Truth of the Gospel, Colossians Introduction

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 1:1-2.

Most expositors believe that this letter, written by the Apostle Paul, was composed during his first imprisonment in Rome.

There were three letters sent out at the same time carried by a man, it is believed, named Tychicus (see Colossians 4:7, Ephesians 6:21).

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

The three letters were Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon, the latter consisting of only 25 verses. He also wrote the letter titled Philippians sometime during this imprisonment which lasted two years.

Colosse, or Colossae as some manuscripts show it, was a city about 120 to 130 miles east of Ephesus (depending on who you read), and 12 miles southeast of Laodicea.

You may also find it interesting that all seven churches that the Apostle John was told to write to in the book of Revelation are located roughly within 150 miles of each other, with most being of much less distance, and all within modern day Turkey. If you wish to read them these letters are in Revelation chapters 1-3.

Also of interest, is that there was a road extending from Ephesus to the Euphrates River which was used as a trade route running through or near the city.

As a result Colosse was able to export sheep’s wool, their main product, giving the town some mercantile importance.

It was my impression at first that Colossae, which means colossal, may have been named after the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World, located on the island of Rhodes, about 100 plus miles south of Colosse.

Other evidence also shows that this cannot be.

The 98.4 foot high statue, Colossus of Rhodes was completed in 280 B.C. after twelve years of construction. It stood for 56 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 B.C.

It is to be noted that the debris from the wrecked statue lay on the ground where it fell for some 800 years; with even the pieces being a tourist attraction.

The city of Colosse, on the other hand was called by that name long before the statue was erected. The nearest I could come to the date on which the city was established is from historical notes concerning an official who was lured there and then assassinated during the Persian Wars in 396 B.C. And another time when Xerxes stopped in the city in 481 B.C. showing the city to predate the statue by well over two hundred years, making it quite ancient.

Colosse along with Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A.D. with the city again being destroyed in 60 A.D. shortly before this letter to them was written.

It is likely that the quake is not mentioned in the letter because it happened while the letter was being written and news of the disaster had not reached the apostle; or the catastrophe occurred after the letter was dispatched.

The city of Colosse had ceased to exist by 400 A.D. either due to an earthquake or because another trade route was built from Pergamum through Laodicea to the seaport of Antalya; perhaps missing the city by several miles. The city itself is buried under a hill (called a tell by archaeologists) which has never been excavated, though some monuments have been located.

The Apostle Paul had visited Ephesus in his first two missionary journeys and on the third spent about three years there. Of this time it is stated as follows.

“And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10.

The meaning of this is that many folks from cities like Colosse and Laodicea along with other places got saved and carried the gospel to their cities and towns.

It is thought that Epaphras is one of those who accepted Christ then returned to Colosse and established the church there; and that the Apostle Paul had never visited this church.

We are now brought to the reason for this letter to the Colossians. Heresy had been introduced into the church at Colosse and it is likely Epaphras had been imprisoned with the apostle and told him of these problems, or he had journeyed there to enlist Paul’s help in ridding the church of it.

However this came about, the letter was dispatched in answer to the lies that had been introduced.

The battle against heresy and error is a recurring theme in New Testament Scripture, it is found in Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, 1 John, Jude, even the gospel of John which portrays Jesus as God the Son was written with the partial intention of refuting the Gnostics.

These are not the only ones in which warnings are sounded out against this poisoning of the body of Christ in an effort to subvert its purpose which is to produce mature Christians and to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you have ever stood on the sea cliff and watched the waves batter the rocks below, even if you have only seen this in movies, you can see how relentless the pounding is.

Think of it right now as you are seated reading this; those waves are still pounding the rocks, they have not stopped because you are not there to see it.

Ridiculous I know, but we often forget that even though we are not thinking of them they do not cease.

Satan never ceases pounding on the church of Christ. It is our task to stand in the gap in the weak places and lift up Christ at all times.

“I am not yielding and I will not yield to the time in which I live! ‘– we can say that to our Lord, to ourselves and, betimes, maybe, over our shoulders to the devil.’” A.W. Tozer, from “Tragedy in the Church; the Missing Gifts”.

