Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Colossians 3:13, Brief Thoughts

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

The final three marks of the new nature of a Christian listed in verses 12-14 are identified as longsuffering, forgiveness, and love (in verse 14, to be considered in the next post).

The seventh character trait Paul exhorts Christians to is that of long-suffering. The Christian community ought to be the most welcoming and hospitable group that one can identify with. As believers, Christians have experienced a forgiveness that transcends all reason. They have been forgiven an offense that is so great as to warrant eternal damnation. Further, they were not seeking to be forgiven, nor acknowledging their need for forgiveness (Rom. 3:9-20). Instead, it was lavished upon them by the grace of God (1 John 3:1). In this forgiven state, Christians must recognize that they were in no way better or wiser than another person. Rather, they were enemies of God whom God bore with great patience until the day of their repentance (C.f. Rom. 5:8 and 2 Peter 3:19). In this recognition, there is no one that Christians are incapable of “bearing with.”

Accompanying the long-suffering of a Christian community is forgiveness. True believers forgive. As mentioned with long-suffering, Christians forgive much because they have been forgiven much. Jesus explains that one who recognizes the depth of forgiveness they have received will lavish love and forgiveness upon others because they have experienced it themselves (Luke 7:47). Therefore, a lack of forgiveness might serve as a test of the authenticity of one’s faith. Christians forgive, it is part of their nature to do so.

Living in community together guarantees that there will be conflict. When human beings gather together, whether, for worship, labor, or leisure, there will inevitably be opportunity for sin and subsequent complaint against others within the community. Though in an ideal situation, no one will feel the need to complain against another brother or sister, we live in a sinful world in which ideal situations do not truly exist. When one person is upset by another, there is struggle and frustration. However, God has renewed the spirit of Christians and given them new natures from which Christians can love each other in spite of sinful desires that cause quarrels (James 4). So, Christians ought to be marked by a forgiveness that transcends their own need to be right or their need to fulfill their own desires.

This overcoming of desires in favor of forgiveness is only achievable when the community realizes that God has empowered every individual to forgive the way Christ has forgiven. Consider for a moment what extent of love and forgiveness that Christ has poured out upon those who believe. The eternal Christ made Himself mortal and put on human frailty (Philippians 2:1-11). He lowered Himself from exalted heights to love a people who despise and reject Him (John 13). He lives perfectly, forgives extravagantly, serves humbly, and surrenders Himself to the charges of the wicked, in order to save the lowly. After accomplishing all of that, He grants those who believe in Him a new nature that is clean and then consistently renews that nature after His own image until He completes it (Col. 3:9-10 and Philippians 1:6). This is why Christians must forgive – they have been forgiven.

It is not enough for a Christian to forgive alone. They must forgive in the same way Christ forgave. A Christian’s forgiveness must transcend the simplistic forgiveness that the world affords. The forgiveness of the world is transactional – I’ll forgive A if B is done. The forgiveness of Christ says I’ll forgive A no matter what. The forgiveness of Christ does not complain about past grievances or hold a record of wrongs. The forgiveness of Christ separates the sin from the person as far as east from west. This is a mark of Christianity – the Christian forgives with love. If someone claims Christ, but cannot forgive in this way, then that person needs to examine themselves to see if they really know Christ, for it is by the fruit of our hearts that we testify that He has changed us and that He is our Lord.

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Colossians 3:9-11; Brief thoughts

9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

The most damaging subterfuge a Christian can suffer is that of self-deception. When a true follower of Christ agrees with a lie, that believer denies the power of their own identity as granted by Christ. In that denial, Christians fail to exercise their God-given strength and power to overcome sins. The acceptance of falsehood brings further damage when the Christian begins to believe deceptions that are about their identity. One of the greatest attacks of the adversary is the attack on the Christian’s victorious nature.

For many Christians, the identity that has been established for them through the work and efforts of Christ has been masked and held captive by an erroneous belief that their “old self” or “sin nature” or “flesh” has some authority or ability to conquer them. However, when confronted with these verses in Colossians, Christians are empowered to trust in the power of Christ within them!

In order for truth to reign as truth in the life of a Christian community, it must be ever present on the lips and in the hearts of believers. This is why Paul admonishes us not to lie. The one who has trusted Christ has removed the garment of the old self. The word for put off indicates a removal as if stripping off clothing. So here, one who has believed in Christ Jesus has taken off the old and has dressed in the new. It is important to recognize the tenses used in this passage. The putting off of the old is a past tense verb that focuses on a single time action.[1] So the Christian has “put off” the old self and has dressed in the new nature that has been given to them in Christ Jesus. This changing of one’s spiritual clothing occurs when Christ has redeemed the Christian. Indeed, it is part of the justification of a believer. (Ongoing sanctification is present at the end of verse 10, we will address that below.)

