Inductive Study of Colossians

Major Theses

  • Paul confronts false teaching that introduce legalism.  He specifically addresses the legalistic issues, but his main emphasis is grace-oriented salvation and sanctification.  He regularly reminds them of their position in Christ and that moral and character change is based on this new position.
  • He develops clear and extensive Christology.
  • He regularly speaks of the afterlife which is related to the first point.

Historical Situation

Paul writes this letter while imprisoned (4:18) to address a wide array of heresies amongst the Colossians (ch 2).  The false teachings include "philosophies and empty deceptions," but also Jewish traditions (Sabbath).  In response, Paul carefully develops the deity and preexistence of Christ and shows that sanctification is by grace alone.  He is accompanied by many Christian brothers including Timothy, Epaphras, Justus, Demas, Luke, and others.

Paragraph Study

Colossians 1:3-8

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Paul greets them
    • After- He prays that they may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    v. 4,6-  Fruit-bearing faith comes from hearing and understanding the word and then responding to it.
    KEY PHRASE: vs 5,6 "…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…"
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    • Importance of the Word
      1. vs. 5 - which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,
      2. vs. 6 - since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
      3. vs. 7 - just as you learned it from Epahpras
    • Paul is thankful for their faith
      vs 3 - We give thanks to God… since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus
    • Faith fed by the word increases and bears fruit
      vs. 6 - it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing

The main emphasis is the importance of the word.  Paul is very pleased with their response to God's word and the results have been "fruitful."

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
    none
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    • The intellect is involved in faith.  Paul notes that they "learned it from Epaphras" and that they "heard in the word of truth."
    • Growing faith is evidenced by the bearing of fruit.  In the context, one dimension is love for the saints (vs 4).
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    • Psalm 1:2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.3  And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season,
    • Heb 5:12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
    • Col 3:2  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
    • Rom 8:6  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    Paul meant to encourage them toward their teaching and understanding of the word.  He clearly presents the value of the intellect in knowing and serving god.  We find that they were distracted by many other religious influences.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    Excellent reminder to teach and learn the word.  Paul, who speaks for god is very pleased by their progress in the faith which he attributes to their responding to what they heard and understood in the word.  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." J

Colossians 1:9-14

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Joy comes from seeing others gain faith in Christ and grow in "fruit-bearing" faith.
    • After- Christ is the preexistent creator God.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    The Christian's main goal is to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" and this pleases God.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    • vs 9- …being filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and understanding"  is an act of God and allows us to follow him.
      -- This is part of God's role as the HS leads the Christian in sanctification.
    • vs 10- "…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects,"  He goes on then and shows what it means to walk in this manner:
      • …bearing fruit
      • …increasing in knowledge of Him
    • vs 11- Strengthened by God- He makes it clear that we live like this only if we are empowered by God.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
    walk- peripateo:G4043 to tread all around, i.e. walk at large (espec. as proof of ability); fig. to live, deport oneself, follow (as a companion or votary):--go, be occupied with, walk (about).
    • Col 1:10  so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
    • Col 2:6  As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
    • Col 3:7  and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
    • Col 4:5  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    • There are conflicting views on how we please God.  Paul offers the answer to that issue here.  He states that we can obtain spiritual wisdom from God (in the context from previous paragraph- his word) that it allows us to bear fruit and as we bear fruit we gain an increasing knowledge of God.
    • There is a perpetuating cycle according to Paul of god granting wisdom, our bearing fruit (which pleases God), and our gaining a deeper knowledge of him.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    • John 4: 34  Jesus said^ to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.-  It is our action that pleases God (bearing fruit)
    • Christ's used the metaphor of bearing fruit in several contexts.  The parable of the vine in John 15 is a notable example.  Jesus emphasizes dependence on Him for fruit-bearing in this passage.
    • Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    The Colossians were being confused by many aberrant world views that would have influenced their way of life.  Paul makes clear what it takes to please god.  God is not pleased simply by outward activity, but he wants us to understand his will as revealed through his word and then act upon his revelation.  The other key component: God strengthens us with "all power" when we step out in faith to bear fruit and he is well-pleased by our efforts.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    Our application is very similar today.  We are able to please God and the good news is that he provides the direction (revelation) and the power to please him.  Bearing fruit can take many forms, but it is possible to live a life that will end in facing God and his turning to us to say, "Well done good and faithful servant."
    There is a call here for action (bearing fruit) as an integral component of pleasing God.  The Christian life is not passive.
    "Talk is cheap."  "Actions speak louder than words."  In MacDonald's book The Baronet's Song, Gibbie can't even speak,  but speaks loudly for Christ through his actions of charity.

