Colossians 1

New International Version

1:1 Paul, an apostle [Gr. “apostolos” means “one who is sent”] of Christ Jesus by the will of God [not because he personally aspired to be an apostle], and Timothy [grew up in Lystra in province of Galatia; read Acts 14:8-21 and 16:1-3 re: Paul’s visits to Lystra] our brother [1 Tim. 1:2 suggests Paul led Timothy to Christ],

1:2 To the holy [or “saints”] and faithful brothers in Christ [these believers were part of a spiritual kingdom] at Colosse [the physical place where they lived out their faith; located 100 miles east of Ephesus on the Lycus River]: Grace [God’s unmerited favor] and peace [the result of grace; Christ made peace between sinful man and holy God] to you from [points to the only source of grace and peace] God our Father.

1:3 We [Paul and Timothy] always [their prayers and thanksgiving were continual rather than sporadic] thank God, the Father of our [note what this triple name expresses…] [1] Lord [divinity] [2] Jesus [humanity] [3] Christ [messianic office], when we pray for you,

1:4 because [1] we have heard [heard from Epaphras (1:7); Paul had not been to Colosse] of your faith [vertical orientation] in Christ Jesus and [2] of the love you have for all [saints in Colosse and surrounding area] the saints [horizontal orientation; refers to Christians]

1:5 the faith and love that spring from [points to source…] the hope [confident expectation] that is stored up [can mean “laid aside for future use”] for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel

1:6 that has come to you. All over the world [the gospel must be shared with all people in all places] this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you [in the city of Colosse] since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

1:7 You learned it from Epaphras [probably founder and pastor of the church in Colosse], our dear fellow servant [cf. Philemon 23], who is a faithful minister [Gr. diakonos] of Christ on our behalf,

1:8 and who also told us [indicates that Epaphras visited Paul during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome] of [Epaphras had good things to say about the Colossian believers] your love in the Spirit.

1:9 For this reason [because of Epaphras’ good report about them (v. 8)], since the day we heard [from Epaphras] about you, we have not stopped praying [Paul faithfully and vigilantly prayed for all the churches] for you and [Paul told them the content of his prayers for them…] asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will [this knowledge is available to all believers; prerequisite to living “a life worthy of the Lord” (1:10)] through all spiritual [supplied by the Holy Spirit] wisdom [discretion] and understanding [discernment].

1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord [term refers to personal conduct that pleases God] and may please him in every way: bearing [indicates a continuous activity] fruit [the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); evangelistic growth] in every good work, growing [spiritual growth] in the knowledge of God,

1:11 being strengthened with all power [power that causes things to happen] according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance [the ability to hold up a heavy load without falling down] and patience [long-suffering], and joyfully [refers to the spirit with which believers are to exhibit steadfastness in difficult circumstances and patience with difficult people]

1:12 giving thanks [a proper response from the beneficiaries of His grace; a constant and continuous giving of thanks; “Infinite goodness deserves measureless thanks.”] to the Father, who has qualified [to make fit or sufficient] you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light [heaven: the location of the believer’s inheritance].

1:13 For he has rescued [literally to snatch or drag someone out of danger or some terrible situation; the power that rescues must be greater than the power that enslaves] us from the dominion of darkness [ruled by Satan (cf. 1 Jn. 5:19); darkness implies a condition of being without God, against God, or out of touch with God] and brought us [to transfer; to remove from one place to another] into the kingdom of the Son he loves [those who live under the Son’s authority are no longer obligated to obey their former master],

1:14 in whom [a reminder that redemption and forgiveness are found in Christ alone] we have redemption [to set free upon the payment of a price; the price of our redemption is the blood of Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 1:7)], the forgiveness [means “to send away” or “to release”; the cancellation of an obligation or debt] of sins.

1:15 [note two truths about Jesus…] [1] He is the image [Gr. “eikon”; the word means more than likeness; nothing of God is lacking in Jesus Christ; Jesus is not less-than or other-than God; Jesus is the visible expression of the invisible God; context deals with inner essence rather than physical copy; cf. Jn. 14:9] of the invisible [cf. 1 Tim. 6:16] God, [2] the firstborn [Gr. “prototokos”; cf. Ps. 89:37; refers to Jesus’ preexistence and His supremacy over creation] over all creation [Jesus is the Creator].

1:16 For by him [Jesus was God’s agent in the creative process; cf. Jn. 1:3; Heb. 1:2] all [without exception] things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether [note reference to the intermediate spiritual beings the false (Gnostic) teachers believed stood between God and human beings…] thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for [basic idea of this preposition is motion toward an object] him [the goal of creation is to glorify Christ].

1:17 He is before [in both time and rank] all things [everything He brought into being], and in him all things hold together [Gr. “sunestaken” means “to have coherence”; Jesus is the Sustainer who gives coherence and maintains order].

