"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Chapter Four OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To consider the importance of prayer, and proper conduct toward those who are not Christians 2) To appreciate the value of God's "second string", those workers in the kingdom who assisted key players like Paul and contributed so much to the spread of the gospel SUMMARY Paul concludes his section on "The Christian Solution" as an alternative to the heresies being proposed at Colosse with exhortations to prayer and proper conduct. His desire is that they devote themselves to prayer with vigilance and thanksgiving. A special request for prayer in his behalf is made, that God might give him an open door for the word of God, and that he might make the mystery of Christ known. Their own conduct is to be with wisdom toward outsiders, making good use of their time. This includes speaking with grace, knowing how one ought to answer others (1-6). Paul then mentions several companions, starting with Tychicus and Onesimus who were evidently the bearers of this epistle, and who would inform them of Paul's circumstances. Special greetings are also sent from brethren with Paul. These included three Jewish brethren (Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus called Justus), a brother who was from Colosse (Epaphras), a beloved physician (Luke), and one we know from another epistle (Demas, cf. 2Ti 4:9) who later forsook Paul (7-14). Finally, greetings are sent to those in Laodicea and the church meeting in the home of Nymphas, along with a charge to exchange epistles with the church in Laodicea. With a final exhortation for Archippus to fulfill his ministry, Paul signs off using his personal signature, asking that they remember his chains, and praying for grace on their behalf (15-18). OUTLINE I. EXHORTATIONS TO PRAYER AND PROPER CONDUCT (2-6) A. DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER (2-4) 1. Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant with thanksgiving (2) 2. Pray for ministers of God, like Paul (3-4) a. That God would open a door for the Word (3a) b. That Paul would make the mystery of Christ manifest (3b-4) B. CONDUCT YOURSELVES PROPERLY (5-6) 1. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of your time (5) 2. Speak with grace, properly answering each one (6) II. PAUL'S COMPANIONS (7-14) A. COMMENDATION OF HIS MESSENGERS (7-9) 1. Tychicus (7-8) a. A beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord (8a) b. Sent by Paul to inform them of his circumstances, and to comfort their hearts (8b-9) 2. Onesimus (9) a. A faithful and beloved brother, from Colosse (9a) b. He also will inform them of Paul's circumstances (9b) B. GREETINGS FROM HIS FRIENDS (10-14) 1. From Aristarchus, a fellow prisoner (10a) 2. From Mark, a cousin of Barnabas, whom they are to welcome if he comes (10b) 3. From Jesus, called Justus, who together with Aristarchus and Mark are Paul's only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision (11) 4. From Epaphras (12-13) a. One of their number at Colosse (12a) b. A servant of Christ in their behalf (12b) 1) Laboring fervently for them in prayers 2) Praying that they may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God c. Paul bears witness of his great zeal (13) 1) For those at Colosse (13a) 2) For those in Laodicea and Hierapolis (13b) 5. From Luke, the beloved physician (14a) 6. From Demas (14b) III. CONCLUDING REMARKS (15-18) A. PERSONAL MESSAGES (15-17) 1. Greet the brethren (15) a. Those who are in Laodicea (15a) b. Nymphas and the church in his house (15b) 2. Exchange epistles (16) a. Once this epistle is read, see that it is read in the church of the Laodiceans (16a) b. You also read the epistle from the church in Laodicea (16b) 3. A charge to Archippus, that he take heed to his ministry received from the Lord, and to fulfill it (17) B. A PERSONAL SIGNOFF (18) 1. Salutation written by his own hands (18a) 2. A plea to remember his chains (18b) 3. A prayer that grace be with them (18c) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Exhortations to prayer and proper conduct (2-6) - Paul's companions (7-14) - Concluding remarks (15-18) 2) In calling them to earnest prayer, what four things does Paul ask of them? (2-4) - That they pray with vigilance - That they pray with thanksgiving - That they pray for God to provide an open door for the word - That they pray for him to be able to make the mystery of Christ manifest 3) How were they to walk? (5) - In wisdom toward outsiders, making good use of their time 4) How were they to speak? (6) - With grace, knowing how to answer each one 5) How is Tychicus described? Why was Paul sending him? (7-8) - A beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord - To inform them of Paul's circumstances and comfort their hearts 6) How is Onesimus describe? What was Paul sending him? (9) - A faithful and beloved brother, one of them - To make known the things happening in Rome 7) What three men were Paul's only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who were of the circumcision, i.e. Jews? (10-11) - Aristarchus, Mark, Justus 8) What is said about Epaphras in relation to the churches in Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis? (12-13) - Labors fervently for them in prayer, that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God - Has a great zeal for them 9) Who else sends greetings? (14) - Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas 10) To what two groups does Paul send greetings? (15) - To the brethren in Laodicea - To Nymphas and the church in his house 11) What was to be done with the epistle after it had been read to the church? (16) - It was to be read to the church of the Laodiceans 12) What was to be done with an epistle coming from Laodicea? (16) - They were to read it 13) What special charge does Paul tell them to give to Archippus? (17) - Take heed to fulfill the ministry received from the Lord 14) How does Paul confirm that this epistle was from him? (18) - By writing his name in his own hand 15) What final request does Paul ask of the Colossians? (18) - Remember my chains 16) What final prayer does Paul offer in behalf of the brethren? (18) - Grace be with you
"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Chapter Three OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see what Paul offers as the Christian solution in dealing with the problem of sin 2) To understand what our responsibilities are as "the elect of God, holy and beloved" SUMMARY Having warned the brethren of the "Colossian Heresy", and the need to be established in the faith of Jesus Christ, Paul now offers a detailed description of "The Christian Solution" to the problem of sin in their lives. Rather than being deceived or swayed by false alternatives, they need to seek those things above, where Christ is, to set their minds on things above and not on the earth. This is because they have been raised with Christ (cf. Col 2:12) and their life is now hidden in Christ, awaiting the day of His coming in which they will appear with Him in glory (1-4). With minds set on Christ, they need to "put to death" those sins in which their earthly members engaged, and upon which the wrath of God is coming. This is done by "putting off" the old man with his deeds, and "putting on" the new man who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of Christ. The deeds of the old man and the characteristics of the new man are defined by Paul, followed with exhortations to allow the "peace of God" to rule in their hearts and to let the "word of Christ" dwell in them richly. He also charges them to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father (5-17). As so much of their daily lives revolve around the home, Paul also addresses the responsibilities of various family members as they serve the Lord (18-4:1). OUTLINE I. THE CHRISTIAN SOLUTION (1-17) A. SET YOUR MIND ON THINGS ABOVE (1-4) 1. Since you were raised with Christ, seek those things above (1-2) a. Where Christ is, seated at God's right hand (1) b. Not on the things on the earth (2) 2. For you have died, one day to appear with Christ in glory (3-4) a. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God (3) b. When Christ appears, you will also appear with Him in glory (4) B. PUT OFF THE OLD MAN (5-9) 1. Put to death the members of your body (5) a. Fornication b. Uncleanness c. Passion d. Evil desire e. Covetousness, which is idolatry -- For the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, and you also once walked in such things (6-7) 2. Put off the old man with his deeds (8-9) a. Anger b. Wrath c. Malice d. Blasphemy e. Filthy language f. Lying to one another C. PUT ON THE NEW MAN (10-17) 1. In which you are renewed in the image of our Creator, where there is neither: a. Greek nor Jew b. Circumcised nor uncircumcised c. Barbarian, Scythian d. Slave nor free -- But Christ, who is all and in all (10-11) 2. As God's elect, put on Christ-like qualities (12-14) a. Tender mercies b. Kindness c. Humbleness of mind d. Meekness e. Longsuffering f. Bearing with one another g. Forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you h. Above all these things, put on love, the perfect tie that binds 3. In addition... a. Let God's peace rule in your heart, and be thankful (15) b. Let Christ's word dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with song, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (16) c. Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, with thanksgiving to God (17) II. FAMILIAL RESPONSIBILITIES (18-4:1) A. WIVES TOWARD THEIR HUSBANDS (18) 1. Submit to your own husbands 2. As is fitting in the Lord B. HUSBANDS TOWARDS THEIR WIVES (19) 1. Love your wives 2. Do not be bitter toward them C. CHILDREN TOWARD THEIR PARENTS (20) 1. Obey your parents in all things 2. This is well pleasing to the Lord D. FATHERS TOWARD THEIR CHILDREN (21) 1. Do not provoke your children 2. Or they may become discouraged E. SERVANTS TOWARD THEIR MASTERS (22-25) 1. Obey your earthly masters in all things (22) a. Not with eye-service, seeking only to please men b. But with sincerity of heart, fearing God 2. Do your work heartily (23-24) a. As to the Lord and not to men (23) b. Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance (24) 3. He who does wrong... (25) a. Will be repaid for the wrong he does b. There will be no partiality F. MASTERS TOWARD THEIR SERVANTS (4:1) 1. Give your servants what is just and fair 2. Knowing that you also have a Master in heaven REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The Christian solution (1-17) - Familial responsibilities (18-4:1) 2) What two-fold charge is given to those who have been raised with Christ? (1-2) - Seek those things which are above, where Christ is - Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth 3) Where is our "life" at the present? When shall it appear? (3-4) - Hidden with Christ in God - When Christ appears (i.e., His Second Coming) 4) What sins are we to "put to death"? (5) - Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (which is idolatry) 5) Why must we put them to death? (6) - Because the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience 6) What other sins must we "put off"? (8,9) - Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lying to one another 7) What have we "put off", and what have we "put on"? (9-10) - We have "put off the old man with his deeds" - We have "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (i.e., Christ) 8) As God's elect (chosen), holy and beloved, what are we to "put on"? (12-14) - Tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving one another as Christ forgave us, and love 9) What must we allow the "peace of God" do? (15) - Rule in our hearts 10) What must we allow the "word of Christ" do? (16) - Dwell in our hearts richly 11) How are we to teach and admonish one another? (16) - In psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord 12) How are we to do all things, whether in word or deed? (17) - In the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him 13) What is the duty of wives? (18) - To submit to their own husbands 14) What is the duty of husbands? (19) - To love their wives and not be bitter toward them 15) What is the duty of children? (20) - To obey their parents in all things 16) What is the duty of fathers? (21) - Not to provoke their children 17) What is the duty of servants? (22-23) - To obey their masters in all things - Not with eye-service, as pleasing men, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God - To do all things heartily, as to the Lord 18) What positive motivation is there for a servant to so act? What negative motivation? (24-25) - Serving the Lord Christ, they will receive the reward of the inheritance - Those who do wrong will be repaid, with no partiality being shown 19) What is the duty of masters? What motivation is offered to do this? (4:1) - To give their servants what is just and fair - They too have a Master, one who is heaven
"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Chapter Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the relation between understanding the "mystery of God" and having a strong assurance of our salvation 2) To appreciate how baptism serves as our spiritual circumcision, and that it is a work of God which is performed, not a work of man 3) To understand how Christ brought an end to the Old Law by His death on the cross SUMMARY Paul reveals his great concern for those at Colosse and others he has not seen, expressing his desire that their hearts be knit together in love, and that they may have the assurance that comes from an understanding of the mystery of God as revealed through Christ. He rejoices in their good order and steadfastness, and encourages them to be firmly established in Christ, abounding in thanksgiving (1-7). The word "Beware" in verse eight summarizes the rest of the chapter, in which Paul warns them of the dangers of "The Colossian Heresy". These dangers include being cheated through philosophy and vain deceit, and defrauded of their reward by those who appeal to false humility, the worship of angels, false visions, and strict regulations according to the commandments and doctrines of men which really have no value against the indulgence of the flesh. In Christ they are made complete, having undergone a circumcision not made with hands, in which God made them alive together with Christ. Since Christ has also nailed to the cross the "handwriting of requirements" that was against them and taken it out of the way, none can judge them regarding religious observances that were only a shadow pointing to the true substance of Christ (8-23). OUTLINE I. PAUL'S SOLICITUDE (1-7) A. HIS GREAT CONCERN FOR THEM (1-3) 1. He has a great conflict for those... a. In Colosse and Laodicea (1a) b. Who have not