Colossians 3:1-7 underscores the importance of good Bible study methodology. One of the most common mistakes in interpreting the Bible is riffing on a particular word or phrase at the expense of context. One of my mentors explained it with this analogy I call “think twice.”
A false teaching had crept into the Colossian church. In chapter 1, Paul expressed gratitude for the evidence of faith in the Colossian church. He prayed that they would grow in spiritual wisdom — specifically, that they would fully understand that the way to know God is through Jesus Christ and only through Jesus Christ.
Then in 2:4 he begin his main point which can be summarized by: “Col 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” He urged them to continue believing the gospel that saved them.
In 2:16-23, Paul argues that faith in Christ is fundamentally incompatible with their rituals for two reasons:
- Religions rituals hold out the promise of being the way to please God but in fact they are not, because they do nothing to change who I am on the inside. They only change my outward behavior.
- Christ is the real solution to the problem of my guilt and sin, because his death on the cross solves both the problem of my guilt and my slavery to sin.
- “seek the things that are above” in contrast to “being deluded with plausible arguments” (2:4)
- “set your minds on the things above” in contrast to “being taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8)
- “put to death what is earthly in you” in contrast to “submitting to regulations ” (2:20) and “human precepts and teachings” (2:22)
- This letter is NOT a letter to Christians teaching them how to find power over sin.
- This a letter to people who are torn between conflicting ideas about what the gospel involves.
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4
- Like a seed buried in the ground has died in a sense and is waiting to bloom into full maturity, believers have metaphorically died and been raised with Christ. Paul urges us focus on and embrace that truth. Don’t focus on the things of this world (like rituals, rules and regulations), focus on the hope of the gospel and the glory to come.
5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. – Colossians 3:5-10
- Understanding the gospel gives me a hierarchy of values and desires find their place in God’s scheme of things. There are times and places when the fulfillment of my desires is right and appropriate. There are times and places when fulfilling my desires is sinful. Sexuality is the case in point.
- God intended sexuality for marriage; He intended it to be a way of communicating a permanent, secure, self-sacrificing commitment between a man and a woman; He intended it for the raising of children; and He intended it for intimacy and the commitment of making 2 lives into 1.
- When I use my sexuality in ways God did not intend, I am lying. I using the language of sexuality to mean something that it does not mean.
- “covetousness which is idolatry” (3:5) = covetousness is a lie that says God is not enough. It says the hope God is offering is not enough. I must have this other thing.
- The point of Christianity is NOT how do I make this world work now or make this world a better place.
- The point is where am I going to spend eternity and how do I know?
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Previous: 06 Colossians 2:16-23 Passing Judgment
Study: Colossians Resources
Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.