The Believer's Response; Colossians 3-4, Philemon
October 1, 2018

C. R. Oliver

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January 1, 2012

The Believer's Response
Colossians 3-4, Philemon


     Before entering this study, it would profit the reader to re-read the sixth chapter of First Corinthians-especially verse eleven. The Corinthian letter was written some time before these four prison letters, revealing the continuity of Scripture as the Holy Spirit touches on certain themes of importance to the believer. Paul further illuminates the subject of personal piety in the third chapter of Colossians.

1 Corinthians 6:9-12:
Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality,

10 Nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.

11 And such some of you were [once]. But you were washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and you were consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and you were justified [pronounced righteous, by trusting] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God.

12 Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.

Notice the similarity of the Corinthian passage to Paul's concerns in Colossians.

Colossians 3:1-7:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

Remember, in the first chapter of Colossians, Paul emphasized their completeness in Christ-a matter he will close with in chapter four, thereby making a full circle of love around these good people. He then, in chapter two, moved into outside forces that were "add-on's" to that completeness (added things, elements, which were not of God).

These outside forces of Greco-Roman acculturation, Jewish regulations and mysticism were portrayed as elements which would detract them from enjoying their freedom in Christ.

In chapter three, Paul addresses inside forces which are not of God and serve as bondage and slavery makers when engaged in. His list is as up-to-date as today's news. All these issues mentioned are personal and intimate sins of the flesh. They are deadly to those who participate. God equates them to idolatry. Most people would testify they are not idol worshippers, but just as obedience is counted as worship, so these sins are accounted as idols. Anything that rises within a person to block their vision and distract their attention away from God can become an idol. Although these issues were present in the first century church, the modern congregation would have to acknowledge their presence today and perhaps in magnified form. These idols are flagrant in mass media, popular lifestyles, gross immorality and common practice. Christians have been numbed by their proliferation and acceptance. Lately, churches have taken the view of compromise and tend to overlook such behavior.

An example would be St. Isadore Episcopal and the Rev. Sean Steele, who sponsored a booth at a local Pride Festival (Sept.8,2018) in the Woodlands Township (North of Houston). The booth offered "Free Dad hugs, Free Mom hugs and Free Pastor hugs." Rev. Steele commented, "throughout history the church has caused a lot of pain and hurt and wounds in the life of LGBTQ folks. Unfortunately, the way the church has operated theologically with gay people is they've used shame." Steele continued, "They've basically said that you are unworthy of love and belonging, that you don't belong here. Well, there's no better way to counteract shame and that lie than with an in-carnational movement." (Houston Chronicle, Sunday Sept 9, 2018, pg A3)

Should the whole world adopt these intimate enemies, the Word is still the same and the outcomes are still cogent. Paul quickly commented, "such were some of you." Repentance is still in vogue and forgiveness is still relevant. Washed, sanctified and justified are the consequences for escaping slaves and bondsmen who will flee these untoward life-traps.

Because Jesus empowers His people with supernatural ability to overcome and because He reigns at God's right hand and because we died with Him-we are empowered to do as He commands.

Saints are told, to "set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth" (Given the accelerated pace of our world, it is easy to be sucked into a vortex of "things that need tending." One's job, family, social interaction, health maintenance, commerce and a myriad of other tasks consume a person's time-not to mention intervening, unexpected, variables.)

Second, the believer is to "put to death your members which are on the earth." Graphic assault is made against sexual sin (the very sins which are accepted as standard behavior both in and out of congregations today).

Alongside sins against the body is covetousness, a personal and secretive component, viewed as a "harmless" fault by most. The neon sign "IDOLATRY" flashes above them all, as most of the world will have to one day bow in acknowledgement.

Each of the first two commands are "doable," but require a determined discipline on the part of the transgressor. Not only can such be done-it must be done!

Paul outlined certain things that must be "put on" and "put off." Jesus has empowered the saint's ability to accomplish these tasks with the same faith which beckons us to, "put on Christ like a garment."

Colossians 3:8-12:
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Reaching into Ephesians, note the application of "putting on" and "putting off" various hinderances to righteousness. This is a central theme with Paul: why is it not a central theme for the church today? (Hint: to preach these passages would be bad for the offering and not be politically correct.)

