Colossians Chapter 1:21- 2:7 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, May 1, 2011 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1. Peter O’Brien, Colossians- Philemon, Word Bible Commentary

2. Craig Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

3. NET Bible, First Edition (Online)

4. Philip Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary

5. Wenham, Motyer, Carson, France New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition

6. Hawthorne, Martin, Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters

7. Marshall, Millard, Packer, Wiseman, New Bible Dictionary

Col 1:21
“Once you were alienated”: contiuously and presistently out of touch with God, as only former Gentiles could be. Rather than serving God, they served sin and lived in idolatry. (O’Brien)

Hostile in your minds: in Greek exthrous te dianoia, “enemies in mind”. Greek dianoia was used to describe the mind, emotions, the heart, acts of will, or man’s spiritual nature. (O’Brien)

Col 1:22
Christ sacrificing Himself on the cross is how this reconciliation is brought about (Col 1:20a, 20b, 22). Many scholars see the reconciliation in Colossians as aimed only at Gentiles, since the condition of being strangers would not be applied to Jews. But it can easily be argued that the condition of being estranged from God runs from at least Adam’s Fall (just when did the powers fall?) into the present (Col 1:16–18), including the time of the church (Col 1:18), with reference to God’s reconciling work affecting “everything” in heaven and earth(Col 1:20). Colossians 1:18–20 establishes the general principle of God’s cosmic reconciling activity. Narrowing the focus to mankind in in Colossians 1:21–23.(DPL)

O’Brien and most commentators understand God to be the reconciler in Colossians 1:22. This fits well with Paul’s theology in his major letters, but a strong case can be made that the emphasis on Christ in Col 1:15-20 continues here, making him the agent of reconciliation, bringing the former enemies of 1:21 before God the Father in 1:22. (DPL)

1:23. Paul likely means the statement that the gospel was announced throughout creation as a cosmic way (Is 51:16) of portraying that the gospel is for all peoples (Rom 1:8, 13; Mt 24:14). Jewish people generally believed that a person who rejected the covenant would be cut off from God; Paul likewise expects perseverance from those who profess Christ.(Keener)

1:24–2:1
Because Paul describes his labor in terms of an athletic contest (1:29), one can relate the fact that Greek athletes typically competed in Greece-wide games not just for their own honor but also for that of the cities they represented to Paul’s sufferings being on the church’s behalf (1:24; 2:1). (Keener)

1:24. Many Jews believe that there would be great suffering, in an amount known only to God before the end of this world and the beginning of the new world would come with the appearance of the Messiah. This suffering is termed the “Messianic woes” or “birth-pangs of the Messiah”. In Christian terms these woes take place between Jesus’ first and second coming. There are certain facts about them:

1. All Christians take part in these sufferings, they are typical of the Christian experience; it is through them that we enter the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:21; Jn. 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:35; 12:12; 1 Thes. 3:3f.; 2 Thes. 1:4; Rev. 1:9)

2. the apostles especially suffer as greater examples of the way of service and suffering (Acts 20:23; 2 Cor. 1:4; 4:8, 17; 6:4; Eph. 3:13)

3. Suffering with Christ is necessary if we are to be glorified with him (Rom. 8:17). We are somehow in union with Christ when we suffer (Col. 1:24; 2 Cor. 1:5; 4:10f.; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). This suffering also helps Christians in their transformation into the likeness of Christ (Rom. 5:3f.; 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:8–12, 16), and trains Christians sympathy and empathy for others who suffer (2 Cor. 1:4f.; 4:10f.; Col. 1:24; 1 Thes. 1:6)

4. This suffering of Christians is both a witness to the “inbreaking” and presence of the kingdom of God on earth (Mt. 24:9–14; Rev. 1:9; 7:14) At Christian suffering’s height, typically called the tribulation comes the return of Jesus and the arrival of the kingdom on earth, roughly speaking (Mt. 24:21; Mk. 13:24; 2 Thes. 1:5–6; 2 Tim. 3:1f.). (Keener, NBC, NBD)

If Paul considers Christ’s suffering as the only sacrifice necessary for the pardon of sin ( ol 2:13–14; Gal 1:4; 1 Cor 1:18–31; 2 Cor 5:16–21; Rom 3:21–26, and so on), what does he mean by “completing what is lacking in Christ’s suffering?