Someone will object at this point, “But if I have been given a new nature, why do I still struggle with sin?!” This question presupposes that one requires an “old self” in order for sin to be present. Consider for a moment the state of our first patriarch, Adam. Adam need not have a sinful disposition to rebel against God’s command. He had no need for original sin to derive sins origination in himself. He simply volitionally chose to sin. So it is with one who has been given a new nature. We sin because we choose to do so. If it were not so, then why would Paul assert that this new nature is “being renewed?” Being renewed is a present tense passive verb, indicating a continuous action being done from an external source. If a sinful nature were required for sin to exist, then the new nature would not need continuous renewing. Yet, Paul’s reminder is that sin is still present in this world and therefore still effects a redeemed Christian but, not in the same manner with which it used to rule over that Christian. Rather, now the Christian is capable of overcoming sin! Praise the Lord!

Christians are given a new nature that they must now learn to live in. Much like the fairy tails in which a prince or princess is plucked from the position of a pauper and thrust into a royal court, a Christian must learn to live in the royal court of God’s majesty. The one who was once a slave must now learn to live as one who has been made free. The adjustment to freedom from sin takes time. This is called sanctification and it provides the evidence of salvation. Once one has been justified in Christ and the old clothes have been cast off, now the believer must learn to live in their freedom, pursuing the fulfillment of God’s image on this earth!

What a joy to be free from sin and to know that we have been set free! We have been set free! Because of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, we have been set free from sin and are made new! Do not believe the lie that you are still bound! You are free.

In this freedom, all worldly definitions of your identity fall by the side. All definitions that would confine you to this life are removed. Indeed, your nature is no longer bound to cultural identities or monikers of society. Your identity is found in Christ and in Christ alone. So, Christians regard each other as family, no matter the background or history. Christians are united in the restoration of the image of God within their souls! What a freeing delight to ponder. No matter what your background or difficulty may be, you’ve been granted freedom in Christ Jesus to live as the image of God on this earth, unhindered by any nature, history, cultural baggage, or generational sin. You have been set free in Christ Jesus, live like it!

[1] This is called an aorist tense in Greek. The aorist tense can be used rather loosely in translation, however, it typically indicates a past tense action that happened once. The emphasis of an aorist verb is most often on a single time action.

Featured image Photo by Paweł Furman on Unsplash

Colossians 3:5; Brief thoughts

5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Throughout his letters, Paul issues instructions pertaining to the Christian life. When modern readers read these instructions, our natural tendency is to read them as corrective commands (e.g. “stop doing what you are doing and do this instead!”). It is easy for the reader to understand these instructions as commands to be fulfilled or something that must be corrected. After all, they are instructions to the Christian life. Yet, all of Paul’s instructions are based on a previously established theological truth about the person he is addressing. These instructions, therefore, are better understood as exhortations or encouragements rather than corrective commands. Paul is not scolding the reader for failing to live up to some sort of law. Rather, Paul is encouraging the believers to live a life that matches the reality of who they are in Christ.

This particular exhortation begins with the encouragement to “put to death.” The word here indicates a complete cessation of activity with regard to that which is “earthly” (v.5). Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press, 2001 p44). The Christian life is one of complete surrender to the will and work of Christ. It is an exchange of kingdoms. Believers have traded the glory of this earth for the glory of Heaven. In such an exchange, the kingdom of earth is thrown off for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. So Paul calls the believer to put to death the things that are earthly. Notice there is no softening of this exhortation. He does not say, try to put to death or strive to put to death. No, Paul says “put to death.” This imperative drives the point that Christian is to completely cut off the influence of these earthly things. These earthly things have no place in the Christian life (Ephesians 5:3). They are to be cut off and destroyed. The mind of the Christian and the life of the Christian is focused on Heavenly truths and must have no association with these lower earthly things.

It is the tragedy of modern Christian culture that there is little that differentiates the world from the church. When Christians are supposed to be pointing people toward a radical heavenly mindset, the best that many modern churches offer is simplistic moralism. There is little call to holiness in our pulpits and seldom a demand to turn away from earthly things. Yet, Paul’s call for a heavenly mindset is immediately followed by the complement of rejection of earthly things. Christian, we cannot serve in two worlds. We must recognize that we are “resident aliens” on this earth and we do not and cannot fit into this world’s passions and pleasures. Our Kingdom is far too great to be subject to such base desires.