Observe the Ephesian teaching, how it includes things not shown in the Colossians' text.

Ephesians 4:17-5:8:
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Do Not Grieve the Spirit

25 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Walk in Love

5 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Holiness and Righteousness is central to the preachment of the gospel. This teaching is indigenous to it!

Romans 13:12-14:
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

2 Corinthians 12:20-21:
For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; 21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.

Regardless of the consequences, this message demands a hearing in the halls of Christendom. Reckless avoidance of this message brings judgment and assures rebuke by the cloud of witnesses and by the Lord. Directions to the highway of holiness must be given and backpacks filled with worldly pursuits will not be accepted at entrance!

Creatures of the new man are not identifiable by worldly standards.

Colossians 3:11:
there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

"New man" is known for his likeness of Christ Jesus. He bears the "image." (Oh! They are so visible to the saints. Walk into any congregation and look around to see the ones you are drawn to. Converse with them and behold evidence of the deep treasuries of knowledge and wisdom.
There is a spiritual force operating in them.

Colossians 3:10:
put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…

Colossians 3:12 begins with "therefore," which signals a transition. It points backward to all that has been preached from chapter one to this juncture. (So, based on all you now know, it is time to put on some things.)

Colossians 3:12-14:
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

It is time for believers to act and define themselves as, "the elect of God, holy and beloved." Standing in this truth offers a foundation few exhibit today. The list of things to "put on" suggests owning a Christ mind. Putting on love crowns the pursuit of perfection. It testifies to having attained spiritual maturity.

Paul now adds some "lets" to his list of excellence.

Colossians 3:15-17:
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

"Open the gate and let in peace to rule your heart," would be a fitting summary of this passage. Letting Peace reign is tremendously important, especially in the affairs of life. If one is troubled over an issue-pursue peace about the matter. Do not proceed without it!

Letting peace reign becomes "a way of life." Philippians 4:6-7 says,

Philippians 4:6-7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Anxiety is not peace; it rejects the plan of God. If there has ever been a time to have minds and hearts garrisoned ---it is NOW! That's "letting" the Word of Christ dwell richly in all matters of life.

Next, is a favorite passage of mine. It's about worship on a "ministering level." What would happen if an audience ministered in the Spirit to one another through giving a Psalm or singing one? What would the worship service be like if it had all three elements of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs intermingled with teaching and admonition? What if it dawned on program directors that some of the current services do not have any of these elements? What would happen to the sermon on a Sunday that the Spirit moved so mightily using these elements the service "got out of hand?" (I sure would like to be there!) Wouldn't it be wonderful to see the faces of the singing audience when "grace" took charge of the singing, and ministry to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost supplanted the ordinary time limits for a service and hearts broke loose in abandon-enough to rival David?

Verse 17 speaks to it all.

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Because Paul is "setting things straight," he teaches proper "chain of command," in the following passages. He says the Lord approves this pattern and each segment has responsibility toward the other person in the chain.

Colossians 3:18-4:1:
18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

(Family structure and work force structure could use a bit of adjustment right now-it seems to me.)

Master artist that he is, Paul puts the final touches on this marvelous epistle, first with a few words about the necessity and power of prayer, along with ground work for evangelism. He then ends with an extension of hospitality toward significant brothers.

Colossians 4:2-6:
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

His final words were to make sure Laodicea got the message, along with Hierapolis. The special word to Archippus may have carried a "special" message in it-one many a clergyman need hear.

Colossians 4:7-18:
7 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. 8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, 9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.

10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."

18 This salutation by my own hand - Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.


Philemon is joined to the epistle to Colosse, because they both were written in 61AD and it is about Onesimus, who is mentioned in Colossians 4:9. The whole book is short and carries a message about how to treat brethren who have "messed up." Paul's recommendation and personal guarantees make a powerful advocacy. The slave masters are admonished to receive him "as a Brother." This goes against the grain of society, changing its view by seeing others in light of the cross. (This view is desperately needed today, as Christendom is strewn with the bodies of those who were castigated and ostracized because they "messed Up." What went wrong with "restore such an one with the spirit of meekness?")

Philemon 1:

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. 7 For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

8 Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, 9 yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you - being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ - 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.

12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.

15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave - a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay - not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.

21 Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.


23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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