Dr John Dickson

Australian writer, academic, and speaker — public advocate for the Christian Faith

Talk 4. Jesus and the New Humanity: Studies in Colossians

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Moral record keeping

Benjamin Franklin, Patricia, Nick

The Colossians needed to be reminded of what is effective for living the Christian life.

1) JESUS DEATH AND LIFE (Col 3:1-5a)

1.1    Beautiful logic (Col 3:1-4)

Christ died, Christ raised, Christ appeared. Therefore, you’ve died to sin, you’ve been raised to new life  and you will appear with him in glory.

The final realisation of Christian life is in the future as only then are we fully free of power of sin.

1.2    Direct our thoughts and affections to Christ and his kingdom (Col 3:1-2)

1.3    Put to death the old life and put on the new (Col 3:5)

What the mind/heart rehearse, behaviour often follows.

Christian living is the grateful outworking of Christ’s gracious work in us.


2.1    You’re dead; live like it !!!! (Col 3:3)

You put to death certain things because, in God’s eyes, you’re already dead to them

2.2    Vices can be divided into 2 groups - i) physical ii) relational

Christianity is ‘conservative’ in private ethics and ‘progressive’ in social ethics.

i)   physical sins are to be put down (Col 3:5)

     Terms “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires” are all related but used to close loopholes

     Greed is a lust for ‘stuff’(Col 3:5b)

Paul calls it ‘idolatry’ (false god) because greed is reverencing ‘created things’ in the place of the Creator.

ii)  relational sins (Col 3:6-10)

     ‘Anger’, ‘rage’, ‘malice’: again closing loopholes

     ‘Slander’, ‘filthy language’ (= obscenities directed at someone more than ‘swearing’)

     ‘lying’ (Col 3:9)

Lying wasn’t universally denounced in Greco-Roman societies in the way it is in our heavily Judeo-Christian society especially if a lie was told to someone beneath ‘rank’ / outside social / ethnic group (probably why Paul adds verse 11)

Remember the logic of all this (Col 3: 9-10)

Christian living is the grateful outworking of Christ’s gracious work in us.

3) PUTTING ON OUR NEW LIFE (Col 3:12-17)

3.1    ‘Therefore’ . (Col 3:12a)

You have been re-clothed in God’s eyes (clean, dazzling); now live like it

Christian living is the grateful outworking of Christ’s gracious work in us.

3.2    Christ’s character in us (Col 3:12-13)

‘Compassion’: a deep feeling provoked by the needs of others

‘Kindness’: a determination to treat people beyond what is merely just.

‘Humility’: not a low view of self but the noble choice to regard others above yourself

‘Gentleness’: refusal to use power against others (strength, beauty, intelligence, money, etc.)

‘Patience’: willingness to put up with people’s foibles, idiosyncrasies

‘Bear with each other’: true tolerance is the capacity to show kindness to those you disagree with.

‘Forgive’: to release a petitioner from their moral indebtedness against you (“as the Lord forgave you”).

3.3    Love, the heart of character of Jesus (Col 3:14)

agapē, ‘love’, seeking the good of other without regard to affections or actions.

The logic of our love is clear: grateful outworking of God’s love for us in Christ.

3.3    A life of gratitude/thanksgiving (Col 3:15-17)

Singing is not separate from Christian living  At heart: grateful lips from a grateful life

3.4    Behind all our work to put to death vices and put on virtue is God’s work in us (Col 3:10)

Not ‘you are renewing’ but ‘being renewed’

Paul has repeatedly emphasised God’s work in us (1:29, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19)

Christ is in us by Spirit to mysteriously move us to put off vice and put on virtue

Just gratefully choose to be godly; and watch God renew you …

Christian living is the grateful outworking of Christ’s gracious work in us, both objectively in the past and mysteriously in the present.


Mockery of criticism of Christian living

Alan Dershowitz argues that Christian ethics is motivated by avoiding hell and earning heaven. Therefore, it’s selfish, not ethical (Letters to a Young Lawyer (Basic Books, 2001, 193–200)

“Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality. That’s just sucking up.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Bantam Press, 2006, 226).

“If a person is responding to the needs of others because they assume God will approve of their good behaviour rather than simply because those people are in need, is this not a rather tarnished, diminished version of goodness?” (Hugh Mackay, The Good Life. Macmillan, 2013, 186-187.)

Christian living is motivated neither by reward nor punishment but by gratitude

We live ethically (in theory) as the grateful outworking of God’s gracious work in us

Joseph Samuels – the man they couldn’t hang

“May the grateful remembrance of these events direct his future course!” (Gazette)

When you know God’s reprieve (record of our sins nailed to cross), grateful remembrance directs our future course.

Grateful remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection in which we died to sin and have been made alive makes some things irrational (sexual immorality, slander, rage, lying …) and some things perfectly rational (Christ’s own virtues of compassion, humility, forgiveness, and love)

And, toward this rational goal we are “being renewed (by God) in image of Christ.”

Christian living is the grateful outworking of Christ’s gracious work in us.


ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies,
  we your unworthy servants give you humble and heartfelt thanks 
  for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all people. 
We praise you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for your measureless love in the redemption of the world
  by our Lord Jesus Christ,    
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. 
And, we pray, give us that due sense of all your mercies, 
that our hearts may be truly thankful,
and that we hold forth your praise, not only with our lips, but also in our lives; 
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you   
  in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, 
be all honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.