Category Archives: Bible passages

Firm Foundations – Study 8 – Colossians 4:2-18

Pray for completing the mission

Topics Covered: What is taking Jesus so long to return?
How do I proclaim Christ?
Glossary: proclamation; wisdom; maturity; assurance; partnership; mission; evangelism.

Discussion Question

What would you do if you found a medicine that would cure all illness in the world?

Context

The book of Colossians began with the description of the gospel coming to Colossae via Epaphras and that when they heard the gospel, they understood the true meaning of God’s grace. We heard from Paul how the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world. Now, at the conclusion of his letter, Paul will ask the church to pray for the gospel to keep moving around the world. The gospel is the powerful work of God, achieved through Christ, to move people from death to life. Only in the Lord are we able to put sin to death and to explore new life of faith. But it is the eternal hope that we have received in the gospel that produces faith and love in the church. And the mission of God is not to stop with us. Just as we received Jesus Christ as Lord, we are to continue to grow up in our faith and we are to do our part to ensure that the message of the gospel moves out to others.

Read Colossians 4:2-18

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. 

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” 

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Mission abroad and at home (2-6)
    • Speaking to God about people (2-4)
    • Speaking to people about God (5-6)
  • Missionaries coming home (7-9)
  • The many workers of the gospel (10-15)
  • Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

Mission at home and abroad (2-6)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” It has been said that prayer is faith speaking. That means that prayer is not simply talking to God. It is speaking to God in response to what we know to be true about him. We ought to pray as good reflective listeners. 1) Be devoted to prayer because faith tells us that God has provided access to him and why would we dare treat that invitation with contempt? It is grace that saved us and nothing that we have done. We received Christ by faith as we prayed for forgiveness and to surrender to him – that is how we are to continue – in prayer to him. Note that Genesis 4:26 describes the first moment of prayer in the bible and the content and purpose and almost definition of prayer is that of those who call upon the name of the Lord. The attitude of our prayers include watchfulness and thankfulness. Watchful perhaps that we remain true to the faith and living in the Lord and not straying. Watchful that we pray for present matters and watchful as we see God’s hand at work. Thankful as we see the kingdom grow and His answers to our prayers. Thankful forever that God would save us and qualify us for the kingdom.

“And pray for us, too…” Paul has described his prayers for the church back in chapter one and invites them to pray for him.

“…that God may open a door for our message…” See how the content of our prayers ought to be gospel focussed? We should pray for the government and for those who are sick and for anything that we are anxious about, and we must pray for God’s mission.

“…so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” It’s not that Christ is a mystery but that Christ is the mystery revealed (Colossians 1:26, 27; 2:2). Paul knows what he needs to proclaim, that is not the mystery, but he needs doors opened so that he can speak.

“…for which I am in chains.” Paul was apparently in prison. He was arrested a number of times as we read in Acts.  He did not speak of his imprisonment as a disaster but as part and parcel to gospel work in his era and location. Coming to Christ does mean freedom from sin but it does not come with a rosy life. He has been imprisoned for speaking the gospel. But this does not deter him…

“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Since we know the gospel let’s desire to be able to explain it to others clearly. Paul was dependent on God for the ability and the focus to do just that and not to muddy the gospel with side issues that do not matter and which actually detract from the gospel. Paul desires prayer from a church of Christ to support him in his mission abroad. Verses 2-4 were about speaking to God about people and Verses 5-6 are about speaking to people about God.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” Now Paul teaches the church how to be missionaries in their own town. The outsiders are those who do not yet belong to the church. Our approach to outsiders is to be wise which at the very first means being thoughtful and mindful of them – not disinterested!

“…make the most of every opportunity.” The context clearly means to be ready to proclaim Christ when a door opens for it!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace…” Let’s paraphrase: every time you open your mouth to speak with someone, make the content ooze with grace – be patient, kind, loving, truthful, listening, gentle and controlled. Allow others to speak. Allow others to close the conversation if they wish. Offer encouragement to all – no matter what their tone or nature is. We were instructed to put away evil uses of our mouth and here we are told to positively fill our mouths with gracious words. It may mean keeping your mouth closed if you have nothing kind to say!

“…seasoned with salt…” Your conversation is not to be dull and tasteless so that everyone wants to run away as soon as you start speaking. But season your words with attractive stuff. Put simply, be human around people and don’t be preachy or boring. The gospel is exciting news so be ever growing in your knowledge of the faith and ever mindful of those outside the faith that should and ought to hear and respond to the gospel just as you did.

