In chapter 2, Paul focused on the error of elevating the mind above the knowledge of God, and focusing on taming the physical body as a way to righteousness. He chastises the use of external rules and regulations, especially those around following certain ritual days and abstaining from certain foods and performing certain rites in order to beat the body and elevate the mind.
He finished that chapter with this admonition:
Colossians 2:23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
See, the argument for legalism and, in this case, a pre-Gnosticism, is that if we don’t tame the body then it, being evil, will be out of control. The problem is that self-imposed rules of behavior don’t really do anything to stop the temptation to sin. If you tell someone that they can no longer eat chocolate, what is the first thing they desire?
The goal of sinless living is good - but the method to get there is wrong. In chapter 3 Paul gives us the proper way to deal with the flesh and mature the mind and spirit - it doesn’t come from secret knowledge that’s basically open to the interpretation of those "in the know" - and it doesn’t involve elevating the mind of man above the mind of God.
In short this chapter consists of the following:
" Lift up your eyes. You’ve been resurrected into a new creature, a citizen of a new country - so put your focus there.
" Put off the old self to death - not by your own efforts but by the cross
" Put on the new self given to you by Jesus - and encourage that new self by taking in of the Lord, giving out in worship, praise, and an outward expression of love in everything you do.
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
" Where is your heart set? Jesus said "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." What do you value? What is treasure to you - money, fame, smarts, power - stuff?
" Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me . The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
" If you’ve given your life to Jesus Christ then you died on the cross with Him - and that means all that old self died too. You were then resurrected - given a new eternal life not tainted by sin and indestructible.
" It doesn’t mean that you simply don’t know the world around you even exists so you quit your job and lay on the couch all day - it means that what’s important to you are the things that involves your heavenly citizenship - transformation of your self into a new person.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
" The bottom line of verses 2 and 3 are this: the reality of who you really are as a Christian hasn’t been made visible yet - but it will be. In Philippians 3:
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
" The Colossians mistake was an undue focus on the body - saying its bad and separate from the mind and heart - we are being transformed body mind and spirit - and although you might not be able to see it all yet, you will - like a potato growing under the surface - its maturing till one day you can dig it up.
Again, that doesn’t mean we just let our bodies do anything they desire - the crucifixion with Christ happened, but we must bring about its reality in our everyday living and Paul shows us how:
The following seven verses talk about two types of sins that Paul zeros in on - and they make sense in the context of what the Colossians dealt with: Sexual sins, and Relational sins - or sins of speech.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
" Sexual immorality refers to any activity outside of God’s recipe for sex - that is, between a man and woman in marriage. The Greek word here is where we get the word: pornography and includes the idea of indirectly participating in an immoral sexual act as an audience member.
" Impurity refers to a crudeness or insensitivity around sexually related matters - the person who is always telling dirty jokes or the like.
" Lust is an evil sexual passion that leads to sexual immorality
" Evil Desire is wanting something bad in order to satisfy your lust
" Greed is the relentless urge to get more for oneself - in this context, as it relates to sexual immorality.
Paul says "put to death" these things. The idea is to completely get rid of the things that belonged to our "earthly nature" - or that character we had before we came to know Jesus and were in bondage to sin.
Idolatry is anything that you worship over God - and when we put our own desires first - we are worshipping ourselves, not the Lord. And the wrath of God will be poured out on sin - justly.
So - why does he say this here and what does it mean to us? Read on:
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things
" These sins were common back then - they are common today. And, in fact, the Gnostic heresy suggests that because the body is evil and only the spirit is good - then it really doesn’t matter what you do with your body. That’s simply not true.
" 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
" We are not our own - and in the process of being transformed - that includes our behaviors in body, soul, and spirit.
" The words "rid yourselves" means to disrobe - and it’s a good analogy for what comes next. Take off immorality like a dirty garment that gets thrown out in the trash. How do we do that? Agree with God that its bad, confess it to Him, ask forgiveness and cleansing by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So Now Paul goes on to talk about relational sins, or sins of speech:
8b as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
" Anger: is a continuous attitude of hatred that is bottled up inside
" Rage is when we let that anger out
" Malice is when you plot evil against someone
" Filthy language is crude and abusive speech.
" It’s odd that in many churches if you were sexually immoral there would be an outrage - but gossip, slander, backbiting, back-stabbing and the like are commonplace.
