A word of expectation: Notes on Colossians part 11
The final part today!
The connection between 2:20 and 3:1 should not be missed. An established pattern of Christian relationships (3:1-4:6) is aptly joined to the main matter of the letter. Compare the different application in Ephesians.
The Pattern is a general one:-
I. The Christian and Christ Col 3:1-7
II. The Christian and the (local) church Col 3:8-17
III. The Christian and the family Col 3:18-21
IV. The Christian and the workplace Col 3:22-4:1
V. The Christian and the outsider Col 4:2-6
The Application is an appropriate one:-
- Elitism misunderstands the extraordinary privileges of 3:1-4. Living in Christ they are still living in Colosse. It is time to return to earth from fantasy land. Though seated in the heavenlies with Christ sin is not yet vanquished, depravity eradicated, nor the fight won. Mortification (the Christian variety) is a permanent obligation, since Christ is coming – and so is the wrath of God!
- Elitism promises a heavenly unity above the strife and the doctrinal differences. It is an illusion. Reality is spelt out at length in 3:8-17. It is humbling stuff. It is hard to ‘bear with each other’ (13), to tolerate and cope with our brothers and sisters, to forgive as the Lord forgave us (imagine). Let peace rule in the assembly (15).
- Paul teaches a subordinationist ethic. Resurrection life does not cancel social realities that are part of the created order, either in the home or the household of God. ‘The Son would no longer be the kind of Son we know him to be if he ceased to be obedient to, and dependent on, the Father’ (Barrett).
- Elitism characteristically has problems with both heavenly and human authority. In familiar form, total devotion to sectarian leadership easily permits a disregard of the authority of Christ the Head (3:19). And while obedience to Jesus as Lord may necessitate rejection of corrupt authorities (Acts 4:19), nevertheless Romans 13:1-7 remains normative. See 1 Tim 6:2.
- Bold preaching in a hostile environment, with battling in prayer, seems to be the regular standard for Paul and his fellow-workers (Ephesians 6:10-18 is an intriguing commentary). But winning the outsider is our proper calling rather than securing trophies from within the churches for our select company of ‘saints’.
The Colossian believers had received Christ as Lord. They are urged now to live in Him, according to the Faith as taught them by that faithful minister of Christ (and of Paul), Epaphras (1:7; 4:12, 13). It is a familiar N.T. exhortation (e.g. 2 Tim 3:14f; Heb 13:7f).
For those privileged to serve both gospel and church, Elitism, a form of manic Christianity, is only one of many threats to Christian unity and stability. But, if Paul is our mentor, here in this letter it gives us an incentive to preach the Word of God in its wholeness, namely the mystery of Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL
A word of exhortation: Notes on Colossians part 10
Colossians 2:6-7: The core appeal from Paul to the Colossians was ‘Remain true to your beginnings’.
‘The virtual identification of the tradition of the facts about Christ with the believer’s experience of the living Christ himself is here strikingly illustrated’ (Moule p.89).
(Reflect on 1 Cor 3:10f; 1 Cor 15:1,2).
2:8-23 Watch out for aspiring Kidnappers (8), Detractors (18) and Spiritual Snobs (18). All are committed Elitists. They itch to ‘capture’ your allegiance for their notions (philosophies), take you to task for neglecting their religious obligations, and pronounce you to be second class citizens of the Kingdom for lack of their alleged attainments. Contemporary applications are legion, and are the responsibility of the preacher, who knows the times in which he lives and the people he is called to serve and protect.
How Paul negates the influence of the Elitist is of value to Pastors:-
IN CHRIST the Colossian Christians have already found spiritual ‘reality’. Union WITH CHRIST is theirs.
Elitists are ever in danger of ‘inflation’, i.e. becoming spiritual swells. That the Corinthian Elitists were ‘puffed up’ is repeatedly recorded in 1 Corinthians. This term (largely limited to Christian literature, AG) is found otherwise only here Col 2:18.
As the Colossian believers have died to ‘religion’ why do they want to have anything more to do with ‘human piety, human self-justification, human conjecture’ (Barth)?
Paul’s Misgivings: Notes on Colossians part 9
Based on Colossians 2.1-5
These are concerned with,
- Discouragement (2:2)
Elitism depresses the humble saint, who feels ‘disqualified’ and inadequate. (John Woodhouse, in his recent Focus Commentary on Colossians is outstandingly perceptive on this and other consequences of ‘super-spirituality’)
Elitism divides the congregation. The road to Christian unity is by way of the stunning reality of Col 3:11, which Elitism consciously or otherwise denies.
‘Now for the first time Paul expressly points to the danger facing the church’ (O’Brien). ‘Deceived’ here, otherwise only in James 1:22, suggest an intriguing connection in view of 2 Tim 3:13f. No doubt it was all very plausible (see Thesaurus!).
