Please go to the downloadable resources page to view all the resources available to make this a great study for you or your small group.
2 F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 39.
3 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1991), 896.
“I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Colossians 1:29 (NASB)
This week we glimpse into Paul’s heart for ministry. Since all believers are called to be ministers, we can learn from him what it means to serve others. In our lesson last week we looked at his prayer life, the foundation of his ministry. What else do we learn from this man who was such a great leader of the church? What do we learn from his model as we seek to minister to others, fulfilling the ministries that God has given each of us?
Read Colossians 1:24-29.
1. Describe Paul’s attitude toward his sufferings (1:24).
2. The last part of Col. 1:24 says, “I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (NET). Some have suggested this means that we must suffer to gain our final entrance into heaven. Consider the context, specifically what Paul has just said about Jesus and His work for us in 1:19-22. How does the context prevent us from understanding 1:24 that way?
3. Compare these other passages, in which Paul described his sufferings, with what he says in Colossians. What reasons for his attitude do you see?
a. Romans 5:3-5
b. 2 Cor. 1:3-9
c. 2 Tim. 4:5-8
4. How do the following verses encourage you to have the same attitude as Paul as you face suffering?
d. John 16:33
e. James 1:2-4, 12
f. 1 Peter 1:6-7
g. 1 Peter 5:10
5. Sharing question: What kinds of suffering are you facing right now in your life? From the verses you have considered today, what truth helps you face it with the attitude Paul had?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer to God, asking for the grace, faith, and strength that you need to face the sufferings in your life. Incorporate into the prayer a verse from #4 that was meaningful to you.
Reread Colossians 1:24-29.
If you were an investigative reporter, you would ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how” kinds of questions as you covered a story. We do the same when we observe the Scriptures.
1. What do you learn about Paul and his ministry by answering these kinds of questions from Colossians 1:25?
Paul called his ministry a “stewardship” (NASB, NET) or a commission (NIV). John MacArthur, Jr. defines this term in detail: “Stewardship translates oikonomia, a compound word made up of oikos (house) and nimo (manage). It means to manage a household as a steward of someone else’s possessions. The steward had oversight of the other servants and handled the business and financial affairs of the household. That freed the owner to travel and pursue other interests. Being a steward was thus a position of great trust and responsibility in the ancient world.”4
2. In light of the meaning of “stewardship”, why would Paul be concerned to “fully carry out” (NASB) or to “complete” (NET) the preaching of the word of God?
3. How do the following verses reinforce the seriousness of a believer’s stewardship before God?
h. 1 Cor. 4:1-2
i. 2 Tim. 4:1-5
j. 1 Peter 4:10-11
4. Sharing question: What is the personal mission, ministry or commission that God has given you? How did you discover it? If you do not know what it is, what do these verses suggest about the importance of discovering it?
5. Sharing question: If you know what stewardship God has given you, what are you doing to complete it? Are you taking it as seriously as you should? What can you do to improve?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer or draw a picture representing your heart toward your stewardship before God.
Reread Colossians 1:24-29 to review the context.
1. How did Paul describe the content of his message in these verses?
2. Sharing question: Paul called Jesus “the hope of glory”. How do you keep your eyes upon Him as your hope of glory when you are discouraged and dealing with difficulties?
3. What was Paul’s goal for preaching Christ? What specific methods did he use? (1:28-29)
In our memory verse this week, Col. 1:29, Paul said that he labors. The Greek word for labor is kopiao. Vines says it is akin to kopos, which “denotes a striking, beating; then toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil, trouble.”5
4. Sharing question: Do you “labor” in your ministry or does it receive your “leftovers”? Explain.
The word for striving (NASB) or struggling (NIV) in Col. 1:29 is agonizomai, meaning “special pains and toils. It implies hindrances.” 6
5. Sharing question: What hindrances are you facing in your ministry? Are you striving to overcome them? What specific things can you do to help you strive rather than quit when problems occur?
6. Responding to God: Go before God and listen for His voice as you consider your efforts in ministry. Talk to Him about your labor. Confess when you have not given Him your best efforts. Write down your thoughts.
Read Colossians 2:1-5.
Paul used a Greek term that suggests a contest. In 2:1 he said that he “struggles” for these people. The Greek word agon “implies force or violence. It referred to strife, contention, contest for victory or mastery as pertained to the Greek games of running, boxing, wrestling.”7
We are in a battle. It is so easy to forget that and give up when obstacles face us in ministry. Even as I write this, I am facing some disappointment over some ministry plans that are not working out as I had hoped. It helps to know that Paul “struggled” when faced with obstacles. He realized that he was in a contest and needed to win over the opposition.
