Rules… or New Life? – Colossians 3:8-10 08/30/20

Rules… or New Life? – Colossians 3:8-10 08/30/20

Our text this week is Colossians 3:8-10, which I encourage you to look up. Because of the practical application of this material, it can look like a new set of rules. But if these believers accepted the logic of their new personas in Christ, the life of Jesus would manifest itself through them in ever greater power.[1] That requires our cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit. It was true for the Colossian church 2000+ years ago, and it is true for us today.

This business of “putting off” uses the imagery of undressing, of changing out of an old, dirty set of clothes. Now, however, rather than metaphor, Paul speaks directly to those practices and traits that must be disposed of.[2] What we discover is that these are all the product of our sinful natures.[3] The opening of the passage with “but now” (νυνὶ δὲ)[4] references a fundamental shift in the character and conduct of those who would follow Jesus.[5] The goal of that shift is true holiness of life.[6]

As always, when it comes to the transformation of human character, we find a balance between divine initiative and human response.[7] With that requirement in mind, Paul addresses specific, practical applications of this important theological principle. It is the Christian’s responsibility to intentionally cooperate with the Lord’s work in their lives.[8]

The first three things that are to be done away with involve sins of disposition:[9] “anger” (ὀργήν),[10] “wrath” or “rage” (θυμόν),[11] and “malice” or “spitefulness” (κακίαν).[12] These three sins are able to destroy Christian fellowship and cause great damage to community relationships.[13] Most interpreters see these terms as progressively moving from one state to the next.[14] The first thing we’re supposed to get rid of is anger (ὀργήν).[15] Simple anger is not a sin in and of itself. But anger has a tendency to feed on itself. The kind of anger this passage references is an anger that consumes and controls us, it means to be furious.[16]

Next we find “wrath” (θυμόν),[17] this is anger that’s been mulled over and cultivated.[18] Ultimately, it presents itself in an outburst of uncontrolled rage.[19] Unlike anger, which may, on occasions be godly, human wrath is the exclusive product of our fallen natures.[20]

Now, wrath, having been nursed along, soon mutates into malice.[21] Malice (κακίαν)[22] is anger gone to seed, it’s nothing less than the wickedness of our hearts being worked out in our lives.[23] In fact, the word is often used to convey the lack of what is good.[24]

Now, take note of this… there are no occasions when wrath and malice can be expressed in any manner consistent with the nature of Jesus Christ.[25] Outbursts of uncontrolled rage, or a settled ill will toward someone, that is, hatred, is never consistent with the Christian life.

Paul continues, but the elements to be done away with seem to become more insidious. Next, we find “blasphemy” (βλασφημίαν),[26] literally “abusive speech,” or “personal mockery,”[27] as something that we need to do away with. It may be applied to people… or to God. It’s bad enough when applied to people, but when we think about the holiness of God, it is an unthinkable act.

Following this is a related but different practice, the use of “filthy language” (αἰσχρολογίαν).[28] This is obscene speech, or shameful speech involving culturally disapproved themes, i.e. vulgar speech.[29] This can be a tough habit to break, but, filthy language is specifically listed as something that should not be associated with the Christian.[30] Think “dirty jokes.”

Now, remember that Paul is writing to believers, these people have (supposedly) already put off the old man.[31] Putting off the old man is a reference to our conversions, and therefore has direct implications regarding our conduct as Christians,[32] including the words we utter.[33] But even in light of the changes Jesus brings, Paul still finds the need to address the practice of lying. Lying is so common that it almost seems to be our second language. And yet, in the face of supernatural conversion, Paul tells these Christians, and frankly us as well, not to be liars.[34] The social effects of untrustworthy Christians takes an enormous toll on the Christian community.[35]

So… we have this list of things we’re not supposed to do. But the intent is not to create a new set of Christian laws that we’re supposed to follow: thou shalt not be angry, thou shalt not be wrathful, thou shalt not etc. What Paul is saying is that these things are inconsistent with our new natures, and we should not allow them to infect the Christian community.

Once we’ve removed our old man, something has to happen. We must replace what we were with what we are.[36] Every Christian has experienced a radical change of nature,[37] and simply “putting off” is not enough, we must also “put on.”[38] Our conduct must be transformed. As we put on the new man (or new person), we are renewed in knowledge.[39] This is in the present tense and points to an ongoing process[40] of “being renewed” (ἀνακαινούμενον).[41] This ongoing activity, in the passive voice, and therefore not something that we do, but rather is something done to us, takes place in our mind as we come to know Jesus in an ever more complete way, and denotes true knowledge.[42]

Now, we’ve already talked about this, but I feel the need to address it again. We cannot make this into a new set of rules we’re supposed to follow, “OK, don’t get angry.” Check. “No filthy language… shoot! Missed that one, try again.” Check. That’s not how this is going to work. These things must flow out of the wellspring of who we are in Christ. Just as uncleanness comes from the heart, so also does righteousness. This change, this putting off, must be from the center, or you’re doomed to fail.

How much freedom does Jesus have in your life? Are you seeking the life of the new man?

[1] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 145. [2] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 186. [3] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 186. [4]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [5] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 218. [6] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. Ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 337. [7] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 218. [8] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 218. [9] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213. [10]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [11]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [12]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [13] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 218. [14] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213. [15]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [16] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 760. [17]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [18] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [19] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 187. [20] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 187. [21] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [22]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [23] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 187. [24] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 393. [25] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [26]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [27] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 107. [28]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:8. [29] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 392. [30] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [31] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [32] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 220. [33] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [34] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 357. [35] Peter O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 44, gen. eds., David Hubbard and Glenn Barker, NT ed., Ralph Martin, (Word Books, Waco, TX.: 1982), 188. [36] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 220. [37] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213. [38] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 358. [39] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213. [40] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213. [41]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 3:10. [42] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 213.

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