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‘I come into the Lord’s presence in my weakness. I need his power to strengthen me and give me faith to hear his voice.’


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Bible passage Colossians 1:1–14


Colossians 1

 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:

   Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer
 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Explore the Bible


Rescue power
Paul is not a man for small talk. After a few words of greeting, his readers are immersed into the great swirling themes that so fascinate him. He wants them to know that the message they have believed is true, productive and wise. God is with them, strengthening them with his ‘glorious might’ (v 11).

His opening salvo reaches a deafening crack when he tells them that through Jesus they have been rescued from the clutches of a powerful darkness and safely delivered into the Lord’s domain. They are free people. More than anything else, Paul is anxious to teach them that through faith in Jesus, a great change has taken place. God’s power has taken them from darkness and into his light. No other teaching or knowledge can affect such a great change.

Just the gospel
Ernst Käsemann, a New Testament scholar, sees in verses 12–14 an early Christian baptismal liturgy. Christians now share in the heavenly life, have been saved from dark danger and are living in freedom.

Paul is already countering some of the ideas beginning to circulate in this church that to be truly knowledgeable and free, the gospel needs to be supplemented by other ideas. And he’s not standing for it.


Respond


‘Lord Jesus, help me today to love you with all my heart, mind and strength.’

Gethin Russell-Jones


Introduction to Colossians and Philemon


One of the joys of living in Oxford is that we welcome 3 million visitors each year. Tourists have a particular view of life. They glide into town in their air-conditioned buses, they stay for a few hours, and then they are on to the next city. This tourist mentality contrasts with the New Testament picture of the pilgrim. The pilgrim, or disciple, is committed to perseverance, to patient growth, to continual learning.

Sadly, for many people, the Christian life has been reduced to little more than a weekly visit to church. Their expectations of change can be very limited. Distracted by other things, they gradually marginalise their commitment to Christ, so that faith becomes an accessory rather than the driving force of their life. One of the core themes of the letter to the Colossians is the call to continue in Christ. The small community in Colossae was a young church plant which Paul had never visited, but for which he prayed and about which he was deeply concerned. They were faithful to the gospel, but they were under threat. We’re not entirely sure about the false teaching that was in danger of capturing their hearts and minds, but probably it was a form of pluralism. The suggestion was being made that other forms of spirituality were equally acceptable. Christians were tempted to think that knowing Jesus was not enough and that other religious activities, or occult powers, or other philosophies were needed if they were going to flourish. No! says Paul. He warns them about being kidnapped by such teaching and underlines that if you have Jesus, who is the image and fullness of God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, then you have enough.

It’s no surprise that from this foundation the letter then provides help for every area of life – ethics, behaviour, lifestyle and relationships of all kinds. This is because everything flows from a right relationship with Christ. He is the key, the one who unlocks all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3).


Deeper Bible study


What are our expectations of the Christian life? Our prayers often give the game away. As we enter God’s presence today, let us seek to make Paul’s prayer our own.

It has been well said that the prayers of the Bible are like the big clothes that parents buy for their children to grow into. When I entered secondary school my parents bought me a blazer and it wasn’t until a term or so later that my friends realised I had hands! Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is exactly this – a hugely expansive prayer which we can use for ourselves and our fellow believers.

Paul had never met the Colossians, yet he prays for them fervently (v 9), praying constantly with a passionate longing that they would know God better. It is a model prayer in its emphasis on both belief and behaviour, on knowledge and obedience. First, we ask that we might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (v 9). This is followed by the phrase ‘through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives’, implying that truly knowing God, truly living according to his purpose, is not simply accumulating doctrinal information but is to do with spiritual wisdom. This is developed through the second theme – ‘so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord’ (v 10). Paul uses the image of fruitfulness as he describes both the fantastic advance of the gospel (v 6) and the hoped-for evidence of godly living among the Colossians (v 10) – the result of his prayer for both belief and behaviour.

Very often our prayers revolve around our health, our work concerns or our family, all of which matter. Paul’s prayer, however, is one we must grow into – an urgent, regular and passionate prayer for increased knowledge and committed obedience. Paul longed that the Colossians would truly know God and live a life pleasing to him – a great prayer for ourselves and our fellow believers.

