The Truth is in Colossians…

I had the immense privilege last year of studying Colossians with Nathan Davidson – an apprentice at my church. It was the first time I had really gotten into one of the letters in this much detail and I owe a lot to him for the time he gave me.

The church in Colossae was one which Paul had never visited (1:7, 3:1) but he clearly cares enough to pen this letter. The generally accepted purpose of Colossians (as I understand it) was to correct false teachings which were knocking around in the Colossian church.  This comes from the fact that most of chapter 2 (v8 to the end) deals with several false teachings and explains why each is unacceptable.

However, the main theme that I am struck by as I read the letter isn’t the heresy of the church. It’s Jesus. Paul’s attack on false teaching, as well as his explaination of correct doctrine and behaviour, is always thouroughly grounded in Jesus – whether his character, his position or his sacrifice. Even if the various errors didn’t still exist (though most, if not all, do in today’s church) we can learn so much from this letter about how we should deal with false teaching and – even more simply – so much about Jesus from Paul’s loving explanations.

In many ways, the key verses here are 2:6-7: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, aboutnding in thanksgiving.” These verses act as a summary of the entire letter – the preceding half is about how they “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, a reminder of the faith “as [they] were taught” and the reason to carry on (“therefore”), while the second half of the letter is about what it looks like to “walk”, be “rooted and built up…and established” in Jesus. And the focus of it all is “Christ Jesus the Lord”.

That last phrase is worth one quick mention before jumping into the book. It is common in the new testament to find reference to “Christ Jesus the Lord” (though the word order may vary and the “the” is often changed or replaced, eg. “Lord Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ our Lord”) when it would seem that just using one of these three names of Jesus would suffice. But the phrase has more meaning that just ‘Jesus’, if such a thing is possible. It acts as a short hand for the entire gospel – the “Christ” (the Greek for Messiah) was God’s annointed King, “Jesus” means ‘he saves’ (by, as we shall see in 1:20, his death) and Jesus can only be “Lord” if he isn’t dead any more. So this oneshort phrase contains the ideas of God sending his King to die for our sins and be raised to rule over everything. When we see this full title for Jesus, the entire gospel should flash into our minds.

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