By Dr. Randy Hedlun
Paul had never visited the church at Colosse, having only heard about the believers there from the founding evangelist, Epaphras. Epaphras was probably converted through Paul’s preaching in Ephesus during his third missionary campaign. Being full of the gospel’s power and zeal, he returned to his home region and planted a church. The cultural region around Colosse was characterized by the variety of religious and philosophical ideas and belief systems that competed for attention and allegiance. Located on the main trade route that connected the Euphrates with Rome, Colosse enjoyed an unending stream of the world’s ideas, values, and behaviors.
Within a few years, perhaps 3-5 years, the church was in trouble. The ideas and religious beliefs prevalent in the area were confusing and misleading the people. The Good News about Jesus that had powerfully changed believers’ lives was being inundated with corrupting and competing notions, superstitions, and lifestyles. The church was in trouble with the truth about Jesus being diluted and distorted by human systems of thought, cultural values and traditions, and alternative priorities.
The zeal of evangelism is not always equal to the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Epaphras’ zealous and effective role in declaring the gospel was not sufficient to shepherd the church through dangerous territory. It is believed that Epaphras went to find Paul to seek his assistance to bring correction, leadership, and instruction to the Colossian believers. In response to hearing of the Colossian believers’ plight, Paul wrote the letter we know as Colossians to bring correction, encouragement, and direction to this struggling body of Jesus followers.
It is important to note how Paul responds to the need for pastoral care and authoritative instruction. There seem to be two ways in which Paul responds to the problems in the Colossian church:
1. Paul prays that the believers would know God’s will (spiritual wisdom and understanding) and have power for endurance to live a godly life.
There is no substitute for prayer! Spiritual leaders must know when to pray and must accept the responsibility to intercede for the people for those things that are granted supernaturally by God himself. Christians who have a praying leader will experience a greater knowledge of God’s will and have more power to endure than those without such a leader!
2. Paul instructs them according to his own knowledge, wisdom, and skill. The church also has needs that can only be met by leaders who have developed the knowledge and skills to instruct, correct, and encourage in Truth.
Paul begins his pastoral correction of the errors and confusion in Colossians 1:15 by laying the foundation of who Christ is, what His role in creation is, and what He has to offer His followers.
Paul is presenting his superior understanding about Christ in clear, authoritative language. The truth about Christ must be the foundation of all teaching. The truth about Christ is the most sure vaccination against error and confusion in the church. The ability to explain Christ accurately and skillfully undergirds the authority of all spiritual leaders.
Paul would go on to address specific issues about the problems in Colosse, about Christian living, relationships, and holiness. But first he reestablished the foundation of truth about Christ upon which all other teaching must be based.
In our own experiences living in a confusing world with so many religious and philosophical voices competing for our attention, it is only the well-developed and well-articulated knowledge of Christ that will protect and guide us into Truth. And in our diverse opportunities to influence others, it must be prayer and the well-articulated truth about Jesus that dominates these relationships!
Dr. Randy Hedlun serves as Global University’s Vice Provost and as Dean of Global’s Berean School of the Bible. To learn more about Global University, please visit www.globaluniversity.edu.