Letters From Prison
– What seems to be Paul’s primary purpose in writing this letter to the church at Colossae?
o To show that Christ is preeminent, which means surpassing, greater or above all things (1:15-23)
§ Christ is preeminent in these things: creation (1:15-17), in the Church (1:18), and in redemption (1:19-20)
o This is so comforting to me at this time! Jesus is ABOVE ALL THINGS. Colossians 1:18 “… so that in everything he might have supremacy.” He is supreme above anything and everything that appears to have the control right now. This has always been true and always will be.
– Paul argues that his suffering for preaching Christ through imprisonment is not a cause for worry or sorrow but of JOY in the invitation to participate in the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, to join in the most beautiful and sacrificial act in all of humanity, and to experience the glory and fullness of the resurrected Christ through partaking in that suffering joyfully (1:24-29). This invitation is for us as well in ALL our sufferings (big and small) through which we gladly choose to bring glory to Christ, as he redeems and heals our world. Following Jesus will bring us into loss of some kind. ALL suffering can and will be used, if we let it, to further the gospel. Suffering is not the goal or even the plan. It is an inevitable truth that God leverages for good. Suffering has proven itself as a great venue for people coming to know the true love, goodness, and meaning of Jesus.
o As an encouragement right now, I want to share an example of this I have already heard through the coronavirus. A friend of mine told me about a woman she knows who was in a line at Costco that was hours long. She felt curious to ask people in line what they were most afraid of in all of this. She said people said “dying,” over and over again, so she thought, well why don’t I just tell them why they don’t have to be! Through her suffering of being in line, and their suffering of facing the fear of the coronavirus, Jesus provided an opportunity for people (including her!) to know his UNDYING love for them.
Interesting Facts and Trivia
– Paul never visited Colossae. Epaphras is who brought the gospel to them (1:6-8). He was probably a disciple of Paul, from Colossae, and established the church at Colossae. Paul wrote this letter after Epaphras had visited him in prison and told him that cultural pressures were interfering in the Church and encouraging people to turn away from Christ.
– This letter was probably written while Paul was in prison in Ephesus for preaching Christ (hey remember that book?!), a 2-3 day’s journey from Colossae.
– This church was a small group of believers. Most likely had been regularly meeting in a house for worship (probably for social distancing… JK). And this letter would have been read aloud to the group as they studied it and were encouraged by it in how to get going as a young church.
– Colossae is similar to Ephesus and Philippi in that the predominant religion was polytheistic, and gods were prayed to for favor and so that bad things wouldn’t happen. Once Christians started growing a foundation, they were blamed and persecuted whenever anything bad would happen since they had stopped worshipping the right “gods.”
– Philemon (coming up next) is a parallel letter to Colossians, sent at the same time as Colossians, as Philemon is from Colossae. Paul is asking Philemon to get a guest room ready for him because Paul is coming to visit as soon as he gets out of prison.
– Colossians still has not been excavated by archaeologists because there are still farmers growing crops over it!
– Key repeated words: faith and love.
– Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.
– It sounds like the Colossians were famous and well known for their faith and love (1:3-8). If we are truly honest with ourselves, what are the things we try to be noticed for? What does it look like to be well known and famous for our faith and love?
o I think if I am honest with myself, I want to be well known for faith and love. But isn’t that the problem though? The key for being well known and famous for faith and love is to be well known for this as a group of people. Obviously, there is a call to action right now, and this is a time when we are feeling the pull even more so to put our faith into action. Paul is not calling out an individual in Colossae that is well known for faith and love, but them as a group, as a people, as a Church. Our goal should not be to be well known for this on our own, because we can’t be good at faith and love on our own, but to put God and others before ourselves as a group so that the Church is famous for our faith and love, as we as individuals make up the body of Christ. The goal is that Wesley or the Church, even around the world as Paul says, is famous for our faith (trust and confidence) and love (people are taken aback by how they feel seen and known when they are around us), over me as an individual being known for the things I have done for my God. Then Jesus will become well known and famous through His Church representing Him well. We shine brighter together, rather than alone.