Colossians

Jump to chapter 1, 2, 3, 4

Chapter 1

(1-2) This letter, like many in the New Testament, was written by my servant Paul. His protégé Timothy wrote down Paul’s words to the Colossians because he was in prison at the time for boldly proclaiming my word. Colossae was a city on the Lycus River in a Roman province called Phrygia, but my words are always relevant, regardless of time and place.

(3) In typical fashion, Paul opened with a blessing. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” He understood how important it is to remember that I am a never-ending river of grace that not only saves but sustains and enlivens you. I give you peace that only I provide, which is grounded in the knowledge of your belovedness in my Son.

(4-6) Paul regularly prayed praying for churches he planted as well as those planted by others. Prayers offered on behalf of others are sweet words to my ears. Get into the habit of offering me thanks when you witness evidence of my grace. The Colossian believers were known by their love for the church, their faith in my Son’s finished work, and their hope in my coming kingdom. You have been saved by grace in order to live a life of love. Rest not only in what I have done, but also what I am still doing. I am restoring all things.

You know me because you know my word, which has been faithfully proclaimed by ministers around the world. Everywhere gospel seeds fall, they are germinated by my Holy Spirit so that my word produces good fruit. The church is strengthened as people come to know me better.

(7-8) The church at Colossae was not planted by Paul, but by another evangelist, Epaphras, who was a friend and co-laborer with Paul and Timothy. Epaphras laid down the basics of the faith for them, providing a framework for belief built upon my Son. That framework provided scaffolding for love to grow within them by the power of my Spirit.

(9-14) Because Epaphras had shared what was happening in Colossae, Paul and Timothy devoted themselves to praying for that young church, a prayer that all believers, young and old, still need regularly. Paul prayed,

            May they know your will,
            may it penetrate their minds and hearts
            so that the fruits of wisdom and understanding grow.
            Grant them not mere head knowledge, Father,
            but the kind of knowing that enflames the spirit
            so that they walk in step with your Son.
            May their journey reveal the beauty of Christ with every step
            as they take in more of your Spirit with every breath.
            May the roots of their faith dig deeply
            in the God of all glory and power
            so that they can persevere through storms
            and reveal Trinitarian joy.
            May they be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving,
            benefactors of the light and life of Christ,
            delivered from darkness and death,
            no longer prisoners in evil’s domain,
            but citizens fully welcomed into Jesus’s kingdom,
            where redemption and forgiveness prevail.

(15-20) My Son Jesus is the essence of my glory. When you gaze upon my Son, you are seeing me, because we are one. He is the rightful heir to my kingdom and the one to whom everything belongs. My Son, Spirit, and I created every good thing from the beginning. We created what you can see and what you cannot see, things above and things below. Jesus was not an angel, as some believed, but every heavenly being was created by him, through him, and for him. He is the point. He was here before everything, co-eternal with the Spirit and me. All goodness, truth, and beauty hold together in him. He is the head of the church. He is the beginning and the end, the living A to Z. He always ranks above.

 I am fully and continually present with my Son, as he is fully in me. Our mutual indwelling within the Trinity is infinite love and joy. By him and through him, everything will be set right. His finished work on the cross set into motion not merely salvation for individuals, but all creation. Shalom will be restored.

(21-22) Child, you once lived in rebellion against me. I was a stranger to you. Your mind and your actions were twisted into evil, but my Son has untangled you, making whole through his sacrificial death. He willingly gave himself so that you can stand before us in perfect purity and wholeness, without a hint of blame.

(23) Continue in the faith, always clinging always to my Son’s perfect righteousness. I will welcome you with open arms into the community of love. But remember, it is my Son’s perfection, and not your own, which sustains you.

(24) My beloved Paul understood that even his suffering was a cause for joy. Never assume that following my Son implies a trouble-free life, full of material blessings; I promised you none of that. My Son’s sacrifice initiated a new covenant, but the new heaven and new earth remain unrealized. Even in trial, put Christ on display.

Your union with my Son is crucial; he is in you and you are in him. Allow any suffering that you endure to be a gracious reminder of what my Son endured. He suffers with you. He is not aloof or disengaged; he knows your pain, whether it is self-inflicted or brought about by others. Rejoicing amid painful circumstances is a testimony to my Son. I am not asking you to pursue or celebrate pain, but to remember that I will use it for your good and the good of the kingdom.

(25) Be a witness to the work of my Son, faithfully stewarding the good news. Regardless of your circumstances, let the truth of my Son be on your lips and the beauty of the gospel always adorn you. Whether in peace or affliction, tell others about what my Son has accomplished generation after generation. The story of redemption continues to unfold. Believers have always tried to reconcile the story revealed in the law and the prophets with what they observed in the world. My Son was the final piece of the puzzle.

