Colossians 1


"Sent from: Paul, probably at Rome, joined by Timothy.

Sent to: Members at Colossae, in west central Asia minor.

Date: About A.D. 61.

Purpose: To strengthen the branch on the return of Onesimus and to correct the false doctrine of 'worshipping of angels.'

Main themes: The Godhead; errors about Christ, days, and diet; developing celestial qualities.

"Colossae lay in a high valley with mountain scenery resembling the arid west of the United States. A hundred miles east of Ephesus... it was on the east-west trade route. Christianity later marched the hundred miles from the coast to Colossae, for Paul was at Ephesus and reached 'all Asia' with the gospel message (Acts 19:26). The regional economy depended not only on trade but also on grazing lands that supported the wool industry in Colossae and in nearby Laodicea... Hierapolis and these two cities formed a triangle with sides about ten miles long. In writing to Colossae, Paul also named 'them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis' (Col. 4:13). Substantial ruins of the latter city are spread out around its well-preserved stone theater. It was built adjacent to massive hot springs that attracted religious and recreational pilgrims. But Laodicea was the major city of the area in Paul's day. Just before Paul, Strabo wrote that Laodicea 'grew large in our time and in that of our fathers.' That geographer paid tribute to its 'fertile territory' and the private wealth of some of its citizens. Its ruins, including its theater, are badly deteriorated, but Laodicea's stone-strewn area is massive. Although Hierapolis is merely mentioned in Paul's Colossian letter, Laodicea is prominent, probably reflecting the size of the Church in that large city. Laodicea was possibly the regional center of Church administration. Three decades later John sent his letter to Laodicea as the most important branch of the Church in that area.

"...Paul's knowledge of the current problems of that area came through this missionary (Epaphras) with their interest at heart. And Paul apparently wanted them to know that negative information was relayed for their benefit, since Epaphras has a 'great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis' (Col. 4:13). Only the letter to Colossians survives, but the lost Laodicean letter must have also included correction. That nearby branch probably had as many members as that at Colossae and was likely affected by the same false teaching.

"What was the 'Colossian heresy'? Biographies and commentaries discuss it but add little more than Colossians itself discloses. Some were debasing Christ's divinity and role in the Godhead, for chapter 2 refutes those who fail to hold Christ as 'the Head' (Col. 2:19), whereas chapter 1 has Paul's most sustained testimony of the divinity and power of the Son. There is little contemporary religious information, but the writings of John went to the same locality some forty years later." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 246 - 247.)

"The predominant theme of the letter is the preeminence of Christ. Paul denounced the Colossian heresy by stressing the supreme majesty, divinity, and power of the Savior. The saints were warned against seeking any person, philosophy, or tradition of men, however clever or sophisticated, as a substitute for the real thing-a life in the Savior. Because of the atonement, Jesus Christ is sufficient for all men in all things (Col. 1:18), the ritual of Judaism having been but 'a shadow of things to come' (Col. 2:17). Thus, the saints were admonished to hold fast to him, to set their affections on him, and to 'walk ... in him.' (Col. 2:6-7; Col. 3:1-2.)" (J. Lewis Taylor, "New Testament Backgrounds: Colossians," Ensign, Mar. 1976, 39)

Colossians 1:5 the hope which is laid up for you in heaven

Neal A. Maxwell

You and I can be repeatedly reassured concerning this grand hope by the Comforter, who teaches us the truth about "things as they really are, and ... really will be" (Jacob 4:13; see also Moro. 8:26). Such hope constitutes the "anchor of the soul" (Heb. 6:19). Such hope is retained through faith in Christ (see Alma 25:16; Ether 12:9). In contrast, a resurrection-less view of life produces only proximate hope (see 1 Cor. 15:19).

