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1. The Gospel Received (Colossians 1:1-8)

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When you check your mailbox or your email messages, what do you open first? Bills? Official looking stuff? Personal notes? Well, you’ll want to open this one!

This lesson will take a little longer than most because we ask you to read through the entire letter of Colossians—twice! Reading through the whole letter (only 4 chapters long in our Bible form) is the best way to see the entire message and get the “big picture” before we divide it into smaller pieces to enjoy it more slowly.

For your convenience, the letter to the Colossians is provided for you in the pages before this lesson.

Day One Study

  1. Read the letter to the Colossians as it was intended … a letter from one dear friend to another. Read it at one sitting, considering the following two questions. Ready? Go!
  • What strikes you as one overall emphasis of Paul’s letter?
  • What other issues does he address that particularly interest you?
  1. Read the letter a second time. As you read the letter this time, do the following:
  • Mark the phrases that refer to being “in Christ” (also in Him, by Him, through Him, with Him, in the Lord).
  • Mark “fullness,” “complete,” “mystery,” “knowledge,” “wisdom” and “all” (plus any variations on these words).
  1. Regarding being “in Christ,” about how many times does Paul emphasize this relationship?
  2. Paul, the master communicator, often uses the enemy’s very own words to refute bad teaching—fullness, mystery, knowledge, complete, all. How many times does he use these terms?
  3. Now, compared to your reading the first time, what do you think is the overall emphasis of Paul’s letter to the Colossians?
  4. Based upon what Paul is emphasizing, what might be the errors being taught the Colossians?

Day Two Study

Read Colossians 1:1-8.

  1. As you read any of Paul’s letters, be sure to pay attention to the introductions. What important information does Paul include in the first two verses of his letter to the Colossians?

From the Greek: Whereas older translations used the all-inclusive word “brothers” in verse 2, the Greek word (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family. The NIV translators have chosen “brothers and sisters” to use here for clarity. You will also see this in Colossians 4:15.

  1. Look at the first 3-4 verses of Paul’s other letters (start with Romans then go through Philemon.) In how many of them does He refer to Jesus as “Lord Jesus Christ?” Note: “Lord” (Gr. kyrios) means “master, sovereign.” Does Paul consistently teach the same thing about Jesus to all the churches or just to the Colossians?
  2. Looking at vv. 3-8:
  • What did Paul say about their faith, love and hope (vv. 3-5a)?
  • What else about this church made Paul excited and thankful (vv. 5b-8)?

Scriptural Insight: The Holy Spirit had created love for Paul in the Colossians. This is the only reference to the Holy Spirit in this epistle. In Colossians Paul ascribed the activities of God that he normally associated with the Holy Spirit to Christ. He probably did this to glorify Jesus Christ before the Colossians who were being taught that Christ was less than He is. (Constables Notes on Colossians, p. 12)

  1. Deeper Discoveries (optional): We tend to gloss over the triad—faith, hope, and love—because we have heard the words so often. But they are the marks of real spiritual life. Look up these passages and discover how the 3 words (faith, hope and love) are related to one another and are manifested in a believer’s life—Romans 5:2-5; Galatians 5:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 5:8; Hebrews 10:22-24 and 1 Peter 1:3-5, 22. Summarize what you learn.
  2. Since Paul had not met these people, how do we know the Colossians had received the complete gospel from Epaphras?
  3. Using the following verses, what is the gospel?
  • Acts 2:22-24 —
  • Acts 16:30-31 —
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 —

Summary:

  1. What is the significance of Paul stressing that the gospel they received had been bearing fruit everywhere?

Think About It: Heresies (such as the one at Colosse) are local and harmful; but truth is universal and helpful. One of the unmistakable characteristics of the true gospel is God’s grace in all its truth. Some preach a “different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7). This is because it is a gospel of grace plus works, or faith plus works. But the true gospel is one of grace alone (Rom. 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 670)

  1. Staying Healthy: When did you hear the gospel and trust its message? Did what you receive match what Paul and Epaphras preached?