“…so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If you can explain the gospel to someone without Christian jargon, then you know that you have understood it well yourself and are equipping yourself to share it with outsiders. Answering someone presumes that there was a question asked. Now, we need to walk the thin line between waiting to be asked and fishing for questions. This is why being always mindful of outsiders, always talking to God about mission, always looking for open doors and speaking graciously with a splash of salt will attract conversations.

Missionaries coming home (7-9)

“Tychicus…” Mentioned in Acts 20:4. As is clearly stated in Verses 7 and 8, he is being sent to Colossae from Paul’s side to fill them in on all the details of what is happening and for him to encourage them. Church work is relational. Heaven forbid that we ought to join a church and never speak to anyone or form deeper connections. God has called us to be part of his kingdom mission work and to do that together! If you are a Christian, then join the team of God’s mission – or ask yourself where your heart really is.

“Onesimus…” The book of Philemon is worth reading to hear how a criminal can find Christ and be treated as equal in the Lord. This is Onesimus. Once a runaway slave but now a companion with Paul and Tychicus. Like him, we were once living on the run from God, but now, because of hearing and truly understanding God’s grace, we are treated as equals with Christ in his kingdom. We are invited to always be ready to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.

The many workers of the gospel (10-15)

“…Aristarchus…”Mentioned in Acts 19:29.

“…Mark…” Acts 12:12. A companion with Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Paul on their early missionary journeys. The good news here is that Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement over the worthiness of Mark on their mission (Acts 15:36-41) but clearly, that has been repaired and Mark is on mission with Paul again.

“(You have received instructions about him…)” Not everything that Paul wrote became automatically scripture. See later in Verse 16 for a comment about scripture.

Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans…” We have here the clear intentions from Paul that his words be read out in church and not just in the church in Colossae but shared with another church. Paul has some understanding that he is writing words worth sharing with the Christian community. These words will make their way into the bibles as we know them. God did not write the bible by lowering tablets from the sky into some saint’s hands. The bible is written by men as the Holy Spirit carried them along in truth and understanding (2 Peter 1:12-21, esp. 20-21). The apostles were aware that they were contributing to the canon of scripture just as their ancestors the prophets had done. The church received the writings just as they received the gospel. Writings were collated and preserved by the church and the Holy Spirit. Paul was aware that he was writing as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

“…and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” The epistle to Laodicea is not listed in your bible’s contents page. Perhaps it was lost in history. If that is the case, then we know that the bible that we have is the bible that God meant for us to have. He is sovereign over all things. Some say, however, that this letter has come to us but is named Ephesians. I cannot say. Ephesians has an awfully similar shape and purpose to it. It was written by Paul.

“Tell Archippus…complete the ministry…” This is obscure and we cannot know what is going on here for sure. Archuppus is mentioned in Philemon 1:2. But consider this as the theme of Colossians – to complete the mission that God has begun in you. Don’t stifle it or put out the flame but pursue God and the work that he leads you to do, especially in continuing on in the LORD just as you received Him. Put to death the old self and clothe yourself with the new. Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated. The gospel has come to you, now grow up in it and share the good news with others.

“I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Paul would have had a scribe write out the letter but his habit and custom was to write his final note in his own hand (see 1 Cor 16:21; Galatians 5:16) probably as a way of authenticating his words and preventing frauds. When you think of what to do after reading this letter, remember Paul’s chains. It may have even been difficult to sign his name given the chains and the handwriting would reveal the struggle! Paul’s signature is a memory hook for continuing in the faith, pressing on, and proclaiming Christ as LORD whether that is welcome news or not!

“Grace be with you.” The letter ends as it began in Chapter 1 Verse 2. Grace be with you. The gift of God that we do not deserve and can never repay. Truly understanding the grace of God is what life is all about. Life comes from Him and so does Salvation. To put our hope in anything else is futile and foolish. May our faith and love for one another grow out of the eternal hope that is in our hearts.

What did we learn?

Just as the gospel has found a home with the Colossians, Paul urges them to get on board with spreading the gospel. He does this by asking for prayers for those who take the gospel abroad and by urging them to speak to their own community about Jesus. Gospel work is teamwork. We are not Loan Rangers and even Paul expresses his thankfulness for his partners who give him great comfort. Paul invites us to complete the mission which Jesus has drawn us into.

Now what?

Topic A: Know your church’s mission. As we are not to do mission alone, the greatest asset we have is partnering with the church that we belong to. How does your church plan to complete the mission? Most churches have a mission statement of some sort but they all need to meet with the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples: to take the gospel to the nations, teaching everyone all that Christ taught us and adopting people into the community who know God as Father Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). What questions can you ask your church about the plan for growing the kingdom? Do you know the names of the missionaries that your church supports? Do you know how to pray for them?

