Click to Change

Return to Top

Return to Top

Printer Icon


Prior Book Prior Section Back to Commentaries Author Bio & Contents Next Section Next Book
The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Outline for Colossians

toggle collapse
Choose a new font size and typeface


I. DOCTRINAL, Chapters 1, 2

In Christ, the fullness (pleroma) of God, we are made full.

A. Introduction, Chapter 1:1-8

B. Paul’s prayer, Chapter 1:9-14

C. Person of Christ, Chapter 1:15-19

D. Objective work of Christ for sinners, Chapter 1:20-23

E. Subjective work of Christ for saints, Chapter 1:24-29

F. Christ, the answer to philosophy, Chapter 2:1-15

(for the HEAD)

G. Christ, the answer to ritual, Chapter 2:16-23

(for the HEART)

II. PRACTICAL, Chapters 3, 4

Christ, the fullness of God, poured out in life through believers.
(Breaking the alabaster box of ointment in the world.)

A. Thoughts and affections of believers are heavenly, Chapter 3:1-4

(The believer’s heart should be in heaven where his Head is.)

B. Living of believers is holy, Chapters 3:54:6

(In all relationships — personal, social, marital, parental, capital and labor — the believer should manifest Christ.)

C. Fellowship of believers is hearty, Chapter 4:7-18

(Roster of faithful workers similar to Romans 16 and Hebrews 11.)


I. DOCTRINAL, Chapters 1, 2

In Christ, the fullness (pleroma) of God, we are made full.

A. Introduction, Chapter 1:1-8

v. 1 — Paul’s standard opening associates his name with that of Timothy, who may have visited Colosse.

v. 2 — He does not mean to differentiate between the saints and the faithful. They are the same people.

v. 3 — Paul gives thanks directly to “God…the Father.” This is His redemptive provision (John 3:16). Gnosticism did not believe one could go directly to God, but rather through the emanations of God.

vv. 4, 5 — Paul links the trinity of graces for believers:

Faith — past
Love — present
Hope — future

v. 6 — “World” is kosmos, meaning the Roman world. Vincent considers this hyperbole. Gospel preaching had already far-reaching results. It reveals the universal character of the gospel.
“Fruit” is produced in those who believe.

v. 7 — Epaphras may have been the founder of the church, as some suppose.

v. 8 — “Love” is the fruit of the Spirit.

B. Paul’s prayer, Chapter 1:9-14

v. 9 — Paul put the Colossians on his prayer list.
“Knowledge” is epignosin, superknowledge. The Gnostics boasted that they had superknowledge. Here Paul confines it to the will of God, which is expressed in the Word of God. It gives “wisdom and spiritual understanding.” “Wisdom,” in all its forms, occurs forty times in this epistle.

v. 10 — “Worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” means that they would not be obsequious to man.
“Increasing in the knowledge of God” — a Christian should not be static but alive and growing in the Word of God.

v. 11 — Strength and power come from God and are produced by the Holy Spirit in patience, longsuffering, and joyfulness.

v. 12 — God, by His grace, has given us an inheritance with the saints in light.

v. 13 — We have been delivered from the kingdom of Satan (Ephesians 2:2) into the kingdom of “the Son of his love” (ASV). This is the present aspect of the kingdom of God.

v. 14 — Forgiveness is always associated with the blood of Christ. God does not arbitrarily or sentimentally forgive sin. “Redemption” is apolutrosin, meaning to set free an enslaved people.

C. Person of Christ, Chapter 1:15-19

This section on the person of Christ is the answer to all heresy concerning His person. One of the first heresies was Arianism. Arius of Alexandria said that the Lord Jesus Christ was a creature. The Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, answered this heresy: “The Son is very man of very man, and very God of very God.” Later Socinus propagated this heresy that Jesus was not God. This is the basis of Unitarianism and some of the cults, including Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There are nine marks of identification of Christ that make Him different and superior:

v. 15(1) “Image” (eikon; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18). He could not be the image of God unless He was God.
(2) “The first-born of all creation” (prototokos; John 1:14, 18; 3:16). God is the everlasting Father; the Son is the everlasting Son. His position in the Trinity is that of Son. “First-born” indicates His priority before all creation. His headship of all creation does not necessarily mean He was born first (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5; Romans 8:29). In incarnation He is the Son of God in a new sense. The angel’s announcement to Mary was, “…That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Christ is the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father.

