There appear to be two influences in the Church of the Colossians...
Judaism had spread throughout the Roman empire and many Greeks and Romans adopted Judaism as "God-fearers"; they were accepted into the synagogues but weren't circumcised.
Paul wrote this letter from prison with Timothy present, probably as his scribe.
Notice exactly what this verse states is in heaven:not our soul after death but, rather, our hope of redemption while we are yet alive. (And Paul is certainly not discussing whether, after we die, we will still hope for redemption — of course we won't hope this, since we will have begun enjoying its benefits already.) Our hope of redemption, our promise of redemption, is stored up for us in heaven by God where it is safe. In other words, we can be assured that we will receive this grace of redemption.
This is one of the few New Testament verses that even hints that heavenis our goal, but it doesn't actually say this. What is kept in heaven is the promise we will rise with Christ when he comes at his second coming;after this we will enter into the new heavens and new earth.Our hope of all this is trustworthy and sure because it is from God and is reserved for us in heaven by God.
Certainly after death the soul of the redeemed remains in the spiritual realm, but it is relocated to a happier location, distant from the influences of the wicked spirits who plague us while alive.
This promise of redemption is a key aspect of the gospel. Paul reminds them of this; it is not a new teaching which he springs on them only now — they have known about it since they first heard the gospel.
It appears that Epaphras was the pastor-bishop of the Church of the Colossians.
Epaphras visited Paul in prison and Paul wrote a letter for him to take back.
(Colossians 1:9) For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
It's verses such as these that fueled the Arian heresy, the worst heresy of all time. They finally had to use a word that wasn't in the Bible to refute it, the word we translate as "substance." This has the side-effect of making it seem that God is composed of a substance, which of course, he isn't. A conclusion to all this is that Sola Scripturahas no basis; if the Bible was all that was needed, Jerome would not have needed to say that the "world woke up one day and groaned to discover that it had become Arian?"
Jesus is the image of God the father who is invisible. In other words, if we have seen Jesus, we have see the Father. Of course, we haven't seen Jesus, not yet anyway. But if we have encountered Jesus, we have encountered the Father. In other words, as Jesus said to his disciples, we don't need to try to interact with God the Father anywhere else then through Jesus.
Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Just as the firstborn son of a couple brings in a new thing into their family; the presence of a son, of sonship, just so the presence of Jesus in the spiritual realm brought in a new thing into the spiritual realm; the presence of redemption and of the redeemer. Thus, in taking on human form and human flesh, Jesus inaugurated the plan of salvation for us humans. And just as Adam was the firstborn human (born of God) and ushered in a new kind of creature, created in God's image; just so Jesus ushered in a better kind of human life: the eternal life of the redeemed.
I really don't think Paul was intending to say that Jesus was a created creature who happened to be born first before the rest of us. And I really don't think Paul was intending to say that Jesus is merely a created image of God, resembling God, but not himself God. But this verse can easily be interpreted this way and, in fact, was interpreted this way by the Arians. This is why we need the Churchto properly interpret scripture.
(Colossians 1:16) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
All things were created by Jesus. It seems to me that Paul is trying very hard to clearly state that Jesus created every created thing, without exception. And he didn't just create all this stuff on a whim; he created it for his own use, his own purpose.
This verse provides a complete list of all the various categories of created things...
The Churchis the body of Christ,with Jesus as the head. Some might wish we don't talk about the Church so much but we simply must talk about it because Jesus and the apostles emphasize the topic, as do the early church fathers.
Jesus is the beginning, that is to say, he participated in the creation of the angels and the universe along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is the Godhead and the creator. Jesus is the first human to be resurrected. Note that he is human because he, in his divinity, took on human flesh in the incarnation and united human nature with his nature, with God's nature.Thus humanity is to be "deified", united with the Godhead (but humans will never be God but, rather, but will always remain created creatures.) We will someday enjoy the benefits of having resurrected bodies in the new heavens and new earthbecause Jesus paved the way by conquering death and being resurrected. Jesus, as deity, will always have preeminence over the created realm; physical and spiritual.
