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01 Colossians: Focus On Jesus

Updated: Nov 6, 2022


Colossians, along with the letters of Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon, are letters written while Paul was in prison. Often these letters are referred to as the "Prison Epistles."

Colossae was a small city on the Lycus River (modern Turkey). Overshadowed by Ephesus 110 miles to the east and Laodicea 11 miles to the northwest, Colossae was seen as a relatively unimportant city in an area prone to earthquakes. However, a young community of Christ followers had been planted within this city. Epaphras, a coworker of Paul and faithful minister of Christ, had shared the good news of Jesus. In Colossae, a faithful community of Christians began to grow (Col. 1:7-8).

Epaphras visits Paul in prison and brings Paul news of the young church. The church is doing great! They strongly believe in Christ Jesus and deeply love the family of God (ref. Col. 1:4-5). But the church is under intense pressure to conform to cultural teachings. Some within the culture of Colossae thought the gospel of Christ needed to be supplemented with additional instructions.

Two significant influences were the polytheism of the Greco-Roman culture and the Jewish traditions of the observance of the law. Each of these influences sought to add to the teaching of the gospel of Christ. Paul uses this letter of Colossians as an opportunity to demonstrate the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel. Nothing more is needed.

I think we struggle with similar influences today. Perhaps a desire for something more profound, a richer experience, leads some today on a journey to supplement the gospel of Christ. Mystical experiences, ancient religious practices, or a piece of hidden knowledge today tempt some to supplement the teaching of Christ with something more. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul encourages us to focus on Jesus and the gospel so that we don't become distracted by something more.

Praying For The Church

Paul begins his letter in prayer and through a poem. In Paul's prayer for the Colossians, he lists four traits of our lives that please God.

Colossians 1:9–12 (NIV) “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

Paul desires for the church to be filled with the knowledge of God so that we live a life worthy of the Lord pleasing him in all things. He provides four characteristics of a life pleasing to the Lord:

  • Bearing fruit in every good work

  • Growing in the knowledge of God

  • Being strengthened through him so that we may have endurance and patience

  • Giving joyful thanks

We can quickly become distracted by the wrong things or consume our focus in the wrong places. Paul desires for our lives to be centered on Jesus. Who we are is to be focused on Christ. These four things Paul prays for center our lives in Christ. They focus us on his sufficiency as we rejoice in him.

The Supremacy of the Son of God

The hymn or poem Paul provides is found in (1:15-20), and much of his letter will be based on key themes within this poem.

Colossians 1:15–20 (NIV) “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

The poem is in two parallel stanzas. The first (1: 15-17) focuses our attention on Christ as Lord over all creation. He is the revelation of God; in him, all things were created, and in Him, all things are held together.

The English word image can sometimes form in our minds as a copy or something less than the original. The Greek term may be better understood here as revelation. Jesus is the revelation of God as he is made known.

John 1:18 (NIV) “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
John 14:9 (NIV) “Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father’?"

In Jesus, we see the unseen God revealed. Therefore, if we want to know God, we need to search the Scriptures and see Jesus. He created all things (1:16). In Jesus, we see the Creator and King of all creation.

In the second stanza (1:18-20), Jesus is also the One bringing about a new creation.

Colossians 1:18 (NIV) “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Jesus is the source of a new community, his church. He is the first of a new creation. Many will follow him into a new life through the likeness of his resurrection. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus, and through his blood shed on the cross, new creation will be reconciled in him. God desires to bring all things to peace in him through his Son, Jesus.

Romans 5:10–11 (NIV) “For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

God desires to bring all things into peace and unity in new creation through Christ.

Bridging Contexts

As Paul opens this letter, he focuses the church on Jesus. It's easy to become distracted and lose sight of what is most important. It's easy to get swept away by the currents of a desire for something more. Paul knows our faith is centered and established in Christ and in the gospel. When we lose sight of this, we can quickly be pulled away.

Paul also desires that the church know Chris is all-sufficient. Nothing more is needed. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all creation and head over new creation.

As we explore this letter, I believe one of our challenges will be to ask ourselves, "Is Christ enough?" Do I truly trust in Jesus and what God is doing through him? Paul's primary theme in this letter is that Christ is more than enough; he is all-sufficient.

Colossians is a short letter. I would encourage you to read through it several times this week. Try to discover some of the main themes Paul focuses on for this community in Colossae. As you do so, consider the question, "Are there pressures that tempt me to turn away from Jesus?"


end notes:

Unless otherwise noted; Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM
 Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

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