Colossians Questions & Giveaway

I have some books to give away.

I’d also like some help.

Put the two together, and here’s your chance to help humanity and, possibly, nab yourself a book.

First, how can you help humanity?

I am writing study notes on Colossians for a Study Bible. As a NT Prof, I have my ideas about what I’d like to comment on, what I think is important.

But most people who will be using the Study Bible won’t be academics, and will bring different questions. So here’s what I’d like from you: Look over Colossians, in the Common English Bible if possible, and tell me: if you were reading through Colossians, either on your own or with a Bible study group, what passage, word, idea, verse, etc. would you want a study note on? Is there a confusing idea or word you’d like explained? Any piece of theological awesomeness you’d want to make sure everyone was dialed into?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you’d want to know if you were reading through Colossians.

I am also taking this opportunity to give away a few books. Suggest a passage for me to comment on, and you could win big!

Here’s what you do:

(1) Tell me a verse or two you’d like comment on if you were reading Colossians in a Study Bible.
(2) Next Friday I’ll randomly choose three winners.
(3) These three books will be distributed to those upon whom providence smiles:

So, let me know: what would you like to know about Colossians from your study Bible?

31 thoughts on “Colossians Questions & Giveaway”

  1. How do we get passages like 2:6-23 to become reality? How does the gospel of the total sufficiency of Christ free us from the heretical human regulations being imposed on us by our culture (be it secular or religious)?

  2. Obviously, the household codes of Colossians 3:18 and following (but perhaps especially 18, with 19 a close second) will always generate much interest.

    I find myself intrigued by the section starting with Colossians 2:16 (which the TNIV adds the heading “Freedom from Human Rules” which I wonder if isn’t more problem-making than helpful). Specifically, is Paul encouraging followers to behave in ways as to be above reproach (so, if you participated in a “pagan” celebration, you should indeed be chastised for it), or is he encouraging followers not to worry/listen to those who would judge them on the basis on their behaviors (so long as you’re right with Christ, what does it matter what they say?)? Obviously, these are two very distinct interpretations, going in almost exactly opposite directions with regard to our behavior and what we should do about it.

  3. Is the injunction to keep “one’s mind on things above” (3:1-4) an affirmation of dualism? How do we reconcile this, then, with the affirmation that “all things hang together” (1:17)? If all things together, then shouldn’t the “things above” not be in opposition to “things below”?

  4. 1:20: How are all things reconciled to God through Christ? Does this mean that all people/forces, even those we think are “evil,” will be reconciled to God? How does this interact with NT teachings about hell and final-judgment?

    1:23: How do i remain established in faith and not shift away from the hope i have received?

    1:24: What does it mean to be “completing what was missing from Christ’s sufferings?”

    3:22: Does “Slaves, obey your masters on earth in everything” mean that slaves today should not try to escape their slavery?

  5. What does Paul mean when he says that the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven? Does he specifically mean in the Roman Empire? That creation is preaching Christ? Something else?

  6. 1:22-23: The language of relationship (“reconciled”) in 22 and its benefits of being regarded as “holy, faultless, and without blame” when presented before God (at the eschaton? now? both/and?) seems give way to language of *place* in 23, and our status before God to be premised on remaining “grounded and immovable in the faith” (my trans.)–as if “the faith” is a location and the “hope of the Gospel which you heard” is a space from which we must not be moved (μὴ μετακινούμενοι) lest we forfeit our status before God as holy, etc. Kind of sounds like continuing in right belief (faith as a space defined by doctrine/the gospel message) replaces relationship. You might want to address that.

  7. In chapter one it seems like an awareness of the “hope reserved for us in heaven” and “our inheritance” are susposed to sustain us as we pursue Godly living. How are such seemingly far-away concepts supposed to help us grow in Godliness now?

    And of course, what is lacking in Christ’s suffering and how can Paul make up for it?

  8. Chapter 1 verses 19-20 sound Universalist. If Christ has reconciled all things to himself, then won’t all things be renewed? How does this jive with biblical conceptions of Hell?

    Thanks for the opportunity to get a free book!

  9. I would love to hear more about how to approach “the mystery”(NIV) or “the secret plan” (CEB)

    (also, mystery and secret plan seem way different)

  10. Goodness! What the Church of God desperately needs to know is the message of 1:15-20! Jesus was God’s first thought before he began creating and Jesus was his last thought – the end result of God’s creative purposes. At long last, Jesus is the true image of God and the first of an entire humanity to follow. Jesus was the one by which creation came into existence and he is the inspiration, key, basis, driving thought, purpose, and ultimate expression of that creation. From the beginning, God intended a humanity in the image of Jesus! And what Jesus would that be?! The bodily resurrected Jesus!
    And what does Paul mean by “all things”? All believers? Is he only talking about those who believe? Is he talking only of forgiveness of sins? Are you kidding me?! “All things” means ALL THINGS! This is cosmic in scale. There is an entire creation waiting for the day that humanity will be reconciled to God. There’s a day coming when even my past will be reconciled to God. There’s a day coming when the sex slave trade will be reconciled to God; and the broken marriages; and the cancers; and on and on. God has dug himself quite a hole by claiming to “reconcile all things to himself.” He has to make things RIGHT.

