Colossians 1:17-23

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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 1:17-23 Inductive Bible Study

Title: Christ-Our Reconciler and Head

Summary– Christ has first place in everything, and we would all fall apart without Him. He’s the head of the church, and is the embodiment of every attribute of God. He’s the great Reconciler, bringing all things on earth or in heaven to peace through His blood. He even took his evil, hostile enemies (us), and reconciled us through His death until we are holy and blameless. If He has done that, however, we will not fall away, but will continue to believe and embrace the hope of the gospel.

Central Teaching- Christ has reconciled us to Himself through His blood, and should now be our head in all things.

Key Words– all, before, together, head, beginning, dead/death, preeminent, fullness, reconcile, peace, blood, body, hope, gospel

Key Verse– 1:17

Ten Things this Passage Says

1. He is before all things.

2. In Him all things hold together.

3. He is the head of the body, the church.

4. He will come to have first place in everything.

5. The Father was pleased for all the fullness to dwell in Him.

6. Through Him, all things are reconciled to Himself, through the peace of the blood of the cross.

7. I was formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds.

8. He has now reconciled me in His fleshly body through death.

9. He will present me holy and blameless and beyond reproach, if I continue in the faith.

10. The hope of the gospel was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.

Ten Things this Passage does NOT Say-

1. I should have first place.

2. All things hold together through human effort or random chance.

3. The pope or the pastor is the head of the church.

4. There was someone or something before Him.

5. He only has first place within Christendom, not in the whole universe.

6. Christ chose to have the fullness dwell within Himself.

7. The blood of the cross is not necessary for peace.

8. There was something good in me that sought out Christ.

9. I will always be stained by sin; there’s no hope for me to be purified.

10. Christianity is a one-time decision, and it doesn’t matter if our life is regenerated or not, as long as we “pray the prayer.”

What does this passage teach me about God?

He is before all things.

In Him all things hold together.

He is the head of the body, the church.

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.

He will come to have first place in everything.

The Father was pleased for all the fullness to dwell in the Son.

He reconciled all things to Himself.

He made peace through the blood of His cross; things on earth and things in heaven.

He has reconciled us in His fleshly body through death.

He will present us before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.

He gives hope.

He ensures that His gospel is proclaimed in all creation under heaven.

How does this passage apply to my life?

Does He come first in my life? Are my first thoughts of the day about Him? Do I pray to Him before I make decisions or take actions? Do I thank Him first when something good happens? Do I put following His will before following my own? (V17)

Do I feel like I’m falling apart, or something on which I’m working is falling apart? Remember that unless the Lord builds the house, then they labor in vain who build it. It’s possible that things are falling apart because I’m not doing them in His strength, in His way. (V17)

What am I doing to make sure that He comes first in the world around me? Do I actively share the gospel with others? Is my talk centered on self, or on God? (V18)

Do I really believe that ALL the fullness dwells in Him? What do I seek in my life to make it “more full”? How can I actively seek to feel fulfilled in Him? (V19)

If I don’t have peace, am I fully realizing the power of His blood to forgive, cleanse and renew? How might I utilize His blood to have greater peace? (V20)

When I am alienated and hostile in mind or engaged in evil deeds, I am following after the old, fleshly way. What can I do to follow the regenerate path that I should pursue as a new creature in Him? (V21)

I am to be presented holy and blameless and beyond reproach in Him. That means having a consistent habit of confession, repentance, and growth in His ways. What am I doing to become holier, more blameless and beyond reproach? (V22)

Spread the gospel everywhere I go. (V23)

Put my hope in the gospel, not in (fill in the blank). (V23)

Discussion Questions-

What does it mean that “He is before all things”? (V17) When the universe had its beginning, Christ already existed, thus by definition He must be eternal.

