STUDY FOUR: PAUL’S ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE COLOSSIAN BELIEVERS

Paul’s encouragement to the Colossian believers to get rid of sin and get hold of Christ-like behaviour and attitudes is grounded in what he has already taught them about who Jesus Christ really is and what God has done for them in and through the death of Jesus Christ.

While Paul can’t stand a bar of teaching that makes our relationship with God (our salvation) depend on our performance, he makes it quite clear that because we are saved, because we enjoy this amazing in Christ relationship, there is behaviour that is inappropriate and there is behaviour that is appropriate. There is behaviour that doesn’t fit and there is behaviour that fits. There is behaviour that is wrong and there is behaviour that is right. He gives us a number of principles to guide and govern our decisions about our lifestyle and behaviour.

 

A. THE PRINCIPLE OF UNION WITH CHRIST IN HIS DEATH:

Because we have died (in Christ’s death for our sin) and have been raised with him, in such a way that he is our life (3:1-3) we should put to death (3:5), or get rid of (3:8) those behaviours for which God’s wrath would fall on us if our lives were not hidden in Christ.

(Paul also describes this incorporation into Christ’s death and life as: ‘you have taken off your old self ... and have put on the new self’ 3:9,10. )

Make a list of wrong attitudes and actions mentioned by Paul in Colossians 3:5,8,9

 

 

 

 

 

Such things are out of place in one who is ‘being renewed in the image of his/her Creator ( 3:10 ); see also 2Corinthians 3:18 . These are the actions and attitudes for which Jesus Christ died, for which those who are not in Christ are cut off from God. The fact that the punishment due to us for such offences has already fallen on Christ should not encourage us to keep on sinning, rather it should motivate us to shun these attitudes and actions like deadly enemies. The cross tells us how abhorrent they are to God.

On the basis of Paul’s argument in 3:5-10, why is it utterly wrong for Christians to do the things he mentions in 3.5,8,9?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. THE PRINCIPLE THAT WE ARE ALL COMPLETE IN CHRIST:

Because, by the grace of God, Christ is all and is in all - irrespective of race or religious background, that same grace and acceptance which governs his relationship to us in Christ should govern our relationships with each other (3:11-16)

[1] The verbal sins listed in verse 8 and 9 are contrary to the Gospel: they express our attempts to excuse, protect, save and justify ourselves in the presence of others, at the same time as belittling and destroying the others. The person who knows Jesus Christ and his salvation is set free from this need to preserve himself.

[2] That same compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience which God in the Gospel expresses towards us should characterize our relationships with others ( 3:12 )

[3] That same forgiveness that God grants to us should be granted by us to others when they offend us ( 3:13 ). Let us remember that God’s forgiveness of us is massive, and we are here told to forgive others just like that.

[4] That same love with which the Lord loves us should bind us all together in perfect unity ( 3:14 ). Let us remember that God loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 8:8). He did not wait for us to be acceptable first, and then love us. This is the kind of love which binds believers together: a love like God’s, that knows the worst about us and loves us just the same. He loves us warts and all: even so should we love one another.

[5] That same peace which characterizes our relationship with God in Christ, should govern our hearts and our relationships with each other. ( 3:15 ) We all belong to Jesus. We are all accepted by God on the same basis - not on the basis of performance but on the basis of Christ. There is no place in Christ for spiritual rivalry, for superiority, for inferiority. There is no place for either the giving of threats regarding a person’s relationship with God or the feeling of threat concerning one’s own relationship with God. We have peace with God through Jesus Christ. This should empower us to let peace rule our hearts and our relationships with others. See Ephesians 2:14,15.

[6] The word of Christ (that is the Gospel) should so impact us that we overflow with gratitude ( 3:16 ).

On the basis of Paul’s argument in 3:11 -16, why is it utterly wrong for Christians to treat each other on the basis of performance, merit, revenge, frustration or judgment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. THE PRINCIPLE OF RELATING TO GOD ALWAYS AND ONLY IN CHRIST:

Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17)

This means that everything we do and say, including our Christian service, our Christian worship, our praying, our obedience to the Scripture, our secular activities - everything should be done in his name.

