Real life in Christ. 3:1-11
In this passage Paul outlines a moral response to the resurrection life. Believers have been raised with Christ and therefore should adopt a life-style which reflects the values of heaven where Christ reigns.
v1-4. In providing a practical application for a life lived under the grace of God, Paul first makes the point that a believer's life is lived in relationship with Jesus.
i] "You have been raised." We are alive to righteousness, a new person in Christ, therefore we should set our hearts and minds on things above. Think on these things - of love, of the fruits of the Spirit; desire love.
ii] "You died." We have died to sin, therefore we should not set your minds on earthly things. Paul is not telling us to renounce the enjoyment of the creation, rather to renounce evil.
v5-8. Given that we are identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, we should abhor evil. The new life of a believer entails casting off the old man and putting on the new, casting off all that is evil and putting on all that is good. Paul first lists five evils to be put off, five evils to "put to death", then he lists a further five that should be "put away."
i] Sexual evils, v5-7. Paul lists five sexual evils, which evils serve as the most destructive in human relationships. "Greed" is better understood as "covetousness", which in this context, concerns coveting another's wife or husband.
ii] Lesser evils, v8. Paul then goes on to list five evils which destroy trust in relationships, particularly within the Christian fellowship.
v9-10. Paul goes on to add an extra evil, namely, dishonest dealings with one another. Such behavior in the Christian fellowship does not sit easily with our new relationship in Christ.
v11. Where there is a new relationship with Christ, there is a new relationship between God's people; we are all one.
A guide to holy living
There's a great line from a movie where two African Americans are walking past a whites-only church, and one of them says, "I've been trying to get into that church since I was a kid". His friend responds by saying, "That's nothing, Jesus has been trying to get in there for a lot longer and he hasn't gotten in yet."
The church is hurting. Most believers have witnessed a congregation brawling over some trivial issue like the color of the church carpet. Divisions and party spirit are ever increasing problems with new ministries. Hurt, grief, anger, dashed expectations, frustration, fear.... a mass of emotions. Hurting churches, hurting people, hurting each other. Why is it so?
We all know the basic problem is sin. As Luther said, "The old Adam retains his power until he is deposited in the grave". The Bible clears up any doubt when it says, "all sin and fall short of the glory of God." Sin runs out of control in the life of a congregation when we fail to apply the profound theology summed up in Paul's words, "Christ is all, and is in all":
First, selfishness takes hold where there is little or no community. Paul's new Adam, the new creation, the new people of God, was one people where there was "no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free." Does this image the church today?
Second, selfishness takes hold in the life of God's people where there is a failure to recognize the completeness we already have in Christ. Through faith in Christ we "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." As far as God is concerned, we are as Christ is. Yet, this is not the popular view. Many believers have forgotten that they "have been raised with Christ."
Third, there are the practical issues of morality that Paul raises. Sexual immorality stands foremost as the greatest danger confronting the fellowship of believers. Sexuality is the most intimate expression of knowing another and so to misuse it is to interfere with the knowing of God and of each other. Then there is behaviour which destroys trust. Hurtful violence in words, malice, abusive speech and lying. All destructive of our fellowship, all undermining the very nature of church as a community of believers.
In the opening verse of this chapter Paul reminds us that our being is hidden with the risen Christ in the heavenlies and therefore our minds should be focused on that reality rather than the push and shove of this age. On the basis of our standing with the risen Lord Paul encourages us to "put to death, therefore,.......", be what we are.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace", Col.3:15.
1. What does it mean to "set your hearts on things above"? v1
2. "You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Explain this Easter message. v3.
3. "Greed (covetousness) which is idolatry." What is meant by greed?
4. In what sense have we "died" with Christ and have been "raised" with Christ?
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