Author: Paul, with Timothy
Audience: Christians in Colossae
Subjects: Lead lives worthy of the Lord, Be mature in Christ, Disregard worldly wisdom, Put to death sinful behavior, Replace bad behavior with righteous behavior, etc.
Paul introduces himself and Timothy to the audience, telling them how thankful he is to hear of their faith in Jesus Christ. He says he has been praying for them "so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10)
Paul provides a theology of Jesus Christ, saying that he is the image of the invisible Father.
Through Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ, everything was created, and he is both the firstborn of creation and the head of the church (that is, God's people), and it is through Jesus Christ that the world is reconciled.
Paul tells them that Jesus died so that he can "present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him," but Paul warns them "provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith." (Colossians 1:22-23)
Paul speaks of his suffering, comparing the purpose of his suffering to the suffering of Jesus Christ, saying, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." (Colossians 1:24)
Paul speaks of this subject in Philippians as well, saying that his imprisonment has "helped to spread the gospel." (Philippians 1:12) He also says, "For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well," (Philippians 1:29) as well as "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death." (Philippians 3:10)
Paul continues to express his desire for his audience to be strengthened in the faith, in order to become "mature in Christ" as he says in Colossians 1:28.
Paul is urging his audience to avoid being deceived by false teachers, with their deceptive philosophies and beliefs. In context, Paul begins to explain what he means by the philosophy, plausible arguments, and deceit of human tradition.
Paul first reveals that he is speaking partially of human regulations and traditions in Colossians 2:16-22. He then reveals that he is also speaking of sinning in Colossians 3:5-9, when he says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2) and then he gives a list of sins in Colossians 3:5-9 that they must "put to death."
Water Baptism and Spiritual Circumcision
In Colossians 2:11-14, Paul describes the spiritual circumcision that he has spoken of in his other letters, such as Romans 2:29, "Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal."
Paul also explains that physical circumcision doesn't matter in regards to salvation, saying, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything." (Corinthians 7:19)
Paul makes the connection clear that obeying God's commandments is what makes us spiritually circumcised (meaning salvation, since circumcision was the representative sign that a male was under the law), "So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" (Romans 2:26)
Paul is saying that even if someone is not physically circumcised that their obedience to God's law makes them spiritually circumcised.
Since physical circumcision is what represented that a male was under God's law, Paul is explaining that what actually places us in God's kingdom is obeying his commandments, which Paul calls spiritual circumcision.
In Colossians 2:11-14, Paul describes this spiritual event of "spiritual circumcision," explaining that water baptism is meant to represent it, which he explains in Romans 2 occurs due to obedience to God's commandments: "So, if those who are [physically] uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their [physical] uncircumcision be regarded as [spiritual] circumcision?" (Romans 2:26)
Water baptism also represents a spiritual baptism by God's Holy Spirit.
As Peter says, "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21 NIV)
"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38)
And John the Baptist says, "I have baptized you with water; but [Jesus Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:8)
Summary of Water Baptism and Spiritual Circumcision
According to Paul, true circumcision is spiritual (Romans 2:29) and the only thing that truly matters is obedience to God's commandments (Romans 2:26; 1 Corinthians 7:19).
Paul says that a person is a true Jew (God's people) based on obedience to his commandments (Romans 2:26,29).
Water Baptism symbolizes a person's decision to repent of sin and return to obeying God, resulting in baptism by the Holy Spirit and spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:11-14; 1 Peter 3:21).
Spiritual circumcision and baptism by the Holy Spirit are based on "the pledge of a good conscience towards God" (1 Peter 3:21) and obedience to God's commandments (Romans 2:26,29).
Paul says to avoid being deceived by those who focus on worshiping angels or "dwelling on visions" instead of keeping their focus on Jesus Christ "and not holding fast to the head (Christ)" (Colossians 2:18-19)
Paul explains that the teachings of false religions are just the made up teachings of humans and should not be recognized as authoritative commands.
Paul teaches his audience to essentially revolve their worldview around Jesus Christ, instead of the teachings of the world.
In context, he is speaking specifically of sinning when he tells them to focus on Christ and to rid themselves of the world's wisdom, as he mentions in Colossians 3:5-9.
Paul says to, "Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)," and he makes it clear that "On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient." (Colossians 3:5-6)
He continues, instructing them that they must rid themselves of "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth [and lying]." (Colossians 3:8-9) Paul is plainly telling his audience that no person who does these sinful things will be saved. They must repent and return to obeying God, which is the evidence of a true faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul also states this fact plainly in most of his letters, such as Titus 1:16 "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions." James too agrees that faith must be supported by actions, or else it's dead, in James 2:17 "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James connects "works" to obedience to God's commandments in James 2:8-12).
Paul then instructs his audience of what to do, saying, "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." (Colossians 3:12)
He then gives specific examples of how to behave for husbands, wives, children, slaves, masters, etc.
As Paul is ending his letter, he continues his instructions, informing his audience that he is in prison and asking them for prayer. He tells them, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you,” in conclusion.
Paul's letter to the Christians in Colossae in largely a letter urging his audience to repent of sinful behavior and to disregard the teachings of the world.
He urges them to instead follow the teachings of Christ and to replace any sinful behavior with righteousness.
The main subjects that Paul covers in Colossians are: Lead lives worthy of the Lord, Be mature in Christ, Disregard worldly wisdom, Put to death sinful behavior, Replace bad behavior with righteous behavior, etc.
← Back to Summary of New Testament Letters from Summary of Colossians
← Back to Pauline Epistles: New Testament Letters Written by Paul
Like and Share this Page