(26-27) The riches Part of the gospel are available to everyone. The Gentiles—non-Jewish people—were astounded by the glorious and mysterious gift of Christ’s presence within them. Beloved, the new covenant was a radically different understanding than the religion they had experienced and understood before. Whether Jewish or pagan, the religion they knew was based on performance and that right living or performing the correct rituals was essential to holiness. Under the provisions of the new covenant, you are joined with my Son, what the theologians have called “union with Christ.” Christ is in you and you are in him. If you want to understand where your hope is for this life and the next, it is right here: Christ is in you.

 (28-29) It is Christ alone that matters not just for salvation but for all of life. The work of my Son absolutely justified you; through his atoning sacrifice, you have been made right with me. Your salvation will never be taken from you, but do not forget that Jesus is also your teacher. He showed people the best way to live—with love and other-centeredness. As you grow in maturity, you will understand that to live a Trinitarian life means that not only are you in my Son, which guarantees your salvation, but that he is in you, empowering you to live a godly life. 

Chapter 2

(1-2) Though Paul was unable to come to them or their Laodecian neighbors, Paul wanted to see the Colossian believers face to face. Personal contact, including the ability to witness one another’s expressions, is better than any other form of communication. Paul wanted to be able to fully express his heart of love toward them, and to see their love for one another.

Beloved, when you are with others who love well, it does several things. First, you can encourage one another. Life in a fallen world is often disheartening and isolating. It is a blessing to be with one another and talk about the movement of my Spirit. Second, physical proximity fosters true oneness, the very thing my Son prayed for before he went to the cross.[1]

From this place of mutual encouragement and union, you can celebrate the remarkable gift of being fully and completely assured of union with the Trinity. Even though union may seem mysterious or confusing, it is precisely why I created you.

(3) It is only in my Son where everything makes sense. All knowledge and wisdom come alive in him, a treasure stored up from generations past. He alone is sufficient.

(4) Beloved, never lose sight of his sufficiency when your beliefs are challenged. Persuasive people will come to you with what appear to be well-reasoned arguments that can twist your thinking. Do not be deluded by their fine sounding words.

(5) Paul wanted the Colossian church to know that even though he could not be with them physically, his spirit was with them. He prayed for them, giving thanks for their structured and consistent worship. Developing individual and communal rhythms can help you keep on the right track, though they can also become a rigid distraction. Practice “sloppy rhythms” as Larry Crabb once said,[2] a flexible structure for life with me.

(6-7) Live out your faith in the same way you received it. You were redeemed by the radical grace of my Son. Live by that same grace by which you were saved. Grace plants the seed of salvation, but it also waters the roots and strengthens the branches of your life with me. Do not lose sight of these lessons you learned at first. Keep reminding yourself of my Son’s graciousness, breathing out thankfulness for his ongoing mercy.

(8) Child, be careful with ideas about ideas that question my Son’s sufficiency. In a broken world, competing philosophies are everywhere. People always want to add conditions to getting right with me. Legalists would have you believe that you must live a certain way, or your faith is not genuine. Of course I want you to live a life of love, but when people begin to add requirements to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, they are misleading you.

On the flipside, experience seekers will try to convince you that knowing me comes through specific spiritual practices or sensual activities. Ascetics say to avoid pleasure, while hedonists encourage it. None of these things can improve your standing with my Son. Although spiritual disciplines can help you to know me better, none of them is sufficient for justification or sanctification, which comes only through my Son, by my Spirit.

(9-10) In my Son, you find the full godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit. Though incarnate and fully human, he is also fully divine. Nothing needs to be added to him to have access to me. Indeed, in union with my Son, no spiritual power can master you, because he is the head of all things.

(11) In him, you were marked for true life, no longer ruled by your flesh. I know, beloved, how often you feel powerless over your sin. Listen, my Spirit lives within you. He has made it possible to turn away from fleshly desires.

(12) Keep your baptism in mind too. When you were submerged into baptism’s waters, you were buried in death, but when you emerged once again, you breathed the fresh air of new life in my Son. At my Son’s baptism, I said, “You are my beloved Son, and I am so pleased with you.”[3] Child, let those words to my Son echo in your heart because I feel the same way about you. It was by my power that I raised him from the dead, just as it is by my power that I raised you from the dead.

(13-14) Before my Son’s crucifixion, you were dead and hopeless, but it is through him that I gave you a pure and vibrant life, forgiving every sin. You owe me nothing of the insurmountable debt you faced. I took every charge against you and nailed it to my Son’s cross, canceling every debt. You are in the clear.

(15) Pay no mind to the Accuser’s voice. He will try to convince you that you need to do more to get right with me and that I am disappointed in you. My Son destroyed Satan’s power to accuse, turning the shame back upon him for suggesting that you need anything other than Jesus.

