3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 12: Colossians

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16

This week we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving observed by the pilgrims. In this portion of our 3:16 study we’ve been looking at the ways that we should respond to God’s revelation and fulfillment of His plan of salvation. This week’s study takes us to Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, in which Paul discusses a number of things that we should be doing in response to God’s plan, including thankfulness.

He begins Colossians 3 with the statement, “If then you have been raised with Christ, …” so he’s obviously speaking to believers. He then follows this with quite a helpful list of things Christians can do in response to God’s salvation in their life.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul encourages believers to have the correct mindset about their position in life. As Christians, we don’t obey rules out of fear, but rather obey them because they represent who (and whose) we are. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom and ambassadors to the world around us. Our mindset should be consistent with that.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Paul, while keeping the “new self” mindset in the forefront, lists examples of attitudes which we should put away or avoid – e.g. “earthly” things. Note that these are primarily attitudes which will result in bad behavior, but the focus on the attitude, or mindset – sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk. This is more than just a set of “don’ts”. Jesus addressed the implications of attitude and thought versus action numerous times. For example, in Matthew 5:27-28, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Likewise, in verses 21-22 he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Attitude is key!

Next in our Colossians passage, Paul turns to examples of attitudes we should adopt in their stead. This is where we find our 3:16 verse (bolded in the passage below).

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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.

This list makes a switch from attitude to deed. The fruitful attitudes that Paul encourages – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love, and thankfulness – result in actions which demonstrate these qualities: peaceful living, immersion in Scripture, wise teaching and admonishment of each other, lives filled with music, and expressions of thankfulness to God. He ends with an all-encompassing encouragement: “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” In other words, live your life with the realization and understanding that God (Jesus) is right there with you at all times.

Next time we’ll look at the story of Ruth.

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