Colossians 1

Sunday Evening Bible Study

October 8, 2000


The city of Colosse was located in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) along the Lycus River, about 10 to 20 miles from the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.  These three cities were known as the region of Phrygia.  Colosse was not considered a large city in Paul’s day, not nearly of the importance of Laodicea and Hierapolis.  It is pretty certain that Paul had never visited the city of Colosse before (2:1).  The church may have been started by Phrygians who were present on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10), but more likely was started during the three years that Paul was in Ephesus, when the Ephesian church had been used to preach the gospel through the whole area of Asia Minor (Acts 19:10).

Paul writes to the Colossians while in prison in Rome, around the same time as the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon.

The book of Philemon was written to a man who was in the church at Colosse, Philemon, who was the owner of a slaved named Onesimus.  Onesimus had run away from Philemon and had bumped into Paul in Rome where he ended up getting saved.

Colossians 1

:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

willthelema – what one wishes or has determined shall be done; of what God wishes to be done by us; will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure

:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

laid upapokeimai – to be laid away, laid by, reserved; reserved for one, awaiting him

For – It was this hope of heaven that caused the people to have “faith in Christ Jesus” and love for the saints (1:4).

They had heard about the hope reserved for them when they heard the gospel.

:6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

The gospel came to them just like it had to the rest of the world.  Wherever the gospel goes, it brings results, fruit.  He’ll talk about the fruit in a second (vs. 8).

:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

Epaphras – It is thought that Epaphras was the one who first went to Colosse and started the church there.  Epaphras has traveled to Rome and is currently with Paul when he writes the letter (Col. 4:12).

dearagapetos – beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love

fellowservantsundoulos – a fellow servant, one who serves the same master with another

for you a faithful minister – the word order in the Greek reads like this, “who is faithful concerning you, a servant of Christ”.

I think Paul isn’t just saying that Epaphras is faithful, but he’s especially faithful in regards to his flock, the people in Colosse.

:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

declareddeloo – to make manifest; to make known by relating, to declare; to give one to understand, to indicate, signify


Love is the proof.

Love is the proof that work of the gospel is real.  I think that Epaphras was sharing this with Paul because it meant that the work in Colosse was genuine.  This was the fruit of the gospel.
Jesus said,
(John 13:34-35 KJV)  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Chuck Colson writes,
Alasdair MacIntyre observes in “Difficulties in Christian Belief” that the “rise of unbelief” in our culture is connected with “a lowering of the quality of Christian life.” He goes on: “Where the Christian community is incapable of producing lives such as those of the saints, the premises from which it argues will appear rootless and arbitrary.” But a Christian community that produces lives of love and beauty is a witness that cannot be denied.
That truth came home to me during a recent PBS interview. The interviewer had an aggressive manner and a hard expression under layers of make-up and mascara. How can you be so sure about your faith? she challenged me. I answered by telling a story of my time behind bars after Watergate, when several Christian men stunned me with a quality of love I had never known before.
I’ll never forget the day one of them—Al Quie-called to say, “Chuck, because of your family problems, I’m going to ask the President if you can go home, while I serve the rest of your prison term.” I gasped in disbelief. At the time, Al was the sixth-ranking Republican in the House, one of the most respected public figures in Washington. Yet he was willing to jeopardize it all out of love for me. It was a powerful witness that Jesus was real: that a believer would lay down his life for another.
As I retold the story for the cameras, the interviewer broke down and waved her hand, saying, “Stop, stop.” Tears mixed with mascara were streaming down her cheeks. She excused herself, repaired her make-up, and—injecting confidence back into her voice—said, “Let’s film that sequence once more.” But hearing the story again, she could not hold back her tears. Later, she confessed that Al’s willingness to sacrifice had touched her deeply, and she vowed to return to the church she had left years earlier.

