Survey of the New Testament

And that brings us to:

C O L O S S I A N S

This is another of Paul’s epistles, written from a Roman prison in about 60-62 A.D. Colossae was a city of Phrygia in Asia Minor, about 100 miles from Ephesus. Paul did not begin the church in Colossae,
it was likely started by Epaphras (Col. 1:7-8) who was Paul’s faithful co-worker.

In the first century there were two serious threats to the church from false teachers within the church. The Judiazers and the Gnostics. Paul warned the church at Galatia about the Judiazers, here he warns the church about the Gnostics. The Gnostics believed that they had “higher knowledge” (Greek word- Epignosis) that must be learned exclusively from them. If you wanted to be a “real” Christian, you must follow their teachers.

The Gnostics denied many things about the humanity and deity of Christ, so Paul begins his address to the Colossians by reminding them that:

Col. 1:13-20
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.
17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

These verses reveal some of the cardinal doctrines which the Gnostics denied. Jesus is God. That’s what the Bible wants us to know. Today there are still groups which call themselves “christian” who deny the deity of Christ.

The Colossians also needed to reminded to be careful about pagan influences, since most of the church there had been converted from the pagan world. The pagan influences in the Roman Empire were strong. The Government encouraged and promoted pagan beliefs. It was an age of fear and superstition. The moon and the stars and the planets were often thought of as affecting the welfare and destiny of human beings being associated with deities that could make life and eternity miserable. If you had “special” knowledge you might be able to manipulate the Gods.

Paul warns:
Col 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.:

Col 2:18

18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Important teachings in Colossians include: The preeminence of Jesus Christ, Warning about false teaching, The importance of holding fast to the Word, The importance of genuine Christian living, The reminder that our hope is not in human wisdom, ritual, or self-denial; our hope is in Christ.

And that brings us to:

F I R S T T H E S S A L O N I A N S

Again, we have a letter from the apostle Paul to a congregation of the Lord’s church. The two letters to the church at Thessalonica are likely some of Paul’s earliest writings, Galatians being the earliest. The church in Thessalonica was founded on Paul’s second missionary Journey (Acts 17:1-9).

Thessalonica was the capital city of the province of Macedonia, situated at the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea, it had a fine harbor, it was located on the main trade routes and was very prosperous.

Paul’s work in Thessalonica began in the local synagogue of the Jews (Acts 17:2-4), and a number of converts were made there. Jewish opposition stopped Paul’s ministry, causing a riot, his enemies accused him of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The primary topic Paul addresses in this epistle is the Second Coming of Christ. After Paul’s departure from Thessalonica it is apparent that false teaches were attempting to discredit his teaching on this subject.

Paul begins the letter by tracing his work among them, and expressing thanksgiving to God for their conversion and the good example they set for others. He recalls that he had sent Timothy to them to help build them in the faith and that he was encouraged by the report that Timothy brought to him regarding their continued faith. The second half of the letter is Paul’s response to the bad news that Timothy had brought with him regarding the church at Thessalonica. He encouraged them to remember their continued need for growth as a Christian, and said, quite clearly in Chapter four:

1 Thess. 4:1-7
4:1 ¶ Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.
2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.
7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

Paul also talks about the right relationship among believers and then discusses the nature of the Lord’s return.

Important doctrines in First Thessalonians include:
Hold fast to that which is good (i.e. the Word – 1 Thess. 5:21), The glorious return of Jesus Christ, Events and circumstances of the Second Coming, Exhortations to Sanctification and godly living.

And that brings us to:

S E C O N D T H E S S A L O N I A N S

Second Thessalonians is a continuation of the teaching on the Second Coming, probably written within a few months of the writing of First Thessalonians in about 52 A.D. After the church at Thessalonica had received the First epistle more questions arose on this subject, and it’s obvious that false teachers were troubling the church. Paul says:

2 Thess. 2:13-15
13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

In light of the fact that false teachers were causing misconception regarding the Second Coming Paul taught that the Lord’s coming will not happen until the apostasy happens first. The false teachings that were circulating in Thessalonica were evidence of the coming apostasy. The “man of Lawlessness” is anyone who assumes authority to speak for God without the benefit of revelation. In other words, the false teachers who were teaching contrary to the apostles teaching on this subject. A great falling away from the faith would happen in the Lord’s church before the Second Coming.

Important doctrines in Second Thessalonians include: The “man of lawlessness, The falling away, The importance of christian conduct, and the Second Coming.

Certainly one of the most important things we can learn from these letters to the Thessalonians is the importance of following the Word of God, remaining strong in it, and to be ever vigilant against false concepts which would take us away from God.

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