Part 3: Colossians 3:1-17
I wasn’t going to write a third part but it felt a bit weird leaving my Colossians study in the middle of the letter. This post won’t be too long either, and I’ll just be summarizing thoughts for my own reference.
We’ve almost seen the entirety of the letter’s body. It’s a good thing to keep thinking back, and it’s all connected in a way.
Paul first establishes the preeminence of Christ.
Then, he discusses the shift that the people have made away from the hope of the gospel. Whatever they’ve replaced it with, it’s not good. He talks about philosophy, human tradition, etc.
Here, he moves onto application.
This can be a very redemptive message, even if it is rebuke. Paul sees their reality, he sees their self-imprisonment, but he takes the step to tell them they have an alternative. If a Christian is not restrained by the world, why are you still bound in chains?
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (V3:1-2)
If anything, this is a precise summary of the things he’s said up until now. There are so many better things to set our minds on, but we choose the earthly instead. There are a lot more ways to ‘set our minds on things of the earth’ than what Paul listed in this letter, so we need to be careful. Paul just chose to pinpoint these cases as a favor for the Colossians.
It’s a challenge. Have you been raised with Christ? Well then, you better start seeking the things that are above.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (V3:5)
Put all of it to death, he says. We can’t chase these things and still call ourselves Christian. We can’t place our value in what we own, how we please ourselves, materialistic desires, and still, call ourselves … Christian.
It’s idolatry. Textbook Moses-shatters-the-tablets Golden-calf-mode idolatry.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (V3:9-10)
It’s because we were born again that we could take off our sinful selves and put on a new self. Cause-and-effect, a natural order to things that doesn’t take a genius to figure out. How can we put on the new when we are still covered by the old, it wouldn’t be long before it became dirty again.
Nowhere does Paul indicate a journey of sorts.
Paul does not compare putting on the new self to a sanctification that happens through the journey of life, that’s not what he’s referring to. He’s saying if you’ve been raised with Christ, you can put to death what is earthly in you, and because in doing so you have taken off the old self, you have already put on the new self.
Find this flow in the passage, I can’t do it justice.
It’s all the result of what Christ has done for us. It’s a result of his preeminence. We have a privilege that we so often see no value in.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. 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. (V3:14-17)
The good news wasn’t to point out all the other messages were garbage.
The good news wasn’t to point out the inadequacy of our lifestyles and our worship.
The good news was that the other messages were nothing in the light of what living for God would do, the good news was a hope beyond the meanings of life manufactured by the world. This letter was meant for the brothers and sisters in Colossae to read and understand that they were restricting the hope of the Gospel.
We are familiar with what we know, what we see as natural. We know the world in it’s rigidity, in it’s stature and view of worth, and we fit God into it as best as we can. It’s when we fully understand that God was never meant to be completed by, or complete another, only then, can we hold onto hope that fills more than just our palms.