The things on earth reconciled to Jesus are redeemed humans having a physical body in the physical realm and a soul residing in the spiritual realm. The things in heavenreconciled to Jesus are the souls of the redeemed who have died. The word "heaven" merely refers to the spiritual realm; either all of it including the place where God resides, or part of it where disembodied humans reside.
(Colossians 1:23) If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled [firm], and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Apparently it is possible for Christians to abandon the faith; and doing so terminates their chance at redemption. This is the danger of much modern teaching emphasizing salvation through faith only— it ignores this dreaded possibility that Paul speaks about in this verse. Is it loving to lead someone to salvation teaching they can't lose their salvation (so they can feel the assurance of their salvation), then allow them to wander off and lose the prize?
The gospel is trustworthy and true and we do well to place our hope in its glorious promises, of eternity in the new heavens and new earth.Church leaders should be concerned primarily with guiding the flock under their care to this goal; we should reject any Church leader who does not have this as their primary goal.
We take it for granted that Paul, as an apostle, was an authoritative teacher, but apparently those he was teaching didn't always accept his authority. He constantly reminds them of his credentials; sometimes it seems to annoy him that he must do so.
Christ suffered for the salvation and redemption of all who will accept in faith. But his suffering is not the end of suffering — Christians must endure suffering; some more, some less. Paul is suffering for the sake of the church, in his role as apostle. Because the church continues on in history, the suffering of Christians continues on as well. Because Christians constitute the body of Christ, there is a sense in which this suffering by Christians is actually Christ's suffering; in other words, there is more to Christ's suffering than what he suffered in his lifetime on earth.
(Colossians 2:2) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
Philosophy is not a good source of truth.At the time of the New Testament there were various philosophical systems: Plato, Aristotle, Jewish versions of these, as well as the ancient Greek philosophers such as Pythagorus who taught that mathematics and geometry were the constituent components of the universe and Anaximenes who attributed such powers to the element air. Even some of the great Catholic teachers such as Augustine and Aquinas were fooled by philosophy, and the Catholic Church continues to hold up natural lawand Aristotle ala Aquinasas indispensible ingredients of describing infallible truth.
We are to look to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles as our source of truth. We need to compare Christian teachings to these and reject those that don't match. Merely claiming the Bible is all that is needed is not sufficient since people interpret the Bible in various ways and come up with all kinds of crazy ideas.
We require divine revelation to know truth: reason alone is not sufficient. Philosophy attempts to use observation and reason to determine truth. Surprisingly, they can't seem even to properly distinguish between the physical realm and the spiritual realm.Things are a lot clearer when you sort these out.
We must distinguish between apostolic teaching and vain deceit, of false teaching. Both come to us in the form of traditions, but the first is divine Tradition while the second the traditions of men. They key is to trace the source of the teaching: apostolic teaching is trustworthy while teaching from any other source is not. Discovering apostolic teaching requires the New Testament, the early church fathers,and early histories.As an example of why sources outside the Bible are necessary consider the Eucharist:many consider it to be merely symbolic but it is clear that the Church from the very first considered the consecrated elements of bread and wine to literally be the body and blood of Christ. Another example is baptism:the early Church considered that baptism remitted sin and was not merely an act to do out of obedience; you became members of the Church, of the body of Christ,via baptism.
This verse is stunning. In taking on human nature, Jesus "deified" human nature;he made it to be part of God's nature. The redeemed will be "deified" in the new heavens and new earth.But we will never be deity because our souls, our spirits, were created whereas Jesus' spirit is deity; Jesus' living essence is deity. So Jesus with a now deified body is deity, whereas, we will be "deified" but with created bodies and created souls and spirits. We will be like Jesus in some small ways, but this will be a major step up for us compared to this present life.
