Introduction to Colossians
Author, Date, and Recipients
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to Christians living in the small city of Colossae. It was probably written c. A.D. 62, while Paul was in prison in Rome (Acts 27–28). This was about the same time he wrote Ephesians and Philemon. All three letters were sent with Tychicus and Onesimus.
Christ is Lord over all of creation, including the invisible realm. He has redeemed his people, enabling them to participate in his death, resurrection, and fullness.
Purpose, Occasion, and Background
A dangerous teaching was threatening the church at Colossae, one that lessened Christ’s role and undermined the new identity of believers “in Christ” (1:2, 28). Paul wrote to warn against this false teaching and to encourage the believers in their growth toward Christian maturity. He emphasizes Christ’s authority over all evil powers. Christians are united with the risen Christ, and therefore they share in his power and authority. Paul also encourages these believers to fight against sin, pursue holiness, and live as distinctively Christian households.
- Jesus Christ is preeminent over all creation, Lord over all human rulers and cosmic powers (1:15–20; 2:9–10; 3:1).
- God has acted through Christ to secure redemption and reconciliation for all who put their faith in him (1:13–14, 20–22).
- Believers are in Christ, and so they share in Christ’s death, resurrection, new life, and his fullness (2:9–14; 3:1–4).
- Christ has defeated the powers of darkness on the cross. Christians share in his power and authority over that realm (2:10, 15; see also 2:8, 20).
- Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish expectation. Christians share in the heritage of the old covenant people of God through their union with him (1:12, 21–22, 27).
- Believers are called to grow in spiritual maturity by getting rid of sinful practices and developing Christian virtues (1:10–12, 28; 3:1–4:6).
- Greeting (1:1–2)
- Thanksgiving (1:3–8)
- Prayer (1:9–14)
- Praise to Christ (1:15–20)
- Reconciliation to God (1:21–23)
- Paul’s Labor for the Gospel (1:24–2:3)
- The Dangerous Teaching at Colossae (2:4–23)
- The Proper Focus: Christ and the Life Above (3:1–4)
- Instructions on Living the Christian Life (3:5–4:6)
- Personal Greetings and Instructions (4:7–17)
- Closing (4:18)
The Setting of Colossians
c. A.D. 62
Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians while in prison, probably in Rome. The church at Colossae was likely established during Paul’s third missionary journey as he ministered for three years in Ephesus. It appears that Paul did not personally plant the church there, but instead a Colossian named Epaphras traveled to Ephesus, responded to Paul’s gospel message, and returned to share the good news in Colossae.