Topic B: Speaking with grace and salt. This advice is healthy for all humans to follow but even more so if we are hoping and praying to talk to people about Jesus. Being slow to speak and quick to listen is really great advice for anybody. As gospel-sharers, we want to avoid two extremes: bible bashing people and saying nothing about Jesus ever. But if we can listen and speak with love and interest and if we are growing in wisdom and understanding as the Spirit give us (Colossians 1:9) then speaking about the gospel can enter our conversations naturally and interestingly. And when we don’t get it right, that is an excellent time to reflect on what went wrong and grow from the experience!

Topic C: Praying with watchfulness and thankfulness. With watchfulness perhaps means knowing names and events that you would like to bring to God in prayer. Is there a sermon coming up that you could pray for the speaker about? Is there a missionary who has sent a recent update that you can pray about? Thankfulness means remembering the good things that God is doing and has already done through Christ and by His Spirit. Having a list of people to pray for has been very helpful for many Christians. The PrayerMate App has been a helpful modern tool to help our watchfulness and thankfulness in prayer.

Topic D: What is taking Jesus so long to return? Christ’s work during His first coming began a new age of the church – some say the age of the Spirit. It is an era which began at his Resurrection and will continue until He returns again to bring this world to an end. It is good and great to look forward to the new age – when Christ comes and we will see Him face to face and everything that we are hoping for in Christ will be fulfilled. But the age we live in is not a waste of time. We are to use every moment and venture we are involved in to grow the kingdom. Raising a family is to be done like you are raising disciples of Jesus. Doing business at work is to be done as though working for the Lord. Involvement at church is to be like you are involved in completing the mission. We can never know when Christ is to return, but our time right now is not simply about waiting – we are to be completing the mission.

Firm Foundations – Study 7 – Colossians 3:18-4:1

The new you: Put on faith

Topic covered: Making godly decisions
Glossary: submission; good works; favouritism.

Discussion Question

The gospel is about the forgiveness of my sins and should not impact my lifestyle. Discuss.

Context

The letter to the Colossian church is an encouragement to all its readers to continue in the faith that they received when they put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Jesus is the creator of all things, the saviour and foundation of the church, and the point of the whole bible! You see, the great mystery of God is revealed in Christ. We grow up, or mature, in the faith by increasing our grasp on who Jesus is and learning to trust him with everything. This is life changing and it is the firm foundation of our faith. That is why the gospel is powerful, because it produces change in people.

We pursue faith and love by putting to death sexual immorality and putting away the misuse of our mouths. Everything we do and think from now on must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Not to earn his love and acceptance but because we are already loved and accepted. The gospel, you can say, restores humans back to the image of God. As we continue in Colossians, we will see what looks like rules for Christian living. What follows are not rules but illustrations of how the gospel is powerful to restore our relationships with one another. The gospel of grace restores humans back to the way God meant for us to be.

Read Colossians 3:18-4:1

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. 

4 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Family relationships (18-21)
    • To wives (18)
    • To Husbands (19)
    • To Children (20)
    • To Fathers (21)
  • Business relationships (22-4:1)
    • To Slaves (22-23)
      • Because you trust God (24-25)
    • To Masters (1)
      • Because you know God (1)

Family Relationships (18-21)

As inferred in the CONTEXT, this is not a list of commands that are to be obeyed or else you will not be saved. That is not how grace works! We respond to the gospel because we understand a) God is our creator and so we need to listen to his wisdom b) God is our saviour who has given us eternal life, therefore, we no longer fight for self because we’ve already been given the kingdom! But c) because we are made in the image of God and although sin has produced hatred and quarrelling and disharmony in this life, the gospel of grace will defeat it!

“Wives…” Let’s be clear: this is a message to wives and not to husbands. Let wives read these words and meditate on the purpose and the reason and the implications of it. Let the men read it with understanding but with no desire to enforce it! Likewise, this is not a line for all women, but to wives. The greek word here can mean woman or wife but the context makes it clear that it is about wives.

