Module 12: Vocational Church Life Part 1
Module Guide: Colossians - Christ and His Church - Mutual Fulness
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
We have no information concerning the founding of the Church at Colossae, and it is probable that when this letter was written, Paul had not visited it. The occasion of the writing of the letter seems to have been that information had reached the apostle that false teachers were troubling the Church, attempting to supplement the Christian system by ascetic practices, and a doctrine concerning the intermediation of angels. The apostle combats these errors by declaring the absolute sufficiency of Christ. The epistle may therefore be described as a statement concerning the glory of Christ Who is the Head of the Church; and the consequent perfection of provision for the Church in Him.
This letter is, as to doctrine, correlative to that to the Ephesians. The Ephesian epistle deals with the glorious vocation of the Church in its union with the Head; the Colossian letter deals with the glory of the Head, as at the disposal of the Church. In this, the subject is that of the fulness of God in Christ, and the Church's participation in that fulness; in that, the subject is that of the Church as the medium for the display of the glory of God in union with Christ. In dealing with his great theme the apostle first wrote of the glorious Christ and His Church; then of the Church and her glorious Christ, the first division being devoted to the subject of the Church's provision in Christ, and the second the Church's possession of Christ. The scheme of the epistle may thus be stated; Introduction (1;1-1:8); The Glorious Christ and His Church Provision (1:9-2:5); the Church and Her Glorious Christ Possession (2:6-4:6); Conclusion (4:7-4:18).
After the usual introduction of himself as "an apostle ... through the will of God," Paul declared to the Colossian Christians the gladness of his heart at the news which Epaphroditus had brought to him concerning them. The reasons of his thankfulness are, first their "faith in Christ Jesus"; second their "love ... toward all the saints"; and third their "hope .. laid up ... in the heavens." The apostle indicated the connection between these essential graces of Christian character. Faith in Christ issues in love to the saints, and this sequence is consequent upon the hope. In proportion as the heart is set upon the apprehension of all that for which Christ has apprehended the believer, faith is constant, and love profound.
A great carefulness of statement is evident in this letter. In both divisions the same method is followed. The systematic statement is preceded by an introductory word, and followed by a suitable application.
The Glorious Christ and His Church Provision
The apostle introduced his subject by declaring the constancy of his prayer, then presented the glorious Christ, and the glorious Church, concluding with a statement of the reason of his writing.
The apostle was conscious that the supreme need of those to whom he wrote was that they might "be filled with the knowledge of His will," and that, in order that they might "walk worthily of the Lord." He was conscious of the absolutely perfect provision made for the saints in Christ, and his prayer merged into a declaration concerning it. Two words indicate the values of that provision - "delivered," "translated," that is, salvation out of, and into. The old forces which dominated the life, and made impossible the achievement of good even when it was seen and admired, are no longer operative. From this slavery of darkness the saints have been delivered. They are brought into the "Kingdom of the Son of His love." Instead of the power of darkness there is now the authority of light. Instead of the thraldom of the forces that spoil there is now the dominance of the One Who saves and perfects.
All this leads to his declarations concerning the glorious Christ. He first dealt with the glories of His Person. These he set forth in three relationships, by an inclusive statement. His relation to God is that of "the Image of the invisible God." His relation to creation is that He is the originating Cause and the upholding Power thereof. His relation to the Church is that He is the Head. The whole truth is summarized in the sublime and awe-inspiring declaration that "it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell."
He then passed to a statement of the glorious purpose of His earthly mission. The extent of that purpose is the reconciliation of all things to God. In the fall of man, discord was introduced into the cosmos. The purpose of God is to restore the lost harmony by reconciling all things to Himself. The immediate Agent of the restoration is Christ, and the method is that of the Cross. At the centre of the order to be reconciled is man, and the issue of his reconciliation is his presentation "holy ... without blemish ... unreprovable."
The company of those redeemed constitutes the glorious Church, which is the Body of Christ. In dealing with this subject the apostle declared his joy in the fact that he had fellowship with Christ in the accomplishment of His purpose, and claimed the stewardship of the truth concerning the Church, and then dealt with it by referring to a threefold mystery. The first phase of the mystery is that of the Church itself, which is composed of Christian souls. The second phase of the mystery is that of the Christian in whom is Christ as the Hope of glory, and who is perfected in Christ. The final and deepest mystery is that of the Christ Himself. It is the mystery of the Incarnation, transcending all human apprehension, and yet demonstrated in the changed lives of those in whom Christ dwells, and to be manifested finally in the whole company of such as constitute the Church, which is the Body of Christ.
Taking this threefold mystery in the other order of statement, which is the order of the Divine procedure, we have first the mystery of God, even Christ; second, the mystery of Christ in man, the Hope of glory; and finally, the mystery of the perfected Church, Christ fulfilled in His Body.
This division he concluded by declaring, that his reason for having so carefully stated this doctrine of Christ and the Church, is that the Colossian Christians may not be deluded with persuasiveness of speech. Though he was absent from them, he declared that he was with them in spirit, finding his joy in the steadfastness of their faith in Christ.
The Church and Her Glorious Christ Possession
The apostle introduced his subject by injunction and warning, and a general statement of truth; he then particularly declared the truth concerning the identification of the Church with Christ, and Christ's identification with the Church ; concluding with a statement of the conditions upon which the saints are to possess their inheritance.
