Audience, Occasion, and Background

There were three neighboring cities in Phrygia, as made mention of by Paul in this Epistle -- Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse which, as Orosius informs us, were overthrown by an earthquake till the times of the emperor Nero. Accordingly, not long after this Epistle was written, three Churches of great renown perished by a mournful as well as horrible occurrence -- a bright mirror truly of divine judgment, if we had but eyes to see it. The Colossians had been instructed in the gospel by Epaphras and other ministers; but immediately afterwards, Satan had, with his tares, crept in, (Mat 13:25), according to his usual and invariable manner, that he might there pervert the right faith.

Some are of opinion that there were two classes of men that endeavored to draw aside the Colossians from the purity of the gospel; -- that, on the one hand, the philosophers, by disputing in reference to stars, fate, and trifles of a like nature, and that the Jews, on the other hand, by urging the observance of their ceremonies, had raised up many mists with the view of throwing Christ into the shade. Those who are of this opinion are influenced by a conjecture on the ground that Paul makes mention of thrones, and powers, and elements.

It is abundantly evident, from Paul's words, that those profligates were intent upon this -- that they might mix up Christ with Moses, and might retain the shadows of the law along with the gospel. Hence it is probable that they were Jews. As, however, they coloured over their fallacies with specious disguises, Paul, on this account, calls it a vain philosophy. (Col 2:8) At the same time, in employing that term, he had in his eye, in my opinion, the speculations with which they amused themselves, which were subtle, it is true, but at the same time useless and profane: for they contrived a way of access to God through means of angels, and put forth many speculations of that nature. This, therefore, is the principal object at which he aims -- to teach that all things are in Christ, and that he alone ought to be reckoned amply sufficient by the Colossians.

Structure and Outline

After the inscription usually employed by him, he commends them, with the view of leading them to listen to him more attentively. He then, with the view of shutting up the way against all new and strange contrivances, bears testimony to the doctrine which they had previously received from Epaphras. Afterwards, in entreating that the Lord would increase their faith, he intimates that something is still wanting to them, that he may pave the way for imparting to them more solid instruction. On the other hand, he extols with suitable commendations the grace of God towards them, that they may not lightly esteem it. Then follows the instruction, in which he teaches that all parts of our salvation are to be found in Christ alone, that they may not seek anything elsewhere; and he puts them in mind that it was in Christ that they had obtained every blessing that they possessed, in order that they might the more carefully make it their aim to retain him to the end.

I. Opening: Grace and Peace (1:1-2)
II. Thanksgiving: Faith, Prayer, Creation (1:3-23)
III. Body: Christian Maturity (1:24-4:6)
IV. Conclusion: Concern and Exhortation (4:7-18)

I. Opening: Grace and Peace (1:1-2)
II. Thanksgiving: Faith, Prayer, Creation (1:3-23)
A. God's People: Faith, Love, and Hope (1:3-8)
B. Rescued unto Wisdom and Fruit (1:9-14)
C. Creation: Through and for Him (1:15-23)
III. Body: Christian Maturity (1:24-4:6)
A. Rejoicing amidst Suffering (1:24-2:5)
B. Being Rooted in Christ (2:6-15)
C. Christ is the Center (2:16-19)
D. No Obligation to Teachings of Man (2:20-23)
E. Set your Mind on things Above (3:1-4)
F. Put on the New Self (3:5-13)
G. United Body in Christ (3:14-17)
H. Christian Obedience and Work (3:18-4:1)
I. Praying for the Word to go Out (4:2-6)
IV. Conclusion: Concern and Exhortation (4:7-18)