Colossians was written by Paul and Timothy to the church at Colossae during Paul’s imprisonment in either Ephesus or Rome. The Colossian church was founded by Epaphras and Philemon (Philemon hosted this church in his home, cf. Philemon 2) probably during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). A syncretistic heresy had emerged in the Colossian church, apparently mixing Jewish, pagan, and even Christian elements. Paul writes this epistle in order to combat this Colossian heresy by arguing for the supremacy of Jesus Christ and explaining the implications of Christ’s supremacy for the church’s belief and practice.
The major divisions of the epistle are below:
1:1-14 Introduction: Salutation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer
1:15-2:5 Body-Expository: Grounds/Basis for 2:6ff
2:6-4:6 Body-Hortatory: Exhortations based on 1:15-2:5
4:7-18 Conclusion: Closing Commendations, Greetings, Final Instructions, and
Recommended preaching units for the epistle are as follows:
1:1-2 Introduction and Salutation to the Colossians
1:3-8 Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Colossians
1:9-14 Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians
1:15-20 A Hymn of Praise to Christ
1:21-23 An Amplification of Christ’s Work
1:24-29 Paul’s Ministry to the Church as Grounds for Faithfulness
2:1-5 Paul’s Ministry to the Church as Grounds for Faithfulness
2:6-7 An Encouragement to Continue Walking with Christ
2:8-15 A Warning Against False Teaching
2:16-23 An Expanded Warning Against False Teaching
3:1-4 An Exhortation Towards Christ-Centeredness
3:5-11 Implications of Christ’s Supremacy for Christian Living – Your Character
3:12-14 Continued Implications of Christ’s Supremacy for Christian Living – The Church
3:15-17 Continued Implication of Christ’s Supremacy for Christian Living – The Church
3:18-4:1 Implications of Christ’s Supremacy for Christian Relationships – Home and Work
4:2-6 Implications of Christ’s Supremacy for Christ-honoring Relations to the World
4:7-18 Paul’s Closing Words to the Colossians
Though there are many excellent commentaries on the epistle to the Colossians, the following resources are highly recommended as exegetical aids:
Martha King, An Exegetical Summary of Colossians (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1998).
John Callow, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of Colossians (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 2002).
Constantine R. Campbell, Colossians and Philemon: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2013).
Murray J. Harris, Colossians & Philemon: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991).