The context is always important. The previous blogs through these chapters set the scene.
The Apostle is telling the Christians in Colossae that Christ is enough. They are to come away from the teaching that you need something else as well as Christ to be acceptable to God. That is not where they are. They have died to those kind of things and have been raised to a new life with Christ. Don’t focus on rules and regulations but on Christ. Let Christ be seen more than your rules of life.
If you view the Bible as a rulebook then you will hate this blog. But if you see the Bible as a place where you encounter God not as a download of information and stuff to do but instead, a place where you are not only encouraged because you learn new things of Him but a place where you weep and struggle and even argue with Him, then that’s where I am at.
We are in a similar place to when Paul wrote to the Ephesians a household code of practice, common at the time of him writing. It reads quite similar.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers,do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” (Colossians 3: 18-24)
Let me join the angry cry!
Should abused women stay with their husbands?
Should children obey their parents who teach them how to steal?
Should slaves even be slaves?
Why doesn’t Paul speak more about what we want him to say? Look at all we know in 2020 surely we need the Apostle to be more denouncing in his words. How helpful that would be.
But of course it isn’t 2020 when he is writing this Spirit-inspired piece of Scripture. He chooses the citizens of lowly status to speak into. Women who are ranked below men; children who have no rights and slaves who are purchased objects. What is he doing?
He is pushing the social boundaries of his day with the aim being the gospel mission, people to find Christ. For example he has already said in v11 there is no slave or free, that itself would have sent many scurrying to the verses of the Old Testament that slaves did not have the same rights as their free Israelites.
In the verses we read today, 5 times the Lord’s name is mentioned. Look at them. Paul is bringing the challenges of his society into the shadow of Christ. How much more should we? Whether that be about slavery or racism or diversity, what does being in Christ and with Christ and following Christ teach us about those terrible things? What would Christ do? How much more should we be pushing boundaries within and outside the Church?
Maybe that’s the point the Apostle is making. Don’t see these verses as a Christian manual for 2,000 years later. I don’t think Paul was writing with that in mind. But see how in the history of faith the Bible speaks into that day.
The Bible speaks today into the difficulty of our day. Let us use it not as a proof-text or to back up the inquiries of our opinions.
Thankfully the Spirit has developed our society and culture since the day of Paul and the Roman Empire. It is our responsibility now to do what the Apostle did to take Christ into the challenges of our generation and to do this with wisdom for the gospel mission.