Colossians 3

Readings for this week November 12 – 16
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A New Life

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:1-4

Paul was a pastor of people. He wrote as a pastor, whether writing to communities he had founded and was intimately connected to, or writing to churches he had only heard about and was yet to visit in person. It can be tempting to try and divide Paul’s letters up into pieces, the bits where he expounds theology and doctrine, and other bits where he focuses on more practical, ethical, pastoral matters. This would be a mistake, or at least a mistake if seen as a hard and fast rule that applies to all of his epistles. A hard and fast distinction between theology and ethics is not the best way to try and get into Paul’s world of thoughts.

So it is not a case of either-or, one-or-the-other, or one-at-time. Paul has spent the first couple of chapters of this letter constructing an argument for a certain view of Christian identity and Christian life. Now upon this foundation, in chapter three he will lay out the implications, practical and otherwise, of this new life in Christ that the Colossians have. What does it mean for Christ to be the centre of their new life? What does this mean at the level of the entire community? What is new about this Christ-centred life that distinguishes it and sets it apart from the old life the Colossians used to have? Paul is particularly keen for the Colossians to understand the practical, “real-life” effects of their new life in Christ. How does maintaining a focus on Christ alone make a difference?

Question to Consider
What is the biggest difference between your life before Christ and your life after Christ?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the new life you have given me, the new way of seeing and the new way of being. I am a new creation in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Old Clothes, New Clothes

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:5-11

The ritual of baptism in the early church was often done in a slightly different way than it is often done today. The person being baptised would take off their old clothes and then, as they emerged from the waters of baptism, would be given a new set of clothes to wear, clothes that were white in order to attest to the new life of purity and holiness they were entering in to. Today’s passage shows Paul telling the Colossians about this wardrobe change that they are to make sure they undertake.

The type of behaviour indulged in by people who do not know Christ, who do not acknowledge him, and who continue in their own sovereignly chosen lifestyle (old clothes), is not the pattern of behaviour that those who have entered a new life in Christ are to follow (new clothes). The old clothes must be thrown out, not put aside or stuffed in a drawer from where they can be retrieved but completely done away with; the new clothes must be put on instead and kept on and worn at all times, not just on certain occasions when the wearer fells like it. Paul focuses in particular on two aspects of the old lifestyle that are to be put aside for good: sexual misbehaviour (in whatever form), and dishonest, deceptive, hurtful speech.  Paul isn’t interested in the Colossians adopting new behaviour just for the sake of it. He wants them to grow in their knowledge of God, because as they do so, they will begin to see the underlying issues surrounding these areas of sex and speech (and others too, of course). They will be able to see and think straight and truly see what is going on in the fallen world around them.

Question to Consider
Why does Paul emphasise sexual relations and speech in this passage?

Prayer
Lord God, transform me for your kingdom’s sake. Let me see your world as it really is, so I can help remind of who it truly belongs to. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Life of Love

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:12-14

The world is tearing itself apart in so many ways, but if we were to focus on just two major causes of the pain and mess and trouble in this world, we wouldn’t be able to do much better than the areas of sex and speech that Paul has already highlighted. What he said in verses 9-11 was largely negative, a list of things that the Colossians were to do away with: no more lust, no more anger, pride and deceit are to be kicked to the curb and the tongue is to be tamed. Paul takes the habits of the old way of life before Christ and breaks them down and tears them apart. Now, in today’s passage (and tomorrow’s), he builds up; he takes a positive tack, putting before the Colossians the joyous vision of a new way of life, the life of the kingdom, ordered and empowered and perfectly imaged by the king himself.

Paul expands on the clothing imagery discussed yesterday, this time filling out a little more exactly what the followers are expected to be wearing: “Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Forgive each other, he says, just as Jesus has forgiven each of us. And above all other garments put on love – for love is ultimately what binds the community of God’s people together. This set of clothes, if you will, is all about the virtues possessed by those who have allowed themselves to be possessed by Jesus, those who have a completely new identity and status in him, and as found in the community of believers together.

Question to Consider
What do you have in your life now that you didn’t before, that has helped you see who you truly are in God?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, clothe me with love. May my life be one that exhibits your love to all, that shows what the love of God is like and how it transforms us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Fruits of a Christ-like Life

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:15-17

So what happens when God’s people, individually and corporately, clothe themselves in the garments that Paul has been exhorting the Colossians to don in verses 9-14? What will be result of such faithful living? In verse 15 Paul turns his attention to the fruits of such Christ-like behaviour and how such fruit is manifested in the community. The result of God’s people living God’s way is that “the peace of Christ” will rule in their hearts. This peace is not an individualistic, internal, entirely subjective “feeling” or “emotion” that each person will feel. Paul is concerned with the health and welfare of the entire community; such peace is actually closely related to the idea of “orderliness”, “control”, and “reign”. It is communal because its purpose is to unify the church around Christ, its head.

Also to live in their hearts is the “word of Christ”. They are to teach each other, exhort each other, encourage one another, as a community must do if it is to remain a community, and especially if it is to be a community dedicated to worshiping God.  From this peace will flow – because should flow – thanksgiving. Be thankful in all things says Paul. No matter the circumstances – he is writing this from prison, remember – offer thanksgiving and praise to the living God. The end of this passage is, appropriately, Jesus, who has been the focus of the entire letter. He is the Lord, the head of the church body, and the one who made such a life of praise and joy possible.

Question to Consider
How do the fruits of God in your life assist others in their lives?

Prayer
Almighty God, may my life be fruitful, not just for my own sake but for the sake of those around me, and for the sake of your coming kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Household Duties and Relationships

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 3:18-4:1

In certain places, at certain times, Paul the apostle has been criticised for the things he doesn’t say just as much as for the things he does say (however variously interpreted – often inaccurately). Today’s passage offers us a glimpse of material that often comes in for both types of (unjust) criticism. Paul offers some guidelines for household relationships, and as much as some people want to criticise him for what he says (especially with regard to wives and slaves); what he does say is remarkable in its even-handedness. The duties and expectations of wives, children and slaves are balanced by the reciprocal responsibilities thrust upon husbands, parents and masters – reciprocal responsibilities not usually mentioned in the pagan world of antiquity. What Paul was saying was incredibly revolutionary for its day.

While many people have either objected to Paul’s use of the word “submit” in relation to wives, or used it as justification for oppression that he would have been appalled at, the fact that he offers a parallel command to husbands to treat their wives with love shows how subversive of societal norms his was. Though familial roles were not necessarily identical, in the terms of love and respect they were reciprocal. Both partners in any relationship were to offer love and respect to the other regardless, even (shockingly as we read it today) slaves and their masters. What Paul says here is brief, and so obviously not all he could have said on these subjects. There are many details beyond these basic injunctions that he would have expected the Colossians to work out for themselves.

Question to Consider
Why does Paul emphasise household relationships like this?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me show love and respect in all my relationships, so I may be a witness to your love and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)