A Short Theology of Colossians
The message of the gospel points us to a new possibility for life—nay, a new actuality of life. The divine fullness has entered into time, and history is bursting at the seams. As the world hurtled onward towards the abyss, God came bodily in Jesus Christ and embraced death and reprobation—“making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). In the ultimate maniacal flourish, we made war with the creator. God defeated our opposition to him by submitting himself entirely to it, sucking death and darkness into his divine being and absorbing them. Thus, just as only God could create from nothing, so too only God could save from the chaos of nothingness.
Through Christian discipleship, beginning with faith and baptism, the believer joins Jesus in the submission to death—and is at once beckoned to begin on the path of resurrection life (Col 2:12; 3:3). At this point, the mediators of law and religion who were to stay the darkness have become superfluous. Any submission to them can only imply a denial of the victory of God in Jesus Christ—a denial that death and chaos have already been overcome. To be in Christ is to have left once and for all the domain of darkness and entered instead “the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14).
The new actuality of life for the believer is one that is structured in every way by the death and resurrection of Jesus. As he entered the ranks on behalf of sinners and took their pain upon him, we too are to enter into the world of pain and death and bear faithfully and joyfully our sufferings as a testimony to his definitive work (Col 1:24-29). Even in our lives with one another, our power and might come through sacrificial submission (3:18-4:1). Embracing the cross, the Christian (and the Christian community) becomes the analogy to Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Christian becomes a pointer to divine reconciliation.
The embrace of the cross is always entrance into a new mode of resurrected life: the old is done away with, obliterated, and the new has come. The modes of being that separated us from one another—race, sectarianism, anger, malice, envy—these are gone (Col 3:5-11). Space has opened up for an existence in community which takes on the characteristics of God’s trinitarian life: unity in diversity, submissive love, and perfect harmony. The life of the Christian community is a life in Jesus that moves toward the Father, mediated by the Spirit (Col 3:12-17).
This is the life of the Christian in community—with God and with one another. Her entire existence becomes a declaration of reconciliation. She warns everyone not to miss the grace of God—and with a kind of incredulous joy, she cannot even fathom that some would refuse this new life. Moved by the death and resurrection of Christ, the believing community seeks to present everyone mature in Jesus Christ (1:28). In this way, the proclamation of the message, the spiritual life, and Christian ethics all unfold in one natural movement.