Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | December 16, 2006

Colossians – Part 15

Do you ever make New Year resolutions?  If so, are they normally successful?  If not, have there been times when you committed yourself to change a behavior and were they successful?   

Colossians – Part 15:  Put off the Old Man 

1. What has Paul been talking about in Colossians, thus far in the letter?

2. Why do we sin? (See quote from Augustine below)

The Old Man (Ch 3:5-11):  Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.  8 But now you also, put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.   

It is common whenever we see the word “therefore”, the author is drawing a conclusion based on what was previously stated.  Paul just explained the position that the believers have in Christ, which is a heavenly inheritance based upon His merits alone.  In light of this position and especially what their previous lives consisted of, Paul describes what the believer’s life should look like.  The believer’s previous pursuits in this world were nothing less than an act of idolatry.  Having been redeemed from this hell bound behavior in the old self, the believer out of gratitude should put aside evil things and seek to please God.  The Apostle compares this with putting on a new self who has died with Christ and been made alive to newness of life.  Interestingly, idolatry is not defined as the worship of carved images made of wood, stone, silver or gold.  Paul clarifies that obedience to the second commandment should also include abstention from evil behaviors, which involve worshipping the self and its sinful desires.  These wicked behaviors induce the wrath of God who must bring all sin and lawlessness to justice.  This is true for the unbeliever, however the believer has been redeemed from this idolatrous lifestyle.    Paul expands on the list in verse 5 in verse 8 by giving additional examples of what we should not do.  The believer is being renewed according to the image of Christ who is also the Creator.  This image is not limited by any racial or ethnic distinctions that the believer may have.  The gospel does not discriminate between different races or classes of people rich or poor, white or black all believers are united together in Christ.  This goes to further affirm the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, which was intended to “bless all the families of the earth”. 

Paul continues to drive home his refutation of the Colossian false teachers by emphasizing that true knowledge is not found in secret or hidden forms, but in knowing Christ.  Christ commissioned Apostles to proclaim His message to all publicly, not to a select few in private.  The Colossian false teachers claimed to possess a special knowledge, and this continued affirmation that only in the Christ that Paul preached true knowledge could be found, must have driven them crazy.  Furthermore, according to the Colossian false teachers Christ was lower than angels, however Paul here continues to elevate Christ by saying He is all in all.  Christ who took on a physical body was repugnant to the false teachers.  They equally would have been offended to know that the true Christian believer was being renewed according the image of Christ.  Yet it is only in this Christ who reconciled us in His fleshly body who can present us holy and blameless before the Father (1:22).  Thus, the Colossian false teachers were doing nothing less damaging than sawing off the branch that was holding them up.  The continued denial of Christ would leave them in the continued state of disobedience, which according to Paul the wrath of God would come upon. 

3.  Is Paul’s definition of idolatry enough to condemn us all?

4.  How can our earthly members be considered dead to these idolatrous practices? 5.  Is it possible to refrain from outwardly committing these practices?  How about inwardly refrain from these?  (abusive speech example)

6.  What happens if we fail to fully refrain from these practices?  1 John 1:9

7.  Isn’t this implicitly acknowledged within the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our debt as we have forgiven our debtors? 

Mortify therefore:  “That this may be the better understood, let us take notice that there is a twofold mortification.  The former relates to those things that are around us.  Of this he has hitherto treated.  The other is inward – that of the understanding and will, and of the whole of our corrupt nature.  He makes mention of certain vices which he calls, not with strict accuracy, but at the same time elegantly, members.  For he conceives of our nature as being, as it were, a mass made up of different vices.  They are, therefore, our members, inasmuch as they in a manner stick close to us…He intimates, however, that we are earthly, so long as the vices of our flesh are vigorous in us, and that we are made heavenly by the renewing of the Spirit.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

