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 1:9-20 Online Bible Study Lesson With Discussion Questions
I. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians (9-14)
II. Who is Christ? (15-20)
I. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians (9-14)
- Since the day we heard what (9)?
- How would you describe Paul’s prayer life?
- Why did he pray for the Colossians so much?
- What exactly did he pray for the Colossians?
- What can we learn from the content of Paul’s prayer for them?
- What knowledge did Paul want the Colossians to gain?
- What is the difference between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding?
- What is the goal of the knowledge he was praying for them?
- What does it look like when a person walks in a worthy manner?
- For what does this passage say God empowers us?
- How is this different from what we generally want God to empower us for?
- What transformation has God brought about in our lives (13)?
- How should we respond to the truth that you have been “transferred” to the kingdom of His beloved Son?
- What does redemption mean?
- What will you do in the following week to apply what we have learned today?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Have not ceased to pray for you – One cannot help when reading these epistles but to notice Paul’s heart of prayer for the churches. It comes up again and again. It appears that Paul spent as much or more time praying as he did preaching.
In the world today, many people say that they are too busy to pray. There is simply too much to do. Once Martin Luther wisely said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
2. The content of Paul’s prayer – Paul’s prayer is very specific. It is also very deep. You can see that he has a heart for their long-term spiritual welfare and Christian character, not just for their temporary comfort or convenience.
Imagine for a minute if we were gathered here today studying your prayers for other believers. What would we think? Are your prayers rich with spiritual truth? Do they reflect a deep faith in and dependence on the Lord? Are they focused on the true spiritual needs of others or just on some simple external things like health?
3. So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord – This is a high calling.
We ourselves can never be worthy of what Christ has done for us. We can never earn His grace. Grace by definition is something that is not deserved. On the other hand, we can respond worthily to what He has done for us. We can respond by repenting of our sin and allowing Him to transform us. We should make it a habit to daily ask ourselves, “Would I be doing this if Jesus was here watching me?” Because He is in fact here watching us.
4. Please Him in all respects – When we become followers of Christ, we receive many spiritual benefits (which we will see more in verses 13-14). However, as His followers we also have new responsibilities. He is the shepherd. We are the sheep. He is the Master. We are His servants. Does a servant get to pick and choose which commands he can obey? Of course not. Neither do we get to pick and choose which areas of our life we should please God in. We must strive to please Him in every area, in every decision.
Our innermost thoughts should be pure and holy. Our words must be edifying to others and glorifying to God. Our decisions (James 4:15) must be made to please God and not to please ourselves. We must please Him at work, at home, in our family, and while among our friends. We must use our free time in a way that honors the Lord. He cares about how we treat our parents, our siblings, our spouse, our children, our neighbors, our classmates, our co-workers, our bosses, our teachers, our students, our relatives, our enemies, and even strangers. Get the point yet?
How can we achieve this massive and all-encompassing goal? One good way is to work toward it little by little. Evaluate your life in various areas. Set clear and specific short-term goals for yourself. Give yourself a deadline. Then follow through and do it. We move forward little by little, inch by inch.
5. Bearing fruit in every good work – Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared many good works for us to do. Every task which we complete, is a fruit which we can offer as a sacrifice to the Lord. Are you a tree heavily laden with fruit or a sick and dying tree which is hard to find any fruit on at all?
6. Increasing in the knowledge of God – Do you know God better today than last year? Last month? Last week? We should be steadily growing in our knowledge of the Lord and at the same time putting what we know into practice. To do this, we must be committed to maintaining good habits in our study of the Word, including Bible reading and group Bible study/church. We should be regularly exercising all five fingers of the Word (Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate.)
7. Strengthened will all power for the attaining of all steadfastness, patience, and joy – Many sermons these days focus on God empowering us. One of the most famous verses and most oft quoted is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This verse is really attractive.
It reminds me of a cartoon movie I watched as a kid. It was called Space Jam. In Space Jam Bugs Bunny and many other little animals were playing a basketball game against alien monsters which were incredible at basketball. The loser had to be slaves of the winning team. It seemed the Looney Tunes characters had no chance, but then Bugs Bunny started handing out some of what he labeled, “Michael Jordan’s secret stuff.” This magic formula was supposed to instantly transform them into amazing basketball players. After drinking it, these little animals suddenly transformed into skillful basketball players and ended up winning the game.
