About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 3:1-17

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Rules For Holy Living  (ch. 3:1-17)

 

Paul says here in verse 1 to set your hearts and your minds on Christ "since you have been raised with Christ.  I mentioned earlier that we were raised with Christ when we first believed.  We died with Him in repentance, and we are raised with Him in faith.  This is a difficult issue to grasp.  You can review my comments on this subject in my Romans commentary, chapter 6, verses 1 to 4.  In brief,  Jesus died on the cross in our place.  Therefore, when God saw Jesus being punished for our sin, in one real sense of the word God saw all mankind on that cross.  Think of it this way.  If the leader of the United States congress visits the President at the White House, only one person is visiting the president.  That being said, he represents many men and women in the congress.  Therefore, one man in one sense of the word is a multitude of men and women.

 

The same is true with the resurrection.  If Jesus' death is representative of all our deaths, in like manner, His resurrection is representative of all our resurrections.  God not only saw Jesus rising from the dead.  He saw all mankind rising from the dead.   

 

Paul encourages us to set our hearts and minds on Christ who is seated at the right hand of God.  Note that both our hearts and minds must be on Christ.  We cannot separate our hearts from our minds.  I understand that some people are more heart orientated while others are more intellectually orientated.  It may be hard to keep that balance, but we should try.  Beyond our individual attempts at this balance, the balance should be clearly evident in the local church community.  There it is easier to maintain balance because in every community there should be both mind and heart orientated people.   

 

Note that Jesus sits at the right hand of God as stated by Paul in verse 1.  The term "right hand" in relation to authority in first century Greek culture did not necessarily mean that one sat at someone's right hand.  It merely meant that one ruled alongside of another.  God is invisible.  He may not actually have a right hand, or at least a right hand as we know it.   The point to be made here is that Jesus, right now, rules alongside of God.      

 

Right now, God and Jesus are in heavenly places.  We need to turn more of our attention away from earthly things and set our hearts and minds on heavenly things.

 

Why should we set our hearts and minds of Jesus?  The answer is in verse 3.  "We have died with Christ".  You can refer back to what I've just said in verse 1 for an understanding of dying with Jesus.  

 

The other reason Paul gives in verse 3 for setting our hearts and minds on Jesus is that we are hidden in Christ.  The Greek word "kripto" is translated as "hidden" in this verse.  It means to cover, conceal, or keep secret."  There are a few different ways that people have looked at this.  One general consensus is that God has covered us in the sense that He protects us.  He has concealed us in a secret place where it is just Him and us.  Some think of this in terms of intimacy.  As in the intimate places where only a husband and wife experience sexual union, there is an intimate place where God and us experience a spiritual union that the world does not, or cannot, know.          

 

In verse 4 Paul says that "when Christ who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."  Paul says a couple of things here.  He first says that Christ is our life.  That means that Jesus is the reason for why we now live.  The fact is that if we are dead to sin, really to self, we have replaced our life with Jesus' life.  This is done when we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives.  We actually have the life of Jesus in us.     

 

Paul also says that when Jesus comes back to the earth a second time, we will appear with Him in a glorious state of being.  I believe Paul is referring to our resurrected bodies at this point.  This is one verse that clearly tells us that the saints will return with Jesus when He returns to earth.       

 

In verse 5 Paul tells his readers to put to death or to kill that which belongs to our sinful nature.  This is pretty violent language Paul is using.  Here is where some confusion lies.  Paul has just told us that we have died with Christ but now he tells us that we must kill the evil that belongs to our sinful nature.  If we are dead and our life is now Christ's life, why do we have a sinful nature?  Again, this is hard for us to get our heads around.  You might want to read my commentary on Romans 7 where I speak to this in detail because it's the subject of the whole chapter.  I believe that our sinful nature is dead, but, as seems to be what Paul says in Romans 7, our dead sinful nature clings to us, and its rottenness infects us with sin on a daily basis.  We musts therefore deal with this sin every day of our lives.  I think this is what Paul is saying here.  Once Paul deals with the battle between spirit and flesh in Romans 7 he turns to the Holy Spirit who lives in us in Romans 8.  As Christians, we do have help in our battle with sin and the help comes from the Holy Spirit.      

 

Paul lists a number of sins here in verse 5.  Note that lust and greed are listed with adultery.  Christians think of adultery as one bad sin but Paul places lust and greed in the same boat as adultery.  He actually says that greed is idolatry.  Greed is idol worship.  That which one is greedy for is a god.   

