Monday, June 3, 2013

God's Holy People in Colossae

Colossians 1:1-2 NIV

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the Will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sistersa in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.b

Located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, Colossae was a Greco-Phrygian city in the Roman proconsul of Asia also known as Asia Minor. It was one of three cities located in the Lycus Valley (Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea) that formed an important trade route, a virtual meeting point between east and west. Colossae was about ten miles from Laodicea and thirteen miles from Hierapolis. At one time Colossae had been a large and populous city, but when Paul wrote to the Colossian church, it had become just a small town in contrast to its nearest neighbors, Hierapolis and Laodicea.

From the New Testament record, these two neighboring cities appear to also have contained a congregation of believers (cf. Philemon 2 with Colossians 4:16) and are mentioned in Colossians (cf. 2:1; 4:13). Though small, Colossae of Paul’s day was still a cosmopolitan city with different cultural and religious elements that were mingled together.

Since God’s concern for His Own people is never based on human distinctions like size, the Colossian church was still close to the heart of God. He obviously thought it important enough to lay it on the heart of the apostle Paul. Significantly, the letter to this small group of believers became one of the letters of the canon of the New Testament and one of the most important because of what it teaches us regarding the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

The epistle to the Colossians appears to have been written about the same time with that to the Philippians, viz. towards the end of the year 62, and in the ninth of the Emperor Nero.

That the two epistles were written about the same time is rendered probable by the following circumstance: In the Epistle to the Philippians, Philippians 2:19, Paul purposes to send Timothy to Philippi, who was then with him at Rome, that he might know their state. As Timothy joins with the apostle in the salutation at the beginning of this epistle, it is evident that he was still at Rome, and had not yet been sent to Philippi; and as Paul wrote the former epistle nearly at the close of his first imprisonment at Rome, the two epistles must have been written within a short space of each other.

When, or by whom, Christianity was first preached at Colosse, and a Church founded there, we cannot tell; but it is most likely that it was by the apostle Paul himself, and during the three years in which he dwelt at Ephesus; for we are told, Acts 19:10 : “That all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” And that Paul preached in Phrygia, the district in which this city was situated, we learn from Acts 16:6 : “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia;” and at another time we find that “he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples;” Acts 18:23.

It has, however, been argued, from Colossians 2:1, of this epistle, that Paul had never been at Colosse; for he there says: “I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” But the consequence drawn from these words does not necessarily means that the Churches of Colosse and Laodicea were not founded by Paul because of the fact;

1. That the apostle was twice in Phrygia, in which were Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. See the places above quoted from the Acts of the Apostles.

2. That he does in effect, or even expressly, say that he had dispensed the Gospel to the Colossians, Colossians 1:21-25.

3. From several passages in the epistle it appears that the apostle does not speak as to strangers, but to acquaintances, disciples, and converts. Some think that Epaphras, who is called their apostle, Colossians 1:7, was the first who planted Christianity among the Colossians.

Whether the Colossians to whom the apostle addresses this epistle were Jews or Gentiles, cannot be absolutely determined. It is most probable that they were a mixture of both; but that the principal part were converted Jews is most likely. This, indeed, appears to have been the case in most of the Asiatic and Grecian Churches; for there were Jews, at this time, sojourning in almost every part of the Roman Empire.

The language of this epistle is bold and energetic, the sentiments are grand, and the conceptions vigorous and majestic. The phraseology is in many places Jewish; and the reason is obvious: the apostle had to explain subjects which never had a name in any other language. The mythology of the Gentiles could not furnish terms to explain the theology of the Jews; much less, the more refined and spiritual system of Christianity.

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