SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON PLAN 12 - Col. 3:1-17 - HOLY LIVING
INTRODUCTION: Since we began our study of Colossians four weeks ago, we've been hearing Paul instruct them on the theological basis of their faith. Last week, in Col. 2:6-23, he contrasted walking with Christ and being rooted and established in the faith against the "self-made religion" that the false teachers were trying to impose on them. Going into great detail, he clearly showed that these were man-made rules and requirements that were totally irrelevant to living the Christian life. This week, in Col. 3:1-17, we'll see Paul shifts gears and move from "why" to "how-to" as he moves from theology to practical instructions for Christian living. These instructions aren't legalistic religious requirements but very practical guidelines that enable the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.
Read Col. 3:1-4 - SET YOUR MIND ON THINGS ABOVE
1 Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Note: In the next ten verses, as Paul shifts from theology to practical living, he uses an "indicative-imperative" literary method, in which he first states a theological premise-the "why", followed by a practical premise-the "how-to" that results in new attitudes and behavior.
v. 1a: "Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ" - The conjunctive adverb "Therefore" links the theological section with the practical section. Since we know that Jesus was truly raised from the dead, we also know, as believers, that we have been resurrected with Him and will live forever.
v. 1b: "keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" - This is the first imperative of a changed life. The "things that are above" that we should be "seeking" are a deeper understanding of the person of Christ and His ways. That Christ is seated at God's "right hand" confirms His supreme position with the Father. This is our connection to Him-right now!
v. 2: "Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth" - The clear imperative here is that we must change the way we think, take control of which way our minds will go and won't go. This requires a lot of ongoing conscious effort and isn't easy.
v. 3: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" - This is the indicative: our old life is over and our new life, our position with God is completely secure. Even though our earthly bodies still function, we are in reality dead to this world and should be living our new life right now.
v. 4: "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory" - This is our new reality: Jesus Christ is "our life," now, here in the present, and forever, in the future. And when Christ returns, we can look forward to being with Him and participating in His glory.
Read Col. 3:5-7 - PUTTING OLD THINGS TO DEATH
5 Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
v. 5: "Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry" - "Therefore," means incorporating vv. 1-4 into practical actions-how we think and how we act. Paul is telling us here that we must cleanse our minds, i.e., make dead/mentally erase any and all thoughts and desires that relate to sexual sins and greed. Since these desires are totally opposed to God, they are a form of self-worship-idolatry.
v. 6: "For it is because of these things that the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience" - Paul is reminding us that the time is coming, maybe sooner than we think, when God will intervene in human history and hold everyone accountable and judge those who lead evil lives.
v. 7: "and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them" - Here, Paul reminds us that being freed for our former sins doesn't mean we can't be tempted by them: it's part of our daily struggle-making premeditated decisions to avoid the temptations the world throws in our path. The things that tempted us into our past sinful deeds are still out there, waiting for us to stumble.
Read Col. 3:8-11 - PUTTING ON THE NEW SELF
8 But now you also, rid yourselves of all of them: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free, but Christ is all, and in all.
v. 8: "But now you also, rid yourselves of all of them: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene speech from your mouth" - Here, Paul moves from sins of lust to sins in human relationships, listing five types of behavior that we must completely eliminate from both our speech and attitudes towards others. The "anger" Paul lists is uncon-trolled anger that is expressed toward another; "wrath" is seeking revenge; "malice" is wishing evil upon others; "slander" is spoken falsehoods intended to cause harm to another; and "obscene speech" is foul and insulting language meant to cause offense. James said it best: "the tongue is set among our body's parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell" (James 3:6).
v. 9: "Do not lie to one another, since you stripped off the old self with its evil practices" - Once our spiritually lost "old self" is "stripped-off," the standard demanded by the new, Christ-like self demands total honesty, which isn't always easy. When caught off guard, we sometimes dissemble; tell people what they want to hear or only what we want them to know. Even half-truths are still lies.
v. 10: "and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it" - To "put on" pictures taking off old, dirty clothing and putting on new fresh and clean clothing. Notice that this "new self" is "being renewed" (Present tense), which means that our transformation is an ongoing, day-to-day process, like maintaining a healthy body through a daily routine of diet and exercise-both take determination and discipline. The "true knowledge" is the Word of God, which feeds our spiritual diet and exercises our minds.
v. 11: "a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free, but Christ is all, and in all - Among God's new covenant people, there is no status in nationality, ethnicity, culture, race, gender, education, wealth or poverty. "Christ is all" and we are one people all in all-all equal at the foot of the cross.
