Author: Karen deBlieck

Read Colossians 1

Key Verse: Colossians 1:19, 20 “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness, should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

Take a good long look at verses 15-23. It is a lesson in Christology. Verses 15-18 tells us Jesus is. Verses 19-23 tell its what God the Father has done for sinful mankind through God the Son. These are nine verses worth memorizing.

Who is Jesus? Relative to God the Father, He is “the image of the invisible God” (15a); relative to creation, He is “the first-born over all creation” (15b). Both “image” and “first-born” had great meaning in Paul’s day — they both were titles of sovereignty. Paul’s use of “first-born” has its roots in Israel’s messianic hope (a king born of David’s line who would be called, among other titles “mighty God”) and “the image of the invisible God” refers to the great Revealer of that mighty God to humankind locked in space and time. To “reveal” means “to uncover oneself” — God had to “uncover” Himself from eternity to man living in a limited universe, and He chose to do so in terms man could understand. That’s why He became one of us.

But, at the same time, Jesus is both the means and the purpose for creation (v. 16). He holds “all things” together, even while He pre-exists all things (v.17) — “he is the beginning” (v. 18b). Yet, in the context of our history, He is the “head” of the Church and also the “first-born from the dead” (v. 18a, c).

In God, the Son, God the Father dwells fully (v. 19) and, through His physical blood shed on a wooden cross, Jesus has made peace between sinful man and Holy God — we’ve been reconciled (v. 20). Now, instead of sinful, we are “holy in His sight” and “free from accusation” (v. 22 NIV).

In Christ, we are a new creation, and none who put their trust in Him will be disappointed.

Read Philippians 4

Key Verse: Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

This key verse occurs in the context of verses 4-9, which my Day Unto Day New Open Bible has entitle, “Peace with the Lord”. Paul is again addressing the attitude, or the “mind”, that should characterize Christians. And, as was the case in chapter 2, his lofty words on attitude follow reference to petty differences within the church (4:2).

In verse 4 Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” It is interesting to note that “rejoice” in Greek was also used as a way of saying “Good-bye”. Paul is about to say “Good-bye”, and uses this double entendre to emphasize what the Christian attitude should generally (indeed — “always”) be: joy.

As verse five reads, this joy was to be expressed in “moderation” (KJV), “forbearance” (RSV), and “gentleness” (NKJV and NIV). The Philippian Christians were surrounded by a heather culture which misunderstood their strange Christians belief and practice. Rather than reaction defensively to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, Paul encourages the Philippians to respond with patience, if for not other reason than that “the Lord is at hand” (5b).

Let’s face it: if we believe “the Lord is at hand” (theologians call this “imminence”), then our attitude, values, and behaviour will be drastically affected. Prayer, thanksgiving, peace (vv.6,7), and excellent thinking (v.8) will naturally follow. Expecting the Lord at any moment has a way of making your day.

Read Philippians 3

Key Verse: Philippians 3:13 & 14 “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goals for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had powerful motivation. It was rooted in his belief in Jesus, and its energy was derived from his hope of “the upward call of God.” Paul was a man with a dream, a man who was going somewhere — and he knew who was taking him there. But Paul was also methodical. He very effectively contributed to the upward call by determined effort. Here is how he analyzes his contribution:

  1. He forgets the past. If anyone had reason for regretting his past, it was Paul; especially as it related to his earlier treatment of Christians. Paul’s behaviour is recorded in the Book of Acts, “Then Saul, still breathing threats of murder against the disciples of the Lord…”(Acts 9:1). But he chose to forget his past, not because he was callous, but because he had truly repented and knew he’d been forgiven.
  2. He dreams a dream (“reaching forward to those things which are ahead”). He chooses to pursue the far horizon, to stretch his mind and challenge his heart. He rejects complacency and embraces vision.
  3. He keeps on going (“I press on…”). He had every reason to quit. As we’ve already seen in 2 Corinthians, he had undergone more aggravation, persecution, hassle, and life-threatening situations than all of us put together. He was a doer and no quitter.

He forgets, he dreams, and he keeps on plugging. Why? Because he valued the upward call more than life itself. What’s more, he trusted Jesus — “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2Tim.1:12).

Read Philippians 2

Key Verse: Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

At first reading in the context, it looks a bit like over-kill. Paul was concerned about petty personal quarrels which were disrupting the Philippian church (2:1-4). He certainly needed to give a fatherly word of correction. Instead, he breaks forth into one of the most eloquent and powerful bursts of theological poetry in all of written work. Why? Maybe because, in Paul’s thinking, attitude was vital to Christianity. It wasn’t enough just to think correctly about Jesus, you also had to think the way He thought. And Jesus thought in a radical way — He thought in terms of downward mobility. Jesus was disturbingly and refreshingly self-forgetful.

A discussion of the theological implications of this passage is far beyond the scope of this little commentary. I wish only to make a few brief observations. First of all, verse 6 speaks of Jesus in His pre-incarnate state: “being in the form of God.” or, as the NIV translates, “being in very nature God.” Greek thought saw “form” in two ways: 1. shape and appearance, as when a shadow takes the form of a monster on a child’s bedroom wall; 2. the expression of what really is essentially and substantially divine — He shared the divine nature. Secondly, in verse 7, Jesus “made Himself nothing” (NIV), that is, He unilaterally limited or emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives. Only power has the power of self-limitation. In Jesus’ case, He limited himself to the point of death as a human on a wooden cross (v.8). He became, literally, a “slave” (v.7).

Remember the context. Paul is addressing pettiness in the Philippian church. He is challenging his readers to rise above feuds and jealousies. The inference is that a desire for the upper hand, for ascendency, is at the root of these squabbles. Paul is saying, “rise above littleness and drive to serve rather than command.” Follow Jesus’ example. Be downwardly mobile!