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Colossians – Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life

Posted by on Feb 16, 2011 in scripture | Comments Off

Colossians – Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life

I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:

The beginning of the study
Preliminary outline
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 4

As I am studying through Colossians, I am in the middle of a long teaching (paraenesis) in Colossians 2:6-4:6.

In this next section, Paul builds on his previous exhortations. Remember that he has been encouraging his readers to trust Christ alone so that they are not deceived into following human wisdom, philosophies, traditions, rationalizations, rules and regulations, etc. (Colossians 2:6-3:4) In this passage, Paul begins some general exhortations about what is means to walk (live) in a manner that is worthy of Christ and the gospel:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 ESV)

At first glance, this passage seems to contradict an earlier statement where Paul said that rules and regulations (“Do not handle; do not taste; do not touch”) are of no value to the one who is in Christ. (Colossians 2:20-23) The difference, however, is in the purpose and motivations. In the previous passage, Paul said that these rules and regulations are of no benefit toward making someone holy (in Christ) or in helping someone deny the flesh (avoid temptations). In this passage, Paul starts with the fact that the person is already in Christ, and is answering the question, “So how do we live now that we are in Christ?”

Paul had written previously that the Colossians had died to their old way of life, and here he continues that theme by saying that should then put to death the things that were part of their old life. (Colossians 3:5) While Paul lists a few things that belong to the old way of life, the list should not be taken as exhaustive. Instead, these are examples of “earthly” living and follows from “earthly” thinking.

Paul reminds them of two things related to these “old” ways of living: 1) these are the things that deserve and that provoke the wrath of God, and 2) they have already participated in these things in the past. (Colossians 3:6-7) These reminders should lead toward praise and thanksgiving, and away from pride.

Paul again lists a few “vices” of the old life and focuses on lying as an example. (Colossians 3:8-9) For the person who has laid aside (or “put to death”) the old way of living and has been raised with Christ into a new life and new way of living, lying to brothers and sisters should be a completely foreign concept. Instead, the new way of living flows from “the new” (the new self, the new life) which is constantly being renewed by Jesus Christ, the one who created the new life in the first place. (Colossians 3:10)

To whom is this new life available (and who should be able to put away the old way of life)? Any who are in Christ. This applies to all nationalities, genders, ethnicities, social statuses, etc. (Colossians 3:11) Why? Because in Christ, all are now new people. They are not defined in the way the world defines them (based on nationality, gender, ethnicity, social status, etc.) but they are not identified with and defined by Christ. He is all, and he is in all.

This new way of life – the manner of living in Christ – is not dependent upon culture. Regardless of what society or culture deems acceptable or good, the one who is in Christ lives as Christ would, not as culture dictates.

What would you add to my study of this passage in Colossians?


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