The Colossian heresy was a syncretistic mixture of Gnosticism, asceticism, Jewish legalism (introduced by Christian Jews), and the worship of angels.

Syncretism is defined as; “the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties as in philosophy or religion.”

“…the attempted reconciliation…’ it is amazing how easily people can reconcile different or opposing principles etc. even when simple logic shows that these opposing principles cancel each other out!

Gnosticism, according to the dictionary, is the teaching of certain heretical Christian groups that matter is evil and denies that Christ had a natural corporeal existence (meaning, He did not come in the flesh).

The Ryrie Study Bible expands this a bit by saying that the Gnostics believed that; knowledge is superior to virtue, Scripture is not to be taken literally and as such, can be understood by only a few.

Because of evil, God cannot be the only Creator, the incarnation is impossible because deity cannot join itself to such as a body, and there is no resurrection of the flesh. Ryrie goes on to add that the moral standards of many Gnostics were very low.

Asceticism is defined as; persons who practice extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons. You see this in people who drag a heavy cross around, or flog themselves with whips, presumably to purify their souls. Monks and hermits can also be considered ascetics.

Jewish legalism, introduced by Christian Jews, is still heresy, no matter who brings it in. This legalism may consist of such things as circumcision, keeping the law, or keeping the Sabbath (Saturday) observance.

For the most part there is nothing wrong with any of these practices. Circumcision has been shown to be a healthy practice for good hygiene.

Keeping the law boils down merely to the royal law which is as follows.

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well…” James 2:8.

If a church wishes to meet on Saturday, the Sabbath, they are free to. Meeting on Sunday is a tradition stemming from Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Sunday.

But when these things become mandatory and the keeping of them is supposed to affect your salvation, it is then that they become heresy.

“And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’” Acts 15:4-5.

Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when his name was changed from Abram to Abraham and God made a covenant with him, see Genesis chapter 17.

“And God said to Abraham: ‘As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.’” Genesis 17:9-11.

There is a movement to take the decision as to whether a child should be circumcised or not away from the parents and to make it illegal.

There are Jews who will not circumcise their sons, citing that it is barbaric, willfully rejecting their heritage, not only for themselves, but for their children.

Circumcision is banned or restricted in many parts of the world even in counties located in California, often citing that it is mutilation of a child. So, aborting, killing, a baby is the decision of the mother, but circumcising it after birth is mutilating it and a matter for the state.

It does not matter whether you approve of circumcision or disapprove of it; it does matter that your right to make choices like this are slowly being taken away, piece by piece.

And underneath all of this controversy is a demonically driven undercurrent of rampant anti-Semitism and rejection of God, whether those who wish to make it illegal know it or not.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” 1 Timothy 4:1.

While it is true that these people who want to restrict the parental rights of a free people are not necessarily religious, perhaps they are even atheists; these are still doctrines of demons.

The keeping of the law of Moses to retain or gain one’s salvation is absolutely contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a heresy:

“…if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21b.

“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Galatians 2:16.

How the worship of angels came about is not stated but it is rejected in Colossians 2:18-19. There is some evidence that the Gnostics, while not worshipping angels had something to do with them, perhaps as mediators, or contacts for mystical knowledge.

There was also a group called Hypsistarians, meaning worshippers of Hypsistos (the Most High God), who were characterized as, uncircumcised, semi-proselytes who sympathized with Hellenistic Judaism.

These folks kept the Sabbath, made distinctions between foods and rejected circumcision. Documents mentioning this sect go back as far as 200 B.C. so they were quite old when Christianity came to Asia; many of them became Christians when they heard the gospel, but not all of them.

They also worshipped the Most High God of the Jews and some had the idea that the Greek gods were angels.

It is possible then that the angelic error came in through their teaching. Or that of the Gnostics or from some Jewish sects who had a lot of misconceptions and folklore built up around angels.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9.

Truth of the Gospel, Colossians Introduction taken from posted on 11-19-13, updated on 1-25-20.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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