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by Manly Luscombe
Those who have over the past 30+ years attended the "Searcher's Class" have often heard me say, "When I write my commentary it will say ..." Well, those statements were made mostly in jest. Behind them, I discovered later, a real desire to write that commentary. Several things were involved in my decision to pursue this goal.
Computer - For the past twenty five years I have used a computer. In BC (Before Computers) I was too slow, too poor a speller, and too discouraged by having to type the same page over and over. Now, on the computer, with spell checker, I am able to write, re-write, edit and correct as needed. My original work on this commentary was written on an Atari computer. Since files from the Atari did not transfer to PCs it was necessary to re-type from a printed copy. So this edition is a revision and expansion of the original that I wrote back in 1986.
Set of tapes - I purchased a set of tapes titled "Excellency in Ministry." One of the tapes was on planning sermons a year or more in advance. The speaker said that sermons could be planned by deciding on a book in the Bible for the focus of these sermons. Then begin to do all the background study, gather information, and compile all these notes in a notebook. A commentary could be written from these notes.
Encouragement - Many have challenged me to take up the task, write the commentary, and make it available. While I do not claim to have all the answers. (I am not even sure that I know the questions.) I see this work as a student sharing what he can with his fellow-students.
Need - Having served as a minister for more than 40 years, and having done mission work in Russia, has made me fully aware of the real need for deeper study. Many adult Bible classes only scratch the surface and move on. It is hoped that I can challenge you to dig a little deeper, gain a little more knowledge, open your mind to greater understanding of the book Paul wrote to the Colossians.
Website - As this revision is being written and printed locally, it is also made available on my website. You are welcome to visit (http://www.searchersclass.net) and make use of all the materials available there - sermons, class materials, commentaries, etc.
MY METHOD OF GATHERING DATA
I sat at my desk and asked how I could take on this task in a orderly way. What would I need as a system of keeping information and being able to use it as I work on this commentary? I developed some forms and started to work. It did not take long to see that some of the forms were not what I needed. Those forms were revised until I settled into a pattern of gathering information that seemed to work for me.
The pattern of my study was:
OUTLINE - I read the book of Colossians. I examined several commentaries and other sources for how the book was outlined. Then I developed an outline of the book so it could be studied a section at a time.
TRANSLATIONS - The next task before me was to study a variety of translations (not all reliable, but interesting). I looked at versions, translations and paraphrases. I certainly do not recommend the study of many of these except for comparison of phrases and terms.
WORD STUDY - With the help of my computer Bible program (I use E-Sword) and several other helps, lexicons, and dictionaries, I began a study of the important words in Colossians. While it is not necessary to know Greek, (I am not a scholar in that language.) it is helpful to know the meaning of the original Greek words and what they would communicate to those who read this work in the first century.
BRIEF NOTES - I began making brief notes. Not full sentences, just comments, notes, and thoughts on each verse in each section of the outline.
SERMON OUTLINES - I also kept a separate notebook with sermon ideas, and outlines for potential sermons that came out of my study. These outlines are not part of this commentary, but were the springboard for a series of sermons I preached from Colossians.
LUSCOMBE'S PARAPHRASE - The most difficult challenge was to condense all my thoughts about each verse and write my own paraphrase (not a translation) to state in a concise way the message of the passage. My goal in the paraphrase was to have a brief running commentary of the text.
FORMAT FOR THIS BOOK
The format chosen for this study is to divide each page into three sections.
The Biblical text - I use the New King James Version. This is what I use to preach and teach. So I include the text of scripture with each verse.
Comments - Below each verse are my comments, thoughts, and insight into the passage.
Paraphrase - Then I include a paraphrase, "Luscombe's Paraphrase", of the verse.
I do not consider the work completed. I would not presume to be bold enough to say that I have dealt with all the issues and questions which must be studied. I challenge you to use this commentary as a springboard to cause you to dig deeper into the richness of this New Testament letter.
The city of Colosse was located in the area of Phrygia. It is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus in the Lycus River valley. This is a territory where east meets west. In the east, religion was very deep, dark, solemn and mystical. Eastern religions were more into the psychology and philosophy of man. Religions in the west were lighter, more joyous, polytheistic celebrations. The west was more into the delight and pleasure of religion. While the eastern religions would sit around and meditate, those in the west would engage in religious orgies and drinking binges.
B. W. Johnson states, "The light, joyous polytheism of the Greeks here met the deep, solemn mysticism of the East. In addition, large colonies of Jews has been transplanted from Babylon to this region by one of the Macedonian monarchs of Syria, and brought with them a Judaism which had been greatly modified by the 224 doctrines of Zoroaster."
Now, add to this mixture a large colony of Jews. The Jews brought a written code (the Old Testament scriptures) and a strict moral compass. Then along come messengers of Christianity. These Christians brought with them laws, customs, ideas and understandings that were different, distinct and unique. They brought Christ, the savior of mankind.
The result was a mongrel philosophy which tried to combine all of these backgrounds into one religion. There was some raucous celebration from the west, some deep philosophy from the east, some inspired Scripture from the Jew, and a savior, Jesus, from the Christians. The Jesus that was presented by this heresy was very different from the Christ of Old Testament prophecy or the Christ known by the apostles and early Christians.
There are several things we know about this heresy that were of grave concern to Paul and Epaphras.
It pretended to have a philosophical answer to salvation.
