Christ has everything that you need
An EasyEnglish Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s Letter to the Colossians
This commentary has been through Advanced Theological Checking.
Words that are in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list is at the end. It explains words with a *star by them.
Paul wrote this letter. He was in prison when he wrote it (Colossians 4:3). He was probably in the city called Rome (Acts 28:16, 30-31). If he was, he wrote it about 60 years after Jesus’ birth.
Paul wrote to the Christians who lived in the city called Colossae. It was 160 kilometres (100 miles) east of the city called Ephesus. It was in the valley of the river Lycus. Today this area is part of the country that is called Turkey. The main roads for trade went past Colossae. It was a large and wealthy city for many centuries. But Laodicea (16 kilometres or 10 miles away) and Hierapolis (21 kilometres or 16 miles away) grew to be larger and more important cities. When Paul wrote this letter, Colossae had become a small town. It was no longer very important.
Epaphras was a man who lived in Colossae (1:7; 4:12-13). There he *preached the good news about Jesus. The people who became Christians formed the church at Colossae. Most of them were *Gentiles.
Epaphras visited Paul in prison and told Paul about the young church that was at Colossae. The Christians who lived there had begun to listen to false teachers. Paul was worried that the Christians would turn away from the true *gospel. Even today many false teachers do not seem to deny the *gospel message. Instead, they slightly change it. Often they teach extra things or add rules to the *gospel. Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae to remind them about Jesus Christ and about his true message. Paul emphasised that Christ is superior. Paul wrote more about Christ in this letter than in any other of his letters. He reminded the Christians that their past life had gone. Christ was now their life. Christ had made them free from rules and evil powers. Paul then went on to teach the Christians how to live this new life.
Paul began his letter in the way that was usual in those days. He gave three details:
· Who wrote the letter
· To whom he sent the letter
· A short greeting
Paul began most of his letters in this way.
Verse 1 Paul described himself as an *apostle of Christ Jesus. An *apostle is a person whom God sends to lead Christians. An *apostle also teaches about Jesus. A man does not decide to be an *apostle. God chooses him. In Acts 22:1-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Paul described how God chose him. So, Paul wrote this letter with God’s authority.
Timothy was with Paul when Paul wrote this letter. Timothy had travelled and worked with Paul for several years. Paul wrote to him a few years after he had written this letter. The letters that he wrote to him are 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy. When a person becomes a Christian, God becomes his or her Father. Christians may belong to different physical families. But all Christians are brothers and sisters in God’s family. This was true for Timothy, Paul and the Christians at Colossae (verse 2). It is true for all Christians today.
Verse 2 ‘God’s *holy people’ refers to the Christians who lived in Colossae. Some Bibles translate this phrase as ‘saints’. The *Greek words for ‘holy’ and ‘saints’ are similar. Part of the meaning of both these words is ‘to separate’. It means that Christians have left their old life of *sin. They belong to God. They now serve God and *worship him. In this letter, Paul emphasised what Jesus Christ had done for Christians. Paul often used the phrase ‘in Christ’. It means that Christ has joined Christians with himself. He gives them *spiritual life. They belong to Christ.
*Grace is a gift that God gives. We do not deserve it and we cannot earn it. ‘*Grace’ means that God the Father is kind and generous to his children. God helps and protects people. God’s *grace comes to people by means of Jesus. He gives his people everything that they need for their Christian life.
‘Peace’. In the *Hebrew language this word is ‘shalom’. It is a traditional blessing in the *Old Testament (Numbers 6:24-26), and among *Jewish people today. ‘Peace’ is not just the opposite of war or noise. Peace means that God gives a person a calm spirit. This affects every part of a person’s life and relationships. Nobody can have God’s peace without his *grace.
Verse 3 In most of Paul’s letters he thanked God for the people who read his letters. He prayed for all the churches that he had visited. He prayed for the churches that he had heard about. And he prayed for the churches that he wrote to. The word ‘we’ included Timothy. It may have included other Christians who were with Paul. Paul always prayed to God the Father.
‘*Lord Jesus Christ’ is the full title of Jesus. ‘*Lord’ means that he has complete authority. He is head over everything. ‘Jesus’ is his human name. The name Jesus means ‘God is the one who saves’. Jesus saves people from their *sins (Matthew 1:21). ‘Christ’ is a *Greek word. It means the same as the *Hebrew word Messiah. This means ‘the one whom God has *anointed’. To ‘*anoint’ means to mark a person in a special way. They often marked the person with oil. It is a sign. It shows that God has chosen that person for some special service. God *anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). In the *Old Testament, God promised to send the Messiah to save his people. However, most of the *Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Verse 4 Epaphras (verses 7-8) had told Paul about the Christians who were at Colossae. This may mean that Paul had not visited the church himself. Some people just believe facts about Jesus. But this does not change the way that they behave. The Colossians believed and trusted Jesus. The Bible calls this ‘faith’. The result was that they loved other Christians. Love is more than a nice emotion. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul described what love is. Epaphras must have seen these qualities in the Christians at Colossae.
Verse 5 Epaphras had taught the Colossians the true message of the *gospel (verse 7). The ‘gospel’ is the good news about Jesus Christ, which is for everyone. God can forgive people when they *sin. He can forgive them because of what Jesus Christ did. Jesus lived a perfect life. He died and then he became alive again. This is the message of the true *gospel. But the Christians at Colossae had started to believe false teachers. So Paul wrote to remind the Christians about the true message of the *gospel.