Paul provides us a list of that which is “earthly” for the reader to identify. Interestingly, each word has some connection to sexuality. The first word is “pornea” where we get our word porn from. In our sex-saturated culture, there is little need for elaboration on this subject. Pornography is one of the greatest blights on the soul of man in modern times. It has shaped the way our culture views women, marred the nature of man and degraded the value of sexuality in the human spirit. Our modern struggles with sexual harassment, gender identity, and gender toxicity can be directly linked to the hidden obsession with this idolatrous activity. This practice of sexual immorality must NOT be present in the life of a Christian.

The second word Paul uses is “akatharsia.” This is the negation of the word catharsis, meaning clean. Adding the alpha to the front of the word negates the word in its definition. So catharsis or clean becomes akatharsia- meaning unclean. In this way, Paul calls Christians to think about the innate value of what they fill themselves with. Believers must fill themselves with that which is clean and not that which is unclean. Connected with the definition of akatharsia is a sense of worthlessness. That which is unclean is that which is worthless to the Christian. It has no weight in the Kingdom of God and serves no purpose.

The third word Paul uses to describe earthly things is pathos, meaning lusts or lustful desires. This word is closely related to the concept of misfortune or calamity. Indeed, when we surrender to our baser lusts and desires, we often find that calamity follows. So Paul exhorts the believer to change their focus from the lower earthly passions and seek to be consumed by the greater passions of God’s heavenly kingdom.

The fourth phrase Paul uses is “evil desires.” I trust that the careful reader can acknowledge that little exposition is needed to explain Paul’s meaning in these words. His straightforward tone is hard to dismiss. Christians are not to be controlled by desires and affections that are rooted in this world. Rather, our affections are to be manifestly different. We are to be so consummately holy (that is to say “set apart”) that we are identified as complete aberrations to this world.

The Final phrase used to describe that which is earthly level our sensibilities. Earthly is covetousness, which is idolatry. Indeed, Modern Americans have extreme difficulty here and Paul leaves no room for us to rationalize our attitudes. The spirit of greed and selfishness is bound up in covetousness. But at its root, coveting is the result of idolatry. It is the result of worshiping something other than the One True God. Further, all that is listed here in verse 5 is the result of idolatrous activity. It is an attempt to satisfy our own needs by insisting that we know better than God. It is seeking to satisfy our desires rather than deny them for the sake of greater joy.

Christians look different from the world and must be faithful to that end.

Colossians 1:18a; Brief Thoughts

18 And he is the head of the body, the church.

The Church is the collection of people who have united around the common faith that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. That is to say, Christianity is based on the truth that Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world and who rules over all things. Here in the center of his hymn of praise to Jesus, having already asserted Jesus’ primacy in priority and time, Paul proclaims Jesus’ headship over the church.

Jesus is the head of the church. He is the first in priority over all creation, as such, He is the first in priority over the Church. He is before all creation and by Him, all things are created, likewise, the Church has existed because He called it into existence. He is the sustainer of all things and He is the purpose for all things, in the same way, the Church is sustained and derives its purpose from Him. Christ is the chief authority over the Church. It is His Church, He created it, He leads it, He is in charge.

In modern churches, the question of authority is often met with convoluted answers. When the question is asked, “Who is in charge at your church?” the answer usually asserts some sort of pastor, committee, deacon body, or leadership board. Seldom is the answer, “Jesus” or “God’s word.”  Yet, the truth remains – Jesus is the head of the Church. The direction of the Church is not determined by leadership or ecclesiastical polity. The direction of the church is established by Jesus Christ and His word. In general, churches have lost the fundamental understanding of authority. Many modern churches do not know how to answer the question of authority. Paul reminds his readers that Christ is the head of the church. The head of the Church is not a pastor or a deacon body or even an elder board. The head of the Church is Christ.  Though much of the Western Church has forgotten this simple truth, it remains true, nonetheless. Local churches must reeducate the congregations to understand this truth.

Re-education starts with a biblical ecclesiastical structure. In order to re-orient our churches, leadership must model submission to Christ through the word of God. Local churches must determine their leadership structure and function from the Scripture. (If you’re searching 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are good places to start.) Instructions to the congregation must be unambiguously directed from Scripture. Further, any engagement or discipleship of a believer within the community must be rooted in Scripture. Leaders must submit to Christ, recognizing that they have no authority apart from Him.

