If you have been raised with Christ: Colossians 3-4: a devotional guide

If you have been raised with Christ: Colossians 3-4: a devotional guide December 9, 2022

Monday: Read Colossians 3:1-4

Colossians 3:1-4:6 gets to the heart of Paul’s lived theology. His exhortation is clear: you died to your old way of life, so live in accord with the kingdom of God. In particular, Paul draws out the implications of the fact that we have risen with Christ.

Paul affirms that “if you have been raised up with Christ” (1). Though the Greek is often translated “if” (as in most English Bibles), the meaning is much more in accord with “since” (as in the NIV, NLT). Paul is not saying, “well, if this is true.” He is stating “since it is true, then you should do the following.”

First, Paul says that we should “keep seeking the things above” (1). It is critical for understanding this text and the NT that we recognize that terms like “above” and “heaven” are not meant spatially. Instead, they simply refer to “where God dwells.” If, after all, God was “up there” it would certainly be a bummer for those who live “down under.”

In addition, Paul says, “set your minds on the things above” (2). This certainly contrasts with the false purveyors of religion that Paul was opposing in 2:16-23. They were concerned with earthly matters and rules that correspond to them.

Paul grounds his exhortation (“for”; 3) in the reality that we “died” and our life “is hidden with Christ.” (3) Paul assures them that when Christ “is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (4).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • The fact that we have already risen with Him means that we should live in accord with this truth. The “already-not yet” understanding of the end times is critical to this passage. In one sense, it is “already” true that we have been raised with Christ (1). Though at the same time, it is “not yet” true. After all, we still suffer pain and death.
  • For Paul, it is critical that we orient our thinking and our actions around a proper understanding of who we are in Christ. What kind of change might you imagine if you further oriented your thinking and living in terms of eternity?

Tuesday: Read Colossians 3:5-11

In 3:5-17, there is a strong contrast between the old life (5-11) and the new life in Christ (12-17).

In 3:5-11, Paul begins with two lists of five vices. The first list contains various sexual sins (5). The second list contains sins of anger (8-9).

After the first list, Paul indicates, “it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (6). In other words, practicing these things leads to death. The sins of anger contradict our new life in Christ (9). Paul affirms, and you, “have put on the new self” (10).

It is this new self that is being “renewed to a true knowledge” (10). Most significantly, this new self is being renewed “according to the image of the One who created” (10).

Paul returns to the fact that the family of God has no racial distinctions. Paul lists a series of contrasting groups in order to affirm “we don’t make these distinctions” (11).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • Paul’s concern is not to give a list of “good” things and “bad” things. As if he was saying, “don’t do this, but do this instead.” Paul is reminding them of what it means to be human! This is why he says that they were being renewed “into the image of the One who created.” In other words, he is saying, “this is what it means to be created by God and to be human.” Does knowing this change your mindset when it comes to lists like these?

Wednesday: Read Colossians 3:12-17

Paul now turns to what it looks like to be image bearers in the world. He begins by addressing the Christians in Colosse in language that is applied to Israel in the OT. They are “chosen” (12; Isa 42:1; 1 Pet 2:4, 6), “holy” (12; Exod 19:6), and beloved (12; Gen 22:2).

Paul then exhorts them to “put on” (12). And a list of five things follows.

The first is a “heart of compassion.” The idea here is that we are to have sympathy that understands others. If Paul still has in mind, and he certainly does, the relationships between the diverse members of the body, then he is instructing them on how they treat and receive one another.

Second, they are to have “kindness.” Again this speaks to having a Christlike attitude toward others.

Third, they are to have “humility.” This also speaks to their inner personal relationships. It suggests a willingness to disregard one’s personal rights.

Fourth, is “gentleness.”  Gentleness is the result of approaching others in humility.

Finally, Paul encourages them to have “patience.” Patience relates to one’s reaction toward others.

With regard to the last two items on the list (gentleness and patience), NT Wright notes, “the first foreswears rudeness or arrogance; the second, resentment and anger.”[2]

Paul then elaborates further on what it means for them to reflect the image of God in their relationship with one another. They are to be “bearing with one another” (13). The NLT reads, “make allowance for each other’s faults.” NT Wright says, “restrain your natural reaction towards odd or difficult people.”[3]

In addition, they are to “forgive each other” (13). Paul then adds, “just as the Lord forgave you” (see Matt 6:14-15).

Finally, Paul notes, “put on love” (14). We might do well to conclude that this is the overriding command. Paul even begins by saying, “beyond all these.” Then he closes by saying that love “is the perfect bond of unity.”