People believe Jesus and trust him. Then they become alive in their spirit. This happens because the Holy Spirit lives in them. When they die, only their physical body dies. Their spirit will live for ever with God. One day Jesus will return to earth (Acts 1:9-11). He will take all the Christians to live with him (John 14:1-4). The Bible promises that Christians will have many good things when they die. For example:
· They will be with Jesus in his *glory (Colossians 3:4).
· They will be like Jesus (John 3:2).
· He will give them a new body for their new life, which will be in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:39-45).
· He will reward them for what they have done on earth (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
· They will not die again. And they will not be sad or have any pain (Revelation 21:4).
God keeps these good things safe in heaven for Christians (see also 1 Peter 1:3-5). Nobody who is on earth can steal these future *blessings. God always does what he promises. Epaphras taught the Christians at Colossae about the future. As a result, they trusted Jesus Christ and loved other Christians.
Verse 6 In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his *disciples that they would take the message of the *gospel everywhere in the world. Paul did not mean that this had actually happened yet. He meant that people had taken the good news to many places. Those places were far away from *Israel. Today people are still taking the good news about Jesus to every country in the world. In this verse, ‘the *grace of God’ means the whole message of the *gospel. The phrase ‘the *gospel is spreading’ means that more people were becoming Christians. Then these people changed the way that they behaved. They lived good lives. They loved other Christians. This is how the *gospel ‘produces fruit’.
Verses 7-8 Paul could not visit every place himself. He had other people who worked with him. Epaphras was one of those people. He came from Colossae (4:12). Paul called him a servant of Christ. False teachers had gone to Colossae. They were not teaching the truth. So, Paul emphasised that Epaphras had taught the people in Colossae the truth about Jesus. The proof of this was in the lives of the Christians at Colossae. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes love (Galatians 5:22-23). The Christians could not love so much unless the Holy Spirit was helping them. Epaphras had visited Paul and told him about the Christians at Colossae. So, Paul wrote this letter to teach them more about Jesus Christ. Paul did not want them to believe the false teachers. Some of the false teachers had been *Jews. So, in this letter, Paul referred to Jesus as ‘Christ’. He emphasised that Jesus was the Messiah from God (see note on verse 3).
Verse 9 Paul had not met the Christians who lived at Colossae. But he greatly cared about them. This was part of his work as an *apostle. In verses 3-8, Paul thanked God for what God had already done for those Christians. In verses 9-14, Paul asked God to do particular things for them in the future. This is a wonderful prayer. All church leaders can pray like this for the Christians that they lead.
The false teachers believed that they had special knowledge and wisdom. They taught people how to understand this secret wisdom. But the false teachers did not believe and trust the true God. The Christians had started to believe these teachers. Paul did not try to correct the false teachers. Instead, he reminded the Christians about God’s truth. Paul did this in several places in this letter. Paul prayed that the Christians would learn more and more about God. The *Greek words mean ‘be full of knowledge’. But people cannot discover this knowledge by themselves. The Holy Spirit will teach them (Ephesians 1:17). God wants people to know him more and more. He wants people to know about his wonderful purpose in Jesus. And God wants everybody to hear the good news. He can forgive *sins. A person who knows God learns wisdom from the *Holy Spirit. James 3:13-18 describes wisdom that comes from God. And those verses compare it with wisdom that does not come from God.
Verse 10 Christians learn wisdom from the *Holy Spirit. Then they learn to behave in the right way. They know what God wants them to do. People who really know Christ start to behave like Christ. In verse 6, Paul said, ‘the *gospel is spreading. And it produces fruit’. He repeated that idea in this verse. Paul described the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. So, ‘fruit’ refers to the good way in which Christians live. And ‘spreading’ means that more and more people are learning to know God. And they are learning what God has done by Jesus. When people become Christians, they start to know God. They learn what pleases him. Then they do what pleases him. As they do this, they will know God even more. In John 14:15, Jesus said that if people love him, they will obey him. This is how Christians become mature. And it is how they live *holy lives.
Verse 11 A Christian cannot please God unless God helps him. God gives Christians the power to live the right way (Philippians 4:13). God is powerful. For example, he made everything that is in the world and in the sky (Genesis 1:1-2:3). Jesus died on the cross. But God’s power made Jesus alive again (Ephesians 1:19-21). God gives his power to Christians. Then they can trust Jesus more each day. Christians may have troubles in their lives. Sometimes they suffer because they are Christians (1 Peter 4:12-16). People may insult them. But God wants Christians to be patient and kind. And he wants Christians to continue to trust Christ. When they have troubles in their lives, God’s power will help them. Paul knew God’s power because he had received it (1:29). When God’s people have his power, they will also be happy in their spirit.
Verse 12 Christians should always be grateful to God the Father. Verses 9-11 have described how God helps Christians each day. Verses 13-14 remind Christians about what God has done for them in the past. Verse 12 promises good things for the future. But nobody can receive any of these things without Christ. It is Christ who makes us *holy. Then we are able to receive his gifts. This verse links with verse 5. The Colossians had accepted the true message of the *gospel. Therefore, they could receive all that God had prepared for them. In the Bible, ‘light’ refers to God and to his deeds. It also describes the time when people know and trust God. God lives in light that is too bright to look at (1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ When we trust him, we shall have his light in our lives (John 8:12).
