These small group studies of Colossians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Colossians Overview

1. Read the book through 3-5 times.

2. Give the book a title. Know Christ, Know Truth

3. Outline of Colossians-

I. Greeting (1:1-2)

II. Thanksgiving (1:3-8)

    A. To God

    B. For their faith and love

    C. Because of hope

    D. For their good fruit

    E. From Epaphras’ example

III. Prayer for Colossians (1:9-14)

    A. Ceaseless

    B. Filled with the knowledge of His will

    C. Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord

    D. Please Him

    E. Bearing fruit

    F. Increasing in knowledge of God

    G. Strengthened with all power

    H. Attaining steadfastness and patience

      I. Giving thanks to the Father

     J. Rescued from darkness

     K. Redeemed and forgiven

IV. Doctrinal Instruction (1:15-2:23)

    A. Deity of Christ (1:15-1:23)

        1. Image of God; Firstborn of creation

        2. Creator

        3. Head of the body

        4. Fullness dwells in Him

        5. Reconciler and peacemaker

        6. Purifier

    B. Paul’s Ministry (1:24-1:29)

        1. Suffering

        2. Stewardship

        3. Preaching

        4. Unearthing mysteries

        5. Presenting men complete in Christ

    C. False Philosophy (2:1-23)

        1. Combat false philosophy with the knowledge of Christ

        2. As I’ve received, so walk

        3. Stay free from false philosophy

        4. In Christ-

            a. Be complete

            b. Be alive

            c. Be forgiven

            d. Be triumphant

        5. Avoid legalism

V. Practical Exhortations (3:1-4:18)

   A. Christian Conduct (3:1-17)

        1. Seek the things above

        2. Hidden with Christ, revealed in glory

        3. Dead to sin

        4. Put off sin

        5. Put on righteousness

        6. Forgive and love

        7. Let His Word richly dwell in me

        8. Do everything in His name

   B. Christian Households (3:18-4:1)

        1. Wives be subject to husbands

        2. Husbands, love wives

        3. Children, obey parents

        4. Fathers, don’t exasperate children

        5. Slaves, obey masters

        6. Work whole-heartedly

        7. Masters, be fair and just

   C. Christian Speech (4:2-6)

        1. Be devoted to prayer with thanksgiving

        2. Speak forth the Word

        3. Make the most of opportunity

        4. Speak with grace, seasoned with salt

   D. Christian Friends (4:7-18)

        1. Tychicus

        2. Onesimus

        3. Aristarchus

        4. Mark

        5. Justus

        6. Epaphras

        7. Luke and Demas

        8. Greet

            a. Brethren

                 i. In Laodicea

                 ii. In Nympha’s house

            b. Read the letter

        9. Archippus

        10. Final farewell

4. Author- Paul

5. Date- A.D. 60-62, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.

6. Circumstances around the writing of the book (history).

Colossae was a city in Phrygia, in the Roman province of Asia (part if modern Turkey), about 100 miles east of Ephesus in the region of the 7 churches if Revelation 1-3. The city lay alongside the Lycus River, not far from where it flowed into the Maender River. The Lycus Valley narrowed at Colossae to a width of about two miles, and Mt. Cadmus rose 8,000 feet above the city.

Colossae was a thriving city in the fifth century B.C. when Persian king Xerxes marched through the region. Black wool and dyes (made from nearby chalk depsoits) were important products. I addition, the city was situated at the junction of the main north-south and east-west trade routes. By Paul’s day, however, the main road had been rerouted through nearby Laodicea, thus bypassing Colossae and leading to its decline and the rise of the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Colossae was also know for its refreshing cold waters, which people came to use medicinally and to enjoy. It’s name probably came from Colossus, a large statue, which in turn may have been named for the unusual shape of stony deposits there.

Although Colossae’s population was mainly Gentiles, there was a large Jewish settlement dating from the days of Antiochus the Great (223-187 B.C.). Colossae’s mixed population of Jews and Gentiles manifested itself both in the composition of the church and in the heresy that plagued it, which contained elements of both Jewish legalism and pagan mysticism.

