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Colossians focuses on Christ Jesus as the Head of the Church and the Church living in submission to that Head. Paul’s purpose in writing this letter is to show that Christ is supreme and that the TRUE Christina’s life should be clear that his/her union is with the One who is above all things. It would be inconsistent for a TRUE Christian to live a life apart from Christ, because Christ is the fullness of the Godhead, manifested in the flesh (Col.2:9), and is the Focus of the saving Gospel (Col.1:5).
Colossae was a minor city about 100 miles east of Ephesus. It is by a mountain pass and was at one time a very populated city with a vibrant economy. By the time of the writing of this Letter, Colossae had declined economically, partly because of the success of its neighboring cities.
There is some doubt as to whether Paul ever visited Colossae, and it seems that the Colossian church was founded by Epaphras (Col.1:4-8; 2:1).
The Letter to Colossians was probably written about the same time as Philemon and Ephesians when Paul was first imprisoned in Rome. If this is correct, then Colossians was probably written around 60 A.D.
The letter was written in response to a heresy that was emerging within the church. Although it is not known exactly what the heresy was, it seems it was religious system that combined elements from Greek speculations (Col.2:4,8-10), Jewish legalism (Col.2:11-17), and Oriental mysticism (Col.2:18-23).
Supposedly some of the elements of its teachings were:
#1. Ceremonialism, had strict rules about circumcision (Col.2:11; 3:11), and what kinds of food and drink that were allowed at religious festivals (Col.2:16-16).
#2. Asceticism, self-denial, self-discipline, abstinence. “Touch not; taste not; handle not” (Col.2:20-23; 1 Tim.4:3).
#3. Angel worship, which is forbidden by God’s Holy Word (Col.2:18; 1 Tim.4:1; Rev.19:10. 22:8-9).
#4. Depreciation of Christ, (lowering Him in Name and in glory). This is implied in Paul's emphasis on the supremacy of Christ (Col.1:15-20; 2:2-3,9,18-B).
#5. Secret knowledge, of which the Gnostics boasted of, refuted in (Col.1:27; 2:4). Paul's emphasis was on Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom" (Col.2:2-3).
#6. Reliance on human wisdom and tradition. (Col.2:4,8).
Gnosticism was the main source of heresy when the New Testament was written. The books of John, First Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, First and Second Timothy, Jude, and First John all combat various elements of Gnosticism. Even the book of Revelation cites a couple of Gnostic beliefs and practices, referring to "knowing the depths of Satan" and "the Nicolaitans" (Rev.2:6,15,24).
What Was the Colossian Heresy?
The first half of Paul's letter to the Colossians, especially the second chapter, is an effort to combat false teachings that were being promoted to the Church there. This Letter, by most is generally dated to the period of 58-60 AD, and is commonly thought to have been written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. In recent years, many scholars have concluded that the internal evidence within the Letter, indicates an early form of Gnosticism was the problem in Colossae.
In order to understand some of the points Paul makes in his letter, a basic understanding of the views of Gnosticism is required. Gnosticism was not a separate religion; but instead was an attitude that was blended with components of existing religions. It seems that features of Judaism/Christianity were combined with false Gnostic beliefs soon after the Church began, creating the heretical (false) teachings that Paul fights in his letter to the Colossians.
The term Gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Gnosticism was a complex religious philosophy which taught that salvation could only be achieved through secret knowledge. Even though there were many different types of Gnosticism, they all had several common features. Some crazy stuff!
Some of the chief points in the Gnostic systems:
#1. A claim on the part of the person a special knowledge of the truth. They considered knowledge as greater than faith, and the more knowledge, the more enlightenment. They taught that an ordinary Christian did not possess this secret and higher doctrine.
#2. The necessary separation of matter and spirit; because matter was in fact evil and the source from which all evil has risen.