Verses 13-14 The opposite of light is darkness. In the Bible, ‘darkness’ refers to *Satan and his deeds. It also describes the time when people do not know God. *Satan has power over people’s lives until they trust Christ. ‘The *kingdom’ means where Christ rules as king. It does not refer to a physical place. People understood about a physical ruler and his *kingdom. So Paul used this idea to explain about God’s *kingdom and *Satan’s *kingdom in verse 13. When people become Christians, *Satan does not rule their lives any more. *Satan is not their master. He cannot make them *sin. He cannot make them do evil deeds. Instead, Christ rules in their lives. Christ is their new master. He has forgiven all their *sins. Christ helps Christians to obey him. He helps them to live *holy lives. Paul explained more about this in the rest of this letter and in Romans chapter 6.
In the *Old Testament, the *Israelites were slaves in the foreign country of Egypt. Pharaoh, who was the ruler of Egypt, was cruel to the *Israelites. So, God brought them out of Egypt and gave them the country called Canaan. They were not slaves any more. You can read about this in the books called Exodus, Deuteronomy and Joshua in the *Old Testament. Paul often referred to this story. It helps Christians to understand what Jesus has done for them. He has freed them from *Satan’s power. In verse 14, the phrase ‘has paid for’ means to make a slave free.
Verses 15-20 centre on Christ. Paul wrote this letter in the *Greek language. He wrote these verses like a poem. But it does not look like a poem when it is in the English language. Many teachers of the Bible think that this was a song of praise. Paul showed the Christians at Colossae that Christ is better and more powerful than anyone or anything else. Paul wanted the Christians to understand more about Christ. This would guard them against the false teachers.
Verse 15 John 1:18 says that nobody has ever seen God the Father. God is spirit. We cannot see him because he does not have a physical body. But Jesus said, ‘If you have seen me you have seen God the Father’ (John 14:9). Jesus meant that he has the same *nature and character as God. So, when we learn more about Jesus Christ, we learn more about God. Christ existed before God created anything. And Christ has the place of honour over all that God created. Paul emphasised this many times in his letter.
Verse 16 Christ existed before he had a physical body. God created all physical things by means of Christ. He also created everything that is not physical. This includes the *angels and spirits. In this verse, heaven means the sky rather than the place where God lives. Christians believe that good *angels serve God. But evil *angels and spirits serve *Satan, who is the chief evil spirit. The false teachers *worshipped *angels (2:18). They also believed that there were many ranks of *angels and spirits. Paul lists 4 of these ranks. This does not mean that Paul agreed with the false teachers. But Paul was emphasising that Christ is greater than all the *angels and spirits. God in Christ created them. So Christ has power over them. God created everything ‘for’ Christ. Therefore, Christ is the reason why everything exists.
Verse 17 Christ maintains the physical world. This is why it works well. The sun, moon and stars stay in their correct places in the sky. Every day has the same number of hours. People in the world live because Christ keeps them alive. Christ also maintains everything that is not physical. Without Christ, everything would break down. Christ is the ruler of everything that he created.
Verse 18 Paul now showed that Christ created the church. ‘The church’ means all the Christians in the world. ‘Church’ always refers to people. The ‘local church’ means all the Christians who live in a particular town or village. In the Bible, ‘church’ never refers to a building where Christians have meetings. Christ does not live in his physical body on earth any more. Christ lives in all Christians by means of his Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). Now, Christ lives on this earth in his church (the Christians). So he calls the church his ‘body’. To be ‘head’ means that Christ is the ruler of his church.
Christ died on the cross. He did not stay dead but he became alive again. We read about some people in the Bible who died. Then they became alive (for example 2 Kings 4:32-37; John 11:38-44). But all those people died again. Christ will never die again. He became permanently alive first, before anyone else did. He has a new body. The church began when Christ became alive again. And he has the most important rank in the church. In 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 35-58, Paul tells us that Christians will become permanently alive because of Christ. Then each Christian will receive a new body that will never die.
Verse 19 Jesus Christ was not just a man. Jesus Christ is God. God lived in Christ’s human body. And God continues to live in Christ for ever. God put everything that he has into Christ. And God put everything that he is into Christ. This includes all God’s character, his *nature and his power. Christ was full of God the Father (John 14:8-10). No part of God was missing from Christ’s life. Paul repeated this in Colossians 2:9.
Verses 20-22 Adam (the first man) and Eve (the first woman) *sinned because they did not obey God. They could not be God’s friends any more. They became God’s enemies. So God sent them away. Since then, everyone has *sinned. *Sin separates men and women from God. *Sin also affects the physical world that God created. Genesis 3 tells us about this. However, Christ’s death affects people. It also affects everything that he created. Romans 8:19-21 says that one day the physical world will be free from the effects of *sin. 2 Peter 3:13 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth in the future. There will be no *sin there.
God is angry about *sin (Ephesians 5:6). The result of *sin is death (Romans 6:23). So God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to this world. He lived a perfect life. He never *sinned. Christ died on the cross for us. God did not punish us. Instead, God punished Christ because of our *sins. Paul reminded the Christians at Colossae that Christ had made them clean from their *sins. Christ had made them *holy. God was not angry with the Christians. They were not God’s enemies. They were not separate from God. God unites people with himself by Christ. All this is the good news of the *gospel.
These verses do not mean that Christ’s death has actually saved everyone. The Bible makes it clear that many people refuse to become friends with God. So they are still God’s enemies.
Verse 23 The Christians at Colossae had heard the true message of the *gospel and they believed it. But they began to listen to what the false teachers taught. So, Paul urged the Christians to continue to believe God’s truth. Paul wrote his letter to them to explain more about the truth. Paul and other Christians *preached the genuine message of the *gospel in all areas of the world. Only the true message would cause Christians to ‘spread’ and produce ‘fruit’ (see the notes on verse 6).
