Colossians

Colossians 4:7-18 Fulfilling The Will Of God.

In this list of Paul’s friends he marks out what made them his friends-what characterized their persons and behaviour. What he said about Tychicus was threefold-“a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” (v. 7a Cf. Eph. 6:22; II Tim. 4:11-12). It was for this reason that Paul entrusted him with the task of informing them of all the news surrounding Paul’s work, and to comfort them (vv. 7b, 8b). This was also why he was sending him to find out about the Colossians (v. 8a). Onesimus was also “a faithful and beloved brother,” he seems to have been from Colosse, but he seems to have been a member of the laity and not a fellow minister (v. 9 Cf. Philemon 10). Paul also sent his greetings from others with him, Aristarchus a fellow servant, and Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, who they should also receive if he should come to them (v. 10 Cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2). These, along with Justus, were Paul’s “fellow workers for the kingdom of God” (v. 11). Paul also notes the fact that these were of the circumcision, and they were a great comfort to him.

Like Onesimus, Epaphras seems to also have been from Colosse, who was also a “bondservant of Christ” who also sent his greetings, and laboured “fervently” in prayers for them, that they would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (vv. 12-13 Cf. Philemon 23). Paul repeats this idea of perfection as that which began this letter, and the goal of his ministry, which also reiterated what Christ Himself taught (Cf. Mt. 5:48). Epaphras, no doubt along with Paul and his other companions, were praying for the successful purpose of their ministry-to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (1:28). This was the way of wisdom. This was the goal of their teaching. To stand was to be secure. The perfection that Paul wrote about is paralleled here by being “complete in all the will of God.” The emphasis here seems to be on ‘all’. To be perfect and complete, is to know and live all the will of God in all of life. This was the ministry that Archippus was to “fulfill” (v. 17). There were also others who sent their greetings (vv. 14-15). Paul also intended his letters to be circulated among the churches (v. 16), with grace (v. 18).

Colossians

Colossians 4:5-6 Walking And Speaking In The Way Of Wisdom.

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (v. 5). Firstly, for the Christian, biblical wisdom is more than theory. Biblical wisdom is meant to be lived. Biblical wisdom is in fact the application of the law-word of the covenant to all of life. Secondly, biblical wisdom is not just something to be lived out within the confines of the Christian community or only in one’s private life. Biblical wisdom is to be lived out “toward those who are outside” of the church. Every Christian should be communicating the wisdom of God in how they live in the world. Thirdly, when we live this way, we are “redeeming the time.” In other words, only as we live out our faith in all we say and do, are we truly making the most of every opportunity and situation in which God has placed us. We must therefore resist the mantra of the secular humanists who believe that every religious or other philosophy, other than their own, must remain a private matter. Everyone lives according to their own worldview, and the Christian is called to live out the Christian worldview, which is in fact the only wise way to live.

There are three things which characterize this “walk in wisdom.” Firstly, we need to let our speech “always be with grace” (v. 6a). To walk in wisdom is to walk “circumspectly” or carefully, the opposite of the way of the fool, bearing in mind that biblically, the fool is one who denies God’s existence (5:15). We are to be as “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt. 10:16). Walking in wisdom is understanding “what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:16), that is, applying the word to all of life. In verse 5 Paul addressed our walk, and in this verse he addresses our speech. “The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious” (Pr. 10:12a). Jesus is our example for what this means (Lk. 4:22). Secondly, our speech must also be “seasoned with salt” (v. 6b). Salt brings out the flavour of what we eat and also acts as a preservative. Salt gives and preserves life to it’s fullest. This is what our speech should do. Finally, our speech should provide people with answers which are based upon the word of God. Our speech must have as one of it’s purposes, the defence and furtherance of the gospel and the Christian worldview for all of life (Cf. I Pet. 3:15).

Colossians

Colossians 4:2-4 Pray.

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (v. 2). The NKJV seeks to bring into English the Greek word ‘proskartereo’ by modifying ‘continue’ with ‘earnestly’ because this is what the Greek conveys. One can think of a prosecutor arguing a case before the court. It conveys the idea of being diligent and persevering continually. Prayer is an earnest exercise. Jesus stressed that when we pray we should not lose heart (Lk. 18:1). Secondly, we are to be vigilant, or as the KJV has it-we are to ‘watch’. The Greek ‘gregoreuo’ means to stay awake (Cf. Mt. 24:42; 25:13; 26:38, 40-41; Mr. 13:34-35, 37; 14:34, 37-38; I Th. 5:6; Rev. 3:3). Luke records Paul’s instructions to the church to watch for false teachers (Acts 20:31). Vigilance conveys the same idea as watch (Cf. I Cor. 16:13). Finally, it is important that prayer always be engaged in with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the acknowledgment that all we have comes as gifts of God’s love and mercy. Anyone who prays thinking that they ask for what they deserve, do not understand that we need and are saved by grace.

