“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” (Colossians 3:1 NLT).
Like many of the God-inspired New Testament books authored by Paul the Apostle, the Biblical book of Colossians follows a distinct pattern. That pattern is expressed within this Epistle in two prominent sections: doctrinal and practical. The doctrinal portion of Colossians includes most of chapters one and two, with Colossians 1:15-20 serving as a focal point. These opening chapters establish a number of important truths regarding the Person and work of Christ. They also provide us with a God-honoring foundation that will help us live the kind of life that glorifies God.
Beginning here in Colossians chapter three, Paul will continue by emphasizing the practical application of the doctrinal truths he has worked to establish over the preceding chapters of this letter. To accomplish this, chapters three and four will shift our focus to several different human relationships to illustrate the way these truths function in daily life.
This relational emphasis is important because a proper understanding of our relationship with God is something that should impact the way we relate to others. For instance, a person who prayerfully observes the doctrinal truths established in the preceding chapters of Colossians is someone who will not act dishonorably (Colossians 3:5). In addition, he or she will not act inappropriately (verse 8), unethically (verse 9), or disrespectfully towards other human beings who have been created in God’s image (verse 11).
Instead, a person who has been raised to new life in Christ will reflect the positive characteristics of mercy, kindness, and genuine humility (verse 12). He or she will also exhibit the qualities of wisdom, love, forgiveness, peacefulness, and thankfulness (verses 13-16). Finally, he or she will follow a God-honoring work ethic that instills genuine meaning and purpose into the tasks of daily life (verse 17).
The remaining verses of Colossians chapter three will then finish with some guidance for family and business relationships. While the instructions found in Colossians 3:18-22 are certain to offend the beliefs and attitudes of many modern-day audiences, we’ll find that there is more to this passage than a superficial reading might suggest. When viewed in their complete Biblical context, the guidelines that close this chapter will promote a number of positive (and perhaps unanticipated) results that we’ll examine in greater detail when we reach that portion of Scripture.