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



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




    1. Introduction 1:1-14

      1. Opening salutation to them 1-2

      2. Thanksgiving for them 3-8

      3. Prayer for them 9-14
        In the first section (w.9-11) he asks for five things. In the second portion (vv. 12-14) there is thanksgiving for what they already have.

        1. Five things asked for PETITIONS 9-11 That they might:

          1. Be filled with knowledge

          2. Walk worthy

          3. Be fruitful

          4. Increase in knowledge of God (Himself)

          5. Be strengthened to endure with joyfulness

        2. Thanks for five things (inverse order) which they had already:

          POSSESSIONS 12-14

          1. The forgiveness of sins

          2. Redemption through His blood

          3. Translation into Son's kingdom

          4. Deliverance from darkness

          5. Fellow sharers of inheritance in light

            These two lines of truth would correspond to Scofield's famous "Standing and State. " Their standing (or position in Christ) is emphasized in vv. 12-14. Their state (or condition of walk) is emphasized in vv.9-11. The standing is perfect and cannot be improved. The state is ever in need of progress upward (2 Pet. 3:18).

    2. The supreme dignity, glory, and unapproachable pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ 1:15-29
      This is the very heart of the epistle. In this portion we see His pre-eminence in deity (15,19), in creation (16), in providence (17), in the Church (18), in redemption (20-23), and in "Gospel mystery" (24-29), He is seen to be all in all.

      1. The twofold headship of Christ 1:15-19 (over the old and new creation)
        This is the greatest Christological passage in the Bible with the possible exception of Hebrews 1. As to the

        1. OLD CREATION 15-17:
          He is the manifestation of essential deity ("image, " 15a); He has the right of primogeniture--the title deed to the universe ("first-born" = inheritor, 15b); He is the sphere of creation ("in Him, " 16a), the agent of creation ("through Him, " 16b), and the purpose of creation ("for or unto Him, " l6c); He is eternal, being "before all things" (17a); He is the sustainer of creation, "by Him all things cohere" (17b).

        2. NEW CREATION 18-19
          He is head of the Church (18a). He is first-fruits of the resurrection (18b). He is Lord of all (18c). He is still full deity though He has taken (forever) a human body (19).

      2. The twofold reconciliation 1:20-22 (of the universe and of believers) So extensive is the work of Christ on the cross that, in a certain outward (ceremonial) sense, He is said to have reconciled the universe. This statement must be interpreted in the light of Philippians 2:10. "Every knee shall bow" to Christ, including Satan and fallen angels. But Colossians 1:16 excludes "things under the earth. " The infernal regions can never be reconciled. Available reconciliation is only for man. "The universe (with the exception of the infernal regions), and you (believers)" are said to be reconciled by the work of Christ, the former externally or ceremonially, and the later actually and personally.

      3. The twofold ministry of the present age 1:23-29
        (that of the gospel (23) and the "mystery, " the sacred secret of the Church)
        All creation is availably included in the message of the gospel. The gospel was previously disclosed but Israel's rejection (through its responsible leaders) of our Lord as their Messiah-King led Him to "utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Mt. 13:35). Paul and his fellow apostles add details concerning the Church, previously secret (Eph. 3:5-6,9-10; Col. 1:24-27). Inv.25 "dispensation" means a "stewardship" of truth. Paul explains that this stewardship "completes" the Word of God in the sense that the truth concerning the NT Church is that truth which completes the NT message.

    3. Christ, the true wisdom--the antidote for all heresy and error 2

      1. Christ, the true wisdom--the antidote for gnosticism and all agnostic philosophy 2:1-10
        v. 1 "The great conflict" is the conflict of intercessory prayer alluded to in Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4.

        v.2 This should read: "unto the full knowledge of the sacred secret of God, even Christ."

        v.3 Not till Christ was revealed were these treasures revealed, Mt. 13:35,52,11-17; 16:17-18.

        v. 6 We received Him. by faith. How walk in Him? By faith and in the orderliness of faith.

        v.7a "Rooted and built: up in the faith." You can't be established aside from a doctrinal basis.

        v. 8 There is nothing wrong with philosophy per se. We are to beware of the philosophy that is "after the tradition of men. " There is a true philosophy, that which puts Christ in the place where He belongs.

        v. 9 This is one of the strongest statements in the NT for the full deity of Christ as incarnate ("in bodily form, " lit.).

        v. 10 He who is the head of all principality and power is in you, and you are in Him--complete!