Many people think that the power of Christ is like the “secret stuff” in this bottle. If you believe hard enough or pray sincerely enough, God will bestow His secret power on you and then you can do anything. The most challenging exam will be child’s play. The most powerful disease will be instantly overcome. The highest obstacles will be chucked aside as you march forward into victory in whatever arena you choose.
But is this what it means to be strengthened by the power of God?
We can learn what it actually means in this context. It says that we will be strengthened for attaining two things: steadfastness and patience. While this verse is not an exhaustive list of everything God may strengthen us to do (for example in Romans 1:16 we learn He can give us boldness), it does clearly show the type of things He strengthens us to do. He empowers us to live our lives in a holy way. He empowers us to obey Him.
Many times when we read Scripture, we think of how difficult it is to do what we learn inside. How can we love our wife as Christ loved the church? How can we please Him in all respects? The answer is you can’t. You can’t do it on your own. But you can do it through Christ who strengthens you. God will not tell us to do something and then refuse to give us the help we need to accomplish it.
Application: How can you apply this principle? What will you do when you feel too weak and helpless to follow God’s commands? What can you do to receive this strength and power from Christ?
8. Joyously giving thanks – How should we react when God strengthens us or to any other spiritual blessing? We must joyously give thanks. Do not take God for granted. Look in verse 12 to see what He has done for us. Based on our own abilities we could never qualify to become saints. We could never qualify to receive an inheritance from Christ. But He qualified us. Do you regularly express your thanks for this?
9. Verses 13-14 – The world around us is a domain of darkness (John 1:5, Acts 26:18, Luke 1:79, 1 Thessalonians 5:5). Why does the Bible so often talk about the world as “dark?”
It is easy to develop a certain love for or attachment to the world. But God wants us to see it as it is, under the domain of Satan. People are enslaved to sin. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life are corrupting people from the inside out.
How can we keep a proper perspective toward the world? What is the proper perspective? We must be extremely careful not to become like the world around us or to love it or the entangling sins in it. Rejoice in the fact that we have been transferred out of this into the kingdom of Christ!
II. Who is Christ (15-20)?
- Who is the He in verse 15?
- What is the main point of this next passage (15-20)?
- Why is it important to know all of these things about Christ?
- What does it mean that “He is the image of the invisible God?”
- What does it mean that He is the “firstborn of creation?”
- Does that mean Jesus was created?
- How can it be that by Jesus everything was created when Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?”
- Is there anything invisible which has been created? If so, what?
- What were all of these things created for?
- What are you created for?
- Is most of God’s creation intentionally fulfilling the purpose for which it was created?
- How should the fact that you were created “for Him” impact your life?
- In what way is Jesus “before all things?”
- Why is it important that Jesus is the head of church?
- What impact should this have on your church?
- Explain verse 19 in your own words.
- Who did Jesus make peace with on the cross?
- Seeing the exalted Christ in this passage, how should you respond?
- What do you need to do to begin to treat Christ in the exalted way which He deserves?
Ephesians 1:22–And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church
1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
John 3:31–The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.
John 13:13 – “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Romans 14:9 – For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
On the divinity of Jesus:
Hebrews 1:8–But about the Son he says,“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
John 1:1–In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Colossians 2:9–For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. He is the image of the invisible God – (See also Hebrews 1:3, John 1:14, 14:9.) What does it mean that Jesus is the image of God? In Genesis we learn that man is made in the image of God. This means that we have many similarities to God such as morals, emotions, will, intellect, etc. When we read that Jesus is the image of God it means He is not just similar to God, but He is in fact God. They are of the same essence. He is the manifestation of God. Jesus reflects all that God is. He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable, just, loving, compassionate, holy, etc. God the Father does not have any qualities or abilities that Jesus the Son does not have. Those who saw Jesus, saw the Father (John 14:9). He is Emmanuel, God with us.
We can not see God the Father on this earth. Naturally that results in many questions. What is God like? What would He do? How would He respond to various situations? Jesus coming to earth and revealing Himself to us solved those problems. He showed us exactly what God is like. He showed us exactly what God would do.