Day Three Study: TRUTH—the Prescription for Healthy Living

Heresy (an opinion or belief that contradicts established religious TRUTH) is an infection in the Body of Christ. Heresy is not just error; it’s anti-truth! And like an infection in the human body, heresy always affects one’s spiritual health (as well as emotional, mental, and sometimes physical health). So, heresy must be addressed. It cannot be ignored. Thankfully, the answer to all heresy is TRUTH! Knowing truth gives us a spiritual immune system that fights and prevents infection. That is the prescription for healthy living. Here’s how it works:

Dwell in Truth You Can Know

To “dwell” means to make your home in. It’s what dominates your thoughts and attitudes, governs your life, has the most influence on you. God gives us plenty of truth in the Scriptures that we can know and trust. There are 66 books of revelation given. 1189 chapters. If we just took 1 chapter per day and wrote down all the truths about God and our relationship with Him that is revealed to us, it would take us more than 3 years to get through the whole Bible! God wants us to know the truth He has revealed. He wants us to make our home — to dwell — in that truth. It is for our own good!

  1. Read Ephesians 1:17-19. List all the truths Paul said we could know about our God.
  2. Now, read Colossians 1:1-8. List the truths about God and His relationship to us that we can KNOW.

Look at all that God says we can KNOW! Each passage we read or study has plenty of truth that we can KNOW with certainty and allow to govern our lives. DWELL in truth you can know.

Humbly Accept the “I Don’t Know or Understand”

In the midst of all 1189 chapters in the Bible are verses we just don’t understand. Perhaps you don’t understand it now but will in the future as you get more confident in Bible study and hear great teaching that helps you understand. But, there are things we will never know or understand.

  1. Read Deuteronomy 29:29. What does it declare?

Notice the emphasis on the things revealed — we can KNOW them. But, there are “secret things” the Lord has not revealed yet. As we study the Bible, we can do our best to try to understand what is written—examining the original words to see what the writer meant and what the audience understood, looking at cross-references to let the Bible interpret itself, and ask the Spirit for understanding. But, you may never understand something you read. Don’t let that unnerve you.

  1. Make note of anything in Colossians 1:1-8 that you do not understand at this time.

DWELL in truth you can know (the list you made in Question 14). And, HUMBLY ACCEPT the “I don’t know or understand.”

Discern Teaching through the Complete Revelation of God’s Word

To dwell in the truth of God’s Word, we must discern what we read and hear by comparing it with the complete revelation of God’s Word. We can’t extract pieces of it and build our foundation on that. Nor should we build our faith on experiences and feelings. There’s junk out there about God so it’s important to really get to know the God of the Bible.

Avoid the “look-imagine-see” way of looking at any verse, which leads to error. What do I mean by “look-imagine-see?” Someone looks at a verse or passage, imagines what they want it to say, and then sees in their mind what they have imagined through twisting word meanings and interpretations.

Cultural influence on Bible study feeds this “look-imagine-see” process. You look at the passage, imagine a way for it to fit a particular cultural slant, then you see what you want to see. Many types of false teaching through the years have started with this kind of “look-imagine-see” process. Avoid doing that by following the inductive process of Bible Study: observation (what the text says), interpretation (what was the author’s intended meaning—to him and to his audience that would read or hear it), and application (how to live this out in your life). That is the best way to study the Bible. Look at what’s there. Learn what it means and teaches you. Then, live it out in your life.

You want to make sure you are basing your faith on what is in God’s Word, not something you have heard before and not something you are imagining to be there. So, avoid that “look-imagine-see” way of looking at the Bible.

We will never know all there is to know about God. There’ll always be some mystery about Him. But, there’s plenty enough revealed in the Bible that we can KNOW HIM TRUTHFULLY and know how to live our life in Christ truthfully. The Holy Spirit uses the Scripture we read and study to teach us about our God so we can know TRUTH and DWELL in that truth.

  1. Every week, I will ask you to evaluate something you have read or heard in light of the TRUTH you are learning—books, social media, billboards—things that sound nice and comfy but may actually lead to or be based upon error in biblical thinking. I may even throw one into the lesson for you to evaluate and discern truth or error. Does anything come to mind that fits with today’s lesson? Use specific verses to discern truth from error in any saying or teaching.

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