A Changed Life

Text: Colossians 3:1-17

Seek the Things Above - Colossians 3:1-4

Paul’s previous point was that if a person has died with Christ, there is no reason to submit to decrees that come from the world (Colossians 2:20). This is actually a chain of statements:

  • Made complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
  • Circumcised in Christ (Colossians 2:11)
  • Buried with Christ (Colossians 2:12)
  • Made alive together with Christ (Colossians 2:13)
  • Died with Christ (Colossians 2:20)
  • Raised up with Christ (Colossians 3:1)
  • Your life is hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3)

Each is a reference to becoming a follower of Christ through baptism (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-7). “Having been raised up” refers to coming up out of the waters of baptism which represents Christ’s resurrection but also the believer’s becoming a new person (Romans 6:4).

Because you have become a new person, you need to continue to seek out things related to God and not things on this earth. That is where our Lord is (Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20) and where we desire to be. “Set your mind” is purposely giving consideration to something important. It is being intentional in your thinking. People in the world set their minds on worldly things (Philippians 3:19). They make their own desires of first importance and as a result, they glory in shameful things. Notice that it is intentional focus – they have set their minds – though the result might not be what they intended. You choose what you focus your mind on (Romans 8:5-8). Worldly thoughts crowd out spiritual thoughts and we turn against God in order to fulfill our desires.

Instead, since we have become new people (II Corinthians 5:16-17), we see everything with fresh eyes, through the lens of the Spirit (Titus 1:15-16). Our hope then is in Christ and the life we live is being directed by the Spirit we focus upon (Romans 8:11-14). Christ is in heaven and because we follow him, we ought to desire to be with him (Ephesians 1:18-21).

In essence, when you became a Christian, you gave your life to Christ (Galatians 2:20). In Colossians 3:3, the Greek tense indicates that you died once and remain that way. You trusted Christ with your life (II Timothy 1:12), so your hope is laid up in heaven with him (Colossians 1:5). We believe the promise that Christ lives and one day he will be revealed again. On that day, we too will be raised and revealed with him (Romans 6:5,10-11; II Corinthians 5:14-15).

So often we focus on winning souls for Christ and we lose sight that conversion is not the goal but the first step in a lifelong process of change (Colossians 2:6-7). To stay with Christ, to live with him, is to walk after him (I John 2:6). We cannot truly call ourselves Christians and go our own way (Colossians 1:21-23). But being steadfast and unmoveable does not mean we are not changing.

Put Off the Old Man of Sin - Colossians 3:5-9

Change means removing the chains sin holds us down with (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must lay aside our former manner of life (Ephesians 4:22). Our old man of sin was crucified (Romans 6:6-7), therefore, we consider ourselves dead to our old life.

Because we died to the world and our goal is heaven, we have to die to worldly things (Romans 6:1-2; 8:13; Galatians 5:24). There are things we once practiced but no longer.

  • Fornication - sex outside of marriage.
  • Uncleanness - moral impurity. This is the opposite of holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). It is the pursuit of sensuality (Romans 1:24). It is what is commonly associated with “dirty old men.”
  • Passion - lust, desires that are externally chased. Passion is the motivation behind sexual sins, such as homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27). It would also include pornography (I Thessalonians 4:5).
  • Evil desire - Strong desire for evil, desires that are internally chased. Again, the word is especially used in connection with sex (Romans 1:24). Evil desires war against the spiritual life (Galatians 5:17).
  • Greed, which is a form of idolatry - a desire for worldly things, most often money but it too can be connected with sex (Exodus 20:17; Ephesians 4:19). It should not be associated with Christians (Ephesians 5:3-6). It is called “idolatry” because men put more trust in these things than in God.

If we don’t put the sins of the past to death, we will face God’s wrath and be put to death ourselves (Ephesians 5:6). We should have had enough of the past (I Peter 4:1-3; Ephesians 2:3). That is why we left these things.

And lest you think it is just about sex, Paul gives an extended list of practices that should be put off like old clothes. The list is similar to Ephesians 4:29-31 and I Peter 2:1.

  • Anger - violence.
  • Wrath - heavy breathing fierceness. An example was when the Jews sought to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29).
  • Malice - acting with evil intent.
  • Blasphemy - willful vilification of another (Numbers 15:30-31).
  • Filthy language - profanity (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Lying - (Ephesians 4:29)

For Discussion:

  1. Why is “anger” listed in the things to put off in Colossians 3:8 but Paul talks about the “anger of God” in Colossians 3:6?
  2. Does Colossians 3:9 imply that Christians can lie to non-Christians?

Put on the New Man - Colossians 3:10-17

The new self must be modeled after Christ, whom we are following. As David prayed,”Create in me a new heart” (Psalms 51:9-10). We are to be transformed (Romans 12:2) to the extent that everything is new (II Corinthians 5:17). Change takes time and it takes effort.

