Lesson 1 - Introduction

Lesson 1 - Introduction

Lesson for July 19, 2015

The Book of Colossians

Introduction

The human author of this epistle was the apostle Paul. It was written during his first Roman imprisonment mentioned in Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; Philippians 1:7-9; Colossians 4:18. There were four books while Paul was imprisoned in Rome the first time: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. The apostle wound up in prison in Rome as a part of divine discipline for one of the greatest failures of grace that a man of grace could ever have. He went into the temple on the advice of the pastors at Jerusalem, and there he offered a vow. He was told to do this so that the believers in Jerusalem would give him a hearing. Obviously he did not need a hearing on the basis of some legalistic action. This was human viewpoint and the offering of a vow was totally incompatible with the Christian Way of Life. Spiritual growth demands a lot of decisions but it does not rely on the offering of vows. So the apostle Paul was disciplined by two years of prison in Caesarea and two years of prison in Rome. However, cursing was turned to blessing when Rebound occurred very shortly after his failure and the great blessings which have accrued down through the ages are in part in the book of Colossians.

The recipients of this epistle were located in what is now modern Turkey. There were three towns in the area: Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. The population of the valley was composed of Jews, Phrygians, and Greeks who practiced legalism, mysticism, and intellectualism. The approximate date of this epistle is somewhere between 60 and 62 AD. The occasion of writing and theme of the book was to refute the satanic doctrine of Gnosticism. The pastor of the Colossians church was Epaphras, and he found that he had members of his congregation who were intellectual snobs, considered themselves superior to all other believers, and thought that they had superior knowledge of doctrine. This was why they embraced Gnosticism. It appealed to their intellectualism, which was simply human viewpoint. High IQ does not equal any form of spiritual superiority and spiritual growth is not measured in terms of human IQ.

Verse 1

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.”

The human author of this epistle was Paul, which means “little.” It was a perfect name for a man who was a genius and who through grace orientation came to realize the value of grace as opposed to his own very high IQ. Saul of Tarsus, who later came to be known as Paul, was a genius. He became Paul the object of grace. (I Corinthians 15:10, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”) By race he was a Jew, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, but by citizenship he was a Roman. His title was “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”

The Doctrine of Apostleship

  1. Apostleship was a spiritual gift sovereignly bestowed by the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation. Exceptions are the original apostles who were already saved. They received their spiritual gift on the day of Pentecost, the day the Church began. The principle of receiving spiritual gifts is found in I Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:11. A spiritual gift is a matter of grace, not a matter of earning it or deserving it; therefore it is in contrast to a talent. A talent or ability is inherent or acquired.
  2. The gift of apostleship was designed to carry the Church until the completion of the Canon of Scripture. Therefore, this gift carried both absolute authority in administration plus absolute authority in both verbal and written communication.
  3. Apostles were not appointed until after the resurrection of Christ, Ephesians 4:8, 11. This helps us to understand that the apostles to Israel in Matthew 10 were not the apostles to the Church. The apostles in Matthew 10 were sent to Israel in the Jewish Age and were not the same as the apostles to the Church.
  4. Therefore the apostles to the Church must be distinguished from the apostles to Israel of Matthew 10:2ff.
  5. This spiritual gift exercised authority over all the local churches until the completion of the Canon of Scripture. Then apostleship was removed. In other words, this was the only spiritual gift of leadership that ever had authority over all the churches. Today all local churches are autonomous with authority vested in the Word of God and the local pastor-teacher.
  6. Apostles had to be eyewitnesses to the Resurrection, which qualified the eleven who survived. Paul was qualified by seeing the resurrected Christ on the Damascus road, Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8-9.
  7. The authority of apostleship was established by certain temporary gifts such as miracles, healing, or tongues, Acts 5:15; 16:16-18; 28:8-9. Once his authority was established, however, these spiritual gifts such as miracles and healing were removed.
  8. The roster of apostles are specifically mentioned in Scripture: the eleven minus Judas Iscariot. Matthias was elected in the first chapter of Acts but he is not an apostle. No one has ever been given the office of apostle, the gift of apostleship, or the gift of pastor-teacher through an election. No one can elect a spiritual gift. Paul was the one who replaced Judas Iscariot, I Timothy 1:12-16; I Corinthians 15:7-10.
  9. Were there any other apostles beside the twelve, the original eleven plus Paul? The answer is yes, but not many. Others who had delegated authority were sent on apostolic missions, or exercised apostolic authority. We must recognize that apostolic authority was delegated at least to Barnabas (Acts 14;14; Galatians 2:9); to James, the Lord’s half-brother (Galatians 1:19; I Corinthians 15:7); to Apollos (I Corinthians 4:6,9) and to Sylvanus and Timothy (I Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6).

