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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- Colossians

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic


Galatians, Ephesians
Philippians, Colossians


I.-II. Thessalonians

By the

Author of the Commentaries on Kings, Psalms (CXXI.–CXXX.), Lamentations, Ezekiel, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

New York




Church Seasons: Advent, Ephesians 5:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 b; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:5. Christmas, Galatians 4:4. Lent, Colossians 2:21-23; Colossians 3:5-9. Good Friday, Galatians 1:4; Galatians 6:14-15; Philippians 2:8; Colossians 2:15. St. Mark’s Day, Ephesians 4:7. Ascension Day, Ephesians 4:9-10; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 3:1-2. Whit Sunday, Galatians 5:22-26, Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Trinity Sunday, Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:4-6.

Holy Communion: Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:15; Colossians 3:17.

Missions to Heathen: Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 2:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-6. Bible Society, Ephesians 6:17.

Evangelistic Services: Ephesians 1:7-8; Ephesians 2:1-9; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 2:13-14.

Special: Ordination, Galatians 1:10; Galatians 1:15-19; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 3:7-9; Ephesians 4:11-12; Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 1:25-27; Colossians 1:28-29; Colossians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Workers, Galatians 1:6; Ephesians 4:11-12; Philippians 4:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 3:13. Baptism, Galatians 3:26-29; Colossians 2:12. Confirmation, Ephesians 2:20-22. Harvest, Galatians 6:7-9. Temperance, Ephesians 5:18. Friendly Society, Galatians 6:2. Death, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. Parents, Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:23-25. Young, Ephesians 6:1-4; Philippians 1:10 b. Worship, Ephesians 5:19-21; Almsgiving, Galatians 2:10; Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:15-16. Philippians 1:10 b. Worship, Ephesians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:19. Almsgiving, Galatians 2:10; Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:15-16.


Colossæ and its people.—In Asia Minor, a few days’ journey to the east of Ephesus, is a district which for natural beauty, as described by many travellers, is hardly to be surpassed. At the foot of Mount Cadmus—now known as Baba Dagh, or “the Father of Mountains”—near the stream of the Lycus, a tributary of the Mæander, stood the town of Colossæ. Within a day’s journey stood Hierapolis and Laodicea, the latter the home of a Church in later years where a poor, half-hearted religion was a constant offence to God. Owing to its political significance, it quite eclipsed Colossæ, as Hierapolis also did, owing to its natural advantages as a health-resort or watering-place. Though at one time Colossæ was a flourishing town, where the vast forces of Xerxes or those of Cyrus could halt, in this century it was only with difficulty and some uncertainty that its exact site was discovered. Chonos (so called from the funnel-shaped holes into which the river drops) is its modern substitute, though from two to three miles south of the site of Colossæ.

The inhabitants of Colossæ were largely of Phrygian derivation, highly religious, if dread of the supernatural in every form constitutes religion, but ready to yield themselves up to the wildest orgies and the most degradingly sensual types of worship. But there were also many Jews in the town, as we learn not only from the indications in this letter, but from other sources. It was not the only occasion in history when travelled Jews had learnt to blend with their ancestral religion the philosophical or theosophical opinions of the neighbourhood where they had settled. The result was an amalgam very hard to catalogue. The Hellenism of these Phrygian Jews did as littlo for them as in later days it did for Heine, the German Jew. So, because its results were pernicious, the uncompromising opponent of Pharisaic dead works and herald of one God set himself to make known to the Colossians the sufficiency of Christian doctrine without admixture of heathen wisdom (Colossians 2:8-9) or the administration of Jewish rites (Colossians 2:11).

Occasion, aim, time, and place of composition.—Epaphras, a member of the Colossian Church, and to whom the whole neighbourhood was indebted as the bringer of gospel tidings, had given St. Paul an account of the state of the Church to which he ministered, with intimations of the perils threatening it. This it was which led the apostle to send Tychicus with this letter. The runaway slave Onesimus accompanied him, sent back to Philemon his master in Colossæ by St. Paul.

The aim of the apostle in writing the letter was chiefly to warn the Colossians against the specious errors of certain teachers who had tried to unite Christianity with Judaism, and these to theosophical notions. The results of this blend could only be regarded with a pitiful smile. It was pernicious, and, with all its semblance of humility, immoral. Its main offence to the apostle was that it dishonoured his Lord, “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
Lightfoot thinks this letter, with those to Ephesus and Philemon, was sent by Tychicus “towards the close of the apostle’s captivity in Rome, about the year 63.” Meyer, who contends that it was sent, not from Rome, but from Cæsarea, thinks 60 or 61 was the date. The ancient tradition was that the letter emanated from a Roman prison, and the reasons given against this are too slender to set it aside in favour of Cæsarea.

Style of the epistle.—“The style of the epistle is somewhat laboured. It lacks the spontaneity, the fire, the passion, the tender emotion which mark most of St. Paul’s letters. The reason for this is twofold. It is partly because he is addressing strangers, the members of Churches which he had not directly founded, and to whom his expressions did not flow forth from the same full spring of intimate affection. It is still more because he is refuting errors with which he was not familiar, and which he had not witnessed in their direct workings.… When he was a little more familiar with the theme (in writing Ephesians) he writes with more fervency and ease.… In the close similarity between these two, and yet in the strongly marked individuality of each, we have one of the most indisputable proofs of the genuineness of both.… If Colossians has less of the attractive personal element and the winning pathos of other letters of St. Paul, it is still living, terse, solid, manly, vigorous; and brief though it be, it still, as Calvin says, contains the nucleus of the gospel” (Farrar).

Outline of the epistle


Colossians 1:1-2, greeting. Colossians 1:3-8, thanksgiving. Colossians 1:9-14, prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.

Colossians 1:15-23.

Main theme of the epistle. Christ’s personal supremacy and the universal efficacy of His mediatorial work.

Colossians 1:24-29.

The apostle’s personal explanation of his motive in addressing them.

Colossians 2:1-7.

His interest in the highest welfare of Christians unknown to him.

Colossians 2:8-15.

Warning against a philosophy born of earth, able only to deal externally with outbursts of sin as contrasted with the complete putting away of it by Christ’s death and resurrection.

Colossians 2:16-23.

A protest against the attempt to foist precepts and prohibitions on those who in Christ have passed beyond the stage of legalism.

Colossians 3:1-17.

The sufficiency, for conduct, of living consistently with the life hid with Christ in God, which is fatal, as it grows, to every form and manifestation of the old and corrupt life.

Colossians 3:18-22.

Duties of wives (18), husbands (19), children (20), fathers (21), servants (22).

Colossians 3:23-25.

Motives, incentives, and deterrents in service.

Colossians 4:1.

Duties of masters, and motive of conduct.

Colossians 4:2-18.

Sundry exhortations, commendations, and greetings.

The letter concludes with the apostle’s autograph signature, a touching reference to his “bonds,” and a benediction.

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