I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:

The beginning of the study
Preliminary outline
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 4
Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life
Exhortation to put on Christ as a new way of life
Exhortations about family relationships
Exhortations about prayer and outsiders
Travel plans, greetings, and final exhortations
General observations

When I started this study, and after reading though the Book of Colossians several times, I presented the following as a preliminary outline:

  1. Salutation
    1. Sender (Colossians 1:1)
    2. Recipients (Colossians 1:2a)
    3. Greeting (Colossians 1:2b)
    4. Prayer/Thanksgiving/Blessing (Colossians 1:3-14)
  2. Body (Colossians 1:15-4:5)
    1. The Preeminence of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-1:23)
      1. The Preeminence of Jesus over Creation (Colossians 1:15-17)
      2. The Preeminence of Jesus over the Church (Colossians 1:18-1:23)
    2. The Example of Paul’s Service (Colossians 1:24-2:5)
    3. Practical Exhortations to the Colossians (Colossians 2:6-4:5)
      1. Negative Exhortations against trusting human wisdom (Colossians 2:6-3:4)
      2. Positive Exhortations toward living for Christ (Colossians 3:5-4:5)
  3. Travel Plans, Final Greetings, and Closing (Colossians 4:6-4:18)

During my detailed studies, going through the book verse by verse, I continually compared what I was finding with my outline. Now, I need to consider making any necessary changes to the outline, because the outline will help me decide how to teach Colossians.

One of the biggest decisions that I have to make is the relationship of the passage about the preeminence of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-1:23) to the second part of the prayer (Colossians 1:9-14). Verse 15 begins with a relative pronoun, which connects it back to verse 13-14:

… (13) who has delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred [us] into the kingdom of the son of his love, (14) in whom we have redemption which is the forgiveness of sin, (15) who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation… (Colossians 1:13-15 – author’s translation)

But, it is also clear that verse 15 begins a long passage that is specifically about “the son of his love” – a passage that doesn’t end until verse 23. Similarly, it seems that this passage (Colossians 1:15-23) plays an important role in the remainder of Paul’s letter. This passage describes the authority and domain of Jesus Christ, the son of God, whom Paul serves (Colossians 1:24-2:5), in whom the Colossians should walk (Colossians 2:6-4:5), who is better than human wisdom (Colossians 2:6-3:4), who is all and in all (Colossians 3:11), whose peace and message indwell the Colossians (Colossians 3:15-16), and on and on and on.

So, while verse 15 may be grammatically connected to verse 14, it seems that the passage itself rhetorically stands on its on as the beginning and foundation of the body of the letter. So, I’m going to separate Colossians 1:15-23 from the prayer in the final outline, as I did in the preliminary outline.

There are other decisions that I had to make, but I’m not going to step through the whole process here. Instead, this is my final outline:

  1. Salutation
    1. Sender (Colossians 1:1)
    2. Recipients (Colossians 1:2a)
    3. Greeting (Colossians 1:2b)
    4. Prayer/Thanksgiving/Blessing (Colossians 1:3-14)
      1. Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for the Colossians (Colossians 1:3-8)
      2. Paul’s prayer for the maturity of the Colossians (Colossians 1:9-14)
  2. Body (Colossians 1:15-4:5)
    1. The Preeminence of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-1:23)
      1. The Preeminence of Jesus over Creation (Colossians 1:15-17)
      2. The Preeminence of Jesus over the Church (Colossians 1:18-1:23)
    2. Paul’s Service in response to Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:24-2:5)
    3. Exhortations for the Colossians to live for Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:6-4:5)
      1. Exhortations to trust Christ instead of human wisdom (Colossians 2:6-3:4)
      2. Exhortations to live the new life in Christ (Colossians 3:5-4:5)
        1. Exhortations to put to death the old life without Christ (Colossians 3:5-11)
        2. Exhortations to put on the personal and corporate life of Christ (Colossians 3:12-4:6)
  3. Travel Plans, Final Greetings, and Closing (Colossians 4:7-4:18)
    1. Travel plans of Paul’s co-workers (Colossians 4:7-9)
    2. Various Greetings (Colossians 4:10-17)
    3. Paul’s personal closing (Colossians 4:18)

Notice that even though it is at the lowest level of the outline, II.C.2.B (“Exhortations to put on the personal and corporate life of Christ (Colossians 3:12-4:6)”) is actually the longest section of the outline.

What would you add to my study of Colossians so far?