This epistle gets its name from the fact that it is addressed "to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ that are at Colossae" (Colossians 1:2).
From the first verse we learn that Paul was the writer.
It was written about A.D. 62 during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. Ephesians and Philemon were written about the same time (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:24; 4:7-9, 18; Philemon 11, 23). Since Paul mentions several times his hopes of visiting friends in Philippi and Colossae (Philippians 2:24; Philemon 22), the theory has been advanced by some that he wrote Colossians from an Ephesian rather than a Roman prison. There is no good evidence, however, that Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus. References in the imprisonment letters indicate conclusively that Paul wrote Colossians from Rome toward the close of his life.
Colossae, at one time one of the chief cities of Phrygia, was about 100 miles east of Ephesus. It was one of tri-cities, Laodicea being only ten miles away, and Hierapolis, thirteen (4:13). At the time of this letter, Colossae was of little importance as a commercial center but it was a vigorous gospel community and played a decisive role in Christian activities.
Although it is stated that "all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word" during Paul's long stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:10), in Colossians 2:1 it is intimated that Paul had never visited Colossae. The church was likely established by a fellow-worker under Paul's direction. Epaphras is named by many as the founder (Colossians 1:6,7; 4:12,13). However, Paul kept in touch with the church (1:3,4,9; 2:5-7; Philemon 9-23). He had a keen interest in their spiritual life and development.
The major danger which confronted the Colossian church was an Oriental philosophy called Gnosticism, taught by certain false teachers who had come among them. In this letter Paul discusses four aspects of the error, namely: (1) Philosophic (2:3,4,8); (2) ritualistic, or Judaistic (2:11,14,16,17); (3) Visionary, or angel-worship (1:16; 2:10,15,18); (4) Ascetic practices (2:20-23). The main purpose of the book is to show that Christ is the head of the church (1:18), and that the Christian is made full in Him (2:10). Christ is presented as the source of all creation (1:15-17), and man's hope of redemption (1:12-14). Central Asia Minor was a fertile field for religious speculation, and Colossae was greatly affected by speculative theories. Under the influence of the Iranian belief in intermediate agents, false teachers had disturbed the Colossians by insisting on unscriptural rites of purification whereby Christians were to prepare themselves for the presence of God. These false teachers declared that all creation is evil and, therefore, its source must be evil. Since God is in no wise evil, they taught that He could not have created matter. Man's body, being material, was looked upon as essentially evil. Man, according to this theory, could not approach God directly. The false notion arose that intermediate agents or aeons created man and that only through these intermediary beings could sinful man approach a holy God. The Colossian letter was written to answer these false teachings and practices and to show that Christians have the privilege of approaching God only through Jesus Christ, their Mediator. The letter was probably delivered by Tychicus (4:7,8).