Verse 2

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”

Saints is the Greek word “hagios” meaning holy or set apart. It is a title for all who believe in Christ for salvation. And saints comes from the same root word as sanctification. Faithful brethren in Christ, refers to those who were dependable, trustworthy, believing, or full of faith. Paul was addressing this letter to the believers who were executing the Christian Way of Life faithfully in contrast to the Gnostic believers. Dependability and stability comes from the consistent intake and application of accurate Bible doctrine.

Sanctification

Sanctification is the Greek word “hagiasmos” and means separation unto God or to be set apart to God. It is the same word used for saint and holy. Therefore, all believers are saints and all believers are holy. However, sanctification is in three stages and these stages must always be distinguished in order to accurately interpret the Word of God. The first stage is positional truth, the second stage is experiential truth and the third stage is ultimate truth. Each is a separate and a distinct stage in the life of the believer.

Positional Sanctification

(Hebrews 10:10)

God the Holy Spirit places a believer into union with Jesus Christ at salvation. This is accomplished by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:13) The baptism of the Holy Spirit is neither seen nor felt. It is a fact stated in the Word of God for us to believe. We must always distinguish between the indwelling, the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit. These are all separate and distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit. Once again, none of these ministries is seen nor felt. The indwelling is God the Holy Spirit permanently residing in the believer. The baptism of God the Holy Spirit, as stated, is placing the believer into permanent union with Christ. And the filling of God the Holy Spirit is His control and guidance of the believer, which is temporary, depending on the volition (free-will) of the believer. God’s own righteousness is imputed (credited) to the believer at salvation according to II Corinthians 5:21. This is the only way we can be set apart to God. We have been separated unto God by our faith in Jesus Christ. We have been given at least 40 spiritual assets, which include being made the righteousness of God. This position in Christ sets up the potential for each believer to execute the Christian Way of Life.

Our position in Christ and our walk with Christ are different and must always be distinguished in order to avoid confusion and inaccurate interpretation. When the Bible says that we are dead to sin, this is positional truth. When the Bible says to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust (desire) of the flesh (sin nature), it is not referring to positional truth, but to experiential truth.

Experiential Sanctification

(Galatians 5:16-26)

Even though we possess the righteousness of God, we will not realize the full aspect of this until we receive a glorified body at the Rapture. (I Corinthians 15:50-53) In the meantime, we still possess a sin nature, which tempts us to commit personal sins. It is our responsibility as Christians to learn and apply the Word of God and to control our sin nature. We can do this only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a war being waged within every believer. It is a battle to see who will control your soul. Each of us holds the key - it is called volition or free will. God did not make us robots. He gave us the freedom of choice. Let’s take a brief look at the scripture that relates to this war in our souls in Galatians 5:16-26. In Greek the word for walk is “stoicheo,” which means to walk in a straight line or row. If we are “walking in the Spirit,” our steps will align with His. In other words, we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide “our steps.” Please remember that God is not an ogre waiting for us to fail so He can zap us. God loves us and wants only the best for us. Therefore, we should learn to love ourselves, which entails self-worth and self-respect. God in His grace is always there for us, even in times of our failure. Since God has compassion on us, we should have compassion on ourselves. Evaluate yourself, make the necessary corrections and move forward, one step at a time. But don’t spend time beating yourself up or condemning yourself because of some failure. (I John 1:6-10)

Ultimate Sanctification

(Philippians 3:20-21)

We still reside in this body while here on earth, but our true home is Heaven. We are just passing though this life, but our real citizenship is in Heaven. When Christ returns for us at the Rapture, we will realize ultimate sanctification. All the truth of our position in Christ and all the potential of experiential sanctification that the believer fulfilled (divine production) will be a reality when Christ returns for His Church (believers of this age).

For believers there is going to be a change. Each of us is going to receive a glorified body fashioned after Christ’s body. This will be an instantaneous change as we are being caught up to meet Christ in the air. Ultimate sanctification will be a reality for all believers regardless of their spiritual status. Mature and immature believers will receive a glorified body and will spend all of eternity in perfect happiness. There will, however, be a loss of magnificent rewards and blessings for those who fail to execute the Christian Way of Life.

At Colossae referred to the local church that met in the home of Philemon who was a personal friend of Paul. However, Paul had never visited Colosse, so this epistle was written to a congregation whom Paul had never seen. This is confirmed in verse four, “Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have to all the saints,” and then at the end of verse eight, “declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” The major concept in this area of thanksgiving was the fact that the Colossian believers were definitely in a position to learn some Bible doctrine and advance to spiritual maturity. The basis for this was that they understood the doctrine of spirituality. They knew how to be filled with the Holy Spirit as indicated in those two verses. Because they do, they will be able to comprehend the things that Paul was going to teach them.