Colossians—Sound Counsel on Belief and Conduct
WHAT is Jesus Christ’s place in God’s arrangement? To draw close to Jehovah and gain salvation, must true Christians keep special observances or practice asceticism? What is required of godly husbands, wives, children and others?
Questions such as these needed to be answered for first-century Christians living in the city of Colossae, Asia Minor. They were surrounded by Gentiles clinging to heathen philosophies involving asceticism, as well as by Jews who abstained from certain foods and observed special days. In fact, to some extent false teaching had infiltrated the congregation.
While imprisoned at Rome the apostle Paul, who may never have visited Colossae, received a report about his fellow believers there. (Colossians 1:7, 8; 2:1) In certain ways they were doing well. But some false teachings imperiled them spiritually, and the apostle was deeply concerned. Hence, under divine inspiration Paul wrote a moving letter to the Colossians in about 60 to 61 C.E.* Its sound counsel on belief and conduct answered important questions for them, even as it does for 20th-century Christians.
The Son’s Preeminent Place
Paul’s letter was directed to “the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ,” that is, to Jesus’ anointed followers at Colossae. The apostle thanked God in prayer because of their faith, hope and love. Moreover, Paul and Timothy ‘had not ceased praying that they might be filled with accurate knowledge, wisdom and spiritual comprehension.’ To what end? ‘So as to please Jehovah fully.’—Colossians 1:1-12.
A vital part of that knowledge concerns God’s Son. By means of him Christians have their release by ransom, the forgiveness of their sins. He is “the firstborn of all creation,” the start of Jehovah’s creative works through whom millions of angelic sons, the universe and the earth, with its plant and creature life, were brought into existence. The Son is also “the firstborn from the dead,” in that he prepared the way for his joint heirs to be resurrected to share immortal life with him in heaven. And among other things, Jesus Christ is “the head of the body, the congregation,” the preeminent one among his anointed followers.—Colossians 1:13-18.
Moreover, ‘God saw good for all fullness to dwell in his Son.’ He is the very embodiment of divine qualities, including wisdom—in fact, everything Christians need for their instruction and guidance. His teachings, which harmonize with the rest of the Scriptures, lack nothing. Through him all other things in heaven and on earth will be reconciled to God, and due to Christ’s sacrifice the long-hidden “sacred secret,” which includes the hope of Gentiles sharing heavenly glory with him, has been revealed. But that reconciliation depends on Christians’ remaining steadfast and not being shifted away from the hope of the good news. Paul was working hard as a minister of this good news centered on Christ, the preeminent one in God’s arrangement.—Colossians 1:19-29.
False Teachings Refuted
To enjoy the glorious privilege of sharing with Jesus in heavenly life, the Colossian Christians needed to remember that ‘concealed in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ Hence, they should guard against anyone who might ‘carry them off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men and not according to Christ.’ They had to reject the unscriptural concepts of the Greeks and the non-Biblical teachings of the Jews. A similar rejection of false teachings and a firm stand for truth are vital for Jehovah’s Witnesses today.—Colossians 2:1-12.
Next, Paul fortified the Colossians against Judaizers. He pointed out that God had removed the Mosaic Law, nailing it to Jesus’ torture stake. Hence, they should allow no one to judge their faith and righteousness on the basis of food, drink and certain observances. Why? Because such things were but a shadow of coming things, “but the reality belongs to the Christ.”—Colossians 2:13-17.
To combat other erroneous views, Paul warned against those delighting in insincere, hypocritical humility and “a form of worship of the angels.” Apparently, some in Colossae either thought they were carrying on the form of worship that angels supposedly practiced or they actually worshiped them directly. But this and such things as “mock humility” and asceticism, or “severe treatment of the body,” were shown to be “of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.” Similarly today, such things as asceticism and feigned humility will not make us more spiritual.—Colossians 2:18-23.
To maintain genuine spirituality and combat improper fleshly desires, Jesus’ anointed disciples must ‘keep their minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.’ Only by doing so can they hope to be made manifest with Christ in heavenly glory. Likewise, Christians having earthly hopes need to set their affections on spiritual things.—Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 6:19-21.
Sound Counsel on Conduct
What will really help us to draw closer to Jehovah and become more spiritual? ‘Deaden your body as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire and covetousness,’ said Paul. Misuse of the power of speech through such things as wrath, obscene talk and lying must also be avoided. As the apostle told the Colossians, we must ‘strip off the old personality and put on the new one.’ We must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, long-suffering and love—that “perfect bond of union.” All of this will contribute not only to our own peace but also to that of the entire congregation.—Colossians 3:5-17.
Like the Colossian Christians, present-day witnesses of Jehovah can benefit from Paul’s counsel regarding family obligations and other responsibilities. Wives are admonished to be in subjection to their husbands. Husbands are to keep on loving their wives and “not be bitterly angry with them.” Children are to obey their parents, and fathers are not to exasperate their children “so that they do not become downhearted.”—Colossians 3:18-21.
Christian slaves were to be obedient, and they were to be treated righteously and fairly by their believing masters. Philemon and his slave Onesimus lived in Colossae, and doubtless they both received this counsel with deep appreciation. (See page 26.) The same principles should be applied by modern-day Christians in the employer-employee relationship. In fact, whatever we are doing, we should “work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah.”—Colossians 3:18–4:1.
Paul urged his fellow believers to persevere in prayer, with thanksgiving. Also, they should pray for God to open a door of utterance for Paul and his associates “to speak the sacred secret about the Christ.” How this should move us to express gratitude to Jehovah and pray that he might prosper the Kingdom-preaching work! And as Paul counsels, may our own utterance always be gracious, “seasoned with salt.” What we say should be in good taste, having an appeal to our hearers, and should tend toward preserving the lives of those heeding our words.—Colossians 4:2-6.
Personal greetings and admonition brought this very helpful letter to a close. Tychicus and Onesimus (who evidently delivered it) would give the Colossians details about Paul. Epaphras, who may have helped to found the congregation at Colossae, was said to be ‘exerting himself in their behalf in prayer.’ Paul himself concluded with a personal greeting and prayed that they might enjoy undeserved kindness.—Colossians 4:7-18.
Paul’s counsel to the Colossian Christians helps us to comprehend the preeminent place of Jesus Christ in God’s arrangement. This letter shows us what we must do—and what we must avoid—if we are to draw close to Jehovah and gain salvation. It points out God’s requirements for husbands, wives, children and others who desire divine favor. Indeed, Paul’s letter to the Colossians provides sound counsel on belief and conduct.
See also Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 365, 366; “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 224-227. Both books are published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.