Lessons from Colossians

Overview:  This is another letter of Paul’s letters written from prison (4:18).  Chapter 1 discusses who Jesus was, theologically (note the reference in 1:10 to “bearing fruit in every good work”).  Chapter 2 seems to be aimed at the (Gnostic) heresy, and says that Jesus is the answer, not some other way or philosophy, and don’t worry about circumcision (2:11) or diet or astrology (2:16) or worshipping angels (2:18).  Chapter 3 continues along these lines with a discussion of how our focus should be on Christ and not on worldly things.  The last two-thirds of chapter 4 (4:7 to the end) is Paul signing off.  Below are some specific verses of note from chapter 3 and the first third of chapter 4; as you’ll see, there are lots of admonitions here on how Christians should behave.

3:5 — God is angered by “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”  It’s not clear from my text, by the way, whether Paul is equating all these sins with idolatry, or just greed.

3:6 — In Christ “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman.”

3:8-9 — Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying.

3:12 — Be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.

3:13 — Forgive others as God forgave you.

3:14 — There is unity through love.

3:15-16 — “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

3:16 — Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

3:17 — Do everything in the name of Jesus and give thanks through Him to God.

3:18-21 — Wives should be subject to their husbands, husbands should love their wives and not “be embittered against them,” children should obey their parents, and fathers shouldn’t exasperate their children.

3:22-25 — “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the award of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”  By the way, let me note that it’s not clear to me from the text whether all of this passage is directed at slaves, or just the first sentence.  It might be that, since 4:1 begins with an admonition to “Masters,” it is best to read the preceding passage as all aimed at slaves.  On the other hand, only the first sentence has the word “slaves” in it, and the rest of the passage seems to be good advice to all who work, and indeed I think it is commonly cited this way.

4:1 — “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”

Finally, 4:2-6 is interesting:  “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how to respond to each person.”   Paul is asking the he and his fellow evangelists be prayed for, so that they will be effective.   That shows modesty on Paul’s part and a sense of his own limits.

P.S.  Note the reference to Dr. Luke in 4:14!