Posted by: Brad Beaman | January 13, 2014

Introduction to Colossians

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There are two New Testament books written to Colossians from Paul. The two books are Colossians and also Philemon, a personal letter to Philemon but also a letter meant for the churches at Colossae and Laodicea. There is no record in the book of Acts of Paul ever preaching the gospel in Colossae. For this reason we have to look for clues about how the church started in the two letters Colossae and Philemon and make some assumptions from what happened during Paul’s two years at Ephesus.

Colossians is one of Paul’s prison epistles and most scholars believe Paul wrote this letter during his Roman imprisonment about 61AD. Paul mentions in Colossians 1:17 that it was his close associate Epaphras who preached the gospel in Colossae. The work in Colossae probably started during Paul’s third missionary journey when he set up a gospel training school at the Hall of Tyrannus outside of Ephesus.

Paul had covered a lot of ground during his journeys but he just could not be everywhere at once. It was common for him to mention in his letters his desire to visit a place, but he just could not at least for the time being. By his third missionary journey Paul had come up with a way to multiply himself and that was the school at the hall of Tyrannus.

At Tyrannus Paul could pour into disciples and they could go out and cover all the places Paul would never have the time or health to reach. With this strategy Paul could even be in prison and the work would carry on.

And so it is commonly accepted that one of the disciples at the hall of Tyrannus who was instrumental in all of Asia hearing the gospel and starting churches in cities Paul never reached was Epaphras. Paul said You learned the gospel from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf (Colossae 1:7-8). Epaphras was the key man for the Asian tri-city area of Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Paul said “I vouch for Epaphras that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Colossians 4:13. Epaphras probably started the Laodicea church that met at Nympha’s house (Colossians 4:15) and the Philemon church that met at either Philemon’s or Archippus’s house (Philemon 2).

Epaphras was the ideal disciple/church planter to carry the gospel and start the church in Colossae. He was a local son of the soil Colossian. Epaphras could have made the one hundred mile journey back and forth from Ephesus to Colossae with relative ease. His fellow Colossians were also making that same journey all the time. They would be going from the smaller city of Colossae to the big port city of Ephesus for trade and supplies.

Epaphras would learn from Paul how to proclaim the gospel and start churches and raise up leaders. Paul uses the 2 Timothy 2:2 strategy at the hall of Tyrannus. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”. Paul rises up Epaphras at the Hall of Tyrannus.

After spending some time at the Tyrannus School Epaphras would head up river or along one of the Roman Roads to Colossae and put what he learned into practice. When he reached Colossae he would teach what he learned to Archippus. Epaphras learned from Paul and he in turn raised up Archippus to lead the Colossian church (probably it happened this way at Colossae). Paul is raising up multi generational leaders. Timothy is even on the scene when Epaphras is in Rome with Paul (Philemon 1, Colossians 1:1).

The hall of Tyrannus strategy worked brilliantly because both Paul and Epaphras are together in prison in Rome and the work is carrying on. Of course the churches at Colossae and Laodicea certainly do face threats from prevalent outside harmful philosophies. Paul is trying to steer the churches clear of their harmful influence in writing the Colossian letter. The church at Colossae has a powerful prayer warrior in Epaphras who regularly intercedes for them too.

The distance and trip from Ephesus and Colossae are very practical. On the other hand the meeting up in a Roman prison of Paul and two Colossians of Epaphras and Onesimus is striking. What were Epaphras and Onesimus these two Colossians doing with Paul in Rome? No one can answer for sure but it seems that Onesimus the escaped slave of Philemon was “free” to travel back to Colossae with Tychicus and Epaphras was not.

Whatever reason Epaphras came to Rome is uncertain but that he brought news to Paul of the growing spiritual fruit and love in the Spirit is certain (Colossians 1:6). Epaphras also brought news of the threats of heresy facing the church in Colossae. Paul is writing to protect the church from the threats of philosophies that diminish the supremacy of Jesus. The letter to Colossians very clearly articulates the supremacy of Jesus and his total sufficiency for salivation. Tychicus would carry the letter back to Colossians and take Onesimus back to Colossae. The Colossian letter was to be read in all the churches in the area.

Here are those mentioned by name in the book of Colossians and the references:

Paul:  Colossians 1:1, 23 4:18
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, Colossians 1:1
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:23
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Colossians 4:18

Timothy: Colossians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, Colossians 1:1

Tychicus: Colossians 4:7-9
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
Tychicus is also mentioned 4 other times in the NT Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12.

Aristarchus: Colossians 4:10
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Colossians 4:10
Also we find Aristarchus in Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4, 27:2, Acts. Acts 27:2, Philemon 1:24.

Onesimus: Colossians 4:9
He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. Colossians 4:9
Also more about him in Philemon 10-16

Mark: Colossians 4:10
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Col 4:10
Also verses mentioning Mark are: Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15: 2 Tim 4:11 Philemon 24

Jesus call Justus:  Colossians 4:11
Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews[a] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Colossians 4:11

Epaphras: Colossians 1:7-8, 4:12-13
You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant,[a] who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. Colossians 1:7-8
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Colossians 4:12-13
Also a reference in Philemon 23

Luke: Colossians 4:14
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:14

Demas: Colossians 4:14
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:14
Also Demas is mentioned in Philemon 24 and 2 Tim. 4:10
“Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” This man of wavering impulse who surrendered the passion of sacrifice and sank in the swirling waters of the world, is a true reflection of the thought that where our love is, there we finally are. 2 Tim. 4:10

Nympha: Colossians 4:15
Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. Colossians 4:15

Archippus: Colossians 4:17
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17
Philemon 2

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ Colossians 1:15-23

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