A translation by Alex Joyner
From: Paul, by God’s will an apostle of Jesus Christ, and Brother Timothy
To: The holy and faithful in Colossae, brothers and sisters all
Grace. Peace to you from God the Father.
We give thanks to God, Father also of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we pray always on your behalf.
Yes, we have heard of your fidelity in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints. These things come from the hope stored beyond sense in the heavens, but echoing in your ears in the word of the gospel, the word come to you even now. What you heard from the first day and came to understand—God’s grace in truth—this gospel ranges through the whole cosmos bearing fruit and increasing.
You heard the word from Epaphrus, our beloved colleague in the bonds of ministry, the one faithful to Christ on your behalf, the one who has shown us your love in Spirit.
This—all this—is why, from the day we heard it, we have not stopped praying for you and asking that you experience the Fullness—knowing God’s will with wisdom and bone-knowledge, walking a path worthy of your Lord, pleasing, bearing fruit, increasing in the awareness of God, strengthened by God’s mickle might with all power so that you can know the long joy of patient endurance and give thanks to the One who has made you ‘enough,’ sufficient to share in the lot of the bearers of Light, who delivered you from the realm of Darkness and translated you into the Kingdom of Love’s Son.
Here’s the thing: This is the One in whom we have redemption, that is, the forgiveness of our sins. He, this Christ, is the embodiment and icon of the unseen God, firstborn of all creation. In Him, all things in heaven and earth were created—what you see and all that remains hidden to your eyes, thrones, powers, rulers, authorities—it’s all created through Him and is destined to move ultimately to Him. Before all things, He was. The coherence that all things have, which you can’t fathom, is in Him. He is head of the body, the gathered Church, the original, firstborn of the dead, and therefore first place in all things.
In Him, the Fullness was pleased to dwell. The Fullness reconciled all things to Itself through Him, made peace by the blood of the cross through Him, and did this for the sake of all things without regard, among earthlies and heavenlies.
You know what that alienation is like because it was your reality, when the measure of your worth was your ways. But now? He has effected reconciliation in His very flesh through death in order to make a new thing of you—holy, blameless, blemishless in His sight—a reality you will know if you are pleased to dwell in faith, not passing by but firmly put in the hope of the gospel echo in your ears, the gospel meant for all creaturely things under the good skies, the gospel of which I, Paul, am a servant.
My lot is sufferings on your behalf, it’s true. But I rejoice in them strangely. I know a Fullness greater yet than Christ’s because his body, the Church, grows. I am a servant of the Church. I have this peculiar mission to know the Fullness, the Word of God, to your benefit. This word, this mystery, this hidden thing, unknown to previous ages and generations, which now is revealed to his holy ones. God has chosen to make known the heart of this mystery to the Gentiles, the glorious riches of this mystery, and it is this: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So that’s what we proclaim—Christ, instructing every one with the audacious weight of it, teaching every one with its wisdom, presenting every one perfected in Christ. I am hard at work for this, but the workings working in me are powered by Christ.
For I want you to know how much I am laboring for you, for the Laodiceans, even for those who have never seen my face in the flesh. I imagine a unity forged in love, that all your hearts may be encouraged by the enticement of riches found in full confidence of understanding. That enticement is that you will know the mystery of God—Christ! All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him.
I tell you this so you won’t be overcome by seductive words. Though absent in body, I am present with you in spirit. I rejoice to see your good order and long-standing faith in Christ.
So here’s my admonition: Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, walk in Him. Live out of the abundance of gratitude. Because you find your ground and are built up in Him. You are confirmed in the faith, just as you were taught.
And on the other side, don’t fall captive to deceit, philosophies and empty traditions that come from human sources, things that have more to do with the Elementals of the cosmos than with Christ. Because the Fullness of Deity dwells in Him bodily, and you find your Fullness in Him, and he is the head of every Rule and Power.
In Him, you shed the body of flesh, not through some circumcision performed by human hands, but through a different sort of circumcision embodied in Christ. You were buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through the faithfulness of the ways of God, who raised Him from the dead. That is to say: While you were dead in transgressions, defined by your ‘foreskin of flesh,’ He made you to be alive together with Him.
He forgave us all those transgressions and expunged the hand-written decree against us, which condemned us. He removed it from us, nailed it to the cross. And in doing so, He stripped off the Powers and Authorities, exposed them in open disgrace, triumphed over them in Himself.
