4. The purpose of Paul's letter to the Colossians

Maintaining and living the gospel as received


The cross of Christ is complete in itself apart from the law


Paul reminds the Colossians of how they received Christ Jesus as Lord, and encourages them to live out their Christian life in him alone, by faith (apart from the law).


i] Context: The argument proper, 2:6-4:6

Thesis - summary of intent, 2:6-7. That the Colossians continue to live in Christ, recognizing all that they possess in him, and apply that knowledge in their Christian walk.


The fundamentals of faith, 2:8-3:4

The scope of Christ's accomplishment on the cross, v8-15

The hollow nature of human traditions which discount the cross, v16-19

The dangerous proposition that life in Christ progresses though obedience to the Law, v20-23

The basis of Christian ethics, 3:1-4


The fundamentals of Christian living - becoming what we are in Christ, 3:5-4:6

Put to death the old life, 3:5-11

Put on the new life, 3:12-17

Household guidelines, 3:18-4:1

Concluding exhortations, 4:2-6


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Living the gospel as received:

Continue to live in Christ,

just as you received Christ,

rooted and grounded in him,

by faith,

as you were taught


iv] Interpretation:

As Dunn notes, the problem affecting the Colossians, to which Paul addresses himself, was their "failure both to recognize all that was already theirs in the faith they had accepted and expressed in the beginning and to translate their faith into an appropriate pattern of living." Paul wants his readers to continue to live through faith in the faithfulness of Christ, rather than law, deeply rooted in him, constructed on him, strengthened through him, overflowing in joy with him.

Text - 2:6

Live a life focused on Christ, v6-7. Moo identifies 2:6-15 as the heart of Colossians, with v6 as its central exhortation. In v6-7 "Paul succinctly summarizes the basic response that he wants from his readers", Moo. The business end of living in Christ is expounded in v7 with the use of four participles which characterize this life. A life lived in union with Christ, en autw/ peipateite, is a life rooted in Christ, built on Christ, firm in faith and overflowing with thanksgiving.

oun "so then" - therefore. Here establishing a logical connection, indicating a major step in the argument, "consequently, accordingly." Paul has argued for the lordship of Christ and of a believer's union with Christ through his indwelling presence, "Christ in us", and so "given this fact / given the fact that you are united to Christ, as you received him so walk with him."

wJV "just as" - as, just as, like. Comparative, setting up a comparison for the imperative "continue to live in him." Paul now exhorts his readers to continue in the Christian life in the same way they commenced it, by grace through faith and not by works of the law.

parelabete (paralambanw) aor. "you received" - you received. Just as the Colossians received Jesus, so they must continue to live in him. The sense here is of receiving Jesus in the terms of receiving, of accepting and preserving, a tradition (the gospel). The reception is both of a person and all that he stands for.

ton kurion (oV) "as Lord" - [christ jesus] the lord. Standing in apposition to "Jesus Christ." There is debate over whether "Christ" should be read as a proper name, or a title. A title works well if we hold that "received" be read as receiving Jesus as a tradition. So NEB, "Jesus was delivered to you as Christ and Lord", better, "received / accepted" than "transmitted", cf., Moule. In receiving Jesus, the Colossians received the wondrous truth about Jesus, namely, that he is both Messiah and divine Lord over all things.

peripateite (peripatew) pres. imp"continue to live" - walk = conduct oneself. The verb is imperative and is used to encourage Christian living and behavior by the same means as Jesus (the gospel/tradition) was received, namely, by grace through faith. Being in the present tense gives the sense of "continue".

en + dat. "in" - in [him]. Probably local, incorporative union, "with / in Christ", or association, "continue to live in close association with him", Campbell. An instrumental sense "by" is also possible. The Colossians must remain in union with Christ.


errizwmenoi (rJizow) perf. pas. part. "rooted" - having been rooted / established. This, and the following three adverbial participles, "being built up / being firmly founded / abounding", syntactically link to "live in him", ie., they modify the verb = adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the action of the verb "walk / conduct = live" is accomplished, but also possibly instrumental, expressing means, how this "walk" is accomplished, so Campbell. The participles therefore serve to describe four qualities of the Christian walk undertaken in / with Christ. The first thee, being passive, may be taken as theological passives expressing that these qualities are divinely generated, yet they are also a natural by-product of the subject of the sentence with which they agree, namely, receiving Jesus. Paul's argument, of course, is that the continued existence of these qualities in the life of a believer depends on walking with Jesus in the same way as Jesus was received, namely, by grace through faith. This is underlined by the perfect tense in this first participle. As a tree grows strong, rooted in good soil, so the Colossians will grow, but only if rooted in Christ through faith.

epoikodomoumenoi (epoilodomew) pres. pas. part. "built up" - [and] built up [in / on him]. The present tense underlines the ongoing building work / edification. As a home must be constructed on a good foundation, so the Colossians will continue to be built up, but only by resting (in faith) on Christ.

bebaioumenoi (bebaiow) pres. pas. part. "strengthened" - [and] being confirmed, established, consolidated, founded. The participle as above. The sense "strengthened" finds its origin in the Psalms which describe the Lord strengthening his people through difficult times, and this may be the intended sense here. So, some form of ongoing consolidation "in the faith" is intended.

th/ pistei (iV ewV) dat. "in the faith" - in / by the faith. The word "faith" always causes a problem since it can be understood verbally, of "firmness", the act of believing, but it can also refer to the content of that belief. As for the dative, it can be taken as locative "in", eg., "in the content of what is believed", as NIV, or instrumental, eg., "by believing, trusting Jesus", so here "strengthened by your faith", ie., the Christian life will be solid and stable, only through trusting Jesus. O'Brien opts for NIV, "in the faith", which approach is confirmed by the following phrase, "as you were taught."

kaqwV "as" - as, like [you were taught]. Introducing a comparison / analogy; "just as, insomuch as."

perisseuonteV (perisseuw) pres. act. part. "overflowing" - abounding, overflowing. The participle, as above.

en + dat. "in" - in / with. Again it is unclear whether a local or instrumental sense is intended. The NIV opts for instrumental, but thanksgiving can be the sphere where the "overflowing" expresses itself.

eucaristia/ (a) dat. "thanksgiving" - thanksgiving. Joyful thanksgiving is a quality found in those who have received Jesus and who walk with him.


Colossians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]