Sunday Evening Study Series
Colossians Part 8
Over the last few week we have seen the Apostle Paul move seamlessly from encouragement (1:3-12), to correction (all of chapter 2), to renewing our minds and transforming our life (3:1-17), using the Gospel of Jesus as the basis for it all. So whether it is encouraging the church or correcting the church, the Gospel is the point that either Paul is pushing people toward (encouragement) or pulling people back to. (correction) Whether it is seeing people come to Christ (salvation), or seeing people grow in Christ (sanctification), for Paul, the Gospel of Jesus is the base line for it all.
So as we move into the second half of chapter 3, we should not believe Paul has changed his focus. The first part of chapter 3 Paul begins by telling us that if all he has said has been true thus far, namely that Christ died for us, resurrected for us, and ascended for us, then we should “set our minds on things that are above, not on things of the earth”, that we should “seek those things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” But what does it mean to set our minds on things that are above or to seek those things that are above?
Well, Paul starts out by defining things that are below, earthly things. Remember he said, “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth”. So he begins in verse 5 to define earthly things. Things like sexual immorality, evil desires, covetousness, anger, hatred, obscene talk, and lying. These are the earthly things we must put to death in us. But what are the heavenly things we should “set our minds on” and “seek”?
The answer to that question comes beginning in verse 12. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, patience, bear with one another, forgive each other, love each other” etc. After seeing this, setting our minds on or seeking the things above where Christ is becomes a doable, understandable task. But before we jump headlong into list keeping, by clinching our fists, gritting our teeth and making it happen, we need to remember that chapter 3 begins with, “if then you have been raised with Christ”. There is not a question mark associated, don’t let the word “if” throw you off, Paul is not posing a question but is connecting the statements he is about to make (3:1-17) with statements that he has already made about the Gospel. (1:12-14, 15-22, 27, 2:9-14) What I want you to catch is this, Paul has spent 2 chapters encouraging us toward Christ, correcting us and bringing us back to Christ, telling us all that Christ has done etc.etc. etc. We are not to take the lists of do’s (3:12-17) and don’ts (3:5-9) and make them happen but rather surrender to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus. To receive the Gospel as reality not as theory. A great definition of faith is “to accept reality as God says that it is, not as you perceive it to be.” “If then you have been raised with Christ” (reality), then “seek those things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (reality) Set your mind on things that are above and not one the earth, for you have died (reality) and your life is hid with Christ in God. (reality) We are to surrender ourselves to reality as God says that it is, to trust Him, to believe that what he says is actually true. These things are matters of faith. The truth transforms us and leads us to daily practice. A forced regimen of list keeping either leads to pride or despair, usually both.
Once we receive the truth of the Gospel and begin to be transformed by it, who are the first two groups of people that should experience our new heavenly life in Christ? That’s where Paul is headed next.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 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. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Who are the people that should experience the “mystery of Christ in us” first? Why our families and the people we work with of course. The Gospel is not some ethereal set of ideas, but it is rubber on the road. Let me give you an example. If you would like to ruin your marriage and drive your children away, then just make a practice of the list of earthly things in chapter 3:5-9. When I do pre-marital couselng I tell folks the two biggest marriage killers are sex and money…….or as Colossians 3 lists them, sexual immorality and covetousness. Actually, Colossians 3:5-9 are what I call legacy killers, because they destroy families and relationships all day every day, 365 days a year. They are the culprits responsible for the division, brokenness, and pain that we are trying to medicate and counsel out of our souls to the tune of billions of dollars. The therapeutic industry exists because of the brokenness of sin. Jesus changes all this, we do not have to be bitter, angry, resentful, unwilling to bear with the faults of others, and extend forgiveness to others. By coming to him and His cross, receiving the resurrection as a reality, Christ is born within us, and all the person and power of the Godhead becomes available to us, not to work miracles, but to be able to do for others what God has done for us in Christ. What has He done for us in Christ? Well he was compassionate toward us, not just in feelings but in action, sending His Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He is tender and kind toward us, wanting for us what is good. He is and has been so patient with us, continually bearing with our faults and weaknesses, forgiving us every transgression and wrong. He makes us sons and daughters (family). He makes us co-laborers with Him in His Kingdom (vocation). The Gospel of Jesus and the example of God become the basis not just for our faith (salvation), but for our entire life (sanctification). Every interaction, in every station of life, whether that is as a male or a female, a husband or a wife, a father or a mother, a son or a daughter, an employee or an employer, is informed by the Gospel of Jesus.
Over the next few weeks we are going to be taking the individual stations mentioned in Colossians 3:18-4:1 and looking at how the Gospel of Jesus goes to the root of our sin and deals with the points of weakness introduced into the world the Fall of Man. We’ll be taking the stations in order as they are listed, so next week we will talk about “How the Gospel Restores Womanhood”.