The message of Colossians
Chapter 2: Christ All-Sufficient
Here Paul deals with the errors facing the Colossian believers and refutes them by asserting the all-sufficiency of Christ alone for salvation and the subsequent Christian life. Just as they had started their Christian lives by faith in Christ alone, so they should continue. Paul was in a spiritual conflict because of them, and longed that they should come to full assurance in understanding the truth about these matters.
He was afraid, first of all, in vv.1-10, lest they should be lead astray by false, but fascinating, philosophies of men, for all worthwhile true wisdom and knowledge is found in the Person of Christ alone, not in man-made philosophies. The whole fullness of Gods attributes and characteristics dwells in Christ as the perfect man in bodily form, and all true believers are fully completed and provided for in Him. No other spiritual authority is above Him, nor needed besides Him.
Second, in vv.11-15 Paul combats the religious legalists who claimed that circumcision and law-keeping were necessary for a full salvation. He states that all that we need has been already accomplished by Christs death on the cross, which is the New Testament fulfilment of the truth taught by Old Testament circumcision. All true believers have been identified with Christ crucified at conversion, when the baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost became effective for each one who believes, and also identified with Him in His resurrection. Our water baptism illustrated these truths. We have been united with Christ from the moment of our conversion and need no other ordinances to complete our salvation. The work of Christ on the cross was sufficient to solve completely all our indebtedness to Gods law, to forgive all our trespasses against it, and He triumphed there gloriously over all the spiritual forces of evil that opposed Him and oppose us now. Christ is fully sufficient for all our need.
Third, in vv.16-23, if this is so, we should not let anyone try to impose manmade rules of conduct on us, sitting like an umpire on our lives. The ascetic philosophers did try to do this, making up rules for us about food and bodily disciplines that are not required by Gods Word. The Old Testament dietary laws and ceremonial laws about feast days no longer apply, because Christ has fulfilled the law and superseded it by Himself. Paul also warned them not to worship angels, as if they were necessary intermediaries between God and us. That is to deny Christ His position as the sole and sufficient Head of the Church. Our union with Christ is a living one; we are His body, and draw our life, nourishment, and directions from Him alone. Let us not try to sever the link with our Head in heaven by attempting to interpose any other mediators. Our identification with Christ in death severs us from worldly rules and practices; the latter have no value in producing spiritual life or controlling our old natures. They only produce a carnal religion which is worthless to God. His life in us alone can produce spiritual conduct. Again, Christ is all we need.
Chapter 3: Christ All-Controlling
First, in vv.1-11, Christ is to be our sole motivation in Christian life and conduct. Our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection means that our true life is centred in Him in heaven, not on earth at all. Christ in glory is our incentive for holy living. Only at His appearing in glory will the true reason and value of our present lives become apparent to unbelievers around us. Here we should note that Paul in Colossians views believers as indwelt by Christ, but based firmly on earth, and looking up to Christ in heavenly glory; whereas in Ephesians he views us primarily as in Christ, in the heavenlies, exalted with Christ, and very much involved in all the activities of that heavenly scene. Both views are true of us and equally important to bear in mind. The view here presented means that we are now responsible to put to death by Gods power the sinful tendencies of the members of our earthly bodies, which are subject to the temptations of our old natures; first, the grosser moral temptations, but then also the antisocial sins of anger and lying. We are to take off the habits of our old life like a set of dirty clothes, and to put on the godly habits of our new natures in Christ. In Christ there are no social barriers to harmonious fellowship such as we put up. For He is all and in all; that is, all-controlling in every way. We should note that this truth, in many ways the keynote of the epistle, is in the context of fellowship within the body of Christ.
Second, in vv.12-17, Paul states that the Christians life is to be governed completely by the example and word of Christ. Only Christ should be seen in us in all His perfect character of kindness, forgiveness, and especially love. Our fellowship with one another should be governed by the peace of God our Saviour. Our whole lives should be controlled and directed by the word and will of Christ, who indwells us as believers. This should affect our mutual ministry and fellowship in the body of Christ, both in terms of teaching and exhortation, and also in our corporate expressions of worship in song. Christ should control everything we do, and we should do it all with gratitude to God our Father.
Third, in vv.18-4.1, the Christians various earthly relationships are also to be governed by the word and will of Christ. These include not only the closest relationships of marriage partners, but also those of children and parents, and of servants and masters, who must both acknowledge that they have in Christ an ultimate Lord and Master in heaven.
Chapter 4: Christ All-Pervading
First, in vv.2-6, Paul gives various exhortations concerning effective Christian communication: first, to continue in prayer, especially for the apostles for preaching opportunities; then to wise and circumspect conduct generally, looking for opportunities to witness; and also to speech that is both gracious and wholesome, especially towards the unsaved around us.
Second, in vv.7-15, there is abundant evidence of Christ pervading the effective ministries of the first-century body of Christ on earth. Here there are many examples of how the members of the body of Christ should function by the exercise of various different gifts in harmonious fellowship. By contrast with the brief salutations in Ephesians 6, here in Colossians 4 Paul speaks at some length about the various activities of his fellow-workers, and their spiritual ministries. This is appropriate in a letter which concentrates on the true relationship between Christ and His Body, the Church. Note the emphasis upon the prefix "fellow", in "fellow-servant", "fellow-prisoner", and "fellow-workers". All these brethren were faithfully fulfilling their spiritual ministries in the local church at Rome, just as we should be in our own local fellowships, using the gifts with which we have been entrusted for the good of the whole body of Christ.
Third, vv.16-18 contain final instructions, a salutation, and a blessing. Paul exhorted the Colossian saints to share fellowship in the reading of this letter with the saints at Laodicea, and to read the letter from Laodicea at Colosse. The latter was possibly the letter to the Ephesians. He then significantly exhorted Philemons son, Archippus, to fulfil the ministry given to him by the Lord, presumably because he was neglecting to exercise his gift at Colosse. Note the last occurrence here of the keyword of the letter: fullness/fulfil, for all the members of the local body of Christ are needed to do their part, like the joints and sinews in a human body. Only so can the assembly function and grow to maturity in response to the directions of Christ our Head in heaven. There is every spiritual provision in Him and clear direction in His Word to do so. Are we responding to Him, our risen glorified Head in heaven, in obedience and true devotion?