1:18 And he is [note three terms that define the relationship of Christ to the church] [1] the head of the body [as the head He gives life to the church and directs it to accomplish His will], the church [in this context refers to the universal church]; he is [2] the beginning [Christ originated the church and opened the way for others to become a part of the fellowship of the redeemed] and [3] the firstborn from among the dead [Jesus was the first person who arose from the dead without dying again], so that in everything he might have the supremacy [He alone is worthy of the unrivaled love and loyalty of believers].

1:19 For God was pleased to have all [the sum total of His power, attributes, and nature; some of the false (Gnostic) teachers said Christ had some of God in Him or had some divine attributes for a while] his fullness [to be filled without any gap, completely] dwell [refers to having permanent residence] in him,

1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace [implies the existence of enmity; sin separates people from God and puts them at enmity with Him] through his blood [this strikes at the false teaching that denied the humanity of Christ], shed on the cross [affirms that reconciliation was made possible through a historical event].

1:21 Once [a reminder of their lives apart from Christ] you were alienated [estranged or in opposition to] from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior [their behavior contributed to and confirmed that they were alienated from God].

1:22 But [points to the difference Christ’s work had made in the Colossians’ lives] now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body [this countered the false (Gnostic) teachers who said that Jesus did not have a real human body] through death to [note the purpose of reconciliation…] present you [1] holy [to set apart for God’s service] in his sight, [2] without blemish [faultless; does not refer to one who is sinless but rather to one whose character is consistently Christlike] and [3] free from accusation [blameless; refers to one whose conduct provides no basis for a charge of wrongdoing]

1:23 [an encouragement to persevere in their faith…] if you continue in your faith [either the content of doctrinal truth or our own personal belief in those truths], established [like a building set on a firm foundation] and firm [fixed in place], not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven [use of hyperbole to make a point], and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

1:24 Now [while in prison in Rome] I rejoice in what was suffered [Jesus warned His followers to expect suffering (cf. Jn. 15:20-21)] for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions [does not mean that what Jesus did was inadequate to save people], for the sake of his body, which is the church.

1:25 I have become its servant [or “minister”] by the commission [Gr. “oikonomia” (from which we get our word “economy”) means “management” or “stewardship”; cf. Gal. 1:1] God [Paul was aware of who had commissioned him] gave me [cf. Acts 9:4-6] to [Paul knew what God had commissioned him to do…] present to you [Gentile congregations; cf. Acts 9:15] the word of God in its fullness—

1:26 the mystery [cf. Eph. 3:1-6] that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but [as a result of Christ’s coming] is now disclosed to the saints.

1:27 To them [NT believers] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you [Christ indwells believers], the hope of glory [spending eternity with God the Father].

1:28 We [included Epaphras and Tychicus; excluded the false teachers] proclaim [continually so] him, admonishing [or “warning”; content of “admonition” is that those apart from Christ are doomed to eternal separation from God] and teaching [content of “teaching” is that salvation is available through faith in Christ] everyone [not just a select few] with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [or “mature”] in Christ.

1:29 To this end I labor [effort that led to exhaustion], struggling [Paul struggled against false teachers and their erroneous teachings as well as persecution and questions about his qualifications] with all his energy [“Divine work can only be accomplished in dependence upon divine power.” (Watchman Nee)], which so powerfully [active power that causes things to happen] works [an ongoing process] in me.

New American Standard Bible

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
1:2 to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Colossians begins with the identification of the writer and recipients of the letter. The writer identifies himself as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” The phrase “apostle of Jesus Christ” identifies Paul as a divinely commissioned representative with the authority to speak and act in behalf of Jesus Christ. The phrase “by the will of God” emphasizes that Paul’s appointment and authority are from God. Since Paul’s readers had not personally met him (2:1), he was concerned that they understand who he was and by whose authority he spoke. Paul includes Timothy, his beloved “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), in the greeting and refers to him as “our brother.” The term “brother” was probably very meaningful to Paul since the day he first heard it used in reference to himself by Ananias (Acts 9:17). Although Timothy is included in the greeting he is not a co-author of the letter.

Paul’s letter is addressed “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” The word “saints” does not refer to a category of super-Christians. It refers to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and are set apart for God’s special use. The term “brethren” is an affectionate designation that Paul used more than one hundred times in his letters. It refers to those who are a part of the Christian community. The term “faithful” amplifies the kind of brethren they are. These saints and faithful brethren “in Christ” resided “at Colossae,” a city located about 100 miles from Ephesus. “Grace” is God’s unmerited favor and “peace” is the result of a proper response to God’s grace.

