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A Tall Order (Colossians 3:17-25)

March 4, 2010

Gnosticism taught that evil was inherent in the material realm, and thus even the human body was intrinsically evil.  Paul refutes this Scripturally in several ways.  In chapter 1 and verse 21, Paul points out that the Colossians were in the past “alienated and enemies in (their) mind,” and that this was so by wicked works. Like Christ, Paul taught that it wasn’t what entered the mouth that defiled the man, but rather what exited the mouth that defiled him, because the mouth expressed what was in the heart, and the heart is evil above all things, and desperately wicked.  Like so many believers in our day, the Colossians focussed on externals to the neglect of the internals.

But we must understand that  God wants clean hearts.  Not that we have no regard for the outward appearance.  Just that we must understand what comes first.  We are not made clean from the outside in, but from the inside out.  The outside reflects (or rather, projects) what is on the inside, and not the other way around.

With that in mind, Paul addressed the issue of externalism in chapter 2, and now he puts the stress on the inside man in chapter 3.  All these things that must be mortified, that must be put on and put off, that must be done, have to do with the inside man.  And in verse 17, Paul gives the ultimate rule for the inside man.  This rule, when kept, will cover all the rest.  But it is a very tall order.

The rule extends to everything we do.  Paul is very emphatic here.  The English word “whatsoever” is translated from four Greek words.  The Greek word pas is the common word for “all,” and Paul uses that word.  But he also uses a three-word phrase (ho ti an) in addition to the word “all” that basically means “whatever.”  So, Paul wants us to understand that everything, whatever we do is bound by this rule.  He shows the full extension of his meaning here by saying “in word or in deed.”  In other words, whether you are speaking or doing, every word and every action is bound by this rule.

And what is the rule that binds all that we say and all that we do?  We must do it all “in the name of our Lord Jesus,” and we must be giving thanks to God as we do it.  The name of the Lord encompasses everything that He is.  When we are baptized, we are baptized into His name, and thus are given His name, publicly taking the name of Christ, or “Christian.”  And Paul says that everything we do, whatever it is, whether speaking or working, we are to do these things as Christians, as one who bears the name of Christ and represents Him.

This is a tall order, but essentially God requires us to faithfully represent Christ in all our discussions, in every conversation, in our joking, in our blogging, in our fellowship, in our arguments, in our debates, in our complimentings, in our rebukings, in our criticisms, in our every word.  If saying it would be an unfaithful representation of the name of Jesus Christ, if we cannot give thanks to God even as we say it, then we have transgressed this rule.

Essentially, God requires us to faithfully represent Christ in every job, in every effort, in every project, in every task, in every action, in every plan, in every priority, when we take a vacation, wherever we go, whatever we do, whenever we work, in every casual trip or entertainment or business or decision.  All our work, all of our actions must meet this requirement, that they faithfully represent our Lord Jesus Christ.  If our doing it would not faithfully represent our Lord, if we cannot give thanks to the Lord even as we do it, then we have transgressed this rule.

Paul extends this rule to wives (v. 18) in their work as wives, and to husbands (v. 19) in their work as husbands.  He extends the rule to children (v. 20) in their work as children, to fathers (v. 21) in their work as fathers, and to servants (v. 22) in their work as servants.  And then, he rephrases this rule (vv. 23-25), expanding on the idea and extending the implication beyond mere words and deeds so that the rule encompasses the thoughts and intents driving these words and deeds.

Part of doing all in the name of the Lord then includes diligence.  In verse 23, Paul uses the same four Greek words, translated “whatsoever” as he used in verse 17.  And everything, whatsoever we do, we must understand that we do not faithfully represent Christ when we do it with a slack hand, half-heartedly.  Doing it for men is not faithfully representing Christ.  We must do it as if we are doing it for the Lord.  And that would be due to the fact that we actually are doing it for the Lord.  We do it for the Lord, knowing that the Lord will be giving us the reward of the inheritance, and that we serve the Lord Christ.  And along with that, we know that God will be rewarding the unfaithful along with the faithful.  And there is no respect of persons in this, any more than there is in our salvation (vv. 10-11).

It is, as we said, a tall order.  But through our faith in Jesus Christ, we can fill it.

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