:9-11  Paul’s prayer

:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

for this cause – because of the genuineness of their faith and love …

ceasepauo – to make to cease or desist; to restrain a thing or person from something; to cease, to leave off

knowledgeepignosis – precise and correct knowledge.  Knowledge by experience.

willthelema – what one wishes or has determined shall be done; of what God wishes to be done by us; will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure

Some people see different classifications of God’s “will”.  They talk about His irresistible will and His permissible will.  His irresistible will is when He commands something to be done, and it is done, no matter what anyone thinks.  This is more like His permissible will, the things which God desires for us, but not necessarily forces us to do.

wisdomsophia – wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters.  Wisdom that is shown in actions.  Not just understanding facts, but involves reasoning.

understandingsunesis – a running together, a flowing together with; knowledge; understanding; the understanding, i.e the mind so far forth as it understands; critical, apprehending the bearing of things

spiritualpneumatikos – relating to the spirit; of God the Holy Spirit; one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God


Paul’s prayers

Here’s another of Paul’s prayers for his people.
This one is a prayer to know God’s will.
Paul wants the Colossians to not just vaguely know God’s will, but to be up close and experience God’s will.
He wants them to know God’s will with wisdom, to know how it will affect their actions.
He wants them to a critical understanding of God’s will, to see how it all flows together through the help of the Holy Spirit.

:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

worthyaxios – suitably, worthily, in a manner worthy of

Reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians –

(Eph 4:1 KJV)  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

pleasingareskeia – desire to please

(NAS) to please Him in all respects

increasingauxano – to cause to grow, augment; to increase, become greater; to grow, increase; of plants

knowledgeepignosis – precise and correct knowledge.  Knowledge by experience.

When we have a proper understanding of God’s will and how it affects our lives, we should be able to:

Live our lives in a way that’s proper and pleasing to God.

Bear some kind of fruit in every good work we do.

Continue to grow in our relationship with God, in knowing Him better

I think the implication is that if I want to know God better, then I need to pay attention and do the kinds of things that God is showing me to do, following His will for my life.

:11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

strengtheneddunamoo – to make strong, confirm, strengthen

mightdunamis – strength power, ability

powerkratos – force, strength; power, might: mighty with great power

patiencehupomone (“under” + “remain”) – steadfastness, constancy, endurance; in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

longsufferingmakrothumia (“long” + “burning”) – patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance; patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.  This is being patient with difficult people.

joyfulnesschara – joy, gladness


Receiving His strength

This is the second request of Paul (the first was to know God’s will), to be strengthened.
The level of strength is God’s kind of strength.
This can only be done through the Holy Spirit in our lives.
(Acts 1:8 KJV)  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


Joyful patience

The purpose of being strengthened is so that they might endure both hard times and difficult people, and all the enduring to be done with joy.
It’s not a complaining kind of “I have to put up with all these wretched people!” attitude, but a joyful patience with people.
I don’t think that being patient with people requires that we ignore the problems that people are causing.  I think that too many people have the idea that if you love somebody that you never bring up anything that might cause friction.

But if we are to point out the problems, we need to be patient and kind about it.


:12-  Paul’s thanksgiving

:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Paul’s prayer continues with thanksgiving to the Father for many, many things.

made us meethikanoo – to make sufficient, render fit; to equip one with adequate power to perform duties of one

to be partakersmeris – a part as distinct from the whole; an assigned part, a portion, share

inheritancekleros – an object used in casting or drawing lots, which was either a pebble, or a potsherd, or a bit of wood; what is obtained by lot, allotted portion

:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

deliveredrhoumai – to draw to one’s self, to rescue, to deliver; the deliverer

powerexousia – authority; power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases; the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege); the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)

translatedmethistemi – to transpose, transfer, remove from one place to another; of change of situation or place

We were under the power of Satan’s kingdom ruling over us, but Jesus came and rescued us and took us back to His kingdom.

:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

redemptionapolutrosis – a releasing effected by payment of ransom; redemption, deliverance

It’s the blood of Jesus that has freed us from the payment required because of our sins.

forgivenessaphesis – release from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty

:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

imageeikon (our word “icon”) – an image, figure, likeness

If you want a clear picture of what an invisible God looks like, look at Jesus.

creaturektisis – the act of founding, establishing, building etc; creation i.e. thing created; anything created

firstbornprototokos – the firstborn

The cults often have a hard time with this word.  They use this phrase to say that Jesus is a part of creation, that He was somehow just the first one created.

“Firstborn” can indeed be used to describe birth order, but in the Bible is carries a whole lot more importance than just when a kid came out of his mother’s womb in respect to his siblings.

The emphasis of the word “firstborn” is about “preeminence”.  It’s about position and authority.  It was the first son born that usually took the reins of the family at the death of the father.  It was the first son born that usually got twice as much of an inheritance as the other siblings.