Verse 24 Christ suffered and died on the cross. He died to forgive our *sins. Christ completed his work on the cross. He said, ‘I have finished it’ (John 19:30). So this verse does not mean that Christ has to suffer again for our *sin. Here, the word ‘suffer’ refers to the troubles that people have in their lives. Christ is in Christians. When Christians suffer, Christ suffers too. Acts 9:4 shows that when Paul used to hurt Christians, he hurt Christ too. (Paul’s name used to be Saul.)
Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. He was suffering because he *preached the *gospel. But he was happy to suffer because of the *gospel.
Verses 25-27 Paul was serving the church as an *apostle (see verse 1). Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us how *apostles serve the church. Paul emphasised that he had told the Colossians the complete message about the *gospel. They did not need the secret information that the false teachers pretended to possess. In the past, God had not told people the complete message. The *Jews had the part of the Bible that we call the *Old Testament. They could read about some of God’s plan. They thought that his plan was only for *Jews. But God showed his complete plan when Christ came. The ‘secret’ is that Christ lives in *Gentile Christians and in *Jewish Christians (Ephesians 3:7-12). God’s ‘*holy people’ refers to Christians (verse 2). When Christ returns to earth, every Christian will live with him. The Bible promises that Christians will share Christ’s *glory.
Verses 28-29 Paul *preached the message about the *gospel (see the notes on verse 5). He also taught Christians how to become more mature. Paul did not want them to remain Christians who did not grow (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The false teachers declared that they had secret wisdom and power. But true wisdom, which comes from God, helps every Christian. True wisdom helps Christians to know Christ more. Paul did not have an easy job as an *apostle. He had to work hard. But Christ’s power made him strong.
In this chapter, Paul refers to particular things that the false teachers taught. Also, he explains why Christ is superior.
Verse 1 Laodicea was a town about 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Colossae. Paul wrote to the Christians who lived in each of these towns (4:16). You can read Jesus’ warning to the church that was at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22.
Verses 2-3 Paul wanted each Christian to be mature (1:28). But he also wanted each church to be mature. In 1:4, Paul had already praised the Christians at Colossae because they loved other Christians. This united them. They also needed to know and to believe the complete truth about Christ. They did not need the secret knowledge and wisdom that the false teachers had. Christ gives to Christians all that they need. This should encourage them, as they trust Christ.
Verse 4 When a person knows the truth, he will recognise lies. And he will recognise anything that is false. The false teachers were clever in the way that they discussed things. They could reason well. They wanted to persuade people. They wanted people to believe them. Therefore, the Christians at Colossae had to know more truth about Christ. Then they could recognise what was false.
Verse 5 ‘My spirit is with you.’ This means that Paul greatly cared about the Christians. And he prayed for them. He praised them because they still believed the truth. ‘Discipline’ and ‘firm’ are words that soldiers use. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul described how Christians are like soldiers. They oppose *Satan. Jesus said that *Satan lies (John 8:44). Christians oppose lies when they know the truth.
Verse 6 The Colossians had started their Christian life in the right way. Jesus was the master of their lives. Paul did not want them now to follow false teachers instead of Christ.
Verse 7 Paul used pictures in his language in this verse. A tree grows roots that fix it into the ground. You cannot pull up the tree. It is strong. The storms cannot blow it over. When people become Christians, they fix their lives into Christ. People build a house on a strong, level base. That house will not fall down. A Christian who trusts and obeys Christ will be strong. Jesus taught this in Matthew 7:24-27. Epaphras taught the Colossians about Christ (1:7). So Paul urged them to continue to believe the truth.
Christians should be grateful to God for all that he has done by Christ. Then they will always praise God. In the *Greek language, ‘continue to thank God’ means that the words should flow out.
Verse 8 Paul now explained why the false teachers were wrong. ‘Lead you away’ means to take you and make you into a slave. The false teachers taught that people had to obey many rules (verses 16, 20-22). But the truth about Christ makes people free (John 8:31-32, 36).
‘Philosophy’ refers to human wisdom and thinking. But wisdom without Christ is false wisdom. People’s traditions may seem to be good and wise. But they often have power to control people. Traditions depend on human ideas and human wisdom. They do not depend on God’s wisdom. The ‘basic principles of this world’ refers to evil spirits. People believed that spirits ruled the world. So people *worshipped them.
Verse 9 Paul repeated what he wrote in 1:19. God fills Christ. He is the only true God. So, Christ is superior to everything that Paul had written about in verse 8.
Verse 10 The Christians at Colossae did not need to get anything from the false teachers. Christians already have all that they need. God himself fills them with his *nature and his power. Christ rules over every *angel and spirit (1:16; 2:15). So Christians should not *worship them.
Verses 11-12 *Circumcision was the mark of every *Jewish male. God linked it to his promise to all the *Jews (Genesis chapter 17). If a *Gentile man wanted to become a *Jew, the Jews *circumcised him. The *Old Testament also referred to *circumcision that was not physical. For example, *circumcision of their hearts (*nature) (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 9:25-26). When any *Gentile or *Jew becomes a Christian, Christ *circumcises (removes) his or her old *nature. Christ makes Christians free from the power of their old *nature.
In the *New Testament, the leaders *baptised people as soon as they became Christians (Acts 2:38-41; 8:34-38; 16:29-33). They went to a river or a deep pool of water. The new Christians went right down under the water. Then they came up out of the water. The water was like a grave. They buried their old *nature. Then they rose up and had Christ’s new life in them. This act was on the outside of them. But it showed what had happened inside them. Christ had died and he became alive again. At their *baptism, Christians joined in Christ’s experience. Romans 6:1-10 explains more about *baptism.