  11. 1:15 – What, if any, Adam connection is there with Jesus being “image of . . . God” and “over all creation”?

    1:24 – What is “missing from Christ’s sufferings,” and how did Paul complete it? How, if at all, is this connected to the completing in v.25 and v.26?

    2:14 – What is “the record of the debt we owed”?

  12. I’ve preached and taught virtually every week now for the past 32 years. Invariably, whenever I’ve worked through Colossians in either a class or sermon context, I get asked (be it publicly or privately) something like the following questions regarding these texts:

    1:23 – How on earth am I supposed to be the Eskimos in Alaska and the aborigines in Australia heard the gospel within thirty years after the cross of Christ?

    1:26-27 – What’s up with the “secret plan” or “mystery?”

    2:8 – What’s wrong with “philosophy?” Isn’t Christianity a philosophy?

    2:14-15 – What exactly is “the record of debt” we owe? Our sins? The OT law? What?

    3:9 – Is it always wrong to lie?

    3:16 – Does this passage mean it’s wrong to worship in any fashion except acappella?

    3:17 – What does it mean to “do everything in the name of the Lord?”

    3:18 – The word “submit” just turns me off. Is Paul a chauvinist pig?

    4:15 – Why do some Bibles say Nymphas is a man and others say Nympha was a woman?

  13. Well, not sure if these are questions the average reader would like answered, but they are questions I find interesting so here goes.

    1:15 What is implied by image? Who is first over all creation? The Son or God. How does this reconcile with the creation story as told in Genesis? A oneness hermeneutic (of which I’m a proponent) describes this as God manifest in flesh for the redemption of man.

    1:16 Did God create evil for His purposes? If not, what is meant by thrones and authorities?

    1:19 What is meant by “all” the “fullness” of the godhead was pleased to live in Him?

    1:22 Why does God refer to “his physical body” unless it was YHWH manifest in the flesh for the purpose of redeeming man?

    1:24 Is Paul teaching that Christ was not fully sufficient and he (Paul) had to “finish the work” through Paul’s own sufferings?

    1:27 How can Christ live inside us if He is the second person in a trinity? I assumed the Holy Spirit lived inside new believers. Does both the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit live inside us? If so which do we listen to? Would that make us schizophrenic?

    2:2 Why is Christ the secret plan of God?

    2:9 Similar to 1:19 What is meant by all the fullness of God dwelling in Christ? What is meant by Christ and why not say Jesus or Jesus Christ? Instead Paul just says Christ. Why?

    3:1 Sitting at God’s right side. Is this to be interpreted allegorically or literally? If literally then whose side is He sitting by? The Father’s side or Holy Spirit’s side? If the Father’s side then how do we reconcile this with John 4:24 (God is a Spirit) and Luke 24:39 (a spirit does not have flesh and bones).

    3:5-11 Is this legalism or holiness principles? Is this necessary for salvation and entering heaven?

    3:18-31 Is this cultural commands to those in Colossae or commands to be practiced by Christians today? Are these outdated models of the family unit and not applicable to today’s (western) culture?

    Well, hopefully this gives you something to consider. Blessings!

  14. 1:24 — What does it mean to complete what is missing from Christ’s sufferings?

    2:18 — Since Jesus calls his followers to a life of self-denial, what’s going on here?

    3:1-5 — Sounds like a sort of gnostic dualism. How do we make sense of it in the christian story?

    3:18-22 — HELP! What in the world does this mean?

  15. What are the “philosophies and foolish deception[s]” (2:8) that the author is responding to? Are all “human traditions” (2:8) bad? Did some of these philosophies include the worship of angels (2:18)? How does one discern between true and false teaching?

  16. Daniel,

    Your insights from Col 2:11-14 would be very enlightening in association with Luther’s teaching of believers’ being simultaneously saint and sinner during the present age.

    Such discussion may be even more stimulating if you would link and contrast Luther’s notion of remaining a sinner while having been raised with Christ (3:1) to spiritual circumcision (2:11) and theosis within the letter of Colossians as a whole.

    Thanks for thinking about these concepts together.

    –John

  17. the hymn in chapter one. was it a piece of liturgy? i’ve heard it described as a depiction of the “cosmic Christ.” i want to know more about that.

