10 TRANSFORMATION Colossians 3:1-17Philippians and Colossians – Joyful Living in Christ
All written materials for this series will be posted on this website, http://servingandsharing.com/, under the category, “Philippians and Colossians – Joyful Living in Christ.” Here is my video presentation introducing this series – https://youtu.be/VBg_Wdyu104. The video of this specific class presentation, as well as all the others in this series, will be posted to this YouTube playlist as they are recorded – Faith Builders Class: Philippians, Colossians: Joyful Living in Christ – YouTube. Please use the “Contact” button to request corresponding handouts and outlines.
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Are you afraid of heights? One person said, “Not at all! I’m afraid of falling!” Several years ago, I had the opportunity to try parasailing with my wife. We shared a small seat with a big sail above us, we were launched off the back of a boat. The higher we rose, the more closely I watched the long, thin tether that kept us attached. In my mind I practiced singing, “I’ll Fly Away!” Yet, how much brighter, grander, and sharper the whole world seemed as we rose!
“You have been raised with Christ.” What a concept!
Having warned these saints against false philosophies and self-imposed ascetic rules that cannot overcome sin, Paul now presents that which truly and effectively brings success. It is this: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, based on our identification with him in his death, burial, resurrection, and glorious return. Baptism into Christ is not only essential to receive salvation by his grace; it is the framework and springboard for the Christian’s entire life! It is simply impossible to grasp this text and then minimize or dismiss the crucial significance of baptism.
If I were to choose my favorite chapter, in all the New Testament, that captures and summarizes the Christian faith, I could not make a better choice than Colossians 3. It begins with our new identity in union with Christ and moves forward to what we “put to death” and what we “put on” as God’s saved people.
I sometimes title this chapter, “Living It ‘Up!’” Because we’ve been raised up, we look up, think up, live up, wait up, dress up, and even act up!
Col 3:1-4 SET YOUR MIND
Note how everything that follows – everything – springs from this one event, your union with Christ in his resurrection.
“Raised with Christ” leads to the question, “When?” Paul answered this already!
Col 2:12 … having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions …
Building on that …
Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ (when? In your baptism!) to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees …
It was in baptism, not before or after, that one died to sin with Christ, was immersed or buried with him, and rose again to begin a new life. Cf. Rom 6:1-4.
How could many (not all) religious leaders in denominational churches and community churches deny this explicit truth linking baptism to initial union with Christ? Some prominent men, such as John MacArthur, teach that this resurrection with Christ is a purely spiritual “baptism” in nature and that water baptism is merely an outward, later affirmation. He writes in the MacArthur Study Bible, “The outward affirmation of the already accomplished inner transformation is now the believer’s baptism by water.” Such false teaching, repeated for so long, has had immeasurable influence.
In a marvelous though mysterious sense, the Christian is now “up there” with Christ, where Christ is. His life is “hidden with Christ” in God. His life on earth is “dead,” and his new life is, even now, in heaven. Note the following.
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
As a result, of course the Christian “sets his mind” where he now exists: above!
Ro 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace …
Ro 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Col 3:5-11 PUT TO DEATH (PUT OFF)
Here the indicative (“You died to sin.”) leads to the imperative (“Put sin to death!”). Even after conversion, sin springs to life and must be executed! The KJV has the word, “Mortify!” The proof that one is truly saved by grace is not a complacent, lackadaisical attitude toward personal sin, but rather an all-out war against it.
As you read this list, you realize that these very attitudes, words, and deeds destroy every aspect of life, including marriage. When a marriage is in trouble, the cause is virtually always something noted here. Relationships are damaged by sexual immorality, greed, dishonesty, anger, malice, abusive speech, lying, and prejudice. When both spouses “mortify” these things, their marriage will thrive!
Imagine being married to someone who does not think dirty thoughts, does not lust after things or people, has no evil desires, covets nothing, is not greedy, but is content. That’s the kind of mate any married person would want. Be that Christ-like person, and allow your spouse the privilege of enjoying your rejection of personal sin.
