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 strengt