Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Putting Christ First: Colossians 3

Theme: You should put Christ first.

2. Ways
     B. By setting your mind on Christ (3:1-4)
     C. By putting off the old man (3:5-9)
     D. By putting on the new man (3:10-4:6)

     B. By setting your mind on Him (3:1-4).  
 
The Holy Spirit baptizes, or unites believers into Christ. This union is so complete, that you have actually been placed into Christ's death to sin, and resurrection to newness of life (see Romans 6:1-11). This is your spiritual position, which frees you from the curse and obligation of the Law, as a way of living in righteousness. It is also God's enablement, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, for you, the believer, to live for God. Through faith in Christ's death to sin, you count yourself to have also died to sin, and obligation to the Law. By faith in Christ's resurrection to newness of life, you count yourself to have risen with Christ to newness of life. This resurrection power, by which Christ rose from the dead, is now available to you, the believer, when you yield your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:1-11; cf. Romans 1:4; Philippians 3:10-11). Such yieldedness allows the indwelling Holy Spirit to bear fruit in your life (cf. Galatians 5:16-26).

In addition to raising the believer from spiritual death, and obligation to the Law, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ (Eph. 1:3). This includes predestination to adoption as a son, conformity to Christ (Eph. 1:5; Romans 8:18-39), redemption, the forgiveness of all sins (8), reconciliation (Col. 1:22), being sealed with the indwelling Holy Spirit (13), the glorious redemption and transformation of our earthly bodies, deliverance from the presence of our sin nature (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-25), and eternal enjoyment of these blessings in the presence of God in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21 - 22). The believer's citizenship, and hope, is thus "in Christ", "in heaven". As a result of this position, you should put Christ first by setting your mind on things above, rather than earthly things.

C. By putting off the old man (3:5-9). 
 
When you know that Christ has died to sin, and that you have been placed into His death, you can consider yourself dead to sin. Through faith in Christ, then, believers should consider themselves dead to "immorality" (unbiblical sex; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1; 1 Thess. 4:3-8), "impurity" ("moral uncleanness"; Romans 1:24; 1 Thess. 4:7), "passion" ("degrading affections"; Romans 1:26; 1 Thess. 4:5), "evil desire" (Romans 1:24; 1 Thess. 4:5 [including the love of money: 1 Tim. 6:9]; 2 Tim. 2:22), and "greed" ("desire for more"; Luk. 12:15; 2 Cor. 9:5; Eph. 4:19; 2 Pet. 2:3), which is "idolatry" ("to serve something in the place of God"). It is on account of these things God's wrath will come (cf. Rev. 4-19), and from these things God has delivered believers (Eph. 2; 4 - 5).

Putting off the old man also involves setting aside "anger" (used of the indignant wrath of God against sin [Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8], and of people making "pay backs" on others [Rom. 12:19]) "wrath" (glowing rage; [Luk. 4:28; Acts 19:28, etc.]), "malice" (wickedness, or general "ill-will"; [Acts 8:22; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:8, etc.]), "slander" ("blasphemy", "injurious speech" [John 10:33; Jude 1:9, etc.]), "abusive speech" (from roots meaning "filthy", or dishonoring, and "words", or "speech"), and "lies".

D. By putting on the new man (3:10 - 4:6).  
 
All believers, without regard to race or vocation (11), are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Old things have passed away, new things have come. Although you retain your fallen nature until Christ redeems your body, and this nature struggles against you (Romans 7: 7-25; 8:18-25), you now have a new, spiritual nature, with Christ's righteousness imputed to its account (2 Cor. 5:21). Your position in Christ is that you have put on the new man. This means you have died to sin, you have been raised to newness of life, and you are a new man in Him. The Holy Spirit indwells you (Eph. 1:13-14), and bears the fruit of God when you yield yourself to Him through faith in your position in Christ (Romans 6:1-11).

In light of this position in Christ, then, believers should put on "a heart" of "compassion" ("mercy"; describing the benefits God bestows in saving undeserving sinners [Romans 12:1; cf. 1-11], associated with comfort in time of suffering [2 Cor. 1:3], contrasted with enforcing the death penalty on someone who broke the OT Law [Heb. 10:28]), "kindness" (doing good [Rom. 3:12], associated with bestowing benefits, or wealth, such as salvation (Rom. 11:22; Eph. 2:7) described "gentleness", a fruit of the Spirit [Gal. 5:22]), "humility" (a compound of "low", and "minded", associated with service [Acts 20:19], meekness [Eph. 4:2], and submission [1 Pet. 5:5], contrasted with strife, vain glory [Philippians 2:3], and pride [1 Pet. 5:5]), "gentleness" (contrasted with using a rod of correction [1 Cor. 4:21], speaking evil, and brawling [Titus 3:2], associated with meekness, lowliness of mind [2 Cor. 10:1; Eph. 4:2], and self control [Gal. 5:23], listed as a fruit of the spirit [Gal. 5:23], and "patience" (from "long", and "wrath", meaning patience [Heb. 6:12; James 5:10], waiting, and putting up with something for a long time [1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:15]) (12). This means you should bear with one another, forgive each other, and put on love, which is the bond of unity (13-14).

The reason to forgive others, is because God, in Christ, has forgiven you (13b; cf. Eph. 4:32). This is not just overlooking sin, because God is just. Every failure to reflect His traits or rules, every violation of His rights, demands a just payment. This would mean eternal destruction, away from the presence of God, in the lake of fire (2 Thess. 1:8-9). But since Christ died for all sin of all time, His death satisfies all God's righteous demands (Romans 3:21-26; 1 John 2:2), giving Him just grounds to forgive the offender who believes. If someone violates what we consider our rights, we can just remember that Christ's death satisfied God's righteous demands against that act. This gives you a solid motivation and basis for forgiving others, and for "letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (15). 