Circumcisionwas given by God to Abrahamas a covenant sign. This act was to be accompanied by faith in God.The true significance of circumcision was the context of a life focused on God; circumcision apart from this was useless. But it turns out that the life focused on God, a life of faith, is all that is required, but humanity was not ready for this idea until Jesus came. In entering into a covenantal relationship with Christ we gain the benefits of circumcision.
This is one of those verses that gave rise to the idea that sex is bad.In removing a part of the male sex organ as part of joining in covenant with God, the implication is that sex is bad. But this practice was ended as part of the gospel, the good news, implying the ritual of circumcision was all wrong from the beginning.
Christ's work on our behalf is all that is needed, not rituals or ceremonial law.
Those who teach baptism has no effect on the soul should have trouble with this verse. In baptism we are actually buried with Christ; our soul becomes mystically united with Christ's redeeming work on our behalf. Those who teach baptism is merely an act we perform in obedience have turned this spiritual reality into a mere ritualistic work.
Notice the object of our faith: the conviction that God can perform redemption through Christ's incarnation, sacrificial death, and resurrection, and that God will apply these mighty deeds of redemption to our eternal benefit. In other words, our faith is directed toward the goal of our eternal redemption. Trusting God to do this is an act of supreme worship of God.
Our first condition is spiritual death in which we are separated from God. The final condition of the redeemed is a soul reborn into eternal life with God, and there are various stages of this: alive, after death, finally in the new heavens and new earth.The cause of our separation from God is original sin; Paul calls this uncircumcision of the flesh.
Much of the New Testament is concerned with explaining the transition in God's plan from the Jewish law to Christian grace in Christ. This topic doesn't mean much to us today and should be understood in terms of the conflict caused for those first Christians often from Jewish heritage; we would refer to this today as cognitive dissonance, of having two contradictory belief systems at the same time.
The Judaizers resolved this by insisting Christians be Jews first. Paul resolves it by teaching that the Old Testament covenant was superceded by New Testament grace in which the 10 commandments are still binding, but the rites, rituals, ceremonies, feast days, sacrifices, etc. can be safely ignored; should be ignored; must be ignored.
Thus, aspects of the Old Testament covenant with God such as circumcision become symbols or metaphors of Christian truth. This does not violate my strictly literal system of interpretationbecause the writers clearly mean these things as metaphors.
Notice that eternal redemption is all about life and living. Our soul resides in God's presence and blessing for all eternity. Life and death concern fellowship with God. We typically think of death as merely the soul fleeing the body, and this is true. But the bigger meaning of death is the separation of the soul from the body, and of spiritual death, the separation of the soul from fellowship with God. In this life our soul starts out dead because it is all tangled up in Satan's kingdom of darkness, but the soul can be brought to life, reborn, through faith in God's plan of redemption with accompanying repentance from sin.
The Old Testament law resulted in death for those who did not follow it faithfully.What goes unsaid in all this is the need to obey the law; Paul seems to assume people won't, can't, or at least don't obey the law. Certainly the Old Testament demonstrates the nation of Israel at large, especially the spiritual leaders, did not remain faithful to God and consequently received the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy.
A side-effect of believing the people of Old Testament times could not follow the law and were, therefore, cursed by God is Christians sometimes teach these were not saved at all!I think Paul is sometimes a bit too strong in his condemnation of Old Testament law. He tries to soften it somewhat by listing various benefits from the Old Testament lawbut his answer is not satisfying in the least. He never really admits that the faithful followers of Old Testament law are redeemed, merely that the law fulfilled a place in God's plan of salvation.
In the image of nailing something to the cross, Paul seems to have in mind a scroll containing the law being nailed alongside the suffering body of Christ as he hung on the cross. This is clearly a figure of speech because you cannot go back in time and nail the abstract set of laws to a wooden cross. But there is an aspect in which the image is literalafter all. In the spiritual realm, all ideas, thought, dreams, memories, and creative expressions do have a tangible existence; after all, the spiritual realm is where such things reside.Thus, because you think it, you make it real, and the image persists forever; our memories life forever.