seen his face in the flesh (1b) 2. His desire is that... a. Their hearts be encouraged, knit together in love (2a) b. They attain to all the riches of: 1) The full assurance of understanding (2b) 2) The knowledge of the mystery of God (2c) a) Both of the Father and of Christ (2d) b) In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (3) B. REASONS FOR THIS CONCERN (4-5) 1. Lest anyone deceive them with persuasive words (4) 2. Though absent in the flesh, he is present with them in spirit (5a) 3. He rejoices to see... a. Their good order (5b) b. The steadfastness of their faith (5c) C. EXHORTATIONS TO BE FIRMLY ESTABLISHED IN CHRIST (6-7) 1. As they have received Christ, so they should walk in Him (6) a. Rooted and built up in Him (7a) b. Established in the faith (7b) -- As they were taught (7c) 2. Abounding with thanksgiving (7d) II. WARNINGS AGAINST "THE COLOSSIAN HERESY" (8-23) A. WARNING AGAINST PHILOSOPHY (8-10) 1. Beware of being cheated by philosophy and empty deceit (8a) a. According to the traditions of men (8b) b. According to the basic principles of the world (8c) -- And not according to Christ (8d) 2. In Christ dwells the fullness of God, and you are complete in Him (9-10) a. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ (9) b. You are complete in Him, who is head over all principality and power (10) B. WARNING AGAINST JUDAISTIC CEREMONIALISM (11-17) 1. In Christ you have a circumcision made without hands (11-12) a. A putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh (11) b. Having been buried with Christ in baptism (12) 1) In which you were also raised with Him (12a) 2) Through faith in the working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead (12b) 2. You are made alive in Christ, and the handwriting of requirements that was against us has been taken away at the cross (13-15) a. Dead in sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God has made you alive (13a) b. He has forgiven you all trespasses (13b) c. He has wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us (14) 1) That which was contrary to us (14a) 2) He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (14b) d. He has disarmed principalities and powers (15) 1) Having made a public spectacle of them (15a) 2) Triumphing over them in it (15b) 3. Therefore don't let anyone judge you in regards to food, festivals, or sabbath days (16) a. They are only a shadow of things to come (17a) b. The substance is of Christ (17b) C. WARNING AGAINST ANGEL WORSHIP (18-19) 1. Don't let anyone defraud you of your reward (18a) a. By taking delight in false humility and worship of angels (18b) b. By intruding into things not seen, vainly puffed by fleshly minds (18c) 2. Such people do not hold fast to Christ as the Head (19a) a. From whom all the body grows (19b) b. Nourished and knit together by various elements, with increase from God (19c) D. WARNING AGAINST ASCETICISM (2:20-23) 1. There is no need to submit to human ordinances (2:20-22) a. For you have died with Christ from basic principles of the world (20a) b. Therefore do not subject yourselves to ascetic regulations (20b) 1) Such as "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (21) 2) They only concern things which perish with the using (22a) 3) Which are according to commandments and doctrines of men (23) 2. Such practices are of no value (23) a. They may have an appearance of wisdom in their... 1) Self-imposed religion (23a) 2) False humility (23b) 3) Neglect of the body (23c) b. But they are no value against the indulgence of the flesh (23d) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Paul's solicitude (1-7) - Warnings against the "Colossian Heresy" (8-23) 2) What was Paul's strong desire for those he had not seen? (1-2) - That their hearts may be encouraged, knit together in love - That they may be richly blessed by the assurance that comes from an understanding and knowledge of the mystery of God 3) What is "hidden" in Christ? (3) - All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge 4) What had Paul seen in the Colossians that caused him to rejoice? (5) - Their good order and steadfastness of faith in Christ 5) How were the Colossians to walk in Christ? (6-7) - Rooted and built up in Him - Established in the faith - Abounding with thanksgiving 6) What three things might be used to "cheat" us? (8) - Philosophy and empty deceit - Tradition of men - Basic principles of the world 7) What is said about Jesus in relation to the Godhead? (9) - In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily 8) What is our condition in Christ? (10) - We are complete in Him 9) What sort of "circumcision" have we had in Christ? (11) - One made without hands - A putting off the body of the sins of the flesh 10) What takes place in baptism? Who is the one at work in baptism? (12-13) - We are buried with Christ, raised with Christ, made alive together with Christ - God, who raised Jesus from the dead 11) What did Christ take out of the way, having nailed it to the cross? (14) - The "handwriting of requirements" 12) In what things should we not let others judge us? (16-17) - In food or drink - Regarding religious festivals, a new moon or sabbaths 13) In what ways might people seek to defraud us? (18) - Through false humility, worship of angels, appeals to things not really seen 14) What sort of "basic principles of the world" might others try to regulate upon us? (21) - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" 15) What is the truth about such traditions of men? (22-23) - They have an appearance of wisdom, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh
"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Chapter One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the relationship between understanding the grace of God and bearing fruit 2) To examine Paul's prayer for the Colossians for the keys to successful Christian living 3) To appreciate the preeminence of Christ in creation and our redemption SUMMARY Paul begins with his customary salutation followed by an expression of thanksgiving and prayer. Hearing of their condition from Epaphras, he is thankful for their faith, love, and hope (1-8). His prayer is that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will, walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, strengthened by God's glorious power, and ever thankful that the Father has qualified them to be partakers of the saints' inheritance. Especially since they were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, where there is redemption and forgiveness of sins (9-14). He then broaches the theme of this epistle, which is the preeminence and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ our Savior. Paul first proclaims the preeminence of Christ in creation, and then His preeminence in redemption (15-20). The Colossians' own conversion is offered as a case in point in reference to the latter, and with a warning for them to remain steadfast (21-23). The chapter ends with Paul's description of his ministry, in which he gladly suffered on behalf of Christ and His church. He views himself as a steward entrusted with a wonderful "mystery", which is being made known after having been hidden for ages. This "mystery" pertains to the Gentiles, and how Christ would be in them (24-27). Paul therefore worked diligently to preach Christ, with the goal of presenting every man perfect in Him (28-29). OUTLINE I. INTRODUCTION (1-14) A. SALUTATION (1-2) 1. From Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1a) 2. And Timothy, "our brother" (1b) 3. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are in Colosse (2a) 4. Grace and peace from God and Jesus Christ (2b) B. PAUL'S THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER (3-14) 1. His thanksgiving for them (3-8) a. Given to God, with unceasing prayers in their behalf (3) b. Given since he heard of: 1) Their faith in Christ Jesus (4a) 2) Their love for all the saints (4b) c. Given because the hope laid up for them in heaven (5) 1) Which they had heard by way of the gospel a) Which had come to them as to all the world, bringing forth fruit (6a) b) Even in them, since the day they heard and knew the grace of God (6b) 2) Which they had heard by way of Epaphras a) A dear fellow servant and faithful minister of Christ on their behalf (7) b) Who declared to Paul their love in the Spirit (8) 2. His prayer for them (9-14) a. Offered unceasingly since he heard of their progress (9a) b. Asking that they might... 1) Be filled with the knowledge of God's will in wisdom and spiritual understanding (9b) 2) Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him (10a) a) Being fruitful in every good work (10b) b) Increasing in the knowledge of God (10c) 3) Be strengthened with all might (11a) a) According to His glorious power (11b) b) For all patience and longsuffering with joy (11c) 4) Give thanks to the Father (12a) a) Who qualified us to be partakers of the saints' inheritance (12b) b) Who has delivered us from the power of darkness (13a) c) Who has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son (13b) 1/ In whom we have redemption through His blood (14a) 2/ In whom we have forgiveness of sins (14b) II. THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST (15-23) A. IN CREATION (15-17) 1. He is the image of the invisible God (15a) 2. He is the firstborn over all creation (15b) 3. All things were created by Him (16) 4. He is before all things (17a) 5. In Him all things consist (17b) B. IN REDEMPTION (18-23) 1. He is the head of the body, the church (18a) 2. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead (18b) 3. That He might have the preeminence in all things (18c) 4. It pleased the Father... a. That in Him all the fullness should dwell (19) b. That by Him all things were to be reconciled to Himself, making peace through the blood of the cross (20) 5. The Colossians as a case in point (21-23) a. They were once alienated and enemies in mind, through wicked works (21a) b. Yet now reconciled... 1) In the body of His flesh through death (21b-22a) 2) To be presented holy, blameless, and irreproachable in His sight (22b) 3) If they continue in the faith... a) Grounded and steadfast (23a) b) Not moved away from the gospel 1/ Which they heard (23b) 2/ Which was preached to every creature under heaven (23c) 3/ Of which Paul became a minister (23d) III. THE APOSTLE OF CHRIST (24-29) A. HIS JOY (24) 1. In suffering for their sake (24a) 2. For in his flesh he fills up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (24b) 3. All is done for the sake of His body, the church (24c) B. HIS MINISTRY (25-29) 1. Made a minister according to the stewardship from God (25a) a. Given to him for them (25b) b. To fulfill the word of God (25c) 1) The mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations (26a) 2) But now has been revealed to His saints (26b) a) To whom God willed to make known the riches of the glorious mystery among the Gentiles (27a) b) Which is Christ in them, the hope of glory (27b) 2. Proclaiming Christ (28-29) a. By warning and teaching every man in all wisdom (28a) b. That he might present every man perfect in Christ (28b) 1) Laboring toward this end (29a) 2) Striving according to His working which works in him mightily (29b) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Introduction (1-14) - The Preeminence of Christ (15-23) - The Apostle Of Christ (24-29) 2) Who joins Paul in the salutation of this epistle? (1) - Timothy 3) What three things had Paul heard about the Colossians, for which he gave thanks? (3-5) - Their faith in Christ Jesus - Their love for all the saints - Their hope laid for them in heaven 4) How long had the gospel been bringing forth fruit in their lives? (6) - Since the day they heard and knew the grace of God in truth 5) Who had informed Paul of their condition? (8) - Epaphras 6) List four things for which Paul prayed concerning the Colossians (9-11) - To be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding - To have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him - To be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power - To give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance 7) Into what have we been translated? (13) - The kingdom of the Son of His love 8) What does one enjoy in Christ? (14) - Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins 9) List five things which illustrate Christ's preeminence in creation (15-17) - He is the image of the invisible God (15a) - He is the firstborn over all creation (15b) - All things were created by Him (16) - He is before all things (17a) - In Him all things consist (17b) 10) List four things which illustrate Christ's preeminence in redemption (18-20) - He is the head of the body, the church - He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead - In Him all the fullness dwells - By Him all things are to be reconciled 11) What was the former condition of the Colossians? How were they changed? (21-22) - Alienated and enemies in their mind by wicked works - Reconciled in the body of Christ's flesh through death 12) Upon what condition would they be presented as holy, blameless and irreproachable? (22-23) - If they continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast - If they are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which they heard 13) What is said about the "mystery" which has been hidden? (26) - It has now been revealed to His saints 14) What is the glorious nature of this "mystery"? (27) - Christ in you (i.e., the Gentiles), the hope of glory 15) What was Paul's goal in preaching Christ? (28) - To present every many perfect in Christ Jesus
"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Introduction AUTHOR: The apostle Paul, joined in his salutation by Timothy (1:1), and signed by Paul himself at the end of the letter (4:18). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Paul include: Eusebius (300 A.D.), Origen (250 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), Tertullian (200 A.D.), Irenaeus (200 A.D.), and the Muratorian Fragment (180 A.D.). THE CITY OF COLOSSE: The city was located about 100 miles east of Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Together with Hieropolis (4:13) and Laodicea (2:1; 4:13-16; Re 3:14-22), Colosse made up a tri-city area. Each city had its own distinction: * Hierapolis, a place for health, pleasure, and relaxation * Laodicea, known for its commercial trade and politics * Colosse, known simply as a small town Colosse was mostly a pagan city, with a strong intermingling of Jews (in 62 B.C., there were 11,000 Jewish freemen in the tri-city area). This may explain the nature of some of the problems that arose among the church in Colosse (problems with both pagan and Jewish origin). THE CHURCH AT COLOSSE: The establishment of the church is uncertain. At issue is whether Paul himself had ever been there. Some suggest that Paul may have done some work there during his third journey, on the way to Ephesus (cf. Ac 18:23; 19:1). Others point out that Paul's comments imply that he had not personally been in Colosse (cf. 2:1). One possibility is that the church was established during Paul's extended stay at Ephesus, where the effect of his work spread throughout Asia Minor (cf. Ac 19:8-10). It may not have been Paul himself, but one of his co-workers who went out to Colosse. Paul's remarks in the epistle indicate that Epaphras was the one who preached the gospel there (1:5-8) and in Hierapolis and Laodicea (4:12-13). Though he was with Paul at the time the epistle was written, Epaphras is identified as "one of you" (4:12), suggesting that he may have originally been from Colosse. Other members of the church at Colosse included Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus, who may have been father, mother, and son. By comparing the epistle to the Colossians with that written to Philemon, it is reasonable to suppose that the church at Colosse met in their home (cf. 4:17 with Phm 1-2, and the references to Archippus). If Philemon and his family were hosts of the church at Colosse, then Onesimus (Philemon's slave) would have also been a member there upon his return (cf. 4:7-9 with Phm 8-16). TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING: Colossians is one of Paul's four "prison epistles" (4:18; cf. Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon). The general consensus is that these epistles were written during Paul's imprisonment at Rome (cf. Ac 28:16,30-31). If such is truly the case, then Paul wrote Colossians around 61-63 A.D. from Rome. The indication is that the epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. 4:7-9; Phile 10-12; Ep 6:21-22). PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: Paul had received a report of the situation at Colosse by way of Epaphras (1:7-8). This report was for the most part favorable (2:5). But the subject matter in the epistle strongly suggests that the church was facing a two-fold danger: * The danger of relapse into paganism with its gross immorality (cf. 1:21-23; 2:6; 3:5-11) * The danger of accepting what has been come to known as "The Colossian heresy". This heresy was a syncretism involving four elements of both pagan and Jewish origin: * Philosophies of men - which denied the all sufficiency and pre-eminence of Christ (2:8) * Judaistic ceremonialism - which attached special significance to the rite of circumcision, food regulations, and observance of special days (2:11,16-17) * Angel worship - which detracted from the uniqueness of Christ (2:18) * Asceticism - which called for harsh treatment of the body as the means to control its lusts (2:20-23) To guard against these dangers, Paul writes to: Warn the Colossians against relapse (1:21-23) Warn them against the "solution" being urged upon them by those denying the all-sufficiency of Christ (2:8-23) Direct their attention to the "Beloved Son", the "All-Sufficient and Pre-Eminent Savior" (1:13-18; 2:8-10) THEME OF THE EPISTLE: With the focus on Jesus Christ as the answer to the "Colossian heresy", the theme of this letter is clearly: CHRIST - THE FULNESS OF GOD, AND THE PRE-EMINENT, ALL-SUFFICIENT SAVIOR KEY VERSES: Colossians 2:9-10 "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." OUTLINE: INTRODUCTION (1:1-14) 1. Salutation (1-2) 2. Thanksgiving and prayer (3-14) I. THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST (1:15-23) A. IN CREATION (1:15-17) 1. The image of the invisible God (1:15a) 2. The first-born over all creation (1:15b-17) B. IN REDEMPTION (1:18-23) 1. The head of the body, the church (1:18a) 2. The beginning, the first-born from the dead (1:18b) 3. That He might have preeminence in all things (1:18c) a. In Whom all the fullness dwells (1:19) b. In Whom all things are to be reconciled to God (1:20) c. The Colossians as a case in point (1:21-23) II. THE APOSTLE OF CHRIST (1:24-2:7) A. PAUL'S SERVICE (1:24-29) 1. His joy in suffering for them (1:24) 2. His ministry (1:25-29) a. A stewardship to proclaim the mystery of God now revealed (1:25-27) b. A labor to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (1:28-29) B. PAUL'S SOLICITUDE (2:1-7) 1. His great concern for them (2:1-3) 2. Reasons for this concern (2:4-5) 3. Exhortations to be firmly established in Christ (2:6-7) III. WARNINGS AGAINST THE "COLOSSIAN HERESY" (2:8-23) A. WARNING AGAINST PHILOSOPHY (2:8-10) 1. Beware of being cheated by philosophy and empty deceit (2:8) 2. In Christ dwells the fullness of God, and you are complete in Him (2:9-10) B. WARNING AGAINST JUDAISTIC CEREMONIALISM (2:11-17) 1. In Christ you have a circumcision made without hands (2:11-12) 2. You are made alive in Christ, and the handwriting of requirements that was against us has been taken away at the cross (2:13-15) 3. Therefore don't let anyone judge you in regards to food, festivals, or sabbath days (2:16-17) C. WARNING AGAINST ANGEL WORSHIP (2:18-19) 1. Don't let anyone defraud you of your reward by appealing to angel worship and imagined visions of a fleshly mind (2:18) 2. Such people do not hold fast to Christ as the Head, and from whom true divine nourishment comes (2:19) D. WARNING AGAINST ASCETICISM (2:20-23) 1. Having died with Christ to the world, there is no need to submit to human ordinances (2:20-22) 2. While having appearances of wisdom, such practices have no value in controlling the indulgences of the flesh (2:23) IV. THE CHRISTIAN SOLUTION (3:1-4:6) A. SET YOUR MIND ON THINGS ABOVE (3:1-4) 1. Since you were raised with Christ, seek those things above (3:1-2) 2. For you have died and your life is now hidden in Christ, to be revealed when He appears (3:3-4) B. PUT OFF THE OLD MAN (3:5-9) 1. Put to death your members here on the earth, for the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience (3:5-7) 2. Put off the old man with his deeds (3:8-9) C. PUT ON THE NEW MAN (3:10-17) 1. Put on the new man, renewed in the image of our Creator (3:10-11) 2. As God's elect, put on Christ-like qualities (3:12-14) 3. Let God's peace rule in your hearts, and be thankful (3:15) 4. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with song and singing with grace in your hearts (3:16) 5. Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, with thanksgiving (3:17) D. FAMILIAL RESPONSIBILITIES (3:18-4:1) 1. Wives toward their husbands (3:18) 2. Husbands toward their wives (3:19) 3. Children toward their parents (3:20) 4. Fathers toward their children (3:21) 5. Servants toward their masters (3:22-25) 6. Masters toward their servants (4:1) E. EXHORTATIONS TO PRAYER AND PROPER CONDUCT (4:2-6) 1. Devote yourselves to prayer (4:2-4) 2. Walk in wisdom and let your speech be with grace (4:5-6) V. PAUL'S COMPANIONS (4:7-14) A. COMMENDATIONS OF HIS MESSENGERS (4:7-9) 1. Tychicus, a faithful servant who will inform them of Paul's circumstances (4:7-8) 2. Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother (4:9) B. GREETINGS FROM HIS FRIENDS (4:10-14) 1. Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, fellow workers for the kingdom of God (4:10-11) 2. Epaphras, one of them, and a servant of Christ (4:12-13) 3. Luke the beloved physician, and Demas (4:14) CONCLUSION (4:15-18) 1. Greetings to those in Laodicea, and to Nymphas and the church in his house (4:15) 2. A command to read and exchange the epistles from Paul (4:16) 3. A personal exhortation to Archippus (4:17) 4. A personal signoff from the hand of Paul, with a request for remembrance and a prayer in their behalf (4:18) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION 1) Who had taught the Colossians the truth concerning God's grace? (Col 1:6-7) - Epaphras 2) From where and when did Paul write Colossians? - From Rome, sometime around 61-63 A.D. 3) What three other epistles were written about this time? What are the four epistles sometimes called? - Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon - The "prison epistles" 3) What two potential dangers prompted the writing of this epistle? - The danger of relapse into paganism with its gross immorality - The danger of accepting the "Colossian heresy" 4) What four elements make up the "Colossian Heresy"? - Philosophies of men - Judaistic ceremonialism - Angel worship - Asceticism 5) What is the "theme" of this epistle? - "Christ - the fullness of God, and the pre-eminent, all-sufficient Savior". 6) What serves as the "key verses" of this epistle? - Colossians 2:9-10 7) According to the outline above, what are the five main subject divisions in this epistle? - The preeminence of Christ - The apostle of Christ - Warnings against the "Colossian Heresy" - The Christian solution - Paul's companions
Does Human Fallibility Imply a Fallible Bible?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Humanity is broken. Few would deny the biblical affirmation: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All people stand in need of redemption and are incapable of currying God's favor by their own imperfect efforts (Ephesians 2:3-9; Galatians 3:22). Even for those who “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7) personal sin remains a reality (1 John 1:10-2:1). The question, “Are Christians sinners who are forgiven or saints who sin?,” bespeaks the perplexity that saved people feel in the face of their daily struggles with the evil one (Saucy, 1995). This realization has driven some people to wonder whether it is even possible for the Bible to be infallible, since fallible humans were employed in its production.
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
The belief that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible has a long, venerable history. Although some conservative scholars are willing to grant that Moses may have employed ancient cuneiform tablets in his composition of Genesis (Harrison, 1969, p. 548), the case favoring his personal authorship of the Pentateuch is quite compelling (Archer, 1974, pp. 109-123). Moses was a man who at times was given to self-doubt, frustration, anger, and disobedience (Exodus 2:12; 3:11; 32:19; Numbers 20:10-13). Could he, with all his fallibilities, have written an infallible record of the first 2,500 years of sacred history?
The great giant-fighter, David, is credited with the authorship of much of the Psalter. As the sweet psalmist of Israel, his songs have inspired millions to rely on God when everyone else proves unreliable. Countless saints have been laid to rest under the comforting lyrics of Psalm 23. And yet, the shepherd-king had bloodstained hands. He fell prey to lust, deceit, and even murder. Could such a man compose poetic verses for an infallible volume?
The all-too-carnal actions of God’s prophets, priests, and kings embarrassingly remind us of humankind’s hopeless condition. Even apostles were unable to rise above the charge of sin and the threat of condemnation (Galatians 2:11). Is it reasonable to believe that sinners such as these—with the same penchant for error as the rest of us—collectively produced a volume that can be trusted?
One might even wonder how a book could at the same time be both of human and divine origin. Mechanical dictation (the view that the Bible’s human authors were totally passive and acted like a computer that converts voice input into typed words) has long been rejected as unsatisfactory (see Paché, 1969, pp. 66-70). The obvious stylistic differences between biblical writers have been the major objection to this view. In principle, the dictation view would be unable to alleviate the possibility of fallibility anyway, since it still requires some human involvement; if human involvement is inherently problematic, then anything short of God’s actually writing Scripture and handing it to humanity as a finished product would be suspect. The biblical writers do not shy away from ascribing human authorship to the Scriptures, which they viewed as of divine origin (Luke 24:27; Acts 4:25; 2 Peter 3:15). For them, human participation did not diminish Scripture’s divine authority (Acts 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:16; Mark 12:36; Matthew 19:4-5). Would their confidence have been so strong had they believed the Scriptures were fallible?
MUST HUMANS ERR?
The error-prone condition of humans and the imperfections of their handiwork, might lead us to the natural but incorrect conclusion that error, sin, and brokenness is inextricably inherent in being human. While it is true that nothing originating in humanity is sufficient to deal with the universal problem of sin, it is false to view sin as part of the essential definition of humanity. It is helpful to understand the difference between “truly essential” and “merely common” properties. Gerald O’Collins illustrates this point:
Until recently all human beings were conceived within their mother’s body. With the advent of in vitrofertilization, we now know that being conceived within our mother’s body is a common property but not an essential one (1995, p. 269).
While sin certainly is a “common property,” it is not essential to humanity. In their original state, Adam and Eve were sinless. Yet, they were nonetheless fully human. Sin amounts to a departure from the ideal humanity God intended for us. Since sin is not inherent in the definition of “human,” human involvement in the writing of Scripture does not demand that it is fallible.
AN ANALOGY FROM THE LIVING WORD
The incarnation of Jesus provides a helpful analogy to understanding the inspiration of Scripture. The New Testament writers unhesitatingly affirmed three propositions about Jesus: He was divine (John 1:1-3); He was human (Galatians 4:4); and, He was sinless (1 Peter 2:22). Just because the Savior was human, and bore the likeness of “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), does not imply that He sinned. Instead, Jesus’ sinlessness reminds us of the original state of Adam (see Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22,45; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Timothy 2:5). Like the Living Word, we might say the written Word is both fully human and fully divine. Clearly, if God could produce a human being (Jesus) Who was infallible, then, reasonably, God could also produce a “human” book that is infallible (see Geisler and Brooks, 1990, p. 152). How this was accomplished has not been revealed. Apparently, like the prophets of old, all biblical writers were “borne” along by the Holy Spirit in their writing (2 Peter 1:21).
Archer, Gleason L., (1974), Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, revised edition).
Geisler, Norman and Ron Brooks, (1990), When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor).
Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
O'Collins, Gerald, (1995), Christology (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).