Having ultimate hope does not mean we will always be rescued from proximate problems, but we will be rescued from everlasting death! Meanwhile, ultimate hope makes it possible to say the same three words used centuries ago by three valiant men. They knew God could rescue them from the fiery furnace, if He chose. "But if not," they said, nevertheless, they would still serve Him! (Dan. 3:18.)

Unsurprisingly the triad of faith, hope, and charity, which brings us to Christ, has strong and converging linkage: faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, hope is in His atonement, and charity is the "pure love of Christ"! (See Ether 12:28; Moro. 7:47.) Each of these attributes qualifies us for the celestial kingdom (see Moro. 10:20-21; Ether 12:34). ("Brightness of Hope," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 35)

Colossians 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord... being fruitful in every good work

One way we can "walk worthy of the Lord" and please him is to follow the counsel of his prophets in holding a current temple recommend.

Howard W. Hunter

Every adult member should be temple worthy. The Lord desires that his people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of-and carry-a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.

Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow...

We must live worthy to enter the temple. We must keep the commandments of our Lord. If we can pattern our life after the Master, and take his teaching and example as the supreme pattern for our own, we will not find it difficult to be temple worthy, to be consistent and loyal in every walk of life, for we will be committed to a single, sacred standard of conduct and belief. (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 239.)

Colossians 1:14 redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins

Dallin H. Oaks

Jesus Christ is... the life of the world because he has atoned for the sins of the world. By yielding to temptation, Adam and Eve were "cut off from the presence of the Lord" (Hel. 14:16). In the scriptures this separation is called spiritual death (see Hel. 14:16; D&C 29:41).

The atonement of our Savior overcame this spiritual death. The scriptures say, "The Son of God hath atoned for original guilt" (Moses 6:54). As Paul taught the Saints in Rome: "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). As a result of this atonement, "men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression" (A of F 1:2).

Our Savior has redeemed us from the sin of Adam, but what about the effects of our own sins? Since "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23), we are all spiritually dead. Again, our only hope for life is our Savior, who, the prophet Lehi taught, "offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law" (2 Ne. 2:7).

In order to lay claim upon our Savior's life-giving triumph over the spiritual death we suffer because of our own sins, we must follow the conditions he has prescribed. As he has told us in modern revelation, "I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

"But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I" (D&C 19:16-17). ("The Light and Life of the World," Ensign, Nov. 1987, 64-65)

Colossians 1:15 the image of the invisible God

Paul says Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In his poetic way, Paul is saying the Son is visible and the Father is not. "Invisible, incidentally, is a very unfortunate translation since it implies that God could never appear. Unseen is better, implying the possibility that God will appear-that he is temporarily unseen but not permanently unseeable." (Neal A. Lambert, ed., Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1981], 75 - 76.)

In Paul's day, there were many who had seen Jesus' ministry; they had seen God's Only-Begotten Son eat, drink, teach, pray, and heal. They had seen God the Son but not God the Father. What a privilege to see the Son! But that was not enough for them. "Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:8-9) Jesus was only admitting that He is the "image of the invisible God." Made in His image in every way conceivable-physically, spiritually-even his daily actions and words mirrored that Being who is never seen by the common man. The Savior said, "the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 14:10, italics added)

The Father indeed is invisible to man in his carnal and fallen state. Jesus said, "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father." (John 6:46) Moses was one such individual who saw the Father but he had to be transfigured first. "The glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence." (Moses 1:2) After a meeting with Elohim, Moses declared, "mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him." (Moses 1:11)