Verse 13 In this verse, ‘dead’ means separate from God (Ephesians 2:12). God is *holy. *Sin separates people from a *holy God. God forgave our *sins because of Christ’s death on the cross. But every person has to ask God to forgive his or her *sins. When God forgives, he joins each person with Christ. And he puts the Holy Spirit in each Christian’s life (Ephesians 1:13).
Verse 14 In those days, the *Romans punished criminals. Then they usually killed the criminals on a cross. To make the cross, the *Romans stood a tall wooden pole in the ground. They attached another pole across the top of this pole. They made the criminal put his arms out each side on the cross. Then they hit nails through his hands and into the cross. They did the same with his feet. This was very painful as he hung on the cross. The *Romans also wrote a record of the criminal’s *sins. They put this on the cross with a nail. Then they left him on the cross until he died.
God made the laws which are in the *Old Testament. God is *holy. God can only accept *holy people. But nobody was able to obey all God’s laws. The punishment for *sin is to die (Romans 6:23). God sent Christ into this world to live as a man. Christ was perfect. He obeyed all the laws. God could not accuse Christ as he had never *sinned. Instead, God put the record of our *sins onto Christ’s cross. God accused Christ of all our *sins. God removed from us the record of our *sins. Then God gave Christ’s perfect record to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). This was a *spiritual act, not a physical act.
Verse 15 ‘Evil powers and authorities’ refers to *Satan and all his wicked *angels (see 1:16). Christ never obeyed *Satan. Christ never *sinned. He completely obeyed God and he lived a *holy life. Christ was a *holy man when he died. So *Satan could not accuse Christ that he had *sinned. Therefore, *Satan had no power over Christ. Instead, God had power over *Satan.
Verse 16 In the *Old Testament, God made laws about what things people might eat and drink. And he made laws about what they must not eat. God also told the *Jews to have special *holy days (Leviticus chapter 23). ‘Sabbath’ is the *Jewish day for rest. It is on the seventh day of the week (Genesis 2:2-3). The *Pharisees added hundreds of extra laws to God’s laws. The false teachers were like judges. They told the Christians to obey these laws too. They said that this would make them into better Christians. But Paul said that the false teachers were wrong. In Mark 7:19, Jesus said that the laws about food had ended. Christians may eat any foods. Paul wrote to the Galatians because they had started to obey the *Old Testament laws too.
Verse 17 In the past, the *Old Testament laws reminded the *Jews that God is *holy. The laws showed them how to live in the right way. But these laws did not give the *Jews the power to live a *holy life. However, every Christian in the world can live a *holy life. This is because of Christ. The laws were good. But Christ is superior to the laws. The laws only showed people how to live in God’s way. But Christ actually lived in God’s way. And Christ gives his power to everyone who trusts him. Christians do not need the laws; they only need Christ.
Verse 18 In Exodus 20, God gave the 10 main laws. We call them ‘the 10 commandments’. The first two laws say that people should not *worship anyone or anything except God. But some people in Colossae *worshipped *angels. They also said that they had special *spiritual experiences. They thought that they were better than other people were.
Verse 19 Paul referred to Christ as the head of the body in Colossians 1:18. The false teachers and other people said that Christians were not good enough. They ought to add extra things (verses 16-18) to be real Christians. But Paul said that the false teachers were not true Christians. A Christian has everything that he needs in Christ (verse 10). Christ gives true life to his church (the Christians). The false teachers separated themselves from Christ. Therefore, they could not be part of Christ’s body, which is the church.
Verses 20-23 For ‘the basic principles of this world’, see the explanation in verse 8. Paul did not mean that all rules are bad. He referred to the rules that the false teachers made. These rules may control what people do. But rules cannot control a person’s feelings or thoughts. Rules deal with outer behaviour. Christ makes people free because he strips off their old *nature (verse 11).
Verses 1-2 In 2:9-15, Paul explained what had happened to the Christians at Colossae at their *baptism. Now he explained how they should live this new life. ‘The things that are above’ refer to Christ and *spiritual things. For the Christians, Christ himself is their new life (verse 4). So, Christ should be in the centre of their lives. They should concentrate on him. Christ rules the world with God. So, Christians should discover what pleases Christ.
‘The things that are on this earth’. This refers to the Christians’ old life of *sin (verse 3). It also refers to things like money, clothes and houses. Often people want power or honour. They want these things to please themselves. But Christians have died to their old life. They should not please themselves any more. They should desire Christ more than they desire anything or anyone else on earth. Some teachers do not understand this verse. They say that the world and our lives are evil. They say that Christians must not enjoy physical things. But remember that God created all physical things. So, God wants Christians to enjoy all that he made (Genesis 1:27-31; 1 Timothy 4:4-5). Christ came so that everyone could have a full life (John 10:10). However, Christians should concentrate on Christ. They should not concentrate on this world. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 6:25-34.
Verses 3-4 This world and our physical lives are temporary. They will end when Christ returns. Christ and ‘the things that are above’ are real and permanent. When a person receives new life from Christ, nobody can see this new life. Nobody can explain it. It is not a physical thing. It belongs to God. However, when Christ returns, Christians will be able to see their *spiritual life. And every Christian will receive *glory from Christ. So, Christians should now pursue the things that are above.
