Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Colossians Words Day 15: Life

Day 15 ~ Life

We all love before and after photos. Our love affair with this is evident by the number of remodeling shows on TV and the abundance of weight loss and plastic surgery ads in the commercials. We like to see what a house or a room looked like before and then its dramatic transformation after. Company's pitch their products for weight loss by using photos of the former overweight person, now skinny. Contrasts of before and after work work well in sermons and Bible study as well. The New Testament writers used contrasts often to capture the attention. Contrasts such as light and dark or old and new, are often used in the Scriptures to open eyes and help us choose wisely between one way of life or another. Paul uses the contrast of death and life in Colossians to help his readers understand who they are in Christ, contrasting their former way of life with their new.

Yesterday we went through Colossians 2:9-23 and saw how Paul used this contrast in that portion of the book. Today we will continue our exploration of this death/life contrast by digging into Colossians 3:1-10. 

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Colossians 3:1-10
Contrasts are a fun way to do Bible study. Making a list of what is being contrasted and seeing them side-by-side can open our eyes to the Biblical truths the author is trying to express.

Paul's focus in Colossians 3 now shifts to how we live as those who have Christ in them. He begins chapter 3 saying, "Since, then you have been raised with Christ.....", echoing how he began his previous thoughts in 2:20-23. There he had stated that "since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world", meaning the traditions and practices of man and religion, seen in both the Jewish religious practices and the Greek secular practices, have no place in their new life. He goes on to ask them why they continue to practice them, living as if they belong to them instead of to Christ. These things, Paul says, "are destined to perish with use". In other words, they bring death, not real life. Why? Because they "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" (2:23). This is the problem with practicing anything in order to gain favor with God ; there is no real value in the practice. The practices alone cannot bring us life. Instead what we practice should be a result of the favor we have with God through Christ; out of obedience to and gratefulness for that favor we have received through Him. It is not what we do that brings us into restored peace with God and gains His favor. It is only through what Christ has done on our behalf. Our "doing" is in believing and accepting the accomplished work of Christ in His death and resurrection. Remember back to 2:17, Paul said that these practices, even good things like observing the Sabbath Day, were merely a shadow of what was to come. They were practiced in anticipation of and preparation for the arrival of Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. Paul makes it clear that "the reality is found in Christ" (2:17).
So Paul says that since you died with Christ, and since you have been raised with Him to new life, then live for Him. In the last two chapters of the book Paul will give some descriptions of what living for Christ looks like in everyday life.

As is Paul's way, he begins his explanation of living for Christ by once again reminding them of who they are. He calls them to seek things above "where Christ is seated at the right hand of God", again drawing their attention back to His supremacy. Those who live for Christ seek the things of Christ, "not earthly things" (3:2). Why? Because "you died with Christ" (3:3), you are to no longer live in a manner that reflects your former life. Remember Paul's prayer for them at the beginning of the letter, that God would fill them with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that "you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way" (1:9-10). Now, in this new life, "your life is now hidden with Christ in God" and when He appears for His second coming "you also will appear with him in glory" (3:4). In Christ, we are secure. The word hidden has the sense of something put in hiding in order to protect it. In other words, secure. Look how Paul then contrasts hidden with revealed. At a time in the future, when Christ returns/appears, our life will appear in glory. We will share in His glory, much as now we share in His fullness.

So now, in 3:5 Paul makes an appeal to put to death those things that belong to the earthly nature. Our new life cannot be real life when we live in this manner. He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that walking - a word Paul often uses in place of the word live - walking in these ways is a part of our former way of life. We must now "rid yourselves" of the ways of our old life. Why? Because, verse 8 reminds us once again, now using old self/new self for the death/life contrast, that we have taken off or removed the old practices and now have a new life. In this new life our new self is"being renewed in knowledge in the images of its Creator". The goal of this new life is to become Christ-like. We ourselves, in Christ, have a before and after life transformation.

If you are behind or just joining in, you can find a list with links to the previous words here.

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