George Q. Cannon

God had been misunderstood for centuries. Much of the world had known nothing of Him-His nature or His purposes-from the death of Christ's apostles. The men who had known Him walked no more in the midst of mankind. Prophets and apostles, while they lived, taught their fellow men that he was a distinct personality-a glorious Being in whose likeness man was created. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was declared "to be made like unto his brethren"-"made in the likeness of men"-and "in the likeness of sinful flesh"; yet inspired men claimed Him as being "in the form of God"-"the express image of His person"-"the image of the invisible God." But, as generations and centuries passed, true knowledge concerning the Creator faded away. A spiritual meaning concerning His personage and attributes was given to the testimony of those who had known Him. Modern sectarianism taught the world that God, the Father, of whose person Jesus was the "express image," was an all-pervading God of spirit- a Being who, without any tangible existence, is everywhere in the material world-a Being "without body, parts or passions," "whose center was nowhere and whose circumference was everywhere." Professing to have an understanding of the Deity, they differed but little from the Pantheists, who, rejecting a personal God, made bold avowal of an all-existing God of nature-the combined forces and laws which are manifested in the existing universe.

Thus blinded, how could mankind offer true worship to the Lord of heaven and earth? (The Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 13.)

Colossians 1:15 the firstborn of every creature

The First Presidency

From this scripture we learn that Jesus Christ was "the firstborn of every creature" and it is evident that the seniority here expressed must be with respect to antemortal existence, for Christ was not the senior of all mortals in the flesh. He is further designated as "the firstborn from the dead" this having reference to Him as the first to be resurrected from the dead, or as elsewhere written "the first fruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20, see also verse 23); and "the first begotten of the dead" (Revelation 1:5; compare Acts 26:23). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews affirms the status of Jesus Christ as the firstborn of the spirit children of His Father, and extols the preeminence of the Christ when tabernacled in flesh: "And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6...). (JOSEPH F. SMITH, ANTHON H. LUND, CHARLES W. PENROSE Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols., comp. by James R. Clark (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 5: 32.)

Colossians 1:16 by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth

Mark E. Petersen

Do we appreciate what this earth really means to us? Do we see why it was made? Do we understand its purpose? Do we see that there was nothing accidental or spontaneous about its origin? Do we see that its creation was literally and truly, completely and exclusively, an act of God?

And who was the Creator?

Our Heavenly Father declares that it was His own Beloved Son who accomplished the mighty task.

"All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made," said the Apostle John. (John 1:3.)

"By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

"And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Col. 1:16-17.) So said the Apostle Paul.

The Almighty also affirmed it when he told Moses: "Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten." (Moses 1:33; italics added.)

Christ also taught that He Himself was the Creator. Said He to the Prophet Joseph Smith: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ ... who created the heavens and the earth." (D&C 14:9.)

...There we have it in His own words! The glorious, irrefutable truth! Christ is the Creator! Shall we not accept His word in preference to uninspired theories of men?

Probably the greatest challenge to belief in Christ today is the fast-spreading denial that He is the Creator, coming from men who would supplant the revealed truth with the very tenuous and fragile theory that the universe and all life came about in some mysterious, spontaneous, accidental manner.

To deny that He is the Creator is to deny also that He is the Christ. ("Creator and Savior," Ensign, May 1983, 64)

John Taylor

Paul, when speaking of Jesus Christ, gives us to understand that he is the firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things made that were made, and to him pertains all things; he is the head of all things, he created all things, whether visible or invisible, whether they be principalities, powers, thrones, or dominions. All things were created by him and for him, and without him was not anything made that was made. If all things were created by him and for him, this world on which we stand must have been created by him and for him. If so, he is its legitimate, its rightful owner and proprietor, its lawful sovereign and ruler...

But has he had the dominion over all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues? Have they bowed to his sceptre and acknowledged his sway? Have all people rendered obedience to his laws and submitted to his guidance? Echo answers, no! (The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, selected, arranged, and edited, with an introduction by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941], 314.)

