Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#40daybible Day 17 (Colossians)

Today's reading is the short letter to the Colossians.

Some thoughts:
  • Paul and Timothy write Colossians from prison to keep the Colossians from being caught up in a Jewish "philosophy," which was not a philosophy as we think of it but was basically a form of Judaism.
  • It was either a "syncretistic" form of Judaism involving worshipping angels or, as I think more likely, a "mystical" form of Judaism that wanted to worship with the angels
  • But like in Galatia, it would push the Gentile Colossian church to observe the Jewish Sabbath and perhaps follow food laws.
  • Paul's response is to point out the superiority of Christ over the angels and, indeed, all the creation. The Christ-hymn of Colossians 1:15-20 makes the point emphatically.
  • Then chapters 3-4 give the new heavenly ethic, in contrast to the earthly one of the Jewish philosophy (quite shocking rhetoric since much of the Jewish "philosophy" is more or less about keeping the Jewish Law, which makes us wonder if Paul's prison situation left Timothy to do more of the writing than Paul in this letter).  The heavenly ethic includes putting to death the earthly nature and putting on a new self.
  • The "household codes" of 3:18-4:1 are very similar to the structures of the non-believing world at the time (cf. Aristotle's Politics). They are not uniquely Christian in their specific content but rather embodiments of the principle to respect those in authority in your world. In the kingdom of God, there is not "male and female" and there is neither slave nor free. 
  • A number of key early Christians are mentioned in the closing greeting: Luke, Barnabas, Mark, and Onesimus, and we also hear of a lost Pauline letter to the Laodiceans.
My personal take-away:
  • One of the key verses in the New Testament for me is Colossians 3:17: "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

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