Read Col. 3:12-17 - BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER AND FORGIVING EACH OTHER
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. 14 In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
v.12a: "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved" - God chose you, reserved a place for you, and loved you so much that He sent His only son to die for you. Now it's your turn.
v.12b: "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" - This describes essential ingredients of the new self that we must "put on." This is the opposite of the "do nots" in v. 8. These five human virtues are proactive, things we think about, plan and "put-on." We aren't born this way; it's not in our genes; its affirmative Christ-like actions we decide to do; and the more we act toward each other with these virtues, the more Christ-like our new self becomes.
v. 13: "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In this context, "bearing" means more than just tolerating others; it extends to being kind and patient with them. For Christians, "forgiving" one another, like being truthful, isn't optional, and isn't based upon whether they deserve it. The plain meaning here is that we should even forgive those against whom we have legitimate complaints. If we don't, we're holding a grudge, which is a sin of anger and bitterness. We forgive because Christ forgave us even though we were dead in our sins and deserved nothing from Him.
v. 14: "In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity"- The operative word here is agapē: a type of love we affirmatively decide to give to someone without expecting anything in return for it. It's has more to do with actions than feelings. It means deciding to love people who aren't very lovable. It can be said that Agapē love is the glue that holds the bond of unity together-and it is the catalyst that produces the virtues and caring attitudes expressed in vv. 12-13.
v. 15: "Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful" - This kind of "peace" (Gk. eiréné) isn't referring to the inward peace of mind we have as saved Christians but are positive choices made for the good of the body, the church, which is motivated by a desire to choose harmony instead of hostility, to choose reconciliation over confrontation. We might see this as exercising the fruit of self-control or "attitude adjustment."
v. 16a: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you" - When Paul penned these words in about 60 A.D. it's very likely that other than this letter, these Colossians had no written gospels or epistles to guide them. Everything they knew about Christ was based upon oral testimony they had received from Epaphras and possibly others. We can certainty see what drove Paul to be the most prolific of all NT writers-a burning desire to give young churches tangible evidence of the "word of Christ" to protect them from being side-tracked by false teaching and error. We are truly blessed today to have a complete Bible and other trustworthy spiritual resources to keep us pointed in the right direction.
v. 16b: "with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" - "Teaching " and learning are key parts of the ongoing process of "renewing self" mentioned in v. 10, and "admonishing"-correcting error with love and kindness-is a necessary part of it. Bible study and Sunday school are both types of divine exercise that help us stay in shape spiritually. Joyful singing, then and now, expresses human thought emotionally and is a vital element of corporate worship that allows all of us to express our love and praise of God-all at once. God wants to hear His "faithful people sing for joy" (Ps. 132:9).
v. 17: "Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" - This is the way the "new self" should do "everything," and it doesn't become automatic just because we're saved. It means we have to re-learn to do everything in "word and deed" in a manner that honors "the name of the Lord Jesus." First, it means we have to "strip-off" all of our old sinful characteristics (see, vv. 5 and 8), then we must "put-on" all of the Christ-like qualities of vv. 12-13 and combine them with agapē love. It's not easy and requires a lot of personal effort and sacrifice. It requires us to struggle with ourselves-to be "renewed"-every day.
APPLICATION-Paul's "How-To" Manual on Holy Living-Five Imperative Steps:
1. The first step of being "raised with Christ" demands that we change the way we think. "Setting our minds on the things above" (vv. 1-2) compels us to change the way we think and control which way our mind will go and won't go. And it's not easy or automatic and requires determination, self-discipline, and never-ending persistence-half-measures simply won't work.
2. The second step of "seeking the things above" is putting to death all thoughts and desires that relate to sins of lust. Sins of lust include sexual immorality, impurity (a dirty mind), passion (strong lustful desires), evil desire (yearning evil things), and greed (selfish ambition for more material things or power) (vv. 5-7). When our minds are filled with lustful thoughts, it's a form of self-worship-idolatry. And erasing these thoughts from out minds isn't a one-step process: its part of our daily struggle-making premeditated decisions to avoid these temptations day in and day out.
3. The third step of "putting on a new self"entails an overhaul of personal character, such as:
(a) Complete elimination of all sinful attitudes and speech towards others. This includes uncontrolled anger, wrath (seeking revenge), malice (wishing evil on others), slander (making false statements to put down another), and obscene speech (insulting words intended to cause offense).
(b) A commitment to be totally honest. This can be hard at times and requires us to think before we speak. When we're caught off guard, it's better to say nothing than the first thing that comes to mind. Being totally honest takes practice and lots of self-control.
4. The four step is the responsibility to "renew" the "new self" every day of our lives. It's kind of like getting up each day and putting on fresh, clean clothes. Just like we maintain our bodies with a healthy diet and exercise, we need to renew our new self with a daily diet of God's word that feeds our spiritual diet and exercises our spiritual minds.
5. The fifth step of "putting on" a new character requires us to take affirmative action. The traits Paul commands us to "put on" are a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." These are proactive-things we need to think about, plan, and do. Added to these is "bearing and forgiving each other." Bearing one another is more than tolerance; it means being kind and patient, too. And forgiving one another isn't optional and even includes forgiving people against whom we have legitimate grievances. All of these good qualities are to be combined with agapē love-which means loving people whether they deserve it not. Because Jesus Christ loved us enough to die on a cross for us, it's now our turn to demonstrate His love to others.
QUESTION: Can you do these five things for the love of Christ?
PRAYER: Father, your apostle Paul gives us a very hard list of things all of us need to do to put on a new self-to overhaul our personal character. Lord, we need Your Spirit and Your power to do these things-to eliminate all sinful speech and attitudes towards others, to be totally honest. This requires thought, deliberation, and self-control even before we open our mouths. Paul also tells us to take action by putting on a new heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and to be forgiving towards others. We can only do this, Dear God, with Your help and Your strength. I pray all these things in the precious name of Jesus, AMEN.