Colossians 1:18 he is the head of the body, the church

Gordon B. Hinckley

I know that I am not the head of this church... The Lord Jesus Christ is its head. He is its living head. My mission, my chief responsibility, my greatest honor comes in bearing solemn testimony of His living reality. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who condescended to come into this world of misery, struggle, and pain to touch men's hearts for good, to teach the way of eternal life, and to give of Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. ("News of the Church," Ensign, Feb. 1996, 76)

Howard W. Hunter

My greatest strength through these past months has been my abiding testimony that this is the work of God and not of men. Jesus Christ is the head of this church. He leads it in word and deed. I am honored beyond expression to be called for a season to be an instrument in his hands to preside over his church. But without the knowledge that Christ is the head of the Church, neither I nor any other man could bear the weight of the calling that has come. ("Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 7)

Gordon B. Hinckley

Now brethren, let it be understood by all that Jesus Christ stands at the head of this church which bears His sacred name. He is watching over it. He is guiding it. Standing at the right hand of His Father, He directs this work. His is the prerogative, the power, the option to call men in His way to high and sacred offices and to release them according to His will by calling them home. ("God Is at the Helm," Ensign, May 1994, 59)

Joseph B. Wirthlin

I am grateful to know that our Lord and Savior stands at the head of this church and directs it through his servants. This is the Lord's church; it is not a church of men. The Brethren of its presiding councils are called of God; their only motive is to serve according to his will in humility "with all [their] heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2). ("Our Lord and Savior," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 6)

Colossians 1:18 firstborn from the dead

"In Paul's letter to the Colossian Saints, he writes of Jesus Christ as 'the firstborn of every creature' (Col. 1:15). Three verses later, however, the Savior is called the 'firstborn from the dead' (Col. 1:18). Many do not see the double meaning of the word firstborn as it is used in these verses... Jesus Christ is the Firstborn, then, in two senses of the word-he is the first spirit child born to God the Father in the premortal world, and he was the first one on this earth to be resurrected, or born from the grave. As Firstborn, he led the way toward mortal life for all of us, and as Firstborn, he made it possible for each of us to be resurrected. (Larry E. Dahl, "The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee," Ensign, Apr. 1997, 15)

Colossians 1:20 having made peace through the blood of his reconcile all things unto himself

Robert E. Wells

Paul talked of Christ "having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself" (Colossians 1:20), by which we understand that the only way we can have true peace is also through his blood that was shed for us. If we come to him regularly through partaking of the sacrament, taking his name upon us, always remembering him, and always testifying of him, then we will have his peace with us. (The Mount and the Master [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 87.)

Hugh Nibley

The word for atonement today is translated in the Revised Standard Version as reconciliation... reconciliation means the same thing, you see. Cilio is a seating or seating together. Concilio is a seating together in a council. Our word council comes from that. Reconciliation is to be called back to the council and sit down again. You are called to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-to return. Every term, every translation, every equivalent of atonement has the idea of coming back. Redemption means you will be bought back again. You must have been with him before if he buys you back again, after the Fall. (Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988-1990, p. 390.)

Hugh Nibley

Reconciliation means "to return and sit down beside somebody again." sit down again because you've been there before. It's reconciliation. It's redemption. It's the redeeming. This means buying back something that he had before. We weren't just created out of nothing, you see. We are returning to his presence. We've been there before, and the whole thing is a sense of returning to his presence. That's what reconciliation is, which is the equivalent of atonement, and you can see where that comes from. You know this, of course. This is at-one. It is not a Latin word. It's not a Greek or Hebrew word. Atonement a good old English word, a theological word. At-one-ment, being at-one with the family, to go out no more, as he says, "with all our holy fathers, to go no more out."

There's your solid security. You're home at last. You're back where you started from, and we hope that you're back with some added credentials. (Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988-1990, p. 214.)

Colossians 1:23 continue in the faith grounded and settled

Elaine L. Jack

My message comes from the Apostle Paul in his teachings to the Colossians. He said: "... continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23).

Look closely at Paul's counsel: "Continue in faith," he said, issuing a charge to be strong in your testimony, be steadfast, press forward. "Grounded and settled," he said, which suggests putting your roots down in good gospel ground, hold on, be secure, grow strong. "Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel," he cautioned, for it is the hope of the gospel that keeps circumstances, trials, disappointments, and daily experiences in proper perspective. The hope of the gospel includes the promise of peace and comfort from the Holy Ghost. Many distractions or even slight variations draw us away from the important work we have been placed on earth to do. And soon the hope of the gospel, so necessary in our eternal progression, is set aside to allow for the immediate matters of today.

