Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Colossians 3: Dead, Alive, Risen

This passage actually starts with 2:20.  Therefore, if you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world. . . We often say “Jesus died for our sins,” but it is theologically more complicated, and thus more liberating, than that.  When Christ died, many spiritual realities happened.
a.     Forgiveness was possible because He paid our debts (v. 13)
b.    He erased the record against us
c.    He disarmed Satanic powers that had been over us.  We can’t be demon-possessed as Christians, but we can be demon-influenced, IF WE LET OURSELVES. 
d.    He freed us from the sin nature’s power over us; that is what is meant when “we died with Christ.”  The old man that is enslaved to sin died when Christ died, as far as believers are concerned.  Now, some may take this truth metaphorically, and others as literal.  I see it as we no longer have to obey the sin nature and we can live by the Holy Spirit working in us. Symbolically, our old natures were on the cross with Christ, as was the violations of the law of God we had done; those were “nailed to the cross.”
e.    He freed us from cultural and religious regulations that human nature habitually puts on us.  Now we can focus on true obedience, not fake obedience.
That brings us to 3:1.  Just as we died with Christ, we were raised with him and seated with him in heaven.  Again, this is in a sense symbolic, because we are not literally there, but the point is two-fold:
1.     Christ’s absolute identification with his people, his body, his bride, the Church.  “My sheep hear my voice.” John 10:27.  The whole idea of “body” over which he is the head shows great identification. 
2.     We can set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  Set our affections, our love.  We know we live in the world, and we like it.  The physical world God created has many pleasures, and the Bible says, “1Ti 6:17  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”  We can enjoy the physical world—the taste of chocolate, the scenery, human love, arts, etc.  These are God’s gifts, and it is cultic and human legalism to deny them to people.  But enjoying as a gift is not the same as setting your affections on the giver and where the giver is.  I like that phrase, “set your affections.”  Whether this world is good or bad, we  seek and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly, Heb_11:14, Heb_11:16.  As Matthew Henry says, “Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionally weaken and abate our affection to the other.”
We can set our affections above because
a.     We are dead.  That we are dead; that is, to present things, and as our portion. We are so in profession and obligation; for we are buried with Christ, and planted into the likeness of his death. Every Christian is crucified unto the world, and the world is crucified unto him, Gal_6:14.
b.    Our true life lies in a different world
c.    We are expecting the second coming and the perfection of our happiness.  Madame Bovary.
Verses 3-7:  He deals with two levels.  I think the first step in the Christian life for the Colossians, or any of these pagans, is for them to put away the worst of it.  First, they were to put to death the covetousness for sex and possessions that defined their lives., because those so resembled idolatry and were part of it.  But they couldn’t stop there.  They must move on to put away the less visible but just as evil practices because they would destroy the church and they also were against God.

His combination in verses 10 and 11 are interested.  The racial divisions of the world’s cultures is not part of the new life, which is characterized by lies and untruthfulness. 

So the picture is one of changing clothes from dirty and dysfunctional, even if they look ok to the surrounding culture, to clean clothes that reflect a different character.  “So put on. . . . “  I am glad he says “put them on” rather than “work them up in yourself.”  What does he want us to put on?  Which ones do we need to work on?

This parallels the fruit of the Spirit.  Because they are fruit, it might seem that we have nothing to do with their being produced.  But they are a natural outgrowth of walking toward Christ.

V 17:  The ultimate question for Christian ethics. Can you do it in the name of Jesus?  What does that mean?  5 things:  Under his authority, reflecting and representing his identity, pleasing him, consistent with his direct and indirect teaching, and following his example. 


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