A Study of Colossians 1:15-20 considers Jesus as the divine creator, head of the church, and source of reconciliation and peace.
Paul addresses a false teaching that adds extra teachings and religious practices to the gospel message. In effect, it lowered the importance of Christ and Paul refutes it by emphasizing the supremacy of Christ.
A Study of Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus is the divine creator
V.15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Who is Jesus Christ? The answer is vigorously debated today, but Paul provides a clear and confident answer.
The Greek word for “image” is ĕikōn, which means likeness and representation. And it’s used in two ways. The first is likeness as in a mirror reflection and the second is manifestation to mean God is perfectly revealed in Jesus. In Philippians 2:6, Paul says Jesus was “in the form of God.” And Greek word for “form” is morphe, which indicates God’s essence.
In short, Paul says Jesus Christ was fully God and man.
The Greek word for “firstborn” is prōtŏtŏkŏs and can mean first in time or supremacy in rank. In Jewish tradition, the firstborn son was both a position of honor and extra responsibility. And since Jesus was supreme in his divinity, first in time and supremacy in rank both apply to him.
V.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…
As one of the Trinity, Jesus created both the physical and spiritual worlds. Why does this matter? Because part of the Colossian heresy included errant teaching concerning the angelic world. So Paul makes it clear Jesus is not equal to the angelic world but God who reigns over it.
V.17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Jesus is both supreme and sovereign, The words “hold together” are from the Greek word synístēmi which means putting together or composed of. In other words, God didn’t create the universe then sit back to relax as a spectator. He actively holds the universe together and works to accomplish his divine purpose.
A Study of Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus is the head of the church
V.18 And he is the head of the body, the church.
The church is not simply a building or an organization. It is a body of believers united by the spirit of Christ. The Greek word for “church” is ĕkklēsia, and means a calling out. It communicates a sense of unified purpose and mission. The church is not a holy huddle or religious social group, but works to accomplish God’s purpose. As the head, Jesus spiritually leads it to carry out that mission.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent
At the resurrection, Jesus defeated the power of sin. Those who compose the church follow by confessing and repenting of sin and are reborn through him. The Greek word for “preeminent” is prōtĕuō, which means first in rank or influence. It further reinforces the supremacy of Christ.
A study of Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus is the source of reconciliation and peace
V.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…
The Greek word for “fullness” is plērōma, and means completeness. It confirms that God’s full divine being is completely present in Jesus. And the Greek word for “dwell” is katŏikĕō, which means permanent residence. Jesus was fully God all the time and not just on weekends.
V. 20 And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Why do we need reconciliation? Because sin separates us from God. As Paul writes in Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The Greek word for “reconcile” is apokatallássō and presents the idea of changing from enmity to friendship. What we as sinners can’t change, God does through Jesus Christ.
The Greek word for “peace” is eirēnopoiéō and is the counterpart to shālôm. the Hebrew word for “peace.” Shālôm goes beyond the idea of peace as a lack of conflict and presents the idea of a right relationship with God. In other words, Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross puts us in a right relationship with God and makes us his friends.
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14. This study addresses the results of a Godly lifestyle, how you’re strengthened and qualified by God, and you’re delivered, redeemed, and forgiven.
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14. The results of a Godly lifestyle
Christ-followers are not perfect because we still sin. And yet, the life of a Christ-follower should be distinctly separate from the culture. Paul prayed in V.9 for the Colossian church to know God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And he explains why in V.10.
V.10 So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…
The Greek word for “walk” is pĕripatĕō and literally means to walk around. But it’s used figuratively here to mean personal conduct. In other words, living a Godly lifestyle. And it starts by seeking to know and understand God’s will.
Paul lists three results of knowing and understanding God’s will.
Fully pleasing to him
Bearing fruit in every good work
Increasing in the knowledge of God
The desire to please God is our motive for Godly living. And bearing fruit in good works is not to earn God’s favor, but express our devotion to him. Also, notice that Paul talks about knowing God’s will in V.9 and increasing in the knowledge of God in V.10. The Greek word for “increasing” is auxanō, and is also translated “growing.” It’s used in present tense which suggests a continual growth process.
