Colossians: Rooted in Christ - Week 1 -Reasons to give thanks
Reading: Colossians 1:1-8
Sermon date: 9 September
Message for leaders: the first bit of this is study a background to Colossians prepared by Anne Milton-Worssell. If it is too long to read with the group, you might want to read it yourselves and share a few highlights with the group.
Background information: Who were the Colossians? (Anne Milton-Worssell)
As far as we know Paul never visited the Church as Colossae. It is believed that the church was founded by a man named Epaphras mentioned in this letter and also in the associated letter to Philemon. He is thought to be one of Paul’s friends and associates- referred to as a fellow-slave or fellow prisoner. The name is abbreviated from Epaphroditus, but maybe not the same Epaphroditus as referred to in Philemon 2:25 and 4:18. What we do gather is that Epaphras evangelised the cities of the Lycus valley in Phrygia under Paul’s direction during his Ephesus ministry, and founded the churches of Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea. Later he visited Paul during his time in Prison in Rome and it was his news of the conditions of the churches of the Lycus valley that moved Paul to write the Epistle to the Colossians. The church as Colossae probably met in homes, and Philemon was a Christian as Colossae and had a group meet in his house.
Colossae, Hieropolis, and Laodicea were in western Turkey, about 100 miles east of Ephesus, in a valley where the Lycus River flowed into the Maeander River. Originally they had been Phrygian cities, but in the New Testament age they were part of the Roman Province of Asia.
Hierapolis and Laodicea stood six miles apart on opposite sides of a valley with the Lycus River flowing between them. Colosse was located a few miles up river, on the same side as Laodicea
The area around these cities was very wealthy. The land was fertile and the pastures produced great flocks of sheep. The area was a great centre for the wool industry and the associated trade of the dyeing of woollen garments. The wealthy city of Laodicea was the financial headquarters for the whole area and the political centre for the district. Thousands of people visited Hierapolis to bathe in the spas and drink the water due to the claims that the water had medicinal benefits. Even though Colossae was at one time as important as both Laodicea and Hierapolis, by the time Paul wrote to Colossae it was a small, fairly insignificant town.
When Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Colossae, he instructed the brethren to pass the letter along to the brethren at Laodicea, "and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16).
Into the area of Lydia and Phrygia Antiochus the Great had sent 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon and Mesopotamia. These Jews prospered more than the Gentiles who lived in the area. Eventually, Jews from Palestine moved into the region for "the wines and baths of Phrygia." It has been estimated that in the year 62 B.C. the Jewish population was as high as 50,000.
The major difficulties Christian encountered in Colossae was that Christianity was in direct conflict with the Claims of the Roman State that demanded Emperor worship, whilst Christians acknowledged the sole sovereignty of God. Christians were critical of the status quo and rejected the popular mores and customs. They were required by the state to conform to the laws, but they held that their religious standards superseded state law. Therefore the government considered them traitors and, when they persisted in their defiance, punished them with death."
This would have been difficult for Christians to stand firm on, and Paul was aware that the Church was under attack.
Can you think of something you are really thankful for? Has someone done something for you that your are grateful for? Have you thanked them? (I know we are all thankful to God, but the question is about being thankful to another person)
Can you remember anything that struck you from last Sunday's sermon?
The heart of this letter is found in Col. 2:6-8:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Chris”
Christians in Colossae were being deceived by teachings and traditions that were distracting them from their faith and calling. Paul is insisting that they live for Christ, rooted in Him and looking up to Him.
Please read Col. 1:1-8
Q1 – Paul and Timothy start their letter with the phrase “(to) the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father”. This isn’t the only time we see this greeting. Why do you think they used these two words?
Q2 – Do you greet people in a similar way? Do we tend to communicate God’s peace and grace to each other as they did in the first century? Would it be good to do so?
Please read vs 3-5 again
Paul and Timothy are honestly thankful to the Colossians for their faith and love. They are not only thankful, they are letting them know that they are.
Q3 – Who are the people that are encouragement in your Christian journey? Are you thankful for their surrender and love? Have your ever told them?
Q4 – Have you ever thanked others in your Christian community for the inspiration they have been in one way or another? If so, how did you feel? How do you think they felt?
Q5 – Please reflect on this quote: “The root of joy is gratefulness… it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful” David Steindl-Rast. Do you agree with it? Have you seen this in someone’s life?
Please read vs 6-8 again
Epaphras was one of the leaders in Colossae, he was a faithful minister of Christ and shared with Paul and Timothy.
Q6 – Have you ever thanked those who lead you in your Christian journey? Those who helped you in your first steps of faith? If so, when was the last time that you did this?
Q7 – How would the Church be if we all became more thankful to each other? In what ways to you think it would be transformed?
Q8 – Being thankful to those whose faith and life inspire you is great. It encourages you and it encourages them. One of the best ways in which we can be thankful is following their example and way of life. Who are you inspired by? How could you follow their example?
I’ve recently sent a WhatsApp message to my brother who had a significant impact in my early years as a Christian, especially when I was a teenager. I’d like to encourage you to send a card, email, text message, give a call to someone who has either been important in the beginning of your journey or who has had a significant impact in your life. I’m sure you’ll see that both of you will be blessed by it.
Spend sometime as a group thanking God for all the people who have been an inspiration for you.
Challenge: I’d like to challenge you to try and live thankful lives, giving thanks to those who bless you directly or indirectly. Thanking those who do small and big things in your life. As a Church if we all thank each other a lot, we will all feel more valued and loved, this is an important part of our mission as Jesus’ Church.
“The root of joy is gratefulness… it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful” David Steindl-Rast