Colossians 3 sermon

Here is part 3, chapter 3, of our Sunday morning sermon series.

We have been studying through the book of Colossians together these last few Sunday mornings.

 

2 weeks ago, we read through chapter 1—and were reminded of 4 ideas:

1)   The virtues of faith, hope and love still remain.

2)   The gospel still changes lives all around the world.

3)   Prayer still works.

4)   Jesus is still sufficient.

 

Last week, as we read chapter 2—we talked about goals that Paul had set for the Colossian church, to which he was writing this letter—and how these goals are still good goals for us as a church today:

 

1)   The church should have courageous hearts.

2)   The church should be united in love.

3)   The church should have understanding, wisdom and knowledge.

4)   The church should have the power to resist seductive teachings.

5)   The church should stand like an army.

6)   The church should have life in Christ (growing down and growing up).

7)   The church should be strong in its faith.

8)   The church should be overflowing with thankfulness.

 

Really, the first two chapters of Colossians, Paul is talking theology. And with good reason: remember, he is addressing false teachers that have infiltrated into the church. And the way you expose bad theology in a church is to share good theology. And Paul spends the first two chapters of Colossians talking theology.

 

But then, in chapter 3, which we will read today, he makes a shift. He makes a shift from the theological to the practical.

 

And I love this shift: to me, it’s a shift from talking about what you believe to actually living what you believe. I think we can talk shop all day long…and it won’t do much good. Talking about Christian theology doesn’t make you a Christian…just like talking about the St. Louis Cardinals doesn’t make you Albert Pujols.

 

We can believe all the right things…but if it isn’t played out in life, it doesn’t work. In the book of James in the NT, we see this…he says if you have faith, but no works or action, your faith is dead.

 

Our faith, our theology, will be made manifest in our lives. In how we act…

 

And so, all the theology that Paul is talking, takes a sudden shift to—OK, what does this look like if we live it? What does all this theology look like in life?

 

Let’s read:

 

Colossians 3 (TNIV)

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Those who do wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

 

Paul starts this section by saying, “Since, then…”

 

In some translations, it says, “therefore.” The idea being…Paul is connecting what he is about to say with what he has already said.

 

He starts by saying, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”

 

So he is linking what he is about to say with what he just said…and what he just was talking about was our being raised with Christ.

 

If you look back at Colossians 2, we see this theological statement:

 

Colossians 2:11-12 (TNIV)

11 In [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

 

It was the OT Jewish custom for the men of Israel to be circumcised…and that circumcision was a sign that the man stood in a covenant relationship with God.

 

Genesis 17:9-11 (TNIV)

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

 

Circumcision carried with it great symbolism for the Jews…it symbolized not only their covenant relationship with God, but also the cutting off of sin in their lives, the cleansing of their hearts, their dedication.

 

And so Paul, in chapter 2, is referring to this circumcision…but he says that we don’t need to undergo circumcision as it has been done for so long. Now, he says, that the cutting off of our sinful nature occurs in a different way: baptism.

 

See what he says?

 

Colossians 2:11-12 (TNIV)

Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

 

We have been circumcised with Christ through baptism…and what happens at circumcision, happens at baptism: we enter into the relationship with God, we are cleaned and purified, we are dedicated to God.

 

I want to read some passages of Scripture today that show us what baptism is…

 

Acts 2:37-38 (TNIV)

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

This occurs at the beginning of the book of Acts—which coincides with the beginning of the church. Peter has just preached the gospel on the day that the Holy Spirit came down on them—and the people asked, ‘what must we do?’ Peter’s response is to repent and be baptized.

 

And from the very beginning, become a follower of Christ included baptism.

 

In fact, if you read through the book of Acts, every story of someone becoming a Christ-follower included them being baptized. It was, and is, at this point that people enter into that relationship with Christ.

 

I Peter 3:18-21 (TNIV)

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 In that state he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

 

This passage causes a lot of confusion…because Peter, the author, is talking about Noah and the flood and the waters of the flood—and that 8 people were saved through the water of the flood on the ark. And that water now symbolizes baptism that now saves us…

 

What does that mean?

