Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part I: Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 118:471 (Jul 1961)
Article: Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians Part I: Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.


Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians
Part I:
Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

[S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. is Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles to be contributed by Dr. Johnson on “Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians.”]

“Without doubt Colossae was the least important church to which any epistle of St. Paul is addressed.” So wrote Bishop Lightfoot some years ago in one of the finest commentaries on New Testament literature.1 Colosse had been “a great city of Phrygia,”2 but it was in the afternoon of its influence and importance when Paul wrote the house-church there. And yet the message to Colosse, so bright with the light of the apostle’s highest Christology, has become amazingly relevant in the middle of the twentieth century. With the sudden and startling intrusion of the space age and its astrophysics, nuclear power, missiles and rockets, the church of Jesus Christ has been forced to relate its Lord and Master to the ultimate frontiers. Colossians, which presents Him as the architect and sustainer of the universe, as well as the reconciler of all things, both earthly and heavenly, provides the church with the material it may and must use. Suddenly the epistle to the little flock in the declining city has become perhaps the most contemporary book in the New Testament library.

The usefulness of Colossians, however, is not a recent phenomenon. The epistle is no late-blooming flower, although its grandeur and brilliance may strike one’s eyes with increasing force in the present time. The Christology and the ethics of the letter are important for all time. It has always furnished a proper antidote to humanly devised schemes of salvation. As A. M. Hunter puts it; “To all who would ‘improve’ Christianity by admixing it with spiritualism or Sabbatarianism or occultism or any such extra, it utters its warning: ‘What Christ is and has done for us is enough for salvation. We need no extra mediators, or taboos, or ascetics. To piece out the gospel with the rags and tatters of alien cults is not to enrich but to corrupt it.’“3

On the other hand, it has also stressed the necessity for a real Christian ethic. Doctrine, while basic to duty, must also result in duty, and so the apostle appeals to the believers in Colosse to allow the dynamic of the new life in Christ to touch all “the daily round,” right down to the recesses of the home and household (cf. <...

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