Having concluded our Life Together series, we are excited to spend a couple months in the New Testament book of Colossians! We believe this series will prove timely as a follow-up to Life Together and in light of our current cultural milieu. Colossians presents a more developed theology of the Church in which the “body” of Christ is not merely a body locally, but a body universally. This universality is further highlighted by the style and tone of Paul's letter.
Paul’s Theology of the Church
In Colossians, Paul develops his theology of the universal Church. Theologian Douglas Moo points out that much of Paul's writing on the church “refers to local gatherings of believers… sometimes compared to a body… But in Colossians, the ‘church’ becomes a universal phenomenon and is identified with Christ’s body.” Throughout our Life Together series, our focus was intensely local. We talked at length about what God wants for our particular local body. But now, Paul's letter to the Colossians will lead us to reflect upon all that God is doing on a global scale. In short, we hope this series will further reinforce the intent behind Sojourn's mission statement: “Joining the Father, Son, and Spirit in the historic work of redemption.” What we do locally joins what God is doing universally and throughout history.
Paul’s Treatment of False Teaching
Paul also wrote this letter to address false teaching in the church at Colossae. He wrote to a particular church about a particular problem, and yet, so many of the particulars are particularly lacking... particularly. Unlike Galatians, in which the false teachers and their teachings are named and addressed very specifically, Paul writes Colossians in general terms. Thus, Colossians can be applied to a wide variety of cultural issues or contexts. And notably, Paul is more concerned with stating Christian doctrine positively (what we should be for) than opposing false teaching explicitly (what we should be against). Today, our society more often identifies the Church by what she's against than by what she's for, but Paul reminds us: sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
This is reflected in Paul's literary style. Much Pauline writing is argumentative (e.g. Romans), but Colossians is written in a liturgical-hymnic style. In both content and style, Paul shows us that in a world of confusion, uncertainty, and doubt, Christ-centered worship is our offense. The Church must be captivated by a full vision of the cosmic, preeminent Christ, reigning and ruling in the heavenlies. Paul would have us behold “the image of the invisible God,” the One through whom God created all things, and the One through whom He has reconciled all things, the Head of every spiritual power.