Prayer also looks outward to the needs of others, especially of those labouring to preach the word, “that God would open…a door for the word” (v. 3a Cf. Eph. 6:19). Paul certainly shared a unique place as an apostle, by making the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ known through the new revelation of the New Testament (Cf. Eph. 3:3-4). However, present day preachers of the word are also called to bring this revelation to all peoples as the final revelation of the gospel of grace, even if one is in circumstances like Paul-in chains (v. 3b Cf. I Cor. 16:9; Eph. 6:20). What was once a mystery, Paul was called to make “manifest” (v. 4). This activity of making “manifest” reiterates what Paul began this letter with, namely taking what was hidden in past ages and revealing it to the saints, which is Christ in us, “the hope of glory” (1:26). This is continually used in the NT to describe what was taking place with the apostolic ministry and the salvation history which it accompanied-in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the redemption that has come through Him (Cf. Lk. 8:17; Jn. 1:31; 3:21; 9:3; Acts 4:16; Rom. 16:26; I Tim. 3:16; II Tim. 1:10; Heb. 9:8; I Pt. 1:20; Rev. 15:4).

Colossians

Colossians 3:18-4:1 Serving The Master.

So Paul gets specific about the life of Christians in community. It is specific when we read that wives are to submit to their own husbands-it is a specific relationship with one person, as it is for the husband (v. 18 Cf. Eph. 5:25). What it means to submit must be informed from what we find elsewhere in scripture , and not by certain cultural expressions per se. Since marriage is ultimately a covenant relationship, and Christian marriage involves three parties, the focus of this submission and love is spiritual (v. 19). Children are likewise to obey their parents, and this clearly reiterates the law-the first commandment with a promise (v. 20 Cf. Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:1-3). Again, the family is a covenant entity, and therefore Paul focuses on the fathers to their children, to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4 v. 21).

Bondservants are really employees, and the focus here is on Christian employees, and our focus is to be ultimately on serving Christ in our employment, as in all things (v. 22 Cf. Eph. 6:5). This reiterates what Paul wrote in our verse before this passage (v. 23 v. 17 Eccl. 9:10). This ultimately defines what he meant by submission and love-Christ is to be our focus. As children will receive the reward of life and prosperity in obeying their parents, even so all of us will be rewarded for our obedience done ultimately in service to Christ (v. 24 Cf. Eph. 6:8). On the other hand, judgment will come to those who do wrong, and as Paul wrote, with the Lord “there is no partiality” (v. 25 Cf. Rom. 2:11; I Cor. 7:22). Paul said this before his instruction to masters to make the point that no one is above the law or the accountability we all have to the “Master in heaven” (4:1 Cf. Eph. 6:9).

Colossians

Colossians 3:12-17 Loving In Word and Deed, With Thanksgiving.

Paul addressed his readers “as the elect of God” (v. 12a Cf. I Pet. 1:2). This included Jew and Gentile, and they were the elect not because of their own efforts, but they were elect because they were holy, or set apart by God , and beloved by Him (Cf. 1:26-27; 3:11). As those set apart by God, they needed to show the evidence by putting on those characteristics consistent with this status. As noted earlier, there is a sanctification process which shows itself in the life of the church (Cf. 2:19). In the verses leading up to this passage, Paul delineated what we must put to death (vv. 5-7), and what we are to put off concerning our former way of life (vv. 8-9). He also began to consider what we are to put on, but he did so by placing the emphasis on both as being “renewed in knowledge” (v. 10). This knowledge is “according to the image of Him who created him” (v. 10b).

We do not recreate ourselves to our own image-it is God who creates this new man in the image of Christ, because “Christ is all and in all” (v. 11b). The very things we are to “put on” are the very characteristics of Christ-“tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (v. 12b). These also reflect the fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:22-23). As mentioned above, these characteristics must show themselves in the life of the church-“bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do” (v. 13). Christ’s act of forgiving us is both the basis for our being able to forgive each other, and He has also given us the example we are to follow (Cf. Mk. 11:25). Love must reign supreme. If we truly love one another we will forgive each other, and we will evidence “the bond of perfection” (v. 14 Cf. I Cor. 13; I Pet. 4:8).