Another way to promote the new attitude is to let the word of Christ be at home in your heart (16). Singing psalms (O.T. Psalms [lit. "to twang", as a stringed instrument]), hymns (songs based on the christian faith), and spiritual songs (songs which pertain to spiritual things, as opposed to carnal, or fleshly songs of the world), serve this end. Whatever we should do all things in Christ's name (may mean for God's glory; cf. 1 Cor. 10:31), and with thankfulness to God (17).

3:18 - 4:6 give outward, practical ways to put on the new man. This portion closely parallels Ephesians 5:23 - 6:8. Wives should be subject to their husbands (18). This means to voluntarily rank yourself under, or obey someone. Although Christ is equal to God, He did not cling to this position (Philippians 2:6ff), but always subjected Himself to the will of God (Luke 22:42; Heb. 10:5-10). In the same way, women are equal to men as creatures of God (Genesis 1:27; 5:2), children of God (Gal. 3:28), and heirs of Christ (1 Pet. 3:7), but should voluntarily submit to their husbands in their role in life. 1 Peter 3:1-6 gives an illustration of this, using Sarah's obedience to and respect for Abraham as an example for "godly" women of all ages. 

This applies even in cases where the husband is disobedient to God's word (1 Peter 3:1; cf. example of Nabal and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25). 1 Cor. 11:3 notes God is the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, and man the head of woman. 1 Cor. 11:9 says the woman was made for man, but the man was not made for the woman (cf. Genesis 2:18). Eph. 5:23 says the husband is head of the wife "even as Christ is the head of the church". Thus, such submission is described as "fitting in the Lord".

Husbands are told to love their wives, and not be embittered against them (19). A husband loves his wife (Ephesians 5:25-33) by giving himself up for her, just as Christ did for the church (cf. comments on 5:2). Since His goal was to present Himself with a holy and blameless bride (25-27), Christ took the place of sinners, dying on the cross, and providing a righteous grounds for cleansing believers (Romans 3:21-28; Ephesians 1). 

This cleansing is applied through faith in God's preached Word (26; cf. John 17:14-17; Romans 10:8, 17; Ephesians 6:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Hebrews 9:14). In the same way, a husband should love his wife. Treating her like his own flesh, he should "nourish" ("feed"), and "cherish" ("keep warm") her (28-29). Since the Word of God is the agent of a believer's spiritual birth (John 3), cleansing (1 Peter 1:21-23), and nourishment (1 Peter 2:2-3), it does seem that a husband should, among other things, use the Bible to cleanse, feed, and cherish his wife.

The Word "bitter" comes from a root meaning sharp, pointed, and thus to fix, or pitch, as with a tent stake. It is used of bitter weeping (Matt. 26:75), and denotes that which is shrill, painful, or sharp, even to the taste (as bitter water, or plants [cf. Rev. 8:11]). "Bitter" seems accurately translated "embittered", in the NAS. The word is in the passive voice, and seems to mean the husbands should not allow Himself to be made bitter.

Children should obey their parents. The word for children, here, means "offspring", and is not necessarily limited to minors, although the following instruction about fathers bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord seems to suggest this.

In Matthew 15:3-6, while refuting the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus pointed out that they made their own way around God's command to honour father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Apparently they taught that a person could be excused from meeting their parents material needs, by claiming their possessions were "Corban", that is a gift "set aside for God's service". 
 
This allowed them to keep their possessions, and thus "honour not his father or his mother". The instruction to obey parents is of primary importance, and carries the promise of long life (Ex. 20:12), a general benefit of such discipline (cf. Eli's sons [1 Samuel 4:11]). In Acts 5:29, however, Peter shows that one obeys God, rather than men, if our earthly authorities command us to do something which clearly contradicts God's will.

Fathers should not provoke children to anger, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (4). The word for provoking to anger, here, is also used in Romans 10:19, where God provokes Israel to jealousy and anger by opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles. Verse 21 shows that one reason for this instruction is so that children do not "loose heart" (NAS).

Slaves should obey masters (22-25). The reason for this hearty service is because they will receive their inheritance from the Lord, and because whoever does wrong will suffer the consequences (24-25).  Masters should grant justice and fairness, since they too have a boss in heaven (4:1). Ephesians includes the statement that masters should stop threatening their servants (6:9). 
 
Other ways to put on the new man include devoting yourself to prayer, and conducting yourself with wisdom (4:3). Prayer would include requests for those who proclaim and teach the gospel, that they may have an open door (cf. Acts. 14:27), and speak boldly [can mean clearly, or without fear] (4).  Conducting yourself wisely toward outsiders could have several meanings. Paul has just mentioned his desire to make Christ known. He hoped for an open door, and the ability to proclaim Christ boldly. The following verse talks about knowing how to respond to each person you speak with. This all may mean to be ready to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15), but there could be more.

Verse five also adds the statement, "making the most of the opportunity". Ephesians has similar words, "make the most of your time, because the days are evil." 1 Thess. 4:11-12 may illustrate this when it says: "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders" (NAS).

The following instruction calls for letting your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person (6). Ephesians 4:29 reads, "Let no unwholesome ("corrupting") word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Such speech is that which serves to build others up, rather than tear them down. It could include a broader sense of sharing the gospel (see above).

The gospel of Christ is the message of His death for our sin, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1ff.). This simple news is sufficient to save those who believe, but it has a much broader application to believers as well as unbelievers. Christ's death and resurrection pertain not only to our salvation from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin in our daily living, and ultimately from the very presence of sin in glory. As such, the truths of God's word are those which are seasoned with salt, and which minister grace to those who hear.

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