Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Letter to the Colossians - Getting a feel for the letter

For a bit of background, Colossae was a small town in located in western Turkey. Paul, one of the early Christian disciples, wrote a letter to a young church that had been planted in this town. The church was under considerable pressure from various factors, and overall the letter seems to be an encouragement to them to keep on trusting in who Jesus was, and what he had done.

Task 1: Getting an overview of the letter
Following the much appreciated notes downloaded from the website of st-helens, bishopsgate, my first task was to get a general feel for the letter. Although divided up into chapters and verses, originally the letter would have been read outloud in the church in one go. After reading the whole letter, a lot of things previously looked at in Bible studies at random points during my time as a Christian suddenly started to click together. The mantra, "text without a context is a con", is starting to hit home - exciting stuff! I'm starting to realise how everything (i.e. all topics adressed in the letter) was/is to be based on their trust on who Jesus is.

Task 2: Thinking through it's structure
The next task was to divide the letter up according to different topics adressed. After advice from the notes, I scribbled over the paragraph headings (lol, Paul didn't write those), and examined for different themes myself. These were then summarised into headings, giving me the following:

1:1-2 --- Author & recipients
1:3-8 --- Paul's thanks for their living in light of the gospel [faith in Christ, hope in heaven, love in light of this]
1:9-14 --- Paul prays that they will contiune to grow, to mature, and to endure
1:12-20 --- Jesus is supreme over all [creator, sustainer, head of the church, first to rise from the dead, holy, sacrifice, reconciler]
1:21-23 --- The Colossians are saved because of Jesus
--- Paul's example and mission in light of Jesus
2:1-7 --- Paul desires for them to get greater spiritual riches in their relationship with Jesus
2:8-15 --- Jesus has proven himself victorious, don't be trapped by the world's ideas
2:16-23 --- Salvation and growth is through Jesus, we're free from rituals and regulations
3:1-4 --- Having citizenship of heaven (with Jesus), live like it!
3:5-11 --- Therefore put your old sinful natute to death
3:12-17 --- Live your life as a child of God [love and the bible are key in this]
3:18-4:1 --- Don't seek personal pride, but submit yourself in relationships, in the name of Christ
4:2-6 --- Pray always, especially for opportunities to live for and speak of what Jesus has done
4:7-18 --- We should encourage, support and challenge each other in out walks with Christ

Task 3: Next was to pick out recurring themes and anything I didn't understand
Recurring themes: Jesus, foundations, growing to maturity, supremacy
Questions: The how to's of greater spiritual riches in JC, word of God dwell in you richly (OT?)

So, off the top of my head, Colossians in a nutshell would be...

Paul, one of Jesus' disciples, is thankful to God for the how the good news of what Jesus has done, is transforming their lives. However Paul is eagre that this spiritual growth contiunes. He reminds the Colossians that Jesus is supreme over everything; creator, sustainer, holy, a perfect sacrifice and first to rise from the dead. Although saved, Paul is eagre that they keep on growing and get the very most from their salvation. This can only come through a greater understanding and rooting in Jesus. Jesus has more than proven himself, and is the only life that will provide true fulfillment. In light of this, the Colossians should realise that all previous/current religious activity and ritual were there to point to Jesus. So now that the Colossians have a place in heaven because of Jesus, they need to start living like citizens of heaven. This means putting to death their old self serving ways, desires, and speech, and living as God wants them to be living, love for each other being a key aspect. Humble submission in all relationships (marriage, parent-child, worker-boss) is another key aspect of this. Paul concludes by telling them to be praying, for opportunities and wisdom for himself and themselves to be telling others about the good news of Jesus. The end of the letter has a few notices for the church, showing that we should be encouraging, supporting and challenging each other in our walk with Christ.

Since Germany...

Well... I flew from Germany to Edinburgh, where I spent two great weeks helping to run a Christian cafe for international visitors to the city. I also went to a nice wedding during that time! Upon arriving back home, I was overcome by tiredness and as a result frittered away the best part of two weeks... Motivation for anything (except cooking rather strangely), was hard to find. Bible study and prayer, aka the listening and speaking parts of the relationship, were scanty at best. However purely by God's grace, I managed get a seminar and Bible study together for a Christian holiday for teenagers, the next stop on my hectic life course! One week with a great bunch of people up in the lake district, hearing the basics of Christianity preached clearly and faithfully from God's word, was what I needed... I'd sold myself to Colossians 2:8. Despite perhaps having the head knowledge, during that week my heart was struck afresh as to the complete sovereignty and enormity of God, and the reality and impact of what it meant for Jesus to be God and man here on Earth. I'm now back home again, this time enjoying a relaxing and productive week. I've realised the importance of rest, am praying once more, and really really enjoying getting stuck into the Bible. Had a nice star-gazing session last night (can't do that in Manch), seeing just how huge the universe really is; and by implication, how much greater it's creator must be :-) . Next stop, Blackburn.

I 'll try and put up some of my reflections on the letter to the Colossians as I work through it (it's awesome!).