Lesson 1 of 5
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Summary of Colossians


This carefully composed letter centers on the theme of Christ’s sovereignty over all rulers and powers in the universe. The letter is structured in a way that draws its hearers or readers into its center point through a literary pattern resembling a set of concentric circles. It begins and ends with opening and closing greetings. Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession come after the opening greetings and again before the closing greetings. At the structural and thematic center, the letter proclaims Christ’s sovereignty over rulers and powers and promises its audience that God “made you alive together with him,” that is, with Christ himself.


The Christ hymn or confession in Colossians 1:15-20 announces the twin themes of the letter, proclaiming Christ’s lordship over all the powers of the universe and Christ’s lordship of our lives. Christ is the firstborn of all creation and the firstborn from the dead.


Paul’s Letter to the Colossians is the twelfth book in the New Testament. It is situated in the midst of the “Pauline corpus,” the collection of letters attributed to the Apostle Paul (the books of Romans through Philemon).


The letter includes a concluding signature (4:18) from the Apostle Paul, yet literary and theological characteristics of Colossians suggest to some that it could have been written by another person who wrote in Paul’s name and authority. The letter’s sentence structure, vocabulary, and theology could indicate a later author or Paul himself using a uniquely rich vocabulary to address new areas of concern.


Colossians claims to come from a time of the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment. If Colossians was written during the period of his Roman imprisonment, the letter would fall into the later years of his life, around 61-63 C.E.


Christ Jesus, the firstborn of all creation and firstborn from the dead, is the one who has conquered all powers and the one to whom all the powers of the universe are subject.


Colossians is very carefully composed so that its message would be easily recalled after it was read aloud in the Christian community. Through a series of sections arranged like concentric circles, the first half of the letter draws readers into the center, and the second half draws them from the center through the complementary sections to the conclusion of the letter. The entire composition of the letter is brought to a focus in the central proclamation of the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all the powers of the universe. Centered in Christ’s death and resurrection, the letter proclaims the message that believers have been made alive together with Christ.

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