 

The first sin is sexual immorality, which is according to the Greek, sexual intercourse outside of marriage.  Impurity means unclean.  This might be sexual uncleanness, but really, can be any kind of unclean bad behaviour.  From the Greek word that is translated as "lust", we learn that this lust simply means a strong desire for either good or evil, although in the New Testament it is always used in the negative evil sense.  It's my thinking that a good desire that overwhelms us and becomes predominant in our lives can actually be evil.  For example, there is nothing wrong with a hobby.  We all have things we like to do but if this hobby becomes addictive, it becomes sin by taking the place of Jesus in your life.  Evil desires here means to covet.  When we covet, we are not satisfied and content.  If we are not content, that means we're not content even with Jesus in our lives.  Having Jesus should make us content.  The Greek word for "greed" here is similar to the last Greek word translated as evil desires.  It simply means the addictive desire for more than what we have.  I've always said that there is nothing wrong with desire, but desire without contentment leads to frustration, and is sin.               

 

I find it interesting that Paul associates greed with idolatry, although it does make perfect sense.  If you are greedy for something, it tells Jesus that you want something more than Him.  It tells Him that He alone does not satisfy you.  You want something else in your life to put alongside of Him.  So, in that sense of the word, greed is clearly idolatry.   

 

In verse 6 Paul says, "Because of these, the wrath of God is coming."  First of all, wrath as understood in Biblical terms is severe anger.  It's an uncontrollable outburst of anger.  It's anger to the tenth degree.  God does get angry and He does explode with wrath.  That's a Biblical truth that many these days deny.  The Bible speaks of God's day of wrath.  This is seen in the book of Revelation.  I'm a Prophetic Futurist.  This means I believe the book of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled.  During the last seven years of this age, and especially the last day of those seven years, God's wrath will be displayed on humanity as never seen before.  It will culminate at the White Throne Judgment where the wicked nonbelievers are sent to the Lake of Fire as seen in Revelation 20:11 and following.

 

Until the Day of God's wrath is demonstrated here on earth God does judge the nations.  He causes nations to both rise and fall as seen in Daniel 2:21.  This judgment is not a demonstration of wrath.  It's just a matter of the Universal Judge making a judgment call on a nation and sentencing that nation to death.                         

 

It's clear to me that our western world is caught up in the sins that Paul has listed.  We are those who commit adultery.  We are greedy and lustful.  Our whole economic world is based on lust, greed, and instant gratification.  There should be no doubt in our minds that God will deal with our western nations accordingly.  It's my opinion that He has already begun the process.   

 

In verses 7 and8 Paul tells his readers that they used to walk in the sins of their human nature, but they must not do that any more.  Remember, the Roman world in which these people lived had a strong yoke over these people.  Think of this.  Men were tempted sexually back then just as much as they are today and I'd say, probably more.  Sexual immorality was everywhere.  It was part of much of the Greek/Roman religion.  Hundred of prostitutes stood by the temples.  Men would meet up with these male and female prostitutes as an act of worship.  Boys would grow up in this culture.  Leaving that behind could not have been easy.

 

Paul adds to his list of sins in verse 8.  They are anger, rage, slander, and filthy language, all sins that concern our tongue.  Of course, our tongues speak what is in our hearts.  Controlling our tongue is so important for unity, whether it's family unity or unity in the church.  We do not have to say everything that crosses our minds.                 

 

In verse 9 Paul says that you "have taken off your old self".  In Greek, this is a one time past action.  Paul is saying that at one time in the past, each one of these people has laid aside their old nature.  It therefore should have no more rule in their lives.  I said earlier that our old human nature has died but still clings to us, always bugging us, but here Paul seems to say that we have actually kicked off the old nature from our backs.   Again, this is hard for us to get our heads around.  If the old nature is dead, if we have pushed it aside, why are we still tempted to sin.  Even if we have managed to kick it aside, it is close enough to us to have its rotten, stinking effect on us.  All that being said, it's my understanding from the New Testament that once we have received the Holy Spirit into our lives, we live for Jesus and not for self, we do sin from time to time but sin is no longer our Lord.  We serve Jesus.  We do not serve sin, even though we fall into sin from time to time.    

 

In verse 9 Paul said that we had set aside our old nature.  In verse 10 he says that we have put on a new nature.  Our new self is being renewed in knowledge of the image of the Creator.  He is saying a couple of things here.  First of all he is saying that even though we have a new nature, that new nature is in the process of being renewed.  It should be constantly updated.  This is part of what salvation is all about.  Yes, we did get saved when we first put our trust in Jesus, but we are also in the process of being saved, or renewed.  Some day, when Jesus returns, we will be fully saved. 