The local church and church leaders must also establish the Scripture as the central authority within their congregation. If Christ is the head of the Church, then His word must be placed at the forefront. Every congregation member must understand that they have equal spiritual authority to every other member, including the leaders. While there may be a pragmatic and structural leadership that is in place for the purpose of effective church ministry, the one supreme and primary authority is His word. The elders, deacons, pastors, committees, and directors have no more spiritual authority than any other member. They may have greater responsibility, but they share equal submission to the Word of the Lord.

Finally, the church must prize surrender. People, in general, do not value surrender. We often place a high premium on self-reliance, yet Christ models surrender. Surrender to Christ’s precepts and to the authority of Scripture must be seen as a high value. Surrender to Him as the head must be praised and acknowledged. In exalting surrender, the church will diminish pride and self-righteousness. In doing so, the church will lead the congregation to a fuller understanding of Christ’s headship.

Leaders, model Philippians 2 for your flock. Christ is the head… act like it.

Colossians 1:17: Brief thoughts

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Before the light burst forth into the void, before the waters that covered the earth laid their torrent upon the land, before the land rose to peaks and habitable pastures, and before the earth existed, Jesus, the Christ, existed. He was there before time. He was there before the fall of man that so grievously broke the communion of creation with Creator. He was present before the first leaf blossomed and directed the unfolding of all creation. His tender hand saw fit to mold the earth in the beauty of His love. Every blade of grass, every creeping animal, and every aspect of creation came into existence by His voice.

Jesus is before all things. He existed before time could measure existence. Further, He created all things and “In Him all things hold together” (v.17). In the beginning, God created an earth that was filled with beauty and was perfect. Mankind’s sin fractured and damaged that creation to the point of continuous slow decay. As a result, death entered the world and now death rules. However, Jesus’ grace upon creation has not ceased. So great was the sin of man that all of creation could have been justifiably obliterated. Yet, God saw fit to redeem His creation and in love worked to sustain that creation. In spite of man’s willful rejection of God, God acts in grace, even before Christ came to the cross. Jesus holds all things together, maintaining His creation. It is because of grace that the world does not spin out of control.

In saying that Jesus “holds all things together,” Paul is recognizing a kind of common grace to all mankind. God, in His infinite grace, allows wicked men to persist in living. He patiently waits for those who will repent and believe. His restraining hand holds back the effects of sin. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul repeats that God “gave [men] over” to their sin. In this simple phrase, Paul explains that God is restraining evil to the extent of restraining the consequences on the heart of men. So it is that common grace exists. This common grace is the grace to breathe air and live. This common grace is found in the ability to exist. It is called grace, because no one actually deserves life. The result of sin is death. The patience of God is common grace that does not demand immediate remittance of that debt. Man has rejected God. Still, Jesus holds all things together: this is grace.

Not only is Jesus sustaining life, He also makes sense of all things. In one sense He holds all things together, literally sustaining life. In another sense He holds all things together in that life has purpose and reason in Him. Jesus holds all things together because He is the purpose of creation. Creation exists to glorify God. In Jesus man is given the ability to glorify God. Thus, Jesus holds, within Himself, purpose. It is in knowing Him that trials and joys make sense. Without Him, nothing makes sense and all is meaningless. The life of a man is a vapor (James 4:14). In Jesus, life is eternal and has significance beyond the grave. Without Him, life is a meaningless mist that is here for a moment and is quickly dispelled by the winds of death. A man can either, delight in Jesus and live a meaningful life that extends beyond the momentary vapor of this temporal existence, or he can deny the truth of Christ and waste the vapor.

The glorious God of all creation has come to make Himself known to you. He is before all things. He has seen your every failing and rejection of Him. He has patiently waited for you to know Him. He holds you together. Further, He calls you to purpose. He has granted you some semblance of reason to your life. Praise God!

Colossians 1:16; Brief thoughts

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Jesus is God. He is not a created being, nor is He dependent on anything for existence. He is God and by definition, He has life within Himself. All life stems from Christ, for “by Him all things were created” (v.16). It is for this reason that we understand “firstborn” in verse 15 to be referring to primacy and priority rather than temporality. For indeed, Jesus is the creator and it is by Him that all things are made.

The extent of His creation does not simply end with what the eye can see. Rather, Jesus created everything! That which is visible: the trees, land, humanity, and the like; and that which is invisible: the spiritual realms, air, and those things which are intangible. Consider for a moment the breadth of this creation. Jesus has made that which mankind interacts with on a daily basis, both the known and visible parts of creation as well as the unknown and invisible parts. There is no thing in existence, no power that prevails on earth or heaven, and no being that has been that He did not create. Jesus has created all things.

