Old Testament Allusions in Colossians

Old Testament Allusions in Colossians

There are three Old Testament allusions in Colossians of which many Christians are likely unaware.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

The first Old Testament allusion is in Colossians 1:6 and 1:10. Verse 6 says, “The gospel, which has come unto you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing.” Similarly, verse 10 says believers are “to please [God] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Both of these verses are allusions to Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”1

At the least, Paul’s use of language from Genesis 1:28 about the beginning of the old creation is intended to indicate that a new creation has been inaugurated with believers because of their identification with Christ. Furthermore, Adam and Eve’s “being fruitful and multiplying and filling” the earth with literal children who would join Adam in reflecting God’s image and in exercising kingly dominion over the earth may also be in mind. In Christ, the last Adam, believers have begun to regain the image of God in spiritually “bearing fruit and increasing,” since Adam’s own “bearing fruit and increasing” would have had spiritual dimensions in that he was to bear children who were in God’s image and were to reflect God’s own spiritual attributes.2 Thus, in Christ we begin to fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1:28 as we “bear fruit in good works” and as we “increase in the knowledge of God” in His word of truth in the Bible.

Be Filled with Knowledge and Skill

A second Old Testament allusion occurs in Colossians 1:9, which is a reference to Exodus 31:3 and 35:31–32 (note the allusion italics): “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The Exodus passages say that God filled Israelites (Bezalel, Oholiab, and others) with His Spirit to have skill in building the tabernacle (see Ex. 31:1–11). The focus of the allusion in Colossians. 1:9 is that Paul is petitioning that God would fill believers with the Spirit in order that they would build their spiritual lives skillfully, as verse 10 makes clear (“to walk, . . . bearing fruit in every good work”).

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