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Understanding Paul - Colossians/Laodiceans Part 2

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Published on Mar 3, 2011

The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians, usually referred to simply as Colossians, is the 12th book of the New Testament. It was written, (according to the text), by Paul the Apostle to the Church in Colossae, a small Phrygian city near Laodicea and approximately 100 miles from Ephesus in Asia Minor.
Content of the letter
Colosse is in the region of the seven churches of Revelation 1-3. In Colossians 4:13 there is mention of local brethren in Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Colosse was approximately 12 miles from Laodicea and 14 miles from Hierapolis. Members of the congregation at Colosse had incorporated pagan elements into their practice, including worship of elemental spirits. The Epistle to the Colossians declares Christ's supremacy over the entire created universe and exhorts Christians to lead godly lives. The letter consists of two parts: first a doctrinal section, then a second regarding conduct. In both sections, false teachers who have been spreading error in the congregation are opposed.
Doctrinal Sections
In its doctrinal sections, Colossians explains that there can be no need to worship anyone or anything but Christ because Christ is supreme over all creation. All things were created through him and for him, and the universe is sustained by him. God had chosen for his complete being to dwell in Christ. The "cosmic powers" revered by the false teachers had been "discarded" and "led captive" at Christ's death. Christ is the master of all angelic forces and the head of the church. Christ is the only mediator between God and humanity, the unique agent of cosmic reconciliation.
The doctrinal part comprises the first two chapters. Its main theme is developed in chapter 2, with a warning against being drawn away from Him in whom dwelt all the fullness of the deity (2:9), and who was the head of all spiritual powers. Christ was the head of the body of which they were members; and if they were truly united to him, what more did they need?
Colossians praises the spiritual growth of the recipients because of their love for all the set-apart ones in Christ (1:4 & 8). It calls them to grow in wisdom and knowledge that their love might be principled love and not sentimentality (1:9-11). "Christ in you is your hope of glory!" (1:27)
Conduct
Colossians denounces ascetic practices or avoiding certain foods because Christ's death put an end to such distinctions. Believers are one in Christ, not divided between circumcised and uncircumcised, slave and free, and so on. He then calls on his audience to fulfill all domestic and social obligations.
The practical part of the Epistle (3-4) enforces various duties naturally flowing from the doctrines expounded. They are exhorted to mind things that are above (3:1-4), to mortify every evil principle of their nature, and to put on the new man (3:5-14). Many special duties of the Christian life are also insisted upon as the fitting evidence of the Christian character. The letter ends with customary prayer, instruction, and greetings.
The Prison Epistles
Colossians is often categorized as one of the so-called "prison epistles" that include Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. Colossians has some close parallels with the letter to Philemon—names of some of the same people (e.g., Timothy, Aristarchus, Archippus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, Onesimus, and Demas) appear in both epistles.
Tychicus is named as the bearer of the letter, just as he is in Ephesians and Philemon, and he is to tell the recipients of the state of the apostle (4:7-9). After friendly greetings (10-14), he bids them exchange this letter with the one he had sent to the neighbouring Laodicean Church. (The apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans was almost certainly forged based on this instruction.) He then closes the letter with the usual salutation.
Colossians calls, in several places, for faithfulness to be recognized:
"to the faithful brethren" (Colossians 1:2)
"Epaphras...our dear fellowservant...faithful minister" (Col 1:7)
"Tychicus...faithful minister and fellowservant" (Col 4:7)
"Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother" (Col 4:9)

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