We should keep in mind that the word ‘bond’ speaks to us as being a covenant community (Cf. Eph. 4:3). It is also on the basis of this bond that we have God’s peace ruling in our hearts, and it is to this we were called, and because this is a covenant of grace we are truly thankful, for it is His work in and among us (v. 15 Cf. Jn. 14:27; I Th. 5:18). Again, it all begins and ends with letting “the word of Christ” dwell in us “richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (v. 16 Cf. Eph. 5:19). “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v. 17). Those who are truly new creatures in Christ Jesus will show it in word and deed, doing both in His name, with an attitude of thanksgiving because it is all of grace (Cf. I Cor. 10:31).

Colossians

Colossians 3:1-11 Putting Off And Putting On.

The resurrection is absolutely central to the practical instructions Paul gives in this letter. “If then you were raised with Christ,” is yet another way of saying if you are born again, if you are regenerated, if you are a new creature in Christ Jesus, it is because you have been crucified with Christ and raised with Him (vv. 1, 3 Cf. 2:12; Rom. 6:2). A death has occurred that a new life might spring forth. So if this is the case, then we should “seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (v. 1 Cf. Eph. 1:20). It is not just the resurrection, but it is the reality that the resurrection led to the ascension to His messianic throne and reign. Christ rose to reign, and it is because of this reign that we have the power to live with a mind renewed with the revelation from heaven. This is what it means to set our minds on things above and, “not on things on the earth” (v. 2). Ultimately we will reign with the King we serve until He comes to complete His kingdom and hand it over to the Father (v. 4 Cf. I Cor. 15:43).

If we have indeed died, then our Life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3), and one day we will appear with Him in glory (v. 4). We have died to sin that we should no longer live therein (Rom. 6:2). We are called to die to a former way of life-“fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5). We may not achieve the perfection in Christ that we are aiming for, in this life, but when this life is over “we shall be like him (I Jn. 3:2). If we are to be more like Him, we need to be less like the people we were before we met Him. Our former conduct and way of life merited the wrath of God, as it continues for those who are “the sons of disobedience” (vv. 6-7 Cf. Rom. 1:18; I Cor. 6:11; Eph. 2:2; 4:19). There must be both a putting off and a putting on (vv. 8-10 Cf. Rom. 6:13; 8:13, 29; 12:2; Eph. 2:10; 4:22-24; 5:3-5). The old man’s deeds are put off through the new man being “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (v. 10b). It begins and ends with renewing our minds according to the word.

Colossians

Colossians 2:16-23 True Religion.

‘So’ here is a powerful connecting word. So on the basis of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and all the spiritual forces in heaven and on earth, we ought not to let anyone judge us “in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (vv. 16-17). These two verses may be two of the most significant verses of the new testament. This letter is one of contrasts and transitions. Judgment coming in regard to food or drink and festivals or a feast day or new moon or Sabbaths, is something which could and did come from both Judaizers and the pagans of the day (Cf. Rom. 14:3). However, the fact that Paul says that these “are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ,” suggests that what he has in view is the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, something which the Judaizers maintained was still binding. The writer to the Hebrews also refers to the activity of the temple as “a shadow of the heavenly things” (8:5 Cf. v. 2), or “copies” of the original or true (9:23-24).

“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year after year, make those who approach perfect” (Heb. 10:1). As with Paul here in Colossians, the writer to the Hebrews is also referring to the law of sacrifices and the temple services, as that which could not by itself make people perfect. In referring to the priesthood in the order of Melchizedek, the author speaks of the ministry of the Aaronic order and temple services as that which “made nothing perfect” (7:19a). The earthly service of the tabernacle, and later the temple, was symbolic for the then present time, “in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Heb. 9:9-10). The transition from old to new was the “time of reformation.”

Circumcision was part of the old covenant administration of the one covenant of grace, and with it there were other outward ceremonies and ordinances which accompanied this administration. Christ is the One who cast a shadow on this administration. With the dawn of His coming the brightness of this Son has displaced the shadows to reveal the pure light of His glory, the glory in which He has dwelt ever since His ascension to the right hand of the Father and which He had before His incarnation. One key transition was the change in the covenantal sign of circumcision to that of baptism. However, beyond the change in outward ordinances, Paul describes our reward as the eternal life that is ours through the justification we have by faith, a salvation which Christ Himself has procured for us. Just as Paul began this chapter with his discussion of competing worldviews, here he highlights the contrast of competing religions. There is a religion which is a false humility, since it ultimately focuses on the creature and not the Creator-the worship of angels and men with puffed up fleshly minds (v. 18).

