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Grace and Peace - Colossians 1

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  1. Walsh & Keesmaat write, Reading is always contextual...Reading is always from somewhere. So whenever an African picks up the Bible, or the newspaper, s/he reads them from the viewpoint of an African village or city.
  2. In that regard, there are two views that you are likely to hear very often today. (Colossians Remixed [CR], page 19.) The views depend very much on what you think about life--your context.
    • The first is a nihilistic view. Everything's going to hell in a handbasket.
      • For example, Tori Amos sings about her profound loss of confidence in the hopes of a modernist culture. (CR, p.21.)
      • A culture of betrayal. She has obviously had some disappointments in her life.
      • Emotional dislocation.
      • Postmodern culture appears to have no fixed ethical anchors and is characterized by profound moral instability.
    • The second is an unrealistic optimism. Super-hyped hope of a new era of economic growth along the information super highway.
      • Modernity believed that it could deliver fantastic benefits based on science, medicine, politics, and medicine.
      • Post modernity seems to believe that information technology will be able to deliver on similar promises.
      • Wired Magazine said the following. "We are riding the early waves of a 25-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty and to ease tensions throughout the world."
  3. These are our choices when we adopt the values of the Empire: unrealistic optimism or nihilism.
  4. Paul's world was very similar and provides some clues about how to approach it in the letter to the Colossian church.

I. Not like the rest....

  1. When God called Israel, He intended for them to be a light to the nations, no a self-serving, autonomous power.
  2. The laws that God gave Israel were intended to shape them into such a nation.
    • Caring for widows, orphans, and the poor.
    • Laws about "gleaning" so that the poor would be cared for.
    • Laws about not charging interest.
    • Laws about keeping collateral pledges and withholding wages overnight.
    • Laws about redemption for slaves and the land.
  3. But it is obvious that Israel wanted to be "like the other nations," so they clamored for a king to rule over them. And the resulting kings adopted the values and ethics of the nations rather than ruling like God would.
    • David's "rape" of Bathsheba.
    • The rape of Tamar by David's son Amnon.
    • Solomon's slave labor.
    • Jezebel's murder of Naboth.

II. Modern Day Promises:

  1. The in which the letter to the Colossians was written was very similar to our own. The Roman empire was the chief military and political power in the world. The Pax Romana was promised to the world.
  2. But the Pax Romana came at a terrible cost:
    • Subservience to the Empire. Even worship of Caesar.
    • Taxation and slavery.
    • War and demolishing of cities. (Sound familiar?) Peace (Pax) by the blood of the sword.
  3. Doesn't the front page sound like it was ripped out of the Jerusalem Gazette or the Roman Times?
    • Empire building. Resorting to violence.
    • Don't misunderstand what I am about to say. We dropped a bomb on Hirshoma. Estimates say over 100k died.
    • The Holocaust.
    • The recent crash of the stock market. The greed of people like Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and Enron, Bernard Ebbers and Worldcom, et al.
    • What about the empty promises of media, car companies, etc. etc.?
  4. How many times has the Empire disappointed you?

III. An Alternative to the Empire:

  1. Israel had centuries to repent from their desire to be "like the other nations." They were subjugated by one Empire after another.
    • Assyria.
    • Babylon
    • Persia
    • Greece
    • Rome
  2. These Empire experiences increased Israel's appetite for what God had promised them, and us, from the beginning.
  3. It was into this world that Jesus was born, and into which he brought his radical new idea of what it means to have God as supreme ruler of one's life.
    • In Luke 1:46-55 Mary proclaims the rule of God and says, God throws down the rich and lifts up the poor.
    • In Luke 4 Jesus announces in the Nazareth synagogue good news to the poor.
    • Jesus said that in his father's kingdom the greatest would be those who serve.
  4. The Colossians were in a parallel universe to that of the Jews.
    • All around them were the promises of the Pax Romana.
    • But you could partake of the peace only by remaining faithful to the Empire and succombing to the demands and costs of the Empire.
    • Israel had learned that the promises were a lie. Some at Colossae were learning that.


  1. Colossians 1 offers a contrasting vision to the Empire.
    • faith in Christ Jesus as opposed to faith in Caesar.
    • Hope laid up in heaven versus hope in Rome.
    • Gospel bearing fruit in contrast to the promised fruitfulness of the Empire.
    • Filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding versus being informed by the Empire.
  2. God told Israel that prosperity doesn't come from the Empire. ...the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah...He expected justice...[and]...righteousness Isaiah 5:1-7
  3. Colossians 1:15-20 is a glorious song about the supremacy of Jesus. He is the image of the invisible God 1:15. Quite the contrast to Caesar, or Wall Street, or the Fox Network.
  4. It is only Jesus who can reconcile us and produce true fruitfulness.
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