Teaching reference - The Great Divorce, The Weight of Glory,

Colossians 1:15-23

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- The Christian's main goal is to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" and this pleases God.
    • After- Paul is "a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed…" upon him.  His authority comes from God.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  Jesus is God.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    -- This is a very important passage because it explicitly develops a Christology that is clear and refutes any claim that Jesus may not be God.  He makes the following points:
    • vs. 15- He is heir to all creation- "the first-born of all creation"
    • vs. 16- He is the creator, and sustains the creation- " by Him all things were created"
    • vs 16- He is sovereign- "whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him."
    • vs 16- He sustains the creation- " in Him all things hold together"
    • vs 17- He is the head of the church- " He is also head of the body, the church"
    • vs 17- He was resurrected- " He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead"
    • vs 19- It is God's will that Christ is God- " it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him"
    • vs 20-23- He is the savior of humanity- " through Him to reconcile all things to Himself"
      (22)- "yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death,"
    • vs 20- Here is a verse I'm not so sure of- "whether things on earth or things in heaven."  Is he referring to those already dead and in an intermediate state.  I guess that would make the most sense.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    Jesus is God and God the Father endorses this plan.  Paul covers many attributes of God that can be developed Biblically including pre-existent, creator, sovereign, and savior/forgiving.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    NEED CHRISTOLOGY PASSAGES HERE.

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    • This church faced many false teachings.  This paragraph states emphatically that Jesus is God and because he is God, his death and resurrection is efficacious.   No doubt the heretics attacked this fundamental doctrine of the church.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    • Many challenges to Christ's deity prevail today.  Statements like, "He was a good moral teacher."  "We can follow the teachings of Jesus, but let's not project something on him (deity) that he never meant."
    • Christians must be armed with a clear understanding of these doctrines to properly represent Christ in a confused world.

Colossians 1:24-29

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Jesus is God
    • After- In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (2:3)
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    • "Preaching of the word of God" is the main priority of a Christian "minister ."  (vs 25)
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. In vs 24 Paul writes, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake."  And in the context his sufferings are for the church which he was "made a minister" by God.  The focus of the ministry: "preaching the Word."
    2. He describes the word of God:
      • vs 26, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints,
    3. Effects the word would have: (vs 26)- to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
    4. Application of the word: (vs 28)- And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom
    5. Goal of the teaching (vs 28)- that we may present every man complete in Christ.
    6. Affirms that " for this purpose also I labor,"  and he is empowered by God in all of this.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    • Within God's word we find the answers to life.  We find areas for correction, a future hope and what God's design has been all along.  We find that true wisdom comes through God's word.  Paul's emphasis and cause for much suffering was proclaiming the word and therefore this should be a major emphasis in the church.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    Preach the word!
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    Preach the word and teach others to study it and be led by it.

Colossians 2:1-5

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- "Preaching of the word of God" is the main priority of a Christian "minister ."  (vs 25)
    • After-As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (2:3)  This is the basis of content for his preaching ministry described in chapter 1.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. Again Paul refers to the "struggle I have on your behalf" (vs 2:1) which refers to back to the suffering mentioned in ch. 1.  This struggle again is in context of Paul communication God's truth to them.  He writes in vs 2:2- " that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding."
    2. Note in vs 2 that the positive results (being encouraged and knit together in love) is the result of gaining understanding and specifically, a "true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself."
    3. He goes on to elaborate in vs 3: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
      He warns them that attack against them will be in the area of doctrine: vs 4  I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument.
    4. He also notes another result (vs 5)- "your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ."

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    The main emphasis of Christian teaching should be on the person of Jesus Christ.  In him is the answer to spiritual mysteries and personal satisfaction.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    The warning is given again about false teaching and they are instructed to emphasize teaching about Christ.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    The church today should have a similar emphasis since there are many conflicting views of spirituality.

Colossians 2:6-10

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (2:3)
    • After- Christ has "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…"
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    We receive Christ via instruction and grow in him via instruction.
    vs 6  "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. You received him by grace and through instruction. Now grow in faith likewise.  In vs 7 Paul  writes, "now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed."  The emphasis was added to point out how much he stresses learning and instruction to bring about growth.
    2. Paul warns them in vs. 8,  "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception…"  Again there is an emphasis on the doctrinal aspects of Christianity.
    3. In vs. 9 Paul affirms the essence of the Christian message: "in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form..."
    4. Paul affirms in vs 10 that nothing else is needed: "and in Him you have been made complete…"

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    A major theme emerges in this section: instruction in doctrinal truth is vital to attaining saving faith and growing in it.  Conflicting philosophies can be deceptive, but are countered by response to sound instruction.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    Paul wants them to see the case for Christ as the son of God and to remember that the use of the intellect is vital.  The means of deception must be expected and a defense made.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    What is most important to the spiritual growth of me and my friends: learning who Christ is and being prepared to refute what is not of God.