v. 16(3) “By him were all things created” clears up any question about Christ being the Creator or a creature in verse 15 (cp. John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2).
There are two kinds of creation — “visible and invisible.” There are different gradations of rank in spiritual intelligences: “thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.”
(4) He not only created all things, they were created for Him.

v. 17(5) “He is before all things” — in the preincarnate Christ, all fullness dwells. In the incarnate Christ, all fullness dwells.
(6) He holds all things together. He maintains creation. He directs it. “Consist” (sunesteken) is to hold together (cp. Hebrews 1:3).

v. 18(7) “He is the head of the body, the church” (cp. Ephesians 1:22). He is the firstborn from the dead. He is the only One who has been raised in a glorified body (cp. Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5; Revelation 1:5).
(8) “That in all things he might have the pre-eminence” — the will of Christ must prevail throughout all of God’s creation.

v. 19(9) The fullness (pleroma) was at home, the full-fullness. Jesus was 100% God — not 99.44%.

Relationship to the Father, v. 15
Relationship to creation, vv. 16, 17
Relationship to the church, vv. 18, 19
Relationship to the cross, v. 20

D. Objective work of Christ for sinners, Chapter 1:20-23

v. 20 — Christ “made peace through the blood of his cross” (cp. Romans 5:1). God is not a big policeman waiting around the corner ready to pounce on the sinner. God has His arms outstretched and is saying to the sinner, “Come, and I will give you redemption rest.” Reconciliation is toward man. God is reconciled by the cross of Christ. He is asking man to be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
“All things” is limited to all things appointed for reconciliation (in just such a way as “the loss of all things” is limited to what things Paul had to lose [Philippians 3:8]).
“Things in heaven” indicate that not only must we be made ready for heaven, but heaven must be made ready to receive us. The Lord Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). By the incarnation, God came down to man; by the blood of Jesus, man is brought up to God. Notice that it does not add, “things under the earth” (cp. Philippians 2:10).

v. 21 — “Enemies in your mind” reminds us that there is mental alienation from God as well as moral alienation. This explains the fierce antagonism to God on the part of some so-called intellectuals.

v. 22 — “Body of his flesh” is an explicit declaration, as Docetic Gnosticism stated that Christ suffered in appearance but not in a real body.
“Unblamable” means without blemish. This was the requirement for a sacrificial animal.
“Unreprovable” means unaccusable; unchargeable. “It is God that justifies.”

v. 23 — This is not conditional, based on the future. It is not some- thing that shall be if something else is. Rather, this is the “if” of argument, often used by Paul. It could be translated, “Since ye continue in the faith….”

E. Subjective work of Christ for saints, Chapter 1:24-29

v. 24 — A free translation could be, “Now I, Paul, rejoice in the midst of my sufferings for you, and I am filling up in my flesh that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ for His body’s sake, which is the church.” It was necessary to fill up that which was lacking of the suffering of Christ.

(1) There are sufferings of Christ that we cannot share:

(a) Human suffering;

(b) Suffering as the Son of God;

(c) Suffering as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

(2) There are sufferings of Christ that we can share:

(a) Suffering for righteousness’ sake;

(b) Suffering in the measure we identify ourselves with Christ for the proclamation of the gospel. (See author’s message, “The Unfinished Sufferings of Christ.”)

v. 25 — “Dispensation” is economy; stewardship.

vv. 26, 27 — “Mystery” is a sacred secret. This looks forward to the day when we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). We are in Christ down here at present.

vv. 28, 29 — “Perfect in Christ Jesus” means complete. This was the goal of Paul.

