­­­Colossians Study – Session 8

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

March 3, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

IV.    The Life of the Christian (3:1 – 4:6) - Almost all of Paul’s letters in the NT are divided into two distinct sections:

·         Paul begins his letters with a doctrinal or theological section, emphasizing the importance of right belief.

·         Then Paul concludes his letters with an ethical or practical application section, emphasizing the importance of right living.

 

         That format is quite evident in the book of Colossians:

·         In chapters 1 & 2 Paul deals with great theological principles.  In these chapters Paul explains who Jesus is and what Jesus has accomplished for us. 

·         Then, in chapters 3 & 4 Paul applies that theology to real life situations.

 

         In this session we are going to begin looking at that second part of Colossians.  Colossians 3:1 – 4:6 is one of the great ethical/practical application chapters in the Bible.  It moves from the general to the specific.

·         3:1-4 is an all-encompassing statement about the nature of the Christian life. 

·         3:5-11 list some ugly things we are to take out of our lives. 

·         3:12-17 list some beautiful things we are to put into our lives. 

·         3:18 – 4:6 focus on specific life situations.

 

 

1.      Seek and set your mind on things above (3:1-4) - One Bible commentator calls this paragraph “...one of the golden paragraphs of the whole Bible...” [Moule quoted by Vaughan, p.90]... interwoven throughout this paragraph are two themes, two basic truths about the Christian life which are vital for us to understand...

 

1)      The Christian life is a life of identification with Christ  - As I began to study this paragraph in depth this week, one of the first things I noticed was the repetitive use of the word Christ... four times in these four verses Paul uses the word Christ and he presents a detailed picture of our relationship with Christ which permeates our entire existence...If you’ll look carefully at the paragraph, you’ll see that Paul speaks of our relationship with Christ in the past, the present, and the future...

Ø  v.1 says that in the past we “have been raised up with Christ”... not referring to the resurrection from physical death which we will experience...referring to the new life we received when we trusted our lives to Jesus for salvation...salvation is death to an old way of life--a life of guilt, hopelessness, despair, futility, lack of direction and meaning and purpose--and resurrection to life abundant and life eternal in Christ...if you are a true Christian, there was a time in your past when you died to yourself, to an old way of life, and you were raised to a new kind/quality of life in Christ...the old person has been put off and the new person has been put on…

Ø  v.3 says that in the present we are “hidden with Christ in God”...The word translated “hidden” is apokruptein and it’s the word from which the Gnostics got the word for their secret books which they claimed held the key to real wisdom.  In effect Paul is saying to the false teachers, “For you the treasures of wisdom are hidden in your secret books; but for us Christ is the treasury of wisdom and we are hid in Him.” [Barclay, p.178] I think the basic idea behind this phrase has to do with security or safety...just as you might tuck a valuable possession away in a safe place, so our lives are tucked away in Christ...in the present, no matter what storms may come our way and no matter what troubles we may face, we are safe in Him...

Ø  v.4 says that in the future “When Christ is revealed ... [we] will be revealed with Him...”...the reference here is to the Second Coming of Jesus to our world...when He returns to the world everyone will recognize Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords...and when He comes those who have chosen to commit their lives to Him will be vindicated...[most of us have grown up in culture where it’s almost the norm to profess to be a Christian...live in Bible belt where there’s church on every corner...not been that way during most of Christian history...certainly not that way in 1st century Colossae...was considered strange, bizarre, weird, to be a follower of Christ...saying here that day will come when whole world will see that it makes sense to be a Christian...]

      As believers our lives--past, present, and future--are wrapped up in Christ...He has raised us up (given us life)...He is hiding us (providing us security)...and He will reveal us in glory (vindicate us before the whole world)...the Christian life is a life of identification with Jesus...that’s one major theme permeating this paragraph...another major theme in this part of God’s Word is...

 

2)      The Christian life is a life of separation from the world  - Look at the last part of v.1 and v.2...as a result of, because of our relationship with Christ we are to “...keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”...and we are to “Set [our] mind on the things above, not on the things that are one earth.”  D.L. Moody, the great preacher, was fond of saying these verses do not mean that Christians are to be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good...”...to be separated from the world--

Ø  Doesn’t mean—

o   Go around with our heads in the clouds, shirking our duties and responsibilities in this life... 

o   Nor does it mean that there is something inherently evil enjoying life in this world...

