Greeting.* 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,a 2to the holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Thanksgiving.* 3We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,b 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones 5because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the gospel,c 6that has come to you. Just as in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing, so also among you, from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth, 7d as you learned it from Epaphras* our beloved fellow slave, who is a trustworthy minister of Christ on your behalf 8and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
Prayer for Continued Progress.* 9Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understandinge 10to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, 11strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12* giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.f 13He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.g
II. The Preeminence of Christ
His Person and Work
15* He is the image* of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.h
16For in him* were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.i
17He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
18He is the head of the body, the church.*
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.j
19For in him all the fullness* was pleased to dwell,
20and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross*
[through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.k
21* And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deedsl 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, 23provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.
Christ in Us.* 24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, 25of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, 26the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,m 27to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.n 28It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.o 29For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.p
* [1:1–2] For the epistolary form used by Paul at the beginning of his letters, see note on Rom 1:1–7. On holy ones or “God’s people,” see note on Rom 1:7. Awareness of their calling helps this group to be faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, i.e., dedicated to the tasks implied in their calling.
* [1:3–8] On thanksgiving at the start of a letter, see note on Rom 1:8. The apostle, recalling his own prayers for them and the good report about them he has received (Col 1:3–4), congratulates the Colossians upon their acceptance of Christ and their faithful efforts to live the gospel (Col 3:6–8). To encourage them he mentions the success of the gospel elsewhere (Col 1:6) and assures them that his knowledge of their community is accurate, since he has been in personal contact with Epaphras (Col 1:7–8), who likely had evangelized Colossae and other cities in the Lycus Valley of Asia Minor (cf. Col 4:12, 13; Phlm 23). On faith, love, and hope (Col 1:4, 5, 8), see note on 1 Cor 13:13; cf. 1 Thes 1:3; 5:8.
* [1:7] Epaphras: now with Paul but a Colossian, founder of the church there.
* [1:9–14] Moved by Epaphras’ account, the apostle has prayed and continues to pray fervently for the Colossians that, in their response to the gospel, they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will (Col 1:9; cf. Col 3:10). Paul expects a mutual interaction between their life according to the gospel and this knowledge (Col 1:10), yielding results (fruit, Col 1:10; cf. Col 1:6) in every good work: growth, strength, endurance, patience, with joy (Col 1:11), and the further giving of thanks (Col 1:12).
* [1:12–14] A summary about redemption by the Father precedes the statement in Col 1:15–20 about the beloved Son who is God’s love in person (Col 1:13). Christians share the inheritance…in light with the holy ones, here probably the angels (Col 1:12). The imagery reflects the Exodus (delivered…transferred) and Jesus’ theme of the kingdom. Redemption is explained as forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38; Rom 3:24–25; Eph 1:7).
* [1:15–20] As the poetic arrangement indicates, these lines are probably an early Christian hymn, known to the Colossians and taken up into the letter from liturgical use (cf. Phil 2:6–11; 1 Tm 3:16). They present Christ as the mediator of creation (Col 1:15–18a) and of redemption (Col 1:18b–20). There is a parallelism between firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) and firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18). While many of the phrases were at home in Greek philosophical use and even in gnosticism, the basic ideas also reflect Old Testament themes about Wisdom found in Prv 8:22–31; Wis 7:22–8:1; and Sir 1:4. See also notes on what is possibly a hymn in Jn 1:1–18.
* [1:15] Image: cf. Gn 1:27. Whereas the man and the woman were originally created in the image and likeness of God (see also Gn 1:26), Christ as image (2 Cor 4:4) of the invisible God (Jn 1:18) now shares this new nature in baptism with those redeemed (cf. Col 3:10–11).
* [1:16–17] Christ (though not mentioned by name) is preeminent and supreme as God’s agent in the creation of all things (cf. Jn 1:3), as prior to all things (Col 1:17; cf. Heb 1:3).
* [1:18] Church: such a reference seemingly belongs under “redemption” in the following lines, not under the “creation” section of the hymn. Stoic thought sometimes referred to the world as “the body of Zeus.” Pauline usage is to speak of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12–27; Rom 12:4–5). Some think that the author of Colossians has inserted the reference to the church here so as to define “head of the body” in Paul’s customary way. See Col 1:24. Preeminent: when Christ was raised by God as firstborn from the dead (cf. Acts 26:23; Rev 1:5), he was placed over the community, the church, that he had brought into being, but he is also indicated as crown of the whole new creation, over all things. His further role is to reconcile all things (Col 1:20) for God or possibly “to himself.”
* [1:19] Fullness: in gnostic usage this term referred to a spiritual world of beings above, between God and the world; many later interpreters take it to refer to the fullness of the deity (Col 2:9); the reference could also be to the fullness of grace (cf. Jn 1:16).
* [1:20] The blood of his cross: the most specific reference in the hymn to redemption through Christ’s death, a central theme in Paul; cf. Col 2:14–15; 1 Cor 1:17, 18, 23. [Through him]: the phrase, lacking in some manuscripts, seems superfluous but parallels the reference to reconciliation through Christ earlier in the verse.
* [1:21–23] Paul, in applying this hymn to the Colossians, reminds them that they have experienced the reconciling effect of Christ’s death. He sees the effects of the cross in the redemption of human beings, not of cosmic powers such as those referred to in Col 1:16, 20 (all things). Paul also urges adherence to Christ in faith and begins to point to his own role as minister (Col 1:23), sufferer (Col 1:24), and proclaimer (Col 1:27–28) of this gospel.
* [1:24–2:3] As the community at Colossae was not personally known to Paul (see Introduction), he here invests his teaching with greater authority by presenting a brief sketch of his apostolic ministry and sufferings as they reflect those of Christ on behalf of the church (24). The preaching of God’s word (Col 1:25) carries out the divine plan (the mystery, Col 1:26) to make Christ known to the Gentiles (Col 1:27). It teaches the God-given wisdom about Christ (Col 1:28), whose power works mightily in the apostle (Col 1:29). Even in those communities that do not know him personally (Col 2:1), he can increase the perception of God in Christ, unite the faithful more firmly in love, and so bring encouragement to them (Col 2:2). He hopes that his apostolic authority will make the Colossians perceive more readily the defects in the teaching of others who have sought to delude them, the next concern in the letter.
* [1:24] What is lacking: although variously interpreted, this phrase does not imply that Christ’s atoning death on the cross was defective. It may refer to the apocalyptic concept of a quota of “messianic woes” to be endured before the end comes; cf. Mk 13:8, 19–20, 24 and the note on Mt 23:29–32. Others suggest that Paul’s mystical unity with Christ allowed him to call his own sufferings the afflictions of Christ.
b. [1:3] Eph 1:15–16; Phlm 4–5.
c. [1:5] Eph 1:13, 18; 1 Pt 1:4.
e. [1:9] Eph 1:15–17; 5:17; Phil 1:9.
f. [1:12] 3:17; Jn 8:12; Acts 26:18; 1 Tm 6:16; 1 Pt 2:9.
h. [1:15] Ps 89:28; Jn 1:3, 18; 2 Cor 4:4.
i. [1:16] 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 1:10, 21.
j. [1:18] 1 Cor 11:3; 12:12, 27; 15:20; Eph 1:22–23; Rev 1:5.
k. [1:20] 2 Cor 5:18–19; Eph 1:10.
m. [1:26] Rom 16:25–26; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 3:3, 9.