Colossians 2:11-17

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- We receive Christ via instruction and grow in him via instruction.
    • After- Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by influencing you toward false spirituality.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    In Christ we have forgiveness of "all our transgressions…" (vs 13) and no legalistic practice is required.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. In vs 11 he addresses what the Jews may have thought brought them acceptance: "you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands"  Clearly what is gained in Christ is spiritual and not physical.
    2. A new identity is established and Paul used the death and resurrection language in vs 12 to demonstrate this new birth: "having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith…"
    3. Despite the fact we are spiritually dead, we can be forgiven (vs 13)- "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him…"
      Complete forgiveness is illustrated in vs. 14: "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us;"
    4. He makes it clear that forgiveness is only through Christ in vs 14: "and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
      This forgiveness requires no legalistic observances (vs 16,17)- "Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--17  things which are a mere shadow of what is to come;"

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
    Disarmed: 554. apekduomai, ap-ek-doo'-om-ahee; mid. from G575 and G1562; to divest wholly oneself, or (for oneself) despoil:--put off, spoil.
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    No outward religious practices are required.  A simple faith in God's forgiveness through Christ is the only requirement.  Religious practices were meant to show us something about God, but are not an end in themselves.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    Romans 6 and Col 2:12 both use the language of being buried and resurrected.
    Galatians and particularly the argument of ch 3.

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    They lived in a very confusing religious environment with Jewish as well as secular influences.  Paul's emphasis is on the supremacy of the saving work of Christ over any outward religious practices.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    We have many folks who come out of religious backgrounds.  They need to be led in the area of grace so they realize there is nothing else needed to gain God's acceptance.

Colossians 2:18-23

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- In Christ we have forgiveness of "all our transgressions…" (vs 13) and no legalistic practice is required.
    • After- Keep seeking the things above.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize (spiritual growth) by influencing you toward false spirituality.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. In vs 18 Paul provides a list of wrong spiritual approaches: "delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind…"
    2. In vs 19 Paul reminds them of the true basis of spirituality: " holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
    3. The counterfeit "spirituality" does not make sense for a Christian (vs 20):" If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21  "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"
      He also points out the lack of efficacy of the outward practices compared with the inward spiritual change.
    4. In vs 23 he points out that to humanity these methods seem to make sense, but they will not affect change in the believer: "the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence."
      This clarifies what "the prize" noted in vs. 18 is.  In the context he has been talking about spiritual growth, starting with, "As you have received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him."  He has discussed various aberrant views and now concludes that a key element of "the prize" is victory over "fleshly indulgence."

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
    defraud or disqualify (NIV)- katabrabeuo, kat-ab-rab-yoo'-o; from G2596 and G1018 (in its orig. sense); to award the prize against, i.e. (fig.) to defraud (of salvation):--beguile of reward.
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    There are many false "spiritualities" that  we must remain aware of.  We may be deceived and follow an aberrant path that would lead to no spiritual gain and as a result we would loose the opportunity to grow spiritually.  These aberrant "means of growth" are listed by Paul and all are recognizable in current spirituality.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    Col 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.
    This is important to understand what is meant in vs 19.  What is the head he refers to and what is the body?  Both questions are answered in 1:18.  From Paul's other writings on the Body of Christ we know clearly what he would be referring to (1 Cor 12 and Rom 12), but he clarifies it right here in the context of this book.

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    Paul warns them to be on guard against many forms of false spirituality.  There were many confusing religious practices, including pagan and Jewish, which threatened true spirituality.  These practices may "make sense" to men as a way to God, but they have "no value."  They must be avoided.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    Things have not changed over the ages.  Just as then people have a wide array of spiritual options to choose from.  Those that make sense to man appeal to his pride.  Man strives to be "spiritual" on his own merits and must realize that none of these practices "work."  As in the first century and throughout history, legalism and mysticism prevail today and Christians must be warned against such practices.