“…submit yourselves to your husbands…” Please refrain from a knee-jerk reaction and meditate on what is being asked. The word does not mean to be put into submission by someone else by order, but is a directive (imperative actually) to submit yourself. That is, in the marriage relationship, the wife is asked to approach her relationship to her husband as not someone fighting for control or domination. It is not a competition. It helps to recall that God himself, the most powerful being in the universe, submits himself. The Son, submits himself to the Father, although they are both equally God. The Son submits himself to death, even though he is eternal! Submission is not about weakness or inability or small capacity. The bible does not teach that women are less than men, only that there is a relationship in marriage where the woman places herself under the headship of the man. Next comes a further qualification…

“…as is fitting in the Lord.” Some may object and say that Paul is talking about the culture of the time and that if he were writing this all over today he may not include this section, or write it differently. But ‘as is fitting in the Lord’ suggests that Paul is promoting a Christian culture that reflects the goodness of God. To best understand the point of the submission passage here, we should remember (or learn) what it is that the gospel is correcting here. We’ll do it in brief bullet points.

  1. Genesis 1:1 – God is the creator of heaven and earth – we exist only because he first created.
  2. Genesis 1:27 – God created mankind (in his own image) being male and female.
  3. Genesis 2:15 – God instructed the male to take care of the world.
  4. Genesis 2:18 – God observes, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” We see that men and women are both created in God’s image and they are created for purpose and that they are created to have a good relationship. The woman is not placed to compete but to help.
  5. Genesis 3 describes the moment when the male and the female consciously acted in rebellion against God. It was such a small act but a giant moment for mankind.
  6. Genesis 3:16 is part of a longer curse as a result of sin now in the world and it describes the relationship between the male and the female in terms of desire and rule rather than as help and cooperation.
  7. In Christ, and by the grace of God, we can see relationships afresh. You see, in Christ, it is possible to remove the language of ruling over one another. It is fitting, in the Lord, for the wife to not be threatened by her husband but to willingly submit to a man who also, in the Lord, will choose to love his wife. 

I will say that again: It is fitting, in the Lord, for the wife to not be threatened by her husband but to willingly submit to a man who also, in the Lord, will choose to love his wife. Now, in this life, neither the husband nor the wife will always get it right. And in fact, there will continue to be the effect of sin in this world. But, the grace of God challenges us to live afresh, convinced by faith that we can actually begin to trust one another. See also Ephesians 5:22-24.

“Husbands…” See the note above on wives and apply it appropriately to the husband.

“…love your wives…” This is a message to all the husbands (plural) to love their wives (each husband has one wife!) If the wife is being guided to submit, how wonderful that all husbands are being guided to love! The Godhead expresses this nicely when we read that each ‘person’ of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) loves the others selflessly and so the Holy Spirit and the Son are delighted to submit to the Father in everything! What Paul is reflecting on in these verses is what a change the gospel makes to a life! It is by the power of the gospel of grace that we can learn to understand submission and love without importing danger and struggle into it. Men and women are created equal. Men and women, ideally, can move forward together in harmony without submission meaning repression and without love being a weakness. Husbands are to think about the needs and wants of his wife and to think sacrificially. Read Ephesians 5:25-33 for an expansion on this. God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

“…and do not be harsh with them.” If a wife is going to submit to her husband, then it is important for the leader to not abuse his position. Marriage is the union of two consenting adults where the wife will submit herself without any strongholds and the husband will choose to love always without harsh language or treatment. The bible never ever condones domestic violence. No person is compelled or forced to stay or put up with an unsafe relationship. In Christ, a man and a woman can possibly come together and voluntarily live with the other’s best in mind and this is the power of the gospel. In this life, it can easily be misapplied or one sided or simply abused. This is why we treat these verses, not as rules, but as a celebration of what can be possible by the power of grace. Can two people, inspired and taught by the grace and love of God, live selfless lives together? In Christ they can.

“Children, obey your parents in everything…” Yes, children should be taught to read the bible and learn lessons like this. I would add, though, that we are all to read these verses and ask, if it is God’s intent that a child obey their parents – but they do not – then this is a symptom of the child living in a fallen world. Sin is prevalent right from the birth of a child. We don’t have to be taught how to be selfish. We need saving and we need to learn what grace and mercy and love looks like – as is fitting in the Lord.

“…for this pleases the Lord.” Just as there is a godly approach for husbands and wives, there is an ordained and designed system for children and parents. In God’s design, he has given every child (unless tragedy occurs) parents (or singular) to have authority over them. Authority is about care and this is the job of the parent: to care for their child by teaching them and being people worth listening to and obeying.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Why mothers are not mentioned is unknown. Perhaps is it he men who need to hear this? It does elevate the place of fathers in that God sees them as a good source of encouragement and healthy growth. Just as a husband ought to have love and softness in his approach to his wife, so too, he ought to not create a relationship with his child that creates resentment from them. This will include patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control – all outcomes of the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). A parent, and here especially a father, is important for the good growth of a child. Parents have the potential to make or break their child. Be kind to yourself though since every child will need to grow up and probably forgive their parents for one thing or another.