Most of those teaching this heresy were Jewish.
The heresy included the worship of angels.
There were many rules and regulations going beyond the Law of Moses or the teachings of the apostles. They were binding many ascetic regulations.
This system limited the greatness of Christ. It rejected His authority. It questioned the value or purpose of his death for our redemption.
All of this was done under the guise of being Christians.
The book of Colossians answers the heresy that was being taught about Jesus. Many of the false teachers would attack Jesus instead of specific points of doctrine.
Today, a situation exists in which many are not concerned about the points of doctrine. The divine nature of Christ, His virgin birth, the miracles he performed, and His resurrection are often ignored, downplayed, or ridiculed by many religious writers. The book of Colossians is of vital importance today, as it was in the first century. This book is a bulwark against the false teaching and false ideas about Jesus. The center of this book is Christ.
The purpose of the book seems to focus on this heresy. The reason for this letter was to combat and defeat what seemed to be a growing issue of doctrine. This may be the reason that Epaphras came to Rome, seeking help with this matter.
Paul wanted the Colossian Christians to know of his concern and interest in them, even though he had not been to their city in person.
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Colosse was one of three cities along the Lycus River valley. Colosse was about twelve miles up the river from the other two cities. Laodicea and Hierapolos, were across the river from each other. Paul includes these cities in his letter to the Colossians. He includes Laodicea in his prayers (2:1), and both are mentioned as part of the work of Epaphras (4:13). He also wanted this letter exchanged and read in the church at Laodicea (4:16).
Laodicea was a larger and growing city. Colosse was smaller and declining in importance. This is the smallest city to whom any epistle is written. Probably the most significant fact known about Colosse is that it was the center of many earthquakes.
At one point in history these cities were part of the country of Phrygia. They became part of the Roman Empire. They are still identified as part of the region of Phrygia.
Churches were taking root in places Paul had not been. The Colossian letter shows that there were churches in Colosse and Laodicia, and likely in Hierapolis. Paul had not been to this region (1:4; 2:1) but knew that Epaphras had preached and taught in the Lycus River valley area and was known by the Christians at Colosse. (1:8)
The church at Colosse apparently was started and settled by Epaphras. B. W. Johnson, in his commentary and notes, states, "Epaphras seems to named (1:7) as the founder, or at least the evangelist, of the church. Yet, since Epaphras must have been one of his own converts, and was working under his general supervision, Paul held himself responsible for its condition, and looked after its welfare, as after all the churches planted within the sphere of his labors."
While some modern scholars try to question the authorship of Colossians, there are no real arguments against Paul being the author of this letter. Attempts to discredit Paul by pointing to various styles and vocabulary changes will not survive the light of even casual study.
The similarity to the letters to the Ephesians and the small letter to Philemon should show that authorship to be Paul. Paul is associated with Timothy. He mentions a desire to visit this area. Tychicus is sent to both Ephesus and Colosse.
There is much room for debate on the date of the letter. Some suggest it was written from Caesrea, while Paul was in prison there. Others believe it was written from Ephesus.
The most likely date of the letter is during the Roman imprisonment. This would date the book about 62 or 63 AD. Paul was confined to "house arrest" for two years in Rome. It was during this period that many came to support him.
Most believe that Colossians was written at the same time as the letters to the Ephesians and the letter to Philemon. All three letters were delivered by the hands of Tychicus and Onesimus.
OUTLINE OF COLOSSIANS
Norman Geisler gives a short outline.
Doctrinal: Deeper life in Christ (1:1-2:7)
Polemical: Higher life in Christ (2:8-23)
Spiritual: Inner life in Christ (3:1-17)
Practical: Outer life in Christ (3:18-4:18)
The outline given below will be followed as the book is examined a section at a time.
Introduction - 1:1-14
Salutation - 1:1-2
Thanksgiving - 1:3-8
Paul's prayer for them - 1:9-14
The Person and Work of Christ - 1:15-23
The pre-eminence of the Song of Solomon - 1:15-20
God's purpose for the Colossians - 1:21-23
Paul's part in God's plan - 1:24-2:7
His sufferings - 1:24-25
The mystery of Christ - 1:26-28
Paul's prayer for his readers - 1:29-2:5
A call to continuance - 2:6-7
Warnings against false teaching - 2:8-23
Philosophy and truth - 2:8-9
New men in Christ - 2:10-15
Christian liberty - 2:16-23
A new pattern of life - 3:1-4:1
New aims for new men - 3:1-4
Mortifying the old nature - 3:5-11
Putting on the new - 3:12-17
Practical injunctions - 3:18-4:1
Final instructions - 4:2-6
The duty of prayer - 4:2-4
The duty of example - 4:5-6
Personal greetings - 4:7-18
This outline is adapted from Tyndale Bible Commentaries, Vol. 12, by Herbert M. Carson.
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THIS BOOK
TEV Today's English Version
NIV New International Version
NEB New English Bible
NASB New American Standard Bible
SEB Simple English Bible
NKJV New King James Bible (the version used as the text in this book)
Phillips J. B. Phillips Translation of the New Testament
KJV King James Version
OTHER REFERENCES MENTIONED
Vine Vine's Expository Dictionary
Vincent Vincent's Word Studies
Thayer Thayer's Lexicon
ZA Zondervan's Analytical
Carson Tyndale Commentary Series
MacKnight MacKnight on the Epistles
Eve of Ascension