Oct 16 All Locations – Colossians 3:12-15

Vintage Downtown: On Sunday, October 16, Tyler was out sick, so Jordan filled in with a sermon out of John 4 (here’s that discussion guide). The guide below is for Vintage Durham, North, West, and Chapel Hill the week of October 16 and for Downtown the week of October 23.

Main focus: God calls us to love and forgive one another just as he loves and forgives us.

Here Paul continues fleshing out what it means for us to “walk in [Jesus]”(2:6), and having completed his section on putting off sin (3:5-11) he now turns to putting on holiness. 

In summary, the passage is a call to live according to the love and peace of Christ at work within us who are “in Christ” (3:1). So, we’ll start our discussion connecting back to the “new self” back in verse 10, which should help us see that all of Paul’s commands about what we should and shouldn’t do aren’t boring old moralism but are rooted in the resurrection life we have through Jesus. To keep pulling that thread, we’ll also go back and read verses 1-3 to beat it into our heads that these Christian practices can only be practiced by those who are in Christ. All of us, even the most seasoned followers of Jesus, are prone to flipping that order and thinking that our good deeds are what make us right with God. But to keep us straight, before we get to any discussion about how we should be living, we’ll make sure we remember that we first have to be made alive with Christ. 

When it comes to living out this life that Jesus has given us, vivification is an old but good word to use here. The Puritans first came up with the mortification-vivification concept, but the pattern is native to scripture and can be found right here in Colossians 3. To mortify something is to kill it, and followers of Jesus are called to “put to death…what is earthly in [us]” (3:5). Simultaneously, followers of Jesus are called to actively live to Jesus, to put on the life that he gives us, which is typified by what Jesus values and how Jesus himself behaves towards people. The Puritans called this active living towards holiness vivification, which means to enliven or invigorate.

That’s a good word to use here because we might envision a holy life as an emaciated, monkish sort of existence, but following Jesus is in fact a life of hearty vigor, one in which we are increasing in spiritual vitality, wrestling through sanctification, and regularly being renewed by God’s strength. And this is in part because our union with Christ means we aren’t merely adopting new habits or learning spiritual jujitsu—really and truly we are putting on Jesus himself (Rom 13:14) along with his ways. If we reduce the putting on of this new life in Jesus to a lifeless list of shoulds and should nots then we lose the most valuable thing about this new life: an intimate connection with Jesus himself.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we look to king Jesus to typify how his citizens should live, and since no greater example of love has ever been witnessed than the love that sent Jesus to the cross (John 15:13), it makes perfect sense that love is the highest value in Jesus kingdom and binds everything together in harmony (3:14). But it gets even more personal than that. In discussion, we’ll look especially at a dynamic that’s mentioned in verse 13: “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” This isn’t merely Jesus’s love as an abstract concept, but Jesus’s love for you. Followers of Jesus don’t forgive simply because forgiveness is a nice thing to do but because they are a forgiven people, intimately aware of their need for forgiveness and infinitely grateful for the forgiveness they have in Jesus. So we’ll touch on how Jesus’s interactions with us, and the way we feel about his love and mercy towards us, drive our obedience to his commands. 

Finally, we should note just how much Paul has to say about human relationships here, about how we love, forgive, and are patient with one another. This should come as no surprise to you, since this is something we see often in our community group discussions, but God is sincerely interested in how we treat one another, particularly as we reflect—or fail to reflect—his goodness to the world. So, as we put on Jesus, this reminds us that holiness is no detached affair but a deeply personal, and interpersonal, engagement.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Colossians 3:12-15 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• What can this passage tell us about the “new self” from verse 10?

• Could someone read 3:1-3?

• Why do you think being “in christ” comes before “seek[ing] the things that are above”?

• According to verses 1-3, why should we put off sin and put on holiness?

• Looking at verses 12-15 again, which of these are hardest for you? Which are you most likely to ignore or excuse?

• How does this passage help you think about how Jesus treats you? (v.13)

• What would it mean for you to live according to the way Jesus treats you?

• After reading this passage, how do you hope God will be at work in your life this week?