#3. An attempt to solve the problems of creation and the origin of evil by assuming a demiurge, a creator of the world distinct (separate) from the deity, and issues extending between God and the visible universe. The demiurge (craftsman) for the Gnostics being the God of the OT, an inferior being infinitely remote from the Supreme Being who can have nothing to do with anything material.
#4. A denial of the TRUE humanity of Christ; a docetic Christology which considered the earthly life of Christ and especially His sufferings on the cross to be unreal. Docetic: 1. An early Christian doctrine that the sufferings of Christ were not real and that after the crucifixion He appeared in a spiritual body. 2. An ancient heresy asserting that Jesus lacked full humanity.
#5. The denial of the Personality of the Supreme God, and also the denial of the free will of mankind.
#6. The teaching, on the one hand, of asceticism as the means of attaining spiritual communion with God, and, on the other hand, of an indifference that led directly to licentiousness (immorality).
#7. A syncretistic tendency that combined certain misunderstood Christian doctrines and various basics from oriental, Jewish, Greek and other sources. Syncretism is the fusion of opposing systems of belief. This is most obvious in the areas of philosophy and religion, and usually results in a new teaching or belief system. This CANNOT be reconciled to Biblical Christianity. http://www.gotquestions.org/syncretism-religious.html
The basic problem was a Judaic-Gnostic heresy that was teaching to mix Greek philosophy with Christian theology. Gnostic philosophy taught that matter was evil. In order to avoid having their pure god create evil, they had created a system of lesser deities that overflowed from their god. These lesser gods were far enough removed from the pure god that they were able to create the universe (which was composed of evil matter).
They named this lesser deity the Jehovah God of the Hebrews.
******* In chapters 1-2, Paul sends words of thanks to the faithful believers “who are at Colosse”. Paul did not establish the Colossian Church and had never visited there. He teaches one of the most powerful Passages attributing the divinity of Jesus Christ who is God in flesh. It is apparent that false teachers were spreading damnable heresies (2 Pet.2:1), by rejecting the deity of Jesus Christ, probably teaching that He was just a “unique man” . . . as so many cults do today! Paul warns not to allow anyone to lead them astray with philosophy, trickery, or by traditions or commandments of men (Mat.15:9; Col.2:18-22; 1 Tim.1:4; 4:1-3,6-7; Tit.1:14; Heb.13:9; Rev.22:18).
Paul assured the church that Jesus is God, “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9), and that He, “reconciled all things unto Himself’ (1:20), and He did it by, “having nailed it to the cross” (2:14) referring to our sins. Because Jesus Christ is God, He was able to pay the penalty of sin in order to rescue mankind.
******* In chapters 3-4, Paul encourages the church to focus on God, and keep their eyes on the goal,“set your mind on the things above” (3:2). He teaches believers how to live at home, how to manage family matters, and how to get along with other believers in Christ. His approach is for believers to put aside the minor situations that become obstacles in our lives, and eventually slow us down, and prevent the spread of the Gospel. Paul then explains what it means to forgive, "just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" (3:13).
Colossians 3:14-15 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (KJV)
Gnostics, Gnostic Gospels & Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a religion that distinguishes the evil god of this world (who is identified with the god of the Old Testament) from a higher, more intellectual God revealed by Jesus Christ, a religion that regards this world as the creation of a series of evil powers who wish to keep the human soul trapped in an evil physical body, a religion that preaches a hidden wisdom or knowledge, available only to a select group, that they said was necessary for salvation or escape from this world.
Gnostic comes from the word gnosis, which means knowledge in Greek. The Gnostics believed that they had a secret knowledge about the divine. We cannot claim to have access to knowledge that is beyond the powers of our intelligence.
There are many references to the Gnostics in second century literature. Most of what we know about them is from the falsehoods thrown at them by the early church. They are alluded to in the Bible as false by Paul (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus), as in (1 Tim.1:3; 4:1; 6:20), and all of Jude. Another heresy was that of Docetism, a doctrine closely related to Gnosticism, which stated that Christ was pure Spirit and had only a phantom body.
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