This fascinating letter from Paul to the Colossians goes to the heart of Christianity by stressing the all-sufficiency of Christ as Savior, reconciling mankind with God.
Colossae was a Roman city in Asia Minor not far from Ephesus. Although Paul did not personally evangelize the city he felt responsible for its well-being. It had been Paul's followers from Ephesus who had first revealed the doctrine of Christ to the Colossians.
While in prison in Rome, Paul had received reports of grave problems in Colossae. It seems gnosticism and asceticism had crept into religious observance. Asceticism came in the form of the practice of initiation and the strict adherence to rituals focusing on the body. Gnosticism took the form of an almost polytheistic worship of angels. The Colossians who ascribed to these practices and beliefs looked down on other Christians declaring that their own way was through a "higher thought".
It was these reports that led Paul to write to the Colossians, stressing the importance and simplicity of the true Christian doctrine. He told them that Christ was the one path to salvation; all the trappings placed upon Christianity by the gnostics and ascetics was a distraction. In this Epistle to the Colossians Paul enunciates a clear and concise survey of Christian ethics in practice and in principle.
Colossians is also valuable as an historical piece. It reveals much of Paul's situation in Rome just prior to his martyrdom. It also speaks to the state of the church in Colossae and the incessant struggle in which Paul fought against the cluttering of the message of Christ with the trappings of gnosticism.
Colossians is an excellent short study of one or two lessons or can be studied in-depth over several weeks. Most studies take it in conjunction with Philippians and sometimes Philemon or Thessalonians.
Philippians Colossians, and Philemon: A Life Application Bible Study is inexpensive and contains 13 lessons, charts, maps, study questions and notes. Visit our Life Application page for more information on how to use this work in a Bible study.
Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, by William Barclay is great both as an in-depth study of Paul's Letters for a group and as a daily guide for individuals. Visit our page on Barclay for more information on how to use Barclay's works in a Bible study.