Summary: Basics in the prison Epistles
PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
QUOTATION: "And then the theme: Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In which he touches the very high-water mark of divinely revealed Truth, the Person and Glory of Jesus Christ" (Rev. James M. Gray. D.D.).
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE EPISTLE: The Apostle Paul, Chap. 1:1, 4:18.
II. THE DATE OF THE EPISTLE: A. D. 62-63.
This date is generally agreed upon by Biblical scholars. In addition to the date, Bishop Nicholson says, "It may certainly be concluded that he (Paul) wrote this Epistle near the close of his first Roman captivity (Acts 28:)."
III. THE PLACE FROM WHENCE THE EPISTLE WAS WRITTEN:
1. ROME: The Imperial City.
2. PRISON: The depths of a prison dungeon.
The letter to the Colossians in common with the Epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians was written during the period of Paul's imprisonment and is therefore termed a "Prison Epistle." That these letters are prison epistles is revealed in the internal evidence found in each letter:
(1) Ephesians: Cp. Chap. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20.
(2) Philippians: Cp. Chap. 1:17, 12-19, 20-30; 2:17-30; 4:10-18, 22.
(3) Colossians; Cp. Chap. 4:3, 10, 18.
IV. THE CHURCH TO WHOM THE EPISTLE WAS WRITTEN:
1. THE INSCRIPTION: Chap. 1:1-2. "Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae."
2. THE LOCATION: Colossae was a city belonging to the province of Phrygia in Asia Minor and therefore under the direct domination of the Roman Empire; other cities not far distant and mentioned in the Epistle were Hierapolis and Laodicea (Chap. 4:13, 16). Ephesus also was situated in the same section and possessed honor as the chief city and capital of the province.
Colossae had been at one time an important populous city but in the days of Paul it was a decadent, dying place, like many cities of the past it has long since disappeared and is now known in history chiefly because of its connection with the life and labors of the Apostle Paul and the location of a notable assembly of believers.
3. THE FORMATION: How the church at Colossae came into existence we are not absolutely certain, the Epistle itself indicates several facts, however, in relation to the evangelization and organization of the church.
(1) The Apostle Paul did not directly and personally found the Church. Proof:
A. No record is given in the Acts of the Apostles concerning its visitation or evangelization by the Apostle during his missionary journeys and labors throughout that section.
B. The letter indicates that Paul had never seen the Colossian believers face to face and his knowledge of them came through the report given by Epaphras. Note: Chap. 1:4-9; 2:1.
(2) There are indications that Epaphras was the probable founder of the church. Proof:
A. Epaphras was the minister of the church: Cp. Chap. 1:7; 4:12. It has been suggested, however, that Colossae was the indirect result of Paul's labors, possibly during his evangelistic work in Ephesus and other nearby cities, Epaphras like other converts went forth with the gospel of the grace of God and likewise found converts to its glorious truths.
4. THE COMPOSITION: Those forming the membership of the Colossian church were no doubt formerly Gentiles according to the flesh and as such were heathen, given to the various forms of nature worship.
V. THE PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE:
1. THE OCCASION OF THE EPISTLE:
(1) A report rendered Paul by Epaphras, Their Minister: Chap. 1:3-8; Cp. 4:12. This report concerned the state of the Colossian assembly and revealed the fact that while the assembly was in many respects in most excellent condition, a grave danger threatened and imperiled its life and usefulness as a church. This peril was concerning the doctrine to be received and believed; certain erroneous teaching crept into the assembly and threatened to set aside the divinely revealed doctrines of the church concerning the Person and Glory of the Lord Jesus, and the heavenly position of the believer (as set forth in Ephesians) and to substitute in their stead the gross errors of ceremonialism, pagan philosophy, theosophy, spiritism and Alexandrian asceticism.
(2) This report occasioned great solicitude on the part of Paul in relation to the Colossian believers. This solicitude is revealed in the expressions of the Apostle concerning:
A. Their faith and a walk worthy of the faith: Cp. Chap. 1:9-22.
B. Their continuance in the faith: Cp. Chap. 1:23-27.
C. Their growth and assurance in the faith: Cp. Chap. 1:28; 2:2.
D. Their stability and establishment in the faith: Cp. Chap. 2:3-7.