Read: Ephesians 4.25—5.2; Colossians 3.1-17
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Colossians 3.11 (NRSV)
Colossae was a town in Asia Minor, not far from Ephesus. Paul was not the founder of the Colossian church; it was probably his associate Epaphras (Colossians 1.7; 4.12). Paul wrote to this church to counter a false teaching, which he did not name but only characterized. It had a strict asceticism often found in some Greek philosophies (2.20-21); and it taught a strict observance of ritual like that found in Jewish traditions (2.16). The central theme of Paul’s letter was unity in the Christ: If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (3.1).
In the practical section of this epistle, Paul sought to teach the Colossians how to steer clear of the false teachings they were exposed to. He contrasted human philosophies and traditions to the teachings of Christ. Since Christ is seated at God’s right hand, Paul urged them to seek the things that are above, not the things limited to the earth. “Put to death” or “render impotent” the evil desires, passions and impurities of the earth because they result in such things as anger, slander and malice (Colossians 3.5, 8). Paul suggested that they take off the practices of the “old man” like a garment and put on the clothes of the “new man”: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience . . and above all, . . . love (3.12-14). In Christ, all believers are renewed in the image of the creator and in that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Colossians 3.5-17 is similar to Galatians 5.19-23. In each of these sections of the epistles, Paul provided two behavioral lists back to back—a list of vices (things to avoid) and a list of virtues (things to do). In all these lists the Apostle is not just describing ideals or feelings, he is noting behaviors and actions. As the title of this lesson states, justice is not just an idea or a hope, it must be a practice. And it must be extended to all of God’s created peoples, without distinction and without prejudice.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence