Today’s Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:1-11
“If, then”, “Since, then”, “Therefore…” – these are three ways interpreters have translated the opening words of Colossians 3. These words refer to the aspects of salvation that have been established in chapters 1 and 2—redemption (1:14), reconciliation (1:22), and regeneration (2:13). These are symbolized in baptism, in which our old lives are “buried”, and we are raised with Christ to new life. In Colossians 3 and 4, Paul will write about how Christians should live in light of their new, “above-focused” lives. In summary, these opening verses of Colossians 3 serve as a transition between theological truth and practical living.
Paul reminds the Colossians that they are already with Christ, above the sky. For right now, though, they are “hidden” in Christ. Though they already have new minds and hearts, they won’t have new bodies until Christ returns. The problem with having a heavenly mind in a human body is that we struggle with how to satisfy natural desires. If we are in Christ, we certainly can’t engage in sexually immoral practices. Sexual immorality involves sexual practices outside of covenant relationship. To pagans, sex was about worship and power. To Jews, sex was an expression of intimacy in the covenant of marriage. Sex outside of the covenant destroys it.
Words destroy covenant relationships as well. Paul warns the Colossians they cannot remain in Christ and talk anyway they want. He lists several ways to sin through speech—words spoken in anger or hate, slander or gossip, obscene language that dehumanizes others (this includes both sexual and racial slurs), and lies. In the same way that someone cheating on their spouse can destroy their marriage, Christians who talk ugly about each other can destroy a church. Rather than use “us vs. them” language, Paul reminds the church they are no longer identified by the old categories (Jew/Greek, slave/free, etc.) but are all in Christ alike.
How do we overcome these very human temptations? Colossians has already taught us that using old, human methods won’t work—we are already dead to those. Instead, we must look at another salvation “r” word—renewal (v 10). In Christ, we are given a new nature, which gives us a desire to live for God that is greater than our desire to please ourselves. This renewal is begun in an instant, but is a process that continues as long as we live. Being renewed in Christ’s image doesn’t happen through self discipline, nor does it remove the need for it. Instead, it gives us the supernatural ability to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
List all the practices in verses 5-9 that are associated with our “earthly” (human) nature. Which of them would you say are still problems in our culture today?
What is the difference between improving yourself and renewing in Christ? Do we need both? Is one necessary for the other?
We all live in the tension of having Christ’s heart in our bodies. As a class, pray that the process of being renewed in the image of Christ will take place every day this week in our bodies, minds, and mouths.