Verse 5 As Christians concentrate on Christ, they learn to live a *holy life. Christians do not become perfect immediately. Christians have a new *nature but they still have old habits. Their old *nature died with Christ. But evil desires still tempt them (James 1:13-15). Christians can now refuse to obey those evil desires (Romans 6). Christ’s new life in Christians has more power than evil desires (Romans 8:1-14).
God created sex for a man and his own wife. All other sex is wrong sex. Lust is the desire for wrong sex. Greedy people want to satisfy their own desires. People can be greedy for food. They can be greedy for money or even for honour. They pursue their own pleasure rather than pursue Christ. A false god is anything that people love more than they love Christ. Christians must stop all this wrong behaviour. And they must control their evil desires. Then those desires will not control them. And Christ will help to change their desires (verse 11).
Verse 6-7 *Sin destroys people’s lives. *Sin separates people from God. Christ had to die on the cross because of *sin. That is why God is angry about *sin. Romans 2:1-16 explains about how God will judge *sin in the future. In verse 5, Paul reminded the Colossians about the things that belonged to their past life.
Verse 8-10 Christians are responsible for the way that they behave towards other people. Christians must not behave how they used to behave. Paul referred to many bad things in these verses. These bad things ruin friendships and families. People are afraid of a person who gets very angry. Angry people shout and say bad things. Angry people may hit other people and hurt them. People cannot trust someone who lies. Sometimes a person lies to other people and says bad things in a quiet way. This can hurt a person’s spirit. Jesus said, ‘I am the truth’ (John 14:6). So, Christians should always speak the truth.
Paul said, ‘You have taken off your old *nature’ and ‘You have put on your new *nature’. This is picture language. It describes how someone takes off his old, dirty clothes. Then he puts on new, clean clothes. Christians learn about Christ from the Bible. We can read what Christ taught. We can learn how he behaved. Teachers of the Bible help us to learn more about Christ. As people love Christ more, they want to be more like him. They want to obey him and to please him. Also, the Holy Spirit lives in Christians (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit helps Christians to control themselves (Galatians 5:22-23).
Verse 11 People who live in every part of the world become Christians. *Jews and *Greek people represent people from different nations. *Circumcision represents the *Jews. People in a different society have a different way of life. In the original text, Paul named two particular societies. The *Greek people considered that both these societies were far less good than their own society. Slaves and free people represent different groups in society. None of these differences matters to God. In this world, some people think that they are more important than other people are. But everyone is equal as a Christian. Christ died to save each person. And each Christian has Christ in him or her. So, Christians must behave in the right way with other Christians.
Verse 12 Paul now reminded the Christians at Colossae about what God had done for them. They belonged to God because of Christ. And this is the reason why they should behave in the right way. Christ has all these qualities. So, Christians should become more like Christ.
‘To sympathise’ means to care very much about other people. Christians should feel pity when other people are sad. Then Christians should be kind to them. Christians should want to help them. Humble people do not think that they are better than someone else. Humble people know that every person is of equal value to God. Humble people want other people to be successful. Sometimes people think that a gentle person is weak. In fact, gentle people know how to control their strength. Patient people know how to control their temper. They stay calm when someone annoys them. Patient people can wait a long time for someone to do something.
Verse 13 Sometimes Christians do not like the way that other Christians behave. They may quarrel and fight. If Christians do not forgive, they start to hate each other. Then they behave as verse 8 describes. But this is wrong. Instead, Christians should be patient with other people’s faults. They should learn to be friends and not be enemies. Christ is the Christian’s model. People did many wrong things to Christ. They even killed him. But Christ forgave everyone (Luke 23:34). Christ did this because he trusted God. He knew that God is a fair judge (1 Peter 2:21-24). In Matthew 6:9-15 and 18:21-35, you can read more about why Christians should forgive.
Verse 14 Paul described a Christian’s new *nature. It is like clothes that he or she puts on. When people love, it is like a coat. It goes on top of all the other qualities. Every quality in verses 12-13 comes as people love other people. When they love other people, this unites them. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said that the most important law is to love God. The second most important law is to love other people.
Verse 15 The Christians at Colossae should ‘put on’ the qualities that Paul refers to in verses 12-14. Then the church (‘the body of Christ’) will not fight and argue. Instead, the church will have peace. Christ brings his peace into every situation when Christians obey him. And they should always be grateful for all that Christ has done for them.
Verse 16 The message about Christ is powerful. It changes people’s lives. ‘Fill your spirit’ means that it should affect every part of their lives. Christ also gives wisdom to Christians as they teach each other. They should also warn other Christians about *sin. This helps them to become mature. Christians sing because they are happy. They want to praise God because Christ has done so much for them. ‘Psalms’ are the songs and poems that are in the *Old Testament. People who come from every nation and society can sing and praise God in their own style. God understands every language. Christians can praise God when they are together. They can praise him when they are alone. They can use all types of instruments, or they can sing without instruments.
Verse 17 When a person becomes a Christian, his or her whole life changes. Christ is now at the centre of that person’s life (verse 4). Christians should show what Christ is like. They do this as they obey him. Christ gives them strength to live in the right way. Christ has made them God’s friends (1:21-22). So, Christians should always thank God for what he has done for them.
