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[This is the first in an extended series of periodical meditations drawn from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.] One of the reasons we ignore certain statements in Scripture is our misguided belief that they simply don’t apply to us. For example, when the apostle Paul introduces his epistles he typically describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col. 1:1a; cf. also Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). I’...Read More

Following his standard practice, Paul addresses this letter to “the saints” in Christ at Colossae. As you know, “saints” is a precious word that has been sorely perverted. For many people it conjures up images of a painfully thin, sad-faced monastic sort of soul who looks like he’s been sucking on a lemon. Most of you are aware, I hope, that the word translated “saints” was used primarily to describe people set apart or separate...Read More

There is great and glorious encouragement in the fact that Paul begins his letters by blessing his readers with the "grace" of God. This reference to "grace" is more than a standard literary device by which letters were begun. It is a sincere prayer for the release of divine favor and power into the lives of those to whom he writes. It is also significant that at the beginning of Paul's letters he says, "Grace [be] to you," while the blessings at the end say, "Grace [be]...Read More

In the previous meditation we saw that the empowering and abiding presence of divine grace comes to us by means of the Scriptures. But let us not overlook the gift of “peace” which also flows to us “from God our Father” (1:2b). When Paul refers to “peace” he’s not talking about some superficial psychological giddiness that comes from reaping the material comforts of western society (as justifiably grateful we may be for the latt...Read More

This past Christmas I received a red and white, University of Oklahoma, sweater vest from my daughter and her husband. To say that I was profoundly grateful is an understatement. When it came time to express my gratitude, I didn’t address my sentiments to my sister, although she has been extremely generous to me over the years. Nor did I turn to my wife and say, “Honey, this is a wonderful gift. Thank you so much!” I hope you realize why. No one, at le...Read More

There are four critically important things to remember about faith and love as they are described by Paul in Colossians 1:4. First, neither can exist independently of the other. Second, they are by God’s design public virtues, visible expressions of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Third, faith is only as good as its object. Fourth, and finally, Christian love cannot be selective. Let me briefly explain what I mean. First, love without faith is sloppy and ...Read More

Prepositions are wonderful things. No, I'm not crazy. Look with me at Colossians 1:4-5 and then draw your own conclusions. Having heard of the faith and love among the Colossians, visibly and vocally displayed, Paul has declared his gratitude to God. But how did God produce these virtues in the hearts and lives of his people? Some might suggest that he directed their thoughts away from heavenly reward to earthly responsibilities. If these people are going to be of any ...Read More

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the comments of John Piper on this passage in Colossians 1:4-5. In a sermon titled "The Fruit of Hope: Love", preached on July 13, 1986, John addressed the objection that being "heavenly-minded" is a threat to earthly productivity and fruitfulness and love toward those in need. Fixing our thoughts and hopes on heaven, so some contend, doesn't produce love, but escapism. And so we must ask, writes Piper, "Is it true that when...Read More

Paul has focused on the hope we all have in Christ as the ground or fountain from which flow both faith and love. Of this hope, he now writes in Colossians 1:5-6, "you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth." Let me make four brief observations on this text. First, the...Read More

In Colossians 1:4 Paul acknowledged the love these believers have toward one another. He praises and thanks God for having evoked this in their hearts. In v. 8 he mentions it yet again, but here explicitly describes it as being "in the Spirit." Somewhat surprisingly, this is the only explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in the book of Colossians. Needless to say, there are countless activities and virtues and experiences mentioned in this book that are elsewhere in the...Read More

You may recall that in Philippians 2:25-30 Paul described a certain Epaphroditus who risked his life for the work of Christ. "Honor such men" (v. 29b), said Paul. Tragically, today we honor people in whom we find none of the characteristics of an Epaphroditus. It is the pompous, arrogant athlete, or the self-indulgent Hollywood actress, or the unscrupulous Wall-Street financial wizard who wins our praise and adoration. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the criteria by wh...Read More

Let's be sure we understand the nature of intercessory prayer. I've heard any number of definitions, but none better than that of Lloyd John Ogilvie who said that intercession is not so much my placing my burdens on God's heart but "God putting his burdens on our hearts." I can't prove it, but I suspect that God takes greater delight in blessing me in response to your prayers on my behalf than he does when I ask him myself. That isn't to say I shouldn't pray for myself ...Read More

