February 2, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, February 3 through 8

Monday, February 3

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 56, 60:1-5, Prov. 20:9-12, 17-22, Col. 1:1-17
Evening - Ps. 65, Ezek. 34:25, Jn. 6:41-59

Commentary, Colossians 1:1-17

This week's readings for Morning Prayer take us through the book of Colossians, one of many letters written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome in the year A.D. 62. The church of Colossae was probably founded during Paul's ministry in Ephesus, which spanned most of the years of A.D. 55-57. Paul may have traveled to Colossae, or people from that city came in contact with him during trips to Ephesus. Epaphras spent much time in Ephesus studying with Paul before going back to Colossae to serve as the church's pastor (1:7). We know Paul knew many of the Colossians, and at least two, Philemon and Onesimus became Christians through the Apostle's ministry (Philemon 10, 19).

We often encourage people to conduct themselves in a way that brings honour to whatever organisation they may be associated with. Perhaps there is no setting where this is more urged upon people than in the family. Everything we do reflects on the rest of the family. If we conduct ourselves with honour, we build respect for our family in the community. If we conduct ourselves with dishonour, we bring sorrow to our family members, and shame to our family name. It is no less true, in fact it may be more true, that our actions as Christians and members of Christ's body and Church, bring honour or disrepute to our Lord and to His local congregation. Like it or not, people will judge your God and your church by your actions and attitudes. So the words of Paul in Col.1:10 are always relevant; "walk worthy of the Lord...being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." 

Tuesday, February 4

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 61, 62, Prov. 21:21, Col. 1:18-2:5
Evening - Ps. 71, Ezek. 36:22-28, Jn. 6:60

Commentary, Colossians. 1:18-2:5

Many religions owe their origin to a single person, but Christians claim that the "Man" we follow is in every way nothing less than God Himself. Thus, St. Paul says in today's reading in Colossians, that He is the image of the invisible God (15), the creator of all things (16), the head of the Church (18), and the fulness of all things (19). The rest of the Bible teaches this doctrine also. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14). Angels marveled at this. Wise men sought Him at great personal cost and risk. Kings of earth longed to see His advent. Yet, even more amazing than the bold fact that Jesus is God, is the startling, frightening statement that He allowed Himself to be tortured and murdered, and that in some mysterious way, we have peace with God through the blood of His cross (20). 

Peace with God is not mere forgiveness. God has a higher purpose than simply letting us off for our sins. He forgives us to reconcile us. He forgives us to call us back into Himself, to know Him in all His glory and peace and fulness. He calls us to love and enjoy Him now and forever. He forgives us that He may give us His presence in a way that is so full and so complete it can only be described as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (27).

Wednesday, February 5

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 63, 64, Prov. 22:1-6, 17-19, Col.2:16-19
Evening - Ps. 72, Ezek. 37:1-14, Jn. 7:1-13

Commentary, Colossians. 2:16-19

Today's reading in Colossians leads us into two important points. First is the danger of false doctrine and false teachers masquerading as Biblical Christianity. There have always been wolves in sheep's clothing, and of such people and doctrines we are warned to beware (2:8). Paul calls their teaching "vain deceit," the "tradition of men," "of the world," and "not after Christ." He warns that they will spoil us if we follow them. "Spoil" as used in verse 2:8 means to seduce and lead astray. It is to lead a person into eternal ruin. Such is the end of those who persist in false doctrine. 

Second, the Apostle encourages us to be "stablished" in the true faith (2:7). Paul refers to the doctrines he has taught to the Colossians and to all the Church. His doctrines are simply those taught by Christ, entrusted to the Apostles, and preserved in the Bible. These doctrines keep us rooted and built up in Christ (2:7). In their truth our faith will abound unto everlasting life.

Let us be plain about the applications of this passage of Scripture. If false teachers lead people to destruction, we attend their assemblies and sit under their teaching to our peril. We should make every effort to separate ourselves from them. If sound doctrine enables us to abound unto everlasting life, we must spare no effort to bring ourselves and those we love under its influence as often as possible.

