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
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
When I started this study, and after reading though the Book of Colossians several times, I presented the following as a preliminary outline:
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:
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?
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.