Redemption is more than merely humans becoming right with God; it also includes ridding the spiritual realm of wicked spirits who seek pain, suffering, destruction, and death for all living creatures.
The crucifixion had two benefits...
I find it ironic that the Catholic Churchinsists you must follow traditions similar to those of the Judaizers; things such as dietary rules of Lent (and Fridays), obligatory mass attendance on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, mandatory sacramental confession.
The traditions of the Mosaic law point to the final future eternal utopia of the new heavens and new earth.Those Jews living under this law in faith longed for redemption, not fully understanding their future fate after death — they lived in the shadows of the gospel, of Christ. Now that Christ has come, believers still long for eternal redemption in the new heavens and new earth. Nothing has changed except the degree of light shining on us.
People typically use this verse as an example of Typology,that the Old Testament laws are "types" of New Testament realities. At all stages of human history, God intervenes according to his plan and purpose, thus Old Testament and New Testament aspects of redemption will tell a similar story — this is the relationship between them. Typology seems to me to be an artificial and unnecessary construct imposed on top of this basic reality.
(Colossians 2:18) Let no man beguile [rob] you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen [visions], vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
The "voluntary humility" spoken of is probably some sort of self-abasement performed in religious devotion as a mortification of the flesh.
The NIV translates this as: the person who teaches false doctrine is the one who has the self-abasement and who worships angels. I think this is correct because the next several verses continue to talk about that person. In any case, Christians should not be fooled by these false teachings into practicing them themselves.
These people have had visions which they accept as true. We are to accept only apostolic teaching as infallibly true.This is why I am shy about the Charismaticmovement; all kinds of things come into your head and there is no way to know which are truly from the Holy Spirit. It's safer to live a life of virtueand devotion to God.
These false prophets bringing in false teaching were not the Judaizers. Having visions and worshipping angels was not a Jewish practice at the time and the Judaizers were strict Jews.
Still referring to those who are infiltrating their ranks and teaching false doctrine.
It's unclear whether the phrase "will-worship" refers (1) to being hypocritically devout, or (2) to worship of self, in rejecting the true apostolic gospel; probably the first.
A summary of the false teachings and bad practices...
As Christ ascended into heaven his resurrected body disappeared. The physical body is physical and does not reside in the spiritual realm. Perhaps there is a resurrected spiritual body corresponding to the resurrected physical body just as there is a spiritual body corresponding to the physical body.Perhaps one aspect of bodily resurrection is a uniting of the physical body with the spiritual body; currently the two are separate.
We are to seek things from above, heavenly things. Notice we are to do this while yet alive in a physical body. We are not seeking to have a resurrected body immediately after becoming a Christian. The things that are above, heavenly, are God's moral law, his plan of redemption, and his person. We are to seek to obey the 10 commandments, to practice virtue,and to have a relationship with God.
We are to set our affections on God's moral law, his plan of redemption, and his person. We are not to set our affection on things of the fleshincluding sin. I think the question for deciding which is which is, does it please God?
This is an example of critics claiming the Bible has errors and contradictions: Paul says we are dead and we are not dead.
It seems Paul is using the word dead to refer to the body before resurrection. We are separated from God when in this state even though we are mystically united with Christ and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But neither of the these affect our body. Only after resurrection does our body become truly alive.
Earlier, Paul says we are dead in our sinsbut are brought to life upon becoming a Christian. We are brought to life in a secret manner, in the soul and not in the body. This only becomes physical at the second coming of Christ, at the resurrection.
Notice the resurrection doesn't occur until Christ returns at his second coming.
Christ is our spiritual life while we are in this body and he is our eternal life after the resurrection.