REFLECT & RECORD:
How well are you pleasing God? Write down both your successes and failures.
Has your knowledge of God increased? If so, describe how. If not, how might knowing God better impact your life?
How does pleasing God, bearing fruit, and increased knowledge of God work together to foster spiritual growth?
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14 Strengthened and qualified by God
V.11 Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…
The Greek word for “strengthened” is dunamŏō, and is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 4:13.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
We can’t live a Godly lifestyle in our own strength, but must lean on God’s strength. Studying God’s word, prayer, and accountability with other believers play an important role in this. And God doesn’t dispense strength in small doses to cover each need, but gives generously from his great supply. Jesus calls us to an abundant life (John 10:10) and God provides abundant resources.
For all endurance and patience with joy…
The Christian life doesn’t exclude suffering, but it’s something we endure with joy. This is described in James 1:2-3.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Of course, James does not say to welcome or celebrate suffering. But that joy sustains us because of our confident hope in a future where all suffering ends. And that hope helps us endure it, not deliver us from it.
Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
The Greek word for “qualified” is hikanŏo and means to enable as in to make competent or sufficient. The word tense suggests it’s an immediate event. So when a person commits their life to Jesus, they immediately become a saint and qualified to share in an eternal inheritance.
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14 Delivered, redeemed and forgiven
V.12 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…
Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage is a major theme in the Old Testament. And darkness and light a common theme in the New Testament. In other words, there is both physical and spiritual bondage.
Jesus claimed to be the light in John 8:12 and called people to follow him.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Paul assures the Colossian church that since they’re following Jesus, they’re no longer in the domain of darkness but the kingdom of light.
In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The same is true for us. Through the power of Jesus Christ we are delivered from spiritual bondage, redeemed, and forgiven. No extra teaching improves this Gospel message. And no other qualifications or conditions are required.
REFLECT & RECORD
Describe how God strengthened you in a particular situation. Where else do you need his strength today?
Even believers can suffer physical or spiritual bondage. Is there an area where you’re currently struggling? Pray to Jesus for guidance on where to find deliverance.
If you’ve given your life to Christ then you’re redeemed and forgiven. Take a moment to thank and praise him.
A Study of Colossians 1:5b-9. Today’s study includes returning to the fundamentals, hearing and responding to the Gospel message, the importance of prayer, God’s will, and spiritual wisdom and understanding.
A Study of Colossians 1:5b-9 Returning to the Fundamentals
V.5b You have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel…
Every sport involves teaching the fundamentals. They are drilled into every player. And often, when teams suffer losing seasons, the coach returns to those fundamentals.
The Greek word for “gospel” is evangelion which means good news. It is the fundamental message of truth for the Christian faith. Everything in the Old Testament builds up to it. And everything in the New Testament builds upon it. Paul encourages the Colossian church to return to that fundamental and measure the truth of every new teaching against it.
We’re given the same charge today although we now have the entire Bible as our source of authority.
New philosophies, doctrines, and religious ideas surround us. So how do we recognize what is counterfeit? By knowing what is genuine. Therefore, we should not simply accept every sermon preached, Bible study taught, or media presentation as truth. But examine them through the lens of scripture.
V.6 Which has come to you, as indeed In the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing as it does among you…
The gospel message has transforming power. And people who respond to it by following Jesus Christ are changed from the inside out. Paul supports this in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Paul affirms the Colossian church for demonstrating evidence the Gospel is at work among them. And he uses the metaphor of bearing fruit to communicate that the Gospel message continues to produce new believers as it spreads throughout world and people respond to it.
And it’s a good reminder for us. Because sometimes our spiritual tunnel vision doesn’t see beyond our local church. But here we’re reminded that the universal church reaches far beyond those walls.
REFLECT & RECORD
What additions do you see to fundamental truths of scripture today?
How do you respond and based on what scripture?
Describe some spiritual fruit you’ve seen produced from Gospel transformation.
How was the Gospel presented to you? Describe the transformation that took place in your life.
A Study of Colossians 1:5b-9 Hearing and responding to the Gospel message.