This fleshly mind, or non-biblical worldview, evidences itself in idolatry, in this case specifically in the worship of angels. This was also a part of mystical Judaism. The key difference which Paul notes between the biblical worldview and religion and that of the Judaizers and paganism, is that the latter seek to intrude “into those things which he has not seen,” whereas the Christian looks to the revelation which God has given as that which was seen by the writers of the canon of holy scripture (v. 18). These man made rules and traditions, and even the previous regulations regarding the sacrificial system, inspired as it was, is surpassed by the redemption procured by Christ, and it was Paul’s mission, and must be ours, that “we may present every man perfect in Christ,” something the old system and pagan systems could not and cannot do (1:28). Baptism signifies that we have “died with Christ from the basic principles of the world” (v. 20 Cf. Rom. 6:2-5; Gal. 4:3, 9). Therefore, we are not to be entangled with the regulations, or “commandments, and judgments of men” (v. 22).

Our standard must be the scriptures, and our regulations, commandments and judgments must come from the word alone. As Paul notes, these man made rules have the appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed religion, because a self-imposed religion is just another way of saying a religion of works, where fallen man glories in his own effort and works, thinking that this can justify a person before God. For this reason it is a false humility, because man’s laws are made to accommodate his own sinful condition, which a self-made religion will not admit or accept (v. 23). Such religion sets up a false war of the flesh with the spirit, issuing in the neglect of the body, whereas the biblical religion recognizes the need to redeem the whole man from sin-body and soul. Beating and depriving one’s body will in no way curb the indulgence of the flesh. Only someone who is truly converted in body and soul will have that power that raised Christ from the dead working in them to complete the work which God also began at conversion, which is also a corporate activity in the body of Christ (v. 19 Cf. Eph. 4:15-16).

Colossians

Colossians 2:11-15 From Circumcision To Baptism.

There has always been a circumcision made without hands (v. 11a). The physical act was always supposed to be an expression of what was in the heart or the core of an individual. Through Moses the LORD said, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Dt. 10:16). This heart circumcision was done by God-to love God completely (30:6). The prophet Jeremiah likens this to true repentance (4:4). Without this true repentance the outward physical act wouldn’t keep anyone from judgment (9:26 Cf. I Cor. 4:5). Paul affirmed this inward work of the Spirit as that which was sought under the old covenant administration (Rom. 2:28-29 Cf. Phil. 3:3). What comes with Christ is that this inward work becomes “the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11b), a work which is post His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

There continues to be the important emphasis on the inner transformation, now the identification for the members of the covenant community is with the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 12). It is a relationship based on faith and not of works, “faith in the working of God.” Where circumcision was once the outward sign of the covenant relationship now it is baptism, which signifies that one is “buried with Him in baptism,” and “raised with Him through faith in the working of God.” The outward act of baptism points to one “being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision” of the flesh. Furthermore, being raised with Christ to a new life means having one’s sins forgiven (v. 13). So the outward act of baptism signifies from the recipients perspective-repentance and faith, but it is meaningful only in so far that it represents the covenant headship of Christ.

Dying with Christ means dying to sin (Rom. 6:6; 7:4). There is real forgiveness of sins where there is true repentance and faith. There is also real power of a new life of belief or faith, which is the same power which raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20 Cf. Acts 2:24). One of the three uses of the law was and remains the exposure of sin for what it is, and through the Spirit the attendant conviction and repentance which ought to accompany this knowledge (v. 14 Cf. Eph. 2:15-16). When Paul says that these ordinances are nailed to the cross he is not saying that the law has been abolished. On the contrary, he is saying that the punishment which the law absolutely requires, finds fulfillment in the death of Christ on the cross. Furthermore, the resurrection is proof of the acceptance of His sacrifice, and with His resurrection there is the power to live according to the very same standard of this law.

Being forgiven all trespasses is another way of saying one is justified. “It is more characteristic of Paul to speak of justification than of forgiveness, and of sin in the singular than of sins in the plural (Rom. 5:12-21). His purpose here may be to emphasize that God has not only overcome sin as a general power, but He has also put away the guilt that stems from particular acts” (NGSB p. 1888). However, Paul also addresses the power to live for God. There is a power greater than all the spiritual forces of wickedness (v. 15). There is also a spiritual war that is taking place. Paul therefore emphasizes that Christ, in His resurrection and ascension, has demonstrated His power and victory over these forces. “With the ground of their constant accusations taken away, the hostile powers of Satan have lost their advantage forever” (NGSB p. 1888).

