1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Even if you’ve never studied Colossians, many of its verses may seem familiar. The reason is many of them are similar to those in Ephesians, which is used often in sermons and studies. Out of the 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 of them appear in some form in Colossians.
In chapter 2, Paul told the wrong reasons for self-denial, but in chapter 3, he goes on to tell how Christians should live—putting on the new self by accepting Christ and considering the old nature dead. We change our moral and ethical behavior by allowing Christ to live within us so He can shape us into what we should be.
To "set" means to plot a course, to focus on and purposely pursue. It is something you do by choice, not by accident. Thinking about Godliness is not natural, it is a choice.
“Setting our hearts on things above” means striving to put heaven’s priorities into daily practice. “Setting our minds on things above” means concentrating on the eternal rather than the temporary things of this earth. We should look at things from God’s perspective to seek what He desires of us. By viewing things from His perspective, our priorities are set straight and we gain the proper perspective on material things. We must not become too attached to temporary things. The more we regard the world around us as God does, the more we will live in harmony with Him.
3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
“For you died” means we should have as little desire for the things of this world as a dead person would have. The Christian’s real home is where Christ lives. This truth gives us a different perspective on our lives here on earth.
“Your life is now hidden with Christ” means it is concealed and safe. This is not only a future hope, but a fact for right now. Our service and conduct do not save us, but are a result of us being saved.
The entire process is acted out in baptism based on our faith in Christ. Christ died for us, but when you accept Him and are baptized, you are symbolically crucified with Him. The old sinful nature dies (crucified), we are ready to receive a new life (buried), Christ gives us new life (resurrected), and we will return with Him when He appears in glory. His resurrection guarantees our new life now and eternal life with Him later.
By living for Christ now (“He is our life”), He gives us hope for the future in the promise of His return. The rest of this chapter tells how Christians should act now in order to be prepared for Christ’s return.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Just as a diseased tree needs the diseased limbs pruned so they do not destroy the entire tree, we must also cut evil from our lives so we aren’t destroyed by it. We should remove sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. We must make it a conscious everyday decision to remove anything that feeds these desires and rely on the Holy Spirit’s power.
6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
When tempted by sin, remember you must one day stand before God and face His wrath and judgment.
7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
If we rid ourselves of all evil practices and immorality, we are then able to commit ourselves to what Christ teaches. Paul urges Christians to remain true to their confession and commitment of faith by ridding themselves of the old life and putting on the new way of living as taught by Christ and revealed to us by our guide, the Holy Spirit.
Paul specifically mentions lying. Lying disrupts unity by destroying trust. It rips apart relationships and can lead to serious conflict between believers. Be committed to telling the truth.
Being a Christian means more than making good resolutions and having good intentions. It means taking the right actions. We should “put on” our new self daily just as we put on our clothes each day. Christians are enrolled in a continuing education program. The more we study God’s Word and get to know Christ and His work, the more we will change to be more like Him. This is a lifelong process and we must never stop learning and obeying. It takes practice, on-going renewal, patience, and concentration to keep in line with His will.
Our old rebellious nature died with Christ when we accept Him as our Savior.
11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
The word “barbarian” derives from barbarbarbar—meaning a stammering repetition of the same syllables. Civilized people of that day felt that those who did not speak Greek sounded this way and created the term to refer to them. Scythians were also considered uncivilized, known for their brutality and considered little better than wild beasts. By mentioning these groups, Paul was emphasizing how God’s grace encompasses all men.
Christ breaks down all barriers and accepts all people who come to Him. The Christian church should have no barriers of nationality, race, education level, social standing, wealth, gender, religion, or power. Nothing should keep us from sharing the truth of Christ with others or accepting any and all believers into our fellowship. We should be building bridges, not walls.
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Are we willing to wear the clothes that advertise our relationship with Jesus? It is more than crosses hanging around our necks, WWJD bracelets on our wrists, or "Honk If You Love Jesus" bumper stickers. To show others that we have Him in our lives, we must exhibit His characteristics and nature. Things such as "tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." A willingness to forgive others because we realize how much Christ was willing to forgive us. And we need to constantly remember that this “clothing” is seen the best during those times when it is the hardest for us to wear it. Those times when we are being treated unfairly. Those times when we, according to the world’s standards, have a right to be unkind, unmerciful, and unforgiving.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
In the Old Testament, "God’s chosen people" referred to Israel. In the New Testament, it usually refers to Christians. As God’s chosen people, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. This is a tall order, but Paul gives us a strategy to help us:
- Imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude; the key to forgiving others is remembering how much God has forgiven you. Realizing God’s infinite love and forgiveness can help you love and forgive others.
- Let love guide your life; love is what holds everything into place. As we clothe ourselves with all the virtues Paul encourages, the last garment we are to put on is love, to clinch the rest. Without love, the other virtues fall apart.
- Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart; The word “rule” comes from athletics—let Christ’s peace be our referee. Our hearts are the center of conflict because that’s where our feelings and desires clash—our fears and hopes, distrust and trust, jealousy and love. To deal with these we must decide between these conflicting elements by using the rule of peace. To live in peace does not mean that suddenly all differences in opinion are eliminated, but it requires loving Christians to work together despite their differences. This kind of love is not a feeling, but a decision to meet others’ needs. Living in love leads to peace between individuals and within the body of believers, peace replacing bitterness and pettiness.
