- Col. 1:1-4:18
- Philemon 1-25
During the two years that Paul is under house arrest in Rome, he writes four letters which are sometimes called The Prison Epistles (the word “epistle” means a letter). Today we read Paul’s letter to the Colossians and to Philemon. Paul had not visited the city of Colosse, but was friends with fellow evangelist Epaphras, who had taught the Colossians the gospel of Jesus and started the church there.
One of these Colossian Christians was a slave named Onesimus, who had wrongfully left his owner, a Christian named Philemon. While away from Philemon, Onesimus had come to Paul somehow where he learned the gospel of Jesus and became a Christian. Paul had become quite close to Onesimus, and the letter to Philemon was Paul’s request for Philemon to accept his slave Onesimus back, not as just a slave but as a fellow brother in Christ.
The letter of Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, packs a tremendous amount of instruction into this short letter. There are numerous devotional topics we could choose from this letter. I want to focus on two—first, the freedom that is found in Jesus Christ, and second, some practical instructions for Christian living.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
(Col. 2:9-16 NIV)
The Old Law, which was impossible for everyone but Jesus to perfectly obey, was nailed to the cross. This statement means to convey that we are saved by GOD’s grace and by faith in Jesus. It is when we are buried with Jesus in baptism that our sins are forgiven, as we die to sin. Therefore, all of these other things which people make a big deal over, such as religious holidays and festivals or food and drink, they are not important. Salvation is found in Christ alone, and we should rejoice in this simple but powerful truth!
With this understanding in mind, the way we live is very important, and should properly reflect our commitment to Christ and the truth that He has forgiven our sins, that we are His now and that we no longer live as we used to live. Regarding these things, Paul writes:
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Col. 3:1-17 NIV)