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 1:21-29 Inductive Bible Study
I. Our new position in Christ (21-23)
II. Suffering for Christ (24-29)
I. Our new position in Christ (21-23)
- Were you ever hostile to Christ? If so, when and how?
- How are people hostile to Christ prior to coming to faith in Him?
- In what way does this passage say that Christ rescued you?
- For what purpose does this passage say that Christ rescued you?
- What is Christ’s goal for you?
- What does it mean to be beyond reproach? To be sinless?
- Why is it important to live our lives in this way?
- What are some of the common things which move people away from the hope of the gospel?
- How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?
Ephesians 2:1-7 –You were dead in your sins… But God…
2 Corinthians 5:18–All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
Romans 5:10–For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
1. Verse 21 – In the past few verses we have seen the very important Christology. Now we turn to “human-ology.” It’s not a pretty picture.
A. You were formerly alienated – Ever since creation people have been separated from God because of sin. By ourselves we cannot truly know God. We cannot see Him. We cannot understand His character. We were alienated from him by our own choosing, not by His.
B. Hostile in mind – Even worse, we were hostile to Him. We were not only strangers, but enemies. People are predisposed to hate Christ. There is no rational reason for it, just like there is no rational reason why the Pharisees ranted and raved against Christ for healing people. It is the farthest thing from objectivity. People are not blank slates. People are not basically good. We are born as sinners, biased against God and everything He teaches us. In our flesh, we would mock Him and hate Him just like the Roman soldiers who crucified Him when they didn’t even know Him.
Application: Knowing that people are hostile to Christ, how will this affect how you share the gospel with others? Were you hostile to God before? How?
C. Engaged in evil deeds – (See John 3:20.) And here we see a critical clue as to why people are hostile to Christ. It is because we love the sinful things we are doing. A child is predisposed to disobey his parents because of his own selfish desire to satisfy himself. We naturally don’t like authority because we want to be free to do what we want. In addition, this verse shows that we are not only sinners in theory, but also in practice. A sinner commits sin. That is what we do. That is what we are good at. It took divine intervention to stop us. For that we should be grateful.
2. Verse 22 – Christ has reconciled us. For what purpose? To present us as holy and blameless before God. His chief goal is not our comfort or our convenience. His chief goal is to make us holy and to present us as a gift to God. This is the reason that God has saved you. If you wonder why you face difficulties and trials this is the answer. God cares about your character more than your comfort.
Application: Are you becoming more holy? If people were to blame you, what area would it likely be in? That is the area you need to work on!
3. Verse 23 – In this verse we are reminded of the responsibility we face in this equation. It is God who saves. He is the one working in us. But we are charged with persevering. We are to continue in the faith and not be moved. We are to remain steadfast and firm. We are to allow God to work in us. We must be willing tools of Him and be malleable clay in His hands. How can we?
II. Suffering for Christ (24-29)
- How did Paul feel about his various afflictions?
- How could he feel this way?
- How do you react when you face sufferings?
- What does Paul mean that he does his “share?”
- Does every believer have a share, responsibility in the church? What is yours?
- How would you explain the phrase“filling up what is lacking Christ’s afflictions?”
- What is a minister?
- What is a steward?
- Are you either of these? Which one and why?
- What is the mystery referred to in verse 26?
- Why was it hidden?
- What goals did Paul have based on verse 28?
- How did Paul approach these goals?
- How could he hope to accomplish them?
- Do you have goals for your work for Christ?
- If so, what are they?
- Share how you are working toward these goals.
Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Hebrews 12:2 – Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Luke 12:48 – To whom much is entrusted, much is required.
On the Mystery:
Ephesians 1:9 – He made known to us the mystery of His will.
Colossians 2:2 – My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.
Ephesians 5:32 – This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Romans 16:25 – Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past.
