Monday, April 7, 2008

Tantalizing Task of Tackling Paul's letter to the Colossians

Guess who these verses are REALLY talking about:

Lam. 1:12-16 “Is it nothing to all you who pass this way? Look and see if there is any pain like my pain which was severely dealt out to me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of His fierce anger. From on high He sent fire into my bones, and it prevailed over them; He has made me desolate, faint all day long. The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together; they have come upon my neck; He has made my strength fail; the Lord has given me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to stand. The Lord has rejected all my strong men in my midst, He has called an appointed time against me to crush my young men…My children are desolate because the enemy has prevailed.”

That is what it looked like from the cross. Jesus was sinless, and our transgressions were bound and put on His neck. But, it only appeared that the enemy had prevailed. Three days later HE AROSE. And the enemy realized and would never had put Him on the cross if the enemy had realized before.

And now we can have God’s thoughts?? God’s wisdom? My Sunday School Teacher, who is also my husband is plowing through Colossians, insists we can have God’s wisdom, not just know stuff about God. (Wasn’t that carrot dangled in front of Eve? To be as smart as God?)

I must confess. I used to hate Paul. I mean, who writes like this?? Who talks like this?? Paragraphs as long as your arm…and sarcasm? Please. Paul’s letters were made to be read aloud to congregations? (over and over, obviously---because I can’t get it on the first or even second pass) And while our theologians parse and dig out the nuggets, and while Paul seems to set the bar so high, it must be understandable for God gave it to us.

It is slowly dawning on me, that that which was so tantalizing to Eve, to be as smart as God, has been given to us in Christ. Colossians promises that everything is tied up and gift wrapped in Christ. We have come full circle, back to the Garden where the promise of all we need, all we lack, and where mysteries are unlocked, and all we need to know is here in Christ.

Jesus used to come to the Garden in the cool of the evening and walk with Adam and Eve. Jesus visited with them.

This side of the Cross, Jesus wants us to understand this letter, and He gives us the power to digest it and selfishly, I desire to know Him, not just things about Him. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t Paul saying that the knowledge is something you pray for, even ask for on behalf of others? If so, I ask for you:

Colossians: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colassae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it form Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities---all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church, and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross, through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which, I, Paul, was made a minister. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, this is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasurers of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and In Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority, and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. I you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)---in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account o these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self and its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, and with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to god. And whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians chapters 1-3:16)

1 comment:

Bob said...

Bingo! You've hit the nail on the head! Lucifer's original sin ("I will make myself like the Most High" Isaiah 14:14) established the pattern of all sin and it was the appeal he made to Eve ("You will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:5) and it's been the lure of all sin since.

So when Eve grabbed the forbidden fruit, she really was grasping after divine knowledge, but she was doing so apart from God. But as Paul tells us in Colossians all God's knowledge, wisdom and understanding is found only in Christ, in the Creator Himself.