Ø  Does mean—

o   We live our lives in the full awareness that this world is not all there is...and if we live that way, two things will happen in our lives...

o   We won’t blindly and thoughtlessly adopt the standards of the world as our personal standards...

o   We will keep the events of life in proper perspective and not over-react to what is happening around us.  When we understand that there is more to our existence than just this world, when we grasp that there is a whole other dimension to life --a spiritual dimension--then we are much less likely to be overwhelmed by the events of this life...

 

2.      Slay and put away the vices of the old nature (3:5-11) – This paragraph is built around two images.  The words “consider…as dead” in v.5 translate a word from which our word mortician comes.  The phrases “since you laid aside the old self … and have put on the new…” in v.9 refers to discarding dirty, soiled clothing and putting on clean clothing.  Here some things we are to consider as dead and discard from our lives.  The vices listed in this paragraph fall into four broad categories:

 

1)      Sins of the flesh (v.5a) - While the words “immorality, impurity, passion, [and] evil desire” in the middle of v.5 have different nuances of meaning, each of them refers to sexual sins...many of the recipients of this letter had come out of pagan backgrounds...unbridled sexual expression was an accepted part of their pagan culture and was even incorporated into their religious practices...and Paul points out to them that they needed to learn to express their sexuality within a Christian context...

 

2)      Sins of greed (v.5b) - The word that is translated “greed” in v.5 of the NASB is the same word that is translated elsewhere in the Bible “covet” or “covetousness”...it is the Greek word “pleonexia” which is a compound word...”pleon” means “more” and “exo” means “to have”...literally, the word means “the desire to have more”...The Greeks said it was a desire which could not be satisfied...they compared it to taking a bowl with a large hole in the bottom and trying to fill that bowl with water...no matter how much water you pour in, it is never enough...the bowl never becomes full...

 

Verse 5 tells us this insatiable desire for more is “idolatry” which is the worst of all sins because it is allowing something other than God to be the god of our lives.  When our desire to have is out of control, we will invariably end up worshiping and serving the creation rather than Creator.  If our lives are governed by the desire to get more, what is really more important to us, the things God made or the God who made things?

 

Jesus often warned about making material things the focus of our lives...didn't say material things were evil...didn't say was wrong to have material things...but did warn that impossible serve God and material things at same time...

 

3)      Sins of attitude (v.8a) - There is nothing more unbecoming for a Christian than an out of control temperament...in middle part of v.5 Paul uses three words to describe the kind of temperament which should not characterized followers of Christ...the words are “anger, wrath, [and] malice...”...it is important for us to understand what each of these three words mean...

 

a.       ”anger” - Refers to a deep, smoldering, resentful bitterness ...it’s an attitude that has settled deep into the heart...it has been carried around for so long it has become a part of the carrier’s general disposition and that person may not even be aware that it is there or what has caused it...the Greeks described it in terms of a smoldering log...while flames my not be visible, it is obvious that heat is present...

 

      It’s important to understand that all anger is not necessarily bad...the Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and yet do not sin...”...it’s interesting that the word translated “anger” in v.8 is same word that is translated “wrath” in v.6 in the phrase “the wrath of God”...there is a time for righteous anger...Jesus expressed such anger when He drove the corrupt racketeers out of the Temple...Paul expressed such anger when he attacked the heretical false teachers of the first century world who were leading astray new Christians...

 

      Aristotle made this wise observation: "Anybody can become angry‑‑that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way‑‑that is not easy!" [INFORSEARCH]

 

      The kind of anger being referred to in Colossians 3:8 is misdirected anger...it is the kind of anger which is harmful to the person who is carrying it and to the people toward whom it is directed...

 

b.      ”wrath” - Refers to a sudden, violent outburst of anger... it’s when that seething feeling which has stayed just below the surface suddenly erupts...the Greeks likened it to a handful of straw being tossed onto the smoldering log and the straw suddenly bursting into flame...we use the word “temper” in much the same way the Greeks used the word translated wrath in this verse...

 

      A woman once apologized for her frequent flare‑ups by telling Billy Sunday, "Yes, I have a bad temper, but it's always over in a minute."  "So is a shotgun blast!" countered the evangelist. "But look at the damage it can do in just a split second!" [INFOSEARCH]

 

c.       ”malice” - Refers to a spiteful attitude...it is the natural by-product of anger...it’s the kind of spirit which, instead of wishing the best for others, wishes the worst...it’s the kind of spirit which rejoices in the misfortunes of others...it finds satisfaction in the troubles of others...and when we think that way, we end up destroying ourselves...

