Bible: What Does Colossians 3-4 Teach Us About Being "In Christ"?
Spiritual Resurrection with Christ
The Apostle Paul
Death and Sinview quiz statistics
Alluding to Colossians 2:12b, where the text speaks of the believer’s spiritual resurrection with Christ, Paul here employs a first-class conditional clause (“If then you were raised with Christ”), indicating his belief that the Colossians had already met the stipulation (v. 1a).
[Therefore, perhaps the clause should read, “Since then you were raised with Christ . . .”]
Knowing this “positional truth,” they should seek heavenly things and set their minds on eternal matters (“where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,” “things above”) rather than on earthly concerns (vv. 1b-2).
[How does a heavenly mindset play itself out?
Truly spiritual people, as opposed to false religionists, must first expend mental and spiritual effort in their “search” for more intimacy with God.
Once the Lord allows these seekers to find Him, they must focus on developing a closer fellowship with Him through prayer, Bible study, and obedience to His word.]
Paul provides reasons why they should devote themselves to this enterprise.
First, they “died”; in other words, God separated them from their former, sinful lives, consisting of merely human endeavors.
Second, their regenerate lives secretly commune with Christ, Whose heavenly “environment” is God (v. 3).
The Rapture of the Church (“When Christ . . . appears”) will instantly transfer believers to “glory” (heaven) where they will always be with the Lord (v. 4; cf. John 14:3; 1 Cor. 15: 52; 1Thess. 4:17).
Next, Paul relates what they must do to facilitate the development of this heavenly mindset: “put to death your members” (v. 5a).
[The NASB expresses the meaning here more clearly than does the NKJV.
Believers must “count it as true” that their union with Christ has separated their mortal bodies from sinful desires.]
He lists five actions and attitudes of mankind’s fallen nature from which believers must consider themselves separate or dead: fornication (“immorality” NASB); uncleanness (“impurity” NASB); passion, evil desire, and covetousness (“greed” NASB), the last of which amounts to idolatry (v. 5).
[“Fornication” refers specifically to illicit sexual relations between unmarried people;
“Uncleanness” probably has no ritualistic connotations, but must point to moral or sexual matters;
“Passion” also indicates succumbing to inordinate sexual urges;
“Evil desire” concerns dwelling upon thoughts that will lead to immoral actions; “Idolatrous covetousness” appears to be an individual’s insatiable desire for some object that does not belong to him.]
Paul reminds the Colossians that they once conducted their lives according to this fashion and that one day God will punish such people (“the sons of disobedience”; cf. Eph. 2:2) who persist in such behavior (vv. 6-7).
Since they have taken off the unregenerate nature (as one would remove a garment) and clothed themselves with the new nature—actions completed in the past—he exhorts them to put away certain attitudes and actions associated with that former disposition also, most of which relate to self-control and the use of the tongue (vv. 8-9).
[Anger is the underlying attitude which often expresses itself in violent outbursts (wrath); one who has malice wishes to harm others (active ill-will).
Blasphemy involves showing disrespect of God, but slander (NASB) refers to saying something false that damages somebody’s reputation.
Filthy language points to vulgarity or obscenity, while lying indicates intentionally saying something untrue.]
The Holy Spirit continually supplies the new nature with spiritual knowledge which further conforms it to Christ’s image; that is, as the Spirit works in the believer’s soul/spirit, the latter becomes more like Christ in his service to God and in his/her moral behavior (v. 10; cf. Rom. 8:29).
Paul adds that Christ does not show more regard for one particular race, class, or culture than He does for any other, but sets aside all of these distinctions. He inwardly renews all peoples who trust in Him (v. 11).
Having concluded that the Colossians have already been clothed with the new nature, Paul exhorts them to exhibit (“put on”) Christ-like qualities that would reflect their calling as those whom God has chosen out of the mass of humanity (“the elect”), set apart for His use (“holy”), and loved eternally (v. 12).
Beginning with verse twelve and concluding with Colossians 4:6, the apostle both lists and discusses how these qualities should play themselves out in their everyday church, family, and work relationships.
These five traits follow:
First, believers should demonstrate tender mercies (“a heart of compassion,” NASB) [v. 12b].
They should not treat others harshly, but seek to empathize with them in their situation and ease their pain if they can.
In a similar fashion, those exhibiting the trait of “kindness” seek to aid people in need.
Second, humble individuals possess a mindset that esteems others better than themselves, while meek people show a personal strength under quiet control.
Third, the longsuffering (“patient”) “remain under” or endure continual ill-treatment without recrimination or retaliation (v. 12c).
Fourth, the persons whom Christ forgave should tolerate those who are difficult to bear and pardon those who cause them to complain (v. 13).
Fifth and foremost among Christ’s personality characteristics which His elect should manifest—love—is the communicable attribute that perfectly unites believers (v. 14).
They must allow “the peace of Christ, NASB” control their relationships with others in the body, and learn to give thanks to God for making it available (v. 15).
[“The peace of Christ” appears to express the reconciliation the Lord has made between Himself and His people.
