The hymn, “Higher Ground” (“I’m pressing on the upward way,” by Johnson Oatman) describes the Christian’s climb. Quote the first verse in the introduction, and use one of the succeeding verses at the conclusion of each main point.
I. Put Your Mind on Things Above (1–4)
A. The opening verses of Colossians 3 are more logically attached to the preceding section. They remind us not to be bound by earthly rules and human limitations, but to be subject solely to Christ.
B. Obviously there is much evil all around us. We are being brainwashed by the world—conditioned to like what it likes, react as it does. This is dangerous (1 John 2:15ff). We should do the opposite (Romans 12:2, J. B. Phillips). Emerson wrote, “Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.”
C. With our minds set on heavenly things, we have two assurances: our life is hid with Christ in God (v. 3); when Christ returns, we will be with Him in glory (v. 4).
Connect to point A. above
2:8 philosophy and empty deceit The false teaching that Paul opposes in this letter is sometimes called “the Colossian heresy.” This philosophy cannot be identified precisely; it could reflect the influences of several ancient traditions, including Judaism, mysticism, asceticism, mystery cults, and Gnosticism (see note on Col 1:22). Regardless of the specific teachings, the fundamental problem Paul identifies is that human rules and traditions are being recommended as necessary supplements to Christ. However, it is also possible that Paul is not correcting a particular false teaching. Instead, Paul could be concerned with the immaturity and ignorance of the Colossian believers.
The Greek word for philosophy, philosophia, literally means “love of wisdom.” Philosophy originated in Greece during the sixth century BC as the systematic and logical investigation of a subject. By the first century, “philosophy” broadly referred to any moral or religious belief system. The Jewish historian Josephus applied the term to the various Jewish groups—the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Paul encountered two schools of philosophy in his travels—the Epicureans and the Stoics (Acts 17:18).
II. Put Off Fleshly Habits (5–11)
A. Paul lists some of the specific sins that must be removed (vv. 5, 8, 9) They may be classified in three categories: sensualism, pride, unbrotherly division. We must shed these habits like an old, tattered garment. Whatever the price, these sins must be removed.
B. The apostle next explains why we must shed these habits (v. 6). God will not tolerate sin. You may fool others, but not Him. Instead, live a renewed life (v. 10). Put off fleshly habits.
Connect to point A.
Connect to point B.
1:18 the wrath of God Refers to God’s righteous judgment upon evil. In this context, the evil in view is immorality and the suppression of the truth about God. God reveals His wrath by giving people over to their sin, thereby allowing them to morally decline even further (Rom 1:24–28). This foreshadows His final judgment (see 2 Thess 2:9–12).
III. Put on Christlike Character (12–17)
A. Paul lists the Christian graces that characterize a holy life (12–15). How are we to acquire these traits? Through God’s Word (v. 16); through help from other believers (v. 16); through dedicating all of our efforts to the Lord (17).
B. Note that Christianity is more than what we don’t do. It involves an active life of service, desiring always to please God. Verse 17 might well be a motto for life. Following it can help us avoid questionable behavior. It focuses our eyes on Heaven. The question asked by those in Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, is the one we must remember: “What would Jesus do?”
General Grant and his staff were gathered in a Virginia farmhouse back in the Civil War days. Several officers were standing by the fireplace. He was alone in the corner, apparently in deep thought. One officer said, “I have a story for you men. I believe I can tell it, since there are no ladies present!” An expectant ripple of laughter went through the room. General Grant stood and quietly remarked, “No, but there are gentlemen here.” The story was never told. Some who would not tell an impure story think nothing of listening to one. Followers of Christ must put off worldly habits.
Growing in Christ
You can do many things to help develop Christlike character:
1. Have Christian pictures, posters, mottos, Bible verses on the walls of your room and home.
2. Play Christian music on your tape or CD player. Listen to cassettes of Bible studies, sermons, Scripture, or good music in the car.
3. Choose Christian radio and TV programs. Be selective with other viewing.
4. Read good literature. Secure books and periodicals that can help your faith grow.