1. Is it simply “for the sake of Christ? Attractive but too simple.

2. Is it “like Christ”? Again too easy, doesn’t really explain things.

There are two good explanations:

1. The tie in with the Messianic woes as explained above

2. That Paul completes the “lack” Christ’s afflictions on behalf of all believers, the church, in that Paul’s ministry spreads the gospel and the subsequent increase of the gift of the Spirit to the Gentile world (Col 1:23; Eph 3:13). Paul’s suffering also made it clear, as it continues to today, that the power of the gospel comes from God and not believers, so Christian converts know to put their faith in God and not any man, who are all instruments of God(1 Cor 2:1–5; 2 Cor 4:7; 12:9–10). (DPL, HSB)

2 Tim 2:10 So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.

1:25. “Servants/Minsters” Greek diakonos were managers of large household estates, often slaves or freedmen of high status. The phrase “fulfill the word of God” (KJV) was sometimes used for obeying God’s word, sometimes for being an instrument in bringing it to pass; Paul both obeys and fulfills God’s word by spreading it among Gentiles. This was his ministry, given to by the design of God , to spread the gospel. “Fully known” hints at the secret of v. 26.(Keener)

1:26. Dead Sea Scrolls among other texts speak of “mysteries” in the Scriptures that only the spiritually enlightened can understand; for Paul, Christians are now enlightened (1:9, 12). This statement would refute mystics who claimed special revelations belonging only to themselves (2:18).(Keener)

1:27. That this mystery would be made known among the Gentiles was in prophecy (Is 66:19) and was now being fulfilled (1:25). OT writers would say God dwelled “among” his people Israel (Num 35:34), and on a personal level, “within” some of them (Gen 41:38; Num 27:18; Dan 4:8, 18; 5:11, 14; 1 Pet 1:11; more often, “filled,” “rested on”). But no one expected him to dwell among Gentiles, much less within them (Col 2:12; 3:4, 16).(Keener)

1:28. This teaching leads to their maturity or completion (2 Corinthians 11:2). Thus teaching Christ would lead to the hearers being prepared for the final day (1:22–23). “We” includes Epaphras (1:7) and other proclaimers as well as Paul; “everyone” again stresses the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan and the new openness of God’s former hidden secret (1:27).(Keener, NBC)

1:29. Philosophers commonly used metaphors from athletic competition, such as “strive” here (seldom used in the OT Jer 12:5). Divine empowerment “in” someone has few ancient parallels apart from OT about the Spirit’s enabling God’s servants; Paul’s language here would have impressed ancient readers in a special way.(Keener)

2:1. He continues the athletic image of 1:29 (“struggle”). Although Paul had never met most of the Colossian Christians personally, he expresses his longing for them; this was a normal element of ancient “letters of friendship.” Having spoken generally about his apostolic service (1:24–29), Paul addresses the Colossians directly. His struggle for the gospel had is especially for them and the other Christians in the area too, even though he had not met most of them previously. (The churches at Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis had been founded by his colleague, Epaphras; 1:7; 4:12.)(NBC, Keener)

2:2–3. “Joined together” might also sometimes be translated as “instructed”, which may make more sense here, as Paul is stresses knowledge and understanding. But then, what is “in love” about?

Ancient sages (especially OT and Jewish wisdom writers) often spoke of wisdom as the true wealth ( Job 28:12–19; Ps 19:10; 119:14, 72, 127, 162; Prov 3:13–15; Is 33:6). “Hidden” treasures was rather like the modern “win the lottery”, a sort of fantasy for the poor of ancient times. To say Christ is the real treasure of knowledge and wisdom is another preapration for later in Chapter 2. Hidden means not actually concealed, but rather “stored”.(Keener, NBC)

As the NET Bible notes, there are at least a dozen variants here, created by scribal desire to explain exactly what tou theou, Christou meant, because it might be interpreted as “the mystery of God, which is Christ”, or “the mystery of God who is Christ”, or even “the mystery of God’s Christ”. KJV’s underlying manuscripts, as usual, tend to add much together to get their preferred reading. (NET, Comfort)

2:4. Ancient sages often criticized professional public speakers for using the tricks of public speaking to win over audiences regardless o the truth. Rhetorical skills were widely taught in the ancient world.(Keener)

2:5. Letters were commonly used in ancient times as a substitute for one’s physical presence. To say one remained with someone “in spirit” conveyed more intimacy and affection than unity. If Paul were there, no doubt he would have dealt with the problem in the church directly. That he praises the church so highly leads one to suspect the problem is not as widespread or dire as might be imagined. Or at least Paul caught it early.(Keener, NBC)

2:6 These verses summarize the earlier verses and lead into Paul’s attack on the false teaching (8–23). Christ Jesus whom the Colossians received as Lord is also Lord of creation and redemption (1:15–20), and the center of God’s mystery (1:27). “Received” is a technical term meaning to ‘receive a tradition’, such as Jewish legal teachers passing on their heritage and here indicates believers welcome both Jesus and the authoritative teaching about him. The Christian life demands that they continue as they have begun, so the readers are urged to “walk” in Him, a phrase mingling their own effort with relying on Christ’s power and grace. (NBC)

2:7. Paul combines farming and architectural images here, as in 1 Corinthians 3:9. OT prophets used similar language for Israel (take root, be planted, built up, and so on), and early Christians likely got this language from their use of the Old Testament. (Keener)

2:7 The variant between KJV and HCSB here is typical scribal inflation, the KJV manuscripts seeking to make more clear what the abounding/overflowing relates to.(Comfort)

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