Archive for December, 2020

Colossians 3:1-3

In Colossians 3:1-3 Paul gives us some practical instruction on how to live as a Christ Follower. There is a clear understanding that Christian living is built on the foundation of truth from God’s Word. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Because we know that Jesus has really been raised from the dead, our identification with Him becomes real. It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above. And if we were raised with Him, there are certain things that should be true in our life and how we live. We should seek the things of God, not the world.

Vaughn explains that “the apostle reminds the Colossians that worldly regulations are of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the believers’ experience of union with Christ.” Guzik writes “Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.

  • After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live there any more.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – recognizing that our citizenship is in heaven.”

Paul tells us that the best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. Since Jesus sits on God’s right hand in heaven, our thoughts and hearts need to be connected to heaven also. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Morgan wrote “The believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion…. In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” How do we make that happen? Clarke explains “Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely engrossed by them. Now, that you are converted to God, act in reference to heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to those of earth.”

As Christ Followers, our place is secure for eternity through Jesus. We have died to self and the things of this earth, and are forever destined to be with Him. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” It doesn’t mean the world around us will recognize or support that destiny. Vaughan explains “‘Earthly things’ are not all evil, but some of them are. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” This earth is not our home. We are destined to spend eternity with God the Father and Jesus Christ if we have received His as Savior and Lord. How much better can life be? So we ought live in a way that is pleasing to God through Christ!

Colossians 2:19-23

In Colossians 2:19-23 Paul wraps up his discussion of Jesus and the impact of His sacrifice on the cross. There were false teachers in the Colossian church that were arrogant and teaching false doctrine. Paul makes clear that Jesus is not only the Head, but the one we should hang on to tightly. “…..and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” The body of Christ is held together around One – the Head who is Jesus. From Him alone growth comes – it is through Christ from God.

When false teachers show up they typically offer lies that don’t apply to the whole body, but only to a few “elite” Christians. This is not the cause under the Head, Jesus – He wants all the body to grow together. When we remain faithful and connected to Jesus (our Head), and God gives the increase. Paul again tells us to avoid the concept of legalism and earning favor with God. He gives a perfect description of legalistic religion, defined more by what we don’t do than by what we do. Christianity is a moral religion; it does have clear moral boundaries. But at its foundation, Christianity is a religion of positive action.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” Our identification with Jesus in both His death and resurrection becomes the foundation for our Christian life, instead of our law-keeping. One aspect of legalism is that the doctrines of men are promoted as the laws of God. They may look wise, but they have no value when it comes to meeting God’s standards. We will fall short – our only hope of salvation is Jesus Christ.

These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” All legalistic rules may have an appearance of wisdom, but they have no real value. Legalism doesn’t restrain the flesh; it feeds the flesh in a subtle, powerful way. Bruce wrote “In fact, the most rigorous asceticism can coexist with insufferable spiritual pride, one of the subtlest and most intractable of the ‘works of the flesh.’” Self-made religion is man reaching to God, trying to justify himself by keeping a list of rules. Christianity is God reaching down to man in love through Christ.

Colossians 2:16-18

In Colossians 2:16-18 Paul teaches the truth of Jesus’ victory on the Cross in the face of the heresy being taught in the Colossian church. Since Jesus has won such a magnificent and complete victory on the Cross, we are to let no once judge us when it comes to the legalistic ways of the past. If we live a life centered on Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross, there is no place for legalism at all. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” Bruce explains “It would be preposterous indeed for those who had reaped the benefit of Christ’s victory to put themselves voluntarily under the control of the powers which he had conquered.”

These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” The Old Testament law had certain provisions that are no longer relevant after the death of Jesus on the cross and his subsequent victory over death, regarding such things as food and sabbaths. It isn’t that those laws were bad, simply that they were a shadow of things to come. Once the substance – Jesus Christ – has come, we don’t need to shadow any more. Days and foods that were observed under the Mosaic law are no longer binding on Christ Followers under the New Covenant. What we eat or when we worship no longer make us close to God. Our faith in Christ alone is our way to God.

Wright explains “The regulations of Judaism were designed for the period when the people of God consisted of one racial, cultural, and geographical unit, and are simply put out of date now that this people is becoming a world-wide family. They were the ‘shadows’ that the approaching new age casts before it.” There were false teachers proclaiming that they Colossians needed to worshiop angels rather that God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. But Jesus came and changed all teaching of the past. The way to reach God and spend eternity with Him is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. There are no other routes to heaven any longer.

