As we continue working through the fundamentals of the Gospel as explained in the New Testament, it is our hope that you will also explore our Old Testament (OT) studies and see how the Bible truly is one complete document, the very Word of God.
Last week we started in Colossians 2. We looked at what it means to be made alive in Christ and how important it is that we not allow false teaching lead us away from Christ and His Gospel. We see Paul progressing in his letter to the church he hadn’t visited in person from the Person of Jesus and the truth of His Gospel as the central focus of the Christian Life. Brothers and sisters, there will be many false teacher majoring in the minor things of life, seeking to profit from you while getting you off-track from the central focus of Christianity… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is so much we can dive into in these last two chapters of Colossians, but for now let’s do a high-altitude flyover of the text to see how the Christian life should look. So, without further adieu, let’s continue in our study of Colossians.
Living the Christian Life
Put On the New Self
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Seek the things that are above. This utterly destroys any so-called “prosperity gospel”. Paul isn’t inventing this teaching, either… Jesus taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20)” The Truth of the Gospel is that in Christ we are over-comers… but not as the world defines over-comer with untouchable health, wealth, and prosperity… those are earthy treasures where moth and rust destroy, and thieves steal.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
This is the hard part, this is where the Law of God continues to work in us. The purpose of the Law is to convict us of sin… and the wages of sin is death. Now, Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for our sin so that we needn’t fear eternal death, Christ paid that price. However, Jesus told us that to follow him we’ll have to take up our cross (Luke 9:23-27) … we are to die to our sinful natures daily. Notice the wording of the first list “what is earthly in you”. These are the sins of the heart that we’ve inherited in our flesh, born of the seed of Adam. Sexual Immorality is a broad sin… it covers everything that isn’t within God’s design for sexual intimacy which is the union of one man and one woman for life. Any and all deviation from this design is Sexual Immorality. Homosexuality, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, rape, incest, adultery… all of it. That’s the first item… impurity, passion, and evil desire are next in the same list… lust, fantasizing of sexual immorality, pornography, emotional intimacy with someone other than your spouse… these are all bad copies/replacements for God’s love for us, how He designed us to love our spouses and how we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. And your flesh craves it all. Paul is urging/reminding his readers that we must put to death that which is sin in our flesh. We do not have the strength (or even the will) to do this apart from faith in Jesus Christ. For in Him we have forgiveness and the hope of resurrection in Christ at the last day. In Him we the genuine article… Love. The second list refers to the corruption of sin in our emotions. Anger for the wrong reasons (sinful selfishness) is a fallen version of righteous anger against sin and unrighteousness. Wrath… it’s not our place. We deserve, have earned, the wrath of God… and Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s Wrath in our stead. Slander has no place in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ, they are His children. Slander is pointless with the lost… for they are condemned by their unbelief and destined for destruction. They don’t need slander, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ… they need Grace… they need Faith. There is no Greek or Jew, there are no haves and have-nots within the Church… we are all equally free in Christ for He is in all who have been Saved by Him.
But the Christian life isn’t just about “thou shalt not”. The Law has both prohibitions and commandments… and in Christ all have been fulfilled. In Christ we are made free to do the works of God. So, while we put to death the sin of our flesh, we should also seek to put on the righteousness of Christ.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The world specializing in lies. The world will tell you, that you should keep silent regarding their sin or their need for a Savior because in their eyes that’s unloving. They are lying. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters will try to tell you that rebuke for sinful living or false doctrine is unloving, that’s also a lie. Silence in the face of sin is unloving. People don’t stay silent in the face of sin for the sake of the sinner, but for their own sake. Have compassion on those who are trapped in sin, and also for the lowly and the downtrodden, and for those being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. Speak and walk in kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Remember, there is forgiveness available for us when we fail (and we will fail) and if we keep that in the forefront of our mind then we should also extend forgiveness for others who have wronged us.
This is tough, and it cannot be done out of pride or effort, but only by faith in Christ. The take overall can be quite daunting and if you lose sight of the core of the Gospel, and start buying into false notions of “inner purpose” or “the champion within you” discouragement is inevitable. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ. Start small, start with your family. God instituted the family as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Rules for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit 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 provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
The first relationship in the family that needs to be set straight is that of husband and wives. It points to the relationship between Christ (husband) and the Church (wife). Children are to obey their parents, fathers are not to provoke their children. Here we have bonservants and masters all included in the household. What took place in the U.S. under slavery was sinful in the sight of the Lord. Don’t let anyone get away with twisting this scripture. The better picture of what this bondservant thing would look like (when done scripturally) would be like Alfred serving Bruce Wayne, or Higgens serving Magnum P.I., or Baileywick serving King Roland. If I’ve managed to miss every pop culture reference that matters to you, then I suppose it would be best to think of this proper bondservant would be a live-in nanny or house keeper. It would also be wise to extend the rules of the master-servant relationship found in the New Testament to the Employer-Employee relationships in business.
1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Notice that this is the first time we have a direct command regarding outsiders or unbelievers. The purpose of the Church is to grow in Christ, to mature the saints. There is a lot of bad theology out there, particularly with a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Church. The purpose of the Church is to mature the saints so they can be edified and grow in the fullness of Christ. We are all called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost, but the role of the Church is to nurture the infants in the faith into men and women of God. The role of the pastor isn’t just to preach the Gospel to the lost… it’s to feed Christ’s sheep… to tend His flock. In his closing remarks, Paul names his fellow workers in Christ… the elders and pastors/teachers. Quite the list of names, because Paul wants this church to know who is faithfully working on their behalf, for the edification of the Church.
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Such great love, to take the time to write to this young church whose congregation he never met. Paul loves them, and they are also loved by several other servants of God. This is the role of the pastor/elder. This letter isn’t a long one… and yes, there is more to learn of the mystery of God… but this letter covers the essentials, the supremacy of Christ and the need to guard your doctrine and love your family and the Family of Jesus Christ. In closing, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter’s prayer in his first letter.
1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,