by Mark D. Roberts, Fuller De Pree Center, 3/6/22.
… The New Testament book we call “Colossians” is a letter from the Apostle Paul to “the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (1:2). Paul was not the one who planted the church in this city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Rather, it appears that a colleague of Paul named Epaphras did the church-planting honors in Colossae (Colossians 1:7), perhaps also in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:12-13).
From what we read in Colossians, the Christians in that city were doing well overall. The gospel that came to them through Epaphras was “bearing fruit among [the Colossian believers] from the day [they] heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (Colossians 1:6). It does appear, however, that the Colossian Christians were being harassed by teachers who sought to “take [them] captive through philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). These false teachers attempted to draw the Colossians away from focusing on the uniqueness, deity, and adequacy of Christ (2:4, 8-19, 2:-23). In particular, they were imposing upon Christians various Jewish ceremonial practices as well as other peculiar things, such as the “worship of angels” (2:18).
Paul responded to the false teaching in Colossae by underscoring the uniqueness and centrality of Christ, who alone is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Christ alone is the one through whom God “was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (1:20). Thus, those who “ have received Christ Jesus the Lord” should “continue to live your lives in him” (2:6).
Living in Christ involves seeking the things of Christ (Colossians 3:1). When we do this, we “put to death” the earthly, sinful parts of ourselves and our behavior (3:5-8). When we received the grace of God through Christ, we “stripped off the old self with its practices” and “clothed [ourselves] with the new self which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (3:9-10). It’s likely that the language of stripping off and putting on had its origin in the baptismal experience of the Christians in Colossae (and elsewhere; see 2:11-15). When people said “Yes” to the gospel, they took off their old identity and lifestyle so that they might clothe themselves with a new identity and way of living, one defined by their relationship with Christ.
This act of putting off and putting on happened decisively in the past when the Colossians first received God’s grace in Christ. But that wasn’t the end of the process of putting on. Those who believe in Jesus have more clothing to wear. Thus, Paul writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion. . . . Above all, clothe yourselves with love . . .” (Colossians 3:12, 14). What we find in Colossians 3:12-17 is our new wardrobe, which we are encouraged to put on as we seek to live with Christ as the center of our lives.
In what ways is your life based upon and centered in Christ?
Are you ever tempted by teachings that move Christ out of the center?
As you think back to when you first became a Christian, did you experience any “putting off” and/or “putting on”? (Depending on your own faith journey, this may not really have happened, and that’s okay. I first accepted God’s grace in Christ when I was six years old. My first experience of “putting off” and “putting on” was rather limited.)
What in Colossians 3:12-17 strikes you today?
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