Paul rebukes the heresy being taught. “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind…..”. False humility and the worship of angels do not make anyone more spiritual. Instead, holding fast to the Jesus makes us truly spiritual. Vaughn explains “the heretics probably insisted that the worship of angels rather than the supreme God was an expression of humility on their part.” That was heresy then, and remains so today. Angels are not the way to eternal life – faith in Jesus Christ is the only way – today, tomorrow and forever!

Colossians 2:15

In Colossians 2:15 Paul continues to teach us what Jesus did through His death on the cross – He disarmed our enemies. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” The greatest powers of the earth at that time – Rome, the greatest governmental power and Judaism, the greatest religious power – conspired together to put the Son of God on the cross. Wright wrote “These powers, angry at his challenge to their sovereignty, stripped him naked, held him up to public contempt, and celebrated a triumph over him.” Here Paul shows us again the paradox of the cross; that the victorious Jesus took the spiritual powers animating these earthly powers and stripped them, held them up to contempt, and publicly triumphed over them.

Jesus won at the Cross. We can only imagine how Satan and every on of his demons attacked Jesus as He hung on the cross on our behalf, as if He were a guilty sinner. Bruce explains “As he was suspended there, bound hand and foot to the wood in apparent weakness, they imagined they had him at their mercy, and flung themselves on him with hostile intent. But, far from suffering their attack without resistance, he grappled with them and mastered them, stripping them of the armor in which they trusted, and held them aloft in his outstretched hands, displaying to the universe their helplessness and his own unvanquished strength.”

Jesus not only won the battle, He won the war and did it for all of eternity. Guzik explains “Paul wrote in another place that if the rulers of this age – by which he meant both the spiritual powers of darkness and their earthly representatives – had known what would happen on the cross, they would have never crucified Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:8). They were defeating themselves and they didn’t even know it.” As Paul writes about Jesus’ triump, he had in mind the Roman victory parade where a conquering general led his defeated captives through the streets in triumph. Jesus didn’t just win, He won for all time and in all ways.

This is big. This is everything in the spiritual domain. Guzik explains “Perhaps Satan, for a moment, thought that he had won at the cross. But Hell’s imagined victory was turned into a defeat that disarmed every spiritual enemy who fights against those living under the light and power of the cross. The public spectacle of defeated demonic spirits makes their defeat all the more humiliating.” And Vaughn continues “Christ, in this picture, is the conquering general; the powers and authorities are the vanquished enemy displayed as the spoils of battle before the entire universe.” Erdman also commented “The death of Christ was not only a pardon; it also manifested might. It not only canceled a debt; it was a glorious triumph.” Jesus was the victor once and for all!

Colossians 2:13-14

In Colossians 2:13-14 Paul reminds us that we are dead because of our sin but Jesus did His work on the cross offering forgiveness to all who will receive that amazing gift of grace. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is the place of every person before they are raised with Him through faith in the working of God as Paul described. We are dead. Before a person comes to new life in Jesus, he is not a sick man who needs a doctor; he is a dead person who needs a Savior.

Spurgeon explains that we are not only made alive, but made alive together with Him. “It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him.” Before we have new life in Jesus, we are dead in our trespasses. A trespass is a specific kind of sin: overstepping a boundary. We are dead because we overstep God’s boundaries in our sin and rebellion.

We can’t make ourselves alive, but God can make us alive together with Jesus. We can never be made alive apart from Jesus. We are forgiven by God’s grace. When Paul writes about the record of our debt he has in mind a list of our crimes or moral debt before God, a debt that no imperfect person can completely pay. But it can be taken out of the way, by payment from a perfect man, Jesus Christ. That record which once condemned us is now taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross. Bruce wrote “It might even be said that he took the document, ordinances and all, and nailed it to his cross as an act of triumphant defiance in the face of those blackmailing powers that were holding it over men and women in order to command their allegiance.”

Spurgeon paints a picture of our sin. “Each of the ten commandments has, as it were, united with the rest to draw up an indictment against us. The first commandment says, ‘He has broken me.’ The second cries, ‘He has broken me,’ — the third, ‘He has broken me;’ and the whole ten together have laid the same charge against each one of us; that is the handwriting of the law condemning every man of woman born while he remains in a state of nature.” Jesus did everything possible to make certain that the record of debt that was against us could no longer accuse us. Wright further explains “Paul, looking at the cross, saw there instead the titulus that expressed the charge against all Jesus’ people, the written code that stood over against them, disqualifying them from the life of the new age. And it was God, not Pilate, that put it there.”