The church at Colossae began during Paul’s 3-year ministry at Ephesus. Its founder was not Paul, who had never been there, but Epaphras, who apparently was saved during a visit to Ephesus, then likely started the church in Colossae when he returned home. Several years after the Colossian church was founded, a dangerous heresy arose to threaten it– one not identified with any particular historical system. It contained elements of what later became known as Gnosticism: that God is good, but matter is evil, that Jesus Christ was merely one of a series of emanations descending from God and being less than God (a belief that led them to deny His true humanity), and that a secret, higher knowledge above Scripture was necessary for enlightenment and salvation. They prided themselves in their knowledge, and said they had information superior to that of the apostles and tried to create the impression that a person could not be truly happy unless he had been initiated into the deepest secrets of their cult. The Colossian heresy also embraced aspects of Jewish legalism, e.g., the necessity of circumcision for salvation, observance of the ceremonial rituals of the OT law (dietary laws, festivals, Sabbaths), and rigid asceticism. It also called for the worship of angels and mystical experience. Epaphras was so concerned about this heresy that he made the long journey from Colossae to Rome, where Paul was prisoner.

This letter was written from prison in Rome sometime between A.D. 60-62 and is, therefore, referred to as a Prison Epistle (along with Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon). It may have been composed almost contemporaneously with Ephesians and initally sent with that epistle and Philemon by Tychicus. He wrote this letter to warn the Colossians against the heresy they faced, and sent the letter to them with Tychicus, who was accompanying the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master, Philemon, a member of the Colossian church. Epaphras remained behind in Rome, perhaps to receive further instruction from Paul.

7. General theme of the book:

The Christian life is centered on Christ. He is the exact image of God, and our perfect example. By following Him, we can avoid being deceived by the false teachings of men, and also live orderly, productive, righteous lives.

8. Important verses in the book, including key verse, if you can find one. 1:15, 2:2, 2:6, 2:9-10, 3:2, 3:16

9. General impressions:

Paul is consistent in his greetings. He almost always wishes grace and peace for the brethren.

He starts out with encouraging words for them, commenting on the things they’re doing right before he touches on the areas that need growth.

Healthy Christians don’t stagnate, they grow. (1:6)

God provides many examples of godly Christian living, the greatest of whom is Christ.

We should pray rich, abundant prayers for each other, not small ones restricted by earthly thinking.

Want to know God more? Christ is God, incarnate. All attributes of God are visible in Him. Study Him, mirror Him, and your life will be pleasing to Him.

Feel like you’re falling apart? All things hold together in Christ.

All the fullness dwells in Him. We don’t need anything else to make us complete.

Paul is so unselfish that he rejoices in suffering he experiences on behalf of the saints. His ministry, done in the power of Christ, is not about himself, but about Christ and the saints.

Paul’s love is far-reaching. He even struggles on behalf of saints he has not met. I think it’s easy to get caught up in our own little circle and neglect praying/laboring for the world-wide family.

Christianity is not a decision, but a lifestyle. (2:7)

Worldly wisdom and legalism is alluring, but also enslaving. Do not be deceived by man’s fleshly arguments.

Legalism is a shadow of the fullness we can have in Christ.

The Christian life does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot just put off one set of vices. We must put on something else. It is not only about “thou shalt not” but also “thou shalt.”

Christ’s righteousness acts as a leveler, sweeping aside barriers of nationality, race and background.

We were called as one body to have peace rule in our hearts. That should be both individual and corporate. (3:15)

Christian homes are orderly and operate on a system of mutual love and authority.

Prayer should always be coupled with thanksgiving.

Although our primary responsibility is towards believers and the church, we are also to be careful in our conduct towards outsiders. Sometimes, we are all that they see of Christ.

Exercise a sincere love of the brethren, remembering friends past and present in prayer and reaching out to encourage them when we can.

Paul’s only request for himself is that they remember his imprisonment. While he was not focused on self, it was not wrong for him to bring up a prayer request.

Study Colossians 1:1-4