Yet, and this is very important, the Christian’s first goal is not to have a better marriage, but to live a Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying, Christ-resurrected life! The Christian’s behavior is not based on what his spouse does or does not do, but rather on who he is in Jesus Christ. When both spouses recognize this and live by it, the fruit is a happy, healthy, faithful marriage.
It’s not, “Do this to save your marriage (though that may result)!” but rather, “Do this because you have put off the old self and put on the new self (Col 3:9-10)!”
By the way, greed equals idolatry in the sense that it sets material gain up as a god that one chooses to worship and serve. No one can serve both God and money (Matt 6:24). Greed, always interrelated to pride and selfishness, has threatened countless marriages and other relationships. Greed is wrong, not just because it can destroy your heart, your life, and your marriage, but because it means that someone or something else competes with God for your affection!
Note here, not only the grace-based motivation, but also the judgment-based reason for putting sin to death. Continued sin will be met by the holy wrath of God!
Col 3:6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience …
Note re: racism: One who’s been raised with Christ rejects discrimination, prejudice, racism, and sexism. Rather than judging others based on non-moral outward differences and labeling them, the Christian aims to see people as either dying in sin (lost) or raised with Christ (saved).
Col 3:11 … a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Col 3:12-16 BRING TO LIFE (PUT ON)
The earlier connection, “You died to sin, so put sin to death!” now leads to its parallel, “You were raised to life, so bring to life!” Again, baptism is both the transition to newness of life and the frame of reference for it.
Here we find an inexhaustible threefold source of motivation for discipleship. God’s people are  elect (chosen by God),  holy (set apart for him), and  beloved (very dear to him). In other words, we are called to become what God says we are.
“Heart” in 3:12 renders that same word we noted in Phil 1:8 (the “affection” of Jesus Christ). The Greek term refers to the intestines, the innermost part of the human body, as the seat or origin of one’s affections. No wonder these are the traits that should spring from the “heart:” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
The child of God also “puts on” (as if changing clothes) forbearance, putting up with others’ failings and weaknesses. The forgiveness received from the Lord (not the worthiness or prior behavior of others!) is then the basis for forgiving any and every complaint. Love is the key, the glue, the binding force of all things good.
For the peace of Christ to “rule” is for his peace to act as the umpire, the arbiter, the decision-maker in every conflict. When two parties see Christ himself as the peacemaker, they will seek and enact Christlike ways to reconcile. After all, in the “one body” (the church), all the parts are to work in harmony.
When the word of Christ dwells richly in human hearts, the results are evident. One will find such disciples “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
One who is “word-filled” is also said to be “Spirit-filled” in Ephesians 5. The two phrases are not equivalent, for the word is the sword of the Spirit and not the Spirit himself. However, the two are certainly related. One who is filled with the Spirit is necessarily filled with the Spirit’s message, the “word of Christ,” found only in Scripture. There is no new content beyond what is written. If there were, it would follow logically that the revealed word of God in the Bible is not complete.
Eph 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Both of these passages emphasize the importance of Christians singing when we are together. The church assembly is not mentioned per se, but the “one-another” element here certainly fits the church assembly. God specifies that the church’s “music” is to be vocal or a cappella (“in the manner of the church or chapel”). The “instrument” to be played is the human heart. There is no authority for mechanical music in the worship of the church.
Singing touches the inward (making melody in your hearts), the outward (teaching and admonishing one another), and the upward (with thankfulness to God).
Previously we noted that the sins we must mortify are the same things that destroy marriages. No one wants to have a spouse that is immoral, impure, dishonest, angry, etc. Now we note the flip side. In thriving marriages, the husband and wife are forbearing, humble, gentle, kind, and forgiving. The Christian “puts on” these attributes first of all, not just because he or she wants a better marriage, but first of all because he or she has been raised with Christ! The bonus is that he or she becomes a Christ-like husband or wife.
Col 3:17 SUMMARY
This one verse comprehends the entire Christian life. “Whatever you do” – that’s everything! “in word or deed” – all that you say or do! “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” – by his authority and as one who represents him! “Giving thanks through Him to God the Father” – an attitude of gratitude, expressed every day in every way!