Today: [Colossians 3:] Christ Who is Our Life. In chapter 3 of Colossians Paul calls upon us to anchor our sense of self-referral and wellbeing in who God is in our lives and not any other thing. Our intimate connections to one another are to be on the basis of the indwelling Christ and not any earthly considerations such as a common doctrine or belonging to this group or that group before God.
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[Col 3:1-11 KJV] 1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.
In chapter 3 of Colossians Paul continues his exhortation calling the Colossian believers away from the stilted religious affectations of both the pagan practitioners and the Judaizing Christians from Jerusalem. In verse 1 he challenges their thinking in stating if they are in reality risen with Christ they are to seek those things that are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God and not the false sense of attainment found in being members of pagan cults or adherents to legalistic variations of the Christian faith. He reminds us that Christ is not found in the protocols or practices of religious expression but in instead at the right hand of God as a living reality not merely a set of beliefs. Our understanding of this is that Jesus did not die to relate to us through religious infrastructure or through a priest class or a cadre of leaders who alone represent him. Each believer has a direct connection to Jesus who lives in the heart by faith on the basis of personal belief, not religious affiliation.
Church membership or religious adherence does not save us or keep us in right relationship with God. Redemption is not brought about by initiation into the church or a religious body. This is a belief clearly espoused by Paul although in just a few short decades that understanding is lost to the early church. After the passing of the apostles from the scene, it is clear from history that the church believed that they held the authority to accept or reject believers into their number with eternal consequences. The Catholic church of today believes this still.
We are to set our affection on things above and not on things of earth. What is the point of it all (of the church, leadership, religious expression in Christ’s name)? It is what Paul expressed in Col. 1:27 “Christ in YOU the hope of glory…” If the new birth is a personal experience and not an ecclesiastical rite of indoctrination, then the height of connection to God is an intimate reality and not an institution initiation into religious membership. To believe otherwise indeed is papism in its most fundamental form.
What does it mean to set our affection on things above where Christ sits at the right hand of God? The word affection there in verse 2 does not have a good English equivalent. It means “emotional attenuation.” What this says to us is that our sense of well being in life or our sense of self-referral is anchored not in religion (or anything else) other than in who God is within us by virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Paul reminds the Colossians (and us) in v. three that we are dead (or should be) to all earthly considerations and our life – what life has any meaning for us is hidden with Christ in God. What if man disapproves of us if our life is hidden with Christ in God? A dead man feels no condemnation nor insecurity. What if close relations pressure or manipulate us? You cannot intimidate a dead man. In Christ, no human influence of any kind can penetrate the veil of death beyond which the whole of our affections and emotional well being is safely ensconced wholly in Christ. Who shall diminish our composure in Christ? Who shall trouble us if we are dead to the world and alive to Christ? By that understanding when others inflame us or cause us grief, or other outcomes we find challenging to bear we know it as a metric of our maturity in Christ and empty ourselves anew of earthly considerations anchoring afresh and anew our sense of well being in Christ alone.
Paul wants us to know (v. 4) that this immersion in the reality of our connection to Christ carries with it a great reward. When Christ who is our life appears we also will appear with Him in glory. This is more than pointing to the end times but looking to the situation at hand. You may not be able to find God in what you are going through, but if your life is hidden with Christ in God, then He will show up in your situation and manifest his deliverance and by extension your fidelity to him forsaking all others. We are to (v. 5) mortify therefore our members upon the earth – the things which bring the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. This causes us to know that the wrath of God poured out upon Christ on the cross outside of Christ has nowhere to go but upon the lives of those living in disobedience and sin.
We were one time transgressors, but now we are not only forgiven our iniquities but are called to PUT OFF these behaviors. Today the whole emphasis of redemption is on forgiveness almost to the complete exclusion of the call to forsake the behaviors that predicted the need for forgiveness. For this reason even in Evangelical circles and among those ministries who consider themselves on the very cusp of all that God is doing in the earth the teaching is that somehow the shed blood of Christ doesn’t merely forgive transgression but gives an ongoing pass for continued behaviors that are not pleasing to Christ.
This is not the message that Paul is enunciating in our chapter. We are (v. 9) to put off the old man and his deeds. If the motions of sin and sinful behaviors are still resident in our lifestyles, then the consequences of that sin are ours to bear temporally, and if we sear our conscience, then our very souls are endangered of losing that so great a salvation for which Christ died.
The message is clear (v. 10) that we are to put on the new man (by putting off the old man) being renewed in HIS image who knew no sin. In Christ, there is no class distinction of Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, bond nor free, male nor female but CHRIST is ALL and in all. Any other affiliation, affectation, schism or boundary being drawn around our life is born of sin and of a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the work of Calvary in our lives.
[Col 3:12-25 KJV]
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God holy and beloved bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye. 14 And above all these things [put on] charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. 18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love [your] wives, and be not bitter against them. 20 Children, obey [your] parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 21 Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged. 22 Servants, obey in all things [your] masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23 And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
Because we are born of God and delivered from the beggarly elements of the earth, does that give us a justification for elitism? No by no means. We are to put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind and meekness. Because we have set our affection upon him we, therefore, forbear one another and leave off quarreling between ourselves for there is nothing worth violating the peace of God within us or between us. We are (v. 14) to put on charity (unconditional love) which is the bond between us. The basis of the relationship between us then is not to be doctrinal. We are not to band together or organize ourselves in groups on the basis of shared belief but rather on the basis of commonality in Christ and mutual affection one for another. This expression of the solidarity of the body of Christ is almost nonexistent today.
What about the need for necessary organization and authority in our midst? We are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts recognizing that we are called in one body. The leader who seeks to establish grounds of a sectarian division for any reason whatsoever disqualifies himself as God’s minister if he or she attempts to divide (the body of Christ) that for which Jesus died to bring together. This is the word of Christ that is to dwell (v. 16) in us richly in all wisdom teaching and ministering to one another (not just receivers of ministry but purveyors of ministration and care one for another not leaving such matters to a professional leadership class while we go on living our own self absorbed lives.)
Whatever we do (v. 17) we are to do in the name of the Lord Jesus even in very practical things. The issue of wives submitting themselves to their husbands again comes up as being something Paul sees as fitting to the Lord. It may not be in vogue in our culture or acceptable to your friends, but it is acceptable to God. Notice that it is the wife who submits herself not the husband who brings her under submission. Notice as well that submission is IN the Lord. The husband who is not in the Lord or who is acting in the flesh has abdicated entirely his place in his wife’s life as an authority in that instance, and she has no obligation to obey him when he acts outside of Christ.
Husbands (v. 19) are to love their wives and not be bitter against them. It is human nature for men to blame their wives for all their problems. As men, we are to refrain from such self-pity. Remember that all authority is expressed in responsibility. When you blame your wife, you have abdicated your jurisdiction in the family. Your default response is always to be “my fault, my responsibility” and then fix the problem.
Children likewise are to obey their parents (until they turn 18 then they can do what they want) – is that what this says? There is an obligatory responsibility touching your parents no matter what age they are or what age you are regarding your relationship to them and obligation to honor and respect them. Fathers likewise are not to provoke their children to anger. Servants (employees) are to obey those they work for with singleness of heart in fear of God. Whatever we do we are to do it wholeheartedly as unto the Lord knowing that we shall be rewarded or held accountable before God for our behaviors even toward our employers whether they are believers or not without respect of persons.
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