Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Living the New Life - Peace & Thankfulness

Colossians 3:15-17

Last time we looked at the first of the five great principles Paul outlines that paint the picture of the new character we have in Christ. These characteristics come by the power of the Holy Spirit after we have put off the five forms of the old character and put on the five parts of the new: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. The first principle is love—that other-centered, self-sacrificing affection we have towards others. Paul specifically points out how we can mirror the Messiah’s character when it comes to understanding the needs and sorrows of others.

Specifically we can show empathy, and understanding with others who may in fact be angry with us—and find ways to effectively help them fall more in love with Jesus by kindness and in humility using power under control and great patience to lovingly lift up (accept) those that are broken around us.

To help facilitate this character in the body of Christ, Paul gives us four more principals: peace (15) which controls us, the gospel (16) that fills us, the kingdom of Jesus (17) which defines our purpose, and a thankful heart (17) which grounds us.

Let’s first look at peace:

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What was happening in Colossae was the splitting apart of the body—as certain members had a very different idea of what it was like to be a Christian. It sowed discord and discontent in the body. Paul points out that this is not like the Messiah.

He says to let “peace” “control” our hearts. The Greek word “peace” comes from a root word meaning: “to join”. The idea here is that in the Messiah we have been joined together as one body. This body needs to be at peace with itself. In our physical bodies when parts of the body fight with each other, we can die. In certain autoimmune disorders the immune system actually attacks the body. This was happening in Colossae and can happen in the body of Christ today. When we don’t follow the character of agape love, the body attacks itself and is not at peace.

Paul says that oneness in Christ should come first—that we are all equal and equally saved by Jesus and have nothing to claim more importance or prominence over each other. He says this peace should act as a controlling force. The word means an umpire or arbiter. He’s not talking about some board or external body laying down the decision either – he’s talking about something that takes place in “your hearts”.

For example: someone says something that offends you. Our natural human inclination is to say something hurtful back, or look for an opportunity to say something to someone else that reflects poorly on that individual—so as to get back at them. Paul wants there to be a little umpire in your head that says “is this really something that would benefit their walk with the Lord?” And they call that proposed response “out” like a baseball umpire.

The peace of the Messiah is an umpire because most often the hurts that lead to discord are hurt feelings and pride over our position in the pecking order. In Christ there is no pecking order. No one is more or less important. This is vital for us to keep in mind when we get into the section about applying the character of Christ in our marriages, homes, and work situations. Listen to how Paul put it to the Philippians:

Phil. 2:3 “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

So to apply the peace of the Messiah to our relationships: think before you speak or act: “Is what I’m about to say or do going to contribute to the health and peace of this person and the body of Christ?”

Paul then adds in this little two-word phrase: “Be thankful.” “Thankful” comes from two Greek words: “well” and “to show favor”. The church uses the word to describe communion: “the eucharist”. “Gratefulness” could be another way of stating it. When we start looking at the fact that we are all one body and no one has the supreme place except Jesus, and when we look at the kind of character we’re coming from—it should make us grateful, not jealous or hurt or angry.

I’m jumping ahead a little bit, but we end in verse 17 by Paul telling us to do everything in Jesus name with thankfulness to the Father through Him. We are thankful in that we have been given the opportunity to join God’s own family and have a part in building His kingdom. That kind of perspective raises us above our petty squabbles and hurts. As we’ll see, the idea of gratitude permeates this section.

Keeping in mind what God did for us in giving His Son to die in our place, and the gratitude for that gift, makes us less likely to react to others with anger. We need to remember that Jesus is the head of the body and the King of the universe and that we serve Him.

So how does that work? Let’s see that as we move on to principle #3.

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Verse 16 to me describes life in the body of Christ. There are three main characteristics of this life: the gospel, worship, and gratitude.

  1. 1.The Gospel

Paul says that the message about Jesus, which is the gospel, should “dwell” in us “richly.” The word “dwell” means: “to be at home”. Instead of focusing on differences between us, we should be comfortable and at home with and focusing on the good news of the gospel. “Richly” is the Greek word that means “an abundance.” So in our lives and in the body there should be an abundance of good teaching and application of the gospel that is “skillfully” brought. This, I hope, is the case with our body. We put a great emphasis on the teaching verse by verse through God’s Word, always focusing on Jesus as the King in God’s kingdom.