(16-17) Beloved, you will encounter many sincere people who are convinced that the way you are living is self-destructive and dangerous, judging you for how you live. Some Christians look down their noses at people who drink alcohol or mow their lawns on Sunday, while others will criticize you if you choose to set limits on your own behavior, believing that you should feel free to pursue all sensuality. Do not give space to their wrong-headed judgments. The guidelines for living handed down through the generations were provided to help you know what it looks like to live a life of love, but my Son is love itself. Life with him is the point.

(18) Some will judge your joy and freedom, even suggesting that you are not a true Christian or that you have abandoned your faith in me. Many will tell you that you need to rid yourself of all pleasures, because to live with whimsical joy proves you are selfish and that suffering is the only way to truly know me.

Others will insist that if you are not pursuing sensual experiences such as seeing visions or talking with angels, your faith is not authentic. Hogwash! Experience seekers are often pursuing an emotional rush rather than my Son. A faith without reason is not Christianity. Love me with the fullness of your emotion, reason, and action.

(19) Child, true life cannot be cut off from my Son. Every good thing that happens in you individually and communally flows from my Son. He alone is your daily bread and your living water. Stay as close to him as you can because he is true life.

(20-22) When you were buried with my Son in your baptism, all those worldly ways of living were put to death too. When you were raised out of the water, it signified your glorious new life in my Son, infused with my Holy Spirit, yet even in your new freedom and purity, you still return to following the old rules others have set for you. “Stay away from movies because they promote a liberal agenda. Never drink alcohol. Tattoos are evil.” Sometimes, these rules start from a helpful place, but they soon get off track, becoming about the rule itself rather than a way of growing in love, which is my desire for you.

(23) Beloved, you know people who say that you must live a certain way. Some church leaders mandate behavior for their whole congregations, both creating the rules and then punishing those who break them, yet they often cannot manage themselves. Listen, treating yourself severely or shaming yourself or others has no value in changing hearts. You could create a set of rules that would fill the Library of Congress, but they would do absolutely nothing to stop your fleshly desires. Rules do not stop sinful behaviors, because sin is a heart issue. Do you want to begin growing in the right direction? Cling to my Son. Remember that I love you “without condition or reservation” as my friend Brennan Manning said.[4] My Spirit is always with you, cheering you on.

Chapter 3

(1-2) Because it is true that you have been liberated by Christ, look to him seated at my side. It is significant, dear one, that Jesus is seated. It means that his saving work is complete. You cannot add anything to what he has already accomplished; let that be a great comfort to you. Set your mind on his finished work, not on all of the worldly stuff you see.

(3-4) Let me say it again: In your baptism, you died. Christians do not baptize as a reason to dress up and eat cake. It is a physical symbol of what new covenant life with my Son looks like. In him, your old self was put to death, but not only that, your life is now joined with him. Because your life is in him, when I look at you, I see his perfection. His life is your life, and you are gloriously joined with him, whether on earth or in heaven.

(5-6) Because you have new life in my Son, put to death your old ways of living. You will not grow by asceticism or rule following, but by remembering who you are. Your identity is no longer bound up in lust, impurity, evil, greed, or any form of idolatry. I hate those things and I will burn them away from all that is pure and lovely in my new creation, including you, beloved.

(7-10) Self-centeredness characterized your life before you knew my Son, but now you have seen your belovedness, so live differently. Get rid of your anger, hatred, mean-spiritedness, and coarse talk. Those things are not who you are. Live authentically before one another and take off your deceptive masks. In your new life, you do not need them anymore. Let people see your real beauty. As you grow in your knowledge of who I am and who you are, you will become even more radiant as I reveal my presence in you. 

(11) My kingdom is made up of people from all sorts of backgrounds, but their shared identity is life with my Son.

(12-13) In light of your new identity, I want you to dress the part. Practice relational holiness, finding your true center in my love for you. Practice compassion toward others, willing to be moved to action by their needs and their hurts. Kindness is in short supply in the world, so be kind. Be humble and gentle.

 Be patient with others. You will continue to experience hurt and misunderstanding, even with your closest friends and family. Do not jump to conclusions. The world is full of people who are quick to be offended. Try to give others the benefit of the doubt, but when there is a clear offense, be willing to forgive, remembering my lavish forgiveness of you.

(14) All of these traits are rooted in love, which is my truest essence. In your new self, love is your defining trait too. Love enlivens all of these other things. Self-centeredness complicates everything, but other-centered, God-glorifying love offers a glimpse of my glory. With love, everything flows.

(15) When you are centered in that place of love and relational beauty, my peace surrounds you. All my children are interconnected. Live with gratitude for your relationships.

(16) Regularly meditate on the beauty and truth of Jesus’s words, but do not just keep them to yourself; talk with one another about them and remind each other to live from the place of your belovedness. Pondering my word together will help you grow in wisdom. Lift your hearts in song. I love the old ones and the new ones, because they reveal generations of grateful hearts.

