Part 8 – Colossians 3:1-17
The doctrinal momentum that Paul has been building throughout his letter culminates in one of the most spectacular and theologically rich passages in the entire Bible. Having denounced many of the heretical teachings that were causing division in the Colossian church, Paul now resumes his relentless efforts to return these saints to the Gospel they believed from the beginning.
Paul first reminds the Colossians that there is a glorious future that awaits them in Christ, and that they should dwell on eternal things rather than earthly ones. It is essential for followers of Jesus to develop this mindset toward “the things above” because, as Paul says in his letter, that’s “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Paul says that being mindful of the reality that you have been “raised with Christ” ought to impact a your life while you are on the earth. The promise of a heavenly future with Jesus should generate a desire to “put to death” our earthly longings. Paul lists multiple specific sinful desires (sexual immorality, anger, slander, etc.) that ought to weaken as the eternal focus grows stronger.
Paul also notes that as a Christian increases their focus on eternity the lure of partiality will decrease. Partiality is the tendency toward favoritism that results from evaluating people based on earthly standards. The belief that one kind of person “ranks” more highly than another, for whatever reason, can lead to division within a church community. With the Gospel, the playing field is level. Everyone is the same. No one can “earn” their place in heaven, and anyone and everyone is invited to become a follower of Jesus. Instead of showing partiality, Paul implores the Colossian saints to exhibit a level of unity that is befitting of the Gospel. To contrast the lengthy list of sinful behaviors he warned against earlier, Paul provides a similar list of biblical attitudes (compassion, humility, patience, etc.) that promote love and harmony within the body of Christ.
- What are some examples of “partiality” (unfair favoritism) you’ve witnessed in our culture? How is this kind of partiality in opposition to the Gospel?
- Read back through the list of earthly practices Paul warns against. Which ones do you struggle with the most? How does an eternal perspective impact your ability to resist the temptation of sin?
- Now read back through the list of biblical attitudes Paul promotes. Which of these do you struggle with the most? How does an eternal perspective impact your ability to live in unity with other followers of Jesus?
It’s important for followers of Jesus to deal directly with complaints against one another. If you are aware of division between yourself and another Christian, take the necessary steps to pursue reconciliation. Make sure you approach your situation with prayerful humility.