Sermon Notes

August 24th 2018

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson August 26th

Practicing Godly Virtues / Colossians 3:5-17 (NRSV/MSG)

NRSV
3 1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

MSG
3 1-2So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. 3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

INTRODUCTION

This lesson hinges upon one crucial question: Do people know you are disciple of Christ as evidenced by your thought and behavior? Or, do people have to guess what you believe, where you stand concerning ethical matters, and to whom your allegiance is pledged? Is your life lived in the broad “sonshine” of Christian theological conviction? Or do you skirt along the theological shadows, vacillating between the message of Jesus Christ and the plethora of popular philosophical and spiritual theories that captivate the mind but misdirect the soul. These questions form the historical context for the epistle to the Colossian Church and inform the pursuit of orthodoxy (right thinking) and orthopraxy (right action) for Christians in 2018.

At it’s core, the letter to the Colossians in general, and this week’s lesson specifically, compels Christians to examine how their lives are embodied, enlightened and informed by the light of a resurrected Savior. The writer of Colossians says if we have been baptized into the light of Christ Jesus—this is a theological assertion—then we should act like it. Our theology and actions should align to reflect the behavior of individuals who have risen with Christ. God’s love as exemplified in Jesus Christ should pervade our thought and behavior so that we usher in the “kingdom” of heaven on earth by practicing Godly virtues.

BACKGROUND ON THE LESSON

The Letter to the Colossians is a missive written to Gentile Christians living in Colossae, a small village situated on the Lycus River near Laodicea in the Asia province of the Roman Empire. The Church in Colossae was established Paul’s friend and Colossian co-laborer Epaphras. While biblical scholars dispute Pauline authorship of this letter because it differs substantially in style, literary structure, social conventions and some theological assertions made in Paul’s undisputed letters, it is clear that the central controversy in Colossians—threats from aberrant doctrine from unnamed false teachers—is an issue with which Paul was intimately familiar.

Apparently, Colossian Christians were combining received Christian doctrine with philosophical teaching that emphasized heavenly visions, the worship of angels, ascetic extremism and as necessary components for achieving salvation and encountering God’s heavenly “kin-dom.” According to Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul writes to, “deal with a fashionable religious fad without depth , whose proponents floated in a fantasy world.” Seeking to bring the Colossian Church back to reality, Paul reaffirms Christ as the center of Christian faith, not the periphery. Cementing his argument in the theological wellspring of Colossians 1:15-20 (a Christ hymn refashioned from Philippians 2:6-11), in Colossians chapter 2, Paul goes tells the Church at Colossae to come out from the shadows of popular philosophy and dime-store spirituality, to the substance found in Jesus Chirst—the one who was with God in the beginning, created all things, enfleshed himself in humanity and reconciled the world to God. Then in chapter 3, Paul exhorts the Church at Colossae to embrace the risen life—a life embodied by the resurrected Jesus Christ.

INTO THE VERSES

1-2So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. 3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
Although verses 1-4 are not in the printed lesson, it is important to include them as a crucial theological pretext to the remainder of this pericope. Because Christians have been raised with Christ, they should then provide the behavioral testimony. Paul’s states that the Colossians identity is derived from their relationship with Jesus Christ as mediated by their spiritual death—through the waters of baptism—and their new spiritual new life in Jesus as resurrected people. Their minds should be centered on the things of Christ. They should look to Christ Jesus to see “where the action is.” They should look to see where the spirit of Christ resides, resists, rescues, and resurrects.

Once a person has committed their lives to Jesus, then they automatically relinquish the responsibility of navigating the steps and paths life. In the words of Carrie Underwood, “Jesus takes the wheel.” Jesus is life! There is not need for any other mystery other than that one—that life in Christ becomes about Christ. The old life is dead, all that remains is Jesus—His ministry, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection—what more does one need?