    2:15 who are the rulers and authorities?

    i wish study bibles would address questions of authorship satisfactorily. i do think paul wrote colossians, but that is disputed, so perhaps address why you are convinced?

    JWP is speaking on her book here soon, and i wished i could attend. would love to read.

  18. (1). If Jesus Christ offered a sacrifice sufficient for the sins of the world, once for all, then what could Paul have possibly meant in his words: “I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body.”?
    What was/is lacking or not totally sufficient in Christ’s suffering that Paul’s suffering (and ours?) somehow completes what would seem to be already complete?

    (2). “Wives, submit to your husbands in a way that is appropriate in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and don’t be harsh with them.” Is this a true parallel or is it clearly a double standard regarding husbands (i.e. men) and wives (i.e. women)? It seems to be less than an equal parallel of “love” which would be a “submitting” one to the other of both husband and wife.

    (3). “Slaves, obey your masters on earth in everything.” and “Masters, be just and fair to your slaves.” How might these texts be used to help us understand that the Bible is not infallible or inerrant? If it were, slavery would not be acceptable even with how slavery was a part of society in the cultural context of the ancient Middle East or Colosse?

    (4). “Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas say hello.” Is this a reference that indicates that Paul and Luke (the Evangelist of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles) actually knew each other and were in each other’s presence in the writing of this epistle?

  19. Here are a some…

    1:18 – Christ as ‘head’ – how should we think of head here (authority over, source, something else?)? And how does the use of ‘head’ here affect how the use of ‘head’ in Ephesians – if at all?

    3:18-22 – How do these verses connect to the preceding paragraphs? How do these verses fit with the similar but extended Ephesians version? How should we think about submission (unilateral, mutual, ???)?

    Authorship – Is is Colossians by Paul? Also, how does the authorship of either Colossians or Ephesians affect how we see the other? Was Colossians used a template of sorts for Ephesians or is Colossians a summary of Ephesians. Or does it even matter?

    A common theme here is how do Colossians and Ephesians relate to each other?

  20. 1:24-29 – specifically “completing the sufferings of Christ.” And then how does this relate to Paul’s mission of revealing the mystery to the Gentiles, and then how that corresponds to Christ being the Lord over all things/reconciling all things to himself.

    You know…something like that!

    Thanks for doing this.

  21. Why is Christ termed “the first born from among the dead?” Is this a reference to his being the “Son of Man?”

  22. Could Col 2:11-14 be an indication that Paul is using a modified, granted radically modified, form of covenantal nomism?

    Is sunezOopoi-esen a term that possibly reveals something so unique in Paul’s narrative that he has to coin a phrase to describe it?

  23. Can 1:16 be seen as a continuation and reflection of Paul’s Jewish upbringing and continuing Jewish p.o.v. regarding the ability of the sovereign God to use the power of rulers to his own ends.

    2:20 seems to admonish us to not put emphasis on petty regulation and the narrative seems to keep flowing in that direction until 3:13 when there seems, at least to me and at least in English, a jarring switch to a set of rules. Is there scholarship to suggest how this book came to its current form that might include some later editing?

    And finally an over arching question about how to view Paul, how much of the patina of first century socio-political assumptions like the place of women and children and slaves being chattel needs to be peeled away to get to the radical mystery or secret of Christ that was and is transformative to the world? How or will you try in your preface to set a framework to understand Paul’s or a pseudo-Paul’s viewpoint in terms of his Jewish outlook, the distincively Christian divergence if any from that continuity, and a whiff of what seems Greek dualism

  24. Others have mentioned the household codes in ch. 3 — I’d especially like comment on 3:22, how/whether this applies to current-day slaves, and/or current-day employees.

  25. Like several others above, my first priority would be to comment on “the fullness of God/deity” in 1.19 and 2.9. What does that mean to Paul, exactly? How far is it what the church teaches today in the fully fleshed-out (ha!) doctrine of the Incarnation? And how does it interact, if at all, with the assertion in the “genuine” Pauline epistles that the church is Christ’s body? Does the fullness of God indwell the church?

    Thanks for the prompt, and the giveaway!

  26. Just how big were those guys? They must have been really big. Or maybe it’s one of those metaphor/analogy things or something like that.

    Anyway, my momma brought me up to avoid salty speech, and in chapter 4, I’m told to season my speech with salt. Well, I assume it’s me that’s getting told, anyway, in one of those “brought down to us through the ages” deals. But although I’m a bit overweight, I’m not what you might call colossal. So, what’s up with that salty speech thing?

    No, seriously, is it a reference to “You are the salt of the earth.”? If so, how does that reconcile with the lack of reference to the historical Jesus in this and other Pauline epistles? Does it indicate that Paul was familiar with the sayings of Jesus? Or is it a common figure of speech, used casually in this context, expected to be idiomatically understood by his contemporaries?

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