So, Jesus created the dictator. He created the wicked politician. He created the spirits that manifest themselves in depression. He created the spirits that try to rule over humanity in His place. Jesus created these. It is difficult for any compassionate Christian to accept that Jesus created the Hitlers of this world. Yet here it stands in verse 16. Jesus created the thrones and dominions and authorities. There is no distinction of morality in this list. The only distinction made is that some are invisible while others are visible. Yet, this is the power of Jesus Christ in creation. He has created all things. Not only the things that accept His lordship and authority but also those that war against the King of Glory. He is creator over all. In this way, Jesus exemplifies an incredible benevolent love. He creates beings that will in no way accept Him as their creator and then allows them to persist. The fact that Jesus allows wicked politicians to take a breath in this life should astound the most reasonable of people. His love and patience are so great that He has created beings that exist to prove His patience. Romans 9 puts this thought in beautiful perspective when it speaks of men as clay in the potter’s hands, espousing that God has the right to create both righteous and wicked.

Not only does Jesus have the right to create whatever He pleases, He does so with an expressed purpose. All of creation has been drawn into existence “for Him” (v.16). There is a tremendous purpose for creation. It is the purpose of salvation to exalt the name of Jesus. Creation exists to show God’s character and to display His glory. All of creation, both that which is seen and unseen, exists to glorify Jesus.

Humanity, in general, denies this truth. Humanity attempts to place man at the center of creation as first priority (c.f. Romans 1:23). Yet, Jesus is patient. It is the denial of the truth of Jesus’ infinite worth and priority that causes so many of the problems within the western church. When churches focus their activity around the preferences of human agents and not around the exaltation of Christ, then the church becomes ineffective and worthless. It is the role of all creation to glorify Jesus. It is the role of the church to model how to do that.

Colossians 1:15; brief thoughts

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Sin blinded the eyes of mankind so that no man could see God. The very image of God was marred and broken by the fall of man. In the beginning, God created mankind in the image of God and commissioned man and woman to spread His image and glory across the world (Genesis 1:26-28). Yet, Adam sinned and as a result, the image of God was shattered (C.f. Romans 5). As history has progressed, God’s image has become more and more depraved through the work and sin of man. Indeed, so great is the fall of man, that man no longer resembles the image of God.

The loss of this image is the loss of communion with God. God’s creation has been severed from Him by sin: the willful rejection of God by the beings that are supposed to reflect Him. God began His work with the intention of spreading His own image across the earth. His mission has not changed. Christ comes as the image of God. He is the perfect reflection of the glory and character of God. Being God, Himself, Christ is God. Thus, when you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father (John 14:9). That severed communion is re-created and restored in Jesus Christ. In knowing Jesus, we can know God.

The image of God is the son of God. He is the heir to all that God has. Jesus, being one with God, is also distinct as the second person of the Trinity. He is the Son. He is the image of God and bears the same essence as God, yet remains uniquely individual. His position in the Trinity is best understood in human terms as, Son. In this way, we can understand that He inherits all the wealth of God. This is what is meant by “firstborn.” This is not to say that Jesus was a created being. He was not created. He has been God from the beginning (c.f. John 1:1-5). He was not created but born. The terminology of birth here is specifically addressing priority. Jesus is firstborn of creation in the sense that He is the first in priority.[1]

Jesus is the image of God, and the firstborn. Consider for a moment the implications of such truth. In Jesus, men can see what is invisible. The invisible God of all creation is made visible in Jesus Christ. Further, He is the One on whom priority in all things rest. He is the first to be worthy. He is the first to be recognized. He is the first to be worshiped. He is the first to receive glory. He is the first to be honored. He is the first to speak. He is the first to whom one should listen. He is the first in authority. He is first in position. He is first in majesty. He is first in mankind’s affections. He is the first to work. He is the first! He is first. There are too many things and people to which western Christianity ascribes priority. Too many things take the place of first priority over following and knowing Jesus. Yet, Jesus remains first. If anything else stands in front of Him, then truth is lost.

Jesus is not granted the priority based on man’s acceptance of that order. Rather, Jesus is given priority because that priority is the truth. Jesus being firstborn does not depend on man’s opinion of His position or authority. He simply is firstborn. He is the Son of God. This is truth and it needs no validation from humanity. All the earth could reject Jesus Christ and still, He remains: the image of God, firstborn.

 

[1] For a fuller examination of this I recommend John MacArthur’s commentary on Colossians.