How will this affect us?

[1] It automatically outlaws and excludes some activities. There are things that we never could do in the name of Jesus Christ because they are things quite contrary to his purpose, his character and his example.

[2] It reminds us that in ourselves we, along with our prayers and our Christian service, are totally unacceptable to God. It is only because we are in Christ that we have access to the presence of God in prayer; it is only because we are in him that our worship is acceptable. So we pray, not trusting in our own righteousness, but in his name. And we worship, not trusting in our own acceptability or the acceptability of our worship, but in his name.

Thus every thing we do should be done with thanks to God that our relationship with him does not depend on the perfection of our words and actions, but that these words and actions also are covered by the cross of Jesus Christ, that in his name we, despite the imperfection and sinfulness of our actions and attitudes, find access to the very throne of God. There we stand, not in ourselves, but in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In this truth we are given, not the freedom to sin, but freedom from condemnation and rejection because of sin.

On the basis of Paul’s teaching in 3:17 , what are the key motivations that should direct our choices and actions in every area and at every moment of our life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. THE PRINCIPLE OF SUBMISSION 3:18-4:1

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for men ... It is the lord Christ you are serving’ 3:23,24.

In 3:18 -4:1 Paul mentions several relationships in which we might find ourselves: wive/husband, parent/child, slave/master. In each of these he applies the principle of submission.

Ultimately our submission is to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord. He is our master. Paul says that the way to express this submission is to do whatever we have to do, whatever our various roles require of us, as if we were doing that for the Lord - with all our heart - and not just for people.

If this principle operates in our lives it gives every job we do significance: we are doing it, whether it be washing floors or building a church, for Jesus. This principle can put commitment and enthusiasm into even the most boring of jobs.

If this principle operates in our lives it will make us treat all people, irrespective of our role-relationships to them, with dignity, respect and love.

From Paul’s teaching in 3:18 -4:1, identify the foundational principles that should motivate everyone of us deny ourselves and our own rights for the well-being of the other?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. THE PRINCIPLE OF PRAYER 4:2-4

‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful’ 4:2-4

Paul calls us here to a sustained, alert, thankful commitment to prayer, and specifically to prayer for the proclamation and reception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Discuss the implications of Paul’s words for your understanding and practise of prayer.

devote

 

watchful

 

thankful

 

What did Paul ask them to pray for in particular?

 

 

 

 

 

F. THE PRINCIPLE OF WITNESS

‘Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders...’ 4:5-6

Paul’s brief statement about witness includes:

[1] wisdom in the way we act towards unbelievers.

[2] making the most of every opportunity.

[3] speaking graciously.

[4] speaking the truth (that’s the ‘salt’ - it both hurts and heals).

His commands to ‘be wise’ and to ‘speak graciously’ forbid us to understand ‘making the most of every opportunity’ to mean that we must hammer everyone we meet with the Gospel, and to see every unsaved person as a ‘lost soul’ rather than as a real, individual person with real emotions and a real story. God’s grace prohibits such a rough-shod approach to evangelism. For a living example of what Paul means here we do well to follow the pattern of Jesus Christ himself, who, John tells us, was ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

Compare Paul’s teaching in 4:5-6, with his teaching in Ephesians 5:15-17. What are the implications of these two passages for the way you live your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUMMING UP:

Personal:

List the actions, attitudes and behaviours in your life for which the judgement and condemnation of God would fall on you if it had not already fallen on Jesus Christ your substitute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank God that these sins can no longer cut you off from God because you are in Christ, and ask him to motivate and strengthen you to get rid of them, because you love him so much, and want your life to overflow with gratitude and praise.

List the actions and attitudes that need to be developed in your life so that it will express in your relationships to others that same love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance and peace with which God relates to you in Jesus Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you ask him for his help in this, thank God that he no longer relates to you on the basis of what you are and what you do, but relates to you always and only in Jesus Christ, on the basis of what he is and what he has done. It is only as your understanding of and confidence in this grows that you will be empowered to relate to others in the same way.