2. The firstborn of all Creation – This phrase has confused many well-meaning Christians over the years. It has also been used by false teachers to spread the lie that Jesus is a Created being. The rest of Scripture is abundantly clear that Jesus is eternal (John 1, Colossians 1:16).
John 8:58 – “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
Jesus here declares that He existed long before his own before, even before Abraham. This is a claim to be eternally existent, that is divine. The Jews understood this claim and sought to kill him right after He said it.
The key to understanding this passage here in Colossians is understanding what “firstborn” means. In our culture, this means the one who is born first. But in Middle Eastern culture, the firstborn does not always refer to the one born first, but is used as a title for the person who has priority or rank over the others. For example when Jacob bought Esau’s birthright the rank of the firstborn was transferred to him even though he was younger. Calling Jesus the firstborn of creation is emphasizing his sovereignty over creation. It shows his rank as being that over any of creation.
He has all authority (Matthew 28). He is the Lord of the universe.
3. By Him all things are created – (John 1:1-4, Ephesians 3:9.) In Genesis we learn that God created the heavens and the earth. Here we learn that Jesus did. Do these passages disagree? They do not. On the contrary, they prove that Jesus is God.
In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Already in Genesis we see the concept of the Trinity taught, which would later be made more clear. Some verses ascribe Creation to the Father (Exodus 20:11, Psalm 33:6). Others ascribe it to the Son. The logical conclusion is that it was both.
One day I taught at a school. I taught a class at 9:15. Another teacher could also say that she taught the class at 9:15. So who taught it? Who is telling the truth? Actually both of us taught it. We taught it together. Both statements are accurate. Though we don’t know all the details, we know that Father and Son created the world together and the Holy Spirit was also involved (see Genesis 1:2).
4. And for Him – These three little words are a very important addendum to this treatise on creation and Christ. From these words we know the reason the world was created. It was not created primarily for your enjoyment, although God does want us to enjoy it. It was not created primarily for your consumption, although you can consume some parts of it. It was not created primarily for people, although people are the highest of all God’s creation. It was created for Himself.
Have you ever made anything for yourself? If so ,what? Christ has created this world ultimately and primarily for His own glory and His own enjoyment.
Sometimes having a master like that might not be good. For example a dog will certainly hate a cruel master who bought a dog just to abuse and torture it. On the other hand, a good master will take care of the dog, feed it, teach it, train it, etc. Although God has created this world for Himself, He doesn’t forget us. He designed this world and us in such a way that we get maximum enjoyment and maximum benefit as we give him maximum glory. It’s a win-win situation!
Application: Are you living your life for Him? Which part of your life are you living for yourself? What do you need to change to give it up for Him? Have you acknowledged in your heart of hearts that you were indeed created for serving God? Or do you resist this? Are you willing to serve Him no matter what He calls you to do? Write down what you need to do in the next week to live for Him.
5. He is before all things – Jesus is more important than anything else in this world. He has the priority. He is preeminent and we should treat Him that way. In Romans 12:2 we are commanded to be a living sacrifice for the Lord. There will be many times in our lives when we need to make a decision between two choices. Two things will vie for our attention.
For example, we may need to choose between career and family or mother and wife. When we face decisions like that we will have to answer the question, “which one has the priority?” “Which one should come first?”
We will face the same type of decisions in regards to Christ. Career or Christ, pleasure or Christ, convenience or Christ? Paul is telling us that Jesus IS before all things. He has the priority. He IS more important than these things. The question is, will we recognize this truth when we make these decisions?
I heard one preacher say that he laughs whenever he hears the phrase “make Christ Lord of your life.” Christ is already the Lord. The question is not if He is first, but it is if we will treat Him how He deserves to be treated.
Application: Is Christ before all things in your life? Does anything come before Him? If so, you need to deal with it so that your lifestyle and priorities reflect the truth of this passage.
6. In Him all things hold together – In previous verses we learned that Jesus is the Creator. The whole world around us was created by Him. Yet His relationship with this universe didn’t end there. He didn’t start the process and then let human decisions and the natural laws he set up take over. People who believe in theistic evolution make this type of assumption. They believe that God was involved at the beginning and then just let nature take over. Yet here we learn that in Him all things hold together. This tells us that He is still very much involved in what happens in this world. He keeps this world from descending into complete chaos and disorder.
