Lesson from March 1, 2009
This passage continues the long section of exhortation that began in chapter 2, verse 6. There is a transition statement as Paul moves into this passage that is slightly different than the previous passages but continues the broad theme of calling on the Colossians to live up to their standing and status in Christ. Here he says, “As God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved ….” (v. 12). The other transition statements into previous units were at 2:6, 16, 20; and 3:1). Here Paul uses three words that his audience might have expected would be said about the Jewish people of his day, but he uses them in reference to Christians.
Once again, as in previous sections of this part of the letter (Col 2:6-4:6), the imperatives organize the passage. In this case there are four : cloth yourselves (v. 12); “let the peace of Christ rule” (v. 15); “be thankful” (v. 15); and “let the word of Christ dwell” (v. 16). The other verbs and clauses are subordinate to these. In word for “rule” in verse 15 was used of a judge in an athletic contest; we would tend to use the name umpire to get at the idea. Thus, Paul is encouraging us to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts and among us. We tend to see this verse in very personal terms, as an encouragement not to worry, but rather to allow the peace of Christ to calm our hearts. This is certainly a part of what is going on and it is replicated in other passages (Philippians 4:4-7), but here the point has more to do with our relationships in the church. These relationships should be marked by harmony, not strife. The word for dwell in verse 16 is a form of the word house, and so, literally to let the word of Christ reside within us as a person lives in a home. The rest of v. 16 and v. 17 explain how we are to do this.
We will focus on two aspects of this passage in our discussion. The first has to do with the three metaphors that guide the passage: clothing, ruling, and dwelling. The other way we want to focus our attention is to discuss how the passage seems to emphasize our relationships with others. As William Barclay explains:
It is most significant to note that every one of the graces listed has to do with personal relationships between man and man. There is no mention of virtues like efficiency or cleverness, not even of diligence or industry – not that these things are unimportant. But the great basic Christian virtues are those which govern human relationships. Christianity is community (Barclay, Colossians, p. 157).
1. Metaphors: For the metaphor you have been assigned, what is being highlighted through the metaphor? What is left out or deemphasized? What does it teach us about living the Christian life?
2. This passage continues Paul’s focus on how believers are to live out their new standing in Christ, yet it focuses on how we relate to others. We may be inclined to think that as we change personally, how we treat others will change. Is it possible that the reverse is true as well? How might this happen?