.
Our study today focuses on the situation that is developing at the church in Colossae. There seems to be an influx of false teachers and teaching which has prompted the church to reach out to the apostle. The result being this epistle we study here in Colossians. The serious nature of the situation at this church is evident in the letter Paul has written to them. In the first four verses of chapter 3, Paul exhorts the Colossians to be heavenly minded. As Christians they are free from the ceremonial law, they have the freedom to be closer to God in their obedience to the word. Earthly things are contrary to heavenly will, an undue affection for earthly things will weaken our will to live a holy life. You who are born again are dead to sin, its power over you is broken. It is through the power and grace of God that it has been subdued in your life. Those of you who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you know the shame of the lusts of the flesh and are able to despise these earthly things. The living water Christ promised us flows into our souls and strengthens us, gives us hope. Should we not look forward to that happy day of redemption and the coming of our Lord? This shall be ours when we set aside the affections of this world and live for Christ.
In verses 5-11 the instructions are blunt and strong. Paul says those members who are inclined to the things of this world should be shamed. They are to be suppressed because they are like weeds in a garden and if not destroyed they will destroy everything around them. We must be continuous in our opposition to all corrupt things and carnal indulgences. Paul addresses the need to avoid all instances of sin, lusts of the flesh, coveting the things of this world to the point they become a form of idolatry. Paul makes it clear that if we do not kill these things in us, they will kill us. Consider that the gospel brings to us the rule of right reason and conscience and stills our appetite and passion for things of this world. To be strong in the faith requires that Christ be our only Lord and Savior, he is our all and our hope and happiness. We read in verses 12-14, chapter 1 of Paul speaking of his gratitude for the blessings which Christians receive in Christ. Two points to be made here. One being that God has given to the Colossians a share of the inheritance granted to God’s people, those that love Him and do his will. There is a comparison to be made with the words Paul spoke to Agrippa in Acts.
The work given to me is to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sin and a place among those who are sanctified by their faith in God. (Acts 26:18)
The Jews had always been God’s chosen people but now the door has been open to all people of all races. Those of us as Christians, have been brought into the Kingdom of Christ. In Greek the verb is methiste ̄mi. This was a much more than just a transference it was a rescue. It meant moving from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from condemnation to forgiveness and set free from the power of Satan to the power of God.
Verses 15-23 in chapter 1 are a testimonial to the adequacy of Jesus Christ. They are simply the reason for being, the Alpha and the Omega, the completeness of all things.
-He is the head of the Church
-He is the beginning… the first born from the dead
-He is supreme in all things
-We are reconciled to Him because of the blood shed on the cross.
Paul tells them they must remain grounded and strong in the faith, not forgetting the hope of the gospel which you have heard and is being proclaimed to every creature under the heaven. It is a sure fact that Christians are a rather lazy lot in defense of the faith. It might be a bit more kinder to simply say that most of our minds only think as much as they have to. Whatever was happening there had a big enough footprint to get their attention and it could well be as in other situations that this opposition to the faith, the false teachings and such were doing damage to the spiritual health of the Church. All of us have a habit of not appreciating what we have till we see it slipping away. So it is with the Colossians at this Church. They are being confronted with some dangerous heresy, which has led them to realize the riches of orthodoxy. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is that with and through the Holy Spirit it can produce new riches to meet a new situation. One of the players in these cases of false teachings were the Gnostics. We have a similar problem in the church today, granted there are some differences between now and then but they are intended to weaken the word. These Gnostics which means the intellectual ones, were not happy with the simplicity of Christianity. They would much more prefer it to be a philosophy. It is important to understand that in that day other philosophies were very popular at that time. See the picture?…Are we not as the Church constantly seeking other ways that weaken the authority of God’s will and doing so by accepting certain heresies? Returning to chapter 3, the balance of which Paul gives instructions or rules if you wish for Christian households. To close out this weeks time in the pew I go to chapter 4, verses 5-6.
Behave yourselves wisely to those who are outside the Church.
Buy up every possible opportunity.
Let your speech always be with gracious charm, seasoned with the salt of wit, so that you will know the right answer to give in every case.
Chapter 4 is a set of final instructions in which verses 5-6 caught my attention. We are, most of us aware of how to behave in church and our home. Paul sets about to instruct the people of the church at Colosse three brief instructions for the lives of Christians in the world.
- Christians should behave themselves with wisdom and tact when interacting with those outside the church. We must learn when to or not to speak to others about their behavior or beliefs, never assuming an attitude of superiority or severely criticizing them. People will not be bullied or argued into Christianity. A much more effective approach is so very simple. We must let our lives be an example, we must show Christ to others in our daily lives and treatment of all people, to the point they too would desire to be such an example.
- This next one is short and to the point, an action verb if you will…seize…every opportunity to work for Christ and serve others daily. Every day life presents the opportunity to witness for Christ but the truth is many do not seize the time and the natural occurrences that everyday life offers. God’s people should always be on the lookout for these opportunities to serve and witness.
- The last point is one that is assigned as a common trait of Christianity. There is a lack of charm and wit if you will in the way Christians come across to other people. There is a dullness and lack of laughter, a kind of sanctimonious outlook on life and other people. We spend a lot of time talking about what you should not be doing and not enough about the blessings and joy of a Christian life. There are many little sparklers in living a life of service to Christ and to the people of God. There is laughter, joy and assurance of better things to come.
Thank you for being in the Pew this week and hope you will come back.
Life is Good