Interestingly, Paul calls it a renewal. We are returning to the state that we once had (Ecclesiastes 7:29). The world and its sins have pulled us away from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), but Christ is putting us back into a right relationship with God. This puts a hole in the idea that we are born sinful. We are born righteous and become sinful (Romans 5:12). Being a Christian is about returning to the righteousness we had as children.

You cannot be renewed if you are carrying your past sins with you. Being a Christian doesn’t stop the temptations, but we have to consider ourselves dead to sin. In other words, it doesn’t matter how much I want to sin, the decision was made to leave sin behind in the watery grave of baptism (Romans 6:8-14). It is sin that got us into the mess our lives once were. Holding onto sin will lead to retaining God’s anger against us so we must lay aside our sins.

To leave our change as only a removal of sin results in a vacuum needing to be filled (Matthew 12:43-45). Our change must be a replacement of sin with righteousness (Romans 13:11-14). It is out with the old and in with the new (Ephesians 4:21-24). This renewal comes through knowledge. We learn what we are to become. We are born again by the word of God (I Peter 1:22-25). We escape the world of sin through the knowledge that God has given us (II Peter 1:2-4). The truth teaches us how to change. It changes how we think about things.

Change without a target is dangerous (Proverbs 24:21-22). We are to be renewed according to the image of God (Ephesians 4:24). We are children of God and we should want to become like our Father ( I Peter 1:14-16). Thus, as Christians, we are transformed (II Corinthians 3:18).

One effect of our change is that in Christ we see everyone alike. The divisions that people erect between each other in the world do not exist in the church (Galatians 3:28; 6:16; Romans 10:12; I Corinthians 12:13). The world finds reasons to divide and fight. Christians find reasons to unite. Because we realize that we are equal, we treat each other with respect. We are all holy and beloved (Ephesians 1:4-5; I Peter 1:13-16). To illustrate, Paul used common divisions:

  • Greek nor Jew - Division by nationality
  • Circumcised nor uncircumcised - Division by religion or physical traits
  • Barbarian - Non-Greek speaking nations, so division by language
  • Scythian - Consider to be the wildest and most primitive of people, so division by culture
  • Slave or freeman - division by economic status.

Thus, we put on practices toward fellow brethren as people who have been chosen by God. Our behavior toward our fellow Christians is in appreciation of what God has done for us. We put on:

  1. Tender mercies - Mercy is giving to people less than what we might think they desire. Thus, “tender mercies” are offers of mercy that come from compassion (Luke 10:33,36-37; I Peter 3:8).
  2. Kindness - Being courteous and good to others.
  3. Humility - The opposite of self-pride (Romans 12:3).
  4. Meekness - Considering self far less important than other people. Putting other people first (Galatians 5:13).
  5. Longsuffering - Willing to put up with difficult people.
  6. Bearing with each other - Especially when we have a gripe about another person (Galatians 6:2).
  7. Forgiving each other, just as Christ forgives us - (Ephesians 4:32). Too often people forgive merely a word to be stated. Forgiveness means releasing a person from any obligations to us.

Beyond all these things, we must put on love. Love is the glue that unites brethren. Literally, the Greek phrase refers to an upper garment that completes and keeps the rest together [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary]. Love is the overarching trait (I Corinthians 12:31-13:3).

We were called into one body, so we must let peace rule in our hearts. It is a choice that we must make. Literally, the Greek phrasing means to let the peace of Christ act as an umpire over your heart. Our emotions should not run wild and lawless. We must be thankful for what Christ has done for us.

Paul also urges us to let the teachings of Christ dwell within us. We can do this by teaching and admonishing each other through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Commentaries generally see the three terms as similar. I’ve heard it explained as “psalms” refer to setting the biblical poetry to music, “hymns” are taking prose from the Bible and setting it to music, and “spiritual songs” are biblical concepts set to music. Setting teachings to music makes it easier to remember. The command is to sing. Instrumental music is not implied.

Notice that the songs both teach each other what we must do but also draws us away from what we ought not to do.

At times someone will object that this passage is not talking about worship services. However, notice that the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are directed to the Lord and are done so to give thanks to God. Worship is doing those things which give praise and honor to God in a manner prescribed by God and with a proper attitude focused on God (John 4:21-24). All parts of the definition of worship are demonstrated in this passage, thus the inescapable conclusion is that we are talking about worship.

How do we know it is congregational worship? Both Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 emphasize that singing is to teach each other. Thus, we are talking about times when the church is gathered together (I Corinthians 14:26). The prior verse in Colossians mentions that we are called into one body, which is the church, and so we are to be thankful. Paul then follows it with a command to sing with thankfulness to God.

The point is Christians do what is right in the Lord, whether it is what we say or what we do. Believers do everything in the name of the Lord; that is, we do everything by the Lord’s authority. In doing so, we give thanks to God the Father because the teachings of Christ are also the teachings of the Father (John 12:49).

For Discussion:

  1. Why is thankfulness repeated in Colossians 3:15-17?
  2. Give examples of songs that teach.
  3. Give examples of songs that admonish.
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