We finish the section on family relationships and let’s conclude with something like: When someone is in the Lord (3:17) then the very relationships that they have in the family will change because their hope is in eternal things and their life is fixed and centred in Christ. Striving will cease. Love will grow and abound. Respect and obedience will flourish. These are words of a trusting relationship. Sin produced hatred and strife but in the end, grace wins.

Business Relationships (22-4:1)

Just as there are different relationships in the home (wives, husbands, children, fathers and mothers), there are also different relationships out in the workforce. In relation to the government, we must recognise their authority over us. In relation to employee and employer, we must recognise a hierarchy.

“Slaves…” Also could be translated servants. There is no room for slave trading in this section. But the position is of a person who has submitted themselves to someone else in order to have a living. I don’t want to waste space here on this but I see a link between slaves and employees here. An employee agrees to submit to their employer in order that they get paid. They will agree to work so many hours per day and per week and agree to deadlines etc. In exchange, the employee gets paid. As soon as the employee no longer needs money, then they would stop working for the manager in a snap! We submit ourselves to masters all the time. It’s called a job!

“…obey your masters in everything…with sincerity…and reverence for the Lord.” Verse 22 is pretty easy to understand. We need to stop being grumpy and whiny employees. Get on board and serve your boss because that’s how God intends the human race to be! We are made for relationship and for working together as helpers and not as a burden to others. Imagine when heaven comes that all the saved ones in heaven will work together without gossip or bickering or slander or revenge or powerplay. And there will never be a shoddy job done.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” The gospel shifts our priority. We are not becoming perfect employees because God tells us to, but because we are doing everything in the name of the Lord. 

“…since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” By faith we believe that there is an inheritance coming for us. We don’t need to be bitter that we are not the boss here on earth because one day we will have way more than a business of our own but we will have the kingdom of God. It is our trust in God that will produce a change in our family relationship and our work ethic.

“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” If only Adam and Eve had kept that in their heads and owned it when the serpent spoke to them in the garden. Forget what the world says and forget selfish ambition and gain – serve the Lord. Have faith in God and let go of all the striving that comes from our desperate desires to be important or noticed or a somebody – you are a somebody in Christ. Do you believe it? Then live it!

“Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism.” By faith we will let things go in this earth because we know that God is just and everyone will get what is coming to them! If you believe this, then you will learn to overlook a lot of wrong-doings. This is not the same as forgiving. It is trusting that God will judge justly and righteously. Nobody will be let off for their wrongs. Those in Christ will rejoice because Christ has paid for their wrongs. Those in Christ will also be progressing in their faith and going from bad to good.

“Masters, provide your slaves…” I happily read ‘bosses’ and ‘workers’ into these words.

“…provide your slaves with what is right and fair…” The master is not to be harsh. Give the people working for you a good treatment. Be reasonable and considerate. If a job will take a day, don’t force them to get it done in half a day. If the job costs $1K, don’t force them to do it for $400 and then yell when they failed. Treat your employees with fairness across the board. Just as God does not show favouritism, don’t give one person all the benefits but be fair.

“…because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” Bosses of this world are not the ultimate Boss. The Prime Minister or the President or the Queen or King are all still subject to our God and creator.

What did we learn?

The gospel has the power to transform our relationships back to the way they were designed to be. But only when we put on faith. It is by faith that we trust God’s way as the best way. It is by faith that we act graciously and in love even when others wrong us. Sin produced hatred and strife in relationships but in the end, grace wins. 

Now what?

Topic A: Putting on faith in the home. Sin twists our relationships and stands us against one another. We fight for control and are opposed to submission. Faith that flows from the kingdom of God, from the eternal hope that we have, gives us courage and freedom to show grace toward one another again. Grace teaches us to love others ahead of ourselves. Faith in the home means learning to trust one another again as we learn to trust our creator. This is a huge concept to grasp. The lesson here is not about dominance, equality or submission – rather, it is about worship and love that come from truly understanding the gospel.

Topic B: Putting on faith in the workforce. The faith and love that spring from the eternal hope will shape the way that we do business. Even if you have no earthly hope for a good inheritance and luxurious retirement, we already know that God has given us his kingdom. Or if you are responsible in the workplace, be ever so conscious that you also work for the Lord. We all work for the same boss in the end.

Topic C: Leaving evil for God to take care of. Colossians 3:25 gives us the pathway to let evil go in our lifetime. Whenever an injustice has been dealt, if it is not exposed and punished in this lifetime we can be sure that it will be dealt with in the next. This is the logic behind Jesus teaching us to turn the other cheek. 

