Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Renewed Image

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:8-11)
In the previous section, the sins Paul listed were mostly of a sexual nature. It should be obvious that these do not come from the new life we have in Jesus but are alien to it. They are part of the old life and come under the judgment of God. But now Paul brings another list of things to “put off.” This list is mostly about our attitudes toward one another, how we treat each other. It largely concerns our communication — which is to say, our mouths and how we speak to one another.

The things in this second list might not seem as wrong to us at the things in the first. But for Paul, the things in this second list were just as bad, if not worse, than those in the first. For one thing, they are not as obvious and, consequently, are the kind of things that Jesus believers are more likely to get caught up in. We pretty know we should avoid the obvious sins, but the less obvious ones can slip in easily “under the radar.” However, they are just as destructive to our lives and just as harmful to our relationships with one another.
  • Anger and wrath. The Greek words for these are very similar in meaning. “Anger” appears to be a disposition, and “wrath” the expression of that disposition.
  • Malice. Ill-will toward others.
  • Blasphemy. Slander, speaking ill of others, whether about God or other people.
  • Filthy or obscene language. Weymouth translates this as “foul-mouthed abuse” (New Testament in Modern Speech).
Paul adds one more category of communication and sets it out by itself: “Do not lie to one another.” There is no room for deceitfulness with each other. His reason he gives here is this: “You have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man.”

“Put off” and “put on.” It is like a man changing out of filthy rags into a fine, new suit. He puts off all the old clothes and is made clean. Afterwards, he does not put those rags back on; they are fit only for the trash bin. No, he puts on the new clothes, the fine suit. That is what Paul pictures for us here. We have been washed clean in Jesus and made new with His life. The old way of life no longer fits. It does not reflect who we now are in Jesus and it stinks of death. We have put off the “old man” and put on the new — it happened when we received King Jesus as our own. Having put on the new man, why should we go back and wear any of the raggedy, stinking clothes of the old man.

This new life we have put on, the new person we have become in Jesus, is “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” From the beginning of creation, God made man to be in His image, to be like Him (Genesis 1:26). When Adam rebelled against God, this image was marred in the fall, but in Jesus it has been made new. Now our thinking is being renewed, made new by knowing God through Jesus the Messiah.

In his letter to the believers at Rome, Paul speaks in a similar way about the renewal of the mind: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). To be conformed to the world, the way it thinks and behaves, would not reflect who we really are in Jesus. We need to be transformed, so that our outward being reveals the true nature of our inward being and the new life we have. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, to think God’s thoughts after Him, walk in His ways and fulfill the destiny He has for us.

God’s purpose, Paul tells us, is to conform us to the “image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Jesus is the perfect image of God, and as we are conformed to Him, we are being conformed to the original image in which God created humanity — to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and have dominion (Genesis 1:28). In this way, the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven.

In this new life we have in Jesus, and the new creation of which we are now a part, it does not mater if one is a Jew or a Gentile. Those categories are no longer operative, the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision no longer, the uncultured and the uncouth are both welcomed, and the slave is on equal footing with the free. All that matters is King Jesus the Messiah, who we are in Him and who He is in us.

Focus Questions
  1. Why must we put off these old ways of dealing with one another? What harm do they do?
  2. Why is there so often a difference between the new person we really are in Jesus and the way we act?
  3. Paul speaks often in his letters about the image of God. Why is image so important?



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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