So what did Paul pray for? What did he want most for those in Colossae? I wonder what they might have said to him had he asked, "How may I pray for you?" We'll never know, but what we do know is that Paul asked, apparently repeatedly, that God would fill them "with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Let's be clear about one thing. Simply because Paul prayed for them to know God's will does not mean we are forbidden to ask for other thi...Read More

There's a reason why I put a question mark after the title for this meditation. I'm asking whether knowledge of God, true, soul-saving knowledge of God, can be fruitless? Can a person "know" God in the way Paul describes in Colossians 1:9 and not bear the fruit of holiness? George Barna recently described 77 million church-going Americans as "born again." In my review of his book, Revolution, I took issue with this. I didn't do so because I regard myself as the infalli...Read More

There are two phrases in v. 10 that call for our careful attention. (1) Observe that Paul speaks of the need for us to walk "worthy of the Lord." The apostle uses similar language in a number of texts. For example, in Philippians 1:27 he exhorts the believers in that city to let their "manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." In Ephesians 4:1 he urges believers "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." Again, in 1 Thessalonians...Read More

Paul's prayer in Colossians 1 actually frightens some people. It is intimidating to them for one of two reasons (or both): some are afraid they won't have the power to live worthy of the Lord and to bear fruit in every good work, while others fear that once they start out in their efforts to do so they'll end up quitting, they simply won't have the endurance to persevere in what they began. So either the sense of personal weakness and spiritual impotence, on the one hand...Read More

If you are reading the ESV (English Standard Version), as I am, you'll see that the words "with joy" are placed at the close of v. 11, as if to qualify the endurance and patience that God's power will enable us to experience. In other words, this rendering suggests that perseverance and longsuffering are to be joyful, not morose and sullen, as if we were to submit to injustice and hardship grudgingly and with a long face. I certainly think the Bible teaches this, but I'...Read More

There is a slight difference between being "unqualified" and being "disqualified". In the former case, I may simply lack a talent or attribute or sufficient education to fulfill a task. There's really no shame or fault in being unqualified. We can always work harder or go to school to cultivate the necessary characteristics for whatever it is we desire to achieve. But to be "disqualified" means you are unfit for the task, you are excluded because of specific failures or...Read More

When the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, he gave an account of what happened to him on the road to Damascus. Jesus, he said, was sending him to the Gentiles "to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18). When Paul wrote to the Colossians he portrayed their salvation in almost identical terms: Yo...Read More

Jesus Christ, the one into whose kingdom we have been transferred (Col. 1:13), is also the one, indeed the only one, "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14). It isn't in the keeping of New Year's resolutions that forgiveness is found, nor in the therapy of a psychiatrist's counsel. Neither good works nor good intentions nor the cultivation of a healthy self-esteem can wipe clean the slate of our souls. Forgiveness is found only in Christ. And ...Read More

The Sea of Galilee on this particular night was unusually disturbed. A raging storm had suddenly arisen, tossing the tiny boat around like a toothpick in a whirlpool. Fearing for their lives, the disciples awakened their sleeping companion who calmly rebuked the wind and the sea and reduced the fury of the storm to a peaceful hush. Awestruck, they murmured among themselves, asking the question, "Who, then, is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41...Read More

Seeing is believing, or so we are told. But if that's true, how can we ever be expected to believe in God? Several biblical texts make it clear that God is, by nature, invisible. It isn't just that he has not been seen: he CANNOT be seen (cf. John 1:18; Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 11:27). Even here in Colossians 1:15 he is described as "the invisible God." In Romans 1:20, Paul says that God's existence and eternal attributes can be seen in the things that are m...Read More

I admit it sounds pretty weird at first, but there’s something stunning about prepositions. That’s right, prepositions. I’m really not nuts. Trust me. Yes, I’m talking about those words like “in” and “over” and “through” and “by” and “for”, just to mention a few. There is immeasurable spiritual wealth in those little words. I’m fascinated to think that God would entrust the revela...Read More

