Focal Passages: Colossians 3:5-10, 14-15, 17-21; 4:5-6
The false teachers in Colossae have been promoting a program of human-effort to achieve greater spiritual “fullness” and depth (2:6-23). Paul has exposed these fleshly attempts at Christian growth to be empty and unprofitable. Mere human effort can never result in greater godliness, only in spiritual pride or condemnation!
How then can we experience genuine Christian fullness? Every believer desires to grow to God’s glory; if we cannot do this by our own teeth-gritting discipline, how? It starts, not with doing, but with thinking. Before we can live in a more Christ-like way, we must understand what Christ has done for us, and who we now are in Him.
So in chapter 3:1-4, Paul lays out our new way of thinking: we are united to Christ. By faith, God has so united us to Jesus that His death counts as our death, and His resurrection counts as our resurrection. All our sin has already been dealt with, and we have already been accepted into God’s presence, “hidden with Christ in God.” We do not have a loose association with Jesus; we are one with Him. He is “our life,” and we are as secure before the Father as He is! Christian, this is true of you right now!
It is understanding our new identity in Christ that leads to transformed Christian living. The pattern of Christian living in the New Testament is not, “labor to become Christ-like,” but “be who you already are.” Stop acting as you did when you were apart from Christ, and start acting (with God’s help) like who God has made you in Christ! Learn to live “the resurrected life” on earth, not to gain God’s acceptance, but because God has already accepted you in Christ!
The rest of the letter provides the practical outworking of this principle in every area of life. Paul begins with our conduct toward one another in the church: there are old, sinful ways we once walked in that we are now called to “put off” and “put to death (3:5-9).” In their place, we are constantly remembering to “put on the new self, which is being renewed after the image of its creator” (3:10; cf Genesis 1:26). This means learning new ways to relate to one another, ways that reflect the character of Christ (3:11-16). We are, after all, a community of already resurrected men and women! Does your behavior in your local church carry with it the aroma of Heaven?
Paul wants to communicate that Christianity, being “in Christ,” impacts more of our lives than a few hours on Sundays and Wednesdays. So all-consuming is my new identity in Christ, that literally everything I do, in word or in deed, I am called to do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Is this how you think of your ordinary activities? This means, in our families, we are not following the culture’s code of conduct, but seeking to live a “resurrected” family life. I am a different sort of husband and father than I otherwise would be, because I am a man who is hidden in Christ with God (vv. 18-21). In the workplace, the Christian is neither harsh with his employees nor unfaithful to his employers, because he is living with the values of Heaven now, working for Christ himself (3:22-4:1). As we encounter those outside of Christ in the world, our new identity impacts our speech and actions toward them, also (4:2-5).
Christian, understand your new identity in Christ, then joyfully live it out! The life of fullness is the life with Christ at the center!
— Smith is pastor of Curve Baptist Church, Ripley.