1. According to this passage, for what was he struggling on behalf of the believers (Col. 2:1-3)?
2. Sharing question: Choose one of the phrases that you listed in #19. What person in your life comes to mind for whom you can pray that phrase? Why? Write out your prayer.
3. Paul emphasized understanding and knowledge. What is the result of these (2:2)?
4. Paul balanced the need for the Colossians to grow in feeling and in knowledge. How do these verses relate to that?
a. 1 Cor. 13:1-3
b. Rom. 12:1-2
c. Rev. 2:1-7
5. Sharing question: What is one practical way that you grow in knowledge and in love?
6. Responding to God: Pray for the grace to “struggle” in ministry rather than give up. Pray for growth in knowledge and in love. Write your prayer or poem before God.
Review Colossians 2:1-5.
1. What danger did Paul fear for these believers (Col. 2:4)? What is the antidote (2:2-3)?
2. How did Paul encourage the Colossians in their faith (Col. 2:5)?
3. Review this week’s lesson. Summarize what you learn from Paul for your own ministry.
4. Sharing question: Think of someone whom you can encourage today by telling her how well she is doing in an area of faith. So often we notice someone’s spiritual growth but fail to mention it directly. Contact her today and write down what happens.
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer for one of the members of your small group. This is part of your ministry to others and your struggle in prayer on behalf of believers.
We have the privilege of reading three stories of women and ministry today. Consider what you learn for your ministry from them.
I've been thinking about "mission" a lot lately. Maybe it's because I sense I'm not getting any younger. Maybe it's because I realize that if I don't focus on God's mission for me, I'll succumb to other people's purposes and plans for my life (including my own), and though I can stay very busy doing that, I'll lack the peace and fulfillment that comes with simply being a good and faithful servant, doing whatever God asks and being where He wants me to be.
As I thought and prayed about what my mission might be, I considered what the consistent patterns in my Christian life have been. I thought about what I learned from taking the SHAPE equipping class (Spiritual giftedness, Heart, Ability, Personality, and Experience). I was also encouraged and challenged by Kay's lesson last spring on mission (I even got the CD so I could listen to it again ;). The consistent patterns in my spiritual life have been prayer, bible study, and community (meeting in small groups and forming intentional relationships). I felt like whatever I was to do, it would include these elements. I sought input from others concerning spiritual giftedness, and learned that one of my gifts is probably teaching.
And, after trying a variety of settings over time (high school ministry, children's ministry, women's ministry), I sense God is directing me toward women's ministry. I've been on a couple of committees and tried different roles, but the one that seems to fit best is being a small group facilitator. When I'm not doing it, I miss it. When I am doing it, it's a lot of work and I have to put aside some other things, but it's an easy yoke and I learn a lot. Being a small group facilitator gives me an opportunity to serve God and others while causing me to be completely dependent on Him.
About 20 years ago the Lord guided me back into the field of teaching when I fell in love with learning different children (dyslexic, attention deficit). I could not afford to go back to college for training, but He provided money from every imaginable source. I found He had truly given me a gift for this service because I have undeniably seen many miracles due to changed lives in these families. I am given abundant opportunities to witness and give God the glory when others see the fruit of this gift. My reward has been great in following God's mission in serving LD kids.
After coming to our church 4 years ago, I became somewhat overwhelmed at all the different opportunities to serve. It was so exciting! Through Bible study and prayer I was able to focus on the gifts God had given me, and not go flying off into other areas. Along with providing Language Therapy as a volunteer at West Dallas, God blessed me with the Paws to Care ministry. He combined my love for needy animals (I currently have two adopted Golden Retrievers) and my heart for the elderly. Here I can share my beloved Micah's ability to love with sharing the gospel to those in nursing homes. It "fits" how we were both designed by God. My heart's gift is from Him and I can joyously serve and receive love in return by following His direction. Here His work is accomplished. I thank the Lord for giving me gifts to glorify Him.
I still struggle with prioritizing ministry over other things. My Bible study leader several years ago reminded us that there are many great causes, but Christian organizations need Christians. For example, the Heart Association is great, but it doesn't NEED Christians. So basically when prioritizing volunteer work, consider "Does this need a Christian?" Of course we need Christian influence everywhere, but again Christian ministries can only use Christians and anyone can help with secular work.
Another consideration is motivation....is this about me, my resume, pleasing someone else or is this ministry where I feel God is directing me, something to which He has given me the gifts and passion?
No matter how noble the pursuit, if you volunteer for too much, your family does suffer. You may be choosing "people" over "housework", but even if you are gone just when your kids are in school, you must ask, "Is my home in order and am I ready to welcome them when they come home? Have I inadvertently chosen others over my family?”
