What Is Distinct about the Theology of Colossians?

What Is Distinct about the Theology of Colossians?

Written by Kevin W. McFadden |
Thursday, November 16, 2023

We can be grateful that Paul was forced to counter this false teaching in Colossae, for it gave him an opportunity to clarify the preeminence of and sufficiency of the ascended Christ for the believer. This Christ dwells in us below, and we are hidden with him above. This should give the believer hope for the future in the midst of the struggles of daily life, for “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).

The theology of Colossians is distinct because it arises from Paul’s response to a false teaching that was threatening the church in Colossae. It is difficult to know the exact nature of this false teaching, but the most important evidence comes in the polemical section of Colossians 2:16–23. Here Paul warns the Colossians, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16). And he further warns, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind and not holding fast to the Head [i.e., to Christ] . . . ” (Col. 2:18–19). Putting these two warnings together, perhaps the false teaching taught that the true Christians should follow the food and calendar requirements of the Mosaic law as ascetic disciplines that would open up the door to spiritual visions of angels. People in the ancient world would sometimes call on angels for help with the daily struggles of life.

Does that sound worlds away to you? In one sense it is, since modern people do not tend to think about angels in their day-to-day life. Modern people, however, do still face the struggles of daily life and often look for spiritual experiences to help them cope. We live in a pluralistic society with many different views and religions, not unlike the Colossians. And we may sometimes wonder if we need something more than, or in addition to, what we currently have in Christ. Paul writes this letter to teach Christians that we need not and should not look for anything more, for Christ is preeminent over everyone and everything and sufficient for everything in our lives. The main point of the letter is summarized well in Colossians 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him . . . ”

A Focus on Christ

Paul’s response to the false teaching has led to a noticeable focus on Christ in this letter. It may sound odd to hear that the theology of Colossians is distinct because of its focus on Jesus Christ. Doesn’t the whole New Testament focus on Jesus Christ (not to mention the whole Bible)? Yes, but most interpreters still recognize something distinctive and transcendent about the Christology of Colossians.

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