Paché, René (1969), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Saucy, Robert L. (1995), “ ‘Sinners’ Who Are Forgiven or ‘Saints’ Who Sin?,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 152:400-412, October-December.
Consider God’s Creation—Think About God’s Greatness
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Christians in the 21st century think too little about God’s creation; consequently, we think too little about God. We are so enamored with ourselves—our schedules, our work, our technology, our extracurricular activities, etc., that we often fail to see the stars and smell the roses. Today, perhaps more than any time in history, man misses the apparently simple things in life that should cause us to meditate continually upon the greatness of the Creator. Of course, nothing is more important for Christians to meditate on than God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; see Lyons, 2011), but in conjunction with God’s special revelation (His Word), we ought to ponder about how God’s amazing natural revelation testifies to His infinite power, intelligence, and care.
Time and again, Holy Writ points to God’s creation as proof of His greatness. Since the time of Job, Noah, and going as far back as Adam, man has learned some wonderful things about God by considering His amazing creation. Paul wrote: “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20, emp. added).
Perhaps no other book of the Bible leads man to deeper meditation on God’s greatness than the book of Psalms. Yet, interestingly, oftentimes this same inspired book turns man’s attention to God’s creation. In Psalm 8, for example, the psalmist praised the excellent name of the Lord Who set His “glory above the heavens,” Who made the Moon, stars, man, and even “the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.” What did the psalmist conclude? “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9). In Psalm 19:1, we are reminded that “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” In Psalm 33, we learn of one of the reasons that humanity is to fear and stand in awe of the Lord (33:8)—because “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (33:6,9).
Consider the climax of the book of Job, when God spoke to the patriarch out of a whirlwind. Instead of informing Job of the exact reasons for his serious suffering, God spoke to him about His creation. Beginning in Job 38:39 and going through chapters 39, 40, and 41, God spoke to Job about several different animals, including the lion, the hawk, Behemoth, and Leviathan. Of all of the things God could have said to Job, He spent some 77 verses talking about some of His animal creation. He chose to teach Job about His all-powerful, all-knowing, supreme nature by describing some of His magnificent animal creation.
The prophet Isaiah once wrote about being allowed to see a vision of the throne of God. In the Lord’s presence were angelic beings crying out one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). What is the basis of this praise? What is one reason we should be driven to worship God? Isaiah revealed one of the pillars of God’s praise in the very next line: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3).
Indeed, the beauty, splendor, and design of God’s creation should drive us closer to the Creator. His “fingerprints” should make us stand in awe of Him. They should drive us to our knees in worship of Him. And they should compel us to tell others about Him. As the psalmist sang, we should “declare His gloryamong the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised” (96:3-4).
Lyons, Eric (2011), “Take Time with the Text,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/1130.
Cut Violent Passages Out of the Scriptures?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Rarely does the magazine Nature write articles about the Bible. Heidi Ledford’s article titled “Scriptural Violence Can Foster Aggression” is an exception. In the article, Ledford cites studies that suggest that the violent passages in the Bible could lead readers to act more aggressively if the readers believe that God sanctioned the violence exhibited in the passages. Ledford quotes from various theologians, sociologists, and psychologists in an attempt to confirm the idea that “when scriptural violence is used to promote hostility, it is extremely effective” (2007, 446:115).
In the concluding paragraphs of the article, Ledford quotes from Hector Avalos, a theologian from Iowa State University in Ames. Avalos’ solution to the problem is simple—“cut the violent passages out of the scripture” (Ledford, 446:115). Avalos admits that such is a wildly controversial suggestion, but he says it ought not to be. Practically speaking, religious leaders generally avoid reading the passages that contain violence such as genocide anyway. So, according to Avalos, these passages should simply be removed from the text.
Several points need to be made concerning Ledford’s article. First, Nature is infamous for its support of Darwinian evolution. According to evolution, the sole purpose of an organism is to pass on its genes to the next generation. Who cares if it does this in a violent or passive way? Even the most cursory look into the natural verifies the fact that many animals are extremely violent. Furthermore, since humans are nothing more than higher forms of animals, and their purpose is to pass on their genes as well, why would aggression or violence be a negative characteristic? Why not glorify the violence as an adaptive trait that helps the fittest humans survive?
Second, even though some leaders might attempt to use the Bible to support modern-day violent acts of genocide or murder, such would be a heinous misinterpretation of the biblical message. This type of loose and improper handling of the Scripture fails to acknowledge that the crucial message of the Bible which is applicable today is summed up in such passages as Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Any person can misinterpret any literary text and misapply their self-imposed message.
Finally, attempts to destroy the Word of God by removing those parts that contradict a person’s chosen worldview have been legion throughout human history. During the life of Jeremiah the prophet, Jehoiakim reigned as king in Judah. Due to Jehoiakim’s sinful activities, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to produce a scroll containing the judgment that would come upon Judah and her wicked king. One of the king’s servants read the scroll and its divine judgments in the presence of Jehoiakim. Upon hearing the message, the evil king took a scribe’s knife, slashed the scroll to pieces, and tossed it into the fire burning in the hearth (Jeremiah 36:11-26). In a literal or figurative sense, humans have consistently attempted to do away with parts of God’s Word that they reject.
Instead of attempting to destroy the parts of God’s Word, we should be trying our best to rightly divide the Word of truth, since God’s Word will judge all people on the Day of Judgment (John 12:48). We should take heed to the inspired principle spoken by John pertaining to the book of Revelation:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19, emp. added).
Ledford, Heidi (2007), “Scriptural Violence Can Foster Aggression,” Nature,446:114-115, March 8.
The Da Vinci Code and the Deity of Christ
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, the character known as Sir Leigh Teabing “enlightens” one of the story’s main characters, Sophie Neveu, about a number of matters that lay at the heart of Christianity. One of the subjects that he broaches with this young French government cryptographer is the deity of Christ. According to Teabing, until the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325,
Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a mannonetheless. A mortal.... Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantineturned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable (Brown, 2003, p. 233, italics in orig., emp. added).Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.... Constantinecommissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’shuman traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike (p. 234, italics in orig., emp. added).
