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THEOLOGY Theological Themes Contribution to the Canon Theological Themes • The Supremacy of Christ – The theology of Colossians is Christ-centered in that Paul especially focused on both the person and work of Christ. – The supremacy of Christ especially comes to the forefront in 1:15–20, which contains one of the most exalted depictions of Christ in the NT. – The structure of the hymn is still heavily debated. • The best analysis suggest that the hymn breaks into two major strophes beginning with the words “who is” (hos estin; translated “He is” in the HCSB in vv. 15, 18) and containing the word “firstborn” (prōtotokos) in the second line. • These two major strophes also parallel one another in the phrases “because in Him” and “For … in Him” (hoti en autō; vv. 16, 19); and “all things … through Him” and “through Him … everything” (ta panta di’ autou; vv. 16, 20). • Thus the hymn probably has two major sections, portraying Christ as Lord in creation and Lord in the new creation. Theological Themes • The Work of Christ in Salvation – Christ’s work is sufficient. – He is the one who provides redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins (1:14). – Jesus is the one who provides reconciliation through the blood of his cross (1:20, 22). – The flow of thought in 2:8–10 gloriously conveys the believer’s completeness in Christ. – Christ’s sufficient work allows believers to stand complete even against evil forces (2:15). Theological Themes • Proper Christian Conduct (Ethics) – The indicative explanations in Colossians 1–2 of who Christ is and what he has done leads to the imperative proclamation in chaps. 3–4 of who believers are and what they are to do. – The complete scope of Christ’s sufficient work and believers’ spiritual union with him means that they can keep pursuing the things above where Christ dwells (3:1–2). – Union with Christ means that the believer is a new creature and acts accordingly. – The cosmic scope of Christ’s lordship has staggering implications for his lordship over every aspect of the believer’s life, which is especially emphasized in the household code in 3:18–4:1. The Preeminence of Christ COLOSSIANS Outline I. INTRODUCTION (1:1–8) A. Opening (1:1–2) B. Thanksgiving (1:3–8) Thanksgiving (1:3–8) • We give thanks (3a) When we pray (3b) because we have heard . . . .faith . . . love (4) on account of the hope (5) about which you have heard previously (5b) through . . . the gospel that has come to you (5b, 6a) just as worldwide (6a) just as among you (6b) just as . . . from Epaphras (7a) who informed us (8a) • Thanksgiving (1:3–8) • 1: 4 - The reason for Paul’s thanksgiving began when he heard: – Faith in Christ Jesus – The love you have for all the saints. – Faith in Christ and love for all believers represent the hallmarks of genuine Christianity. • 1:5-6 - The basis of their faith and love is because they have a hope reserved for them in heaven. – Faith, Hope, Love: The triad of faith, love, and hope recurs as a familiar Pauline formula (1 Th 1:3; 2Th 1:3; Rm 5:1-5; Gl 5:5-6; Eph 1:15, 4:2-5; Phm 5). • Thanksgiving (1:3–8) • 1:5b-6 - This hope was the result of having heard and received the message of truth or more specifically the gospel – The “gospel” is set in apposition to “the message of truth” therefore indicating that they are one and the same. – Paul emphasizes the power and effectiveness of the gospel by tracking its expansion that just as it has spread in Colossae it continues bearing fruit and growing all over the world. – Twice Paul mentions how the Colossians accepted the truth of the gospel contrasting the original message they heard with the false teaching now being propagated. Thanksgiving (1:3–8) • Epaphras (Epaphras is a shortened • • form of Epaphroditus) As a native of Colossae (4:12) was converted through Paul’s preaching during his long stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:8–10), some 120 miles distant on the coast and directly accessible by road down the Lycus and Meander valleys. Epaphras evangelized Colossae and devoting himself to laboring for the gospel there and in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13). • James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, 63. Thanksgiving (1:3–8) • Paul co-writes this letter with Timothy, whom he calls a brother. • Epharphas is called a “faithful servant” and “fellow slave.” (v. 7) • Paul also emphasizes the relationship