The city of Colosse was located in the Lycus River Valley in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The Apostle Paul had never been to Colosse, but he had sent two of his associates there to preach the gospel. When those men, Timothy and Epaphras, brought the message of Jesus into that valley, people were saved and a church was planted. Timothy moved on to another assignment but Epaphras stayed there as the pastor of the church at Colosse.
Paul wrote this letter from Rome, where he was in prison awaiting trial. When Epaphras went to visit Paul in prison, his report on the church must have sounded something like this: “Paul, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that God is doing some awesome things in the church: people are being saved, lives are being changed, and the gospel is advancing in the valley. But the bad news is that some people have come into the church teaching false doctrine. Their heresies are confusing the new believers and polluting the gospel. Can you help us?”
As an apostle, Paul’s response in this letter carried the full weight of Christ’s authority. After a warm and affirming greeting (v.1-8), Paul shared his unceasing prayer for the Colossian believers (v.9). His “prayer list” was simple: he prayed that God would straighten out their doctrine, filling them with His knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; and that God would empower them to put their knowledge to work (v.9-11).
Paul then presented to the Colossian believers the most important information they needed to understand, the cornerstone of Christian doctrine and the indispensable reality of the gospel: the identity and accomplishment of Jesus Christ. Whether in the 1st Century or the 21st Century, all false doctrine belittles the person of Christ and exalts the religious efforts of man. Paul knew that the best defense against the false doctrine in the church was to make much of Jesus.
He started with a statement about the identity of Christ in verses 15-20. This section became the lyrics of a worship song in the early church, and along with John 1:1-18 and Philippians 2:5-11 it is one of the finest essays on the person and work of Christ in the Bible. Here Paul presents Jesus in all His majestic Lordship:
Jesus is God Himself, the exact representation of God to man (v.15).
As Creator, Jesus is supreme over all His creation. He rules over everything and holds it all together (v.16-17). (Note: some people have a hard time thinking of Jesus as Creator. The comment of early church father Irenaeus is helpful: “Jesus Christ is the glove that the Father puts on when He creates the world.”)
Jesus is the head of the church, giving life and leadership to those He has saved and is sanctifying (v.18-22). Living in the hearts of His people, He brings “the hope of glory”, the assurance of eternal life in heaven (v.27).
Jesus Christ. He is all you need. He is supreme and sufficient. Plant your faith deep in that truth, never “shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (v.23).