Jonathan Lamb


Colossians overview


Colossae

• Close to Laodicea, Hierapolis and Ephesus

• Experienced an earthquake in 60 BC

• The local population would have been a mixture of Jews, Greeks and native Phyrgians 
 

Paul had never been to Colossae. The gospel had been brought there by Epaphras, a native of Colossae. When Paul was at Ephesus, debating the gospel in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for three years, we are told (with some hyperbole) that ‘all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10). Possibly this is where Epaphras heard and responded to the gospel.

The church at Colossae seems to have been a flourishing congregation characterised by faith, hope and love (see Colossians 1:4,5). But Paul is aware of the lurking danger to the Colossian Christians of trying to combine the Christian message with other religious practices with which they were familiar.

A group of people, probably Jewish Christians, were urging the Colossian church to adopt certain religious practices which Paul condemns as not only unnecessary, but harmful, as they led to a false religious pride. There may also have been elements in the local population that misunderstood the Christian faith as a religion into which a person could be initiated by going through certain rituals.

It must have been hard for Christians brought up in these cultures to grasp that Christ’s death is sufficient for our salvation, and that all that is required of the Christian is repentance, faith in Christ, and Christlike living.

Characteristics of the letter

• Colossians has much in common with Ephesians. It is likely that Ephesians (which lacks personal greetings) was written to be circulated among the churches of the area.

• Paul asked his letter to the Colossians to be read at Laodicea and vice versa (see Colossians 4:16). Some people think that the letter to Laodicea is in fact what we know as ‘Ephesians’.

• The imperative need to combat false teaching leads Paul to articulate a sublime Christology, unmatched in the New Testament (see Colossians 1:15–20 and elsewhere in the letter).

• The way he explains Christian living throughout Colossians emphasises our participation in the life of Christ. We are reconciled to God by Christ’s physical body, we died, were buried and are made alive with him. Our life is ‘hidden’ with him, and we will appear with him in glory. His resurrection life energizes us.

• Colossians shares with Ephesians the joy of singing (3:16, compare Ephesians 5:19). It also shares with Ephesians a section on right relationships in Christian households (3:18 – 4:1, compare Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9).

• Like Ephesians, it was carried from Paul to its recipients by Tychicus. (Compare 4:7,8 with Ephesians 6:21,22).

• There is an emphasis on prayer. 
 

What scholars debate about Colossians
Colossians presents some challenges to scholars, who note that it contains some words and phrases that occur nowhere else in the New Testament. These include the Greek word for ‘self-imposed worship’ (2:23), and others such as ‘the elemental spiritual forces of this world’ (2:8,20; compare Galatians 4:3). 

However, there is no need to argue that the letter was not written by Paul, since he was probably adopting their language and terminology when writing to the Colossians about their local issues.

There is a debate about what is meant by the ‘powers and authorities’ that he refers to in 1:16. But whether he had in mind human powers or supernatural ones makes no difference, since his point is that Christ is above all of them.

The message of the letter
Colossians 1:9,10 sums up what this letter is about.

Paul cares deeply about this church and prays that its members may:

• have wisdom and understanding

• live lives worthy of the Lord

• bear fruit

• grow in the knowledge of God

• be strengthened for endurance and patience 
 

The most important thing
The key message in Colossians is for Christians to nurture their connection with the Head of the Church, who is Christ, and to live in relation to one another as members of his body.

• If we are connected to the Head we will not be led astray by false doctrine.

• If we are connected to the Head we will persevere to the end.

• If we are connected to the Head we will live lives that please him. 
 

The Christian life may not be easy, but it is not complicated.

Andrew Clark

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Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Ezekiel 12,13

James 4
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Together


We do not follow Christ alone.
There are others who share this path.
People who have heard the good news as it bears fruit,
all around the world.

Your journey is not just your own.
Others have walked with you.
Pauls, Timothys and Epaphrases, who thank God when they think of you.
Men and women who have faithfully laboured,
so that the good news might bear fruit in you.
Those who first brought you the message.
Others who have helped you up when you fell.
Some who have shown God’s life to you, or encouraged you, or just prayed.