Colossians

Colossians 2:1-10 Competing Worldviews.

Being a minister of the word brought conflict into Paul’s life (v. 1 Cf. 1:5, 30). Yet it was through this ministry that the saints had their hearts encouraged and “knit together in love” (v. 2a). The heart refers to the core of a person, and what they were attaining was “all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God” (v. 2b). This assurance was not based on feelings or the opinions of men. It was Paul’s ministry of the word which imparted this assurance of understanding. The end in view was “the knowledge of the mystery of God.” Paul has already explained what that mystery was-“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (v. 27). He reiterates his theological affirmation of the equality of divinity between the Father and Christ (v. 2c), and that in them both there is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (v. 3).

Paul will go on to criticize anti-Christian philosophy, but first he wants to affirm the essential place of a thoroughly Christian and biblical worldview, and how this starts fundamentally with what one thinks. As with some branches of the Christian faith, the answer to non-Christian philosophy is not feelings or a vague thoughtless spiritualism, it is a thoroughly biblical worldview. What we are warned against are being deceived by persuasive words (v. 4 Cf. Rom. 16:18). As a minister of the word, Paul was concerned to persuade people of the gospel, but there are those who also seek to persuade people with what is a deception. Paul also knew that “good order” is based upon what one believes, or one’s “faith” (v. 5). This concern was the same whether he was with them in the flesh, or here in his writing (vv. 1, 4).

Being a Christian means both receiving the biblical testimony about Him, but also in walking in Him (v. 6 Cf. I Pet. 4:1). It is absolutely foundational that we be first “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith,” as we have been taught (v. 7 Cf. Eph. 2:21). We cannot be static or stagnant in this learning process, but we must abound in this with thanksgiving. We must be thankful because all that we know is based upon what God has chosen to reveal to us. The absolute death knell to developing a full orbed biblical worldview is pride. Without thanksgiving, one’s understanding of the faith will not grow. It is for this concern for a truly biblical worldview, one involving both belief and practice, that Paul will go on to warn against the persuasive words of deception.

There is a conflict here of competing and conflicting words. The word ‘philosophy’ means to love wisdom, and no one ought to love wisdom more than the Christian. However, there are those who spout a philosophy which has as its purpose to deceive. This in itself is contrary to the biblical understanding of wisdom. It is a so-called philosophy which is not based on the word, but rather it is based upon “the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (v. 8 Cf. Gal. 1:14; 4:3, 9-10). The fact that Paul says that this so-called philosophy is not “according to Christ,” emphasizes that the anecdote is a biblical worldview which is “according to Christ.” Paul will go on to give further reasons as to why the biblical worldview is in fact superior.

Chief among these reasons is that in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (v. 9 Cf. Jn. 1:14). For Paul, the Christian philosophy was inseparable from theology. The study of knowledge, or epistemology, was grounded in and flows out of one’s Christology, and the chief thing to know concerning Christ is that He was fully God and fully man. Deceivers following the basic principles of the world seek to resolve the relationship of the creature to the Creator by making the Creator another object of their own creation. Christ, on the other hand, was He through whom all creation came into being, and with the incarnation, death, and resurrection He alone brought a reconciliation of the Creator with His creation. All other attempts to resolve this mystery will inevitably lead to idolatry.

Christ is also the “head of all principality and power”-the very spiritual forces in opposition to Him and His people and their faith and life. So the Christian worldview is also the one which is and will ultimately be victorious (v. 10b). Christ is both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor. 1:24). His wisdom is what we think, and it is by His power that we live. To the world this is both foolish and weak, but “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor. 1:25). “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:30). We are also “complete in Him” (v. 10a), in both belief and practice.

Colossians

Colossians 1:24-29 Christ Is Our Hope.

Paul rejoiced that he was able to suffer for his ministry, which he viewed as a stewardship from God, given to him for the good of the church, to fulfill the word of God (vv. 24-25). He made clear that this labour on his part was because God was at work in him (v. 29 Cf. Eph. 3:7). The end in view was that which was hidden from previous ages and generations but was then being fully revealed-namely that Christ in us is the hope of glory, a mystery which also includes the nations (vv. 26-27 Cf. I Cor. 2:7). It is Christ who is preached, “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). Three things are involved in this ministry of “the word of the truth of the gospel” (v. 5)-warning, teaching, and presenting every man perfect in Christ Jesus (v. 28). Such teaching required wisdom, and it also involved warning people of the consequences of not believing. None are perfect in this life, but in Christ this is our ultimate hope.