How does He do this?
Governments have been appointed by God to keep order. Marriage and family values are instilled as a foundation which holds societies together. The teachings in the Bible and the Holy Spirit act as a restraint upon sin and lawlessness. Natural laws such as gravity and the wind cycles are set up by Him and still subjected to His will.
On an even deeper level scientists still cannot understand what holds together the basic building blocks of creation, the atom. Electrons should repel each, but at close distances they don’t. We don’t even know why these building blocks of creation stick together instead of shooting into opposite directions and ripping the universe apart. Scientists are searching for something called the “God particle,” which they believe is holding these atoms together and have yet to find it. Whether or not such a particle exists does not change the fact that it is Christ who is holding this world together.
Without Him, chaos would reign and life itself could not be sustained. From the beginning it was God who breathed into man the breath of life. This gift of life is a mystery. We cannot replicate it. Can we finish what God started? We cannot even understand it, much less continue it. Every new soul who is born into this world is a mystery and all we can do is go onto our knees and thank the Lord for the mysterious gift of life and pray that He will continue to sustain that life and ours.
7. He is the head of the church – Christ is over the universe as a whole and He is also over the church specifically. The universe was created through Him and for Him and the church was also created through Him and for Him. This is a simple, but important truth. Christ is over the church. The head of the church is not any person whether a prophet, a pastor, or any great leader, no matter how dynamic. The head of the church is not any organization or institution including any governments. If the government tries to take power over the church it is usurping the power of Christ. Just like we as individuals cannot serve two masters, neither can a church serve both God and government. This is why a church will face many problems if it accepts government control or allows itself to be established by the government. Neither is any denomination or any denominational leader over the church. There is only one head and it is Christ. This does not mean that leaders aren’t important. Leaders (appointed in biblical ways) are very important and are used by Christ to shepherd and lead this vast body.
In Hebrews 13:17 – Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
We are commanded to submit to our leaders. But this is akin to a parent who asks the younger children to follow the instructions of the oldest child while he is gone. The younger children need to obey not because of any inherent authority in that oldest child, but because of the command of the parent in who rests all the authority over the children.
Application: The church and people in the church belong to Christ, not any of us. It is not my church or my fellowship or my disciple or my convert in the sense that those things belong to me. They don’t belong to me. Since they belong to Christ and not us, how can we properly reflect that in our attitudes and actions?
8. He is the beginning–He existed from the beginning. But even more than that, He is the beginning for us.
He is the cause of this world. He is the cause of our physical life. He is the cause of our spiritual life. He is the first cause or what theology calls the “uncaused” cause.
9. The firstborn from the dead–(See 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 15:22.) It is because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead that we know we too will be resurrected one day. His new life guarantees our new life. He is the proof that the promise of eternal life and salvation is true. 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that if Christ was not raised from the dead then we have no hope and our faith is useless. His resurrection is the lynchpin which holds together the whole gospel and all the promises in the gospel.
10. So that He will come to have first place in everything–We already saw that Jesus is before all things. He is the most important. He is superior. He is number one. But sometimes there is a gap between reality and how reality is perceived. Although Christ is the Creator of this world, most people do not recognize Him as such. Although He holds this world together, most people do not recognize this or accept it. Although He is the rightful ruler and authority of this world, most people do not submit to his authority or recognize Him as the ruler.
This verse means that one day this gap between who Jesus is and how this world perceives Him will be bridged. One day we will see Him as He really is (1 John 3:2.) Philippians 2:10-11 also makes this clear, telling us that one day in the future every person will bow the knee to Christ and confess that He is the Lord. He is the Lord already. Some people just don’t admit it and even some who admit don’t live like it.
Application: How will you obey this verse? In what specific way will you change your priorities or actions in the next week so that Christ will have His rightful first place in your life and heart?
7. Verse 19-20–Jesus’ mission to the earth was ordained by God the Father. He planned for Jesus to become the God-man, Emanuel. The Son of Man would not just be a shell. He would not just be a good teacher, a good leader, or a prophet with special abilities. He would actually be the living God. For what purpose? The purpose is so that Jesus would reconcile all things to Himself. In order to represent us, He had to become one of us. In order to save us, He had to be sinless and divine. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He gave up His life to make peace between us and God.
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