I've never been in an earthquake, and I hope I never am. I've seen quite a few tornadoes in my life. Having grown up in Oklahoma and Texas, I actually grew somewhat accustomed to hearing the warning sirens and seeking shelter in the appropriate place. But I have no idea what it is like to have the ground beneath your feet shake and split open. That is one sensation from which I've been spared. But the Colossian Christians knew what it was like. Ancient Colossae was loca...Read More

If it weren't for biblical texts like Colossians 1:18, it would be easy to get discouraged about the local church. There Paul continues his description of Jesus Christ with the statement, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." I've ministered in a lot of churches from a vast array of denominations: Presbyterian, Vineyard, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Assemblies...Read More

In my travels I've had the opportunity to visit a wide variety of churches. Not long ago I was in a mainline Protestant denominational church where I couldn't help but notice a variety of Sunday School classes that were being promoted in the foyer. On the table were a number of books to be studied in the respective classes. To say I was shocked to see a volume by the Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong is an understatement. Spong has become (in)famous in recent years ...Read More

I generally loathe tautologies. Needless redundancies drive me nuts. Saying the same thing twice when once will do generally ruins my day. Well, I hope you get my point! But there are biblical tautologies that need to be noted. They are often theologically profound and deserving of careful attention. One such tautology is found in Colossians 1:19 where Paul says that in Christ "all the fullness" of God was pleased to dwell. But what other kind of "fullness" is there: "p...Read More

After speaking at a recent conference, I was approached by an inquisitive man who asked for clarification concerning something I said about the incarnation of Christ. "Yes, you heard me correctly," I responded. "The incarnation of Christ never ends." He was understandably befuddled. "I always just assumed," he replied, "that once we were all in heaven Jesus would somehow divest himself of his human nature and revert to his former mode of existence, like he was with the ...Read More

Yes, insists Carlton Pearson, pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. But not everyone agrees. Pearson's church, whose membership swelled to 5,000 before he announced his theological convictions, has dwindled to about 500. Pearson was ordained by the Church of God in Christ, the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the U.S. According to Pearson, everyone will end up in heaven whether or not they exercise conscious faith in Jesus Christ. The doo...Read More

We considered in the previous meditation the suggestion that when Paul says "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" have been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross that he had in mind the redeemed citizens of the new creation, those who are now and will be members of the Church of which Christ is the living Head and Beginning (thereby maintaining a close connection between v. 20 and vv. 18-19). But there is another possibility that we need to consider. Ac...Read More

I don't know who it was that first conceived the idea, but one of the more durable and effective advertising schemes is the "before" and "after." I can remember as a young boy turning to the back page of my Superman comic book only to find myself looking at the less than flattering, black and white, picture of a pathetically scrawny, virtually emaciated man, under which was written one word: "Before." On the other side of the page was the impressive, color portrait of a ...Read More

Thank God that there is something "after" the "before"! Before Jesus there was only alienation, hostility, and evil deeds (v. 21). Not a very flattering picture! But now . . . (v. 22a). Oh, my. But now! Were ever more glorious words spoken to otherwise hopeless and helpless sinners? But now! Were it not for the divine and gracious "But now" we would be forever mired and entrenched in the "Always" of sin and death and darkness. There would be no purpose in speaking of a ...Read More

If "before" we were alienated, then "after" we are reconciled. What a wonderful word, reconciliation. But what does it mean? Perhaps more than any other word in the language of the New Testament, reconciliation highlights the personal and relational nature of our salvation. Justification points to the forensic (or legal) declaration that we are righteous in Christ. Redemption emphasizes our being ransomed from bondage to sin. Sacrifice has in view the Old Testament ritua...Read More

If you're among Christians, talking about politics will rarely lead to an angry debate. Disagreement, yes, but usually a civil and constructive one. Sports? Even Christians have their favorite players and teams and will defend them vigorously, but not at the expense of unity. There is a way of creating a furor, if you're so inclined. Just bring up the question of whether or not a believer can lose his/her salvation. State your position, and then duck! I've been in a few...Read More

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col. 1:24a). Does that strike you the way it does me? Who in their right mind would ever "rejoice" in their "sufferings"? I suppose people who take a perverse pleasure in pain for its own sake might conceivably utter such words (minus the "for your sake," of course). But why would a Christian, like Paul, say it? The New Testament perspective on suffering is truly unique. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus pronounced a blessing on ...Read More