No doubt, millions of readers have examined these words and pondered over their truthfulness. Was the “master storyteller” Dan Brown simply trying to sells books with such statements, or are we to consider these words by the fictional character Sir Leigh Teabing as absolute, historical truths? Was Jesus considered only a man before Constantine’s alleged transformation of Him at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325? Or, was He from the beginning of the Christian era considered by inspired writers and the early disciples as God in the flesh?
Exactly where Dan Brown includes historical facts in his novel, and where he simply includes information for entertainment enhancement purposes, is difficult to decipher. Since Brown includes a “FACT” page at the very front of his book that alleges, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003, p. 1, emp. added), one gets the strong impression from the very outset of the book that when documents such as the New Testament manuscripts are mentioned, Brown (through his fictional characters) must be telling the truth. The problem is, much of what he says about Christianity, especially about the nature of its Founder—Jesus—is woefully inaccurate.
First, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Messiah’s deity 1,000 years before the time of Constantine. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Early Christians had access to these Jewish Scriptures, even in the Greek language (i.e., the Septuagint), which they could consult regarding both Christ’s humanity and deity. In fact, in the late second century A.D., Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 in defense of Jesus’ divinity (3:19).
Second, when Jesus came to Earth in human form in the first century, He repeatedly referred to His divine nature. The fact that He claimed to be the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62), is proof enough, since according to the Old Testament, the Messiah would be called “Mighty God.” Jesus also claimed to be “One” with the Father (John 10:30), and that “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). He accepted worship time and again (Matthew 14:33; John 9:38; Luke 24:52), which is due only to God (Matthew 4:10)—not mere human beings (Acts 12:23; 14:8-18; cf. Hebrews 1:6). Truly, Jesus came from heaven (John 3:13; 6:33,38,41) and ascended back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64; cf. Psalm 110:1).
But in The Da Vinci Code, historian Sir Leigh Teabing alleges that such statements as these, which allude to Jesus’ divinity, were “embellished” by Constantine in A.D. 325 in order to make Christ “godlike” (p. 234). Is Teabing, who in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code is played by Ian McKellen, factually accurate? Not at all. The truth is, numerous copies of the various New Testament documents and quotations from those documents by early Christian writers exist that predate the time of Constantine by 100-200 years. Constantine did not write or “embellish” John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” emp. added; cf. 1:14). Copies of this passage (found in manuscripts designated p66 and p75) go back to the late second and early third centuries—100 to 150 years beforeConstantine and the Council of Nicaea. Jesus’ claim, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30), and the Jews’ recognition that Jesus made Himself, not just a man, but “God” (John 10:33; cf. 5:18) also predate Constantine by more than a century (cf. manuscripts designated p45, p66, and p75). What’s more, a copy of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, in which he affirms “Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,” existed long before Constantine’s supposed embellishment of the nature of Jesus (p46).
In The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, edited by Philip Comfort and David Barrett, more than 60 of the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts are transcribed (including those mentioned above). Many photographs of these early manuscripts (the originals of which are housed in museums throughout the world) are also contained in the book. Interestingly, in the introduction to this massive 700-page volume, Comfort and Barrett state: “All of the manuscripts [contained in the book—EL] are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300)” (2001, p. 17). In fact, “[s]everal of the most significant papyri date from the middle of the second century” and thus “provide the earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs” (p. 18). Comfort and Barrett even concede that “it is possible that some of the manuscripts thought to be of the early second century are actually manuscripts of the late first” (p. 23). New Testament manuscripts with descriptions of Jesus’ deity from the middle second century, and possibly the late first century? But The Da Vinci Code says that Constantine purposefully manipulated the scriptures in the fourth century (A.D. 325) in order to make Jesus sound divine when really He was not? The facts speak for themselves. The story told in The Da Vinci Code is dead wrong. We have ample proof that Constantine did not change the New Testament documents by elevating Jesus’ status from man to God. Unfortunately, millions of Dan Brown’s readers have been duped into believing that Jesus is not Who the Bible claims that He is.
But, that’s not all. Writings from early Christians (all of which predate Constantine by well over a century) also exist that reveal much about the early church’s view of Jesus. Ignatius, who died in the early second century and is thought to have been a companion of the apostle John, referred to Jesus Christ as “our God” several times in his letters to the Christians in Ephesus (Chapter 7; Chapter 8) and Rome (Introduction; Chapter 3). Polycarp, who was a contemporary of Ignatius and died around A.D. 150, wrote a letter to the church at Philippi in which he called Jesus “the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest” (chapter 12). Another “church father” from the second century, Justin Martyr, wrote that Jesus, “being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God” (First Apology, chapter 63). Irenaeus also provides us with valuable insight into what Christians (living more than a century before the time of Constantine) thought about Jesus. In approximately A.D. 200, He wrote:
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, andthe Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Even certain second-century enemies of Christ give testimony to the fact that Christians viewed Jesus as divine long before A.D. 325. In a letter that Pliny the Younger (Roman governor in the Asia Minor province of Bithynia around A.D. 115) wrote to the Emperor Trajan, he stated: “They [the Christians—EL] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds...” (10:96). Another individual who opposed Christianity was the Greek rhetorician and satirist, Lucian. He wrote:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage,and live after his laws (11-13, emp. added).
Thus, aside from the non-hostile witnesses that testify of Jesus being God, even His enemies, who lived both in the first century (e.g., Pharisees; John 5:18; John 10:33) and second century (i.e., Pliny the Younger and Lucian), recognized that both Jesus and His followers, believed that He was God, and thus worthy of worship.
In truth, Jesus was viewed as divine by His followers long before the Council of Nicaea convened in A.D.325. The leaders who gathered at that council nearly 300 years after the death of Christ (not “four centuries” as Teabing stated in The Da Vinci Code, p. 234) did take a vote regarding the nature of Christ (which was not nearly a close vote—another strike against the historical accuracy of The Da Vinci Code, cf. p. 233). But, that vote did not settle the matter regarding His deity. The nature of Christ was settled hundreds of years earlier when Jesus and the first century apostles and prophets who were guided “into all truth” by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) taught that He was “God” (John 1:1,14; 10:30; 20:28; etc.).
...Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Justin Martyr (1973 reprint), “The First Apology of Justin,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lucian (1905 reprint), “The Death of Peregrine,” The Works of Lucian of Samosata, trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, [On-line], URL: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm.
Pliny (1935 reprint), Letters, trans. William Melmoth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
Polycarp (1973 reprint), “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).