 

Well, it helps to look at it in a before/after scenario…before the flood, Noah was living in a filthy, corrupt world—tainted by sin. But, after the flood, the world was made completely new. And the water ushered in that newness…

 

Peter says that water now…baptism…ushers in a newness today in us as well. He is quick to say that it’s not the removal of dirt from our bodies that is baptism. That’s a bath. But it is the ushering in of the newness of life and he also says that it is the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. Again…it’s a commitment that one makes.

 

So, it helps to look at it in a before/after lens…let’s keep along those tracks and look at another verse.

 

Romans 6:1-7 (TNIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

 

This passage also seems fairly confusing to some on the surface…but it helps to look at it through the before/after lens as well.

 

Paul is saying…before our baptism—we were slaves to sin. We were captives to sin.

 

But then he says, in verse 2, “we have died to sin.” And verse 3, he says, “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.”

 

At our baptism, our sinful selves are put to death. What we were before, which is people stained by sin, is changed at baptism. What we are after is different.

 

And Paul, like Peter, points only to Christ. Christ was put to death for our sins…and when we are baptized, Paul says, we are baptized “into Christ” (verse 3) and “into his death” (verse 3). In verse 5, Paul says we are “united with Christ in his death” and, ultimately, “united with Christ in his resurrection.”

 

And you can even SEE that to be true…when you stand in the water before your baptism, you stand stained with sin. You stand corrupt and broken and enslaved. But then you are put to death, just as Jesus was. And when you are dead, sin can have no power over you. Paul says we crucify our sinful bodies, just as Christ was crucified.

 

Baptism is where we are united with Christ. He was put to death and buried and raised again…and at baptism, Paul says, we are united with him. We are united with him in his death and in his burial and in his resurrection. He says sins can’t control us anymore if we are dead.

 

And then we are buried…united with Christ in burial…under the water…in a grave.

 

And then we are resurrected…united with Christ in the raising of the dead. We were dead, but now we are brought up to a new life.

 

Think of the before/after lens…before, we were stained and enslaved and ruined. After…after we put that person to death, and bury him…the same power that raised Christ from the dead raises us from the dead…and we are new. What comes after is new and pure and clean and no longer slaves to sin.

 

Things change at baptism…it’s the point.

 

Going back to Colossians now, that’s what we see. Paul talks about our baptism in Colossians 2…that it is the point. The point at which things change…from the old to the new. From the before to the after.

 

Colossians 2:11-12 (TNIV)

11 In [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

 

Our sinful nature has been put off…we have been buried with him…raised with him…through faith.

 

And now, in chapter 3, Paul switches…remember…from the theological to the practical.

 

He says, since you are different after than you were before…here is how it should practically play out in your life…and then he gives us kind of a list.

 

·       Set your hearts on things above (v. 1)

·       Set your minds on things above (v.2)

 

Then he says…

 

Colossians 3:5-10 (TNIV)

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

 

I love the language of this passage…

 

He calls us to put some things to death…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.

 

He says in verse 7, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”

 

Before/After—he is reminding the Colossians that they USED to be these people. They USED to walk in these ways. They USED to live this kind of life.

 

But not anymore…they have been changed. They are walking in a new life now.

 

Then he says, in verse 8 “but now…” Because they are new. But now they must rid themselves of all such things as these…anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.

 

Then, in verse 9, he encourages the Colossians not to lie to each other…and then he says, “since you have taken off your old self with its practices and put on the new self…”

 

This is the third time in the last few verses Paul uses this kind of language: he says to put these things to death…rid yourselves of these things…and now take off these things.

 

The language is that of clothing…that we shed old clothing and put on new clothing. And that is exactly what happens at baptism…

 

Galatians 3:27 (TNIV)

27 …for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

 

The Colossians, and other Christians would have understood the picture. In these days, when folks were baptized, they would take off their old clothes and put on a special gown that was typically very clean and very white. And obviously the clean clothes were symbolic of the change that was taking place…the point of change, remember? From the old to the new. From the dirty to the clean.

 

And this is the language Paul uses…and the old clothes needed to be shed.

 

Take off: (v.5)

·       sexual immorality

·       impurity

·       lust

·       evil desires

·       greed

·       idolatry

 

These are old clothes that no longer have a place in the wardrobe of one who has been baptized and is following Christ. They are to shed these…

 

…and these things make up a pretty awful list—and they sting us today as much as they would have stung the Colossians as they originally read through the list. These old clothes can be summed up—the common denominator—is unholy love.