Who are these people in your life? Can you name them? Can you picture them now?
Thank God for them, and pray that they may be strengthened in faith, hope and love.

Your journey is not just your own.
You walk with others,
Your ‘Colossians’ who God calls you to encourage.
Who are they? How can you encourage them?


Ben Askew

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The splendour of the king (How great is our God)
Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves & Ed Cash
Copyright © 2004 worshiptogether.com Songs/sixsteps
Music/Adm. by kingswaysongs.com; for the UK & Europe
& Alletrop Music/Adm. by CopyCare
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com



Freedom – Johnny Parks
Johnny Parks & Claire Hamilton
Copyright © 2007 Thankyou Music


Comments
  • Sue Hanson | Sunday, 05 November 2017

    Have you ever gone into Bible Project when starting a new book or new passage with Word Live. I use it here and at our Bible study connected to our church. If you go to Google and type in Bible project Colossians you get a complete overview of the book which I find a great help to get an overall understanding of the book. This takes no more than 10 minutes or less but is very well done

  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 05 November 2017

    Thanks Sue. Amp Bible reminded me of the definition of the faith that enables the Father to transfer us from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved Son: The leaning of the whole personality on Him, in absolute trust no confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness, Praying for all in hard times, that you will invigorated and made strong through His glorious power. v11 Thinking of you today a Ruth C, last chemo, yeaaa! And Carol, as you prepare for surgery tomorrow. Thanks for all the comments on singleness! Blessings all.

  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 05 November 2017

    No confidence?! Ha ha! of course it should read 'and confidence.'

  • Eileen Smith | Sunday, 05 November 2017

    Thank you Sue-- sounds good-- have just added a link,to my screen to follow up,tomorrow. A long time ago Oakley mentioned that David Pawson's Unlocking the Bible talks are on YouTube & I listen when starting a new book either here or on the Bible in One Year readings-- I find them very helpful .

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 06 November 2017

    What freedom we can enjoy when we live in God's wonderful grace and love. Past mistakes are just that, in the past and that is over and totally forgiven by God. Like any child should, we can learn from our mistakes, mature and grow healthy and strong....."all the while you will grow as you learn to know God better and better." ( verse 10 ) Jesus, we trust in the love you have shown us and in the promise to be with us always. Amen.

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Monday, 06 November 2017

    Lovely to hear from you Barbara. How goes it in your new abode? Prayers that the power of Jesus will feel strong and uphold each one undergoing health problems and those being challenged in life.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 06 November 2017

    Before the Apostle Paul began his instruction to the Colossians, we are privileged to see into his prayer life (9-14). Sometimes we have a tendency to think that people’s lives cannot be touched by us without us physically being there. Paul showed us that through prayer, God will impart such things as knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and strength in helping others in their spiritual walk, even without the physical presence of an individual.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 06 November 2017

    I have read that wisdom and understanding can be explained in relation to a computer. The mind is like the hardware of a computer. It has the capacity to store all kinds of information, but it is useless without software and data. The understanding is the data, and wisdom is the software that allows us to retrieve, combine, and put out that information.

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 06 November 2017

    CAROL, may the peace of the Lord be upon you tomorrow and may the skills of the Lord be upon your surgeon and theatre staff.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 06 November 2017

    ROSEMARY we are really settled in our new bungalow and I am back at my beloved Salvation Army Corps (Church) I returned home with a friend who lives nearby and said that for the last 3 years I have been in a dark place and she responded by saying 'that's because they are not born again' such a simple yet profound truth. It's so good to be among born again Christians. God is good all the time. The message was on Matthew 5 Salt and light. As I travelled to the early morning prayer meeting prior to the meeting a man who I did not know shouted across the road to me 'Keep well wrapped up it's cold this morning' I realised that even though I didn't know him he knew me and what I stand for. We Christians have to shine our light in dark places and be salt in the community .I am so grateful to the Lord for revealing himself to me. Light of the World You stepped down into darkness Open my eyes Let me see Beauty that made This heart adore You Hope of a life Spent with You.https://youtu.be/Aa9FIUHKIWQ

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