Belonging To God: The Church
Lesson 13

Lesson Thirteen

Contrast: The Transition Concept

Text: Colossians 3:1-13

Colossians begins as a letter from Paul “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae ...“ (Colossians 1:2).  Paul began with an encouragement, an enumeration of the things Christ did for them, recognition of Jesus Christ’s significance, and a declaration of his (Paul’s) attitude and purpose. Evidently, many of them had not personally seen Paul (2:1).  Paul wanted to encourage them to realize the value of their relationship with Christ.


Today’s text began with a conclusion indicated by the “if then” that was based on their relationship with Christ.  Paul would encourage them to understand that their relationship with Christ produced the benefits that determined who they were and their life focus.


If (in the sense of because) they accepted as true (correct) that they had been resurrected with Christ, that resurrection with Christ should produce specific results in their lives.  (1) They should seek the things where Christ is.  The values that produced Christ’s enthronement by God should be the values that guided their attitudes and behaviors.  (2)They should set their minds on a spiritual focus, not on a physical focus.  Paul was not suggesting that they were not physical beings who existed in a physical world.  Nor is Paul suggesting that just because something is physical it is bad (or good).  He said their lives had to have a focus, a reason for existing.  That focus should not be defined by the physical realities that surrounded them but by the spiritual realities that surrounded physical existence.  Why?  (a) You died (a chosen redirection of life) to physical reasons for living because you chose to place life in Christ.  (b) Since living in Christ now defines what your life is about, you exist for Christ’s return, not for the present.


What followed is a contrast.  Notice the contrast exists (a) because Jesus was raised from the dead, and (b) because they were who they were because of Jesus’ resurrection.  God’s resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the contrast. (We need to produce a greater awareness that Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation for who we are and how we look at life.)  Do not ignore the “therefore” that begins verse five.  Paul gave them the contrast because Jesus was resurrected and their life was shaped and focused by Jesus’ resurrection.


Paul’s contrast was constructed on the concept of transformation.  Basically transformation declares, “I was that before entering Christ,” but, “Now I am this because of entering Christ.”  The “that” and the “this” are in distinct contrast.  The life idol worshippers lived before entering Christ and the life lived by the person converted to Christ were in distinct contrast.  There was a distinct difference in the way divinity was viewed, the way the person drew near divinity, the definitions of morality, the view of suitable behavior, and the understanding of appropriate motives.


The contrast between life in Christ and idolatrous life was a vivid contrast.  Before conversion sexual indulgence; acts motivated by greed; control of others through anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech; and deceit were appropriate behaviors. After conversion, Christians understood that such behaviors had eternal negative consequences.  The Christian understood that these behaviors (a) were negative because they were in opposition to God’s values, (b) invited divine wrath on a person (the person was responsible for evil committed instead of receiving divine forgiveness), and (c) in no way characterized the life of a person who belonged to Christ.


When a person chooses to live in Christ, he (or she) chooses to become the “new self.”  This new self has been “renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”  Notice here Paul declared the knowledge that focused a person on physical existence to be a false knowledge.  It pretended to know because it focused on what was physically seen.  Genuine knowledge focused on the spiritual—a reality based on Jesus’ resurrection.  The foundation of true knowledge rested in the human understanding that there is a Creator and we humans are His created.


In Christ, the Creator erased the significance of human distinctions through Jesus’ resurrection.  There was no longer Greek (here civilized non-Jew) versus Jew, or circumcised versus uncircumcised (another way of saying Jew versus the rest of people), or barbarian including the Scythian (despised as the uneducated and inarticulate with the Scythian being the lowest form of barbarians), or slave and free—all human distinctions were erased by God through Christ.  One of their challenges as Christians, the church, was to destroy human distinctions—offer genuine oneness in Christ to everyone.


The contrast between Christian and non-Christian is seen in verses 12 and 13.  Christians were a kind, compassionate, gentle people who were patient with the mistakes of others.  They acted in love and forgiveness rather than recognizing human distinctions.  Their values came from the Lord, not from people.


Why was there a difference between those in Christ and those not?  Transformation!  God through Christ enabled those who placed confidence in what God did in Jesus to be freed from their past.  God enabled people to be entirely different.  As those freed people, they encouraged others to escape their past by placing confidence in Jesus.  Being a Christian is more than associating with Christians—it is being transformed through Christ!



For Thought and Discussion


1. How did Colossians begin?  How did Paul begin?


2.  Explain the significance of the “if then.”


3.  Resurrection with Christ should produce what specific results in their lives?


4. The contrast existed for what two reasons?


5. Paul’s contrast was constructed on what concept?  Explain what transformation is.


6.  Before conversion to Christ, what were considered some appropriate behaviors?


7. Name three things the Christian understood about these behaviors.


8. When a person chose to become a Christian, what did he choose to become?  What renewed the new self?


9. Discuss what God erased in Christ.


10. Describe what first-century Christians were to be.


11. What did God enable people in Christ to do?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 13

Copyright © 2009
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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