4 John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 72.
5 W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), 303.
6 Zodhiates, 868.
7 Zodhiates, 869.
“And you have been filled in Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”
Colossians 2:10 (NET)
Several years ago I decided to watch some of the “famous” televangelists. Most of them were flamboyant and seemed quite sincere. I could see why people were attracted to them. However, as I listened closely to the messages that certain of them spoke, I was shocked to hear thinking that was clearly not scriptural! Many of these teachings served to bring in extra money to the “ministries” of these people.
Heresy is nothing new! It began as soon as the church was born. Paul dealt with false teaching in Colossae as he wrote them this letter. The truths that he reiterated to these young believers to help them overcome heresies are truths that we do well to remember for they survive in other forms today.
Read the entire passage of Colossians 1:24-2:7.
1. Literally Paul used the visual image of walking in 2:6 (NASB, KJV) to illustrate what he wanted the Colossians to do. (The NIV & NET say “to live.”) How does the metaphor of walking help you understand Paul’s point?
2. What were the keys to the Colossians’ ability to so walk according to 2:7?
· Digging for Diamonds: Use your concordance to find other verses that use the picture of walking or walk in an illustrative way, as Paul did here. What do you learn from comparing the passages?
3. Sharing question: Are the descriptions of these believers in 2:7 appropriate to you? What one specific thing can you do to grow more like them?
4. What keys do you see in these verses to help you “walk in Him”?
a. Eph. 4:11-16
b. 2 Tim.3:15-16
c. Heb. 5:12-14
d. 1 Peter 2:1-3
5. Responding to God: Take one of the verses above (#4) and apply it to yourself in prayer. Write out your request.
Read Colossians 2:6-8.
1. List Paul’s description of the false teaching (2:8).
2. In contrast to this false teaching, on what is truth built according to 2:8?
3. Compare the following verses with what Paul said in 2:8. Write down your insights.
a. John 17:16-17
b. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
c. 1 Cor. 2:4-8
Read Colossians 2:9-15 where Paul emphasized truths about Jesus’ identity and His work on our behalf.
4. In 2:9 Paul repeated truth about Jesus. Find his previous references to it in Colossians. How do all these verse relate?
5. What other truths about Jesus did Paul mention in 2:10-15? (Don’t write down what he said about you as a believer. You’ll do that tomorrow.)
Paul repeatedly mentioned Jesus’ superiority to all spiritual powers in this letter; thus, it appears that the heresies being taught in Colossae involved attributing to these other powers influence, power, etc. that belong to Jesus alone.
· Digging for Diamonds: Spend the rest of this week carefully studying 2 Peter 2 and Jude. List the qualities of false teachers that these passages reveal.
6. Sharing question: What does Jesus’ relationship with all rulers and authorities mean to you personally (1:15-17; 2:10, 15)? How do these truths affect your faith in difficult times?
7. Responding to God: Worship Jesus in light of all the truths about Him that you have seen in today’s lesson. Journal your thoughts below.
Read Colossians 2:8-15.
Yesterday we looked at truths about Jesus in this passage. Today, we consider the truths that Paul mentioned about us. Who Jesus is and what He has done have affected those who are “in Him,” who have allied their lives with His.
1. List what you observe as true of believers according to these verses. (Again, simply write down what it says—observation.)
What does the word “baptism” (Col. 2:12) mean in this context? The Greek word comes “from the word meaning ‘to dip.’ The suffix –ma indicates the result of the act of dipping.”8 The word was used of the change in essence resulting from dipping a cloth in dye or a cucumber dipped in pickling juice. The object united with the substance in which it was baptized and became like it. “Baptism pictures believers’ union with Christ. They have been buried with Him in baptism, the spiritual union of the believer with Christ that takes place at salvation. Water baptism is only a picture of that reality. It symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.”9
2. How do these verses relate to the understanding of baptism as union with Jesus?
a. 1 Cor. 12:13
b. Rom. 6:3-7
3. Sharing question: Consider the view “from the clouds” (from God’s perspective) of your union with Jesus. What is most meaningful to you? Why?
4. Responding to God: Write a prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for the truth that you mentioned in #15.
Paul continued to deal with some false teaching in Colossae in this section of his letter.
Read Colossians 2:16-19.
1. How did these false teachers seem to be affecting the Colossian believers?
2. How did Paul refute the legalism of the false teachers (2:16-17)?
3. We live in a time when there is a heightened interest in angels. Paul said that worship of angels was part of the false teaching of that day. How does that relate to what he has previously said in 1:16-18?
4. Sharing question: Have you ever been intimidated by someone’s legalism or spiritual “experiences"? Describe the situation and how you handled it.
5. How did Paul describe the root problem with this false teacher (2:18-19)?
6. Responding to God: Worship Jesus alone as the creator and ruler of the angels.
Read Colossians 2:20-23, the final verses in which Paul specifically deals with false teaching in Colossae. All week we have followed Paul’s concern for the Colossians as he labored and struggled for their spiritual well-being against heresy.