Colossians 1:24 has consistently baffled and bothered Christians for centuries. Understandably so! Look at it again: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." Here are a few of the interpretive possibilities, concluding with the two I find most convincing. First, let's be clear about what this text does not mean. Paul is not saying that the redemp...Read More

If I thought, for a moment, that this life was all there was or ever would be, I would fall immediately and irretrievably into utter despair. If "this," as the beer commercial suggests, "is as good as it gets," I think I'd pop a pill or pull the trigger or find some way to escape as quickly and painlessly as possible the futility and meaningless of this life. But I have hope. I am confident that "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of ...Read More

What is your responsibility to other believers with whom God brings you into contact and relationship? Have you yielded to the temptation to give them over to someone else to warn and admonish and instruct concerning Jesus? Do you read about the life and ministry of the apostle Paul and say to yourself: "Well, that's Paul. It certainly isn't me. I'm no apostle, that's for sure. I can't possibly read how he related to others and think that I should do the same." If that'...Read More

There's simply no restrained or measured way of saying it: Colossians 1:29 is a stunning passage of Scripture! The ESV renders it this way: "For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." The NASB reads, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." There are several reasons why I'm excited about this text. Let me begin with Paul's description of his ministry. But don't disengage. ...Read More

The secret of Paul's success was not his education, his cultural heritage, his homiletical techniques, nor the appeal of his personality, but God's power working in him. To make this point he piles up, one upon another, words that focus our attention on the energy and activity of God: "For this I toil, struggling with all his ENERGY that he POWERFULLY WORKS within me" (ESV). Or again, "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His POWER, which MIGHTILY WORKS w...Read More

Paul opens chapter two of his epistle to the Colossians with this description of his prayers on their behalf: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and kno...Read More

That Paul agonized and struggled in prayer for the Colossians is obvious. That we should do the same for other believers, whether we know them or not (cf. Col. 2:1), is also beyond dispute. But what did he pray for? What should WE pray for? To answer this question we need to look closely at v. 2. There are two different ways of interpreting this passage. According to one view, Paul is informing them of his struggle on their behalf so that their knowledge of his labor an...Read More

Doubt or uncertainty isn't always bad. It can often be productive, by driving us into deeper study and investigation. If we are absolutely convinced about everything, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we face the even bigger problem of arrogance and pride. Doubt humbles. It reminds us that we are finite and that our knowledge is always subject to improvement and increase. But doubt can also be crippling in a way that undermines our relationship with God. If we are constantl...Read More

We've come to the conclusion of Paul's intercessory prayer in Colossians 2:1-3. But it's not simply a conclusion: it's more of the climax, the pinnacle, the ultimate aim, if you will, of all that Paul has prayed. Read these verses one more time: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of fu...Read More

How would you describe your faith? What characteristics would you attribute to it? Would you use adjectives like "passionate," "orthodox," "vibrant," "creative," or something similar? Or would you employ a theological or denominational tag to identify the nature of your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps you would describe yourself as being of the "Reformed" faith or as having "traditional" faith or maybe even "Word of Faith". Some, in a more vulnerable and honest moment...Read More

I desperately need the encouragement of this passage. My guess is that a lot of you do too. I need it because of what it tells me about my past and my present. Earlier in Colossians we noted how Paul emphasized our future, or the hope we have in Christ of inheriting and experiencing eternal and unchanging glory (see Col. 1:5,21-23,27). But here in Colossians 2:6-7 it is the past and present that concerns us. In order to see this we need to take note of how this passage ...Read More

So far in our study of Colossians I've avoided saying anything in depth about the problem that led Paul to write this letter in the first place. There is good reason for that. I long ago lost count of the number of theories concerning the essence of the so-called "Colossian heresy" (it probably consisted of an odd mix of gnosticism, asceticism, and an inordinate emphasis on the importance of angels; some have contended there was also a Judaizing element in it). But we c...Read More

The apostle Paul was many things, but "politically correct" wasn't one of them! He rarely shied away from using graphic and often gruesome language if he thought it effective in making a point. If he thought he could help people he wasn't averse to offending them to do it. How else does one account for the language of Colossians 2:11? There Paul declares that in Christ "you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by...Read More