Colossians 2:11-12

In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul teaches us about the work of Jesus and how circumcision and baptism work in the life of a believer. Most of the Colossian Christians were Gentiles who had never been physically circumcised. Paul assures them that they were indeed circumcised in a spiritual sense, which is even more important than physical circumcision. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Apparently, they were being taught that they had to be circumcised to be right with God. Paul makes it clear that they were circumcised, by putting off the sins of the flesh. Vaughn explained that our spiritual circumcision meant the putting off of the old man. “The Greek word for ‘putting off’, a double compound, denotes both stripping off and casting away. The imagery is that of discarding – or being divested of – a piece of filthy clothing.” Peake also says  “This was their conversion, the inward circumcision of the heart, by which they entered on the blessings of the New Covenant.” Their true circumcision is found in their baptism.

Baptism illustrates our identification with the death and resurrection life of Jesus. We were buried with Jesus, and buried under the water. We are also raised with Him, and raised up out of the water. Paul doesn’t say that circumcision and baptism are the same thing, but that circumcision is unnecessary for salvation because we are identified in Jesus and we are baptized to show that. Vaughn explains “The emphasis of the verse, however, is not on the analogy between circumcision and baptism; that concept, though implied, is soon dismissed, and the thought shifts to that of baptism as symbolizing the believer’s participation in the burial and resurrection of Christ.”

Baptism is a public sign of our faith in Christ, but in and of itself it does not lead to salvation. We are raised with Christ through faith and God’s power, not an act of being baptized. It is a signal to the world that we are a Christ Follower, but is not essential to the salvation process. These words demonstrate that Paul understood that the power of regeneration was not in baptism or received by the act of baptism, but received through faith in the working of God. And he puts an exclamation on that by reminding us all that He raised Christ from the dead and defeated the enemy through the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior and Lord.

Colossians 2:8-10

In Colossians 2:8-10 Paul warns the church against the heresy that was being proclaimed. He warns them not to be cheated by philosophies or traditions that are not in alignment with God’s truth. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” The false teaching among the Colossians was marked by an emphasis on philosophy and empty deceit. Most of all, it was according to the tradition of men. It had the stamp of man on it, not God. Paul’s concern is that the church would be led away from truth.

Clarke explains “Their goods were the salvation they had received from Christ; and both the Gentile and Jewish teachers endeavoured to deprive them of these, by perverting their minds, and leading them off from the truths of Christianity.” The philosophy that Paul was concerned about was so dangerous because it was not obviously sinful, and even sounded intelligent. Guzik writes “There is significant debate among commentators as to the exact nature of the Colossian heresy. Some see it as predominately an expression of early Gnosticism with some Jewish mystical elements added; others see it as primarily Jewish mysticism with a few aspects of early Gnosticism. Whatever the exact origin or composition of this heresy, it seems clear that it had both elements.” No matter the form, it was not aligned with God’s truth.

Paul here also warned that the tradition of men does not have equal authority to the Word of God. And he brings out the reality that there is a cause and effect and in a sense it rules nature and the minds of men. We live under the idea that we get what we deserve; when we are good, we deserve to receive good; when we are bad, we deserve to receive bad. Paul warned the Colossians to not subject themselves to this grace-eliminating kind of thinking, and to consider themselves dead to it. God blesses us as He wishes and it is not related to our actions or none of us would have the opportunity to receive His gift of grace through Christ on the cross.

The reality is that Jesus is all we need. Other things like philosophies and traditions have no place since Jesus covers us completely. Paul’s description here is a dramatic, airtight declaration of the full Deity of Jesus. Since all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus, He cannot be a halfway God. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” If He were not God, we couldn’t be complete in Him. Anything that says we are not complete in Him also takes away from the deity of Jesus. As believers we are united to Jesus in a faith-relationship, and as such we are also complete in Him.

Colossians 2:4-7

In Colossians 2:4-7 Paul warns the Colossians to watch out for deceptive teachers. There were some who told the Colossians to find wisdom and knowledge apart from the simplicity of Jesus who were very persuasive. The lure of “hidden” and “deep” wisdom and knowledge can be both strong and deceptive. “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” It might sound simple, but deceivers are deceivers. They won’t announce their false doctrine as false doctrine, and it will often be similar enough to the truth to be dangerous. Paul sees the danger and warns them to pay attention.

Paul was not with them but through prayer he genuinely felt he was among the Colossian Christians in spirit, even though he was absent in the flesh. “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” According to Vaughn, the words order and firmness are both military words. “He sees the situation of the Colossians as being like that of an army under attack and affirms that their lines were unbroken, their discipline intact, and their ‘faith in Christ’ unshaken.” Paul sees the danger and encourages them that they are in good order and standing firm in their faith.