8.  How are immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed considered idolatry?

9.  What else qualifies as idolatry?

10. Do these accurately describe our old self?

11. Should these practices characterize the believer’s life?

12. He just condemned the false teachers for making rules.  How are these rules that Paul gives different?  – Ephesians 2:8-10 

Lie not:  “The old man denotes – whatever we bring from our mother’s womb, and whatever we are by nature.  It is put off by all that are renewed by Christ.  The new man, on the other hand, is that which is renewed by the Spirit of Christ to the obedience of righteousness, or it is nature restored to its true integrity by the same Spirit.  The old man, however, comes first in order, because we are first born from Adam, and afterwards are born again through Christ.  And as what we have from Adam becomes old, and tends towards ruin, so what we obtain through Christ remains for ever, and is not frail; but, on the contrary, tends toward immortality.  This passage is worthy of notice, inasmuch as a definition of regeneration may be gathered from it.  For it contains two parts – the putting off the old man, and the putting on of the new, and of these Paul here makes mention.  It is also to be noticed, that the old man is distinguished by his works, as a tree is by its fruits.  Hence it follow, that the depravity that is innate in us is denoted by the term old man.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 13. Who is this new self?  Who caused this new creation or made it alive?

14. What does Paul say the new self is being renewed into?

15. Why was this important for the Colossians and the Colossian false teachers to know?

16. Have you noticed a change in your life since you became a believer?

17. Has anything stayed the same in your life since you became a believer?

18. How much longer does a believer need to wrestle with sin? 

Which is renewed in knowledge:  “He shews in the first place, that newness of life consists in knowledge – not as though a simple and bare knowledge were sufficient, but he speaks of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is lively and effectual, so as not merely to enlighten the mind by kindling it up with the light of truth, but transforming the whole man.  And this is what he immediately adds, that we are renewed after the image of God.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

19. Is there any hierarchy among Christians?

20. Were the Colossian false teachers promoting a hierarchy among Christians? 

21. Was God’s plan to bring all races, classes, and nations into His kingdom all along?   

Where there is neither Jew:  “For the meaning of the statement is this, that Christian perfection does not stand in need of those outward observances, nay, that they are things that are altogether at variance with it…Christ is all, and in all, that is, Christ alone holds, as they say, the prow and the stern — the beginning and the end.  Farther, by Christ, he means the spiritual righteousness of Christ, which puts an end to ceremonies, as we have formerly seen.  They are, therefore, superfluous in a state of true perfection, nay more, they ought to have no place, inasmuch as injustice would otherwise be done to Christ, as though it were necessary to call in those helps for making up his deficiencies.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

Theft receives certain punishment by law (Exodus 20:15), Lord, and by the law written in the hearts of men (Romans 2:14) which not even iniquity itself destroys.  For what thief can with equanimity endure being robbed by another thief?  He cannot tolerate it even if he is rich and the other is destitute.  I wanted to carry out an act of theft and did so, driven by no kind of need other than my inner lack of any sense of, or feeling for, justice.  Wickedness filled me.  I stole something which I had in plenty and of much better quality.  My desire was to enjoy not what I sought by stealing but merely the excitement of thieving and the doing of what was wrong.  There was a pear tree near our vineyard laden with fruit, though attractive in neither colour nor taste.  To shake the fruit off the tree and carry off the pears, I and a gang of naughty adolescents set off late at night after (in our usual pestilential way) we had continued our game in the streets.  We carried off a huge load of pears.  But they were not for our feasts but merely to throw to the pigs.  Even if we ate a few, nevertheless our pleasure lay in doing what was not allowed.  Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart.  You had pity on it when it was at the bottom of the abyss.  Now let my heart tell you what it was seeking there in that I became evil for no reason.  I had no motive for my wickedness itself.  It was foul, and I loved it.  I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself.  My depraved soul leaped down from your firmament to ruin.  I was seeking not to gain anything by shameful means, but shame for its own sake.  Augustine (354-430), Confessions (Book II, Chapter 9) 397 AD

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