Ist Period III
- IV to conclusion
2nd Period 2nd Journey
||102 Paul arrested in the Temple|
|'Sicari' (Assassins)||Roman Provinces||The procurator, Antonius Felix,
(see Chronology Of The Acts)
storm and shipwreck
276 persons on board
|Paul Cures on Malta Publius
||117 Introduction||118 Christ the supreme example of humility||119 Introduction||120 Universal primacy of Christ||121 Christ associates us with his triumph|
|122 Lesson In the Christian life||123 Epilogue and greetings||124 Introduction:
God’s plan in Christ
View of the site of the ancient city of Colossae whose ruins are very difficult to trace today.
Colossae was probably the leader of the other Christian communities of Laodicea and Hierapolis founded by some disciples of St Paul’s.
St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians
Colossae was a city of Phrygia in Asia Minor evangelized not by St Paul in person but by Epaphras, a citizen of Colossae converted by the Apostle during his three years’ stay at Ephesus between the years 54 and 57 (see No. 63).
Following St Paul’s instructions, Epaphras had converted to Christianity a considerable number of pagans and organized the Church of Colossae, for which he was responsible.
When St Paul was a prisoner in Rome (61-63 A.D.), Epaphras came to visit him, bringing news of that Christian Church, and remained at hand to help him in prison.
The news was not wholly good. False teachers had infiltrated among the Christians in Colossae and insisted on certain ascetic practices of Jewish origin and on a mistaken worship of Angels, with the result of obscuring or directly denying the universal sovereignty of Christ.
To combat these errors and to establish bonds of affection with that Church, St Paul wrote the Letter to the Colossians and sent it to them by his disciple Tychicus.
In the first, more dogmatic, part of the Letter St Paul expounds at length Christ’s primacy and warns against the errors propagated by false teachers.
In the second part, more concerned with morals, he explains what should be the virtues of Christians, whether in the pursuit of heavenly blessings or in the practice of communal and domestic virtues.
to the Colossians
The beginning of the Letter to the Colossians in the Vatican Codex (fourth century).1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
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 which you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel 5 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Letter to the Colossians
15He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. 19For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 23provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
In this passage of great doctrinal importance, St Paul restates the various reasons which assign to Jesus Christ a state and dignity absolutely unique in the universe. We select the following points:
1) By his divine nature Christ is the ‘image of God’ in the sense that he is of the same nature as the Father and also in the sense that he is the manifestation of God who remains ‘invisible’ and inaccessible in himself.
On the road from the modern towns of Silifke and Karaman in the Taurus Range,
once stood the Byzantine Monastery of Alahan, of which only impressive ruins remain today.
In the early Christian Church of the Holy Evangelists, of about the filth century,
it is still possible to make out the cruciform baptistry.
‘You were buried with him in baptism’ (Col. 2,12).
Letter to the Colossians2) Because of his creative action he is in a situation entirely different from that of mere creatures, including the Angels who are here enumerated with the names which among the Jews specified the different ranks or types of their sovereignty: ‘Thrones dominions, principalities, authorities’. Christ exists before all creatures as their Creator, and as the incarnate Son of God he is the ‘first-born’, that is, he to whom belong the primacy and the sovereignty over all created beings. Indeed, as true man Christ is to be found in the order of created entities, but at their head and in a completely different manner.
3) For his redemptive work he was filled with all the fullness of grace, i.e. of sanctifying and life- giving power; by means of his death on the cross, he has reconciled mankind with God and the whole universe, and has become the ‘first-born from the dead, i.e. the first of those to be raised and the cause of the future resurrection of all men. In particular, he has become the Head of the Church, which is a Body, that is a living and continually growing organism, belonging to Christ, in a sacramental relationship with his risen Body. Here appears the doctrine of the Church as the ‘mystical Body’ of Christ, which completes the image of the body already mentioned in the Letters to the Corinthians (see No. 78) and the Romans (No. 99) and to be developed in the Letter to the Ephesians (see No. 125).
9 For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 having cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Letter to the ColossiansFrom the idea of the primacy of Christ we turn to that of his unique efficacy for our Salvation: we must not expect to be saved by Principalities’ or ‘Authorities’, that is by Angels, whatever their sphere of influence may be, for Christ is the 'Head’, that is the Sovereign even of angelic beings. Even less are we to look for salvation in the Jewish rite of circumcision.
St Paul is thus arguing against the ‘false teachers’ of Colossae but this gives him the opportunity to express very forcibly three fundamental truths: 1) the divinity of Christ: ‘the whole fulness of the deity’ dwells in Christ ‘bodily’, that is in the human nature (body and soul) of the risen Christ; 2) Baptism, accompanied by faith, makes us share in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ; by it we have passed from spiritual death to life, and we have become new men, putting off the old man and his vices; 3) the death of Christ on the Cross has cancelled the debt we have incurred by our sins; here St Paul uses the metaphor of a written document, containing details of the charges against us, which has been nailed to the Cross by Christ. This ‘document’ also contains an allusion to the Law of Moses with its rules which exclude pagans and with its sentences of death for all sinners.
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you once walked, when you lived in them. 8But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices 10 and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Letter to the Colossians11Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13for- bearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Moral exhortations, which are never lacking in St Paul’s Letters and need no comment, are always dependent on the truths of the faith. If we are already spiritually associated with Christ’s resurrection our whole life has experienced a radical change of meaning and purpose. If we are risen it is because we have first ‘died’, that is, we have made a decisive break with our former sins and with the way of thinking out of which sins arise.
But whereas Christ, the source of our new life, is already in glory, our true life is still ‘hidden’ until his coming. For this reason our carnal nature still makes us tend towards the sins to which we are already ‘dead’. We need therefore continually to kill (‘mortify’) the tendencies which drive us towards evil and continually to exercize the virtues which we ‘put on’ when we ‘put off’ the old man in Baptism. Note the illustrations taken from the rite of baptism: the man who was being baptized took off his clothes and went down into the water as if into a tomb; then he came up out of it as if rising (from the dead) and was clothed in new white garments.
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may known how we are and that he may encourage your hearts,
Letter to the Colossians
9 and with him Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of yourselves. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always remembering you earnestly in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfil the ministry which you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my fetters. Grace be with you.
Note the interesting information contained in the last verses of the Letter. Mark, St Paul’s young companion, on his first journey (see Nos. 37, 38 and 44) is in Rome helping the Apostle during his captivity; later he will be found also with St Peter (see No. 154) and will write the second Gospel.
Luke, the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts, arrives in Rome with St Paul (see No. 115 which is a ‘we.sec1ion) and attends him faithfully. It is from this passage that we know that he was a doctor and was not of Jewish origin.
Onesimus is the fugitive slave, converted by St Paul, who is the subject of the letter to Philemon (see No. 129); from this it appears that Philemon belonged to the Church at Colossae. Noteworthy also is St Paul’s practice of circulating his letters among the different churches.
The Letter to the Laodiceans, unless it is that which bears the heading ‘To the Ephesians’ (see No. 124), has been lost.p.314