Paul never visited Colossae (2:1). The church there was founded by a Colossian named Epaphras, apparently in the wake of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (A.D. 53–55), from where “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Some five to seven years later, the founder of the Colossian church joined Paul in prison at Rome (Acts 28; Col. 4:12, 13) to tell the apostle of a strange teaching threatening the health of his home church and to remain with Paul to pray for the churches of the Lycus Valley.
The Christians Paul addresses in this letter were struggling with a Greek-influenced form of Jewish philosophy that viewed Christians as still vulnerable to spiritual forces. It was thought that these forces needed to be placated through veneration, through some sort of asceticism of food and drink, and by honoring certain days prescribed in Old Testament ceremonial law. The epistle is designed to help Christians understand that in order for them to gain acceptance before God, they need Christ only. God has already accepted them by virtue of their union with Christ in His death and resurrection. While there is a perfection, or maturity, that still stands before them as a goal (1:22, 23, 28), they are already “filled in him,” the perfect One (2:10).