Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Later New Testament Epistles"



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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


"Colossae (or Colassae), a town on the borders of Phrygia, near Laodicea, does not seem to have been ever visited by St. Paul. The church was apparently founded by Epaphras, a native, who visited Ephesus during the apostle's period of activity there.

"During Paul's imprisonment, Epaphras visited Rome, and from him the apostle heard of the intrusion of a new form of error into the church. It seems to have been the first presentment of what was in after generations developed into Gnosticism. Half Jewish and half Oriental, its mystical character had a certain charm for these inhabitants of a country which had ever been the chosen home of mystic and magical cults. The new heresy affected both the faith and the practice of the church. It taught that God was inaccessible, only to be approached through a long gradation of celestial intermediaries (of whom Jesus was but one), emanations (aeons) from His Essence, and all combining to compose His Divine 'Plenitude' (Pleroma). Hence these celestial hier­archies must be adored; and, as matter was polluting, and the body a degra­dation, self-abasement and rigid asceticism must be practiced as a necessary preliminary to invoking the intercession of such pure beings. Various features of the ritual and restrictions of Judaism were introduced to equip these fancies with a working system of outward observances. The obligations of life's duties and of social relations were thrust into the background.

"As two friends, Tychicus of Ephesus and Onesimus of Colossae, were leaving Rome for the East, Paul entrusted to them a letter for this church, the main object of which is to establish the principle that in Messiah Jesus alone dwells the Plenitude of the Godhead, that He is the only Mediator, the only Saviour, the Head of the Church, the Source of its life: that whatever celestial beings exist are subjected to Him. Hence practices--whether of ritual, of self-abasement, or of asceticism--founded on false beliefs are to be scouted. Instead of these, there must be love and mutual helpfulness, and the fulfillment of the duties of daily life." Arthur S. Way in The Letters of St. Paul ("Ephesians")

Thus, the general letter to the province will not meet the specific need of Colossian Christians, and so a special letter (Colossians) is written to meet a special condition. However, the exhortational portion (Chs. 3-4) closely parallels Ephesians 4-6, and in addition they are instructed to mutually share letters with the nearest church, Laodicea (4:16), which is, of course, the general provincial letter called "Ephesians."

Ephesians emphasizes the Church, the body of which Christ is the Head; Colossians emphasizes Christ, the Head of the body which is the Church.

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