The Apostle Paul: Prison Epistles; Colossians. Part 2.

The church at Colossae began during Paul’s three-year ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19). Its founder was not the Apostle Paul, who had never been there (Col. 2:1). However, Epaphras (1:5–7), who apparently was saved during a visit to Ephesus, most likely began the church in Colossae when he returned home.

After the Colossian church was founded, a dangerous heresy arose to threaten it—one not identified with any particular historical system. It contained elements of what later became known as Gnosticism: that God is good, but matter is evil; that Jesus Christ was merely one of a series of emanations descending from God and being less than God (a belief that led them to deny his true humanity); and that a secret, higher knowledge above Scripture was necessary for enlightenment and salvation.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The Colossian heresy also embraced aspects of Jewish legalism, e.g., the necessity of circumcision for salvation, observance of the ceremonial rituals of the OT law (dietary laws, festivals, Sabbaths), and rigid asceticism. It also called for the worship of angels and mystical experience. Epaphras was so concerned about this heresy that he made the long journey from Colossae to Rome (4:12–13), where Paul was a prisoner.”

Paul composed the Epistle to the Colossians from prison in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) sometime between A.D. 60–62 and is, therefore, referred to as a Prison Epistle (along with EphesiansPhilippians, and Philemon). It may have been composed at the same time with Ephesians and initially sent with that epistle and Philemon by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21–22Col. 4:7–8).

Paul wrote this letter to warn the Colossians against the heresy they faced, and sent the letter to them with Tychicus, who was accompanying the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master, Philemon, a member of the Colossian church (4:7–9; Philem. 23), perhaps to receive further instruction from Paul.

Colossians focuses on several key doctrines of theology, including the deity of Christ (1:15–20; 2:2–10), reconciliation (1:20–23), redemption (1:13–14; 2:13–14; 3:9–11), election (3:12), forgiveness (3:13), and the nature of the church (1:18, 24–25; 2:19; 3:11, 15). It also refutes the heretical teaching that threatened the Colossian church (ch. 2).

I encourage you to read the Epistle to the Colossians today. Have a blessed one.

Soli deo Gloria!

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