(Colossians 3:5) Mortify [put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness [impurity], inordinate affection [lust], evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Paul refers to things we do while alive on this earth in terms of the physical body doing them. Our spiritual deadness before receiving Christ results in actions in the world performed with our bodies, including our speaking. Notice the connection between soul and body, between faith and works. Faith is measured by actions, without good actions there is no faith. Also, God judges our deeds, not our heart.
It is common in fundamentalist evangelical Protestant churches to refer to such things as watching too much TV, spending too much time washing their car or surfing, and shopping too much especially during Christmas, as idolatry. Catholics are referred to as idol-worshippers because of their devotional practices involving statues, icons (images and paintings of Saints), Rosary beads and things such as medallians, kneeling, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Paul clears up the matter: idolatry for Christians consists in committing mortal sinssuch as those listed in this verse.
The wrath of God is judgment which occurs at each person's death. Notice that judgment is based on works,if you commit mortal sins you are judged for them. This is in the context of redemption. Christians are to not sin because if they do they will be judged for them.
Does this mean we must reveal every smallest inner thought to one another? Or that we have an obligation to share every thought and feeling? Can we bend the truth by saying something uplifting and edifying instead of something hurtful? Are we obligated to inform those who wish to harm us how they can better accomplish their task, or can we lie to them? Notice that this verse addresses Christians speaking to Christians. The rules of good manners involve being civil toward one another and not saying hurtful or confusing things — this is not lying. If a child performs a piano piece and it is not on par with a virtuoso concert pianist, this does mean it is not good or even great.
Perhaps a good way to think about this topic is in the context of mortal sin. When lying leads to eternal damnation it is clearly wrong. I am amazed at how often in the New Testament the writers provide lists of very wicked deeds and exhort believers to not be like this. I wonder if perhaps people were rather uncultured in that day. Well, they seem to be like this in our modern day too, especially in the highest ranks of politics. Politicians deliberately lie and misrepresent their views and proposals; their products. So do advertisers. At what point do the shenanigans of salesmanship and persuasion become mortal sin?
Christians are to become different kinds of people than these wicked and depraved. But how can we possibly survive in the workplace with others who do not have such values of holiness? Well as it turns out, employers wish their employees to have high ethical values. What employer wishes his employees to steal from them, or to lie about conditions requiring risky decisions? Paul is not the only one who wants people to put off the old man.
(Colossians 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
The phrase "word of Christ" does not refer to the Bible but, rather, to the truth, teachings, and presence of Christ. Holding up the Bible and calling it the "word of God" is not strictly correct;in fact, doing so is a form of idolatry. Certainly, in reading the Bible we experience God's presence and truth, but the printed words are not the thing, rather, it is when our souls read or hear the words and God who wrote the words interacts with us.
Singing to the Lord is a way to worship him.
One purpose of the word of God is to make us wise. Note that we are to teach and instruct others in the word of God. This can be done by singing songs containing the word of God. It appears that one goal of singing in church is to be taught and admonished.
Social pressures act on us all and tend to form our behavior so we conform. But in matters of the Lord, including moral theology,we are to follow only God. If others tempt us to sin we are to resist. We are to know what God expects of us so we can obey heartily rather than timidly and uncertainly. Of course, doing so might lead to persecution and martyrdom.
This verse implies all the prisoners of Rome were kept in the same location and that the prisoners could interact with one another.
Nymphas is probably a bishop and financially well off. I suspect those with money had more influence in the Church than those who were of more humble means unless they had some important gifting.
Some translations consider Nymphas (Nympha) to be female.
It would be nice to have the letter Paul wrote to those in Laodicea. I wonder if these two Churches each had copies of their letter and they passed them back and forth from time to time. In any case, these letters would be read during mass (it wasn't called that yet).
This reminds me of Paul's admonition to Timothy. It would be nice if we knew more about his ministry and why Paul mentioned it. Perhaps Archippus was getting weary and needed a reminder. Or maybe Paul would send people off to do things and they would lose interest once out of Paul's commanding presence. I wonder if this Archippus is the same person as in the letter to Philemon?
King James Version