You will find an outline and introduction to Colossians here.
A prayer from the Book of Common Worship, for your use before reading;
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
I. Introduction 1:1-12
A. 1:1-2 Salutation
B. 1:3-12 Prayer for the Colossians
II. Central Statement 1:13-2:23
A. 1:13-24 The Trustworthiness of Christ
B. 1:24-2:7 The Trustworthiness of the Apostle: Paul explains why he is intervening in a church he did not found, and why this matters. Given what we know about the situation in Colossea, how does Paul begin to address the issue of proper teaching?
C. 2:8-23 Warning Against False Teachers :Verse 8 What is the problem? Commentators believe that there were those in Colossea who encouraged the observance of special feasts, dietary laws, ascetic practices and so on. While modern Christians do not talk about “elemental spirits of the universe”, do we have comparable challenges?
III. Practical Matters 3:1-4.6
A. 3:1-17 The True Christian Life: Is the dying and rising language (2:20,3:1) baptismal language? Verses 9,10-Often the early church used the images of taking off old garments and be clothed in Christ or new garments when they talked about baptism. What constitutes a Christian life? ( Especially compared with the practices of chapter 2:8-23.)
B. 3:18-4:6 Ethical Exhortations
1. 3:18-4:1 Relations with Family Members: Ethicists, both Greco-Roman and Jewish, wrote often and in predictable ways about the functioning of households. The responsibilities of each party were described. First century culture was hierarchical and people assumed that households were a reflection of the larger order of the gods management of the universe. “A good husband/father/master manages wisely and benevolently, but must be the unquestioned ruler of the household if it is to function for its own and the nation’s good. Significantly, he oversees the religious observances of the household, determines its cultic loyalties, and maintains the divinely ordered subservience of women, children, and slaves to free men.” (Johnson, E. , 1129). Paul assumes Christians live in a hierarchical world. How does he recast that social order in light of life in Christ?
2. 4:2-6 Relations with Outsiders: Given what Paul has written in this letter, what does it mean to “conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders’?
IV. Conclusion, Personal Greetings and Instructions 4:7-23: Laodicea was about 10 miles from Colossae. We do not have the letter to Laodicea. Notice also the mention in verse 15 of a woman follower of Jesus and the church in her house.
Read More About It
Johnson, E. Elizabeth “Colossians” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 17, “The Letter to the Colossians”
Metzger, Bruce, William A. Beardslee “The Letter of Paul to the Colossians” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.