The Colossians should allow the knowledge of this renewed fellowship with God and with one another to permeate the body.]
They should utilize uplifting music of various kinds (“psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”), saturating their minds with the moral and spiritual lyrics of Christ’s message (v. 16; cf. Eph. 5:16-20).
They should seek to honor Christ in everything they say and do, accompanying their words and actions with an attitude of thanksgiving (v. 17).
Relationships in the family should also follow a prescribed pattern:
(1) wives submitting to the leadership of their own husbands (v. 18);
(2) husbands demonstrating Christ’s love toward their wives, harboring no resentment (v.19);
(3) children completely obeying their parents in order to please the Lord (v. 20); and
(4) fathers not nagging their children to the point of discouragement (v. 21).
[Why would Paul stress to husbands that they should not act bitterly toward wives?]
In the workplace also, Christ-like attitudes should rule the day (3:22-4:1).
Servants (by application, employees) should wholeheartedly obey their human masters (by application, employers), respecting their Lord’s sovereign will, regarding Him as their ultimate Owner, and recognizing Christ as their Rewarder (vv. 22-24).
Regardless of their worldly status, whether slave or owner, they will receive “payment” from God for doing wrong; the Lord will never show partiality toward either the rich or the poor.
He treats masters who cheat their servants of fair wages as justly as He deals with indolent slaves who waste their owner’s goods (3:25-4:1).
Prayer and Thanksgiving
Prayer: Is it Real?
Have you experienced answers to prayer?
In the last, short section before his final greetings and blessing, Paul exhorts the Colossians to be serious about their prayer lives, sustaining it with a watchful attitude of thanksgiving (v. 2).
He also asks them to intercede for him and Timothy, as they endeavor to take wise advantage of divine appointments and continue to evangelize boldly (“to speak the mystery of Christ”) [vv. 3-4].
Paul urges them to conduct their lives wisely among the unsaved in the same way, taking advantage of occasions (“redeeming the time,” cf. Eph. 5:16) to speak gracious words that will make these outsiders thirsty to hear more about Christ.
He seems to indicate that a proper attitude (that of grace and serenity) will enable the Colossian believers to know the best way to answer the inevitable questions of the unsaved (vv. 5-6).
Now Paul lists associates to whom the Colossians should pay heed and those who send their greetings (vv. 7-15).
First, the apostle is sending Tychicus with this epistle both to relay Paul’s status to the church and to discover how they are faring.
Paul exudes full confidence in this individual whom he characterizes rather straightforwardly as
(1) a beloved brother (a Christian whom he loves);
(2) a faithful minister (diakonos), and
(3) a fellow servant (sundoulos) of Christ (vv. 7-8).
Onesimus, a former slave from Colossae, will accompany Tychicus and help him explain Paul’s condition (v. 9; cf. Philemon 10 ff).
Next, the apostle briefly mentions Aristarchus, John-Mark, and Justus as the only Hebrew Christians serving Christ with him and encouraging him in the Lord (vv. 10-11).
He sends along Epaphras’ greetings to them, and informs them that he continually prays for their spiritual growth and their obedience to God’s will (v. 12).
Calling him a bondservant of Christ, Paul testifies to Epaphras’ intense concern for the Colossians, the Laodiceans, and the Hierapolitans (v. 13).
The apostle sends Doctor Luke’s regards as well as those of Demas (the disciple who would later desert Paul during the apostle’s last days on earth) [v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 3:10].
He directs the Colossians to greet Laodicean Christians and certain believers who worship in Nymphas’ house (v. 15).
Finally, Paul directs the church leaders to pass along this present epistle to the church in Laodicea, as well as read the epistle (possibly Ephesians) coming from Laodicea (v. 16).
He commands them to exhort Archippus, Philemon’s son, with his direct words; Paul wants him to become more diligent in his ministry calling (v. 17).
The apostle signs the epistle to indicate that he is its author, and asks the church to pray for him, the prisoner. He leaves them with a prayer for God’s grace to abound toward them (v. 18).
Study Questions for Colossians
1. What are the three aspects of Paul’s epistolary greeting?
2. Who was apparently the founder and lead pastor of the church there?
3. What has God done on behalf of all believers?
4. Discuss Paul’s Christology in chapter one.
5. What does Paul’s “mysterious” message involve?
6. What opponent does the apostle address in this epistle?
7. Who is the repository of all wisdom and knowledge?
8. How does Ryrie explain “the basic principles of the world”?
9. What does it mean to be Spirit circumcised and baptized?
10. Explain the certificate of debt illustration.
11. Discuss positional truth.
12. What does the Colossian belief system include?
13. What is asceticism incapable of accomplishing in people’s lives?
14. Why should believers set their minds on eternal matters?
15. What will the Rapture accomplish?
16. List five actions and attitudes of humanity’s fallen nature from which believers must consider themselves separated (or dead).
17. What other attitudes must believers put away?
18. What five Christ-like qualities should they demonstrate?
19. Describe how the family and workplace should exemplify Christ.
20. Describe Tychicus’ character.
21. Describe the general “environment” Christian workers produce.
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