Why do I believe that only believers should be baptized in water? Why am I a "credo-baptist" rather than a "paedo-baptist" (the term "credo" comes from the Latin which means "I believe," hence baptism for believers only; the term "paedo" comes from the Greek word for infant). Before I answer that question, it may be helpful to briefly explain why some Christians baptize their infants. The primary reason comes from their understanding of the relationship between Old Test...Read More

There is a fascinating phrase in Colossians 2:12 that few commentators mention. It concerns the focus of our faith. Here again is v. 12 as it is translated in the ESV – "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead." I find it interesting that Paul says our faith is in the "powerful working" of God and not simply in God or even in Jesus Christ. Of course, t...Read More

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). Someone once said that before we get people saved we have to get them lost! There's a lot of truth in that statement. The fact is, our society has virtually lost any sense of sin. Wh...Read More

Most who are reading this are in some form of financial debt. Blessings to those of you who are not! But the majority of us owe money, either on a car or a home or a student loan, or something of the sort. Although it can be burdensome, most of us can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are energized by the hope that one day it will be paid in full and we will receive from our creditors a piece of paper releasing us from any further obligation. But to be b...Read More

I believe in the existence and activity of demonic spirits. I believe that spiritual warfare is all too real, that we must be discerning when it comes to "the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11) and diligent in our efforts to "put on the whole armor of God" as we "stand firm" (Eph. 6:13) in the battle with principalities and powers. We must take seriously Paul's reminder that our primary battle is not against "flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authoriti...Read More

What an incredibly encouraging passage this is! "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15). Let's unpack it, word by word. We should begin by determining who the "He" is of v. 15 that is responsible for this remarkable triumph? Is the subject of this "disarming" God the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ or perhaps, in some sense, both of them? In vv. 13-14 God the Father was clearly the subject of ...Read More

This paragraph is probably the most difficult one in the book of Colossians to interpret. It is also difficult to apply, given the fact that the false teaching that provoked Paul to write what he did doesn't find a perfect counterpart in our day and time. But there are enough parallels between what the Colossians faced in the first century and what we face today to make our study of this text relevant and meaningful. Perhaps the best way to unpack this passage is to pro...Read More

There is a sense in which divine grace will always be a threat to human nature. Why a threat, you ask? Because grace undermines our efforts to justify ourselves. Grace runs counter to human pride and that impulse we all feel to boast in our own accomplishments. Grace requires that we defer all praise to God. Grace undermines our best efforts at establishing a list of requirements and prohibitions that we can impose on ourselves and others as the condition on which we gai...Read More

Coaches today, at all levels of athletic competition, will often deliberately get themselves kicked out of a game as a way of motivating their team. They may well have to pay a fine and perhaps lose the respect of certain fans, but they regard it as worth the price if it will serve to light a fire in the hearts of otherwise lethargic and apathetic players. When Paul tells the Colossian Christians, "Let no one disqualify you" (v. 18a), he used a word that in ancient time...Read More

Perhaps the most insidious form of legalism is asceticism. Not all asceticism is bad. Many in the church could do with a little self-discipline and self-restraint. We live in an overly indulgent society in which at times the only sin seems to be abstinence. Paul referred to godly asceticism when he spoke of buffeting his body and making it his slave, preparatory to running a race so that he might win (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Sinful asceticism, on the other hand, is the sort th...Read More

Regardless of where I go or where I speak I can always count on at least one constant reality, one common thread that unites all Christians and all denominations and all churches: they all struggle with the temptation to sin and want to know how to defeat it and break free of its paralyzing grip. I've said many times and written of it in my books that the church, to a large degree, has failed in its well-meant efforts to equip Christians to wage war against the world, t...Read More

Among the many incredible statements in Psalm 16, consider David's declaration in v. 2 – "I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'" I fear that if I were honest with myself I'd be forced to identify a number of things in life I consider "good" that bear no relation to Christ Jesus. I'm grieved by that. It's another way of saying that my life isn't nearly as Christocentric (now that's a word worth memorizing!) as it should be. This is wh...Read More

Gnosticism is an insidious evil. Whata-cism? Gnosticism. Indeed, few things are as great a threat to godly Christian living than the modern manifestations of this ancient heresy. Some of you may not be familiar with the term, so allow me to briefly explain the sense in which I use it here. One of the more fundamental elements in Gnosticism is its disdain for the material, earthly realm in favor of a spiritual or other-worldly orientation. This is because matter is inher...Read More

