Monday, August 18, 2008

Colossians 3:9-11

Day 16

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Paul has just finished reminding the Colossians that they have died to earthly things. The false teachers were teaching that the Law must still be followed. Paul told the Colossians that this was an earthly solution, which was inadequate at best. Christ gave us a heavenly one. Our salvation came to us through Christ.

Another part of the false teaching was an idea which drove a wedge between God’s people. The false teachers taught that the special knowledge required for salvation was granted to a select few. It would be an elite group that found acceptance with God. Paul blows this idea right out of the water in today’s verses. There is NO distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free, circumcised and uncircumcised. All we need to know is Christ. All we need to be is in Christ. We all had the same exact problem-- we were sinners in need of a Savior. Christ wiped the slate clean for each believer. This puts us all on an equal playing field: saved by grace. There is no place for disunity within the body of Christ.

Unity of the believers is a strong theme throughout the New Testament. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was addressing a plethora of major problems within that body of believers. Things like incest, adultery, abuse of the Lord’s supper, etc. horrified Paul and got a strong reaction from him. Yet what is the most important problem Paul addresses at the onset of his correspondence? Disunity in the body. Jesus prayed for His disciples the night He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew they faced a tumultuous few decades ahead as God established His church. So what did Jesus pray for? “That they might all be one. . . that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

Any group of people can have unity when they are united around a common cause. But it takes supernatural power to have unity in the midst of conflict. Undoubtedly, the church through the ages has been a body with diverse opinions on doctrine and theology. Yet in the face of these, we are still commanded to have unity with each other. The basis for this is simple: we are all saved by grace. We are all in Christ Jesus. When we fuss, argue, and judge each other, we have taken our eyes off of the reason for our faith.

Paul is addressing the symptoms of this very problem. Apparently, the Colossians lied to each other, struggled with anger, and abused each other with words. We as Christians can easily succumb to this behavior, and astonishingly enough, often claim we are doing these very things in the name of the Lord! I was once a part of a church split that was ugly and hurtful. Each person held a strong opinion as to the doctrine in dispute. Unfortunately, they allowed their opinions to become more important than their fellow believers. Several people who had been attending the church as seekers turned away in disgust when they saw the behavior of those who had been claiming to live for Christ. I’m pretty sure the Lord was turning away in disgust as well. Pride was the main motivator-- and everyone involved lost. The church eventually dissolved as a result of the cancer which ate away the body from within. Satan had found a foothold in the anger and abuse of believers toward one another.

When have you experienced disunity in the body of Christ? What could you have done to obey Scripture’s command to be unified in Christ?

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