In verse 11 and in Galatians 3:26-28, Paul explained that all Christians are equal. Jesus Christ gives his new life to all Christians. However, God gives different amounts of authority to people. Verses 18-22 are like a short form of Ephesians 5:22-6:9. These verses show that Christ affects every part of a Christian’s life. Christ affects his or her home, family and work. Other people watch how Christians behave. So, Christians should be able to explain why they trust Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Verses 18-19 God gives authority to husbands. A wife should choose to obey her own husband unless he tells her to do something that is wicked. God wants every wife to do this. But a husband must not be like a bad master. A husband must not control his wife. Paul had already warned against anger in verse 8. In verse 19 the word *Greek word for ‘love’ describes God’s pure love. When God loves people, he is generous to them. And he is kind. This is how a husband should love his wife. He should not be selfish or severe with his wife. Then his wife will be happy to obey him. A wife should respect her husband as a Christian. And a husband should respect his wife as a Christian. See also 1 Peter 3:1-7.
Verse 20-21 Children should completely obey their father and their mother. This is one of God’s 10 commandments (laws) that are in Exodus 20. Jesus obeyed his parents (Luke 2:51), although Joseph was not his physical father. Parents should teach their children about God. Parents should protect their children from evil and danger. Parents should help their children as they grow up. Parents should give their children discipline. This helps children to know what is right and what is wrong. But fathers should not be too strict. Instead, they should praise their children when they do good things. Fathers should encourage their children. Then their children will be happy. And they will grow up to become mature adults.
Verse 22 to Chapter 4 verse 1 The *Romans ruled *Israel. And they ruled all the other countries that are round the Mediterranean Sea. About half the people in *Roman society were slaves. Paul did not say what he thought about this. There were not enough Christians yet who could try to change the society. Instead, Paul told the Christian slaves and the Christian masters how to behave. Christians began to affect society more as the message of the *gospel spread. Now, most governments in the world agree that people should not be slaves.
Slaves and masters are equal as Christians (verse 11). Christ is *Lord and master of everyone. So, both slaves and masters have to obey their master, Christ. Slaves should obey all their human master’s commands. But they must not do anything that is against God’s laws. Christ has more authority than masters have in this world. Slaves felt that they were not important people. Nobody respected them. But Paul told them to accept their circumstances. In John 13:1-17, Jesus did a slave’s job. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said that he had come to this world to serve people.
Christian slaves now serve Christ. This should affect the way that they work. Every person is important to God (Luke 12:6-7, 22-31). Often, slaves did not work in the proper way when their master was not watching them. But the *Lord sees everything that every person does (Psalm 139; Matthew 28:20). Christian slaves should have a new attitude to their work. They should always work as well as they can. Their master may give them food and a place where they can live. But Christ’s rewards are far greater (see verse 4 and 1:12). Christ will give honour to slaves.
Verse 25 may refer to masters as well as to slaves (see Ephesians 6:9). God does not like bad work or poor work. God is a fair judge.
In Paul’s days, many masters were very severe. They made their slaves work very hard. Often slaves became weak and then they died. Slaves did not have any rights. Masters owned the slaves. Masters sold the slaves that they did not like. Christian masters now had to behave in a different way. They had a master in heaven. He was good and he was fair. Therefore, they should behave like him.
We can apply these same principles now to bosses and workers.
Verse 2 Prayer is a very important part of every Christian’s life (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). When a Christian prays, he or she speaks to God. Christians can speak to God at any time. They do not need to go to a special place. They do not have to say special words. Paul prayed to God the Father through Jesus. The Holy Spirit teaches Christians how to pray (Romans 8:26-27). Christians should pray for other people as well as pray for themselves. They should not become lazy and forget to pray. Many people pray to God and ask him for things. But when God answers their prayers, they forget to thank him. Paul reminded the Colossians several times in this letter that they should thank God (see 1:2; 2:7; 3:15; 3:17). Paul is a good model for them at the start of this letter (1:3).
Verses 3-4 Paul often asked the Christians to pray for him (Romans 15:30-32; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Paul *preached the good news about Christ in many places. But some *Jews and rulers did not like what Paul *preached. They put him into prison. He was probably in Rome when he wrote this letter (Acts 28). Paul said, ‘Pray for us’. Paul probably included Timothy (1:1), Epaphras (1:7) and other people who helped him. Paul could not go to visit places when he was in prison. Instead, he wrote letters. Several of these letters are now part of the *New Testament. Today Christians benefit from what Paul clearly taught. In the past, God’s message had been a secret plan (see 1:26). So, Paul wanted to explain that secret plan in a clear way. He wanted everyone to understand the message of the *gospel.
Verses 5-6 Many people do not know Christ. Christians live and work among these people. So, Christians should understand how God wants them to behave (1:9-11). They should show their new *nature. They should not show their old *nature (chapter 3). People listen to Christians and people watch Christians. People should be able to see how Christ changes a person’s life. Then, when Christians speak about Christ, other people will be more ready to listen.
‘Have good conversations’. In the *Greek language this says, ‘Put salt in your conversation.’ This means that conversations should be lively and interesting. If you put salt on your food, it tastes much better. Food without salt tastes dull. The message of the *gospel is not dull. So, Christians should speak about Christ in an interesting way. People often ask Christians questions about God. So, Christians should always be ready to explain about Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16). They should do this in a kind way.
Paul finished what he wanted to teach his readers. He ended his letter with various personal greetings.
Verses 7-9 In these verses ‘brother’ means another Christian (see verse 1). Paul sent two men to Colossae with this letter. He said that both men were loyal to him. Therefore, the Christians at Colossae knew that they could trust these men. Paul wanted the Christians to know what was happening to him. In verse 8, ‘encourage’ means to comfort them. And it means that he helped them to be strong. Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12 mention Tychicus. You can read about Onesimus in the *New Testament book called Philemon. Colossae was his home town.