1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
1:4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

Paul expresses sincere gratitude to God for the Colossians. Gratitude follows his greetings in all of his letters except Galatians and 2 Corinthians. Paul’s gratitude for the Colossians was expressed in his prayers for them. The occasion for his gratitude was the news he had received from Epaphras (1:8) concerning their “faith in Christ Jesus” and their “love … for all the saints.” The Colossian saints were relating properly to both God and man. They demonstrated a faith that was solidly grounded in Christ Jesus. They demonstrated the reality of their faith in an all-embracing love, which expressed itself toward “all the saints,” not just a particular group or clique of saints. True Christian love cannot be limited to those within our fellowship, it must be willing to embrace those outside of our fellowship regardless of their rank, race, riches, or denominational affiliation.

1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,

The exercise of their faith and love was grounded in “the hope laid up for you in heaven.” The “hope” of believers is “laid up” or reserved for them “in heaven.” The Colossians first learned of this magnificent hope when Epaphras preached the gospel to them. This hope inspired them to be loyal to Christ and to love others on a daily basis. The guaranteed hope of a future in heaven motivated the Colossian believers to live meaningful and responsible lives in the present.

1:6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
1:7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,

The preaching of the gospel had a dynamic impact in Colossae for three reasons. First, because the Colossians “heard” (1:5) the gospel. The first step toward leading people to faith in Christ is to preach or share the gospel with them. Paul wrote, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Second, because they “understood” (1:6) the gospel. Those who share the gospel must help people understand the message. Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading a portion of Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” Philip helped the Ethiopian eunuch understand the gospel message and led him to faith in Christ. Third, because they “learned” (1:7) the gospel. Those who respond to the gospel must be instructed in the importance of obeying the demands of the gospel. Obedience to the gospel is necessary in order for it to bear fruit. Epaphras, a member of the Colossian community (4:12-13), was the faithful minister responsible for preaching the gospel in Colossae, helping the people understand the message, and instructing them in living their lives in obedience to the gospel.

1:8 and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

Epaphras also reported to Paul concerning the love, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), which the Colossian believers demonstrated toward others.

1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
1:10 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
1:11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Paul expressed his concern for the Colossians in his prayer for them. He prayed that they would “be filled with the knowledge of His will.” The word “filled” suggests development or growth. Paul prayed that the Colossian saints would grow in their understanding of God’s will and apply that knowledge in practical everyday life. The purpose of increasing in the knowledge of God’s will was not to become puffed up with such knowledge, but to live a life “worthy of the Lord” and pleasing to the Lord. Growing in knowledge of God’s will is not to be an end in itself. Such growth should result in at least four things. First, “bearing fruit.” This is a reference to growing in the Christian life. Second, “increasing in the knowledge of God.” Those who walk with God and serve Him get to know Him better and better. Third, “being strengthened.” Only those who are strengthened with God’s power can live lives pleasing to Him. Fourth, “joyously giving thanks.” A thankful attitude is a mark of spiritual maturity.

1:13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

These verses mark the transition between Paul’s prayers for the Colossian’s welfare to one of the greatest passages in the New Testament on the supremacy of Christ. These verses serve to remind the Colossian saints of their redemption, forgiveness, and transference to the kingdom of God’s Son. The word “delivered” means to rescue or snatch from danger or from some terrible situation. Paul reminded the Colossians that God had rescued them from the tyrannical power of darkness that held them as slaves prior to their salvation. The word “transferred” refers to the other side of deliverance. God not only rescues the believer, He changes his habitation as well. The believer is made the citizen of “the kingdom of His beloved Son,” not the kingdom of angelic powers of lesser gods as the false teachers would have it. In Christ is found both “redemption” and “forgiveness.” The word “redemption” refers to liberation effected by the payment of a ransom. The word “forgiveness” refers to the cancellation of an obligation or debt.

1:15 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.

In one of the greatest passages concerning Christ in the New Testament, Paul takes deadly aim at the philosophy that sought to dilute the person and work of Christ. The Gnostics taught that Christ was just one in a series of emanations from God, a sort of lesser God. Paul declared that Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” The word “image” means an exact or perfect likeness (see also Hebrews 1:3). As the image of the invisible God there was nothing of God lacking in Jesus. He was not less-than or other-than God. He is God. Jesus made visible in His humanity the invisible God. Any man who desires to know what God is really like will find the answer in Jesus. Paul also stated that Christ is the “first-born of all creation.” The term “first-born” refers to the preexistence of Christ and His supremacy over creation. The term does not mean that Christ was a created being.

1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.

Christ was not a created being but the agent/instrument of creation. Paul declares that “all things” fall within the scope of His creative activity. All of the cosmos and powers, which the Gnostics believed stood between men and God, were in fact created by Christ and subject to His control. Everything that exists owes its being to Christ and has been created to fulfill His aims, serve His purposes, and promote His glory.

