The Way of Jesus: Colossians

In the Way of Jesus, we walked through different letters from Paul to churches and church leaders in the first century.

Video of  Colossians from The Bible Project:

Audio of the Overview of Colossians:

Notes from the Overview of Colossians:

We can learn a lot about Paul because the book of Acts tells much of his story and through the letters he wrote to churches and church leaders.

  • Last verse of Acts 8 introduces us to Saul who was there when Stephen was killed by the nationalistic and religious mob. 
  • Saul’s devotion to God meant he was trying to purify Israel so the Messiah could come. 
  • He thought killing Christians would help with that! Miraculously he was blinded by a vision of Jesus in which he heard Jesus’ voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me!” 
  • Saul surrendered his life to Jesus and now became one of his greatest advocates! A church planter, missionary, and author of most of the letters of the New Testament. 

Colossians should be dated circa AD 60, in the same year as Ephesians and Philemon.

Written from prison in Ephesus or in Rome.

Paul was in prison so much because the message of Jesus was subversive! It was counter cultural to the pagan world and the religious world!

The Bible Project describes the letter in the following sections

Colossians 1:1-23 – The Supremacy of Jesus

Colossians 1:24-2:5 – The Sufferings of Paul

Colossians 2:6-23 – The Pressures of the World

Colossians 3-4 – The Resurrection Life

The Supremacy of Jesus

What Jesus did for us is spiritual, it’s cosmic, it’s out of this world, it’s unseen.

Colossians 1:13-14

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

But what He did for us has practical applications

This is a real letter written to real people whose lives were changing.

Paul met with Epaphras the pastor of the Colossian church which Paul did not start, but he is so moved by what Epaphras tells him that he affirms them.

Colossians 1:6-8

the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. 

May that description be true of us!

  • The message of Jesus bearing fruit in our lives and through our lives!
  • Loving in the Spirit (a supernatural kind of love we cannot manufacture on our own)
  • Living a life worthy of the calling we have received. We do the right thing because we are grateful that Jesus did everything for us! Created us on purpose and with a purpose. Died for us. Rose from the dead defeating evil and death. Giving us His Spirit to live a life for Him.

Throughout Paul’s writing we see this beautiful dance between what we do as followers of Jesus and what God does for us and how helps us.

Colossians 1:9-12

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Here’s what God does for us:

  • Knowledge – experiential not just information
  • Wisdom and Understanding – “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” reverence, respect, awe so much so that you want to do what He wants for you. Relying on His wisdom rather than being “wise in your own eyes”
  • Helps us live a life worthy of the calling we received, bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, strengthened by His power (same power that rose Jesus from the dead according to Ephesians 2), able to endure and remain patient, and give joy
  • Qualified us to share in the inheritance as holy people in the Kingdom of light

So then back to the verse I read earlier about what God has done for us when He walked among us. 

Remember God rescued us from darkness and brought us into a new Kingdom. Through the Son of God we have redemption and forgiveness of sins.

Listen to this incredible description of who Jesus is.

Colossians 1:15-20

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

If you want to know God, you look at Jesus.

Jesus is God! 

Jesus was with God the Father and God the Spirit in the beginning. An eternal community in loving relationship. Out of His love He created humanity. He created you and me!

“If God was SMALL enough for you to completely understand him, He wouldn’t be BIG enough for you to completely trust him.” – RickWarren

Some of us have created a version of God that we can control. In doing so, we miss all of who He is! Let Him be who He is and allow Him to guide us rather than us try to guide Him. (For more, see Understanding the Trinity)

Here’s why God came to be with us and gave His life for us.

Colossians 1:21-23

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. 

The Sufferings of Paul

Paul then goes into how he is contending for their faith and for their spiritual growth. (Colossians 1:24-2:5)

“to contend” literally means to “struggle upon, appropriately with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith”

The Pressures of this World

A passage that really revolutionized my life!

Colossians 2:6-7

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

How did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord?

Paul used the same phrases and even the same pattern in all of his letters to the churches. 

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Live our lives by grace through faith.

We choose to follow Him by faith.

He gives us new life because of His grace.

Even more remarkable, we can ask for faith as a gift from God! 

“Help me with my unbelief!”

Paul goes into what God did for us and how that changes us. 

Colossians 2:9-15

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

We have to be reminded of who we are in Christ! The world wants us to forget!

When we mess up – “oh right! That’s the old me! That’s not who I am anymore!”

Buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk a new life!

It’s a spiritual transformation we cannot always see. 

“Disarmed the powers and authorities”

What darkness and evil thought was that they were winning – that they were defeating the Son of God. What they did not realize was He planned to give His life all along!

So in the rest of Colossians 2, Paul goes on to remind the Colossians – you don’t have to live the same way anymore! You don’t have to give in to the pagan philosophies or the religious traditions you used to which by the way were not transformative!

The Resurrection Life

Colossians 3 he goes into a passage similar to what we read in Ephesians and Galatians before. He is writing about taking off the old life and putting on the new life in Christ!

Colossians 3:1-11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Paul used the same phrases and even the same pattern in all of his letters to the churches. 

Universal Discipleship Pattern by Thom Wolf

How did Paul establish leadership-so quickly, so solidly, so reproducibly-that became the basis for the Christian Church?

Answer. He had a pattern, a standard-a standard that could be received personally, that could be remembered easily, and that could be reproduced strategically.

This standard is referred to in II Timothy 1.13: “Retain the standard (hupotuposis) of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” It is the “pattern (tupos) of teaching” to which Christians were handed over. (Romans 6.17)

Paul and the early church had a standard, a pattern, a model which he taught in every church in every place he went. It was a tupos that was to be received, retained, remembered, and reproduced. It was the universal discipleship model.

