Friday, 19 September 2014
Colossians Overview Recap: It’s Organic!
Let’s do a fly-over of the book of Colossians. What do you see? Lots of commands to obey? Some deep teaching about Christ? Personal words from Paul to some people who lived a long time ago?
Many of us breeze by the truths about Christ. “Yeah, got that. Death. Resurrection. Ascension. Check!” It’s the imperatives that get our attention. They feel so necessary, so practical. “Set your mind.” “Put to death.” “Put on.” “Submit.” “Be thankful.” “Pray.” These, we reason, are the marching orders for our day. We start to take them on.
Before long we’re stooping under the weight of all the “bricks in our backpack.”
What a relief!
In my small group yesterday one woman was in tears because of that very sense of burden. All she could see was how she failed to measure up to the many commands in Colossians. All she could hear was condemnation.
“After we read through the book out loud today, did you have any ideas about the theme of Colossians?”
“It’s organic!” another woman contributed with a big smile. “What do you mean?” “Our obedience is rooted in Jesus. We’re connected to him, like a plant is connected to the soil. It doesn’t grow by itself, but takes water, nutrients from the soil. Our efforts aren’t to try harder to grow, but to go to Christ.”
What a relief!
How did Paul come to write this letter to some Christians he hadn’t even met? Because even though he didn’t father this church, he grandfathered it. Paul had taught deeply about Jesus Christ for three years in Ephesus. During that time a man from Colossae, Epaphras, had come to faith and been discipled by the apostle. He had returned to his hometown and shared the good news. Through his work a church was established not just there, but in two nearby towns, Laodicea and Hierapolis.
At some point Epaphras returned to tell Paul about the church. There was much to be encouraged about. The supernatural evidence of love was there! Faith in abundance! Confident hope based on the gospel! But he was worried about some things, too. After he unpacked his bag of worries, Paul responded like any good grandpa. He sent a present–this letter–packed with goodies to help them grow.
What was their problem?
Commentators differ on their take of the “Colossian heresy.” The friendly tone of the letter shows that the gospel was not in danger of being lost. But what was the danger and where was it coming from? From outside the church, pagan religion or Judaism? Or inside the church, from the culture seeping in?
In his commentary R.C. Lucas takes the latter view. The church at Colossae, even though it had been well taught by Epaphras, is being “influenced more that it knows by the spirit of the age” (his emphasis).
This is immediately relevant to us. We too are easily influenced by our culture, whose ideas subtly creep into our life in Christ. For example, how does Southern California/San Diego culture tell us Christ is not enough for the needs listed below? (topics adapted from Lucas, p. 22-24):
- Fullness– What do I turn to when I feel empty? (busyness)
- Freedom-How does this culture pursue freedom? (no commitment)
- Protection from evil–What power do I count on for protection?(superstition)
- Detox– What makes me feel clean? (diet, fasting)
- Wholeness, healing–What heals my spirit? (therapies of all kinds)
- Expert–Who are the experts I turn to for well being? (blogs)
- Affinity–What is the basis for my unity with others? (preferences)
We will unpack these cultural connections as our study continues. Bring your problems with you as you come to Colossians and to our Bible study.
Christ is enough! Let’s learn how organic our connection is to him.