Having established the supremacy of Christ and salvation in Christ, in chapter 3 Paul turns his attention to the practical implications of living out what it means to be united to Christ by faith. He begins by describing the status of believers and then the servanthood that follows from that status. In this way the indicatives of the gospel (who we are by virtue of God’s grace) drive the imperatives for our lives (what we should do in accordance with God’s Word).
The blessings of the final age have dawned right now, in the middle of history, becoming ours through union with Christ.
The new status that believers possess includes being raised and seated with Christ at the right hand of God in heaven (v. 1), having certainty of their future state of glory (v. 4), becoming equal heirs of God’s kingdom with all other Christian believers (v. 11), and being forgiven by Christ (v. 13). Believers already possess many benefits tied to Christ’s resurrection, ascension, intercession, and glorification. Some of these blessings, however, will not be fully realized until Christ’s return. Thus, believers live in an already/not yet (or “eschatological”) tension. The blessings of the final age have dawned right now, in the middle of history, becoming ours through union with Christ. We are therefore pilgrims who, though our destiny is secure, are called to journey through life with faith and obedience.
In light of these many gracious eschatological blessings, Paul calls on the Colossians to seek, out of gratitude to and love for God, the knowledge and wisdom that comes from Christ alone (vv. 1–2). More than this, Paul summons them to serve others in a manner consistent with the characteristics of Christ’s kingdom. He describes Christlike servanthood as both a “putting off” (vv. 5–11), no longer practicing the old vices that characterized their lives before Christ, and a “putting on” (vv. 12–17), practicing the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22–23). This ongoing process of becoming a Christlike servant (sanctification; cf. Phil. 2:12–14) occurs only because of the change in status (justification, etc.; cf. Rom. 3:21–31) that God has granted. It is as we learn of God’s love for us that our hearts are changed and we are moved to obey him from the inside out.
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.