V.6 Since the day you heard it and understood…
The Greek word for “understood” is ĕpiginōskō, and means to acknowledge, become fully acquainted with, and perceive. It indicates that people don’t always immediately and emotionally respond to the Gospel message. But rather, carefully consider and rationally think about it before reaching a conclusion. But then, everyone must decide to either reject or accept the Gospel and move forward by an act of faith.
The grace of God in truth…
Religious practices are a work-based tendency that dilute the Gospel message of grace.
Among other things, part of the false teaching Paul addressed included an observance of Jewish practices. Paul counters by emphasizing the Gospel is based solely on God’s grace.
Of course, people also push the message of grace too far in the other direction to the point of license. And Paul addresses that as well in 1 Corinthians 6:12.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.
V.7 Just as you heard from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister…
The Gospel didn’t miraculously appear to the Colossian church on a tablet dropped from heaven. Epaphras shared it with them. The Greek word for “minister” is diákonos and also translated deacon. In other words, Epaphras was a layman in the church who lived out Jesus’ instruction to “go and make disciples.” He’s an example that every Christ-follower has received the same instruction.
A Study of Colossians 1:5b-9 The importance of prayer, God’s will, spiritual wisdom and understanding
V.9 We have not ceased to pray for you asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…
The Christian life is not practiced in isolation but in community. And Paul demonstrates it includes praying for one another. The fact that he has “not ceased to pray” indicates it’s part of his regular routine. And his intercession for the Colossian church is a regular prayer concern. We should practice the same regular prayer pattern and concern for others in our lives too.
The Greek word for “knowledge” is ĕpiginōskō, the same word used for “understand” in v.6. The Greek word for “wisdom” is sophia and the word for “understanding” is synesis, whichconveys the idea of discernment and self-awareness. They all point to the fact that the Christian life requires, thoughtful and intelligent consideration around the truth of God’s word, in seeking His will, and involve a lot of prayer.
REFLECT & RECORD
What are some things you’ve seen added on to the message of grace? What impact have they had?
What is your prayer routine like? How often do you pray and how much does it include praying for others?
Consider what Paul said about knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding. How do you differentiate and apply them in your own walk with Christ?
A study of Colossians 1:1-5a. Paul’s letter to the Colossian church is a prison epistle most likely written from Rome. Today’s study includes Paul’s reason for writing to the Colossian church, his authority to speak for God, and the role of faith, love, and hope.
A Study of Colossians 1:1-5a: Paul’s reason for writing to the Colossian church
Epaphras founded the Colossian church. Paul describes him in chapter four as a servant of Christ in the church who struggled in prayer and worked hard for them. He visited Paul in prison to express his concern about a strange and harmful teaching that had infiltrated the Colossian church.
We’re not sure what it was. On one hand, it emphasized Jewish rituals like circumcision, following dietary laws, and observing holy days. But it also included a philosophy that acknowledged extra spiritual powers and mysteries beyond the gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, it questioned the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone.
There were many false teachers and worldly philosophies then like there are today. Because since his first deception of Adam and Eve, Satan has used lies to lead us away from God. As he continues today. That’s why it is important for us to carefully study and understand God’s word. So we recognize what’s false by knowing God’s truth. Even then, Satan is quick with an excuse to rationalize our disobedience.
A Study of Colossians 1:1-5a: Paul establishes his authority to speak for God.
V.1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…
Paul identifies himself as an apostle by God’s will. The Greek word apostolos means to be sent. And it was Jesus who established it. He commissioned his twelve disciples as apostles and sent them out to preach, teach, and minister. It’s recorded in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, and Luke 6:12-16 and included the authority to cast out demons and heal diseases.
Although Paul was not one of the twelve disciples, he was commissioned as an apostle when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He immediately converted from church persecutor to missionary for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The apostles played a significant and authoritative role in proclaiming the gospel, starting churches, speaking with governing authority into church life and writing books of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
REFLECT & RECORD:
Describe the sources of authority in your life.
How were they established and maintained?
How have they changed over the years? What are your sources of authority today and why?