 

Paul also says that knowledge has a role to play in the renewing process.  Part of the process of change, the process of renewing is based on our knowledge of God, Jesus and His Word.  The influence of Godís word on our minds and our thinking process goes a long way in us being renewed into something pleasing to God.  This reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 12:2.  He says that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Our minds have an important place in working out our salvation.  The problem is that too many of us donít really want to use our minds.  We would simply prefer to go to the front of the church and have hands laid on us in prayer, and be magically changed.  It doesn't work that way.  Change is a process that is based on first knowing God and His Word.  Hosea 4:6 tells us that God's people are destroyed because of their lack of knowledge.  This was true in Old Testament days and it is true in New Testament days. 

 

When it comes to real Christians, in verse 10 Paul says that "Christ is all and in all.  Things like colour of skin, economic status, whether one has been circumcised or not doesnít matter.  As we gather together as the church, the thing that matters is that we are all one in Christ.  It's a wonderful place to be in when all races, economic levels, and various types of people worship and exist together in unity.  It's really what the Body of Christ is all about.  

                      

In verses 12 and 13 Paul encourages the Colossians, to have loving care for one another, because they are Godís chosen people.  The fact of the matter is that if God has chosen us then we should choose each other.  We need to bear with one another, forgive one another, be patient with one another, and so on.  These things should be done so we can keep the unity in the Body of Christ.  God Himself is a unity.  Jesus prayed for unity among His followers in John 17.  We should do our best to have and maintain unity for the sake of Jesus.                   

 

Note that all of the good qualities that Paul lists here are qualities seldom taught in modern society.  We're taught to be self assertive.  All the good qualities that Paul lists are just the opposite of being self assertive.  This doesn't mean that Christians are door mats.  We can stand up for ourselves, and we can especially stand up for Jesus and the gospel.  On the other hand, as we make our stand we do it in a humble but strong way.  We don't become nasty.  We don't call people nasty names.  We don't rant.  We simply, calmly, but confidently speak what we believe is the truth and let the chips fall where they may.   

 

The idea that we are Godís chosen people is packed with meaning and controversy.  To the Jews of the day they understood that they were Godís chosen people.  To the Judaizers, Gentile Christians needed to become Jews in order to become Godís chosen people.  Paul is very adamant on this point.  In many of his letters he stresses the point that those who trust in Jesus are now Godís people.  This is one of the main themes of the book of Galatians.

 

Paul tells his readers to forgive your brother as Christ forgave us.  How did Christ forgive us?  First of all, He had to sacrifice His life in order to bring forgiveness to us.  Sacrifice may be required on our part as well, if we are to forgive others.  There is another point to be made here about forgiveness, and this may be a little controversial.  Yes, Christ forgave us all, yet this forgiveness is not realized on our part unless we repent. Without repentance we cannot receive the benefits of our forgiven state. It thus is clear to me that you cannot really forgive someone else unless they come with a repentant heart and want to be forgiven. You can act in a loving way towards someone who has offended you and does not want to repent, yet this act of love is not really forgiveness.  Forgiveness is something the offender receives, only after he has repented and desires to be forgiven.  The word "forgive" means to cancel, as in the cancelation of sin.  If one does not want his sins canceled then he is not forgiven.    

 

Note in verse 13 Paul is not talking about one individual forgiving the offense of another individual.  He is talking about two or more individuals mutually forgiving the offense or offenses among themselves.  Forgiveness isn't effective unless it is reciprocated.  Forgiveness is a two way street, not a one way street.  You can extend forgiveness but if it's not received then forgiveness isn't accomplished

 

In verse 14 Paul says that in all the above virtues, meaning forgiveness, patience, and humility, love binds them all together in perfect unity.  As Christians we should be united.  This is not the case in many areas of the church, but that does not mean we should not strive for unity that is based on love, which is the Greek word "agape" here, meaning selfless love.  Selfless love is the only love the Bible really teaches Christians to live. 

 

The Greek word "agape" was an outdated word used in the first century.  I guess no one was interested in selfless style love.  Therefore, the early church brought this word out of hibernation and used it in relation to God's kind of love.  That's why many people today call "agape" God's love.   