Firm Foundations – Study 6 – Colossians 3:1-17

The new you part 1: Put on love

Topic covered: How do we now live as Christians?
Glossary: sin; fruit of the Spirit; forgiveness; love. Now-but-not-yet.

Discussion Question

Which do you think is better: to be told what not to do or what to do?

Context

In the first half of his letter, Paul has proclaimed Christ to be above everything else. Christ is the source of life and Christ is the only way to or eternal hope. In Chapter 2, he hopes that his readers have ‘died with Christ’ so that every other reality is subordinate to knowing and following him. He has said that we are to continue living our lives in him, established and built up in the faith.

In the next section of his letter, we will hear examples of what this all looks like. Paul will give us some solid applications of what he has laid down in Chapters 1 to 3. What follows is not new thoughts on unrelated issues, but what flows out of our true knowledge of the gospel.

Read Colossians 3:1-17

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

What did you see?

Structure

  • Set your hearts on eternal hope (1-4)
  • Walk away from your old self (5-9)
  • Put on love (10-14)
  • Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly (15-17)

Set your hearts on eternal hope (1-4)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…” Paul begins his second half of the letter with this brief reminder of what he has been saying so far. Remember that the letter is one flowing argument based on the truth that Christ is the source of life and the giver of eternal hope.

“…you have been raised with Christ…” This is another little gem statement about the gospel. If the free gift of salvation was not complete, then Paul couldn’t say that we HAVE been raised with Christ. He’s not talking about a future resurrection but about a reality right now for those who have already DIED with Christ. Our identity is now paired with him. Our status in life for all eternity is as alive and qualified because we are with Christ.

“…set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” In 2:20, Paul said to stop allowing everyday things to have eternal meaning. He now says it in the positive: set your hearts on what is eternal. The King is on His throne and our destination is with Him. What matters most is to make what matters most matter. Christ, the eternal King, is all that matters. So, lift your eyes sinner. Set your horizon higher dreamer. Give your goals an eternal perspective. Our hearts are our loves and passions. What is it that you desire and long for? Take your eyes off what is fleeting and place it on the eternal and true. Fall in love with the hope that is in you. Believing that Jesus Christ is really seated in heaven at God’s right hand will change your life!

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Not just what we love but our thoughts. The bible speaks to both parts of the person which work together. What we know, we will train our hearts to love. And what we love, that is what we will pursue. Earthly things, refers to everything that is passing away. Our generation (as all that has preceded us) is so fickle and rejoices in short-lived shiny things. But this is the essence of the fight within all of us to sin no more. Sin is about grabbing hold of things that are not worth loving but we do anyway.

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” This is not a new thought but embraces 2:20-3:2. Picture this like boarding a lifeboat. We have boarded the boat, which is Christ, because we see that we need saving and this is our only real option. But boarding the boat means leaving the water or the sinking vessel. Your only future is to stay in that boat and not play around with the danger that you have left behind.

“When Christ, who is your life, appears…” So, this is an important point of view of the Christian. Although we have not seen Christ, we love him and although we don’t see him now, we believe in him and are filled with the joy of knowing him now and anticipating seeing him face to face (1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 3:1-2). A day will come, maybe in our lifetime, maybe not, when Jesus will come again in the flesh and wrap up this earth which is temporal. We live for this future and it affects the way we deal with everything in this world. We are in Christ now, but we will see him for real in the future. This is called the now-but-not-yet reality of now. We are hidden with Christ but we are not yet with him in sight.

“…then you also will appear with him in glory.” It’s easy to talk about God as the glorious one and that Jesus is the one to be glorified and praised but we are also told that there is a future version of us that even we don’t know the reality of. One day, the person who God is working in you to be will be revealed in glory. We will see ourselves for what God, by grace, has made us. On the last day, we will be united with Christ and both he and we will be seen for who we really are. This is what we live for now. So, don’t have a short view of the future. Think about eternity!

Walk away from your old self (5-9)

“Put to death…” Sit on this phrase and soak it in. What follows are things that we need to do away with and not put on a shelf to come back to but to end our relationship with them. Christ is our life, and we are to begin our discipleship by murdering. The examples that follow in verse 5 are about sex.

“…therefore…” This word tells us that what follows comes out of the work that Christ has and is doing in us. Christ is our life…therefore. We are hidden in Christ…therefore. You will appear with Christ in glory…therefore. This is the power of the gospel. We will put to death only because of what Christ has done. Without his work, we are incapable of putting these to death.