He first enjoined them that as they had received Christ the Lord they were to walk in Him, and solemnly warned them against any that would spoil them, ending his introduction by making the great central declarations of the epistle, that all the fulness of the God-head bodily dwells in Christ, and that the saints are made full in Him.
In relation to Christ the believer stands in identification with His death, and with His resurrection. These facts are intimately connected with the glories of Christ dealt with in the earlier division of the letter. Union with the death of Christ means union with His purpose, that is, with His great work of reconciliation. Union with the resurrection of Christ means union with His Person, that is, with all the glories described. Thus, indeed, in Him the saints are made full, for they are reconciled through His death to the eternal order, and are equipped in His life for continued harmony therewith.
Immediately following this statement is a brief section dealing with the perils specially threatening the Church at Colossae. It is evident that there were those who were attempting to bring believers into bondage to external observances, and the apostle urged them that they should allow no man to judge them in these matters. The other peril was that of false intermediation, and the consequent worship of angels, and he warned them against any such subservience, which is in itself false.
Returning to his teaching concerning the identification of the believer with Christ, he showed the necessity for living in response to the twofold fact of union already dealt with. In view of identification with Christ in death, they were not to submit themselves to ordinances, because the whole fact of their relation to evil was conditioned within the fact of their death in Christ.
Being through death set free from bondage to the commandments of men, believers are in life brought into captivity to the authority of Christ, and the things of Christ. They are therefore to seek the things above, that is to say, the aspiration, the desire, the passion of the life is to harmonize with that of Christ. They are moreover to set their mind on these things. Thus the life of the Christian in union with Christ has to do with the things above. They create the activity, "seek the things"; they condition the aspiration, "set your mind on the things"; they constitute the anticipation, "Christ ... shall be manifested ... ye also."
The apostle then proceeded to show how Christ is identified with His Church in all the relationships of its present life. This discussion he introduced by a general statement as to responsibility. There must be answer to the fact of union in the putting to death of the things of the earth. Of these there are two lists given, one dealing with sensuality, and the other with bitterness of spirit. The injunction to put these things to death is based upon the aflBirniation that they have put off the old man, and have put on the new. That which is a fact by faith, is to be made a fact in experience.
The responsibility is not merely the negative one, which consists in consent to identification in death; but also the positive one which consists of consent to identification in life. They are charged to put on all the things of the Christ life. They are moreover to let the peace of Christ rule, and the Word of Christ dwell in them. The final and inclusive word is "whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
This general statement of responsibility is followed by practical injunctions, all of which show how Christ is identified with His people for the activities of the present life. These deal with the relationships between wives and husbands, children and fathers, servants and masters, all of them being set in the light of the supreme relationship to Christ.
This division of the letter closes with a statement of three matters of supreme importance in the life of the saint. The first has to do with prayer, which conditions the life in its relationship with God; the second has to do with the walk or behaviour of the believer; the last deals with speech, these conditioning life toward those that are without.
The conclusion is local and personal. To the church at Colossse he recommended Tychicus and Onesimus, and sent messages from those who evidently were with him. It is interesting to notice three of these were Hebrews, and three were Gentiles. He then gave instructions concerning his letters. The final words have in them a touch of pathos. Taking the pen from the one to whom he had been dictating, he wrote words which indicate at once his sense of limitation, and his desire for sympathy, "Remember my bonds"; and ended with the simple benediction.
INTRODUCTION - Colossians 1:1-1:8
1. The Salutation - Col. 1:1-1:2
2. Thanksgiving - Col. 1:3-1:8
Part A: THE GLORIOUS CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH PROVISION - Colossians 1:9-2:5
Introductory Prayer - Col. 1:9-1:14
- The Need Indicated - 1:9-1:12a
- The Provision - 1:12b-1:14
A.1. The Glorious Christ - Col. 1:15-1:23
- The Person - 1:15-1:19
- The Purpose - 1:20-1:23
A.2. The Glorious Church - Col. 1:24-2:3
- The Mystery of the Church - 1:24-1:26
- The Mystery of the Christian - 1:27-1:29
- The Mystery of the Christ - 2:1-2:3
Conclusion - Col. 2:4-2:5
- The Reason for the Statement - 2:4-2:5
Part B: THE CHURCH AND HER GLORIOUS CHRIST POSSESSION - Colossians 2:6-4:6
Introductory - Col. 2:6-2:10
- The Central Injunction - 2:6-2:7
- The Central Warning - 2:8
- The Central Truth - 2:9-2:10
B.1. The Church Identified with Christ - Col. 2:11-3:4
- The Argument - 2:11-2:15
- (Interpolated Application to Colossian Perils - 2:16-2:19)
- The Appeal - 2:20-3:4
B.2. Christ Identified with the Church - Col. 3:5-4:1
- The General Responsibility - 3:5-3:17
- The Particular Applications - 3:18-4:1
Conclusion - Col. 4:2-4:6
- Conditions - 4:2-4:6
CONCLUSION - Colossians 4:7-4:18
1. Recommendations - Col. 4:7-4:9
2. Messages - Col. 4:10-4:14
3. Instructions - Col. 4:15-4:17
4. The Last Words - Col. 4:18
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.