My life is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3)! More than that, there is a sense in which it isn't even my life. It's Christ's (Colossians 3:4). It's true of you, too, if you believe in the Lord Jesus. What a powerful declaration! Let me catch my breath and I'll try to make sense of these stunning statements. First, though, we mustn't overlook the fact that your life is "hidden" only insofar as you are "with Christ." In other words, if you don't have Christ you...Read More

I opened the previous meditation by saying, with Paul, that my life that is now hidden with Christ isn't even mine. It's his (Colossians 3:4). More than that, this life of Christ within me, though now somewhat concealed, will someday be fully revealed. Listen to Paul once again: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). What does it mean to say that Christ is our life? And what are we to expect when he finally appear...Read More

The Puritan theologian John Owen (d. 1683) once wrote, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you” (Works, VI:9)! Good advice, or melodramatic overreaction? Sadly, many professing Christians opt for the latter, at least in terms of how they live. How radically different is Paul’s attitude toward sin from that of the world and, tragically, a great many in the church. In this age of seeker-sensitivity one does not often hear the word “sin” sp...Read More

If I were asked to identify the two most dominant features of our society today, I may well opt for (1) unbridled sexual self-indulgence and (2) greed. If there is any justification in that selection, Colossians 3:5 is uniquely relevant for our day. In this passage Paul gives us the first of two lists of five sins that we are to slay (v. 5a) and strip away (v. 8; it is here that we find the second list). The ESV renders the verse as follows: “Put to death therefor...Read More

Where does one draw the line between a legitimate longing and covetousness? It’s not a razor’s edge, that’s for sure. The line is often fuzzy. The boundary between the two is not always as objectively discernible as we might wish. The problem is that we don’t always understand our own motivation. Why do I long to possess that new car? What accounts for my desire to have more than what I currently own? Would more “stuff” serve a utilit...Read More

Among the many distortions of biblical truth in our world today, few are more egregious than that of Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker in their horribly mis-titled and misleading book, “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts” (IVP, 2000). The focus of the book is their repudiation of Christ’s death on the cross as a penal substitutionary sacrifice. My primary concern in this lesson, however, is less wit...Read More

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:8). O.K., Paul, we agree with you about slander and obscene talk. Those are verbal actions over which we can exercise a measure of control. We can choose not to speak ill of someone or to use inappropriate language. Whether or not we do so is up to us. We can just keep our mouths shut! But how can you tell us to put away anger and wrath and malice? ...Read More

Following the other sins of the tongue, and somewhat singled out from them, is this brief but crucial command: “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9a). So easily written. So easily recited. So easily ignored.   I don’t want to commit another sin of the tongue by giving myself to overstatement, but it’s hard to imagine a more destructive force in the body of Christ (or in marriages or in routine relationships) than lying. Virtually everythi...Read More

Put to death sexual immorality. Avoid covetousness. Stop lying. Do this. Don’t do that. Taboos. Prohibitions. Commandments. Rules. Enough already! At least, that’s how some feel when they read Colossians 3. The fact is, Paul does provide in quite some detail a list of proscribed activities. Later in the chapter he will insist on a display of compassion and kindness and humility and any number of other moral virtues to govern our relationships with one anothe...Read More

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “What is God doing in me, why is he doing it, and how?” Sadly, we often respond to that question with simplistic and unbiblical answers that cater to personal preferences and conform to what we want the Christian life to be. There are, in fact, a number of different but compatible images, models, and metaphors in the New Testament that account for and explain the Christian life: it’s a war, it’s a...Read More

"All that Matters is You, O Lord!" (Colossians 3:11)...Read More

What does it mean to be “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12a)? We’ll get to that, but right now it may be more important and instructive to take note of the context in which these terms are found. Don’t think for a moment that Paul wasn’t keenly aware of what had preceded in chapter three and what would immediately follow. He’s been talking, rather forcefully and graphically, about our ethical responsibility, our mo...Read More