(17) Child, do not lose sight of your new identity. Keep my Son constantly in view. Whatever you do or think, do it in Jesus’s name and by the power of the Spirit. Remember that living a life of love would be impossible if it were not for me, so be thankful for this remarkable gift.

(18-19) Let your new way of being shape how you live and relate, even in your most intimate relationships. Self-centeredness no longer defines you, so leave behind those old, selfish ways. Live a life of love. In marriage, submit to one another for the good of the relationship. Do not seek to control or manipulate one another. Instead, seek to love and serve each other. Love requires that you set aside your selfish demands for the good of the other.

(20-21) This goes for parent-child relationships too. Parenting is difficult enough without children adding to their burden. Children honor me when they live with love toward their parents. This goes for parents too. I do not want them bossing their children around, intentionally angering them. Practice kindness and gentleness so that others do not feel beaten down by your judgments. Next to me, I want parents to be their children’s biggest fans.

(22-4:1) In Paul’s day, slavery was still quite common. I have never approved of slavery but used Paul and others to move people in the direction of treating people all people respectfully. In relationships where there is clearly a power differential, love and serve well. I want workers to be willing to do their jobs cheerfully. When employees only try to look good when the boss is around, their behavior is motivated by deception rather than true goodness. As you work, regardless of the setting, keep in mind that you are ultimately serving me. Even if your boss constantly criticizes you, I want you to know that I see you and I promise that my rewards are better than any you could receive from your employer. If your boss treats you wrongly, let me deal with them. I will respond justly to them. If you serve in supervisory capacity, remember this wisdom. Treat those under you with respect and fairness, not taking advantages of them, remembering that you are also a servant.

Chapter 4

(2) Keep up the dialog with me. The Christian life is literally lived with Christ. My Spirit is your true companion and guide, not a radio you turn on and off. As you observe the world, watch for evidence of my advancing kingdom, and pay attention to those things that disintegrate. Offer thanks for my work and at the same time, resist the darkness.

(3-4) Pray for others who are also doing kingdom work. Following me is not a solo journey. You have brothers and sisters all over the world who are striving to make my name known. Pray that they would have opportunity to share what is true, good, and beautiful with those who have never heard the wonderful mystery what my Son has done, and that people would see him clearly.

(5-6) You live your daily life among those who do not really know me. Listen to my Spirit who has granted you insight into heaven’s wisdom. He shows you how to live and relate. Let your words to be full of grace, mercy, and kindness. Sadly, many people who claim to represent me leave a bad taste in the mouths of non-believers, but my true kingdom—the kingdom of other-centered, God-glorifying love—tastes divine, and leaves people hungering for more of me. When you answer people with love, kindness, and humility, they glimpse heaven.

(7-9) Because Paul was in prison, he sent two of his friends, Tychichus and Onesimus, to the believers in Colossae to let them know how he was doing. Hearing about what my Spirit is doing among other believers is an encouragement. Mutual encouragement is essential, so share your stories.

(10-11) Paul also shared updates and greetings from a few other believers including his fellow prisoner, Aristarchus; Mark (the same one who authored the second gospel); and Jesus, called Justus. I want you to notice two things. First, the growing church was still small. They knew the names of fellow believers. Second, my Son was not the only one named Jesus. It was a common name at that time, like Mary.

(12-13) Paul also mentioned Epaphras, who was a citizen of the region. Paul knew that Epaphras was committed to fervently praying for the growth of the churches in Colossae, Laodecia, and Hieropolis, all towns in the region.

(14) Another gospel writer, Luke, sent greetings as did Demas, who was serving the church as well.

(15-16) Paul’s letters were often open letters to be shared among the churches. He had also sent a letter to the Laodecian church that he wanted the Colossians to see. His counsel was both specific and general, applying to all believers everywhere.

Paul specifically mentioned the church that met in Nympha’s home. Without fanfare or apology, he was thankful for this woman in leadership. Too often, Christians minimize the role of women in the church, but they are co-equal and often were leaders. Learn from them.

(17) Archippus was the final person named. Paul wanted to specifically remind him to pursue his vocational calling. Indeed, I want all my children to live out their unique call.

(18) Paul closed the letter writing in his own hand. This helped churches know it came from him, and not just the scribe. His last request was that they would pray for him too as he remained under lock and key.

His final four words were “grace be with you.” Remember that his first words were “Grace to you and peace.” Above all, Paul wanted them to know and remember that life with me is all grace, from beginning to end. Beloved, walk in that reality. 


[1] John 17:21.

[2] Personal correspondence with Larry Crabb.

[3] Luke 3:22.

[4] Brennan Manning, “Live at Woodcrest,” YouTube, Accessed on September 6, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQi_IDV2bgM