2 January 2015

Colossians 3:12-17

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 98:1-3


The writer of the letter to the Colossians takes a cosmic view of what God has done in Jesus Christ. The one who was before all things has become mortal in order to reconcile all things back to God. This is the triumphant hope that an apostle of the gospel (Paul) is charged with proclaiming. It means that everything has changed and that those who have accepted the message find themselves changed also. They have been made "God's chosen ones, holy and beloved" (v. 12). The passage today is part of a longer series of exhortations to the Colossians to live out this transformation.

Central to the response is thanksgiving. The epistle is replete with declarations of gratitude and injunctions to be thankful. In this passage there is the instruction in verse 15 ("Be thankful"), the comment in verse 16 on how hymns should be sung ("with gratitude in your hearts"), and the summation of the section in verse 17 describing how everything should be done ("giving thanks to God the Father").

Thankfulness, though, is a secondary virtue. The primary calling of the Christian is to love (verse 14). The writer uses an image of getting dressed which (though it is not helpful to push the analogy too far) sees the top garment as love. The Christians have already been urged to put on those things which result from love - "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (v. 12) - and to be forgiving. Again, it is clear that this is all in response to what God has done: those who have been forgiven are called on to forgive (verse 13); those who are "beloved" (v. 12) are to love (verse 14).

The letter is clearly addressed to a community; Christians are to work out their response to God's action together. They should encourage each other and it is notable that the singing of hymns seems to be part of the way in which they build each other up (verse 16). This is a church that is being transformed by the gospel (the good news of Jesus) as the word of Christ dwells in them.

To Ponder

  • One of the traditional strengths of Methodism has been its hymnody which has been vehicle for teaching, as well as a resource for worship. When has the singing of hymns served to build you or your church up in faith?
  • After all the giving and receiving of presents, this may be a time when you are writing thank you letters. Is this simply a duty or is it a way to express the thankfulness of your heart? What can this practice teach us about offering our thanks for the birth of the Word made flesh which has changed everything?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..