The garment of Christian godliness is seamless. It isn’t a patchwork of virtues sewed together and therefore just as easily pulled apart. The life that truly reflects the beauty and goodness of Jesus is unified in its display of the many, interrelated qualities that he embodied. Nowhere is this better seen than in Colossians 3:12 where Paul lists several of the characteristics of that “garment of godliness” with which we are to adorn ourselves. “...Read More

“Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians,” wrote Neil Anderson, “is due to unforgiveness” (Bondage Breaker, 194). I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t hard to figure out why, once we realize that unforgiveness breeds bitterness, resentment, anger, unkindness, and even despair. The apostle Paul certainly knew this, which explains his emphasis in Colossians 3:13 where he exhorts us to bear “with one another, forg...Read More

In the previous lesson we looked at five myths about forgiveness that many people, sadly, embrace as truth. We now need to look at what forgiveness actually is. What does it mean and how do we do it? The apostle Paul said in our text that we are to forgive “as” the Lord has forgiven us (Col. 3:13b; cf. Eph. 4:32). The word “as” points to two things. We are to forgive “because” God forgave us. But we are also to forgive “as&rdquo...Read More

You may be tired of hearing about it, but there’s simply no escaping the centrality of love in the community of God’s people. We must consciously resist any temptation to diminish its importance or casually set it to the side simply because it’s overused and abused. I certainly understand why there is a reaction to the concept of love. I’ve seen countless instances where truth has been compromised or altogether sacrificed in the name of preservin...Read More

One undeniable thing about the New Testament is its often brutal honesty. There is no whitewashing of human weakness or the hardships of life. The apostle Paul is especially open and forthright about the struggles of being a Christian as well as the realities of existence in the church. We are not yet perfect. Heaven is still to come. Nowhere is this better seen than in Colossians 3. Paul recognizes that, notwithstanding the grace of conversion, Christians still fight a...Read More

Yes, all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our instruction and growth in Christ. No text is any more inspired than another. At the same time, some passages seem to have been written in bold print, in a different font, so to speak. They come across as if highlighted at every turn with exclamation points. One feels as if they are crying out more loudly than others, demanding our undivided attention and analysis. “Don’t simply read me,” they se...Read More

The translation of Colossians 3:16 in the ESV is slightly different from the NASV. According to the former, our responsibility is one of “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [y]our hearts to God.” As you can see, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to be sung by Christians. Well, of course one sings them! But I don’t think that’s what this verse i...Read More

Here again is my translation of this remarkable passage: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing in your hearts to God with thanksgiving.” I would like to conclude our study of this text with four brief observations. First, although one can surely worship without singing, we can’t ignore the emphasis in Scripture on this expression of praise ...Read More

Some Christians are really good at compartmentalizing their faith. By that I mean they pick and choose when and where and in what ways their Christian values and beliefs are expressed. There are certain “sacred” arenas, so to speak, in which being a Christian is for them the “thing to do”. But there are also “secular” venues in which they check their Christianity at the door and live almost as if they know nothing of Jesus Christ. Pau...Read More

There is a sense in which I address this issue with a measure of reluctance and hesitation. It isn’t because I’m in doubt about what Scripture says on the subject or because I’m uncertain about my own beliefs. It has to do with the widespread misunderstandings about the nature of headship and submission. Many think that headship and submission mean that a wife must sit passively and endure the sin or the abuse of the husband, as if submission means she...Read More

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19). Although the word for “headship” does not appear in this text, it is found in the parallel passage in Ephesians 5 and thus calls for extensive comment. Perhaps the best place to begin, as I did with submission, is by dispelling the myths about the nature of biblical headship. First, husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, &ld...Read More

Although his comments are brief, Paul cared deeply for the welfare of the family and the relational dynamics that governed it. Having addressed both husbands and wives (Col. 3:18-19), he now turns his attention to the parent/child relationship. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord [literally, ‘this is pleasing in the Lord’]. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21). ...Read More

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, ...Read More

The easiest thing about praying is quitting. Giving up seems so reasonable, so easy to justify. It’s always been that way, which is why Paul wrote in Colossians 4:2, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Persevering in prayer when no one seems to listen strikes many people as a sign of fanaticism, if not mental instability. Not long ago I received an e-mail from a friend who was facing the impending deaths of several...Read More

