The seventh in this series of letters from Paul contains many of the same elements as the others. There is an initial introduction and recitation of the Gospel message; warnings against falling away; general instructions about honoring Christ; and finally personal greetings, commendations, and a benediction. With the consistent rhythm across this volume of material, we’re looking inside a time capsule where first-century correspondence flavored by Paul’s rhetorical personality intersects with the most vital matters facing the first century church.
There is no danger at Colossae to the scale of those in Corinth and Galatia, but in the middle of chapter 2 Paul’s instructions give us a hint of the threats that the Colossian church was facing: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world… let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food or drink… let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism or worship of angels.” Pay close attention to how Paul weaves his rebuttal to these forces throughout.
Notice also how the themes of knowledge, wisdom, and mystery pop up, along with persistent references to death and rebirth. Also notice that the stream of vices and virtues that fill chapter 3 and 4 are filed under the heading of death and resurrection: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Finally, observe that the list of relationships that closes chapter 3 follows this exhortation: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
As with the church at Rome, Paul is writing to a Colossian church that was not of his own founding. Rather Epaphras, who is introduced in chapter 1, was the one from whom they learned “of the hope laid up” for them in heaven. Though he has not met them, Paul fills the final chapter with personal greetings from familiar names, and encourages them to welcome his messenger Tychicus. We’re also introduced to a man named Onesimus, “our faithful and beloved brother,” who will be a part of a distinct plot later on.
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 10:12: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Epistle to the Colossians. Now let’s read it!
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,