Miracles and Prayers
Before you begin …
• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.
• Read Colossians 1:1–12. This lesson references chapters 2 and 3 in Be Complete. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.
From the Commentary
The apostle Paul was a great encourager, and this epistle is a good example of the grace of thanksgiving. In this section (which is one long sentence in the original Greek), he gave thanks for what Christ had done in the lives of the Colossian Christians. …
Like Paul, we should be grateful for what God is doing in the lives of others.
—Be Complete, page 29
Q1: What does Colossians 1:3–12 teach us about encouragement and prayer? How does Paul go about encouraging the Colossian Christians? How might these words have been received by those who were dealing with the gnostic heresies described in this study’s introduction (pp. 7–8)?
Q2: More to Consider: The gospel was brought to Colossae by Epaphras, a citizen of that city. Epaphras probably came in contact with Paul during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus. What does the way in which Epaphras responded to Paul’s message say about how we, as Christians, ought to share our testimonies with others?
Q3: Choose one verse or phrase from Colossians 1:1–12 that stands out to you. This could be something you’re intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here. What strikes you about this verse?
The theme of this epistle is the preeminence of Jesus Christ, and He is certainly preeminent in the gospel. The false teachers who had invaded the fellowship in Colossae were trying to remove Jesus Christ from His place of preeminence; but to do this was to destroy the gospel.
—Be Complete, page 30
Q4: In 1:3–12, what assumptions does Paul make about the Colossian Christians and their understanding of the basics of the gospel? How does Paul introduce the theme of Christ’s preeminence in 1:3–12?
Paul said that the gospel was bearing fruit in all the world. The Word of God is the only seed that can be planted anywhere in the world and bear fruit. The gospel can be preached “to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23). Paul’s emphasis was on “every man” (Col. 1:28). False teachers do not take their message to all the world. They go where the gospel has already gone and try to lead believers astray. They have no good news for lost sinners!
—Be Complete, page 32
Q5: In Colossians 1:6, Paul states that the gospel is bearing fruit all over the world. Why do you think Paul emphasizes this to the church at Colossae? How does a larger perspective on the impact of the gospel help Christians who are struggling with controversial doctrines, as the Colossians were?
From Today’s World
Although we live in a global society, with access to world events merely a mouse click or a channel flick away, many people today have a sort of “tunnel vision” when it comes to issues within their workaday world. This could be anything from a limited perspective on the issues facing the business they’re in to a myopia regarding broader concerns in their churches, communities, or even their families.
Q6: What leads a group of people (or even individuals) to miss the bigger picture in life? Why is a broader perspective (a global view, for example) helpful in understanding local concerns? What are some of the key issues Christians face today that demand a broader view in order to gain a realistic perspective? In what ways was Paul encouraging this same sort of view in Colossians?
Q7: More to Consider: The teachers who had come to Colossae came with the intent to undermine the saints’ faith in Christ. What are some examples of this sort of false teaching going on today? What are some of the best ways to determine if a teacher is presenting a “false gospel”?
Epaphras did not simply lead the Colossians to Christ and then abandon them. He taught them the Word and sought to establish their faith. The word translated “learned” in Colossians 1:7 is related to the word disciple in the Greek language. It is the same word Jesus used: “Learn of me” (Matt. 11:29) or, in effect, “Become My disciple.”
—Be Complete, page 34
Q8: Colossians 1:7–8 speaks of Epaphras’s role in the Colossian church. What can we suppose about his role based on what Paul writes? What does this say about Paul’s relationship with Epaphras? About how the gospel is spread?
Q9: More to Consider: The word disciple is used more than 260 times in the Gospels and Acts, and the verb translated “to learn as a disciple” is found 25 times in the New Testament. As you go through Colossians, circle all the references to discipleship (learning, etc.). Why do you think Paul emphasizes this theme? What are the implications of this idea for today’s church?
Love is another evidence of true salvation, for the unsaved person is wrapped up mainly in himself (Eph. 2:1–3). The fact that these people loved all the saints was proof that God had changed them and given them eternal life. Christian love is not a shallow feeling that we manufacture; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Rom. 5:5; Col. 1:8). It is worth noting that Colossians 1:8 is the only verse in the letter that mentions the Holy Spirit, and it is in connection with love.