A Study of Colossians 1:1-5a: The role of faith, love, and hope
V.2 To the saints and faithful brothers…
Paul doesn’t address two different groups. But uses two descriptive words for the same group of people. The Greek word for saints is hagios which means holy and sanctify. It means a life that is set apart.
The Greek word for faithful is pisto, which means true and sure. And it refers to a commitment level. In other words, Paul describes the Colossian church as people fully committed to imitating Christ. And living in a manner that pleases God and is distinct from the culture.
V.4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus…
Christianity does not avoid faith, but embraces it. And encourages followers of Jesus to exercise and grow in it. In fact, God requires it in order to please him.
The love that you have for all the saints…
Love is an exercise of faith and radical teaching that differentiates Christianity from all other world religions and philosophies. It should especially be evident among Christ-followers and Paul confirms its presence in the Colossian church.
V.5 Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Hope empowers Christ-followers against overwhelming odds. And it’s based on the knowledge that everything on this earth is temporary. God promises eternal life for those who persevere in the faith.
REFLECT & RECORD
Do you consider yourself a saint? Why or why not?
Describe your commitment to a Christ likeness and life set apart from the culture.
Describe how faith, love, and hope work together in your life as a Christ-follower.
When Jesus walked on water, he both frightened and amazed his disciples. The story is recorded in Matthew 14:33-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24. Here are some lessons it teaches us today.
When Jesus walked on water. The storms of life can shake your faith and fill you with fear.
After feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and he went off alone to pray. Later in the night, a storm arose and the disciples struggled in the boat against strong winds and waves. So Jesus walked out to them on the water.
Was this an impulsive, original idea by Jesus? Maybe not.
You alone stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea. (ESV, Job 9:8)
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? (ESV, Job 38:16)
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (ESV, Psalm 77:19)
These passages indicate Jesus had previous water walking experience, perhaps during creation, and this was just another casual sea stroll to demonstrate his divinity. Although when the disciples saw Jesus they thought he was a ghost and it frightened them even more. At least until Jesus spoke and they recognized his voice.
Isn’t this true for us? The storms we encounter in life shake our faith and cause fear? But notice, Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to cry out for help. He saw their distress and went to their aid. It’s reassuring to know he takes the initiative on our behalf too.
When Jesus walked on water. Follow Jesus and you might get in over your head.
You have to love Peter. A guy who acts first and thinks later. He does at least recognize he can only walk on the water by Jesus’ power. And give him credit as the only disciple brave enough to get out of the boat. He does great at first while he focuses on Jesus. But then he begins to think about it. Second guess himself. Focus on his circumstances rather than Jesus. And begins to sink.
Although once again, Jesus grabs on and pulls him to the surface. And it wouldn’t be the last time Peter’s impulsive behavior led him into choppy waters. It’s a familiar story for us too. When difficult circumstances test our faith we tend to focus more on the circumstances than on Jesus. And may feel like we’re in over our heads.
But even when it feels like you are alone and abandoned, you’re not as David reminds us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (ESV, Psalm 46:1)
In fact, God does HIs best work through us when we acknowledge our weakness and call on Him for strength. And when God demonstrates His power through our weakness, we are more likely to give Him the glory.
When Jesus walked on water. When you provide the faith, Jesus delivers the power.
Jesus chastised Peter for his little faith. But maybe with a smile? Because Peter demonstrated faith through his actions.
And this is exactly what Jesus’ half-brother talks about in James 2:14-26.
You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV, James 2:18)
James isn’t saying to demonstrate good works to earn salvation. He’s telling Christ-followers now that you’re saved by grace through faith, you should demonstrate that faith by your actions.
Exactly what Peter is doing!
Of course, it wasn’t Peter’s first miracle rodeo with Jesus. He had just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Watched him command a lame man to pick up his bed and walk. Lazarus to wake up from the dead and come out of the tomb. And many others.
Yes, faith is important and Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. And so too, is the importance of prayer. But the lesson in this story is the importance of remaining focused on Jesus. Because even as people of faith, the storms of life make that difficult.
But when Peter’s faith failed in the middle of the storm, he called out to Jesus who pulled him from the swirling waters. And we can trust God’s faithfulness. He will do the same for us.
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