Paul provides a rule for us to follow as a Christ Follower. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We cannot perfect in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit; therefore just as you received Jesus, walk in Him in the same way. The simple things of the Christian life provide continual and reliable spiritual fuel for growth. We always have to be reminded of the things we have been taught. And we want to wrap those lessons with gratitude as they truly are the source for life!

Paul gives a secret to successfully walking with Christ – that we be rooted deeply and built up in Jesus. Clarke explains “It is not usual with the apostle to employ this double metaphor, taken partly from the growth of a tree and the increase of a building. They are to be rooted; as the good seed had been already sown, it is to take root, and the roots are to spread far, wide, and deep. They are to be grounded; as the foundation has already been laid, they are to build thereon. In the one case, they are to bear much fruit; in the other, they are to grow up to be a habitation of God through the Spirit.” As we walk with Jesus, our roots grow deeper and we are built up through Him.

Colossians 2:1-3

In Colossians 2:1-3 Paul lets the Colossian church know how deeply he is struggling for them in prayer. The conflict was inside Paul, he wasn’t fighting with others about them. He described his spiritual warfare and heartfelt care for the Colossians as a great struggle. “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Apparently, Paul had never visited Colosse himself. Most of the Colossian Christians had never seen his face in person. Even as Paul’s authority extended to those he had never met – to those who had never seen his face – so it also extends to us. Paul expresses his desire that their hearts would be encouraged because he was concerned about their enthusiasm. He knew that discouraged, downcast Christians are easy prey for the world, the flesh, and the devil. Barclay explains “The word he uses is paraklein. Sometimes that word means to comfort, sometimes to exhort, but always at the back of it there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and gallantry.”

Paul also lets them know he is concerned about unity in the church. And the foundation for unity is not because they should be united, unity happens from love for one another and the body of Christ. He also wanted them to be sure of their place in God’s kingdom as Christ Followers, and to understand God’s truth in His Word. He knew that their unity and steadfastness was not only a matter of love, but also of growing together in God’s truth. Unity happens from being knit together in love and growing in the understanding and knowledge of God’s truth. We need the true wisdom of God’s Word so we can rally around His truth.

He also wants people to have full assurance. Many believers lack full assurance about the character of God and are unconvinced that He is really good and loving. Others lack full assurance of their salvation and wonder if their Christian life is for real. Great freedom and confidence comes when we come to full assurance in God’s goodness and His Salvation through Jesus Christ. Wright explains “Everything we might want to ask about God and his purposes can and must now be answered – this is the force of the verse – with reference to the crucified and risen Jesus, the Messiah.” Jesus is the answer to all questions and provides all wisdom and knowledge. We merely need to seek and we will find!

Colossians 1:24-29

In Colossians 1:24-29 Paul talks about the suffering he has done for their sake. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” Paul is sitting in a Roman join. But he was able to see that his sufferings worked something good for others, so he could say that his sufferings were for the Colossians and other Christians.

Paul’s comments on Christ’s afflictions is not about the suffering of Jesus on the cross, but rather what He endured during His earthly ministry. Lane explains “The term ‘afflictions of Christ’ is never associated with the redemptive suffering of Jesus upon the cross. It speaks, rather, of those ministerial sufferings which Paul bears because he represents Jesus Christ.” And Paul makes clear the suffering was not for himself, but for the body of Christ, the church. Self centered people focus on their holiness, on their spiritual growth, and on their perfection. Paul followed in the footsteps of Jesus and was an others-centered person. Paul found holiness, spiritual growth, and maturity when he pursued these things for others.

Paul reminds the Colossian church that he was a minister – that is, a servant of the body of Christ, the church. He did not take this position on his own initiative, but became a steward of it from God. God put Paul into this position, he did not put himself. And the mission as a minister was clear – to make the Word of God fully known. There are some aspects to God’s plan that were not clearly revealed in the Old Testament. Paul’s ministry was to help reveal those hidden truths and help make the Word known by all. He is a servant on a mission to reveal God’s full truth to all the saints. God doesn’t hide things from us any longer – they are revealed through His Word.

Paul has been anointed as a minister to make it known that God is revealed to all of us through Jesus Christ. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It is no longer hidden or a mystery in any way. Christ died for all and is our hope of glory. And Paul wants to shout it from the rooftops. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” He wants all of us to not only find Jesus the Savior and Lord, but to become mature in that knowledge and relationship. Paul never gave up trying to share that message! “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

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