1. What false teachings did he deal with here?
2. What is wrong with these teachings?
Sometimes Christians suggest that love and unity are so essential that we should “look the other way” concerning false teaching.
3. How would you answer that in light of this entire passage from 2:6-24?
4. Sharing question: What teaching have you heard that you realized then or recognize now as false? What scriptural truths revealed its falsehood?
5. Responding to God: Write out praise to God for His word and its truth.
I came to know Christ as a young teenager and devoted my life to Him. I attended a Bible believing, Bible teaching church. I had never been exposed to any other spiritual view. After college I began to wonder if perhaps the view I had of God (we now call this a world view) was too small.
I met some Christians that were also practicing meditation. I never really thought about it as “adding onto” the Bible. People of many faiths were included. Each little step took me further and further from my foundation. These people loved people and lived lives of service. I lived for five years with a world view that Right was what worked for me as long as it didn’t infringe on the rights of others. Tolerance was the word for the day. Over time I became uncomfortable that these same people were intolerant of people with convictions of right and wrong.
In Hollywood, Ca. one Christmas Eve I listened to my guru use scripture to describe Christ. At first it warmed my heart to hear words I was so familiar with and then I realized that His words were like scripture to this group of people, that he was mixing his words with those of God the Father. In that moment my heart sank. It was one thing to say those things in front of me. It was far worse to say them to the 2000 others him to be their leader. This was the beginning of my disconnecting from the group that I’d learn to love and hold dear.
Over the next couple of years I prayed that God would reveal to me where he wanted me to be. Ironically enough the attitude that embraced “this is not working for me” turned me back to a Bible believing, Bible teaching fellowship. I learned to study the Bible for myself and let God minister to me through His Word.
I always felt God was with me. His Word was buried in my heart.
8 Zodhiates, 883.
9 MacArthur, 109.
“Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:2-3 (NET)
About what do you find yourself thinking when you have a minute alone? Where does your mind wander when you are supposed to be focused on work or something you need to read? Paul called for a new focus for those who are new people in Christ. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he thinks within himself, so he is” (NASB). Thinking is serious business!
Read Colossians 3:1-4.
1. Write down the two instructions given in these verses. In other words, what two things did Paul specifically tell us to do? How do they relate to each other?
2. For what reasons are we to obey these instructions according to these verses?
3. How can focusing on these truths (#2) help you fulfill these instructions?
4. Sharing question: Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being fully focused) as to how well you are doing with these two instructions. What in your life is preventing you from obeying?
5. Responding to God: Draw a picture. (Yes, you can do it. Stick figures are fine!) Show what is between you and this kind of focus. Talk to God about it.
We saw yesterday that in Col. 3:1-4 Paul called us to keep a heavenly perspective. It is a mind-focus. He based his instruction on some basic truths about believers. When we begin to grasp these truths and make them part of our everyday thinking patterns, our minds will begin to have a heavenly focus, a view “from the clouds.” Today we are going to fill our minds with Scriptures that repeat these truths. Don’t read them quickly but meditate upon their meaning to your life as a believer.
Read Colossians 3:1-4.
Paul said that we “have been raised with Christ” (3:1) because we have died and our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (3:3).
1. Read these other passages that develop these same thoughts. Write down what you learn and your thoughts.
a. Romans 6:1-11
b. Gal. 2:20
c. Eph. 2:4-7
d. Phil. 3:10
3. In Col. 3:4 Paul reminded us that the day is coming when Jesus will appear and we will be glorified. Write down your thoughts and insights on these truths from these passages:
a. 1 Cor. 15:42-58
b. 1 Peter 1:3-7
c. 1 John 3:2-3
d. Rev. 5:1-14
4. Sharing question: Which one verse of those you read today best helps you focus your thoughts on the eternal? Why?
5. Sharing question: Yesterday you thought of one hindrance in your life that prevents you from keeping your mind focused on the eternal. What do you need to do to get rid of that hindrance?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer for the grace to have an eternal perspective today.
Read Colossians 3:1-11.
1. List all the things we are instructed to get out of our lives (3:5-8).
2. How do these specific instructions in 3:5, 8 relate to the instructions in 3:1-2?
3. How do the truths about believers in 3:1-4 (review Day 2 Study) relate to the instructions of 3:5, 8?
4. Compare these other lists of sins from the verses below with the lists of 3:5, 8. Write down your insights.
a. 1 Cor. 6:9-11
b. Gal. 5:19-21
c. Eph. 5:3-5
5. Write down any insights you have about the two lists (in 3:5 and 3:8) and their relationship to each other.
6. Sharing question: Which of these sins is most convicting to you? Why?
7. Responding to God: Spend time with God confessing the sins of which He convicted you. Believe that He forgives completely (1 John 1:9).
