Read 348.) Colossians and Philemon. Paul’s prison epistles begin here. He did not found the church at Colosse, but his fellow-worker, Epaphras did. It would appear that it was coming under the sway of what is called a Gnostic Heresy, but that Paul wanted to steer them back to the very simplicity that is entirely found through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Note two things. The first is ‘mystery,’ found 4 times, and the second is that Paul points at all times, and in every way, to all that is in the fullness of Jesus Christ; making Him out to be nothing less than our very all-in-all, 2:10 + 3:11! It is ALL about Jesus!
From chapter 1, the gnostic heresy had to do with special knowledge only for the advanced and elite (2:8-23), but Paul wants to instill only true knowledge, wisdom and understanding, which is for all believers, v.9. All this is simply that they might live right, in a manner that pleases the Lord, v.10. And, all of this is in Jesus Christ, beginning with our very salvation, v.13+14. Verses 15 and following, Paul magnifies Jesus Christ before them as God in human flesh, who by His death, accomplished all for us that we might be saved, v.20+22. As the key word is ‘mystery,’ so the true mystery is all about Jesus. He resides within His believers, v.26+27! Chapter 2 advances this further. The mystery of God is Christ, and He is God, possessing all our fullness for every need, v.2,9+10. All of this is ours in Christ because of His death and resurrection, v.12+20, 3:1. So, do not engage in worthless, religious works, 2:16-23, but, by faith in Jesus only, live as chapter 3 details.
Chapters 3 and 4, go from the explicit teaching about the Person, death, blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to how He empowers the believer to live rightly before Him. The practical instructions are that thru Jesus we can put to death fleshly, sinful works, v.5-9, and put on a new self that is like Christ, v.10-14. This is done by letting Christ and His Word dwell and rule within us, v.15-17. This will result in improved relationships, chiefly characterized by love, 2:14, 3:18-4:1. Paul closes by admonishing believers to continual prayer and to witnessing to one’s faith in Jesus Christ, 4:2-6.
The brief letter to Philemon was also written in this AD 60 to 63 timeframe, and also went to Colosse, where Philemon dwelt. He had a servant named, Onesimus, who may have stolen from Philemon and fled to Rome. For this, Onesimus deserved death, but Paul led him to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and was sending him back to his master, Philemon, as a new brother in the Lord. Whereas, the name, Onesimus, meant useful; he, having run away, became useless. But, now, as a new brother in Christ, he might truly become most useful to Philemon. Once again, as with the letter to the Colossians, it is truly all about Jesus, and genuine faith in Him alone. It’s what the Book is all about!
Harold F Crowell