- Always be thankful;
- Keep God’s Word in you at all times; The Word and singing are mentioned together inasmuch as these are the two main activities whenever Christians met together in their assemblies where the teaching of the Word and the singing of hymns were the main means of promoting growth in Christian lives.
Although the early Christians had access to the Old Testament, they did not have the New Testament scriptures to study. All they knew about Christ was memorized and passed on from person to person. Sometimes the teachings were set to music, making music an important part of Christian worship and education. “Hymns” were a song of praise, especially used in a celebration to praise God. “Songs” recounted the acts of God and praised Him for all He had done. “Psalm” refers to the Old Testament Psalms, some of which may have been set to music by the church. A Psalm could also describe a newly composed song for Christian worship. Today we are fortunate to have hymns and songs for our worship and the New Testament scriptures to study. The day may come when scripture is no longer allowed in our society. Therefore, it is wise for us to learn and memorize as much scripture as possible, so we do not forget and can continue to teach future generations.
- Live as Jesus Christ’s representative. “Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” means to bring honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of your daily life. As a Christian, you represent Christ at all times. Non-Christians judge Christ by the actions and words of those who claim to be Christians. When you hear people scoff at Christianity, it is largely due to actions of Christians they have known. Although we are forgiven our sins when we come to Christ, avoiding the judgement of sinners on judgement day, we shall still be judged according to our fruits. If we have turned people away from Christ due to our actions, we will answer to those things when we come face to face with Christ.
18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
In these last verses of chapter 3, Paul addresses Christian households. In each relationship, whether it is husbands and wives, parents and children, or masters and slaves (or employer and employees), there is a mutual responsibility to submit and love, to obey and encourage, to work hard and be fair.
The Christian marriage involves mutual submission, reducing or eliminating our personal desires for the good of the loved one, and submitting ourselves to Christ as Lord.
Children must be handled with care. They need firm discipline, administered in love. Nagging, berating, or destroying their self-respect so they lose heart is not the way to discipline children.
Paul may have mentioned slaves in this letter because the slave, Onesimus, is going along with Tychicus to deliver this letter to the Colossians, as well as another letter to Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner in the Colossian church, and Onesimus had been his slave.
Paul does not condone or condemn slavery. He explains that Christ transcends all divisions among people. Slaves were to work hard for their masters as if that master were Christ himself. And the masters were to be just and fair. We can apply this to our lives today if we apply these rules to our places of employment.
Since the beginning of creation, God has given us work to do. We could work without complaining or resentment, removing some of the drudgery and boredom from our jobs, if we adjust our attitudes and regard our work as an act of worship or service to God.
Many Christians mistakenly separate the "secular" and the "sacred". They see church as "God's work" and employment as unrelated to serving the Lord. Realize that every moment of your day is sacred when you give it to God through obedience, submission and gratitude. Work, whether in the business world or at home, has two sides: futile or fulfilling; painful or purposeful; discouraging or delightful. The difference between the two sides of work is that one side is dedicated to our personal desire and control; the other side is dedicated to the Lord.
On the personal side, it doesn't matter what kind of job you have, what kind of money you make, or what level of achievement you rise to. The result of work not done in God's name is futility, or in other words, it won't get you what you're hoping for. It will never be enough. It will never be satisfying. It will rarely be enjoyable over the long run.
But the other side can be exciting! When you dedicate your work to the Lord, it doesn't matter how lowly or esteemed your position is. We work for the Eternal Supervisor who has an entirely different, perfect way of measuring the value of what we do. Being a corporate CEO done in selfish personal pursuit will leave you empty and unfulfilled. However, even digging ditches when done "as unto the Lord" will bring satisfaction and a clear conscience.
God is not interested in our status, position or importance. He is interested in our love for Him. He is interested in our dedication and obedience in everything we do. Doing all things, including work, in the Lord's name brings God's favor:
- It brings blessing - Proverbs 22:29
- It is watched over by God - Psalm 127:1
- Leads to a satisfying life - Proverbs 10:16
- It is a gift from God to be enjoyed - Ecclesiastes 2:24
Whether homemaking or business, much of our discontent and continual pursuit of a "better" job stems from not dedicating our work to the Lord. When He wants us to move on, He will direct us, assuming we are in good fellowship with Him. There is nothing wrong with seeking a better paying job, or accepting a position you will enjoy more if done with God's will as our primary measure.
Consider the ways in which your job may help others. In truth, if your job did not help mankind in some way, there would be no need for its existence. Every employed person does, in some way, help someone somewhere down the line. Be thankful you are doing your part and adjust your attitude so you are more thankful for your job and can perform it in a joyful manner.
We must remember, whatever we do to help our fellow man is also done for the Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 26:40: “…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
As mentioned earlier, we will face Jesus and own up to all we have done as Christians; receiving crowns of glory for our good fruits (those we have led toward Christ) and being ashamed and reprimanded for our failures (those we drove away by our wrong actions).
I hope you have enjoyed this lesson. Chapter 4 will be posted in approximately 2 weeks.