Read Colossians 3:1-11.
Yesterday we considered the sins listed in 3:5, 8.
1. What sin did Paul emphasize in 3:9-11?
2. What reasons did Paul give for his instruction in 3:9 about that sin?
3. Of all the sins listed in Colossians 3:5-11, what makes this one so important that Paul gave it such emphasis? (Consider all he says in 3:1-10, the context.)
In understanding what it means to put off the old man (self, NASB) and put on the new, the note in the NET Bible is helpful: “They give an explanation of what had happened to the Colossians at the time of their conversion—they had taken off the old man and put on the new when they trusted in Christ.”10 Although we are women, we have a new “man” within us, Jesus Christ Himself; thus, we become new women!
4. What do you learn about the old man/new man from Romans 6:5-6 and Eph. 4:22-24?
5. Sharing question: How does the picture of taking off the “old” and clothing yourself with the “new” help you seek the eternal rather than the world (3:1-2)?
6. Responding to God: Ask God for His perspective of your life. How well are you showing forth the “new woman”? Spend time listening for His voice.
Read Colossians 3:1-11.
1. How do 3:10 and 3:11 relate to each other?
2. Sharing question: If knowledge is a key to being renewed in Jesus’ image (3:10), what do you need to do in a practical way to increase your knowledge or remind yourself of what you already know?
3. If you are to grow into the image of Jesus, how does the life He modeled help you understand how to focus on the eternal? Write down your insights from these verses:
a. John 17:18-19
b. Phil. 2:5-8
c. Heb. 10:5-7
d. 1 Peter 2:20-25
4. Sharing question: What situation are you facing today in which your focus needs to change to the heavenly and the eternal? What truths have you learned this week that can help you do that? What can you do to keep your perspective on them rather than the situation?
5. Responding to God: Bow in worship of Jesus and His model of the kind of person you need to be. Write down your thoughts.
Materialism is rampant in the culture we live in, especially in the “work hard, play hard” environment that is Dallas. I often struggle with being too consumed with what I do and do not have materially and can be guilty of comparing myself to others. I find that watching the news and reading the newspaper to keep informed about what’s happening in other places in this world and right here in Dallas really helps me keep a perspective on what’s important. I have so many blessings: good health, stable job, supportive family, and lots of nice things! Realizing that others in this world endure hardship that I cannot even comprehend puts how I spend my money and what I spend it on in perspective.
If God has blessed me, then I should help others. When Christians are being persecuted or imprisoned for spreading the gospel, children are starving, or women are being beaten or raped in other parts of the world, why do I need another pair of new shoes? I feel that God expects me to be a good steward of the money he’s given me whether it’s being used for evangelism or to specifically help the poor and oppressed of this world – here in Dallas or elsewhere. Knowing that my money can be used to do much more in other places and that it can be used towards eternal purposes helps me keep the right perspective towards material possessions.
10 NET Bible, note #7 p. 2164.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17 (NET)
Some of our greatest issues come in relationships. Other people can pose such challenges to our desires to be like Jesus! It sounds so easy to be kindhearted and forgiving until faced with a real person who brings real problems into our lives. Those with whom we have to deal daily, our family members and co-workers, are often the most difficult relationships because of our constant interaction. We wish for relief from them, but the reality is that God uses difficult people to teach us to be like Jesus. This week we consider the kind of people we are to be, especially in relationship with others.
In Colossians 3:5-11 Paul pointed out a number of sins to eliminate from our lives. The verses we study this week are more positive, listing virtues that we should incorporate.
Read Colossians 3:12-17.
1. What positive qualities did Paul list (3:12-14)?
2. What reasons did Paul give us for taking on these virtues (3:12-14)? Which of these reasons motivates you personally? Why?
3. In light of the verses below, why is forgiveness such an essential for believers?
a. Col. 3:2-3
b. Col. 3:11
c. Mt. 6:14
d. Jn. 17:20-23
e. Eph. 4:16
4. Paul called for forgiveness of others “just as the Lord has forgiven you.” To what extent has God forgiven you? Write down your insights from these verses:
a. Is. 53:5-6
b. Rom. 5:6-8
c. Eph. 2:8-9
d. Heb. 10:17-18
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer thanking God for the extent of His forgiveness, giving specifics from these verses.
6. Sharing question: Consider how completely and extensively God has forgiven you. Is there anyone in your life whom you have not totally forgiven, as God has forgiven you? Without naming the person or focusing on her/his sin against you, share with the group your struggle with unforgiveness. Write your sin of bitterness and unforgiveness as your prayer request this week.
Today we look in-depth at some other virtues and instructions listed by Paul.