Paul’s Message: Notes on Colossians part 8
From Col 1.25-27:
Paul’s commission was ‘to preach without reserve the whole Gospel of God’ (Lightfoot). The mystery (singular), long hidden, has now, by deliberate divine choice, been made known in its completeness to all nations. No further mysteries remain into which one can be initiated! ‘Glorious riches’ refers to present Christian experience, since ‘the reign of Christ has already begun so it must be capable of realisation now as well as in the future’ (Lightfoot). See Philippians 1:21
Paul’s Ministry: Notes on Colossians part 7
What strikes home here is the implicit rebuttal of ‘triumphalism’. Paul presents a pattern of ministry very different to that of the Elitist.
- For the church’s sake Paul endures suffering (joyfully!) exemplified by his prison chains (4:3-18). Consider Philemon 1:9, 10, 13, 23. The pain of being treated ‘like a criminal’ (2 Tim 2:9) is shared by many leaders of the worldwide church today.
- For the believer’s sake Paul endures a struggle, the result of bringing spiritual babes to maturity. 1:29 remains a significant N.T. definition of ‘power for service’. Here the energy of the Risen Christ is powerfully at work in Paul’s apostolic labours, the proof of which wonderful endowment is… exhausting toil willingly endured! The Christian Pastor is a ‘working man’, a labourer. See O’Brien pp. 90, 91.
- For Elitism, the power of Christ’s resurrection raises one above struggle and frustrating suffering into the realm of ‘magical’ ministry. Reflect on 1 Cor 4; 2 Cor 4; 2 Cor 11.
Notes on Colossians part 6
The Word of Exposition (Colossians 1.15-23) = "This is the Gospel"
Never ending speculation as the provenance of this section can divert us to the recognition that,
- This exposition tells us what Paul means by preaching Christ
- This exposition, in all its parts, has special reference to the Elitists.
Thus, a complete understanding of Christ (2:2,3) leaves Elitism with nothing of spiritual reality to offer (2:4-17).
1. Church and Cosmos (15-18)
The identity of the God of Israel with the Creator of the Universe was axiomatic in O.T. So in N.T, concerning the Lord Jesus.
2. Supremacy and Sufficiency (19-22)
Sufficiency (completed achievement) is attainable only because of Supremacy (crowning authority). Paul speaks of the final reconciliation of cosmos (All Things) and his elect people. Additional mediators are unthinkable.
3. Christ and Him Crucified (15-22)
The flow of the ‘argument’ that leads from Christ’s universal Lordship to the brutal physicality of his death, in blood and nails, is definitive of the gospel, and challenges the churches as to their Message and Ministry.
4. Steadfastness or Submission (23)
The call to stand by the apostolic and catholic Gospel, thus rejecting the fraudulent daydreams of the Elitist is the ‘Heart of the Matter’ (O’Brien).
PRAYER: Notes on Colossians part 5
In Prayer, Colossians are further reassured.
1. Their spiritual Privileges (12-14)
Future secured (12)
Present secured (13-14)
2. Their spiritual Progress (9-10)
‘Knowledge' leads to ‘worthy living’ which leads to 'growing knowledge'
3. Their spiritual Power (11)
All Power is necessary for endurance, the continuance in the Faith that is the central exhortation of the letter (2:6,7).
A question to think about: Why is there a strong emphasis in this letter on Thankfulness?
HOPE: Notes on Colossians part 4
A key word in Colossians is HOPE:
- Hope in Colossians refers to that which is stored up for the believer in heaven (Col 1:5), as well as at Christ’s future appearing (Col 3:4).
- Hope in Colossians refers to a confident assurance of a future, given by God (Col 1:12). It is normal Christian experience.
- Hope in Colossians arises from an experience of the indwelling Christ, so it cannot disappoint us (Romans 5:5). Col 1:27 is quintessential ‘Colossians’!
- Hope in Colossians guards against all attempts – doomed to disappointment – to claim possession is this life of that which belongs to the age to come.
- Hope in Colossians, as in 1 John 3:3, never suggests spiritual passivity (Quietism). In every strand of the letter Paul calls for growth to maturity – it is what his ministry in the Church was all about (Col 1:28-29).
- Hope in Colossians is an indispensible constituent of a full gospel proclamation (Col 1:23). Our great Salvation lies in the future at Christ’s coming (Col 3:4), although wonderfully anticipated by ‘Christ in you’ (note 3). Read Col 1:12-13 again.
- Hope in Colossians has to do with future rewards, of which Paul is unashamed to speak (Col 3:24).
Notes on Colossians part 3
A word of Truth
A word of grace
A word of Life
The catholicity of the gospel (6:23) is a token of its divine origins and power (Bruce)
This stands in stark contrast to the heretical teaching with its appeal to a select group of initiates.(O’Brien)
Their Faith in Christ (4)
Their Love for all the brotherhood (4)
Their Hope of glory (5)
3. That in Epaphras, a native of Colosse, they have been given a wholly trustworthy evangelist and teacher (7)
Reliable in his report to them of Paul’s gospel.
Reliable in his report to Paul of the Spirit’s work among them.
Note on Colossians part 2
Here's one way of dividing the text that I shall follow:
Initial greeting (1:1,2)
- Word of Endorsement (1:3-14)
- Word of Exposition (1:15-23)
- Word of Explanation (1:24-2:5)
- Word of Exhortation (2:6-23)
- Word of Expectation (3:1-4:6)
Final greetings (4:7-18)