Studies in Colossians
This is the concluding section of these helpful studies in Colossians. We appreciate the time and effort expendid by our brother in their preparation.
Practical Expressions of the Hidden Life (3:5-4:6)
Mortify your members (3:5-7): We are to “mortify” (consider dead) our members. There is no uncrucified flesh in the Christian (Romans 6), but it takes a lively faith to count it crucified. To the extent that we do this, we shall know the power of His resurrection to deliver from the power of sin. There can be attendant upon life, the most appalling weakness. We must meet the conditions if we spiritually would be strong. The especially unclean sins mentioned here, one would think unnecessary for Christian warning. God knows better! The world “walks” and “lives” in them as did some of the Colossians before their conversion. If one is really saved, he may commit one of these sins, but he could never live in them.
Put off and put on (3:8-17): A series of lesser, or more common sins among Christians is mentioned. If we were not capable and in danger of committing them, we would not be warned so vigorously against them. The Christian still has the “old man” in him. So, he is to “put off” these sins as he would an old garment in exchange for new apparel. This “new man” or “new nature” (R. S. V.) that we are to “put on” is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator (R. S. V.). The new nature has been created within us; now it must be cultivated by gaining in understanding, and by the constant renewing from its Creator. Eventually, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). This fact for believers eliminates racial, national, and social distinctions; they are “all one in Christ.” Since all believers owe everything to Christ and Christ is in every individual, there can be expressed in a tangible way that “ye are called in one Body.” Along with this fellowship in equality, there still abides until we reach Heaven, social distinctions. While at the same time Christ is in all, it will be observed that wives are to submit, and children are to obey. Masters and slaves are still to maintain the social and economical relations in which the gospel found them. Christianity is not revolutionary; yet, its moral force is felt in every legitimate relationship of life. Hospitals, schools, missions, and the proper status of women have followed in the wake of Christianity. However, we must be careful to note that these are only the by-products of Christianity. The natural outgrowth of being in right relationship with the Head of the Church.
Christians are to be especially considerate in their behaviour toward other members of the Body of Christ. Lowliness, meekness, and forbearance should pervade our persons. Those entertained in the home of the saintly Robert Chapman were never allowed to speak in a derogatory way of other believers. At the first indication of heated discussion, he would say, “Better lose your purse than your temper.” Since we have been forgiven so much, we can afford to forgive our brethren. In this connection, let us ever keep Matthew 18:21-35, before us. It is the parable of the servant who was forgiven ten thousand talents and in turn refused to forgive a fellowservant of a debt to him of one hundred pence. This forgiven, unforgiving servant was cast by his lord to the tormentors. Then says the Lord Jesus, “So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” We are to forgive one another in the same spirit that Christ has forgiven us. When we love, then every other grace will be in operation. The rendering of verse 14 in the Revised Standard Version is illuminating, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. Darby translates the word “rule” by the word “preside.” Young’s Concordance informs us that this is the only place this particular word occurs, and gives as its meaning, “to act as judge or president.” Others have suggested the word “arbitrate.” Christians are to persue the things that make for peace. It is to be a ruling factor in our decisions. Abram sacrificed his rights in the interest of peace when he gave Lot first choice (Gen. 13: 8).
“The word of Christ” is to dwell within us. All that the Scriptures have to say about the Lard is to become part and parcel of us. The word “dwell” means “to be in a house,” and suggests a delightful familiarity with all that relates to Him. What we have learned, we are to communicate to others by teaching and admonishing; all coupled with singing and grace reigning in our hearts. “Whatsoever ye do” is to bear the fragrance of the Name of the Lord Jesus; nor must the ingredient of thanksgiving be left out. The almost parallel passage in Ephesians 5:18 -20, makes the fulness of the Spirit produce the same results as does the “word of Christ” in this Colossian passage. We cannot have the one without the other.
Home and work (3:18-4:1): Obviously, Christianity is not intended to make hermits, but rather homes that are adorning the gospel with a happy combination of love and order. The great head-on collision of capital and labour in our day is foreign to what is enjoined here. The unhealthy antagonisms that have been aroused have created suspicions that make cordial relations most difficult. However, both master and servant are to have their eyes upon the Lord.
Continue in prayer (4:2-4; 12-13): The Christian should not only pray in his closet but cultivate the habit of “praying without ceasing.” It is as vital to our spiritual life as is our breath to our present existence. The key-word is “watch.” Yes, watchful lest we become negligent in the matter, watchful against the intrusion of foreign thoughts; and patiently watchful awaiting the answer. Epaphras is a splendid example in prayer service. Pray for God’s servants that they may be given open doors and power of utterance. Paul desired this especially in connection with “the mystery.” It is this truth that particularly stirs up antagonism from the unconverted religious world. Paul accounted it responsible for his bonds. The Christian life is like living in a goldfish bowl. The world is eyeing us from every direction and is double-quick to note our failings. Our speech is to be gracious and salty. Says Solomon, “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd” (Ecc. 12:11). Furthermore, we should be able to give an intelligent answer to all who inquire as to the grounds of our hope (1 Pet. 3:15).
Love One Another (4:7-18)
Reading over these few verses, we readily gather the mutual interest believers had in each other. A readiness to help supply known needs is evident. There is no parade of ecclesiastical dignity. A common fellowship seems to abound. The terms, “my fellowprisoner,” and “who is one of you,” suggest this. The ignoble past of the slave Onesimus carries no stigma; he is a faithful and beloved brother. Grace can take from the dunghill and seat its objects among princes (1 Sam. 2:8). Marcus (John Mark) is now back in the confidence of the Apostle (Acts 15:37). A rash act of Mark on the first missionary journey was probably occasioned by a preference for ease, to the hardships of the missionary. Anyway, the repercussions were a falling out between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) and Paul’s justified want of confidence in Mark. “None of us liveth to himself” (Rom. 14:7). Time and subsequent behaviour have now fully healed the breach. Paul’s reference to Barnabas in 1 Cor. 9:6 indicates that they are restored to each other’s fellowship. Regarding Mark, Paul later says, “He is profitable” (2 Tim. 4:11). Those in the wrong should so amend their ways that such become as obvious as was their error. The wronged should be eager to exercise forgiveness or reconciliation. Nothing but commendation is given of Luke and his profession as a physician. Faithhealers and those Who refuse aid from medicine when necessary take note. Demas is mentioned only by name. Perhaps his love was already in the process of a division which was soon to completely yield to the enchantments of the world (2 Tim. 4:10). The saints could meet in church capacity in a house as well as anywhere else. The Epistles were to be passed on (V. 16). Archippus had received a ministry from the Lord; he was perhaps showing signs of fatigue or discouragement. Let him take heed to fulfil his God-given task. Paul gives his personal salutation to the brethren, and adds an exquisite human touch, “Remember my bonds.” “He was a man subject to like passions with us,” but he prayed, suffered, and served. His cry still reaches us across the centuries, “Be ye followers of me.”