Verses 10-11 Three *Jewish Christians sent their greetings. Aristarchus came from Thessalonica (Acts 20:4). Mark (who is also called John) went with Paul and Barnabas on their first journey to *preach the *gospel (Acts 12:25). Then Mark left them. So Paul did not trust him (Acts 15:37-39). In 2 Timothy 4:11, Mark was with Paul again. Paul had forgiven Mark. Paul trusted Mark to help him. Jesus was a common name for *Jewish boys at that time.
Verses 12-14 Paul sent greetings from three people who were *Gentiles. Epaphras *preached the message about Christ to the people in Colossae. He started the church in that city (1:7). Laodicea was about 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Colossae. Hierapolis was about 10 kilometres (6 miles) north of Laodicea. All three cities were in the same valley. Epaphras worked for the Christians in all three cities. Epaphras was with Paul when Paul wrote this letter. And Epaphras still cared about these Christians. He could not visit them but he prayed hard for them. (Compare this with Paul in 1:29.) Epaphras wanted the Christians to oppose the false teachers. He wanted the Christians to obey God. He wanted them to become mature and strong as Christians. In Philemon 23, Epaphras was in prison with Paul.
Luke wrote the *New Testament books called Luke and Acts. We read about Luke and Demas again in 2 Timothy 4:9-11. Luke continued to help Paul while he was in prison. But Demas left Paul. This was because Demas ‘loved the world’. This means that Demas did not live like a Christian any more.
Verses 15-17 Christians did not meet in a special building at this time. Instead, they met in people’s homes. The Christians read aloud Paul’s letter in their meetings. This was how they learned more about Christ and about the Christian life. Then they took the letter to other churches. And they read what Paul had written to other churches. Paul wrote many letters to different churches. However, they lost some of the letters. We do not have the letter that Paul wrote to Laodicea. But some teachers of the Bible suggest that it may be the letter to the Ephesians.
In verse 17, Paul had a special message for one of the Christians at Colossae. It may be easy to start work. Sometimes it is difficult to finish it.
Verse 18 Usually Paul did not write his own letters. Paul said what he wanted to say. Then a skilled writer wrote down the words for him. Then Paul wrote just the final greeting himself. Paul had *preached about Christ in many cities and countries. But he was suffering in prison because he had been *preaching. ‘Remember me’ means ‘pray for me’. Paul finished his letter in his usual way as he asked for God’s *grace for them. He started (1:2) and finished his letter with God’s *grace. The message of the *gospel of Christ is the message about God’s *grace to people.
angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven.
anoint ~ (1) to mark a person with oil to show that God has chosen them; (2) to mark a person with the Holy Spirit.
apostle ~ someone whom God sends to teach about Jesus and to lead his church.
baptise ~ to put a person into water to show people that he or she belongs to Jesus Christ.
baptism ~ the act of *baptising.
blessings ~ good things that God gives us.
circumcise~ to cut the loose skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or man; for *Israelites, it was a mark to show that the person agreed to obey God.
circumcision ~ the act of *circumcising.
disciple ~ a disciple follows Jesus; a disciple learns what Jesus teaches.
Gentile ~ anyone who is not a *Jew; anything to do with someone who is not a *Jew.
glory ~ all that describes God as beautiful and great; the beautiful light that shines round God or Jesus; great honour and beauty.
gospel ~ the good news for everybody that God saves people from *sin by Jesus Christ; the good news about the things that Jesus has done for us.
grace ~ a gift of God that we do not deserve and that we cannot earn; what God gives because he is generous and kind; the help and protection that God gives.
Greek ~ the original language of the *New Testament.
Greek people ~ people who come from the country called Greece.
Hebrew ~ the language of the *Jews and of the *Old Testament.
Holy ~ description of God’s character; completely good; separate from *sin; morally clean; it can describe someone who belongs to God.
Israel ~ the nation of the *Jews and the nation of the people who speak *Hebrew.
Israelites ~ another name for *Jews in the *Old Testament.
Jews ~ people in the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
Jewish ~ anything to do with a *Jew.
kingdom ~ the place or territory where a king rules; the ‘kingdom of God’ is where God rules.
Lord ~ a name for God in the Bible. It means that he is above all other things; a name we use for Jesus when we obey him; someone with authority.
nature ~ a person’s character; what they are really like.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible. It is about the things that Jesus did and taught. It is about the church.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
Pharisees ~ a group of *Jewish leaders who thought that they obeyed all God’s commands. They became very proud. They did not like the things that Jesus taught.
preach ~ to tell and explain to people the good news about Jesus Christ.
Roman ~ people who lived in or who came from the city called Rome; that which belonged to Rome. Rome was a powerful city at that time. It had a strong army. The Romans ruled many countries. Those countries had to obey Roman law and pay Roman taxes.
Satan ~ a name for the chief devil.
sin ~ (1) to do wrong against God or against other people; (2) the evil that is in us.
spiritual ~ belongs to the spirit rather than physical things; belongs to God’s Spirit or to heaven.
worship ~ to give honour to God and to praise him; to tell him that we love him very much.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary ~ IVP
The New Bible Commentary ~ IVP
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (on CD Rom)
N. T. Wright ~ Colossians and Philemon ~ Tyndale New Testament Commentaries
Arthur G. Patzia ~ Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon ~ New International Biblical Commentary
The New Bible Dictionary ~ IVP
W. E. Vine ~ Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon
Collins Cobuild English Dictionary
Various versions of the Bible
For the computer ~ Logos Bible Software 2.1
© 1997-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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