between the Father and his son – Jesus. • David Pao writes: “The use of this household language may reflect the reality of early Christian communities that centered on Christian households (cf. 4:15). For Paul, however, this household setting also provides a new identification for its members, where they are no longer to be related by race or class (3:11); they have become parts of a new humanity related to one another only through relationship with Christ, who is ‘all . . . in all’ (3:11).” (ZECNT, 59) Outline INTRODUCTION (1:1–8) A. Opening (1:1–2) B. Thanksgiving (1:3–8) II. BODY: THE SUPREMACY AND ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST (1:9–4:6) A. The Centrality of Christ and the Colossian Heresy (1:9–2:23) 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) 2. The Supremacy of Christ (1:15–20) 3. The Reconciliation of Believers to God through Christ (1:21–23) 4. Paul as a Minister of the Mystery of Reconciliation (1:24–2:5) 5. Warning against Succumbing to the Colossian Heresy (2:6–23) I. 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) Asking. . . that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will by means of having all spiritual wisdom and spiritual knowledge 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) Asking. . . For the purpose to walk worthy of the Lord in all ways pleasing in all good work bearing fruit and growing into the knowledge of God in all power being strengthened by his might according to his glory For all endurance and patience with joy. 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) • 1:9 - Paul specifically asks that they may be filled with – knowledge of his will – Spiritual wisdom, – Spiritual understanding (cf. Ex 31:3; 35:31, 35; Dt 34:9; Is 29:14). • The word filled (passive verb indicates God as agent) typically conveys the sense of “completeness” in Colossians (verb Col 1:9, 25; 2:10; 4:17; noun form Col 1:19; 2:9). • Paul asks that they receive full knowledge of His will. The word knowledge occurs three additional times with varying objects (Col 1:10 “of God”; 2:2 “of God’s mystery”; 3:10 “new man . . . renewed in knowledge). • The phrase, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, expresses the means or manner through which this knowledge comes. This wisdom (cf. Col. 1:28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5) and understanding is spiritual in nature. 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) • 1:10, 11, 12 - The purpose for Paul’s prayer (1:9) is so that they might walk worthy of the Lord in such a way that all their conduct will please Him. • Paul expands what worthy and pleasing conduct consists of through a series of four participle clauses. (1) (2) (3) (4) Bearing fruit in every good work; growing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power; giving thanks to the Father. • Thus, Christian behavior that pleases the Lord involves productive good deeds; continuous spiritual growth; dependence on His power resulting in endurance, patience and joy; and expressing gratitude for all things because He enabled them to share in the saint’s inheritance. 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) • 1:13, 14 These verses continue the reason for giving thanks to the Father (v. 12 cf. Col 1:3, 3:17) by explaining how they were enabled to share in the saint’s inheritance. – The language of being rescued and transferred evokes OT imagery of God delivering His people from the grip of hostile oppressors (cf. Ex 6:6; 14:30; Jdg 6:9; 8:34; Pss 18:19; 79:9; 86:14). – The terms “share” (meris) and “inhertiance” (kleros) points to the apportioned land of Canaan (Deut. 32:9; Josh. 19:9). – The concept of “deliverance” and “transfer” also allude to the Exodus events. – The Exodus event is evoked with the eschatological act of God where with the terms “light/glory, deliverance, inheritance, and holiness (cf. Isaiah 63:15-19). 1. Opening Prayer (1:9–14) – They have been rescued from the realm of Satan’s oppression (domain of darkness) by transferring them to the realm of Christ which is a kingdom in the light (v. 12b). • cf. Eph. 5:8–20 – The means of this deliverance or exodus was accomplished in their redemption through the forgiveness of sins because of Christ’s atoning work (Col 1:15-22). Questions for Reflection • What are some key themes that you observed in this prayer? • What should we learn from how Paul prayed for the churches? • How should we pray for our people in our churches?