So, therefore, don’t let anyone judge you by whether or not you conform to their rules for eating and drinking or attend their festivals or new moon observations or Sabbaths. These are mere shadows of reality, which is truly found in the body of Christ.
In the same way, don’t let anyone condemn you because they claim the authority of affected humility or spout their worship of angels. Such a person goes on in great detail about visions and is puffed up by the distortions of their mind and, all the while, such a one is not connected to the head from which the whole body, with its joints and sinews bound together, grows with a growth from God.
Remember—you died with Christ. You are dead to the Elementals of the cosmos. So why would you submit to ordinances as if you were still beings of the cosmos? “Do not handle or taste or touch.” Ha! These rules all have to do with things that fall into nothingness when they are consumed. These ordinances are words that have a semblance of wisdom, but it is of the type that belongs to self-made religion and false humility and wild mistreatment of the body, and even so, it is useless for restraining the flesh.
You have been raised, lifted up together with Christ. So…seek the things above where Christ sits at God’s right hand. Keep your mind there—above, not dragged down to the earth.
You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, you will be revealed, too, together with Him in glory.
So put to death those bodily expressions that keep you earth-bound: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed—idolatries all. God’s wrath is aroused when She is not recognized as All in All. You walked this way back then, when you were living in them. Now let them all go: wrath, fierce anger, malice, blasphemy, abusive speech—don’t lend your tongue to such poison.
Don’t lie to one another. You have stripped off the old person with his or her old practices and put on the new person, the one who is being renewed in knowledge, conformed to the image of the One who created you. So now there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and foreskinned, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free. Christ is All in All.
Which means that you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. So…put on affection, goodness, humility, gentleness, forbearance. Bear with one another. Forgive one another if anyone has a complaint against you. The Lord forgave you—so forgive. And above all else—love—the perfect bond.
Let Christ’s peace rule in your hearts. You were called into Christ as one body, so grow into a thankful people.
The Word of Christ lives in you in abundance when you teach and reprove one another wisely by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs—that is, when you sing in gratitude to God from the heart.
And do whatever you do, in word or deed, everything!, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Wives—accept a supporting station for your husbands as befits the Lord’s people.
Husbands—love your wives and don’t be embittered toward them.
Children—obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord greatly.
Parents—do not provoke your children nor discourage them.
Slaves—obey your lords according to the flesh in all things, not by simply pleasing them and placating the eye, but with a sincere heart, revering the Lord. Whatever you are doing, work from your soul as though for the Lord and not just human beings. Because you know you will receive full recompense from the Lord—an inheritance. Really, you are a slave of the Lord Christ.
Lords—provide what is right and fair to the slaves, because you know you have a Lord in heaven, too.
Be about the work of prayer, seeing all through the lens of thanksgiving. Pray together for us as well. Pray God will open for us the door to the Word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in fetters. All this so that I can make it plain as speech gives me capacity.
Walk along outsiders with wisdom, recognizing the redemptive possibilities of this time. Let your conversation be full of grace, sprinkled with salt, as it were, knowing how best to answer each person.
Tychicus—beloved brother, faithful minister, fellow slave in the Lord—will tell you all about my affairs. I sent him to you for this purpose: so that you would know about our affairs and so that he could encourage your hearts.
Onesmius, as well, the faithful and beloved brother who is one of you. They will let you know all that is happening here.
Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, sends greetings to you.
Mark does as well. He is the cousin of Barnabas and the one about whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him.
Jesus, too, the one they call Justus. These are the only Jews who are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God and they have become a comfort to me.
Epaphrus greets you. He is one of you and also a slave of Christ Jesus. He is always praying mightily on your behalf so that you can stand perfected and be brought to the Fullness of God’s will. I can witness that he labors greatly for you and for those in Laodicea and Heiropolis.
Luke, the beloved physician, greets you.
Demas, as well.
In Laodicea, greet the brothers and sisters, as well as Nymphas and the gathering at her house.
After you have read this letter, make sure that it is read to the gathering in Laodicea. And you read the letter sent to the Laodiceans as well.
Say to Archippus, “Attend to the ministry you have been given in the Lord, so that you may bring it to fullness.”
This is my greeting—Paul’s—by my hand.
Remember my fetters.
Grace be with you.
Sources aiding my translation:
The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart, [Yale Univ. Press, 2017]
The Letter to the Colossians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament by Scot McKnight, [Eerdmans, 2018]