Before we begin looking at the text of Colossians, I thought it would be good to start with a little background information. I feel that it is important to take the time to do this because there are many places in the book of Colossians (just as there are in the rest of the Bible) that can be easily misunderstood, misinterpreted or simply overlooked if we have a insufficient understanding of the situation the author and audience find themselves in at the time the letter was written.
The city of Colossae, which was located relatively close to Ephesus and only six miles from Laodicea, had been a very prominent and wealthy city in it’s heyday. However, at the time this letter was written, it had been in decline for a number of years. Paul is writing from prison, and while it is not known for certain, it is widely believed to be during the time of his imprisonment in Rome. That would place this letter at the very end of Paul’s life. After all his missionary journeys, after floggings and shipwrecks, years of studying the scriptures and debating them with both friendly and hostile audiences. In short, it is written at a point of full maturity and after years of seasoned reflection upon the truths he discusses.
The church in Colossae to which he was writing was not one that he planted. In fact, he had never even visited this congregation. It seems the church was predominately, if not entirely, made up of gentile believers rather than Jewish believers. It is also clear that Paul saw this church as healthy and mature. In this letter we don’t see Paul addressing the various carnal sins with which the church at Corinth struggled and he does not take the tone of concern with the Colossians that he took with the Galatians, wondering openly if some of them had abandoned the faith. While Paul does address some false teaching, he frequently commends the Colossians for and rejoices over their maturity and he spends most of the letter discussing more mature matters of the faith. Solid food, not just milk.
There are perhaps a few other things that I could mention here but I will be discussing them in more depth later on, as I get into the heart of the letter. I believe these are some of the major elements to keep in mind and to give us a solid footing while studying this book.