Devotional: Colossians 3:9-15, Matthew 19:6
Colossians 3:9-15 – Paul starts out this portion of his letter (Chapter 3) with the reason that we are to behave in the way he prescribes in verses 9-15, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” Then, he gives us practical actions that will aid us in living out our new lives in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us (according to vs. 10) “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:29.
Verse 11 speaks of unity again. The New Living Translation puts the end of this verse this way: “Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” Remember, Paul only writes to believers, those who are members of Christ’s Body; this is not saying that all humans have Christ living in them.
Verses 12-15. Verse 12 in my Tree of Life version reads like this: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves in tender compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” The words “dearly loved” just jump out and grab me. How important it is to know that we are each personally loved by God. In fact, not knowing this impeded my understanding of the extent that I was forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice for my sins. I couldn’t receive His extravagant forgiveness and grace until I received His extravagant love for me. And how can we love each other (displaying all the attributes listed in verse 12 and 13) unless we have received His love for us? Verse 13 ties this love in with forgiving each other in the same way that He has forgiven us. Again, if we only have a limited understanding of His love, forgiveness and grace for us, how can we hope to forgive each other in the extravagant way He does? Notice these two verses also include words that we looked up last week: “longsuffering” (forbearance or refraining from the enforcement of something that is due; fortitude or strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage, patience) and “bearing with” (putting up with one another). Again, these definitions point out how these words describe God’s attributes in dealing with us and our sins. He refrains from enforcing the payment due for our sin (our death); He has the strength of mind to bear pain caused by our rebellion and rejection of His limitless love. He puts up with us! The only way we can love and forgive like He does is by the enabling of His Spirit in us. I notice that Paul is talking in these verses of these attitudes and behaviors as if they are clothes to either take off or put on. This isn’t just a one-time consideration, but a DAILY activity, or maybe multiple times a day! Daily remember God’s love for you personally, His grace and forgiveness extended to you. Daily submit to the Holy Spirit. Daily be thankful. Back to verse 1 and 2, daily set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ is seated at God’s right hand, and daily think about the things of heaven. This brings to mind what Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Essentially, think about Christ Jesus and the reasons you are grateful to Him!
Paul tells us in verse 14 that love is the most important ingredient for maintaining the unity we have in Christ. Love, he says, is the bond (the glue) that holds us together in perfect harmony. Again, if we haven’t accepted God’s extravagant love for each one of us personally, we haven’t got any to give to each other.
Finally, Paul tells us to let Christ’s peace rule in our hearts and to be thankful. Both of these attributes come as a result of our relationship with God in Christ. Romans 5:1 tells us that we have been given a state of peace (harmony) with God through Christ’s giving us His righteousness (in exchange for our sin(s)). For that alone, we should be thankful! Again, there needs to be a knowledge of the personal nature of what God has done in Christ so that we are not just thankful for what He has done for the Church, but for each of us individually. Unity is not just about the Body as a whole, but involves each separate part, each one of us as individuals interacting with the forgiveness, love and grace bestowed on us by God through Christ.
Matthew 19:6 – “let no one split apart what God has joined together”. This verse, in context, is in regard to Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees when they tried to get “permission” for allowing (and engaging in themselves?) divorce for any reason whatsoever. Jesus says that God made male and female in order that they would join together and be united into “one” by Him. Thus, no person should tear this God-created union apart. I like the way my Interlinear Bible states verse 6: “What then God yoked together man do not let separate.” This idea of being “yoked together” makes it much easier for me to apply this verse to the members of Christ’s Body. Yoked together brings to mind the picture of oxen wearing the wooden yoke that binds them together to make the load easier to pull. Essentially, we have been hooked to the same wagon by God to bring in the harvest of souls that He has called. Not only that, but Matthew 11:28-30 implies that Jesus Himself is also yoked with us in this work, and He is the One Who is taking on the brunt of the task.
According to my Strong’s Concordance, “let [no man] separate” in this verse means “[let no man] put asunder”. That sounds much more devastating to me than “separate”, “to depart”, or “place room between”. Webster’s first definition of “asunder” is “into parts <torn ~>”. In the case of marriage, the Bible makes it clear that the two people who enter into Godly marriage become “one flesh”. We, as part of Christ’s Body, become “one flesh” with Him—and with every other member of His Body! Just like divorce essentially “maims” the people involved (and there are more victims than just the two who are seeking to end their marriage), tearing members of His Body apart “maims” the whole Body (not just those in direct conflict with each other). For this reason, we have been told to make every effort to guard our unity in the Spirit.
How do these two sections of Scripture fit together as we continue in our study of unity? First, I think that this week we are seeing that unity starts with the individual. That sound kind of strange, but I think that Paul makes it very clear in Colossians that each one of us is responsible for “dressing” ourselves, for maintaining godly behavior and attitudes as we live out the new life that the Spirit has put within us. We have also been joined together with Christ, making “one new man” out of many. Within that overall yoking together with Jesus, there is the joining together of the fellowship called Midway CC. Even at this local level, we have been united together by the Spirit for a purpose. We are now “family”, and for better or worse we are displaying to the world around us what God’s family is all about. Only when they see love, forgiveness and grace at work in our church family will they be drawn to seek those things for themselves.
Devotional reading to be shared on April 29th: Acts 9:31, Revelation 7:9