 

Verse 15 says, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace."  Paul says that peace should be the ruler of our hearts within the Body of Christ.  We are called to be in a functioning body, which is the church.  For this to work out the way in which God desires, we should live in peace as much as possible. See also Romans 13:18.  I think we often interpret this verse to say that the peace of God should be found in our hearts in all we do.  I have heard this verse quoted as a way in which we can confirm Godís will in our lives.  If peace reigns, then we are in Godís will, yet the context says differently.  Paul is talking about peace within the community of believers.  He is not talking about having peace in the individual heart to know God's will.  , have peace in your heart so you can extend it to others

 

In many places in Paul's writings he speaks of the believers being the Body of Christ.  I don't believe Paul is talking figuratively here.  We are a living body of people in which God lives by His Spirit.  When Jesus left earth God's presence in human form had left the planet.  In Acts 2 His presence came back to earth by His Spirit coming into the lives of the believers.  So, in one real sense of the word, the church, is the human body for God to live in.  We, the church, have replaced Jesus on earth. 

 

In verse 17 Paul tells the readers of this letter to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.  The Greek word "plousios" is translated as 'richly" in this verse.  This word means "wealthy, or great abundance".  So the idea here is that the Word of Christ should dwell within us in great abundance.  We should be rich in the Word of God.  Where can we find the Word of God today?  We find it in the Bible.  Therefore, you can see how important the Bible is for us.  It needs to be in our hearts, our mindís and our lives in great abundance.

 

The Greek word "plousios" is also used in the New Testament in relation to material abundance or wealth.  So in the same way we desire to be rich in this world's goods, we should want to be rick in spiritual wealth which is a good understanding of the Word of God, the Bible.  

 

When Paul uses the word "you" here it's a plural you, not a singular you.  That means he is talking about the Word of the Lord richly living among the community of believers, something I believe is sadly lacking today.  Of course, for the Word of God to be present in all of its richness in a corporate sense, it also must be present in a personal sense as well.  If the individual does possess the Word of God in his heart richly, neither will the Word of God be seen in its fullness in a corporate sense.    

 

When the Word of God dwells in us richly, we can then, with all wisdom teach and admonish one another.  Part of the reason for the Word of God to be seen richly in the community of believers is so we can teach and admonish each other.  Teaching, admonishing and even correcting one another is important in the local church. 

 

A proper working understanding of Biblical truth gives us much wisdom.  Sometimes we'd rather use Biblical passages to clobber one another over the head with, but this is not using wisdom.  The reason for the wisdom is to teach and admonish one another to bring greater health to the Body of Christ. Therefore, the importance of God's word living is us not only is for our own benefit, but for others as well.  We cannot keep this wisdom to ourselves.  I've always said, "The health of the Body of Christ is as only good as the health of the individual in the body.   

 

At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote concerning the importance of the Word of Christ dwelling within us. 

 

In Colossians 3:16 the Apostle Paul admonishes his readers by saying, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly".  Before we can draw any practicalities from what Paul says we need to understand his words from his frame of reference, not ours.  This takes a bit of grammatical exegesis, something few are willing to do.  The idea that an intellectual based study of the Bible has no practical use is a present day myth.  Unless we understand the Bible, historically, culturally, grammatically, and contextually, we can't derive all of its intended practicalities.  So, dig out your thinking caps and think this verse through with me.

 

The subject of any sentence is a noun.  A noun is a person, place, or thing.  The subject is an important word in a sentence because the sentence is all about the subject.  The subject of Paul's sentence is the word "Word".  If we are to understand what Paul is saying, we need to know what "Word" he's thinking of. 

 

Paul tells us what "Word" he's thinking of by adding the words "of Christ".  He calls the volume of words spoken by Jesus, which were later recorded in the New Testament, "the Word of Christ".  Since Jesus and God are one, we must include all God has said into "the Word of Christ" as well.  Christians understand "the Word of Christ", also known as "the Word of God", to be the Bible.

 

There's another important word in Paul's statement and that's the verb "dwell", "enoikeo" in Greek.  "Enoikeo" is the verb form of the noun "oikos".  "Oikos" is the Greek word for "house".  Therefore, "enoikeo" means "to house", as in, "the painting is housed in the art gallery".  When Paul uses this word he's thinking of "the Word of Christ being housed in us."  