Colossians 3:1-4

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize (spiritual growth) by influencing you toward false spirituality.
    • After- Since you "have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge" you should live differently.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    The Christian should "keep seeking the things above" which amounts to a focus on the new identity in Christ.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. The preceding paragraph warns them of false means of growth.  These means are focused on outward practices while now Paul turns back to the inward.  Where the mind is set.
    2. Paul commands them in vs 1 to "keep seeking the things above."
      He helps them understand what he means by this in vs 2: "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
    3. He gives the "why" in vs 3- "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."  He reminds them of their new position as Christians.  They are new creatures which is a common theme in Paul's writings.
    4. Paul provides another thing to think about in vs 4: "you also will be revealed with Him in glory."  That is eternity.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim.
    "Seeking the things above" is chiefly an intellectual discipline.  The question we must ask is this:  "Where is your mind set?"   We are directed to set our minds on the fact that we have a new life in Christ presently and eternal life awaits us.
    In the context of the book, Paul makes the point that changing the inward perspective is primary and the outward actions are secondary.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    Romans 6-8

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    • Rather than occupying their minds on all sorts of bogus "spiritual" ways, Paul gives them clear direction on where to focus their minds: their new identity in Christ and their eternal life with him.
    • As his argument developed in the book, this paragraph seems to be a key transition point.  He has discussed spiritual realities (the deity of Christ, etc.) and spiritual counterfeits.  He claims that the bogus ideas have no value in helping humanity change and now he launches into the dynamics of spiritual change.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    This is a key passage.  We naturally tend toward legalism and Paul make the point very clear that the primary element for spiritual change is a mind set on the things above which are our new identity in Christ and our eternal life with him.  This needs to be emphasized in our teaching.

Colossians 3:5-4:1

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- The Christian should "keep seeking the things above" which amounts to a focus on the new identity in Christ.
    • After- We ought to maintain a high view toward outsiders and conduct ourselves with wisdom toward them. (vs 5)
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    Since you "have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge" you should live differently.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. Paul summarizes his discussion of new identity before he presents any imperatives.  In vs 5 he writes: "as those who have been chosen of God." He reminds them of the fact that they are chosen of God and they have a new identity and eternal life with God.  This indicative truth is emphasized before any moral imperatives are spoken.  Remember too that the earlier imperatives of Chapter 3 were to set one's mind on the things above.  No moral content, but imperative about mind-set.  This order is note-worthy.
    2. In verse 12 and 13 he presents a list of moral attributes and instructs them to "put on" these attributes: "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone…"
    3. At the close of vs 13, in the context of commanding them to forgive he reminds them, "just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."  This follows the theme of the book with regard to indicative/imperative.
    4. Several others imperatives follow:
      • vs 14- put on love,
      • vs 15- And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
      • vs 15- be thankful
      • vs 16-  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another
        Here again is the emphasis on knowledge of the word and teaching.
      • In vs 17 Paul returns to the perspective that animates the Christian life: "whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus"
        This perspective stands in contrast to the religious view of God that he stands apart and is addressed by impersonal and formalistic means which what Paul opposes in this letter.
    5. Imperatives that relate to social relationships:
      • Included are husband/wife, father/children and master/slave relationships (vs 18-22)
      • He concludes the section in vs 23 - "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;"
        Here again he emphasizes the inward attitude toward work as primary.  If the attitude is correct, the actions at work will follow.
    6. Paul also comes right back in vs 24 to remind them of the "things above"- 24  "knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."
      • The statement in verse 27 is a proper warning for those who may be superspiritual. "25  For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality."
      • We are not exempt from the consequences of sin in this life, even though we are children of god and have and eternal life.
    7. He concludes his discussion in 4:1 reminding them again of the eternal perspective: your master is in heaven.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    • Moral change in this life is an important result of spirituality.  Again the change is based on an attitude that is molded with truth.  The truth that we have a new standing with God and eternal life.  Paul keeps coming back to those points.  Now based on these facts, change is possible.  These changes are not external but run very deep including things like forgiveness, love, peace and thankfulness.  All the while being driven by the word of Christ which is to richly dwell within us.  Paul warns too that living a life of sin will lead to consequences in this life and believers are not exempt.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    At this point Paul is ready to call for moral change in some specific areas.  He has laid the foundation for change (as stated above) and now he gives specific imperatives including how social relationships should work out.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    His imperatives are timeless with the possible exception of slaves to masters (although it could probably be applied to employer/employee relationships).  I would note too the context of these imperatives within the book.  It would be a big mistake to emphasize the imperatives when what Paul has emphasized in building up to this point has been the indicatives.

