1, 2, 3, 4

What is the book of Colossians?

This is a letter written by Paul, the apostle, which is contained in the New Testament canon.


To whom did Paul write this letter?

He wrote it to the church in the city of Colossae, one of several churches in the Lycus river valley.


What is the Lycus river valley?

This is a valley created by the Lycus river which then flowed into the larger Meander river.  The cities of Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea are all located in this valley.  In the New Testament, we find that churches had been established in all these cities. (Colossians 4:13)  These churches were roughly 100 miles east of the city of Ephesus which was on the sea shore.

Cities of the Lycus Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colosse – Bible Mapper Atlas


How was Christianity introduced into this valley?

Epaphras was the man who God used to bring the gospel to the people of the Lycus valley.  Paul writes:

since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:4-8; cf Colossians 4:12-13)


Who were the men who assisted Paul in the writing and delivery of this letter?

First, is must be noted that Paul is in prison when he wrote this letter. (Acts 28:30)  This imprisonment, however, was more like a loose house arrest, and so Paul enjoyed considerable freedom to write and send letters.  It was here that Paul wrote the letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  Consider the different things which happened to the apostle during this imprisonment.

  • At some point, his friend Epaphras would have arrived bearing gifts from the Philippian church. (Philippians 4:18)  More than likely, Epaphras also brought word of an alarming new development in the Colossian church.  A new heresy was gaining ground in the Lycus valley, and Epaphras sought Paul’s advice on how to deal with it.
  • Another visitor also showed up around this time named Onesimus; he was a runaway slave.
  • Timothy was with Paul at this time; and while Paul was willing to send him to the church in Phillipi, he wanted to find out first what was going to happen to him.  Clearly, Timothy was a special favorite of Paul’s, and Paul was very reluctant to let him go. (Philippians 2:19-24)  It is also clear that Paul is quite optimistic about his chances of being set free. (Philemon 22)
  • At some point, Paul dispatches Tychicus with the letter to the Colossian church. (Colossians 4:7)  Onesimus goes with him undoubtedly carrying the letter from Paul to Philemon. (Colossians 4:9; Philemon 17)
  • Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas are also with Paul (Colossians 4:10-14; Philemon 23-24) anyone of whom or any combination of whom may have served as Paul’s amanuensis.


Why did Paul not send Epaphras back to the Colossian church with this letter?  Why was Tychicus chosen to deliver the letter?

This probably would have been ideal, but Epaphras must have been too exhausted to make the return trip.  We know that at some point, Epaphras had become seriously ill. (Philippians 2:27)


You said previously that Epaphras brought news to Paul of a new error gaining traction in the Colossian church.  What was this error?

We have no explicit definition of this error.  From what Paul wrote in this letter, we can conclude that the error had much to do with a faulty Christology.  Note that Paul spends the first 14 verses in greeting the Colossian believers.  Once he finishes this  greeting, He launches straight into Christology:

He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.  For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

There are other hints that the error was also Jewish in origin.  Consider Paul’s comments to those who were not physically circumcised.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12)

Here Paul reassures those gentile believers who were not physically circumcised that they were in fact spiritually circumcised and thus had no reason to be alarmed at those who accused them of being uncircumcised.  This sounds very much like something a Jewish-Christian would say to a Gentile-Christian.  Furthermore, Paul rebukes those who require all Christians to observe the Jewish-sabbath law.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Again, this sounds very much like something a Jewish-Christian might seek to impose on a Gentile-Christian who had no knowledge or history of Sabbath keeping.





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