Monday, July 22, 2013

Colossians 3 - True Spirituality

LINK: Colossians 3


BACKGROUND


This is the transition chapter from doctrinal to practical. 


Believers (and the old sinful nature) have died with Christ, and have been raised with Christ (giving us a new life) so our hearts and minds should raise toward heavenly things. The New Living Translation says to "Let heaven fill your thoughts." He is not saying this so that we are "so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good," but so that we can live drawing on the power from above to live in this world below. 

Since "Christ is all, and is in all" (3:11), Paul exhorts us to discard the parts of our former life that are not pleasing to Him and put on behavior that is according to the character of Christ.  The imagery here is like taking off old, worn out clothes and putting on new ones. 

I led a Bible Study on Colossians ten years ago where I had a dirty jacket covered with the things mentioned in 3:5-9, took it off, and put on a new one with all the characteristics mentioned in 3:12-14 written on my sleeves. It is common to have a "vice" and "virtue" list in Paul's letters (Romans 1:29-32; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-23; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). It is also common in Greek literature. I will go into more detail about the Colossians "virtue" list in the Reflection section.



As these characteristics are more and more evident, peace will be the "umpire or referee" of our heart. We will let Christ's Word dwell in us so that we can have true fellowship that involves teaching and admonishing one another so that God will be glorified. The Holman New Testament Commentary: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians says:
Scripture closely connects the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the function of the Word of God, and the goal of becoming like Christ as can be seen in a comparison list of four passages. (p.339)

The four passages are: Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-20; Galatians 5:16; and Romans 13:14. It might be good to compare them for yourself.   


"Spirituality involves the whole of human life;
nothing is nonspiritual . . . In fact, spirituality
is to be expressed primarily in the ordinary
everyday affairs and relationships of our lives."
Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs


Paul concludes the chapter by giving exhortations in those "everyday relationships" of our lives:


1) Wives and husbands - submit and love (See application section)
2) Children and parents - obey and encourage
3) Slaves and masters - work hard and be fair 


REFLECTION


Greek word definitions for the "Perfect Seven" Virtues:


Compassion - (oiktirmos) to bear or suffer with others. Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.


Kindness - (chrestotes) moral goodness, sympathetic or helpful nature in action


Humility - (tapeinophrosune) not arrogant or assertive. My friend, Carol Sue, used to define it as "a proper estimation of your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations." 


Gentleness - This characteristic is called meekness in other translations and carries negative connotations, but this definition (with my highlights) clears all of that up:
PRAÜTĒS, or PRAOTES, an earlier form, (πραϋτης, (4240)) denotes meekness. In its use in Scripture, in which it has a fuller, deeper significance than in non–scriptural Greek writings, it consists not in a person’s outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow–men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosunē [humility], and follows directly upon it, Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; . . . it is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect” (Trench, Syn. § xlii). In Gal. 5:23 it is associated with enkrateia, self–control.
The meaning of praütēs “is not readily expressed in English, for the terms meekness, mildness, commonly used, suggest weakness and pusillanimity to a greater or less extent, whereas praütēs does nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a rendering less open to objection than ‘meekness;’ ‘gentleness’ has been suggested, but as praütēs describes a condition of mind and heart, and as ‘gentleness’ is appropriate rather to actions, this word is no better than that used in both English Versions. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power  
(Vine's Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament Words2:55-56)


Patience - (makrothumia, [macros, "long," thumos, "temper"]) "Self-restraint before proceeding to action. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, p. 939) and "a steady response in the face of provocation" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2 , p. 682). 


Forgiveness - (charizomai from charis, "grace") "to give freely," to give up resentment or a claim to retaliation.


Love - (agape) " . . . not an expression of feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to 'all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,' Gal. 6:10" (Vines, p. 382).


And why do we do this? So that we have unity in the Body of Christ!


APPLICATION


Is your mind down in the gutter or does heaven fill your thoughts? What habits and practices do you need to put to death? 


I just watched a movie last night called Fireproof that is a great dramatic portrayal of the "putting off" and "putting on" principle we learned about today. I love it when God puts together what I am learning in Scripture with something else!  It deals specifically with the husband/wife relationship and the destructive nature of the old self on a marriage (including a real issue in our time, pornography, but there is nothing graphically portrayed) and the need to put those habits to death!


Most of the actors are amateurs (Kirk Cameron is the only veteran, and he does a great job.), but it is a great movie!  It would be a great discussion tool too. There is also a companion book called The Love Dare that goes along with the movie. It takes many of the virtues mentioned and has practical application steps. Love that! 

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that as believers we can put off the old self that will help us get nowhere very quickly. I pray that we can put on compassion, kindness, humility, patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and love in all our relationships. Amen.


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