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Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

A reflection on the preaching texts for the 2023 Calvin Symposium on Worship

The young Christian community in the Greek city of Colossae may have consisted of no more than a few households. But Paul had heard of their faith and so composed a letter to this small band of disciples to encourage them and to root their faith firmly into place. He did this because he knew their faith was met by many challenges. Like most towns and cities in the ancient world, Colossae had a bevy of local gods and local philosophies bumping up against claims to Jesus being the one true Lord. What could the Colossians believe? How could they be sure? How were they to assess the competing claims to their knowledge, wisdom, and loyalty?

Paul’s letter may have been addressed to only a handful of Colossian Christians, but it has now come as good news to untold millions over the past two thousand years. The church today needs this letter now as much as ever. In recent years congregations have been riven by competing claims to truth, by appeals to varying sources of authority, and by a partisan spirit that has set believers against one another and against their leaders. We need Paul’s vision of the cosmic Jesus Christ, who alone encompasses all wisdom and who alone wields the ultimate authority over every competing claim.

As N. T. Wright has observed, Paul’s letter to the Colossians is all about giving thanks to God for the gift of Jesus Christ. But the letter is not just about thanksgiving; it is also about thanksliving. Who are we now that we are in Christ? How do we live as people transformed by grace? Paul’s letter to the Colossians helps us answer these vital questions and will be a focus of our reflections in worship at the 2023 gathering of the Calvin Symposium on Worship.

  • Service One: Colossians 1:1–14: Growing in Grace and Knowledge
  • Service Two: Colossians 1:15–23: Christ in All Things
  • Service Three: Colossians 2:6–15: Rooted in Christ
  • Service Four: Colossians 3:1–11: Our Identity in Christ Alone
  • Service Five: Colossians 3:12–17: A Chosen and Thankful People