1. Now I rejoice in my sufferings – Paul faced far more than his “fair share” of sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). But in the midst of these life threatening sufferings Paul kept a good attitude. One reason he could do this was because he had the right perspective about this world and his place in it (1 Peter 4:13). He realized that his time on earth was temporary and while here his role was to be a minister and steward of the gospel (Colossians 1:25). Serving Christ with a good attitude is the priority.
This rejoicing doesn’t refer to a giddy silliness of a deranged person who laughs as he is beaten. Instead it flows from the heart. It flows out of an eternal perspective and an eternal relationship with Christ. It is only possible through the strength that Christ gives. The person who rejoices in suffering makes a conscious decision to maintain a good attitude and appropriate thanksgiving for God’s blessings even in the middle of serious trials. Even in the midst of the worst trial, we have much to be thankful for.
Application: What is the opposite of rejoicing? Perhaps it is complaining. When you suffer do you rejoice or do you complain? Do you remain thankful to the Lord for what He has done for you or do you grow bitter and resentful about the difficulties which you face?
2. In my sufferings for your sake – When we look at Paul’s sufferings, we can find out that most of them could have been avoided. These were not natural disasters or hereditary diseases. The vast majority of his sufferings came about as a result of persecution because of persistence in evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. There were scores of times in his life when Paul faced a clear decision: stop preaching the gospel and enjoy a life free of persecution or keep preaching the gospel and suffer. Every time he made the decision to keep ministering for the Lord and as a direct result faced even more intense persecution. Thus we can see the driving motivating force in Paul’s life, others. He lived His life for the Lord and therefore by living it for the Lord he put others needs above his own. Paul followed the very model of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life…[for others.] (Mark 10:45).
Application: What about you? Are you willing to face suffering for the sake of the people around you? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for them? How specifically can you apply this principle in your own life?
3. I do my share on behalf of His body – Every believer has received at least one spiritual gift from the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:12, 14:26). What do these verses show us is the purpose of spiritual gifts? They are given to us for the common good, for the edification of the body. God expects every believer to participate in the building up of the body. We are all responsible for this. In this verse the church is compared to a body. Every single part of the body has its own function. If even one part doesn’t carry its load, the whole body will suffer.
A family is the same. Even children should have a role in the well-being of the family. In those families where children do their own thing and don’t listen to parents who help it, chaos is sure to reign. People sometimes ask us how we can handle four kids (in the country we live, having more than two children is rare) and we tell them that we expect the older one to help with the younger one. If we have more children this same process will be true. The older will help watch over the younger. The older they get the more responsibilities they will have.
Application: Here in Colossians we see that Paul says he does his “share.” Who is doing your share? Are you doing your own share or is someone else doing it for you?
Luke 12:48 – But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
You have been given much. What have you been blessed with spiritually? Are you doing what is expected of you? Or are you shirking your part? If you grew up in a large family, you may have seen certain brothers or sisters (or perhaps even you!) shirk their duties with various excuses. Are you shirking your duties in the church?
4. In filling up what is lacking Christ’s afflictions – See Barnes’ Notes on this point taken from http://www.studylight.org/commentary/colossians/1-24.html, “What he says here is based on the leading desire of his soul – the great principle of his life – to be just like Christ; alike in moral character, in suffering, and in destiny; see the notes at Philemon 3:10. Having this strong wish, he had been led to pursue a course of life which conducted him through trials strongly resembling those which Christ himself endured; and, as fast as possible, he was filling up that in which he now fell short. He does not mean that there was anything lacking or deficient in the sufferings which Christ endured in making an atonement which was to be supplied by his followers, so that their merits might be added to his in order to secure the salvation of men, as the Romanists seem to suppose; but that there was still much lacking on his part before he should be entirely conformed to the Saviour in his sufferings, and that his present condition was such as rapidly to fill that up. This seems to me to be the fair meaning of this expressions though not the one commonly given. The usual interpretation is, “that which remains to me of affliction to be endured in the cause of Christ.” But this seems to me to be cold and tame, and not to suit the genius of Paul.”