“…whatever belongs to your earthly nature…” This phrase in with Verse 2 when he told us not to set our minds on earthly things. But he then goes on to list what they are.

“…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” We could say that these 5 items here relate to passions of the flesh. Most fall in the category of sex. Greed is related in that it is about taking what we feel is needed even though it is not. John Woodhouse, former Principal of Moore Theological College, argues that all of the items are under the umbrella of the first item: sexual immorality. It is easy to see that the items are to do with passions of the flesh. We see, we want, we take.

Sex contained inside marriage is a very Christian idea. At the time of the New Testament writers, this was not common sense nor the norm. We live in an age again when this is no longer normal. Saving sex for marriage and containing it in marriage seems a very odd thing to do in these days. If one believes that there is no God or that God does not wish to judge us, then we are merely creatures doing what creatures do. But Colossians 3:5-7 teaches us that there are immoral approaches to sex.

“…which is idolatry.” Feeding the passions of the flesh is akin to self-worship. It places sex above God. Just in case someone reads this and thinks I am suggesting God hates sex, clearly the passage is about sexual immorality and impurity, and not everything about sex.

“Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” When we read the bible, we understand that sin is about feeding the flesh in self worship. God’s anger is against his creatures who saw, liked, took and ate – despite the clear instruction against it. The wrath of God is judgment day.

“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Remember that Christians are not good people, they are sinners saved by grace. We used to walk in these ways. We can never look on a Christian and presume that they know nothing of the ‘wild life’ or rebellion and so on. They just don’t tend to brag about them!

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…” First we were to put to death sexual immorality. Now there is something we are to put away. Like you put the gun back in the holster. What follows is a list of things that we do with our mouth.

“…anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” A lot goes on between the eyes, the brain and the mouth. It can happen extremely quickly, but self-control is an outworking of the gospel. In the book of James we are taught that if you can control your tongue, then you can control your whole body! See James 3:3-12!

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” Here is a great summary of 3:5-8. The old self used to look out for number one. Child development experts note that lying is a normal stage of mental maturity, indicating intelligence. Could it not also be a kind of evidence that sin is in all of us?

The power of the gospel is transformed lives, desires and a trained tongue. We transform our thinking by growing in our knowledge of the gospel and of the true meaning of God’s grace. We reflect on the eternal hope stored up for us in heaven and that alters our wants and desires in the immediate.

Put on love (10-14)

“…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” We don’t simply kill and put away the old self but we replace it with knew thinking. We learn more and more about our great and perfect Creator. God is referred to as Creator here to remind us that he has made us for a purpose and a reason. We are not made for lies and malice and anger and sexual immorality. We are being transformed to the likeness of God. Sin has turned his creation into a wild mess but grace will win in the end.

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew…Christ is all, and is in all.” Paul rounds out this paragraph under the theme of being images of God in that everywhere around the world, every race and human culture are one when in Christ. We lose our divisions and call one another brother and sister. In the church, there is no division according to race or anything, but we are all being transformed to the image of our one Creator in Christ Jesus.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people…” The title of God’s chosen people originates in the Old Testament when God called Abraham and his descendants to follow Him by faith. This is an element of the doctrine of election which says that we are not saved because we first came to God but that he first chose and called us.

“…holy and dearly loved…” What a way to speak of the people of God! We are not called to be enslaved to God and to serve Him for His own selfish gain – but we are holy because of the sins washed away from us and we are dearly loved, demonstrated by the sacrifice God made for us in Christ (Romans 5:8).

“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The gospel produces fruit like this (Galatians 5:22-23). There is a decisiveness to this in that we are to clothe ourselves. Christian growth does not happen entirely by the work of the Spirit but by the cooperation of us with the Holy Spirit.

Compassion: to feel concern for others.

Kindness: often demonstrated with the way we use our tongue but always when we think of how our speech or actions will affect someone else.

Humility: the opposite of boasting and pride. Even an expert in a subject can demonstrate humility toward others – making them feel important too.

Gentleness: a soft word, a quiet approach and a soft touch all stem from compassion, kindness, humility and patience.

Patience: Don’t let your time be the most important. It could be that someone else needs more time to come to an answer or to learn a new skill.

“Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” This is a truly remarkable difference that the gospel can make. Bearing with one another is about letting things slide at times. It comes from patience. We give others room to make mistakes because you ain’t perfect either. I love it when others bear with me while I work things out or while I have time to repent of my anger or pride. Nobody rebuked me but knew that I had stuff to work on. So, don’t jump on one another every time someone does something wrong. This really helps with road rage! And then there’s forgiveness. After a recognition of sin or fault by someone else and a ‘sorry’, we run to forgiveness. The gospel must teach us this. Just like the gospel itself, forgiveness follows repentance. Without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 5:3; Ezekiel 18:32; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 11:18; 2 Corinthians 7:10).

