To the Colossians, preoccupied with legal codes and intellectual disputes, Paul wrote a letter stressing not only the centrality of Christ but also the need for Christians to live out their faith in genuine community. Paul's antidote to a privatized and intellectualized faith will provide relief to many Christians today. To Philemon, a powerful church leader, Paul wrote a strong personal letter asking him to embark on a new relationship with his slave Onesimus. Drawing on insights from Scott Bartchy, Robert Wall argues that the issue had more to do with power relationships than with slavery. As a model for conflict resolution and mutual relations within the Christian community, Paul's letter has much to offer the church today. In this careful study of Colossians and Philemon, readers will find introductions that discuss the letters' occasion and purpose, authorship, and other background information, as well as important theological themes. Passage-by-passage commentaries follow that seek to explain what each letter means for us today as well as what it meant for its original hearers.
“In referring to Jesus as the image of the invisible God, Paul means that Jesus is the very substance of God’s purposes and intentions for creation. He is God’s pattern for all of life, and through him God will restore a broken and fallen creation in his likeness.” (Colossians 1:15–18)
“While the Colossians have learned the word of truth from Epaphras, they are apparently too easily confused by false teaching; their faith in Christ Jesus is not ‘as hard as nails,’ and their Christian witness has suffered as a result. At its root, the Colossian crisis is a crisis of knowing God. And so it is with every challenge to a congregation’s spiritual formation.” (Colossians 1:9–11)
“Paul’s worry in this regard is also that the Colossians have lost interest in the work of evangelism, replacing it with the legalistic observance of religious traditions (2:16) and moral codes that restrict what is handled, tasted and touched (cf. 2:21).” (Colossians)
“The moral imperative, then, is to become what one has already become in and with Christ. In negative terms, if vice has been crucified with Christ, then vice must be crucified by those in him.” (Colossians 3:5–11)
“The New Creation (1:15–20)* This is one of the most debated passages in the history of New Testament interpretation and requires more care than any in Colossians.” (Colossians 1:15–20)