 

For those who are inclined towards Biblical technicalities, the Greek verb "enoikeo" is a "present active imperative".  I'll explain that for those who aren't so inclined, but before I do, I'll say this.  Paul begins his sentence with the word "let".  He says that we must "let", or "allow", the Word of Christ to dwell in us.  This tells me that it's our responsibility to open the door of our lives to God's Word.  It doesn't mysteriously drop into our lives out of the blue, and, it certainly doesn't smash its way through the door of our hearts.  If we don't let God's Word into our lives, it doesn't get in. 

 

As I've said, the Greek word "enoikeo" is a present active imperative verb.  Don't let that scare you.  The present part of "enoikeo", or "dwell", means it's in the present tense.  Allowing God's Word to dwell in us isn't a thing of the past or a thing of the future.  It's a thing of the present.  It's a thing of this exact moment. 

 

The "active" part of "enoikeo", or "dwell", means that the Word of Christ should be actively influencing us.  It's not meant to be a dusty book on a shelf.  It's the cook book of life that provides the recipe to be the healthy Christian we're meant to be.  That's why Jesus said that man doesn't live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God's mouth. (Matthew 4:4) 

 

The "imperative" part of "enoikeo", or "dwell", means that letting God's Word into our lives isn't optional.  It's an imperative command; no different from "thou shall not kill" or "thou shall not commit adultery".   

 

So, the word "dwell" in English, or "enoikeo" in Greek, is a present (a present reality) active (actively influencing us) imperative (command).  That's what "present active imperative" means.

 

The last important word in Paul's statement is the word "richly".  Paul isn't speaking of a little bit rich here.  He's speaking of "abundant wealth".  As Bill Gates is financially wealthy, so we're commanded to be Biblically wealthy.  Some of us struggle financially on a daily basis, but when it comes to being Biblically rich, especially with all the online Bible tools at our finger tips, we can bank lots of Biblical wealth. 

 

Practically speaking, Paul is commanding us on behalf of Jesus to allow God's Word to abundantly live within us each and every day.  It should have free rule in our lives, influencing who we are and what we do.  The sad fact of the matter is that present day statistics show that less than 20% of those who call themselves Christians in the western world actually read the Bible.  Even fewer study the Bible to gain an intelligent understanding to live by.  Fewer still allow the Word of Christ to mold who they are and dictate what they do.

 

If you're looking for practicalities from this verse, the practical conclusion is that if you fail to obey Paul's command, you'll fail to survive the mounting pressure from our anti-Christ culture to cave into its cultural demands.  The Holy Spirit isn't some kind of magic pill we pop in such times of need.  He works in association with the Word of God that lives in us, and, if there is little to no Word of God housed within us, the Holy Spirit has nothing to work with.  He will find no Scripture within us to direct us, teach us, encourage us, correct us, or strengthen us.

 

"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" is more than a simple Sunday school verse, and, what I've said is more than a Greek grammar lesson.  It's the means by which we'll escape the satanic cultural deception of the last days.  The command to allow the Word of God to both live and rule in our lives is a present day imperative command.  For your own benefit, your own salvation, give the Word of God free access to mold who you are and dictate what you do. 

 

I now return to my commentary. 

 

We also see the Word of God, the Bible, in terms of singing to God and to one another in verse 16.  Singing Bible passages are a great way to learn the Bible.  Note that we sing both to the Lord and to each other.  When we worship in song we often get this idea confused and all mixed up.  One song we sing to each other and the next we sing to God, and the next we sing to each other.  Back and forth it goes.  If we seriously thought of what we were singing, we wouldn't be mixing this up so much.  Remember, when we sing to the Lord, we are really singing to the Lord.  We should sing and think accordingly.      

 

Paul closes this section in verse 17 by saying, "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus."  It is important to understand what the name of Jesus means.  It is not simply doing something and saying that you are doing this or that in Jesusí name.  It is not simply praying and attaching the phrase "in the name of Jesus" to your prayer.  Whenever you see this phrase used, you must understand that we as Christians are representatives of Jesus.  We represent His name to the world.  When we work for an employer we must do what he says or else we would get fired.  We must represent our employer with dignity.  The same applies to our lives with Jesus.  We are employed by Him to work in His Kingdom.  Therefore we must represent Him properly because we bare His name.  This is what doing things in the name of Jesus really means.  I think that many donít really see this as they should.  They see it as simply adding words to a prayer. 

 

So, whatever we do, we need to do it with thanksgiving, as if we are doing it for Jesus, as Paul says here.  Paul uses this word thanksgiving a lot.  You must realize that Paul was a very thankful person, even though he was in prison as he was dictating these words.      

 

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