Read Colossians 3:12-16.
The word for love here is the Greek word agape, “a word not found in Classical Greek but only in revealed religion… God’s love for man is his doing what He thinks best for man and not what man desires. It is God’s willful direction toward man.”11
1. How do these verses relate to the above definition of agape love?
a. John 3:16
b. 1 John 3:16
c. 1 John 4:7-11
2. How is that kind of love a “perfect bond” (NET), “the perfect bond of unity” (NASB), or “the bond of perfectness” (KJV)?
3. Contrast agape love with the perspective of love that you hear and see in our culture.
4. How does the command about love in Col. 3:14 relate to the list of virtues of 3:12-13?
5. What does Rom. 5:5 teach you about the source of this kind of love? How does that encourage you?
6. Sharing question: What one person are you struggling most to love? What one act can you do to love them in the way suggested by the definition of agape?
7. Responding to God: Ask God to pour out the love you need in order to follow through with this act of love. Write out your thoughts.
Read Colossians 3:12-16.
1. Carefully read Col. 3:15. Was Paul calling us to find peace, ask for peace, etc.? What exactly was he telling us to do? Why is this significant?
2. How do peace and thanksgiving relate (3:15)?
3. What should come out of us when the word is dwelling richly within us (3:16)?
Digging for Diamonds: Look up the Greek words for dwell, richly, teaching and exhorting (all in 3:16). Write out an expanded version of this verse including these definitions.
4. Sharing question: How richly does the word dwell within you right now? What specific thing can you do to improve in that area?
5. Sharing question: Read as much of Psalm 119 as you can. Read slowly and meditate upon what God’s word does in our lives. Write down one verse that is particularly meaningful to you today as you consider the benefits of God’s word in your life.
6. Responding to God: Use the verse you wrote down in #18 and pray it for yourself. Ask God to let that word dwell in you. Write down your prayer or poem. You may want to write this request on your card for your group this week. This kind of prayer is a kingdom prayer, when you focus on God’s kingdom work in your life rather than your will.
Read Colossians 3:17-4:1.
1. How does Paul’s instruction in 3:17 relate to 3:18-4:1?
Household codes, detailing responsibilities of each family member, were common in the first century. Paul used this outline to help Christians understand their responsibilities to one another before God. (Remember that slaves were part of the household of that day, not simply someone hired as an employee.)
The first instruction calls for wives to submit. The word submission is “hupotasso; from hupo, under, and tasso, in order.”12
2. Observe 3:18 carefully. What limits are given to a wife’s submission?
3. How do limits to submission relate to these situations?
a. Acts 5:17-18, 27-29
b. Daniel 3:13-18
4. What can you learn from the attitudes and actions of those who did not submit to authorities in these stories in #22?
Biblical submission does not suggest inferiority. Everything that Paul said in Colossians about the exalted state of believers is true of women as well as men. Dr. Robert Wall comments, “If a wife sees herself as subservient to her husband, she will allow him to dominate and even abuse her. If, however, she views herself as Christ’s disciple and her husband’s equal in Christ, her understanding of submission will be changed; she will submit herself to her husband in the same way that Christ submitted himself to God.”13
5. Read these verses and write down how they verify the truth that submission has nothing to do with inferiority:
a. Phil 2:5-8
b. Gal. 3:28
c. 1 Peter 3:7
6. Sharing question: If you are married, how are you doing at voluntarily submitting to your husband when the two of you cannot come to unity on matters? In what one area do you most struggle in voluntarily following your husband’s decisions and why (finances, parenting, your job situation, household decisions, etc.)?
The household code continues with instructions for husbands and children in 3:19-21. Although household codes were common in that day, Paul added an eternal perspective to the instructions. Suddenly, pleasing the Lord and serving Him in everything is a new motivation for family members. This is the view from the clouds!
7. Responding to God: Write a prayer for your family, whether that involves you and your husband and children, or whether your family unit involves you and your parents. Pray that Col. 3:17 will be true of all of you.
Reread Colossians 3:17-4:1.
“There are two important differences between Paul’s exhortations that a wife submit to her husband and that a child obey the same person. First is the change of the verbal idea from submission (hypotasso), which only sometimes means obedience, to the more explicit word for obedience (hypakouo). Second is the change of verbal voice from middle, which implies that the wife’s submission is voluntary, to an active imperative, which implies the child’s unquestioning obedience.”14
1. What insight does this difference in words give you as to husband/wife parent/child relationships?
2. What keys did Paul give to slaves and masters that apply to all work situations (3:22-4:1)?
3. Sharing question: Which of these keys for workplace relationships can help you in your workplace situation or even in your family relationships?