But the son who was first in birth order was not always the one given these privileges of the “firstborn”.
Isaac had two sons, twins, Esau and Jacob.  Esau was the first kid out of the womb.  But it was Jacob that got the “birthright” and the “blessing”.
Manasseh and Ephraim were the two sons of Joseph, born in Egypt.  Manasseh was the older brother, the first son born.  But it was Ephraim that got the title:

(Jer 31:9 KJV)  …and Ephraim is my firstborn.

And indeed, the tribe of Ephraim was the dominant tribe of the northern kingdom of Israel.

This title of “firstborn of every creature” is not that Jesus was the first thing created, but that He has the preeminence before all of creation.  This is because He IS the Creator.

As you follow with the context of the passage, you’ll see that all this bears out.

:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

Jesus is the Creator.

by him, and for him – Jesus isn’t just the Creator, He’s the one for whom everything was created.

I have a hard time thinking that any human being is going to reach their full potential until they understand this about themselves.  You were designed by a Creator, and you were made FOR Him.  When you get in line with this, you are able to be all that you can be.

:17 And he is before all things,

Jesus is before all things both in the sense of time, existing before all things; as well as in position, He is more important than everything.

:17  and by him all things consist.

consistsunistao – to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together

(NAS) in Him all things hold together.

What holds the atom together?  Why to the protons stick together when like charges are supposed to repel each other?


Jesus, hold me together!

I think I need this in my life!

:18 And he is the head of the body, the church:

The church is often described as a body, and Jesus is the head.  He’s in charge of the church.

:18  who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

beginningarche – beginning, origin; the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader; that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause

firstborn from the dead – Again, this is talking about His position, His preeminence, not that He was the first to rise from the dead.  Elijah and Elisha brought people back to life.  Jesus raised people from the dead before He was raised from the dead.  But He is the most important of all that have ever been raised from the dead. 

He is the first also in that He was the first to be risen from the dead, never to die again.  Lazarus was in the grave longer than Jesus, but after Jesus rose Lazarus, Lazarus would eventually die again.

preeminenceproteuo – to be first, hold the first place

:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

pleasedeudokeo – it seems good to one, is one’s good pleasure; to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favourably inclined towards one

fulnesspleroma – that which is (has been) filled; that which fills or with which a thing is filled; fulness, abundance

dwellkatoikeo – to dwell, settle; to dwell in, inhabit


Jesus is God.

He was FULLY God.  Compare these verses:
(Col 1:15 KJV)  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
(Col 1:16 KJV)  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
(Col 1:19 KJV)  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
(Col 2:9 KJV)  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

reconcileapokatallasso – to reconcile completely; to reconcile back again; from the word katallasso which means to exchange coins of like value, but here to do so completely.

having made peaceeirenopoieo – to make peace, establish harmony

through the blood of his cross – It was Jesus exchanging His life through His blood for our lives, an exchange that paid the debt of sin that we could not pay.

Warning:  Be careful about leaving out the “blood” or the “cross” when you are sharing your faith with people.  Yes, they are subjects that hit some people as yucky, but they are necessary.  Our salvation is based on the blood of His cross.

all things … in heaven – angels do not need redeeming, but somehow through man’s sin, the whole universe was knocked out of whack.  The blood of Jesus sets everything right.

:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

alienatedapallotrioo – to alienate, estrange; to be shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy

We were estranged by our sin, but Jesus wiped it away.

:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

unblameableamomos – without blemish; as a sacrifice without spot or blemish; morally: without blemish, faultless, unblameable

unreproveableanegkletos – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused, blameless

He makes us this way.  This is not because we’ve done anything.  It’s because He’s done everything.

:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

continueepimeno – to stay at or with, to tarry still, still to abide, to continue, remain

groundedthemelioo – to lay the foundation, to found; to make stable, establish

settledhedraios – sitting, sedentary; firm, immovable, steadfast

moved away frommetakineo – to move from a place, to move away

ministerdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister


Continue with Jesus.

Paul says that we must continue with Jesus.
Does this mean that we can lose our salvation if we don’t continue with Jesus?

I’m not sure about that.  I’m not sure I’d want to risk it.

Just stay with Jesus.

:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

sufferingspathema – that which one suffers or has suffered; externally, a suffering, misfortune, calamity, evil, affliction; an enduring, undergoing, suffering

fill upantanapleroo – to fill up in turn


Doing his part for the church

Paul isn’t saying that there’s something lacking in what Jesus did for salvation. 
He’s saying that there is a kind of suffering that will be necessary to be done by those who are working to establish the church, and Paul is glad to be doing his part.
Doing the work of ministry is often compared to being a shepherd.
But being a shepherd isn’t about laying around on green grassy hilltops playing a flute.  It’s about fighting off wolves and lions.  It’s about bringing the strays back into the flock.  It’s even finding that sheep sometimes will bite.
Paul says he’s glad to pay this price.

:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

ministerdiakonos – one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

dispensationoikonomia – the management of a household or of household affairs; specifically, the management, oversight, administration, of other’s property; the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship; administration, dispensation

Paul was entrusted with something to take care of by the Lord.  He was given the responsibility to watch over these churches.

:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

mysterymusterion – hidden thing, secret, mystery; a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding

hidapokrupto – to hide; concealing, keeping secret

made manifestphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles;

The mystery that was hidden was that God would be working with the Gentiles and not with just the Jews.

(Eph 3:3-6 KJV)  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, {4} Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) {5} Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; {6} That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

:27  which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

(Col 1:27 NLT)  For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.

This is what the mystery was, that Christ would be in the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Jesus is the hope of glory

He is our hope of seeing heaven because He is the one who paid the price of our sins, enabling us to be able to enter heaven with His righteousness.

:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom;


What ministry is all about

preachkataggello – to announce, declare, promulgate, make known; to proclaim publicly, publish
I think this primarily is talking about the proclaiming of the gospel.  Telling people about the forgiveness that comes in Jesus Christ.
warningnoutheteo (“place” on the “mind”) – to admonish, warn, exhort
I am beginning to think this is the hardest part.  Sometimes people don’t want to hear that they’re about to drive their family automobile off a cliff.
teachingdidasko – to teach; to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses; to impart instruction; instill doctrine into one
We are to teach the Word of God.  We are to teach it with wisdom, showing people how to apply the Word to their lives.

:28  that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:


The goal of ministry:

presentparistemi – to place beside or near; to present a person for another to see and question; to present or show
perfectteleios – brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; full grown, adult, of full age, mature
We aren’t going to make “perfect” people, but our goal in ministry ought to be helping people grow up in the Lord.  We shouldn’t be in the business of just entertaining people, but maturing people.

:29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.


The power of ministry

labourkopiao – to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); to labour with wearisome effort, to toil; of bodily labour
strivingagonizomai – to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games; to contend with adversaries, fight; metaph. to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers; to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something
Ministry requires hard work.  I have this idea that someday it’s all going to get easier and less tiring as the church continues to grow and more people become involved in helping, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I look at Pastor Chuck and am not sure that it’s ever going to happen.

Ian MacPherson, in The Burden Of The Lord, observed:

A ... natural faculty in the preacher should be a  capacity for hard work .... No man who is not prepared to  work himself to death has any right in the ministry at all.  Where is there a more despicable creature than he who spares  himself in the cause of Christ? And how can one who is  habitually taking things easy convincingly preach the gospel  of the Cross? The thing just cannot be done. “My Father  worketh hitherto, and I work,” said Jesus. You cannot be  Christlike unless you are a worker....  ...the Old Puritans knew well how to roll up their mental  sleeves. Some of them studied for as many as fourteen hours  a day. John Wesley ... would not suffer any man to minister  to his societies unless he undertook to devote a minimum  of five hours in every twenty-four to diligent delving in  the Word of God. “Kill yourselves with work,” was Spurgeon’s  sage advice to his students, “and then pray yourselves alive  again.”

workingenergeia – working, efficiency; in the NT used only of superhuman power, whether of God or of the Devil
workethenergeo – to be operative, be at work, put forth power
mightilydunamis – strength power, ability
We need to be careful that we do our “striving” with His power and not our own. If I strive with my own power, I’ll run out of steam and burn out.  If I run on His power, I may get tired, but I’ll be able to keep going.

Back on Father’s Day when we had Dennis Agajanian visit, we were talking in the office before the service and the subject of “burn out” in ministry came up.  He kind of laughed and said that he was perhaps of the “old school”, but that he didn’t believe in burnout.  He just keeps going.