The centerpiece of this challenge from Paul is the concept of being "grounded and settled." I know many people whom I would term grounded and settled. I know how they will respond in every situation, whether meeting daily challenges or handling difficulties of monumental proportion. ("Grounded, Settled, and Full of Hope," Ensign, Mar. 1996, 19)

Neal A. Maxwell

Events and circumstances in the last days make it imperative for us as members of the Church to become more grounded, rooted, established, and settled (see Col. 1:23; Col. 2:7; 2 Pet. 1:12). Jesus said to His disciples, "settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you" (JST Luke 14:28). If not so settled, the turbulence will be severe. If settled, we will not be "tossed to and fro," whether by rumors, false doctrines, or by the behavioral and intellectual fashions of the world. Nor will we get caught up in the "talk show" mentality, spending our time like ancient Athenians "in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21). Why be concerned with the passing preferences of the world anyway? "For the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor. 7:31).

...Real disciples absorb the fiery darts of the adversary by holding aloft the quenching shield of faith with one hand, while holding to the iron rod with the other (see Eph. 6:16; 1 Ne. 15:24; D&C 27:17). There should be no mistaking; it will take both hands! ("Overcome ... Even As I Also Overcame," Ensign, May 1987, 70)

Colossians 1:25 I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given to me

David W. Patten

Now, I ask, what is a dispensation? I answer, it is power and authority to dispense the word of God, and to administer in all the ordinances thereof. This is what we are to understand by it, for no man ever had the Holy Ghost to deliver the Gospel, or to prophesy of things to come, but had liberty to fulfill his mission; consequently the argument is clear; for it proves itself; nevertheless I will call on the Scriptures to prove the assertion: "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words)." (Ephesians, 3:2.) And also, Colossians, 1:25. "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God." It is evident, then, that the dispensation given to the Apostle came to him by revelation from God. Then by this we may understand, in some degree, the power by which he spake, and also the dispensation of the fullness of times.

Now this, at first thought, would appear very small to some who are not acquainted with the order of God from the beginning; but when we take under consideration the plan of God for the salvation of the world, we can readily see that plan carried out most faithfully in all its bearings. Soon after the fall of Adam, the plan of salvation was made known to him of God Himself; who in like manner, in the meridian of time, revealed the same in sending His first begotten Son Jesus Christ, who also revealed the same to the Apostles; and God raised him from the dead to perfect the plan, and the Apostles were made special witnesses of that plan, and testified that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, God would gather together in one all things in Christ, whether they be things in heaven, or things on the earth. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 3: 51.)

John Taylor

We live in is the dispensation of the fulness of times, embracing all other dispensations and times and powers and authorities that have existed upon the face of the earth, in the various ages, from the commencement to the present time. Herein it differs from others. Hence we are requested to gather together, something which they were not commanded to do. We are told to build Temples: they were not. We are told to administer for the living and the dead, which ordinances were only performed then to a very limited extent. We are called upon to build up not only the Church, but the kingdom of God, and to introduce the rule and government of God upon the earth. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 20: 258.)

Colossians 1:28 that ye may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus

Delbert L. Stapley

Paul impressively taught the importance of patterning our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ, striving constantly toward perfection. The writings of the apostle Paul can give us answers, direction, and strength, just as they aided the saints in the early church. If we prayerfully ponder not only the words of Paul, but all the scriptures now available to us, our lives can be strengthened and enriched.

How beautifully and completely Paul encompassed all that would enable us to gain the greatest happiness in this life and exaltation in the life to come! ("Teachings of the Apostle Paul," Ensign, Nov. 1976, 94)