5. Verse 25 –
Verses on Stewardship:
1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
Luke 16:11 – So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
Titus 1:7 – Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
We should each consider ourselves to be stewards. We are stewards of everything in our control including money, materials, house, possessions, and children. In addition we are stewards of the gospel, of the Word of God, of our time, our body, and our energy. God has also put certain leaders over the body as stewards of it. This means that the church does not belong to us. We are to watch over it for the sake of the Lord and for the benefit of those in it. We are not to selfishly pursue our own interests, pleasures, or career. Instead we are to hold everything we have to God with an open hand, asking Him to use us in whatever way He will.
6. The mystery –
For this section split into small groups. Give each small group the cross-references about the mystery (Colossians 2:2, Ephesians 1:9, 5:32, Romans 16:25). Ask them to look at these verses and be prepared to report back to the group about what they have learned regarding this mystery.
- What is this mystery?
- When was this mystery revealed?
- For what reason or reasons might God have kept this a secret before?
- Who can know this mystery?
- What should we do with this knowledge?
7. Verse 28 –
A. The target is every man – Paul did not exclude certain people or certain groups. He wanted every single person to have an opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved. Poor or rich, sick or healthy, slave or master, Jew or Gentile, it didn’t matter. Each and every person is created in the image of God. Every person has great value in His sight.
Oskar Schindler was a German who owned and operated a factory in Nazi Germany in WWII. During the course of the war, he helped to save 1400 Jews from death. After the war he said “he who saves one soul saves the world entire.” One of his greatest regrets is that he couldn’t save more.
We should not just care about the world in general, but we should care about each person we meet as individuals. Jesus didn’t just die on the cross for the world. He died on it for you.
B. Proclaim, admonish, teach – Here we see a three-fold plan of action for Paul and his teammates. Each of these words is an action verb showing that the Christian life is not passive or sedentary. Having a real influence on others’ lives requires moving our lips and speaking to them about Christ. This doesn’t happen automatically. We have to take initiative to do this. “Proclaiming” shows the important role of sounding out the good news of the gospel. We are like heralds announcing this on the streets and from the rooftops. To do this requires boldness. We must not be afraid of people looking at us, ignoring us, or making fun of us. By proclaiming the good news, we are sure to draw attention to ourselves and we must be willing to accept that. A herald cannot live a life of anonymity.
The word “admonish” shows us that we also have to take correction and rebuke seriously. While we do proclaim the good news that is not all we do. We also have to warn people who didn’t listen to it and correct believers who have accepted it, but gone astray. We do not have authority in and of ourselves to admonish others. The authority is in the Word of God and we must admonish others based on the Word.
The word “teaching” is a bit deeper than both of the previous words. There will be times when we need to explain what the Word means and how it should be applied to people’s lives.
C. The goal is to present each person complete in Christ – You can see that Paul’s vision doesn’t stop with salvation. His goal is not for all of these people to raise their hand and accept the invitation at the end of the church service. He hopes to see a radical life transformation of each person. He wants to see sanctification. He doesn’t want to present a bunch of half-grown or immature believers to the Lord as his life’s work. He wants each person to grow up to full maturity. Thus we see that Paul desired both quantity (every person) and quality (complete in Christ.)
8. For this purpose I labor – Paul had a great vision. He had a great goal. But he recognized the principle found in Proverbs 14:23. Mere talk leads only to poverty, but work brings profit. This vision wouldn’t fulfill itself. Paul labored to bring it about. He worked hard for decades. But he didn’t labor alone or by his own strength. He didn’t seek to do his own thing. Instead he sought God’s will. Looking to see where God was working, He whole-heartedly joined in God’s work. Paul also knew that apart from Christ we can accomplish nothing (John 15:5.)
Application: Do you have the same vision as Paul? Do you have a vision at all? If so, could you express it in words or is it just a nebulous idea? Are you currently working hard to see this vision fulfilled, working a little, or not working at all? Are you relying on God’s power or your own to see it accomplished?
Spend a few minutes and write down your vision in words. What has God called you to do for Him in this life?
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