Jan 5th 2012. Above is a picture of the Greek text of Colossians 3:8-10 in the Society of Biblical Literature PDF New Testament, free online.
Paul the emissary is writing to a new group of believers located in Colosse, in the middle of Asia Minor — Turkey nowadays.
What impresses me is that Paul slides straight from an exhortation to abstain from certain violent verbal practices to a deliberate act of choice. A believer must make little choices by faith in order to operate according to the Jesus Christ model.
From “Abstaining from ‘all those things,’ end of first line/first word of second line, TA PANTA, which Paul lists as anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, he says that believers ought to take steps of faith. Believers must deliberately decline to speak in the old Adam-like way. Instead, one ought to speak in the New Adam way. One ought to “put on Christ” – an act of faith in a stream of such ongoing acts.
Back then, some new believer may not have picked up the churchy social code, perhaps. They may not have just picked up from others’ example that believers in Christ do not curse out people who bother them. Or give the finger when cut off in chariot traffic. They may need to have pointed out to them that certain language is more in tune with their new reality.
In fact, I read Paul as having to be definite on this point. He is clear. Old language goes with old heart. New language is an option that develops the new person, the new Adam, that is, Christ in you.
Such choices are not legalisms. It is not that I believe that am put in right standing with God by keeping a clean mouth or a clean nose. Instead, it is that I know that garbage lives inside me. So, one has to choose to live in a Jesus-like way in a whole range of specific categories.
Since believers have been made new by Christ (how? By his dying for them and rising for them and sending the Spirit of God for them) how can they be showing that there is NO CHANGE?
But exhibition of change, alas, is not automatic. Which is why Paul has to get a secretary and write to the Colossian believers: “Think about this!”
What registered on me this morning was that Paul again here uses this language of “Existing In Christ.” Maybe it is not a big insight to you, but Jesus is not merely the supplier of atonement services who is up there with the Father and sends the Spirit. Jesus is instead the ongoing Saviour. Believers live through his life. He is not merely a hero; he is the only Lord. (Romans 10: 5,6 is a puzzle otherwise: check it out.) Believers are identified with Jesus Christ as much as wives are identified with husbands (here I am following the main line of Ephesians 5).
Educationally, I’m guessing that the best way of passing on a liberating way of thinking about imperatives in the Christian life is going to be an intensive weekend, a small-group setting, or even an Alpha-like course. Such a course will emphasize (or sit on) grace, and only then point out the behavior implications. Then the behaviours are almost minor by comparison with the scale of the grace extended. Otherwise it will be hard not to wind up in Do This, Do That. Jesus is Lord, first, then the implications for one’s life follow along one by one.