Thoughts from Colossians

Tracing some themes in Colossians, inspired by JesusCreed today. Scot’s question: Was Paul in trouble with Rome or with the Jews?

Is Paul in trouble with Rome? Of course. He is in jail, waiting to hear if he lives or dies. Chapter 2 even engages in a military metaphor, showing Christ as the crucified conqueror. But does that capture the theme of the letter?

Chapter 1, Christ is the head and gives us fruit. F.F. Bruce ties the fruit into Jesus’ parables. Fruit is a rich metaphor in the Psalms, which are Jewish liturgy.

Chapter 2, the mystery of Christ is that Gentiles (gasp) are in God’s plan. He rejects wrong philosophy in 2:8, and wrong rules and religion in 2:16ff. There are rules that were the shadow but now Christ has come. Rome was not the shadow that was replaced. Instead, Paul is trampling on centuries of Jewish privilege with God. Against religious and philosophical initiations, Paul states that ascetic rules don’t change a sinful heart (2:21-23).

chapters 3-4, We died with Christ, we raised with Christ. Put off anger, sexual sin, and saying wrong things. Put on mercy, kindness, gentleness. Forgive. Most of all, love. Live like you were dead and raised. Live like it in your home and at work.

It seems to me that the intended effect is change in individual lives, as well as community life.

Paul is thinking both bigger and smaller than Rome. Bigger, he is tracing God’s plan through the ages and towards heaven. Smaller, he urges individual and personal change. The clothing metaphor makes it personal. Paul’s comments about deceitful philosophies, circumcision, and festivals seem much more likely to put him in trouble with the Jews. Paul states that Jewish history gave the shadow, Christ is the substance.

The problem: a broken relationship with God (1:13, 21, 2:13, 23, the sins of chapter 3).

Incomplete and fake solutions: philosophies (2:8), circumcision (2:11), religious acts (2:16-23).

Real solution: Christ (too many to list!). He is the head, the one who raised again and gives life. He is in heaven. He changes hearts.

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