Overview of the Epistle to the Colossians

Title: The Epistle (letter) to the church at Colossae, also known as "Pros Colossaeis", and in English the Epistle to the Colossians.

Place in bible: New Testament, 51st book, the 7th Pauline epistle, written to Christians in general and those of the Church of Colossae (1:2) and Laodicea (4:16) in particular.

Author: Paul, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ (See 1:1, 4:18), with Timothy (1:1), who also wrote at the same time to Philemon and the church at Ephesus: the letter was taken to Colossae by Tychicus (4:7).

Date: The letter was written during Paul's imprisonment in Rome in 61 or 62 AD after being visited by Epaphras (1:7) who brought good and bad tidings of the church.

Genre: Epistle or letter to a group of people, a letter of 1) doctrine of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, 2) encouragement to Christians.

Main idea:

This letter to the Colossians is a counterpart to the Letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians has a focus on the body of Christ, the Church. This letter sets out clearly and unambiguously that:

  1. Christ is God as he claimed to be – e.g. John 14:6, John 10:33-38 etc, and,
  2. Christ is true Divinity (2:9) because "in him dwells the fulness of the Godhead". This is more than what Romans 1 verse 20 has to say, where Paul indicates Christ revealed the divine nature of the Godhead to all of creation. In Colossians, it is the essence and nature of the Godhead revealed in Christ, not merely the attributes (perfections) of the divinity revealed.

Colossians has a focus on the head of the Church, Christ. In essence the letter covers four points.

  1. The supremacy and majesty of Christ (1:13 etc.)
  2. The absurdity of the false teaching that attempted to add various notions to the perfect Godhead, in particular mysticism, asceticism[8] and Judaism, which is also known as Gnosticism, where an 'additional mystical knowledge' is combined with the gospel.
  3. Encouragement to the Church at Colossae (or Colosse) and Laodicea
  4. The return of Onesimus (4:9), of whom the letter to Philemon is written (Philemon 1:10) – some suggest Philemon was a Colossian.

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1. The person of Christ, his glory and work

  • a. Salutation 1:1-2
  • b. Thanks giving and Prayer 1:3-12
  • c. The Supremacy of Christ Jesus, the head of creation 1:13-18
  • d. The work of reconciliation and ministry: reconciliation of all things, and reconciliation of believers (1:19 – 29)

2. The Mystery of the Father and of Christ, warnings

  • a. The mystery of God (2:1-8)
  • b. Completeness in Christ (2:9-15)
  • c. Warnings and exhortations (2:16-23)

3. Being Christ like: living as risen with Christ

  • a. Life hidden with Christ in God (3:1-4)
  • b. The old man and the new man (3:5-11)
  • c. Showing forth Christ in conduct (3:12-17)
  • d. Conducting relationships properly (3:18-4:1)

4. Final greetings

  • a. Prayer and ministry (4:2-4)
  • b. Walk in wisdom (4:5-6)
  • c. The fellowship of the saints in their service (4:7-17)
  • d. Salutation (4:18)

Key events/themes:

The key theme is the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead (θεοτητος) bodily" (2:9). In relation to the believer, it examines a Christian risen with Christ; who has his or her hope laid up in heaven, with affections on things above not on things of this earth. And there lay a grave danger that the things of this earth, namely false doctrine, earthy philosophy and deceit, were about to shipwreck (e.g. 1 Timothy 1:19) the faith of the Colossians and Laodicians. The things of this word died when a Christian accepted Christ.

Words of importance:

The book is full of imperatives: "Beware" (2:8), "Let", "Continue", "Walk"

Christ: Since the book portraits the supremacy of Christ, His name is mentioned in 24 out of 95 verses; as the Lord Jesus Christ in three verses, Jesus Christ in 6 verses and the Lord Jesus in one verse, never as "Jesus".

Heaven (or "above") compared with earth: earth has no future, for it is wicked (3:5); heaven is the place a believers mind needs to be (3:2).

Let: no one judge you; no one cheat you; the peace of God rule; let your speech always be with peace.

Key prophecies:  

None except the Book is heaven looking. Eg 3:24 assumes the coming of Christ, for it indicates our reward may not be evident on this earth, indeed will be absent, but will be compensated by the reward in heaven.

Key verse: 2:6-10 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

The crux to Gnosticism is to know that we are complete in Christ because Christ is all in all. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ; there is no need for any other, whether spiritual or mystical. "This we have received, being taught for there is no other gospel." Note the verse gives the Son his full title – Christ Jesus the Lord. We are, to the exclusion of all others, walk in Him. There is no need for any other – our roots are in him, he nourishes us, he builds us up, and he has confirmed our faith. In all this we are to walk with thankfulness. The gospel is the good news – there is no need for any other, else it would not be good at all; and in any case we will be amply rewarded in heaven (3:24).

Key characters:

Christ Jesus the Lord: mentioned in 24 out of the 95 verses. The letter shows that Christ is superior in all ways (see also Hebrews for a similar theme). It gives the fullest understanding of the perfection, beauty and place of Christ in the Godhead and his work.


A member of Philemon's family, perhaps a son (4:17).


Referred by Paul as "my fellow prisoner" (4:10), is a native of Thessalonica, and companion of Paul, a missionary of Christ.


Probably the contracted form of Demachus or Demetrius (Fausset), a fellow missionary with Paul, Mark and Luke (4:14). He left Paul, returning to Thessalonica, rather than staying and helping Paul on his missionary journeys (2 Timothy 4:8).


A servant of Christ (missionary) who works with Paul, and indeed, is imprisoned with Paul (Philemon 1:23), whose father was Greek, and mother, Eunice, was Jewish and grand-mother, Lois, both Christian and who taught him the scriptures. (1:7, 4:12)


A "useful" (after his name) slave who, after robbing his master Philemon at Colossae, fled to  Rome, where he was converted by the apostle Paul, who sent him back to his Philemon (see this epistle for the details) (4:9).


How had a house church in his home (4:15), a disciple of Christ living in Laodicea. Some suggest this person is a woman.


An apostle of Jesus Christ, a missionary to the Gentiles, a Jew, taught by the Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), a Pharisee, who was converted by Christ, by an encounter with the Lord. A full account of his genealogy is given by Paul in Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.


A young Christian church leader and close friend of Paul's who was given the task of dealing with the troubled church at Ephesus (1:1).


A true friend and companion of Paul, who went with him on his missionary journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem (4:7). He was in Rome with Paul and was sent to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12).

Key Places:


Easton's Revised Bible Dictionary: Colossae, a city of Phrygia, on the Lycus, which is a tributary of the Maeander. It was about 19 kilometres above Laodicea, and near the great road that ran from Ephesus to the Euphrates, and was consequently of some mercantile importance.


Easton's Revised Bible Dictionary: The city that lay on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about 40 miles east of Ephesus (Rev 3:14), on the banks of the Lycus. It was originally called Diospolis and then Rhoas, but afterwards Laodicea, from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II., king of Syria, who rebuilt it. It was one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. At a very early period it became one of the chief seats of Christianity but is now a deserted place, called by the Turks Eski-hissar or "old castle."

[1] 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse.

[2] 4:16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

[3] 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God

4:18 This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen

[4] 4:7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.

[5] John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

[6] John 10:33-38 The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I SAID, "YOU ARE GODS" '? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

[7] Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead

[8] The practice of selfdenial where the person seek righteousness through works of denying self or training. It is a self-centred method of spirituality that replaces God with self-achievement and self-worth (2:16).

[9] 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.


David L Simon
Posted: 22 Feb 2015