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Enough said? Well, forgiveness cost God. Forgiveness is not easy but God believes that it is worth the cost. It can hurt to forgive somebody but this is the way of grace.

“And over all these virtues…” What Paul has listed are examples only of Christian virtues – or virtues found in the chosen people of God. We were created to be like this.

“…put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” When you practice any of these virtues you are showing love and exercising love. Ever wondering what to do in a situation? Put on love. Ever wondering what to say to a person? Put on love.

So we have reflected on where our hearts and minds are to be directed (1-4), we have decided to put away the old man (5-9) and replace him with the virtues of love (10-16). Now we look at what gospel itself does in the community of believers.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly (15-17)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” I love the thought of allowing the peace of Christ to do its thing. Don’t resist what God is doing. Allow the gospel to be communicated and meditated on. Let the impact of the gospel dominate your heart and your passions and desires. Allow God to be the greatest treasure to you. We let that happen by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and putting away the old habits of sin.

“…since as members of one body you were called to peace.” The gospel does not bring people together to be enemies but to be friends. We lose our high views of ourselves and surrender to Christ and all of us are on equal terms – one in Christ.

“And be thankful.” Practice being thankful. Make a point of ticking off the things to be thankful for. Christians ought to be thankful creatures. Thankfulness dominates resentment and discontentment.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly…” Again, let the gospel flow in the Christian community. Let the church be well fertilized by the word of God.

“…as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” To teach is to instruct and remind one another of the gospel truth. To admonish is to urge and steer people back to the gospel life. Both are to be done with all wisdom. That means to know when and how to do it. We don’t just speak truth because it’s true. We do it with compassion, kindness and patience.

“…through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit…” So, the teaching and admonishing are part of our singing tradition. The songs we sing ought to be filled with gospel teaching which encourages one another in the truths of God’s word. From the Spirit refers to the content of the songs being from the mind of God.

“…singing to God…” So, our songs are sung toward one another because they are for teaching and admonishing and also sung to God as our proclamation of faith.

“…with gratitude in your hearts.” Be thankful.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Paul ends this section also with a great summary of what he has been saying all along. Our tongues and our actions must be changed by the gospel. Christ is the true King seated at the right side of God and our destiny is to be glorified with him. So let’s get busy transforming our minds and actions and words for his glory now! Put on love and do everything because Jesus is your Lord. Not out of resentment but from a thankful response to the kindness, love and mercy that God the Father has poured on us through Christ.

What did we learn?

Paul ends this section, in verse 17, with a great summary of what he has been saying all along. Our tongues and our actions must be changed by the gospel. Christ is the true King seated at the right side of God and our destiny is to be glorified with him. So let’s get busy transforming our minds and actions and words for his glory now! Put on love and do everything because Jesus is your Lord. Not out of resentment but from a thankful response to the kindness, love and mercy that God the Father has poured on us through Christ.

Now what?

Topic A: Putting to death and putting away. We must remember that our project is not to build up a perfect life but to embrace what God has already done for us in Christ. We are not earning a salvation for ourselves (Christ has claimed it for us) but when we turned to Christ, we became his followers. We are in the race. As runners, we need to get rid of things that don’t fit this life anymore. It is time to walk away from our past habits and embrace new ones. CS Lewis once wrote about Satan’s ploy to convince us that the only was to get rid of temptation is to give into it. This is a lie. Learn to turn up prayer when temptation comes. The temptation will pass and when it does, the deed will no longer look beautiful but pathetic.

Topic B: The fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit of God. They are not good deeds but good character and virtues. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow by focusing on the fruit but by focusing on the foundation which is Christ and His kingdom. Colossians talks about producing the fruit of the Spirit like putting on clothing. In that sense, we can help the Spirit work by practicing and thinking about such things as compassion and kindness. Again, understand that this improvement does not come by building your inner self and strength up but by letting Christ rule in your heart.

Topic C: Forgiving as the Lord forgave you. We’ve heard this before! The Lord’s prayer puts this right at the centre. Praying the Lord’s prayer can help us to meditate on who is the rightful ruler, whose kingdom are we serving and how are we to think about love and forgiveness, temptation and power. The point is to look to God for your motivation and direction. Maturity comes to those who let Christ rule. When faced with the hard choice of forgiving others, ask yourself what Jesus has been willing to do for you.