What does it mean that “in Him all things hold together”? (V17) Christ sustains the universe, maintaining the power and balance necessary to life’s existence and continuity. Think about the tremendous destructive power that is unleashed when an atom is split, and about the awesome power that must be in place to hold the universe together. From the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy, everything would come completely apart if it weren’t for His uniting power. Now think about that vast power in relation to your life. Do you ever feel like what you’re doing is falling apart, or your very life is falling apart? Why might that be? What can be done to get it back together again?

How should the fact that He is before all things and holds all things together affect our world view? (V17) Evolution is no longer a possibility, nor can the rise and fall of nations be due to man’s power. Instead of seeing life as a series of random chances, we see His power as the author and finisher of all things. This should give our life much more peace and order, knowing that we can trust Him to do all things well.

What does it mean that “He is the head of the body, the church”? How should that affect our churches and our lives as Christians? (V18) Paul uses the human body as a metaphor for the church, of which Christ serves as the “head.” Just as a body is controlled from the brain, so Christ controls every part of the church and gives it life and direction.

What does it mean that “He is the beginning”? (V18) This refers to both source and preeminence. The church had its origins in the Lord Jesus, and He gave life to the church through His sacrificial death and resurrection to become its King.

What does it mean that “He is the firstborn of the dead”? (V18) Jesus was the first chronologically to be resurrected, never to die again. Of all who have been or ever will be raised from the dead, and that includes all men (according to John 5:28-29), Christ is supreme.

How can He come to have first place in everything? When will that really happen? (V18)

What does it mean that all the fullness dwells in Him? (V19) Likely referring to divine powers and attributes they believed were divided among various others. Paul disproved that idea by saying that the fullness of deity- all the divine powers and attributes, was not spread out among created beings, but completely dwelt in Christ alone.

What should it mean practically in our lives? (V19)

How did God reconcile all things to Himself? (V20)

What does it mean that He reconciled all things to Himself? (V20) The Greek word for “reconcile” means “to change” or “exchange.” Its NT usage refers to a change in the sinner’s relationship to God. Man is reconciled to God when God restores man to a right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. An intensified form of “reconcile” is used in this verse to refer to the total and complete reconciliation of believers and ultimately “all things” in the created universe. This text does not teach that, as a result, all will believe, rather it teaches that all will ultimately submit.

How did He make peace with us? (V20)

What did that peace mean? (V20) God and those He saved are no longer at enmity with each other.

What was our full-time occupation before we knew Christ? (V21)

Which part of us was reaching out for Christ, seeking after His holiness and love? (V21)  The Greek term for “alienated” means “estranged,” “cut off,” or “separated.” Before they were reconciled, all people were completely estranged from God. The Greek word for “hostile” can also be translated “hateful.” Unbelievers hate God and resent His holy standard because they love “evil deeds.” Actually, there is alienation from both sides, since God hates “all who do iniquity,” according to Psalm 5:5.

How has He reconciled us to Himself? (V22) Christ’s died in our place on the cross, thus paid the full penalty for the sin of all who believe and made reconciliation possible and actual.

What was His purpose in this reconciliation? (V22)

What does it mean for us to be holy and blameless and beyond reproach? (V22) “Holy” refers to the believer’s positional relationship to God- he is separated from sin and set apart to God by imputed righteousness. This is justification. As a result of the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection, God considers Christians as holy as His Son. Christians are also “blameless” (without blemish) and “beyond reproach” (no one can bring a charge against them). We are to be presented to Christ, when we meet Him, as a chaste bride.

How can we continue on in the faith? (V23) Those who have been reconciled will persevere in faith and obedience because, in addition to being declared righteous, they are actually made new creatures with a new disposition that loves God, hates sin, desires obedience, and is energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Rather than defect from the gospel they heard, true believers will remain solid on Christ who is the only foundation, and faithful by the enabling grace of God.

In what is our faith supposed to be firmly established and steadfast? (V23)

In what is our hope? What does it mean that our hope is in the gospel? (V23)

Where has the gospel been proclaimed? What are the implications of that? (V23) The gospel has no racial boundaries. Having reached Rome, where Paul was when he wrote Colossians, it had reached the center of the known world.

Study Colossians 1:24-29

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