As for the community of God’s people, Paul says that we are to be a model of what the kingdom of God looks like (16-17). This includes, letting the “peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (15); letting the “Word of Christ richly dwell within you” (16); and doing “all in the Name of the Lord Jesus” (17).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • We might dream that our local church and even the larger Christian church would model this text. But it doesn’t have to be a dream. What if we decided to be difference-makers? What if we determined that we ourselves would implement these characteristics in our own lives? Then, what if we decided to encourage our local church to find opportunities to make those who are often considered outsiders even in our own communities feel like insiders? More than that, what if we treated them so that they functioned on the same level as everyone else? I am thinking of groups such as: the handicapped; the elderly; single parents; the poor; racially diverse; and women.
  • We forgive because we are forgiven. We treat others the way Christ treated us. This may not be easy, but it is what reflecting the image of God does.

Thursday: Read Colossians 3:18-4:1

In 3:18-4:1, Paul addresses Christian households. Household codes were common in the Roman world. The key distinctive of Paul’s codes is that he addresses women, children, and slaves as people who were able to make their own moral decisions. Greco-Roman codes only addressed those in authority.

As with what Paul has just given set forth for the people of God, the essential features of the household code is that God’s people should be characterized by selflessness.

Paul addresses wives first (18). They are to be subject “as is fitting.” One can see here a measure of liberty that is being granted to women. They are not commanded to simply “submit.” Instead, the command to submit is qualified with, “as is fitting” (we will discuss this more in our study of 1 Peter).

Husbands are commanded, “love your wives; and do not be embittered against them” (19). Paul is expressly commanding husbands not to use their liberties granted to them by Roman law. In Roman law, a woman, who was treated harshly, had no legal redress.

As noted in our study of Ephesians, Paul’s commands to husbands and wives have all the earmarks of Genesis 3. In Genesis, male and female were created to work together as “one.” Once sin entered the story, instead of ruling as one, they became rivals. According to Genesis 3:16 (contrary to many modern understandings), the wife will “desire” (in a domineering way) to rule over her husband, but instead, he will “rule” (harshly) over her (Gen 3:16). For Paul, neither wives nor husbands are to be domineering.

Paul then addresses children. They are to “be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (20). Again the importance of Paul’s addressing children cannot be overlooked. In the Greco-Roman world, children had fewer rights and privileges than women.

Fathers are then instructed not to “exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (21).

Finally, Paul addresses slaves and masters. As noted previously, slaves in the Greco-Roman world were often debtors slaves or captives of war.

Slaves are to obey “in all things” (22). Slaves in the Roman world were known to do lesser quality work when their masters were not looking. For Paul, our behavior is a testimony that we are image-bearers of God. Thus, he commands, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (23).

Paul concludes “grant to your slaves justice and fairness” (4:1). Not only does Paul address slaves as responsible persons, but now his address to masters undermines the practice of slavery. To fulfill the ethical demands that Paul has laid out in this letter, masters can no longer treat slaves unjustly. This, however, was a form of leverage they held over their slaves. If they can’t be harsh and unjust with them, then how do they go about ensuring that their slaves do their job?

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • The Gospel is “good news.” In particular, it is good news for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18). The Church should be leaders in the world when it comes to advocating for the marginalized. Yet, many churches seem to treat many as second-class persons. Even those churches that believe that women cannot be pastors, should strive to ensure that women are treated as equals in Christ. At times, it seems that some churches are afraid of having women “violate” some biblical principle of leadership. So, they fail to treat women as equals. Of course, many churches that affirm women as leaders do not treat women as equals either. Simply having a few women on a board, or allowing a woman to preach occasionally does not mean that women throughout the church are treated as equals.
  • The result of following Paul’s code of ethics is that the witness of the church would flourish. How does knowing this change the conversation on how we treat others?

Friday: Read Colossians 4:2-18

Paul concludes where he started. He opened with an extended prayer for them (1:3-8). Now, he urges them to “devote yourselves to prayer” (2). He asks that they pray for him. In specific, he asks for them to pray that God may open the door for the Word (3) and that he (Paul) may know how he “ought to speak” (4).

They are also commanded, “conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (5). In doing so, they are encouraged, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (6). In an ancient world, where debate and pride of place influenced one’s conduct towards others, Paul advises that they speak with grace.

In 4:7-18, Paul closes with an extensive greeting.

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • It is significant that the apostle Paul needed people to be praying for his ministry. That he needed prayer so that he might know how he “ought to speak” (4) is interesting. It affirms that every aspect of our lives and ministries is to be empowered by Christ. Encouraging them to pray for him also gave them an opportunity to participate in his ministry. How might you be more involved in the ministry of the kingdom? Is it through serving?; giving?; equipping others?; or praying?


[1] This guide is meant to be done either as a group study over the course of 2 or 4 meetings (Day 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20), or as a private devotion over the course of 4 weeks (or a calendar month—5 lessons per week).

[2] Wright, Colossians, 146.

[3] Wright, Colossians, 146.

Browse Our Archives