 

Taken together, these three words--”anger, wrath, [and] malice”--describe a person—

·         Who is always out of sorts with someone...

·         Who is always unhappy about something or another...

·         Who is looking for a reason to be offended...

One writer describes these three words as “the settled spirit of animosity, the sudden flame of anger, and the smoldering hatred of our fellow man...” [Harbour]

 

And that is not the way God’s people should be...and reason we shouldn’t be that way is because that is not the way Jesus is...and when we allow those things to characterize our lives it is obvious we are out of touch with Jesus...for instead of giving us a spirit of—

·         anger, Jesus gives us inner peace...

·         wrath, Jesus gives us patience with people and situations...

·         malice, Jesus gives a spirit of love and compassion toward others...

 

4)      Sins of speech (vv. 8b-9) - Words are powerful...have power to bless or to curse...to build up or tear down...to make people happy or sad...to add to life or subtract from life...as one person wrote: "Indeed, it is difficult to exaggerate the deeds of the tongue.  It can sway [people] to violence, or it can move them to the noblest of actions.  It can instruct the ignorant, encourage the dejected, comfort the sorrowing, and soothe the dying. Or, it can crush the human spirit, destroy reputations, spread distrust and hate, and bring nations to the brink of war." (Vaughan,69)  Three specific sins are mentioned.

 

a.       “slander” (v.8) - The Greek word is “blasphemia” from which our word blasphemy comes...such speech can be directed toward God or people...in Scripture normally when blasphemia is used to describe speech directed toward God it is translated blasphemy... when it is used to describe speech directed toward people it is normally translated slander as in Colossians 3...The word basically means to make abusive, insulting, hurtful comments to or about another person...it is interesting that in v.8 “slander” is listed immediately after “malice”...“malice” is having a spiteful attitude toward others, an attitude of wishing the worst instead of the best for others...and if we carry in our hearts a deep-seated ill will toward some other person, we will use every opportunity to use our words to tear that person down...one result of a malicious spirit is slanderous talk...

 

b.      “abusive speech” - That phrase refers to obscene speech, filthy speech, language that we would characterize as gutter language...the proliferation of such language via the media, especially the movie media, has led many people to believe that “talking dirty” is an acceptable normal way to behave...not always been that way...in Colonial Maryland if a person used bad language the penalty was harsh:

First offense - Hole bored in tongue...

Second offense - “B” branded on head for blasphemy...

Third offense - Death penalty was permissible...

While we need not be that harsh, we do need to understand that how we talk as Christians is a reflection on the Lord to Whom we claim allegiance...foul language should not be part of our vocabularies...

 

c.        “do not lie” - Unfortunately, lying has become a part of the fabric of our nation...we have been conditioned to almost expect people to lie to us...as a matter of fact, in our culture those who are skilled at lying, who can lie and get away with it are generally rewarded and not punished...we have seen that demonstrated time and time again in the political arena...It’s interesting that Paul devotes an entire verse to lying...says in v.9, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices...”...I think Paul emphasizes this one vice over the others because of the great harm lying can do...as one writer put it, “In it [lying] more than anything else, we manifest ill-will toward our fellow men.” [Scott]  Paul identifies lying with our old, pre-Christian self...the Scripture tells us that Satan is a liar while the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth...when we engage in lying we are doing the work of Satan, not of God...

 

These three words remind us that Christian speech should be kind (not slanderous), pure (not foul), honest (not dishonest).

 

Verse 10 is a reminder that it is possible for us to take these negative things out of our lives only in the power of Christ.  God desires to remake us in His image.  That is something He does.  We cannot do it in our own power.

 

Verse 11 tells us this renewed, transformed life breaks down the barriers that we tend to erect between people—barriers of nationality (Greek and Jew), religious ritual (circumcised and uncircumcised), culture (barbarian, Scythian), class (slave and freeman).

 

Why is it important to keep an eye toward heaven as we live in this world?  What dangers are inherent in doing that?

 

Which of the four broad categories of sin listed in Colossians 3:5-11 is the most difficult for you to discard?

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