F. Christ, the answer to philosophy, Chapter 2:1-15

(for the HEAD)

There were five errors that endangered the Colossian church:

(1) Enticing words, vv. 4-7

(2) Philosophy, vv. 8-13

(3) Legality, vv. 14-17

(4) Mysticism, vv. 18, 19

(5) Asceticism, vv. 20-23

v. 1 — “Conflict” is agony — called prayer agony by MacPhail.
Laodicea was located on the river Lycos, next to Colosse. It was much more prominent than Colosse. Before 250 B.C. it was called Diosopolis. Here, in 364 A.D., the council to determine the canon of Scripture met (Revelation 3:14-22).
“As many as have not seen my face in the flesh” makes it obvious that Paul had not been to Colosse.

v. 2 — “Heart” indicates the entire man, the whole propulsive nature of man. “Knit together” is compacted (with the thought of instruction).
“Full assurance” is under full sail.
“Mystery of God” is Christ in His incarnation. “He was very God of very God and very man of very man.”

v. 3 — We may go to Christ for wisdom and knowledge. “Next to knowledge is knowing where to find out.”

v. 4 — “Beguile you” means to victimize you. “Enticing words” are oratory or sweet talk.

v. 5 — “Order” is a military term, meaning to stand shoulder to shoulder.
“Steadfastness” is a solid front; immovable. Paul is commending them for their faithfulness in the face of overwhelming odds against them.

v. 6 — “Received” a person, Jesus Christ.

v. 7 — “Rooted” as a tree, a living thing.
“Built up” as a house
“In the faith” is by your faith.

v. 8 — “Beware” is look out!
“Lest any man” — notice that Paul mentions no names.
“Spoil” is booty in a Roman victory parade.
“Philosophy” — a true philosopher is a seeker after the truth. Christ is the answer. False philosophy is like a blind man looking in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.
“Tradition of men” — Christ condemned religious rulers for this.
“Rudiments” (stoicheion), the ABCs.

v. 9 — “Fullness” is pleroma. This is a clear-cut statement of the deity of Christ.

v. 10 — “Complete in him” may be translated, “Ye are ready for the voyage of life in Him,” picturing a sailing ship out on a voyage.

v. 11 — The real circumcision for today is the new birth (cp. Galatians 6:15; John 3:3).

v. 12 — Identification with Christ is the meaning of being “buried with him in baptism” (see notes on Romans 6:1-5).
“Risen with him” — Lord Lyndhurst, lord chancellor of Great Britain and one of the sharpest legal minds of all time, said: “I know pretty well what evidence is; and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”

v. 13 — It is not the improvement of the old nature, but the impartation of a new nature.

v. 14 — Since the Law was given to discipline the old nature, and the believer is given a new nature, the Law as a way of life was removed per se by the cross of Christ.

v. 15 — The spiritual victory that Christ won for the believer is of inestimable value.

G. Christ, the answer to ritual, Chapter 2:16-23

(for the HEART)

v. 16 — A believer is not to observe ordinances that are only ritual and liturgical, as they have no present value (cp. 1 Corinthians 8:8-13).

v. 17 — “Shadow” is picture; a photograph. All of the rituals of the Law were pictures of Christ. Now that Christ has come, we have the reality, the person of Christ, and we no longer need pictures.

v. 18 — Paul is here condemning the Gnostics who made a pretense of wisdom.
“Intruding into those things which he hath not seen” is a pretense. The American Standard Version translates it, “Dwelling in the things which he hath seen.”

v. 19 — “Not holding the Head” indicates a loose relationship to Christ. Therefore they do not grow spiritually.

v. 20 — “If ye be dead” might better be translated, “Since ye have died (when Christ died), do not return to pre-cross living.”
“Ordinances” are fads.

v. 21 — This is separation, according to many. Actually this is monkey business — the three little monkeys see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

v. 22 — These are part of the passing fashions of the world.

v. 23 — This is “the pride that apes humility” (Juvenal). “Not in any honor” means it is not of any value.

II. PRACTICAL, Chapters 3, 4

Christ, the fullness of God, poured out in life through believers.
(Breaking the alabaster box of ointment in the world.)

A. Thoughts and affections of believers are heavenly, Chapter 3:1-4

(The believer’s heart should be in heaven where his Head is.)

v. 1 — “Be risen” is were raised — when Christ was raised, we were raised (Romans 6:4, 5).

v. 2 — “Affection” is mind — think about things above.

v. 3 — “For ye are dead” is for ye have died— when Christ died, we died.

v. 4 — This is the guarantee for the future. We have died with Him; we have been raised with Him. We are in Christ. When He appears, we appear.

B. Living of believers is holy, Chapters 3:54:6

(In all relationships — personal, social, marital, parental, capital and labor — the believer should manifest Christ.)

