Located in what today is south central Turkey, the city of Colosse was once great and prosperous. But, times change. By the days of the apostle Paul, Colossae was a broken metropolis living on past glory. The main highway no longer passed through its precincts, and travelers hurried on by to Laodicea a few miles to the north and west.
Christianity was brought to Colosse by Epaphras who had come into contact, if not with Paul, then at least with the religion, in his travels. Though there is no evidence that Paul ever visited this church, he knew a number of its members: Epaphras, Archippus, Philemon, Apphia and Nymphas.
While imprisoned in Rome in the early 60’s of the first century A.D., Paul learned that the Church in Colosse was having a difficult time. False teachers were teaching that Christianity was a system of asceticism involving strict dietary laws, and ritualism involving the observance of special festival days. Perhaps that would not be too bad, but the false teachers went on to emphasize that Christians made themselves acceptable to God by observing these things. And if that weren’t enough, they added the worship of angels to their list of spiritual practices.
The end result of this teaching created two problems: First, it took the focus of the Christian faith off what God had done, and placed it on what the Colossian Christians were doing. Second, by emphasizing the importance of religious ritual, they took the emphasis off the more important requirements of living the Christian life (moral purity, compassion, honesty, tolerance, submission) in favor of dietary laws and observances.
Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians to deal with these problems. He sent it by the hand of his co-worker, Tychicus, who accompanied Onesimus back to his hometown and master, Philemon. The letter to Philemon reminded the master how he was supposed to treat his slaves as Onesimus returned to him, no longer a slave, but a brother in Christ.
I would outline Colossians in two sections
1 – The focus for who we are and what we believe is bound up not in us, but in Jesus and what he has done for us. Chapters 1-2.
2 – Because of what Jesus has done, and who we have become, this is how we ought to live. Here are the important things to be seen in the Christian life. Chapters 3-4.