"Risen with Christ"
The third chapter of Paul's epistle to the Colossians opens by referring in three ways to the believer's union with Christ, who is the highest of all aspirations to holiness of conduct:‑
In the past: "If then you have been raised with Christ" (RSV);
Accompanying these wonderful words are two admonitions, and many others follow in the course of the chapter. Those closely associated are: "Seek (for) those things which are above" and "Set your affection (mind) on things above, (see John 8:23) not on things on the earth". Consequently, our desire should be that increasingly we may become heavenly‑minded, not in any dreamy or mystical sense, but in the sense of prayerful, practical Christ‑like godliness. It was our dear Lord Himself who said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also".
In verse 3 there is depicted the standpoint we should have of ourselves, that we have died to sin and earthly things, and that our new life in Christ is hid with Him in God, as treasure in a secure place. It is safely deposited with our Redeemer in God's presence.
Verse 5 brings us "down to earth" in the sense that although the Apostle has outlined our resurrection position in Christ, we are nevertheless still in the flesh, in a body of sin and humiliation, and are called upon to subdue every carnal and evil propensity of our lower nature. Actually we are told to "mortify" them, that is to say, put them to death. Five are detailed, and here, as in other places, Paul ranks covetousness as being as base and detestable as the other passions. Covetousness is low and debasing, because it secures the affections which properly belong to God, and is therefore idolatry. This is the passion that dethrones God from the life. The apostle sees no difference between a covetous person and one of impure life, because covetousness is more difficult to discern than is impurity of life. To covet is as much opposed to the spirit of the gospel as any of the vices here named. The word in the Greek rendered "covetousness" here means "a desire to have more", and is used always in a bad sense. It is not alone concerned with earthly goods but also in other ways. It may enter into opportunities of service for the Lord, when others enjoy privileges that oneself does not. It can apply to those in poor health, when they compare themselves with others who are stronger. It can apply as between Christians who are blessed in different degrees with earthly possessions.
Jesus said, when telling us that He was the true vine and we the branches, that His Father is glorified if we bear much fruit. Today we hear regarding industry the call for "more productivity". Our heavenly Father looks for this in our Christian life. This is not that we might justify ourselves in His sight by our "works", but rather in working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, depending always on Him who works within us to will and to do His good pleasure. Fruit production, as every grower knows, is dependent upon certain definite measures being taken to prevent disease and the ravages of pests. These have to be "mortified" by various means, or the trees will be barren or the fruit seriously impaired; so in the Christian life. Pests such as Paul enumerates must be put to death, and healthy Christian lives restored and maintained.
Paul urges our putting off certain other, shall we say, finer evil manifestations that are inconsistent with the Christian calling, among which is blasphemy. This means "injurious speaking" whether against God or man, in which evil many Christians indulge in respect of their brethren and others.
"Lie not to one another" (v.9) might appear an unnecessary injunction to one called of God, but nevertheless the Apostle regarded it as being necessary at that time. The almost parallel passage in Eph.4:25 gives the reason for "putting away lying" because "we are members one of another"—brethren in Christ. This vice is a universal fruit of sin and there is no single form of sin that reigns so markedly in the heathen world into which former members of the church at Colosse were born, but more enlightened peoples even in these days are not guiltless of the vice.
In accepting the gospel of Christ, the Colossians had "put on the new man" (v.10) and God's law had been re‑written in their hearts, so that they were being "renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him"—that is to say, becoming like Adam in his original state of human perfection. They are now related by faith to the "last Adam", being distinguished from all the rest of mankind, as Paul says here, "Christ is all, and in all" (v.11). The fact that believers belong to the one body; redeemed by the same blood; chosen by the same grace and are all brethren in the Lord, should lead them also to "put on" the wonderful qualities enumerated in verse 12 to 14—mercifulness, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness ("even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye") and love, which is here called "the bond of perfectness"—that which unites all other graces together and makes them complete.
"And let the peace of Christ (not God, as in A.V.) rule in your hearts, to the which (peace) also ye are called in one body". (v.15) The peace which our Saviour gives—His own peace—is to "preside" in our hearts; to govern and control us; to save us from disorder and irregularity during our Christian walk. We are all liable to the agitation of passion, like an assembled mass of people. "The peace of Christ" will calm down every agitated element in a Christian's life—just as a gifted leader might sway and control the passions of an assembly. (Such is the significance of the Greek word translated "rule"). "To the which (peace) also ye are called in one body"—to be united as one under the "presidency" of Christ's peace.
"And be ye thankful". A thankful spirit tends to promote harmony. An ungrateful people is generally a restless, dissatisfied and unholy community. Gratitude to God for His mercy literally promotes peace.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom". Here the reference is to the teaching that abundantly produces the spirit of true wisdom. We are to meditate upon the doctrines and teachings of the gospel; and allow them to be our guides. Even psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can and should have a powerful effect on Christian lives mutually, if sung with "grace" in our hearts to the Lord. (v.16)
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him". (v.17)Comprehensively, the words cover all that we say or do, inclusive also of our temporal affairs — all the common tasks that occupy those who work to earn their living, and the wives or others who are at home doing and preparing the things needful. Everything should be undertaken in the name of the Lord Jesus, and again thanksgiving is to be our constant attitude while we do all in the name of the Lord. Thankfulness for strength and reason; for the privilege of serving Him. He who is likely to perform his duties most cheerfully is he who has the deepest sense of indebtedness and of gratitude to God for His mercies through the Saviour He provided.
The Forest Gate Bible Monthly