Paul's Prison Epistles: Paul And The Colossians


Christ’s Ministers: Colossians 1:21—2:5

Paul argued that because Christ was superior to the false gods, Christ’s ministers were superior to those who served the false gods. Paul’s argument consisted of five main ideas: the reconciliation accomplished through the Christian gospel, which he mentioned in Colossians 1:21-23 and in 2:5; Paul’s own altruism in Colossians 1:24; Paul’s divine commission in Colossians 1:25; the superior revelation provided by the gospel in Colossians 1:25-28 and in 2:2-4; and the empowerment of Christ’s ministers, which Paul addressed in Colossians 1:29-2:1. 

Paul began by focusing on the reconciliation that the Colossians had already experienced through the gospel, as we read in Colossians 1:22-23:

He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … This is the gospel that you heard … and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:22-23).

Christ’s ministers are superior because they preach a gospel that actually reconciles believers to God. 

The false teachers in Colosse encouraged people to placate demons, and perhaps they also offered reconciliation with God. But in reality, no reconciliation ever took place for them because their so-called gospel had no power to save.

By contrast, the Colossian believers had already experienced the true reconciliation that comes through the true gospel preached by God’s ministers. They were already forgiven and stood before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. This should have encouraged them to trust in Paul’s word and to reject the false teachers.

Second, Paul pointed to his own altruism, speaking of his suffering on behalf of the church. As he wrote in Colossians 1:24:

I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions (Colossians 1:24).

Paul’s suffering benefited the church by providing a powerful witness to the gospel, encouraging the church, and completing the sufferings of Christ. By contrast, the false teachers in Colosse were neither imprisoned nor persecuted. By highlighting his willingness to suffer on behalf of the church, Paul made it clear that Christ’s ministers were more altruistic than the false teachers.

Third, Paul spoke of his divine commission. Unlike the self-appointed false teachers in Colosse, Paul had been appointed to his apostleship by the Lord himself. Paul described his commission in Colossians 1:25:

I have become [the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness (Colossians 1:25).

As we see here, God himself called Paul as an apostle.