“Continue steadfastly in prayer,” writes Paul, “being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). There’s always a possibility that someone reading this passage might walk away with the idea that prayer is an anxious, troublesome, fearful endeavor. Paul’s language might easily contribute to that, were it not for the final two words of the text. Let me explain. If I were to exhort you concerning some spiritual activity and insisted, ...Read More

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4). Now, wait just a minute. We all agree that God loves lost souls and wants them to hear the gospel of salvation in his Son. So why does he suspend the opening of an evangelistic door to them on the prayers of the Colossians? I’...Read More

Political correctness notwithstanding, Christianity is an evangelistic religion. Its aim is to proclaim the good news that there is eternal life in only one: Jesus Christ. Its aim, by the grace of God, is to bring about the deliverance of men and women out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. There are some things, no doubt, for which we as Christians ought to apologize, but declaring that faith in Jesus Christ alone is essential for eternal life isn&rsqu...Read More

Perhaps the most revealing test of spirituality is our response to undeserved adversity. If we suffer because we’ve sinned, there’s nothing particularly special in yielding to it without complaint. We typically find the strength to endure with the reminder that the fault lies within. It may hurt, but there’s no one to blame but ourselves. But if one suffers unjustly and is able to avoid bitterness or resentment, that’s another thing altogether. T...Read More

Christians have often jokingly said that the three least appealing responsibilities they face are fasting, praying, and sharing their faith with non-believers. Sadly, though, it’s not just a joke. It’s a reality that has severely crippled the ministry of the body of Christ. Few have incorporated regular fasting into their spiritual diet (pun intended). Perhaps a few more actually pray on a regular basis, hopefully in accord with Paul’s exhortation in Co...Read More

What are we to do when Christians clash? I’m not thinking of momentary spats or minor disagreements, but of significant divisions and conflict grounded in equally sincere convictions about what is right and wise. If you’ve been a Christian for any period of time you’ve no doubt seen it or, sadly, been embroiled in one of your own. Once again, one of the admirable things about the Bible is its often brutal honesty, its refusal to gloss over the glitches...Read More

Luke describes the incident between Paul and Barnabas as a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:39). I don’t know, but it may have sounded something like this: “Paul! You’re being unreasonable. I know you’re a man of conviction, but for heaven’s sake ease up a bit.” “I may be unreasonable in your estimation, Barnabas, but you are showing a distinct lack of wisdom. Don’t let the fact that he’s your cousin blind ...Read More

We’ve learned much from the clash of Paul and Barnabas over Mark. But there’s one more lesson to note. It comes by way of a painful contrast. Among those listed in the concluding paragraph of Colossians is a man named Demas (Colossians 4:14). He, too, was with Paul in Rome, faithfully serving the apostle alongside of Mark, Luke, Epaphras, and others. But not for long. Is there a more painful experience than being abandoned by a friend? One struggles to find...Read More

There’s a sickness in our society that has infiltrated and infected the church. I have in mind our modern obsession with superstars. Whether they be Hollywood actors, Wall Street moguls, or overpaid, egotistical athletes, they seem to fill our newspapers and dominate our headlines and have become, tragically in most cases, role models for our children. The Church is by no means immune to this infatuation with celebrity. Mega-church pastors, health-and-wealth advoc...Read More

We must never minimize or overlook the incredible influence in the early church of a number of courageous and faithful women. Where does one begin to list them all? I suppose we’d have to give preeminent notice to Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose remarkable faith and submission to God’s will is an example for all people, male and female, of all ages (cf. Luke 1:38). One thinks also of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, the mother of John the Baptist. Mary and M...Read More

It wasn’t until the year 2000, when I joined an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, that I was exposed on a consistent basis to the public reading of Scripture. In the churches where I had formerly been a member or had served on the pastoral staff (Southern Baptist, independent Bible church, Vineyard), the only biblical text read aloud was the one on which the sermon was based. Not being accustomed to anything remotely liturgical, it took some getting used to. B...Read More

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18). With these three terse comments, Paul brings his letter to the Colossians to a close. And with them we come to the 100th and last of our meditations on what he has said. Paul’s custom was to dictate his letters to an amanuensis or secretary, perhaps in this case, Tychicus (see Romans 16:22 where Tertius identifies himself as the one who “wro...Read More

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly,...Read More