Some time between 54-56 AD a fledgling Christian church was founded in the ancient city of Colosse (aka Colossae). Colossae was located one hundred miles southeast of the city of Ephesus in Phrygia, which at the time was part of the Roman province of Asia (modern-day Turkey). It is thought that the church was founded by Epaphras (Colossians 1:5-7), a convert to Christianity likely saved on a visit to Ephesus during Paul’s three-year Ephesian ministry (54-56 AD).1
Colossae’s population was mainly Gentile. However, there was also a significant number of Jews in the area dating back to “the 3rd century BC when Antiochus III (the Hellenistic King ruling over the Seleucid Empire) resettled 2,000 Jewish families from Babylonia into Lydia and Phrygia.”2 The mixed population within the young Colossian church faced a number of significant theological threats from false teachers. Elements of what later became known as Gnosticism were prevalent.3 Gnostics denied that Jesus was God in the flesh and said that He was lesser than God. In addition, those of a Jewish background insisted upon continuing Jewish legalism such as the necessity of circumcision for salvation and the observance of the Old Testament ceremonial rituals.
Epaphras was so deeply concerned with these and other issues facing the church that he made an arduous journey of more than 2,100 miles to visit directly with Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome (60-62 AD, Colossians 4:12-13). There Epaphras sought Paul’s counsel and guidance. With the divine inspiration of God, Paul wrote his letter of teaching to the Colossae church (Acts 28:16-31) that we now find in The Holy Bible as the book of Colossians.
In his letter, Paul provided direct teaching and encouragement on a number of theological issues that are still pertinent to the church today including:
- the deity of Christ (Colossians 1:15–20; 2:2–10),
- reconciliation (1:20–23),
- redemption (1:13, 14; 2:13, 14; 3:9–11),
- Jewish legalism (2:11-23),
- election (3:12),
- forgiveness (3:13),
- and the nature of the church (1:18, 24, 25; 2:19; 3:11, 15).
I plan to deal with each of these theological issues more fully in a future series of articles on Colossians. For now, let’s focus on some introductory thoughts that lead us to an attitude of Thanksgiving and Praise.
Colossians 2:1-8 (ESV) – 1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible <seeming reasonable, or probable> arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits <or principles> of the world, and not according to Christ.
Paul was deeply troubled by what he learned from Epaphras. He anguished (vs. 1) for those followers of Christ who were being deceived by false teachings. What Paul had taught Epaphras, and what Epaphras had in turn taught the Colossae church, was under attack by both Gentile and Jewish church members. Paul knew through personal experience that those insisting that Jesus was not God were absolutely wrong. Even the discussion of such a heresy, whether believed or not by the hearer, diminished the joy of the young Christians and undermined the mission and witness of the church. This heresy was not of God, but of the world and thus a tool of Satan, meant to deceive and confuse those seeking and spreading the truth.
Paul so wanted the Colosse church to be united and encouraged in the truth that Jesus was their long sought after Messiah … the Messiah that sacrificed His life on the cross of Calvary, paying the price for our sins with His own blood, and providing the only path to eternal life with the Father. His letter encouraged the church in unity to ” … knit together in love, to reach all the riches of <the> full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (vs. 2).” There was absolutely no need for them to believe in any teaching that did not come directly from God. After all, Jesus was God in the flesh “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (vs. 3).” They should not be confused by those false teachers who “may delude you with plausible <seeming reasonable, or probable> arguments (vs. 4).” Instead, along with Paul they should rejoice in the “good order and the firmness of <their> faith in Christ (vs. 5).”
False teaching cloaked in eloquent speech, fine sounding sermons and seemingly logical arguments is still false teaching. And false teaching can lead to confusion for the individual and the church. Paul’s advice: “… walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him … just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (vs. 7),” never falling for “empty deceit, according to human tradition … and not according to Christ (vs. 8).”
May you Abound in Thanksgiving as you remain “rooted and built up in Him!”
Father, thank you for the truth of Your Word. I am amazed at the depth of Your love, Your grace and Your forgiveness. Help me to easily recognize and reject Satan’s false teachings. Mold me to be more like Christ. I abound in thanksgiving for from You, and through You, and to You are ALL things. To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen and amen.
1 For more information see John MacArthur’s writings at this link: http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-introductions/MSB51/colossians
2 Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Amsterdam University Press. 2000. p. 61. ISBN 978-90-5356-503-2.
Jewish settlements in the interior of Asia Minor were known as early as the 3rd century BC when Antiochus III resettled 2000 Jewish families from Babylonia into Lydia and Phrygia
3 Gnosticism – a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit. — (This is still a dangerous apostacy even today – JLD)
Click Here to Link to ALL Articles in the Thanksgiving Praise Series