1:17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Christ is “before all things.” Some scholars believe the word “before” refers to priority in time while others believe it refers to priority in rank. Both are correct. Christ the Creator is both before and above all creation. In addition, Christ is not only the agent of creation; He is also the agent of the preservation of creation. He sustains everything He has created and keeps it from falling apart into utter chaos.

1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

The word “also” stresses that Christ is not only the Lord of the universe, but that He also is Lord of the church. Paul uses three words to define the relationship of Christ to the church. First, Christ, and no other, is the “head” of the church. He gives life to the church and directs the church to accomplish His will. Second, Christ is the “beginning.” He is the one who originated the church and has opened the way for others to become a part of this fellowship of the redeemed. Third, He is the “first-born from the dead.” Jesus was not the first person raised from the dead. He was the first person who rose from the dead without dying again. He is the “head,” “beginning,” and “first-born” that He might have first-place in everything (as opposed to being another rung on the gnostic ladder).

1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,

While the Gnostic philosophizers suggested that there was a little bit of God in Christ, Paul preached that all of God is in Christ. The word “fullness” means completeness and totality. The word “dwell” means to take up permanent residence. Paul preached that all of God took up permanent residence in all of Christ. Some of the Gnostics suggested that Christ was endowed with some divine attributes for a short time. Paul proclaimed that the sum total of all of God’s power, attributes, nature, and love had a permanent residence in Christ for all time.

1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

The purpose of the incarnation was the reconciliation of sinful man to God. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He is the agent of reconciliation. The word “reconcile” means to restore to harmony after a break. The use of the word “peace” implies the existence of a state of enmity. Sin separates men from God and puts them in a state of enmity with God. It is “through Him” that God reconciles man to Himself and “through the blood of His cross” that He takes away the enmity. The phrases “through Him” and “through the blood of His cross” rule out any other person or way of salvation (see also Acts 4:12). The use of the word “blood” strikes at the teaching of the Docetics who denied the actual humanity of Christ. The phrase “of His cross” affirms that the reconciliation was effected through a real historical event.

1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,

Paul reminded the Colossians of why the cross was necessary. They were “formerly alienated” or estranged from God. In addition they were “hostile in mind.” They had an enemy-like attitude of rebellion toward God. Their alienation from God was confirmed by and manifested in their “evil deeds.”

1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach –
1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

They had however, experienced reconciliation through the historical and physical death of Christ on the cross. Paul’s use of “in His fleshly body” strikes at the Gnostic teaching that reconciliation took place through angelic mediators. The ultimate purpose of reconciliation was that they may be presented before God as “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” Those who are reconciled are to live distinctively different lives. They are to live lives that are pleasing to God, morally pure, and characterized by integrity. Paul urged the Colossians to stand firm on the solid gospel foundation laid by Epaphras. He cautioned them against getting out of step with the gospel which was being proclaimed all over the known world by listening to the speculations of the false teachers in their area.

1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

The word “Now” refers to Paul’s present imprisonment and introduces an autobiographical passage in which Paul reveals his purpose in life. Paul was not ashamed of his imprisonment or angry because of his bonds. Like Peter and the apostles, he rejoiced that he was “considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Paul rejoiced because his pain and sufferings had a purpose. The man who once had persecuted believers was now suffering for the sake of the church. Paul’s constant concern for the church (2 Corinthians 11:28) is evident in the things he suffered to make known the gospel of Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:21-33).

1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,

God had made Paul a minister. The word “minister” means servant. As a minister Paul had a responsibility to serve others. Paul was made a minister “according to the stewardship from God.” The word “steward” refers to Paul’s God-assigned task. Paul had been entrusted with an important job to do. Paul’s responsibility as a steward was to preach the word of God wherever there was opportunity.

1:26 that is, the mystery [Gr. musterion: a secret revealed to the initiates; read Eph. 3:1-6; the mystery “was that one day Jews and Gentiles would be joined together in one body because of their common belief in Jesus as Savior” (Life Application Commentary)] which has been hidden from the past ages [indicates successive periods of time] and generations; but has now [at the proper time] been manifested [to make clear] to His saints,

1:27 to whom [believers; saints of 1:26] God willed to make known what is the riches [eternity with God the Father] of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1:28 And we [Paul, Epaphras, Tychicus; excluded false teachers] proclaim [an official proclamation; continual and habitual action] Him, admonishing [to correct through instruction and warning] every [not just a select few] man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that [introduces the goal of admonishing and teaching] we may present every [the goal of maturity is for all believers] man complete in Christ.

1:29 And for this purpose also I labor [to work to exhaustion], striving [to exert effort; “The athletic picture behind this word emphasizes Paul’s missionary work, with all its attendant toil, its tireless exertion, and its struggles against all manner of setbacks and opposition.” (V.C. Pfitzner)] according to His power [“Divine work can only be accomplished in dependence upon divine power.” (Nee)], which mightily works within me.

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