" Paul says: "don’t lie" - we can hardly make it through a day without lying it seems - but the Bible says: "speak the truth in love." Say things that will build someone up - including an encouragement or even exhortation - but don’t slip back into a coarseness that doesn’t care about the other person’s feelings.
" We are to "put on" the new image - again with the clothing metaphor. We "put on Christ’s" character - how? By a continual renewal process. When you become a Christian you have just begun - that’s why you need to stay in the Word, continually worship and pray, fellowship with other believers and actively let God mold you.
" The final relational problem he addresses is discrimination. It can be racial, ethnic, gender, social class, economic status, age - our society tens to stratify us and put us in groups - Jesus breaks those barriers down - so you have young with old, rich with poor, cool with geeky - etc.
" So next he lays down the basis for how we should act after we slough off all the crud:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
" I tell you what - our churches and our communities would be a different kind of place if allowed the Spirit of God to create and renew these character traits in us. Instead we hold on to grievances, hold out on forgiveness - as we focus on ourselves and what we want and what we need and what we deserve.
" I tell you folks - its not about us. "Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Who do we think we are?
" It’s the love of God that binds us together - and it’s more important than our differences and its more important than our petty disagreements.
There’s an overall principal that Paul gives us next for how to relate to one another:
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
" (15) The word "rule" here is the Greek word for "umpire" - the one who calls the play - makes the determination. Paul says that the peace that comes from Jesus Christ should be the determining factor of how we treat and act with each other.
" Being at peace does not mean we no longer have differences - it means that despite the differences we work together toward a common goal.
" "And be thankful" - you know, in comparison with what we’ve been given - the differences between us and our petty squabbles ought to seem like nothing.
So - peace in the heart as we deal with one another - and also Jesus word and worship on our lips:
16 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.
" (16) This is one of the foundational Scriptures for this Fellowship. It is one of our reasons for being. God’s Word is the foundation of our faith - it is how we know what we believe and it is how God grows us as Christians as we learn and apply it our lives.
" His Word - not our own ideas or concepts of God - should be at the heart of our teaching and of our worship.
" Also a word about the word "rich." This may not be appealing to everyone - but we also work towards providing all the richness of God’s Word. We don’t talk down to a 3rd grade level - nor do we make it so complicated with jargon that no one understands - but there is a tremendous richness to understanding the context, history, structure, theology, and application of God’s Word - it’s rich but it’s a great growing environment.
" It would be hard to parse the "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" too much - "psalms" is psalmos - a piece of music, "hymn" actually comes from the word "to celebrate," and "spiritual songs" means "odes" or chants - perhaps poetry. So when we make up lyrics of celebration to the Lord and set them to music - we have what is described here.
" More important is that it is to Christ and what He did that should be in the center of our worship. We sing our songs directly to God - not to each other, not about God, not to the enemy - we call them "musical prayers to God." Each one should allow us to celebrate His love for us and our devotion to Him.
This next part could really cover most of the chapter:
17 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.
" (17) This seems pretty simple - but how often do we think about the fact that we represent the Lord in everything and that everything we do ought to be done as if we are doing it for the Lord - giving thanks. This covers all the stuff Paul didn’t mention in the first 3 ? chapters of the book - lest anyone say that he left something off the list so then its not covered.
Now He gets practical again - and this part echoes Ephesians, except with more brevity:
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
" (18) Men and women who were used to a certain system - now freed by Christ - needed some advice. Wives should honor and submit to the leadership of their husbands "as fitting in the Lord" - there is a balance - no one in the partnership is more important, each just has different roles.
" (19) And husbands likewise might have been used to being "all supreme general" - but cannot get away with treating their wives harshly.
" (20) Kids should obey their parents because it pleases God. For a fuller discussion of this see our study in Ephesians 5 & 6 - but suffice it to say that the submission of a wife and the obedience of children are different. It’s pretty clear that while children are under the supervision of their parents that they ought to obey - unless the parent models or tells the child to do something contrary to God’s Word.
" (21) And parents are told - don’t go too far. Don’t "embitter" your kids by treating them unfairly or harshly. It means to provoke, nag, embitter or make resentful. Don’t nitpick your kids and don’t berate them - treat them like you want the Lord to treat you as He disciplines and instructs you.
" Kill the flesh
" Bear with your brothers
" Fill your mind with thoughts of heaven
" Fill your heart with His peace
" Fill your mouth with His Word and His praise
" Live and do everything as if you walked side by side with Jesus
For more Bible studies and an audio copy of this message, please visit: www.CalvaryChapelNewberg.org.