4. Sharing question: How do you focus on work for God when your workplace situation is full of conflict or even boredom?
5. Responding to God: Submitting ourselves to others is difficult. We are driven by personal interest and selfishness. Pray for the humility that is necessary to be like Jesus in your relationships.
I returned to teaching after staying home for several years with my children because of a financial need. However it wasn't long before I began to think that maybe God allowed this need so that He could place me in a public school environment. At first I was not happy about this because I had left a leadership position in a wonderful bible study. Why would God take me out of such a wonderful time of service for Him? It was not long before I realized that "God's ways are not my ways". Sometimes He changes the call in your life right in middle of when you think you are doing your best for Him. So now I use biblical principles without mentioning God or Jesus' name in a public school setting. (I am not allowed to.) However with advising parents on how to raise children in this changing culture, and other moral values I try to teach God's way. Giving them godly principles without mentioning His name. Those parents that are believers pick up on this quickly. So He always provides people that are encouraging and prayerful. As much as I would like to teach in a Christian school, I know that God has placed me in this secular environment which is in such need of His ways. Praying daily for my students and for the teachers on my team seems to be the key. Without His power and peace I could not survive.
I worked for a consulting firm during the hey-day years of the Information Technology field, prior to Y2K. Most of the employees were much younger in age than I was, and the predominate topic of conversation around the office was where to go for Happy Hour. Although I believe I was fairly well-liked because I was friendly, dependable, and hard-working, there did seem to be a distinct barrier between me and everyone else because I was "Miss Goody-Two-Shoes."
It was a lonely place to work, not only because I was physically by myself in the front reception area, but also because I was the only Christian and stood alone in my worldview. Whenever I walked into the employee lounge, either the conversations would quickly taper off, or if they did continue, I felt totally out-of-place. I felt like I was not having any impact on my co-workers, and wondering why did God have me here? I even taped the verses Colossians 3:23-24 on my computer so I would have a visual reminder every day that God had a purpose for me there.
Several years later, when the bottom dropped out of the dot-com industry, the company started having lay-offs. I survived the first few rounds, but eventually I was "down-sized." The Vice President called me into his office to explain that he was very concerned that when the news got out that I was being let-go that everyone would be very upset with management for the decision, and also they would panic about the future of the company because everyone respected me so much. So he asked me if he could announce instead, that I was leaving on my own volition. So maybe I did have an impact on the office after all!
The final piece to the puzzle is that this lay-off allowed me to discover some unexplored gifts that God has given me, which has resulted in my finding a new vocation that uses my skills and is my ministry too.
God cares more about my relationship to Him than about the work that I do. He cares more about the "process" I go through (how I respond to circumstances and people) than about my completing a task.
Being strongly task-oriented, I frequently forget that my being a "Christian professional" is a process, and not an endpoint. In my first professional job, I was going to be the best little worker that God ever had! However, I was so concerned about my work "product" that I neglected my relationship with the Lord! [NOT a good idea - "don't try this at home".]
Since I interact with people at work, seems like the Lord and I are in a continual state of reviewing/checking/evaluating my responses to people/situations in an effort to learn and grow from them. When I get irritated, over-react, or work too many hours, it is likely that the Lord is not pleased. Upon review with the Lord, I'm usually embarrassed to admit that my motives were incorrect - I was either trying to please others or myself, and not the Lord.
11 Zodhiates, 866.
12 Zodhiates, 951.
13 Robert W. Wall, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Colossians & Philemon, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 155-156.
14 Wall, 159-160.
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.”
Colossians 4:5-6 (NET)
Evangelism, a word that strikes fear in the heart of many believers! I love these verses in Colossians which remind me that God calls me to befriend those who do not know Jesus and just use the opportunities that God opens as I love them. We need to view them “from the clouds.” In fact, I read recently that the way to evangelize the younger generation involves including them in our groups and loving them first; then, they listen to our words. We just need to be ready to take advantage of that opportunityJ Part of being ready involves praying like Paul.
Read Colossians 4:2-4.
1. List Paul’s instructions on prayer.
The NET Bible translates the first instruction “be devoted.” The verb “is from proskartereo, a compound word made up of kartereo (‘to be steadfast,’ or ‘to endure’) with an added preposition that intensifies the meaning. The verb means ‘to be courageously persistent, to hold fast and not let go.’”15
2. How do these other verses relate to this idea?
a. Eph. 6:18
b. 1 Thess. 5:17
c. Rom. 12:12
3. How does thanksgiving relate to the concept of persistence in prayer (Col. 4:2)?
When our prayers aren’t answered as we hope, it may be that we are praying wrongly.
4. Contrast the kinds of prayer described in James 4:2d-3 and that in Matthew 6:10.
5. Sharing question: Over what heartfelt prayer have you lost hope of ever having an answer, or at least wonder whether God hears? Is there a way to change the prayer so that the request focuses on God’s kingdom priorities—the view from the clouds?
