There is a tremendous truth that we need to know about and to act on as Christian believers. St Paul reminded his readers in Colossae of this truth when he wrote that the truth is that all believers have entered into a faith-union with Christ in His death and resurrection.
A]. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE NEW SELF AS A BELIEVER. 3:1-4
Paul stated the truth in these words, “If then you have been raised with Christ” believing them to be true. Not only were they buried with Christ in His baptism but they had been raised to new life with Christ in His resurrection. [In fact in Ephesians 2:6 he added that believers had also ascended with Christ in His ascension and been seated in Him at the right hand of God in heaven.] Such was the grace of God for those who repented and trusted in Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
Responding to God’s grace
Such grace by God requires a human response and Paul states what it is in the following words “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
He followed that command with another similar one.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.“ [NOTE 1].
Believers had to consciously adjust their thinking to concentrate on the more spiritual aspects of their new life and less on the materialistic aspects of their former lives.
The reason for these commands?
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Their old lives had come to an end through their faith-union with Christ and their new lives were linked inwardly and intimately with Christ. Two truths are joined here.
I]. One is that the believers’ lives are so linked with Christ’s, that He has become their life. It’s a truth Paul wrote about His own life in Galatians 2:20, when he affirmed, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” When people are willing to die to themselves and allow Christ to fill them with His presence, then it allows Christ to express His life through these bodies which are yielded to Him.
Ii]. The second truth shows what would be the result of their obedience. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Any future appearance of Christ such as His coming in glory will also be an appearance of them with Him in glory. Paul does not go on to elaborate on this concept but simply saw it as the result of the believers’ faith-union with Christ in chapter 3 of his letter to them. It is a truth that could revolutionise our own lives today if we fully understood it and put it into practice. Paul describes these truths and then using the word “therefore,” he explains how they were to act on it.
B]. ACTING ON THE TRUTH AS A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST. 3:5-11.
a. Putting To Death The Old Nature
Paul recognised that believers still lived in physical bodies in this material world and needed to act on what God had done for them as new creatures in Christ.
That meant the following, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” They were to recognise any aspects of their lives that were not in accord with the will of God and put those aspects to death. He lists them as “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.“
Most of these sins are part of the works of the flesh, or the characteristics of the old flesh nature that Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:19-21. They had once lived with those characteristics, “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” But no longer were they to do so. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.“ As new creatures in Christ their outward expressions in their feelings, and even in their speech, had to be different. Because now they WERE different!
b. The New Self Has Been Put On And The Old Self Has Been Put Off
Paul concludes this section by commanding them not to lie to one another, “Do not lie to one another,” but he gives the reason why they shouldn’t lie, “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.“ NOTE 2].
In other words, the old has gone and the new has come. They are now different people from what they used to be. The old self has been put off and the new self keeps on being renewed to be more like Christ in a deeper knowledge given by Christ.
In a final statement, Paul reminds them that their sufficiency is in Christ and in Him alone, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” They were no longer to think in human terms or categories but to focus on Christ as their sufficiency and on all they had in Him. They needed no other, nor anything apart from Him, for He was “all and in all!”
Again we see that Paul’s ethics are derived from his theology. This section of Colossians chapter 3 reinforces this truth. He points out what Christ has done for His creatures in His death and Resurrection. Then he stresses the implications of those truths for the lives of His followers.
The theme in this passage is ‘newness.” They had died with Christ in their faith-union with Him and had become new with new selves to put on. That meant being focussed on their new lives in Christ and seeking those things above and setting their minds on them.
That meant living new lives by the grace of God and putting to death anything in their lives that was not in accord with the will of God. They now were different and had to live out that difference in their renewed lives.
Paul encouraged them with the reminder that the newness they now enjoyed stemmed from God’s grace in renewing them with the new nature Christ had given them, and that in Him, they had all they needed to live godly lives for Him.
[NOTE 1.] “Seek” is from [zēteō; ζητέω] meaning to seek or to desire, while “Set your mind on” is from [phroneō; φρονέω] meaning to exercise the mind, or to set the affection on or to be of the same mind. That meant actively seeking out the higher spiritual truths and setting their minds on knowing them and living by them.
[NOTE 2]. The “new” in “new self ” is [neos; νέος] meaning new in contrast with the old self. However this new self is radically different from the old self because God is renewing the believer with His power.
“Being renewed” is from a different word for “new” and is [anakainoō;nἀνακαινόω] meaning being made fresh or young, becoming radically different. Christ renews His followers to be like Himself as they open up to Him in faith and in a growing dependence on Him.
Blog.No.407 posted on Wednesday 06 July 2022.