The first part of the body of the letter summons the Colossians to praise and then quotes and applies the great hymn about Christ (1:12–23). Specifically, the first part begins with a confessional thanksgiving to the Father for calling them to be his own unique people (1:12–14). A hymn follows, celebrating Christ as the sovereign Creator and Redeemer of all that exists (1:15–20). The Colossians are participants in the results of Christ’s reconciling ministry (1:21–23).
The second part of the body of the letter describes Paul’s apostolic ministry (1:24–2:5). His was the task of making known the mystery of God concerning Christ to the Gentiles in general (1:24–29) and to the churches of Colossae and Laodicea in particular (2:1–5).
The third part of the body of the letter introduces Paul’s primary concern for the Colossian congregation: they are to follow the received tradition about Christ (that is, the teachings about Christ they had first accepted), and not to fall prey to the current false teaching (2:6–23). They are to walk in the light of the received tradition (2:6, 7), and they are warned against the false philosophy (2:8). The hymn of 1:15–20 is again referred to, here stressing Christ’s divine lordship (2:9, 10) and proclaiming his victory over the principalities and powers (2:11–15). Because of such a Christ, the Colossians are exhorted not to submit to the regulations and tenets of the false teaching (2:16–23).
The fourth part of the body of the letter summons the church to a life befitting Christians (3:1–4:6). Those who have been raised with Christ are to seek the things that are above (3:1–4). That means they are to put off the traits and attitudes listed in a catalog of vices (3:5–11) and to put on the traits and attitudes listed in a catalog of virtues (3:12–14). In worship they are to conduct themselves in a unified and orderly way (3:15–4:1). The so-called “household code” concerning marriage, children, and slavery (3:18–4:1) appears in a context dealing with worship (3:15–17; 4:2–6). The most pressing admonitions in the code are addressed to wives and slaves, groups that especially would crave the equality promised in the gospel (Gal 3:28; note Col 3:11). So Paul probably used the code to call for order in the public worship service.
Paul concluded his letter by first stating that Tychicus and the recently converted slave, Onesimus, would inform the church about his circumstances (4:7–9), and then adding a series of greetings (4:10–18).