Chapter 3

v. 5 — “Mortify” is put to death; put in the place of death.
“Members” refers to the energies and activities of the old man (Romans 8:6-8). Paul deals with specific sins:
“Fornication” refers to physical and spiritual fornication.
“Uncleanness” includes thoughts, words, looks, gestures.
“Inordinate affection” is passion (ASV); lust.
“Evil concupiscence” is evil desire (ASV).
“Covetousness” is must-have-more-ness.

v. 6 — God judges sinners for these sins, and God must judge believers for committing them.

v. 7 — This is the condition of believers before they were saved.

v. 8 — “Put off” as a garment.
“Malice” is congealed anger.
“Filthy communication” is foul communication — both abusive and filthy.

v. 9 — “Put off the old man” — the old man is not to control the life of the believer. Garments in Scripture are habits. We use the same expression today when we speak of riding habits or walking habits. The old man is to be put off, taken off as a garment.

v. 10 — “Put on the new” garment or habit. Nature abhors a vacuum. Putting off is not enough; we must live in the new man by the power of the Holy Spirit.

v. 11 — Christ is all in all. He is a catalyst that brings together individuals and groups who are separate and makes them one in Christ. A catalyst is a substance that is placed with elements that are opposed and brings them together in a new compound.

v. 12 — As he labeled the things of the old man that were to be put off, here he labels the specifics that go with the wardrobe of the new man. “Tender mercies” may be translated a heart of compassion. These all are the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cp. Galatians 5:22, 23).

v. 13 — This is the basis on which the believer is to forgive, rather than the legal basis given in the so-called Lord’s Prayer (cp. Ephesians 4:32).

vv. 14, 15 — “Love” and “peace” are both fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

v. 16 — “The word of Christ” — “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
“Dwell” is be at home — be given the run of the house. Many folk praise the Bible but do not study it. Juvenal said, “Virtue is praised and left to starve.” This verse is fulfilled only in a Spiritfilled heart (see Ephesians 5:18-20). Of 2nd century believers, Pliny wrote to the Emperor in A.D. 112: “They meet together before day to sing a hymn to Christ as God.”

v. 17 — This is the Christian life, the summum bonum of life.

vv. 18-22 — See notes on Ephesians 5:226:9.

v. 23 — Christian service is that which is done to please Christ rather than men.

v. 24 — For this he will receive a reward.

v. 25 — If the believer attempts to please men, there is no reward.

Chapter 4

v. 1 — Both masters and servants must give an account to the Master in heaven (Ephesians 6:9). “Just and equal” is not to level down, but to level up.

vv. 2-6 — Here are three more areas of Christian conduct which are important:

(1) “Prayer” (vv. 2-4). Persevere in prayer. Like breathing, inhale (prayer), exhale (thanksgiving). Pray for the preaching of the gospel.

(2) “Walk in wisdom” (v. 5). The public walk is another important factor.

(3) “Speech” (v. 6). We should not be boring, but enthusiastic!

C. Fellowship of believers is hearty, Chapter 4:7-18

(Roster of faithful workers similar to Romans 16 and Hebrews 11.)

This section is similar to Romans 16. It is a roster of believers who lived, moved, and had their being in the pagan culture of the Roman Empire. They lived for God in a heathen society.

vv. 7, 8 — Tychicus was evidently the pastor of the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21; Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 4:12).

v. 9 — Onesimus was a slave of Philemon in Colosse. He had run away to Rome. Paul led him to Christ and had returned him to Philemon as a brother (see Epistle to Philemon).

v. 10 — Aristarchus (Acts 19:29) was a friend of Paul. Mark (Acts 15:37) made good (2 Timothy 4:11).

vv. 12, 13 — Epaphras was the minister at Colosse, but at this time was in prison. He had now a ministry of prayer.

v. 14 — Luke was the beloved physician.

vv. 15-18 — Personal greetings and injunctions.

v. 18 — “Remember my bonds” was evidently the motto of many believers who began to witness after Paul was imprisoned.

Notes for Colossians ← Prior Section
Notes for 1 Thessalonians Next Section →
Notes for Philippians ← Prior Book
Notes for 1 Thessalonians Next Book →
BLB Searches
Search the Bible

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval

Let's Connect
Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.