5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

In verses 5-8, Paul outlines how the Colossians should live. Hinging on the heavenly mindedness that he outlines in verses 1-4, Paul now explains how theology gives way to ethical practice—what the Colossians believe should now dictate how they live. Now listing vices and virtues, Paul draws on accepted tropes of behavior to outline how the mind of Christ should so pervade their mental and spiritual thought processes that they naturally throw off activities and character traits that do not best exemplify the life of a Christian. Paul states one must kill off everything that is connected with their old life in the earthly realm as opposed to the heavenly one.

Directly challenging the ascetic extremism espoused by false teachers, Paul does not say to dismember the body—or kill the actual physical the body. Instead, Paul indicates the ethical dimensions of resurrected embodied living. He says one should kill the vices or activities of the body that gratify the flesh over the concerns of the heavenly realm. Paul lists five vices in verse 5 and five vices in verse 8 that move from a sexual nature to more common character flaws:
1. Fornication(porneia) which is a wide-ranging term indicating general sexual immorality and particularly adultery and sex with prostitutes.
2. Impurity(akatharsia) is sexual sin that is usually coupled with porneia
3. Lust (pathos) denotes uncontrolled sexual appetites
4. Evil Desires (epithymia kake) is consuming whatever you want, whenever you want.
5. Covetousness (pleonexia) is taking whatever feels good—insatiable greed—for things or people just because one can. This behavior is akin to idolatry.

All of these activities denote a life that is shaped stuff and sensation as opposed to the God who made the stuff and the sensations. The second list of vices involves anti-social behavior through speech that cannot be tempered, making fruitful communication virtually impossible. These external vices corrupt in the same manner as the previously mentioned vices.
1. Anger (orge) that lingers can lead to destructive behavior.
2. Rage(thymos) is anger that explodes.
3. Malice (kakia) is lingering meanness and actions that intentionally harm another.
4. Slander (blasphemia) is the abuse and malicious disparagement of vilification of other people.
5. Foul Language (aischrologia) is language that can arise from malice and slander.

These vices provide a toxic environment that kills productive, loving relationships and should not be a part of Christian community.
9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

In verses 9-11, Paul continues his assault on the negative speech and sinful communication that destroys relationships by outlining the vice of lying. He forbids this individual vice because there it can lay waste to the corporate Christian community. There is no place for lies in individual relationships or in the local Church assembly because lies, and the deceit that it accompanies, can only lead to division. Likening the new life in Christ to stripping off filthy garments and robing oneself in a fine, new wardrobe, Paul establishes the basis by which the risen life should be measured—Christ and only Christ. From now own, everyone is defined solely by Jesus. There are no insiders, outsiders, rich, poor, third world or first world—no categories of distinction—Jesus is the common denominator.
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Here Paul outlines the singular virtue that Christians should cherish—agape love. If we live in agape, then we will automatically be dressed in the garments of the Spirit of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, discipline, even-temperedness, servant-hood, forgiveness. When we wear love, we are prepared for anything because love covers a multitude of sins and forgets all wrong. When we wear love, we best exemplify God who “so-loved,” and the Son who loved without limit, all the way to the Cross. Paul admonishes the Church at Colossae, and all Christians to put on love as our all-purpose garment—it fits all occasions, never goes out of style and dissolves division so that peace might reign.

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

In the final verses of this pericope, Paul explains the peace of Christ that comes from Jesus as the center. This peace flows from the Word of God in Christ and keeps all Christians in perfect tune, perfect step, and perfect thankfulness. When we let the word of Christ have the “run of the house” as Peterson puts it, it then produces a melodious chorus of people singing—no worshipping—God in every aspect of life. Words, actions, everything is surrendered to God and done in the name of Jesus. Then everyday becomes a day of thanksgiving, every moment becomes a love song to God, every breathe become a praise that is shouted to glorify God. As we go—in our days, on our jobs, through the valleys and on mountaintops—we transform people, and our world, by the word of our testimony and by our actions in love. When we live and give and service in unadulterated love for God in Christ, then it will yield fruit. Paul tells us we don’t need fads, we don’t need “a new word”, we need Jesus.

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