Colossians 4:2-6

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Since you "have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge" you should live differently.
    • After- Effective Christian work is accomplished by teamwork and may include workers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    We ought to maintain a high view toward outsiders and conduct ourselves with wisdom toward them. (vs 5)
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    1. In verses 2 and 3 Paul instructs them to pray with a focus on an open door for him to proclaim the "mystery of Christ."
    2. Paul remains dependent on God for revelation "in the way I ought to speak." (vs 4)
    3. With regard to outsiders in vs 5: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
      He has made it clear that wisdom comes from the teaching and response to God's word in the book, so we know that they have a basis for their wisdom.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
    outsiders- in the context seems to refer to non-Christians.
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    God has a high view of non-xains and they should be the focus of prayer and considered carefully in personal relationships.  Paul asks for prayer for his way of communication to non-Christians and asks them to conduct themselves with care toward non-Christians.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    Paul values their prayer for his ministry of proclaiming God's word and also wants them to value the non-Christians around them and consider carefully how they conduct themselves toward them.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    This helps define our priorities with regard to the lost and prayer priorities.   The instructions regarding conduct toward non-Christians is also very helpful.

Colossians 4:7-18

Structure (skeleton): Clarify thought or argument development

  • Literary/theological context—what is the main point of paragraph before and after?
    • Before- Since you "have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge" you should live differently.
    • After- Book complete
  • Main point (claim)—state the central point of the paragraph
    Effective Christian work is accomplished by teamwork and may include workers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Supporting points—list as individual summary phrases (with verse number), the bases for the main claim: why it’s true or why we should do what it says
    Paul lists several workers and refers to some as "fellow workers" in vs. 11 and in vs 7 refers to Tychicus as a fellow bond-sevant.  The statement that he makes in vs 11 makes the point that there are others he would regard as workers also.
    1. vs 7- "Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord,"
    2. In vs 8 we find that Tychicus is sent "…you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts."  He had significant ministry to perform as a spokesman of Paul.
    3. The reference to Onesimus in vs 9 is interesting because he is called, "our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number."  We know that he was a slave (Philemon) and here Paul looks at him as an "equal."  This is a statement about the diversity and unity amongst Christian workers.
    4. In vs 10 and 11 we find that some Jewish brothers were with Paul: "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner… also Barnabas' cousin Mark… and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision…"
      Important to note that these workers "have proved to be an encouragement to me."  Paul relied on his fellow workers for emotional as well as functional support.
    5. We find another significant minister in vs 12- " Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers"
    6. vs 13 we hear about, " Luke, the beloved physician,"
    7. We find too that Paul regarded women as important workers, " Nympha and the church that is in her house."
      IMPORTANT NOTE: Paul expected this to be an open letter that would be passed on and apparently regarded other letters from him in the same way (vs 16):  And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.

Theology (muscle)—understand the content of the paragraph

  • Identify and define unfamiliar and key words (see Vines Expository Dictionary)
  • State theological meaning of claim and supporting points, including how the theology of supporting points relates to the main claim
    Christian work is not meant to be performed by autonomous individuals.  Even the Apostle had a team of highly valued and regarded workers that surrounded him.  The diversity of the members is striking with Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, male and female.  I wonder if he purposefully included workers from all these classes to demonstrate his point.
  • What other passages might bear on your interpretation?
    Gal. 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
    1 Cor 3:6  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

Application (skin)—what to do?

  • How is the argument of the paragraph intended to affect the original audience in terms of actions, attitudes, convictions?
    From other letters we find that class distinctions were prevalent.  After addressing social relationships in the previous chapter, he provides an example of the diversity of his ministry team.  This characteristic could be imitated by the Col. church.
    The other issue is that of autonomy which he indirectly addresses by showing that he relied on a large team of workers to minister effectively.  He was reliant for personal/emotional support as well as functional support.
  • How is the argument of this passage relevant to me/my group?
    As in the first century, class, race, gender, and ethnicity are huge problems today.  We need to value those who are different and realize that God brings unity.  This type of ministry team is a testimony to God's love and power.
    The other issue is that of worker autonomy.  I find myself thinking too often of ministry as a personal, rather than a team effort.  Paul provides an excellent example and notes publicly that he relied on a team of workers both functionally and emotionally.

Concluding thoughts

After completing the study, I'm impressed with the regular theme of learning and mind-set as a key component of Christian spirituality.  Paul lays the foundation for any moral change based on understanding our new identity in Christ.  He clearly states that this understanding comes from learning and mental discipline.  He emphasizes prayer also in achieving this new mind-set.