Summary: Exposition of Col. 3:15–17
The Priorities of the Heavenly Citizen
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let 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. And 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” (Col. 3:15–17).
What should be our priorities as citizens of heaven? When we were raised with Christ (cf. Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:6), we became citizens of heaven. Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” As citizens of heaven living on earth, what should be our priorities?
The priorities of an earthly citizen are earthly, concerned with only the temporary things of this world, but the priorities of a heavenly citizen should be heavenly, concerned primarily with things of eternal value. In Colossians 3:1, Paul says to the Colossian believers, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” In the first verse, he gives the foundation for the rest of his teachings in the chapter. The believer’s new heavenly position in Christ should have radical effects.
When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we were unified with him in such a way that everything that happened to Christ, happened to us. We died with him on the cross, removing the penalty of sin and breaking the power of sin (v. 3). When Christ returns we will come with him in glorified bodies (v. 4). As believers, we were raised with Christ and seated in the heavenly realms (cf. Col. 3:1; Eph. 1:3). We are now heavenly citizens.
This new heavenly position in Christ should affect how we live. We should think on heavenly things instead of earthly things (v. 1). We should take off the clothes of sin and put on the clothes of righteousness such as patience, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and love (cf. Col. 3:4–14). People should be able to identify us as citizens of heaven because of the clothes we wear, the attitudes we display. Our position in Christ should affect everything.
In Colossians 3:15–17, Paul concludes his discussion about the clothes of a heavenly citizen by looking at the priorities of the heavenly citizen. A priority is one’s focus, what we give a great deal of our time and attention to. We can tell these are priorities of the heavenly citizen because he spends more time on these clothes than the previous ones. They are the outermost garments of the heavenly man, those that cover all the others. What should be our priorities as citizens of heaven living on the earth? In this lesson, we will look at one of the three priorities. We will study the priority of letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (3:15).
Big Question: What is the peace of Christ and how is it maintained in the believer’s life?
The Heavenly Citizen Must Let the Peace of Christ Rule in His Heart
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15).
Interpretation Question: What does it mean to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?
Paul says one of the priorities of a heavenly citizen is allowing the peace of Christ to rule in his heart. In Scripture there are two types of peace the believer has from God. One is objective. Listen to what Romans 5:1 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because of Christ’s death we have been reconciled to God by faith in his Son. We were once enemies of God because of our sin (Rom, 5:10); we were under his wrath. But now we are at peace with him because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. The first peace is “peace with God.”
But the second type of peace is a more subjective experience called the peace of God, or the peace of Christ as Paul refers to in this text. Christ promised to give his disciples his peace. Listen to what he said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Shortly before Christ died on the cross, he encouraged his disciples with the fact that he was giving them his peace and that this peace was different than the peace of the world. The peace of the world is based on circumstances. If a person has a nice job and no difficulties at work or home, he has peace. But Christ was poor, about to die on the cross, and be rejected by not only the nation of Israel and the Romans but his close friends. Yet, he still could have peace. This is the type of peace that God desires to give the believer. Listen to how Philippians 4:7 describes it: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”