Bible blog 2262

This continues my translation with comment of the Letter to Colossians

COLOSSIANS 3

If therefore you have been raised up with Messiah, strive for the goods that are above, where Messiah is, seated next to God in honour. Direct your minds to what is above, not what is on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God. But when Messiah -your – life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in splendour.

So kill off everything in you that belongs to the earth, sexual carelessness, filth, unbridled passion, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. (Because of these the anger of God is coming.) These were part of your life-style, when you lived among such people, but now you should get rid of them all from your mouths; anger, bad temper, malice, slander, obscene talk. Do not lie to one another, now that you have taken off the old man and woman with their actions, and have put on the new man and woman who are being renewed in understanding, in the likeness of their creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, snipped and foreskinned, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free, but Messiah is all and in all.

For you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God

This section is based on the unity of the believer with Jesus Messiah, who died on the stake and was raised from the dead. Through the believers’ trust, they also “die” and are “raised” with Jesus. Is this more that a metaphor for their new style of life? This author has linked this to baptism, in which the baptised person is buried with Jesus and rises to new life, in him. The person/ body of Jesus is described as a divine reality including the whole cosmos. In faith, the believer must learn to see herself, not as defined by her own physical body and her earthly environment, but as part of the body of Messiah. Although her unity with Messiah is asserted as a fact, it requires her trust and commitment. She must kill off everything that ties her to mere earthly existence, and live out of her true reality which is Messiah. This is no mere imaginative exercise: disordered, self-centred and idolatrous behaviours must be abandoned, as must the divisive distinctions of her culture, so that she can share the life of Messiah and her brothers and sisters in the Assembly of Jesus.

Unity with Messiah is not a quasi-material thing. The life of believers is “hidden with Messiah in God” but it is real in the understanding of believers and by its fruits in the quality of their life together. The list of behaviours to be “killed off” should challenge members of 21st century churches, for whom the wholesale condemnation of sexual promiscuity might seem to contradict their sense of sexual entitlement. The description of greed as idolatry would be offensive to right-wing propagandists for “greed is good.” And the wiping out of social distinctions would be as challenging for today’s church as it doubtless was for the Colossians.

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