6. Responding to God: Pray the request that you have written in kingdom terms.
Read Colossians 4:2-4.
In 4:2 Paul gave instructions for prayer in general; then, in 4:3-4 he shared his own requests, asking the Colossians to intercede for him, praying for him before the Father.
1. What do you learn about praying for those in ministry from Paul’s request?
2. What did Paul mention in passing about his circumstances?
I find it amazing that Paul’s prayer request did not focus on a change in his circumstances. Instead, he focused on kingdom priorities, as we saw in yesterday’s lesson.
3. There were times when Paul requested prayer for his circumstances. Read Phil. 1:19-26. Although he did mention their prayers for his deliverance (v. 19), that was not his focus. What was Paul’s focus in these verses?
4. Sharing question: In what situation are you or a family member in right now where you can change your focus from relief out of the situation to kingdom purposes in the midst of them?
5. What are some kingdom prayers that you can pray for a pastor, minister, or missionary in light of Paul’s prayer request and concerns?
6. Responding to God: Pray those prayers. Write them down and tell the one for whom you pray them what you are praying.
Paul’s prayer request in 4:2-4 focused on reaching those outside the faith; then, he continued his thoughts of reaching those who needed to hear about the good news of Jesus.
Read Colossians 4:2-6.
1. How did Paul suggest the Colossians reach out to those who did not know about Jesus?
2. How do these verses relate to Col. 4:5-6?
d. Phil. 2:14-16
e. 1 Peter 2:11-12
f. 1 Peter 3:8-12
g. 1 Peter 3:15-17
3. Sharing question: Describe one opportunity that has opened up to you with a non-Christian. Did you make the most of it or not? Explain.
4. How do we speak with grace and season it with salt (4:6)? What does this picture of seasoning say to you about what you say to outsiders?
5. Responding to God: Pray for one particular person with whom you have a relationship at work or school or in your neighborhood. Pray for the opportunity and gracious and seasoned speech. Write out your prayer. You may want to make this your prayer request for your small group this week.
Read Colossians 4:7-18.
1. Who took this letter from Paul to the Colossians? How would you have felt if the apostle entrusted such a letter to you? Why?
2. From Paul’s greetings and his comments, what qualities would you say that Paul valued in others?
3. Sharing question: This is your last week to be with your small group for this study. Go through the list of women in your small group and write down one quality of each one that you appreciate.
4. Sharing question: For what would you like to be remembered by others after you are gone? During the next year in what quality would you like to grow? Why?
5. Responding to God: Write out your prayer or poem that details the person you would like to become by the grace of God.
Because you are going to use the study time tomorrow to think through what God has done through this study, I am placing the story of the week here. Just remember that you aren’t through with this week’s work! Tomorrow should be a great encouragement as you think through God’s work in you through this study.
I have been in vocational Christian ministry for 32 years. For 7 of those years, as a single woman, most of my time was spent in ministry to both believers and unbelievers. But, after I got married and had children, I found that being a wife and mother consumed most all of my time. I was involved in the ministry of my church, but was mostly in contact with believers. My feelings of being insulated from unbelievers only increased when my husband moved into the pastorate. My whole world, outside our home, was the church.
I knew the Lord wanted me to put myself in an environment where I could meet and develop friendships with people who did not know Him. My husband and I started praying for how the Lord wanted me to get connected with unbelievers. His answer for me was through the school system. During their school years, our children were in both public and private schools. They both went to public high school in a town that had only one large high school. The Lord led me to start volunteering there. My husband and I decided how much time each week I could spend in volunteer work. I made sure my availability was made known to the people in charge. Due to the difference in my children's ages, we had kids in high school for 7 consecutive years. I started volunteering when my daughter was a freshman and continued until my son graduated. Over that 7 year span I got to know the majority of the faculty and staff at the school. I got to communicate the gospel to people who did not know the Lord as well as encourage those who did. I even had the opportunity to develop a ministry with high school coaches' wives that lasted for 5 years.
The key to all this was prayer for guidance and then intentionally putting myself in an environment where I was continually around unbelievers. The outcome was being blessed by getting to know and minister to people I otherwise would have never met.
6. Sharing question: How can you better position yourself, as Kay S. did, so that you have the opportunities to share your faith with those with whom you have relationship?
Spend some time reviewing the book of Colossians. Read it if you have time. Review the table of contents of this study on p. 6.
1. Sharing question: What one truth about Jesus in Colossians is most meaningful to you? Why?
2. Sharing question: In what one way has God changed you through the study of Colossians?
3. Responding to God: Write your prayer of thanksgiving to God, focusing on what He has taught you and done in your life during this study.
15 MacArthur, 179.
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