Colossians and Ephesians give the pattern in the clearest and most complete form. This is probably because Paul is writing forward, addressing principles, not backward, addressing problems. All Paul’s epistles are basically arranged as belief and behavior, instruction and ethics, doctrine then duties, Christ’s fullness then our following.

THE ROCK

Jesus is the Rock to build your life on, God’s Foundation. (Matthew 7.24‑28; 1 Corinthians 10.4; Ephesians 2.19-22; 1 Peter 2.6‑8.)

FOLLOW

Through whatever process and time, the person must come to personal commitment, surrender to Jesus as Lord and God, and follow Him (John 20.26‑31; Acts 8.26‑40; Romans 10.8‑15).

WALK

Personally, the new believer must begin to walk worthy of Christ. To do this, s/he must put off the old style of living-old vices, and put on the new life in Christ-new virtues.

WORD / SPIRIT

Socially, there is a positive response or a negative reaction to the life changes of the new believer (see I Peter 4.1‑5): some are attracted, some are repelled. Either way, the personal life transformation (from the putting off/putting on) impacts the convert’s circle of influence (the oikos/’household’ composed of family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends).

The core decision here is “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3.16) and “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5.18)

What follows in the universal discipleship pattern is identical in order in both Colossians and Ephesians:

ATTITUDES:T-S-T-S 4 Definite Mindsets:
Teaching with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
Singing with your heart to the Lord
Thanking God for all things, and whatever you do in word/deed, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus
S-ubmitting to one another in reverence of Christ
ACTIONS:5 Dual Sets
Wife: submit

Child: obey

Slave/Employee: work hard

Insider: devoted to prayer

Christian: be in subjection

Husband: love

Father: train

Master/Employer: be fair, just

Outsider: wise/seasoned speech

Authority: praise good, punish evil

WARFARE

Spiritually, the disciple will be tempted to think that people are the enemy. But that is not so. We are to

  • Watch and Pray: as a wrestler (Eph 6.12) for our struggle is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
  • Stand and Resist: as a warrior (Eph 6.13) and put on the whole armor of God

WITNESS

Those who believe and join us are those who have come to know Jesus as their Rock, and the universal disciple pattern is retained, remembered, and reproduced.

Colossians 3:12-25

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

The Wrath of God

Interpret the Scriptures with the Scriptures

“the wrath of God is coming” andrepaid for their wrongs”

#1 God Is Slow to Anger.

“God, are you angry like my dad?”

Some of us in this room have been victims of a parent-figure’s anger.

Maybe our parents weren’t physical, but many of us grew up in a toxic environment. And to think that hasn’t affected us as adults is simply a fantasy.

That anger of others turned some of us into perfectionists, and we’re never really happy with our performance.

For others of us, the anger we learned in our upbringing bleeds out into our own friendships and family, and we find that we have a hair-trigger response sometimes to the people we love.

And, finally, anger is one of the primary emotions we project onto God. He’s angry and vengeful, and so I don’t really want to know him, or we wonder if he’s angry at us for our many sins and shortcomings. Just in the quiet of this moment, any of you want to admit in your heart that the anger of other people has twisted how you see God?

Exodus 34:6 says to his people and to you and me, “One thing you gotta know, I’m slow to Anger.”

Human nature means we get mad when God’s love extends beyond us – especially to others with whom we disagree, differ, or despise.

Yes, God gets angry about sin. But his anger doesn’t change his posture towards you.

We want justice but not if it is because of the things we have done.

God’s character (Exodus 34 He defines it) is love, compassionate, kindness, bestowing favor on 1000 generations who love him. But He also is Just–and we want that. That’s why we complain about evil and injustice–why doesn’t God wipe out all evil, he’d have to wipe us all out.  

So his wrath is a response from his love–I hate the evil that hurts my children–love motivates that. God loves all people, but when people so cling to evil–for 100s of years of God’s warning (which is what makes it feel like God’s angry all the time–he keeps warning Israel in OT for 100s and 100s of years), but when it still gets worse until God finally stops protecting from the consequences of the evil people want–when he lets go, he often allows evil to bring consequence to evil–always in hopes of individuals and communities turning to God. 

So all Nineveh did turn, and with Canaanites–Rahab the prostitute and others were redeemed. With sodom and Gomorrah God said to Abraham, yes if there are even 10 people whose hearts are not hell-bent on evil, I’ll spare the whole city in hopes that those 10 can turn people back to love.

“Then the Lord … called out his own name, Yahweh. 6 The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.” Exodus 34:5-7 NLT

God dealt with evil on Cross so that he could do away with Evil without doing away with us.  But to deliver us from Evil means we have to choose to let him be God–rightful ruler to call the shots in our life so that evil doesn’t deceive us, so we become what God intended.

From Greg Boyd (quoted in an article by Scot McKnight):

We may thus state the Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal as follows: God judges sin, defeats evil, and works for the redemption of creation by withdrawing his protective presence, thereby allowing evil to run its self-destructive course and ultimately to self-destruct.

Yet, we shall see that our cross-based faith also requires us to discern that God is doing this in hopes of eventually redeeming these people and as a stepping-stone ultimately to causing all sin and evil to self-destruct.

So what about divine wrath? 

I will argue that the cross reveals, and Scripture confirms, that God’s “wrath” is

(1) one and the same as his decision to abandon people to their sin,

(2) redemptive in intent (up until the final judgment),

(3) something that grieves the heart of God, and

(4) is his strategy for causing evil to self-destruct.

Colossians 4:1, 9 

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. 

For more on Philemon and Paul’s slavery advocating freedom for a slave, One Hit Wonder: Philemon.

Colossians 4:2-6

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

“We are not trying to convert anyone. We are just trying to help those who are searching and they are everywhere!” – Erwin McManus

 

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