—Be Complete, page 36
Q10: Paul mentions the Holy Spirit only once in Colossians (1:8). By contrast, he speaks of Christ repeatedly. Possibly the false teachers in Colossae were playing up the Spirit or spirit(s) at the expense of Christ. Why might emphasizing the Spirit/spirit and de-emphasizing Christ be attractive to some people? What’s could go wrong when emphasizing the Spirit and de-emphasizing Christ?
The false teachers promised the Colossian believers that they would be “in the know” if they accepted the new doctrines. Words like knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding were a part of their religious vocabulary, so Paul used these words in his prayer.
—Be Complete, page 43
Q11: What does Paul say about knowledge and wisdom in 1:9–10? Why is it significant that Paul repeatedly uses words like knowledge and wisdom in this letter? How is the false teachers’ promise of greater knowledge similar to the temptation Satan offered in the garden of Eden?
Q12: More to Consider: Wiersbe writes that “thankfulness is the opposite of selfishness.” How does Paul speak to this theme? What are some examples from real life that prove this to be true?
It is God’s energy that empowers us. Colossians 1:11 reads, in effect, “With all power being empowered according to the might of His glory.” Paul used two different Greek words for God’s energy: dunamis (from which we get our word dynamite) means “inherent power”; and kratos means “manifested power,” power that is put forth in action. The grace of our Christian lives is but a result of God’s power at work in our lives. Spiritual growth and maturity can come only as we yield to God’s power and permit Him to work in us.
—Be Complete, page 49
Q13: What does it mean to be “strengthened with all power” (v. 11)? What is the significance of the explanation that follows, “according to his glorious might”? What, according to Paul, is the purpose of this strengthening? How is this like what Christians today are called to be and do?
The Colossian epistle is filled with thanksgiving. Paul gave thanks for the church in Colossae (Col. 1:3), and he prayed that they might grow in their own thanksgiving to God (Col. 1:12). The Christian life should abound with thanksgiving (Col. 2:7). One of the evidences of spiritual growth in our Bible study is thanksgiving (Col. 3:15–17). Our prayers should always include thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). The Christian who is filled with the Spirit, filled with the Word, and watching in prayer will prove it by his attitude of appreciation and thanksgiving to God.
—Be Complete, page 52
Q14: Go through this first section (1:1–12) and underline or list every “thankful” comment Paul makes. Given that Paul’s readers were facing difficult times, why do you think he went out of his way to thank them and thank God for them? How might the Colossians have responded had Paul started right off with challenges to the questionable doctrines? What role does true thankfulness play today in encouraging others toward a right doctrine?
Take a moment to reflect on all that you’ve explored thus far in this study of Colossians 1:1–12. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.
Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.
Q15: Paul uses a lot of this section to encourage the Colossian Christians. In what ways do Paul’s words encourage you? How would you feel if you received a letter like this when you were struggling with theological or personal faith issues? What does this say about how we, as Christians, ought to reach out to others who are facing challenges?
Q16: Paul makes special mention of Epaphras in the introduction, thanking him for all he’s done to build up the church. Who are the teachers and leaders who have made a positive impact in your faith life? How have you shown them your appreciation? Why is it important to acknowledge those who help us grow in faith? How does doing this glorify God?
Q17: What are some of the ways you’ve been tempted to embrace questionable doctrines? Why is the promise of “a greater knowledge” so tempting to Christians? How do you go about testing the scriptural validity of claims made by supposed Christian leaders? If you’ve fallen for false doctrines in the past, what led you down that path? How did you find your way back to the truth?
Q18: Think of one or two things you have learned that you’d like to focus on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to address one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try).
Do you need to learn how to be more encouraging? Do you need to explore more about the basics of faith so you won’t be tempted to follow false doctrine? Be specific. Go back through Colossians 1:1–12 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.
Real-Life Application Ideas: Go to those people who have been your greatest teachers and encouragers in the faith, and offer them some encouragement of your own. Write a thank-you note or send them a gift to say “thanks” for all they’ve done in your life. If you’re a member of a small group, consider doing this for your group leader, too.
Q19: Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you’ve previously noted. Be honest about your desires and fears.
Notes for Small Groups:
• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section in this lesson. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.
• During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you’ve read and studied.
• Before you start the next lesson, read Colossians 1:13–20. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapter 4, “Crown Him Lord of All!” in Be Complete.