The greatest crime ever perpetrated on humanity began in the garden and continues to this day. When Satan approached Eve in the garden, he did so with one purpose–the abduction of her heart. The devil is not sovereign, and thus he cannot force his will upon anyone. He is a master of deception and thrives upon his ability to bamboozle and con humanity into believing his lies. If he can kidnap our minds and steal our loyalty, then he has us. “The serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” (2 Cor. 11:3). He captured her thoughts and thus she sinned, and destruction followed.
This pattern continues to repeat itself daily. The world is full of doctrines, ideas, philosophies, and practices which are carnally appealing. If Satan can persuade us to think as he wants us to think then we will do what he wants us to do (cf. Mark. 7:20-22). If one wanted to know why the culture plunges deeper into the ocean of secularism and hedonism, all one must do is look at how people think. If my happiness is all that matters, then abortion is inconsequential. If my personal feelings are the ultimate determination of what is right, then gender and sexuality are negligible. If there is no God to whom I must answer, then I can think, speak, and act however I want. This is the mentality that plagues our world.
How can Christians live in a world such as this without being corrupted (2 Cor. 11:3)? How can the church serve God and seek the lost in a society hell-bent on destruction? The answer is simple, yet profound. We must prioritize Christ and give Him the place of preeminence He deserves. This is the subject of the book of Colossians.
Colossae was a small city located in the Lycus River Valley. The church there was likely composed of a gentile majority, and although Paul had never visited (Col. 2:1), he was well acquainted with them through Epaphras, a fellow laborer and, perhaps, one of his converts (cf. Col. 1:7-8; 4:12-13; Acts 19). Though they were faithful and fruitful (Col. 1:3-8), they were in danger. What is known as the “Colossian Heresy,” existed there and contained several components. There was a Jewish element seeking to impose dietary regulations and other trappings of Judaism (Col. 2:11-16). Asceticism also had a presence (Col. 2:20-23) along with other “philosophies” (Col. 2:8) which emphasized the worship of angels (Col. 2:18) and denied the deity of Christ (Col. 1:15-20). Though Gnosticism would not become a major problem in the church for some time, based on Paul’s writing it seems likely that some early variation of it existed in Colossae. Paul wrote Colossians, primarily, to give them the tools they needed to combat these false doctrines. The answer to the problem was simple–Jesus.
It has been well said that while Ephesians emphasizes the church of Christ, Colossians emphasizes the Christ of the church. Indeed, the subject of Jesus the Christ saturates the book to the extent that references to Jesus can be found in 75 of the 95 total verses it contains.
- Chapter 1 emphasizes the priority and preeminence of Jesus Christ. The heart of the chapter, and the book, is found in Colossians 1:15-23 where Paul lists 7 items proving the deity and superiority of Christ (15-20), then gives what could be considered his purpose statement in verses 21-23. The Supreme Savior has reconciled us to God to be holy in His sight. This remains true so long as we continue firmly grounded in Him.
- Chapter 2 urges the saints to defend Christ. In this chapter, Paul identifies the various strands of false doctrine seeking to steal the minds of the Colossian Saints away from Christ. He commanded, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
- Chapters 3 and 4 explain practically how to apply Christ. When we enthrone Jesus as the King of our lives, He will dictate our priorities (3:1-4), direct our moral decisions (3:5-14), determine our worship (3:15-17), and bless our relationships (3:18-4:6).
As we seek to be in the world but not of it, we must be reminded of the necessity of Christ. If we revere Him and apply His teaching and influence as we should, we will have all we need to pursue and maintain holiness in this world. Jesus is the answer for all that ails the church and the culture. It is for this reason that this edition of the Christian Worker, and the ones to follow, seek to engage in a study of Colossians.