Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read the entire book.
Orientation Colossians is book #12 of 27 in the New Testament, and and is one of Paul's letters. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis Paul is in prison awaiting trial, when he receives word that the Christians in Colossae (in Turkey) are being pulled into a new belief system promoted by some philosophers. These philosophers have combined various religious elements into a mix that has just enough truth to make it sound real. This mix contains some beliefs from Judaism (kosher law, religious holidays); ascetics (self-denial, simplicity, and austerity - such as monks) and gnostics (seeking secret, mystical spiritual knowledge).
Paul warns them not to fall for deceptive philosophy (2:8) including emphasis on circumcision (2:11) and the old Jewish written law. Jesus nailed these parts of the old system to the cross with him (2:14). He tells the church to be alert for certain false elements: emphasis on kosher law, observing certain holidays (2:16), and the worship of angels (2:18).
Paul says to turn away from the old emphasis on "do not" language (2:20) and earthly practices (3:5-10). All of us, whether Jew or gentile, are all one in Christ (3:11), so instead focus on good and honorable practices (3:12).
In the household, family members all have responsibility to each other (3:18). Even master/slave relationships are two-way streets (3:22). The letter concludes with various personal greetings and instructions.
Activity Refer to chapter 3. Make a list of the activities and attitudes Christians should shun, and those we should encourage. Discussion points Paul warns about beliefs that contain just enough truth to sound believable. Are there examples today (not just about religion) of messages that contain partial truths? *
Consider Paul's instructions on advancing the gospel (4: 2-6). What role is played by prayer? watchfulness? thankfulness? open doors? wise actions? attitude toward outsiders?
Paul mentions the "mystery of Christ" (4:3). What is the mystery?
Connections Paul's warnings to be alert to false teachings are similar to his instructions in Galatians, although this particular combination of false teachings is quite different from the old-line Jews promoting Old Testament law in Galatians.
The rules for Christian households (3: 18-25) are very similar to Paul's instructions in Ephesians 5:22 - 6:9; although quite condensed here.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 11 2014
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