      2. Christ, the antidote for Jewish legality 2:11-17
        v. 11 Circumcision of the heart: a spiritual (not a physical) act. "Flesh, " used here in the ethical sense, is the old nature. The circumcision of Christ is the "cutting off" (judgment) of the flesh (ethically considered) at the cross, where Christ bore the judgment of our old nature.

        v. 12 "Buried with Him in baptism": circumcision speaks of the ineffectuality--"the deadness" of the flesh to produce anything for God. Baptism likewise speaks of this fact; of our deserved death in the person of Christ, our substitute; and of our subse­quent resurrection into new life in Him. This initial act of Christianity pictures that basic truth of what took place at the cross and tomb, and spiritually took place in us the moment we received the gospel.

        v. 13 He took us out of the grave where we were buried by the law.

        v. 14 "Nailing it to the cross." Archaeology has shown a custom of that time: a man's bill was nailed to his door. When the debt was paid, this fact was signified by "crossing it out" with a + put on the bill so that all could see that he had paid it. Just so. God had signed a lot of I.O.U. 's in the OT, but Christ paid them all with His blood and God nailed the receipt to the cross.

        vv. 15-17 These things are all shadows. Christ is the substance. They simply give us a silhouette of Christ. Who wants to hug a picture when he can have the person?

        v. 16 We are liberated from these irksome restrictions which were "against us." We should not let anyone "judge" us. Note the irksome "Sabbath" restrictions are included.

      3. Christ, the antidote for oriental mysticism 2:18-19
        v. 18 These people are so proud of their humility! The Devil was giving them a ride for their money!

        v. 19 Same picture as in Ephesians 4:16, only here the head is emphasized.

      4. Christ, the antidote for carnal asceticism 2:20-23
        Why be subject to elementary religion (20-22)7 Christ died to set us free' from it! Why go back to playing with picture blocks?!

        v.23 They look as though they are really "some 'pumpkins'" religiously, but actually they don't honor God, but worship their will (i.e., their ability to make them­selves 'torture' themselves). Centenary translates this: "they are of no real value against the indulgence of the carnal appetites."

    4. Christ, the believer's life and object 3:1-4
      If we have risen with Christ, we have died to the world (at least we should have; cp. 2:20-23). We are alive in a new sphere--a heavenly sphere (cp. Ephesians). We are exhorted to set our affections un­waveringly upon the One and the things which comprise that new sphere of life.

      We. have been liberated from the old (by death, 2:20-23) in order that we may enjoy the new (by resurrection, 3:1-4).

    There are numerous likenesses in Colossians to Ephesians, largely in this exhortational portion, as follows:


    1:7 1:14
    1:22 1:18
    4:16 2:19
    5:23-24 3:9-10
    5:16 4:5
    5:19 3:16
    5:22-6:9 3:19-4:1
    6:21 4:7


    It would seem that 1:14-2:23 is the portion of Colossians peculiar to the then existing needs in that local church, which called forth this letter in addition to the general "Ephesian" (provincial) letter.

    1. Practical holiness by conformity to Christ 3:5-17

      1. By putting off the old man 3:5-9

        See Romans 6, which compare. "Mortify" = "put to death. " In verses 8 and 12, as here, the verb is in the Greek tense (Aorist) which has the significance of "have it done with in one decisive act, once and for all. Do not let life be just an eternal debate about these matters." "Put to death, " "put off" the old man, as one would lay aside a tattered garment and take a beautiful one of God's providing instead.

        Excavations; at Pompeii show how putrid was the atmosphere of such heathen communities as those out of which Paul gathered churches, and underline the necessity for unsparing denunciation of these things (w.5-7) and his demand for absolute separation from them. But observe the things of verses 8-9 are just as despicable in God's sight and "covetousness, " in the first list, is called idolatry! Any­thing that takes God's place in our lives is idolatry.

      2. Put on the new man 10-17
        Our intelligence is warped until we come to Christ. "After the image" of the Creator refers to the new nature we have received from God (v. 10). One's nationality or social status (v. 11) makes no difference in one's position in Christ. There are no degrees of nearness in position. Christ is the sum and substance of any relationship to God.

        These things in verse 12 are not natural traits but gifts of God. Verse 17 is an all-inclusive statement which pene­trates every area of life.

    2. Natural relationships sanctified 3:18-4:1

      1. Wives and husbands 3:18-19 (cp. Eph. 5:22-6:9)
        The marriage relationship is to show forth the intimacy of the relationship of Christ to the Church. Each may want his own way. But the husband must not grow sour, and wives must not be stubborn. Each reads the command to himself and does not quote the other's duty!

      2. Children and fathers 3:20-21
        Fathers are not to leave all (or major) discipline to the wives, but take the lead in it; their greatest danger is to discourage the child by confused orders.

      3. Slaves and masters 3:22-4:1
        "LORD CHRIST" (v.24) is significant to the people of Paul's day. "Lord" (Kurios) was used only of those emperors who had been deified.

    3. Closing exhortations 4:2-6 (prayer and propriety)
      Our grace is not to be a mushy, spineless, or purposeless thing, overlooking the sin of others. People ought to know where we stand. We should season our grace with "salt," the practical applied wisdom of God in dealing with others. Salt tends to stop decay and heal. We must trust the Spirit for contact, tact, attack, and application.

    4. Closing salutations 4:7-18
      What God wants is laborers. And look! Here is Onesimus alongside of Tychicus, a trusted veteran. Oh, what grace is this. In verse 12 we see prayer that was labor. Prayer is a battle (Eph. 6). We need more Epaphrases:! And Lukes! Many think that Archippus, a minister in the church at Colosse, is a son of Philemon (see that book).

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