Thursday, April 19, 2012


Colossians. The Holy Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Paul wrote to the church at Colossae about the centrality of Christ in Christian faith and living.  This letter is a defense of the Gospel against other teachings, particularly Gnosticism.

In a few sentences, Paul reminds his readers of the who Christ is.  He is divine (1:15).  He is the creator (1:16-17).  He is the head of the church (1:18).  He reconciled us to God, atoning for our sins through his suffering and death on the cross (1:19-20).

As Christians, we have assurance of these beliefs from God by His Word, the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and the evidence of history.  Our salvation is a work of God, not of men or philosophies.

After recapitulating the Gospel and what it means for Christians, Paul moves on to warn against false teachers.  He describes those who would impose another system of philosophy or tradition as someone cheating Christians out of the fullness of what God has provided for them.

One of these philosophies is legalism.  Our nature makes us incapable of living up to a ethical standard imposed from the outside.  We cannot pretend our way to righteousness when our hearts rebel against it and God can see our hearts.  Similarly, not system of thought or philosophy or practice can make us right.

God takes another approach, making us anew and changing us from the inside.  He gives us a new heart.  It isn’t an instant change, as a brief observation of any Christian will attest.  What is instant is that the atoning work of Christ erases the indictments against our sin and His perfect rightness is attributed to us in God’s eyes, even if it is not worked out in practice yet.

Christianity is not a system of philosophy or practice, though there are beliefs common to all Christians.  Christianity is a new life in which God works in us to change our hearts and empower us to live in a new way.  Our new heart loves God and loves to do what is right, so as we grow we put away our old wicked habits (though it can seem painfully slow), and begin to do more and more what our new heart wants, live like Christ.

In Chapter 3 of his letter, Paul contrasts the old life with new life.  He encourages believers to embrace their new life even as they embraced the Gospel.  Both accomplished by the same faith (and both are ultimately the work of God, though we are by His grace participants in that work).

Paul also wrote