30 March 2016

Colossians 3:1-4

“Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (v. 3)

Psalm: Psalm 147


A central teaching of Paul's letters is the idea that Christ became like us so that we might become like him and that we are now 'in Christ'. Therefore because Christ has lived our life and died our death, we have died with Christ and now live his eternal life.

The authorship of this letter to the church in Colossae is disputed. The writer claims to be Paul and there are some typical Pauline features both of style and of theology. However, in some respects the writer develops Pauline ideas further than Paul ever does in his undisputed letters and has different ethical standards. These discrepancies have led some to suggest that the writer was a second- or third-generation Pauline Christian writing in Paul's name to lend authority to his letter.

Certainly, although this passage is consistent with mainstream Pauline theology, it is embedded in a longer portion of the letter dealing with the ethical consequences of Baptism (Colossians 2:20 - 3:17), which is not necessarily originally Pauline. It is not clear whether Paul believes that Christians live the resurrection life now or in the eschatological future (Romans 6). This writer sets forth what may be either an authentic Pauline development, or a reflection of the community's baptismal practice: that in Baptism we die with Christ as we go down under the water and are raised to new life with him. He goes on to argue that if we live new lives we should be behaving in new ways suitable to those who are 'in Christ'.

Regardless of authorship, this passage conveys a deep spiritual truth; that our deepest identity is found in the God who is love. Love that overcomes death. Fr Richard Rohr writes: "Your true self is who you are, and always have been in God; and at its core, it is love itself. Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower. Most of human history has referred to the True Self as your 'soul' or 'your participation in the eternal life of God'."

To Ponder

  • What does Baptism mean to you?
  • What sort of prayer or spiritual practice do you need to engage in to get in touch with your true life that is hidden in Christ with God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.