Thursday, February 6

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 68:1-19, Prov. 23:20, 21, 29-35, Col. 2:20-3:11
Evening - Ps. 73, Ezek. 37:2, Jn. 7: 14-24

Commentary, Colossians. 2:20-3:11

People tend to vacillate between the extremes of license and legalism. License is the idea that everything is moral as long it "doesn't hurt anyone." This is rapidly becoming the moral standard of many "Christians" today. It is often found in the company of an idea that says, Christ died for my sins, therefore I don't have to try to live a good life. I will go to Heaven no matter how good or bad I am, so I am free to sin as much as I want. Such people believe they have a "license" to sin. Legalism is the idea that keeping a morass of confusing rules about things that really don't matter is the essence of faith and the way to please God. License makes important moral issues trivial; legalism makes trivial things important moral issues.

Colossians 2:20-23 is about legalism, which false teachers were attempting to impose on the Church. Their legalism was not about morality, it was about the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Its main point was the idea that Gentile Christians are required to keep the ceremonial law in order to be saved. They said Gentiles have to keep Passover, circumcision, the Old Testament dietary rules, and all the Old Testament festivals, or they can't be saved. We can easily see that legalism is a direct contradiction to grace. According to legalism one is saved by keeping the rules. According to grace one is saved by Christ's atoning death and righteousness imputed to us and received by faith. Legalism tries to earn Heaven; grace gives it as the free gift of God.

In Colossians 3:1-11Paul exhorts us to receive the gift of God by faith. He tells us to stop worrying about ceremonial rules and start seeking the real things of Christ above. He does not tell us there are no more rules. He clearly shows that every part of the moral law is still in force. But he denies that anyone will be saved by their attempts to keep it. Ceremonies cannot save us, and we have failed in our attempts to keep the moral law, therefore we cannot make ourselves worthy of Heaven through the law. Instead of earning Heaven for us, the law starkly reveals how unworthy we are to go there. It is Christ, not the law, who is our life by giving us a righteousness we could never achieve through the law. 

Christ forgives our sin and gives us His perfect righteousness in place of our own tattered and failed attempts at righteousness through the law. But this does not give us a license to return to sin. It is our part, now, to seek Him and to set our affections on Him.

Friday, February 7

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 69:1-22, 30-37, Prov. 24:23, Colossians. 3:12-17
Evening - Ps. 75, 76, Ezek. 39:21, Jn. 7:25-36

Commentary, Col. 3:12-17

The heart of today's reading from Colossians is verse 17. To do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to do things that are approved by Him. As He is absolute love, we will be merciful, kind, humble, and meek (3:12). We will forbear and forgive one another (3:13). As He is the author of peace we will let His peace rule in our hearts (3:15). As He is the Word of God we will let His word dwell in us richly. In this way Christ Himself dwells in us filling us with the luxuriant richness of His being.


Saturday, February 8

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 77, Prov. 25:11-15, 17-22, Col. 3:18-4:6
Evening - Ps. 19, 67, Ezek. 43:1-19, Jn.7:37

Commentary, Colossians. 3:18-4:6

No matter what our position in the home, it is every person's calling to work and pray that the home will reveal the grace and glory of God in action. The picture of Christian family life found in Scripture shows each person seeking peace, harmony and godliness in the family setting. Each position is a position of service, rather than mastery, having as its primary goal the glory of God, and as its secondary goal the edification of the family members, which is to bring them into faith in Christ and full membership in His Church.

The best service we can offer to our family is a godly example. I do not pretend that any of us will be perfect, but it should be evident to all that we are trying with all our might to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and to love your family members (your closest neighbors) as you love yourself. In this kind of Christian love personal goals are sacrificed to family needs, and personal fulfillment is found in serving and loving the family. The family relationship should be viewed not as second to our service to Christ and His Church, but as a major part of it.

The Christian view of the family militates against the self-centered materialism which permeates our culture, and which even dominates many churches. Let us pray for grace daily to live Godly lives in the home.


For a Blessing on the Families of the Land

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.