Church Ruled by Christ: Biblical Context

The Scriptures do not consist of completely independent passages. The Bible incorporates many passages on a wide variety of themes, topics, and issues, and none of the passages stands in fundamental conflict with the others. Exegesis necessitates contextual analysis for maximum understanding and applicability.

Pauline Epistles

Paul communicated with Christian churches throughout his near world. He travelled extensively to spread the gospel of Christ. The epistle to the Colossians was probably written during Paul’s Roman imprisonment as he awaited trial. He was granted particular mercies by the Roman Prefect to ease his situation, but the imprisonment was nevertheless extremely difficult. Paul was confined to the house he had rented, and he was in direct “military custody”. His arm was at all times chained to that of an imperial bodyguard.  He was, however, allowed to receive visitors and to preach the Gospel. He wrote to the church in Colossae after he was visited by Epaphras.


Colossians is Paul’s letter to a young Christian church in Colossae that appears to have been threatened by false teachings. Paul greeted the church in 1:1-14 with his prayers for them and his thankful joy for their conversions to the Gospel. He reminded them of the supreme identity and Lordship of Christ in verses 1:15-20, and in verses 1:21-23 observed Christ’s reconciliatory work that defines a truth upon which Christians must stand. Paul established in 1:24-2:5 that he had a justified responsibility to not only share the Gospel but to continue teaching the subsequent lessons of developing maturity in Christ, particularly when false teachers might attempt to delude Christians away from the truth. Salvation brings with it a new birth in which Christians are made alive in Christ, and this new life in Him is one of mature liberty, as described in 2:6-15.

Critical observers and false teachers, Paul taught in verses 2:16-23, cannot demand that Christians follow the physical strictures of the old law, nor the ascetic spiritualism of human sensation and earthly elements. The earthly things in oneself, addressed in 3:1-10, are to be put to death so that Christians may live in the liberty of Christ that Paul referenced in verse 3:11.  He iterated the elements and behaviors of the new self in verses 3:12-17, and emphasized the community-oriented nature of the development. Healthy community was further encouraged by Paul’s application of Christian behavior to household life in verses 3:18-4:1. Paul concluded in verses 4:2-18 with the summary advice prayer and thanksgiving, as well as endorsing and communicating on behalf of and with his fellow ministers, messengers, and prisoners.

Colossians 3:12-17

The third chapter of Colossians is focused on the removal of the old self, that which was lived by the individual prior to salvation in Christ, and the putting on of the new that is found in God. Verses 12-17 clarify a definition of what the new life in Christ consists and implies in terms of internal and external behavior. These two sides of the individual, the internal and the external, are not considered independent; rather, they fluidly generate and edify the qualities that define a mature Christian identity. Similarly, the individuals in a body of believers are not considered independent, because the same fluidity that applies to the individual also binds together believers into a complete church in Christ.

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