By Sam E. Stone
Although the apostle Paul himself did not plant the church in Colossae, some of his associates did (Colossians 1:7). When he learned of challenges facing the congregation while imprisoned in Rome, he wrote this memorable epistle to them. His letter focuses on Jesus Christ.
Apparently the Colossian church was being challenged by heretical teaching, possibly from Jewish and Gnostic sources. Paul’s strong effort to establish the church’s faith solidly on the Lord should be replicated in every congregation today.
Christ Redeems Us
When Paul spoke of his prayers for the church, he specifically mentioned his joy and gratitude. They were a people set apart by God. Just as the Lord redeemed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, so he had brought these people into the kingdom of light, where they are now qualified to share in the inheritance. Christians live in light, not darkness. That is Satan’s place. Where Jesus is, there one finds light, redemption, and forgiveness.
Christ Rules the Universe
Many Bible students consider vv. 15-20 to be an early Christian hymn, one that Paul may have written or adapted. While no one can see God, he can be recognized in the person of Jesus. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3; see also 2 Corinthians 4:4). Just as man was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), through Christ that marred image can be renewed (Colossians 3:10). The firstborn over all creation does not mean that Christ was created first. Scripture makes it plain that he himself created everything (see John 1:1-3). Just as a firstborn son had great privileges in Bible days, so Christ exercises great authority as Lord of all creation (Hebrews 1:2, 6; Psalm 89:27).
All things have been created through him and for him. This doesn’t leave much for anyone else to create, does it? There was never a time when he did not exist. The created universe was in, through, and for Christ. Paul’s strong words rebuke heretical teaching in Colossae (Colossians 1:20, 22, 2:20-23). By his unifying power, Christ holds all things together.
Christ Rules the Church
Jesus is called the head of the body, the church. William Hendriksen explains, “He is its Organic Head and its Ruling Head.” Christ gives both growth and guidance to his people (Ephesians 5:23). We are one body in Christ (Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus is also called the firstborn from among the dead. Some (like Lazarus) were raised from death, but all of these people died once more. Jesus was raised incorruptible, never to die again.
Every power and attribute of God was in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:3, 9). Through him to reconcile to himself all things. . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Sin ruined the universe, destroying unity not only between man and God, but also between man and the world in which he lives. Through his sacrificial death, Jesus makes possible the restoration of this harmony.
Christ Must Rule in Your Life
Paul has spoken in sweeping words about God’s great plan of redemption; now he relates the message directly to his readers. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies. Remember where you have been. Sin severed our relationship with God (Ephesians 2:12), but now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death. In reconciling us to himself through his death, Christ also reconciles us to one another (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Jews and Gentiles find unity at the foot of the cross. The ultimate purpose of all this is to present you holy in his sight. To be holy is to be set apart for God. Such separation will leave the Christian unblameable and innocent, because the Lamb of God has removed all trace of sin.
Paul offers a warning, however. There is a condition: ”if.” If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. God will provide the strength to be faithful, but we are responsible to accept and use that strength which he offers. In the case of the Colossians, false teachers were attempting to lead them astray from the basics of Christian faith. Paul’s warning to them is valid for us as well. We must cling to the same gospel Paul preached, remaining faithful “even to the point of death” (Revelation 2:10).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.