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Knowing Christ (Part I): Philippians & Colossians

Knowing Christ (Part I): Philippians & Colossians




Paul was a prolific writer and a leading – if not the primary – influencer of the first century church.

Sometimes Paul would have to write a congregation to correct some mistaken beliefs or some sinful behavior, like he does in his first letter to the Corinthians.

This letter, however, is different. Paul is joyful, and that joy is evident throughout his writing, even though he is in prison. (In this case, “prison” means house arrest while he is awaiting trial.)
The Philippians were obviously and understandably worried about this man who had exerted so much positive influence on them. He’d visited at least once before, but now the Philippians heard he was in prison and worried about what that would mean for both him and for themselves. Life under the emperor Nero was looking bleaker for Christians, so Paul seeks to reassure the Philippians – not that things will get easier, but that their suffering is ordained by God, that it can advance the gospel, and that their unity will enable them to stand firm during it.


Paul’s relationship with the Colossians was different that his relationship with the Philippians. Paul had been to Philippi; he had helped start that congregation. At the point of writing this letter, however, he has likely not been to Colosse. Instead, Epaphras, one of the members of Paul’s team, was the one to first bring the gospel to them. After that, Epaphras brought a report about the Colossians to Paul.

Therefore, Paul does not have quite as much rapport with the Colossians as he does with other congregations. Nevertheless, they seem to respect him, and Paul does not spend much time establishing his credentials, so it seems that they granted Paul the authority to speak on theological matters.

Most scholars refer to something called the “Colossian heresy” – a teaching that is close to creeping into the Colossian church. No one is sure exactly what the teaching is, or who is doing the teaching, but we can construct a decent picture by using Paul’s defense against it. We may only be getting one side of the conversation, but that is enough to form a modest picture. Whatever the teaching is, it has something to do with the nature of Christ. Paul will spend much of his time in this letter refuting it.