“Teaching” (Gk: didasko) means: “uttering in public what they wished their hearers to know and remember.” So we gather together to hear instruction about God’s Word. It is my hope and aim to have a richness of

teaching in this fellowship. I have been in other places there is a famine of God’s Word and the gospel. Christians are weak and not many get saved.

“Admonishing” (Gk: noutheteo) means: “to place in the mind”. The idea is to warn or encourage someone to seek God’s character. So in addition to instructing on the doctrines of the gospel, we seek to encourage its application in your life—to admonish you to seek God’s best as you serve Him and submit to Him.

  1. 2.Worship

Worship is the second great part of Paul’s description of body life. Specifically Paul talks about singing songs to God with a heart of gratitude. We take this very seriously here at the Fellowship. We believe worship needs to be directed “to God” as Paul says. So our worship songs are nearly all “musical prayers to God.” We give thanks to God in our songs, we lay down our lives; we call out to God and sing of His attributes. Worship is the New Covenant equivalent to the fellowship offerings of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 13:15 “Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name”).

The type of songs outlined here: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs—is difficult to parse and probably unnecessary to qualify. The idea here is that as there should be richness in the teaching, there should also be richness and diversity in the lifting up of thanksgiving to God in worship.

Notice that there is a literal physical singing here. “In your hearts” should not be taken to mean a silent worship. That’s why we encourage everyone to sing out loud, and to learn the songs. We even post a YouTube.com playlist of all the songs we sing at the Fellowship so you can learn them and then sing them to God from your heart but through your mouth.

  1. Gratitude

As I mentioned before, our singing, our teaching, and our fellowship with one another should be filled with gratitude towards God. We should feel blessed to be a part of God’s family and honored to have a part in the body of Christ. The word “gratitude” is the Greek word “charis” which means: “grace” or “a gift”. The word in Greek comes from a Hebrew word, both of which picture God extending Himself freely towards us. God extends forgiveness of our sins, He extends eternal life, and He extends purpose and meaning—all at not cost to us. That’s what should be reflected in our interactions with others and as we worship Him.

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Paul ends up this section with a catchall—that should color everything we think, do or say—that is, that we are acting “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This means two things: 1. What we say and do should bring honor and respect to the Lord because we represent Him. And 2. That we are, by using His name, empowered to perform whatever He calls us to do so we should stick to it.

Doesn’t that give a different twist to the seemingly ordinary tasks of our day? Paul doesn’t say: “when you are doing ministry” or “when you are witnessing”, but it’s when you are doing the dishes or cleaning clothes or attending a class or another boring meeting at work. You never stop being a Christian and you never stop representing Jesus wherever you go. And when things get hard realize that if you are doing it for Jesus then maybe it’s worth the extra time and effort.

And then Paul finishes once again with the idea of thankfulness. I’m reminded of Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” If God works all to the good – then we can literally thank Him in all the things we go through in this life—good or bad, easy or hard.

This means that we get to act as diplomats and agents of Jesus wherever we go. A diplomat is not a citizen in the country where they are posted, but they use diplomacy to live within that culture and communicate the positions and desires of the sovereign of their home country. It’s an awesome opportunity and responsibility. This one mindset sums up all of Chapter 3.

So let’s review. The new character we put on to replace the old character that has died consists of: love that binds us, peace (15) which controls us and joins us, the gospel (16) that fills us with wisdom and worship, the kingdom of Jesus (17) which gives us forward momentum as ambassadors, and a thankful heart (17) which grounds us in the reality of who we serve, what He has done, and our place in His kingdom.

I want to come back briefly to the idea of thanksgiving and gratitude that permeates this section. Be thankful to God instead of bitter towards others in your relationships—focusing that thanksgiving upward into songs of worship, and focusing it outward in bringing the grace of God to others through who you are and what you say and do.

So today we’ve seen the character of Jesus reflected by the body within the church. Next time we’ll see these same principals (from verses 12 – 17) applied to work and home.

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