 

Sexual immorality is unholy love. As is impurity (meaning sexual impurity). As is lust. Evil desires too.

 

Greed—in the original Greek, this word is pleonexia (plee-on-ex-ee-ah). It comes from 2 Greek words—1) pleon which means “more” and 2) echein which means “to have.” So, literally, the word means to desire to have more. Greed is an unholy love of things—and our insatiable desire to have more of them. This is a garment we cannot wear.

 

And all of this, Paul says, leads up to idolatry. When we place anything before God, it is idolatry.

 

We must take off these clothes…but Paul doesn’t stop there.

 

In verse 8, he says, “now you must get rid of these things…”

 

·       anger

·       rage

·       malice

·       slander

·       filthy language from your lips

·       lying

 

If the last list was a list sins promoted by unholy love, this is a list of sins promoted by hate.

 

Anger and rage…these words are similar. Anger is the word orge (or-gay) and rage is the word thumos (to-moss). Rage…thumos…is a sudden blaze of anger that is quickly kindled and then quickly dies. Like fire amongst straw…it lights fast and burns out fast. Like a temper. Orge, on the other hand, is a long-lasting, slow-burning, smoldering anger, which refuses to be pacified. Both are forbidden clothes in our closet.

 

Malice…

 

Slander and filthy language and lying. Our mouths cannot be used for this kind of hate. Our speech must be kind and pure and true.

 

All of these clothes must be absent from our wardrobe, because we have shed them and been baptized and clothed with Christ.

 

BUT—do I struggle with these things? Do you? We have shed these clothes, but do we keep wandering back to the closet to find them?

 

We are getting ready for a garage sale soon…and we went through a lot of old clothes to sell. And as we go through them, you look at them and think, “Why did I ever wear that?” Or I would look at Keri and say, “Why did you ever LET me wear that?” Those clothes are hideous and ugly and look so bad on me…

 

Yet, why do I keep wanting to wear them? Why do I keep going back to them?

 

That is what Paul is getting at here…these Christians in Colossians have shed these old clothes…yet, they keep sneaking back to the garage sale pile and taking them out and wearing them again. Even though they are ugly and hideous and look bad on them.

 

The decision of what to wear is something that we make everyday…at our baptism, we shed these old clothes. But, each morning, when we wake up, we have to make a decision: do I wear these old clothes that I took off at my baptism (these clothes of unholy love or hate) or do I put something else on? Something more fitting for the follower of Christ?

 

And we have to make that decision everyday…


Paul says this:

 

Colossians 3:12-14 (TNIV)

…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

He says, when you wake up, clothe yourselves with:

·       compassion

·       kindness

·       humility

·       gentleness

·       patience

·       forgiveness

 

It’s interesting to note that all of these new clothes that we are to be choosing deal with relationships between people…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Those are the clothes Jesus would have us put on after we take off the old ones…

 

…notice what isn’t included in the list?

·       Religious-ness

·       Churchy-ness

·       Pharisee-ness

 

What’s interesting to me is that Paul gives us this list of new clothes—and then he says, “and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

 

The word-picture that Paul is giving us is that of a belt. This belt is love…and the belt does what belts should do. It holds everything together…it completes the outfit. It’s the most important part.

 

Paul says it binds all of these clothes together in perfect unity.

 

If you have been baptized…you have encountered a point in time where change occurs. Behind you is what is old, stained, dirty, sinful. To those things you were a slave. They were clothes you were wearing…and chose to wear.

 

But then you stepped into the water. And you united yourself, at a specific point in time, with Jesus. You united with his death—you united with his burial—and you united with his resurrection.

 

And just as Jesus came up to a new life, so did you. You were made clean and whole and pure and white. And now you have to points in history…you have the before and you have the after.

 

You have what you were…and you have what you are.

 

And in the after, you wear different clothes than what you wore in the before. You have shed the clothes of unholy love and hatred and now wear the clothes of compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience and forgiveness…and, above all else, love.

 

You must choose each day to wear those garments…

 

And for those who haven’t been baptized…please, unite with Christ today.

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