October 2 – Colossians 3:1-10
Main focus: Being rooted in Jesus and renewed after his image leads to putting away sin.
Despite the chapter break, Paul’s flow of thought here in chapter 3 is directly connected to the previous chapter. Specifically his intro, “If then you have been raised with Christ,” connects back to 2:20, “if with Christ you died.” For several chapters Paul has been talking about being united with Christ through salvation, and this unification with him is what enables us to “walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (2:6-7). Last week we saw how our unity with Jesus should lead us to dis-unity with all other spiritual authorities and “self-made religion.” Now, in 3:1-10, we’ll see how unity with Jesus leads to the same sort of dis-unity with our own sinful practices and habits.
Our last question will touch on verses 4 and 10, but keep these verses in mind throughout your whole discussion because they’ll help you avoid losing sight of the means by which we obey this passage. When you’re told to “put to death…what is earthly in you” or to “put away” sin, that might lead you to think that the proper approach here is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Or, reading those commands, you might be discouraged, thinking this is something like those medieval monks who used to whip themselves to get all the sin out. Neither is the case, and this passage promises as much.
Verse 10 assures us that we “are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of [our] Creator” (CSB). Harken back to high school English—this is passive language. We aren’t renewing ourselves, we are being renewed, an action done to us by none other than God himself. This brings the whole passage into proper balance, and is exactly what we observed two weeks ago in 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” Just as we passively receive Christ as an unearned gift but then, in faith, actively walk in him, so too are we passively transformed to be more like him but then actively work with God to put on the new self and put away the old self.
Verse 4 supplies another crucial element to this process of living to Jesus and dying to sin: we won’t be finished until we meet Jesus face to face. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (3:4). This echoes 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Only when Jesus appears will we be perfected and glorified like him (Phil 3:21), so you and I will be wrestling with our sin until the day we die. But don’t lose the thread of promise here, because all of our wrestling will not be in vain. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
Now, with those two assurances in mind we can get to work. At the core of our discussion we’ll look at this important point: being “raised with Christ” necessitates putting away sin. That’s Paul’s whole big argument here; if you and I have been made alive with Christ then the life we live can only make sense, thrive, and deepen when that life is lived in Christ. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (2:6).
Thus the attitude we take towards sin in our life is directly tied to how much we believe our life is rooted in Jesus. If we compartmentalize Jesus in our life, treating him as a beautifying ornament in our otherwise unaffected lives, then it follows that our commitment to put away our sin will be similarly lackluster. But when Jesus himself becomes your life (3:4), when your life is now his and hidden in him (3:3), then the whole governing principle of your life changes to “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
That’s why Paul talks here about two selves—you’re so changed by Jesus’ work of salvation in your life that you are given a new self! Do you see how radically this is meant to change us? This should inevitably lead us to consider what aspects of our lives still look more like the old self than the new, and to remember that the drive to put away sin isn’t to earn life with God but to live the life he’s already given us.
• Questions for discussion:
• Could someone read Colossians 3:1-10 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• What do you think it means to be “raised with Christ” and have your life “hidden with Christ”?
• How does this passage describe the difference between the old self and the new self?
• What aspects of your “earthly nature” are you most likely to leave unaddressed in your life?
• Why do you think being “raised with Christ” necessitates putting away sin?
• How does this passage help you understand your need for God’s help in the fight against sin?
• Look at verse 4 and verse 10—how can these verses give you hope for staying faithful to Jesus?