Colossians 2-4 The Voice (VOICE)
At the heart of the good news is a mystery hidden in ancient Scriptures but now exposed to the world through the lives of the church’s holy ones. Paul never refers to just one “holy one”; he always uses the plural. He knows that holiness is too difficult for us to accomplish on our own. Each of us has to be called and equipped by God, but we also have to be accompanied by others who’ve answered the call. Those who say “yes” to Jesus become the church, the company of those rescued from darkness and ultimately from death. Paul is fond of calling the church the body of the risen Jesus. Our own hopes and dreams for the future are concentrated in Him. Not only do we dwell in Him, but He also dwells in us.
2 This battle I am facing is huge. And I want you to know I do it for you, for all those at Laodicea, and for everyone else (even those who have never seen my face). 2 I’m working hard to comfort and encourage them so that they will be knit together—that many hearts would become one through His love. I do it so they will be rich in understanding and have full knowledge of God’s mystery, which is the Anointed One Himself— 3 in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed. 4 I only tell you this to warn you about those who would try and deceive you with their arguments. They seem plausible enough; but in the end, they are false. 5 Even though I cannot be there in the body, my spirit is with you; and I’m happy to know of your good order and your solid commitment to the Anointed One, our Liberating King.
Paul calls the believers in Colossae to remain steadfast in their faith.
6 Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. 7 Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness. 8 Make sure no predator makes you his prey through some misleading philosophy and empty deception based on traditions fabricated by mere mortals. These are sourced in the elementary principles originating in this world and not in the Anointed One (so don’t let their talks capture you). 9 You see, all that is God, all His fullness, resides in His body. 10 You, too, are being completed in Him, the One who has dominion over all rule, all authority. 11 In Him you were also circumcised, set apart by a spiritual act performed without hands. The Anointed One’s circumcision cut you off from the sinfulness of your flesh. 12 You were buried with Him beneath the waters of the ceremonial washing called baptism[a] and then were raised up with Him by faith in the resurrection power of God, who brought Him back from the dead. 13 And when your flesh was still uncircumcised—dead in transgression and swathed in its sinful nature—it was God who brought us[b] to life with Him, forgave all our sins, and 14 eliminated the massive debt we incurred by the law that stood against us. He took it all away; He nailed it to the cross. But that’s not all. 15 He disarmed those who once ruled over us—those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.
16 So don’t let anyone stand in judgment over you and dictate what you should eat or drink, what festivals you should celebrate, or how you should observe a new moon or Sabbath days— 17 all these are only a shadow of what shall come. The reality, the core, the import, is found in the Anointed One. 18 Don’t be cheated out of the prize by others who are peddling the worship of heavenly beings and false humility. People like this run about telling whoever will listen what they claim to have seen; but in reality they testify only to an inflated mind, saturated in conceit—not in the Spirit. 19 They are detached from the very head that nourishes and connects the whole body with all of its nerves and ligaments, a body that grows by the kind of growth that can only come from God.
20 Listen, if you have died with the Anointed One to the elemental spirits of the cosmos, then why are you submitting yourselves to its rules as if you still belonged to this world? 21 You hear, “Don’t handle this! Don’t taste that! Don’t even touch it!” 22 but everything they are obsessed about will eventually decay with use. These rules are just human commands and teachings. 23 Here’s what they are promoting: fabricated religion, self-humiliation, and bodily abuse. No matter which way they try to tether their bodies, they cannot harness their desires.
Paul knows the people in Colossae are facing many religious and philosophical options, none of which are neutral. Notice Paul doesn’t say, “Just add Jesus to what you already believe,” or, “Factor Jesus into your philosophy,” or, “Include Jesus in this or that ritual.” The claim that “Jesus is Lord” does not allow that. If Jesus is Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all creation, then all other teachings must give way. All people must bow before Him and only Him.
3 So it comes down to this: since you have been raised with the Anointed One, the Liberating King, set your mind on heaven above. The Anointed is there, seated at God’s right hand. 2 Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, 3 because your old life is dead and gone. Your new life is now hidden, enmeshed with the Anointed who is in God. 4 On that day when the Anointed One—who is our[c] very life—is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! 5 So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry). 6 It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience],[d] so avoid them at all costs. 7 These are the same things you once pursued, and together you spawned a life of evil. 8 But now make sure you shed such things: anger, rage, spite, slander, and abusive language. 9 And don’t go on lying to each other since you have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices 10 for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you. 11 In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror,[e] or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all.
Paul tells them the key to remain unified is to show compassion and forgiveness toward one another.
12 Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. 14 But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. 15 Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.
16 Let the word of the Anointed One richly inhabit your lives. With all wisdom teach, counsel, and instruct one another. Sing the psalms, compose hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit, and keep on singing—sing to God from hearts full and spilling over with thankfulness. 17 Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
For Paul it isn’t enough just to believe the right things. Right belief always produces right living. The gift of salvation demands that we put into practice the character of our King. Just as we take off and throw away old, worn-out clothes, we must strip off certain attitudes and actions of our old selves. Since our lives have been made new in Him, things like sexual immorality, greed, anger, lies, and the rest must find no place in us. But it is not enough to strip off the old; we must put on the new. And that new creation has many qualities of Jesus: compassion, gentleness, and humility; putting up with each other, forgiving each other, and above all, loving each other. These are the ways of Jesus, so they must be our ways too.
18 Wives: be submitted to your husbands as is appropriate in the Lord. 19 Husbands: love your wives, and don’t treat them harshly or respond with bitterness toward them.
20 Children: obey your parents in every way. The Lord is well pleased by it. 21 Fathers: don’t infuriate your children, so their hearts won’t harbor resentment and become discouraged. 22 Slaves: obey your earthly masters in all things. Don’t just act earnest in your service only when they are watching. Serve with a sincere heart (even when others aren’t watching), fearing the Lord who is always watching! 23 So no matter what your task is, work hard. Always do your best as the Lord’s servant, not as man’s, 24 because you know your reward is the Lord’s inheritance. You serve the Lord, the Anointed One, and 25 anyone who does wrong will be paid his due because He doesn’t play favorites.
4 And to you masters: treat your slaves fairly and do what is right, knowing that you, too, have a Master in heaven.
Family life has changed since Paul’s day. Today, sociologists talk about modern families as “nuclear”: two parents with one or two children. In Colossae, as elsewhere in Paul’s world, families were extended by nature: they consisted of a husband, a wife, lots of children, servants, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others. So when Paul addresses the family, he does not envision the modern version of it. He addresses the main family members: wives, husbands, children, fathers, and then slaves. The family reflects the order God desires in the church. Each member is to be responsible to the whole, and love and respect are to serve as the guiding principles within family relationships. Paul and Peter both use the term “submission” within family and church relationships as a description of order and support.
2 Pray, and keep praying. Be alert and thankful when you pray. 3 And while you are at it, add us to your prayers. Pray that God would open doors and windows and minds and eyes and hearts for the word so we can go on telling the mystery of the Anointed, for this is exactly why I am currently imprisoned. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message clearly and fearlessly as I should.
5 Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. 6 When you speak the word, speak it gracefully (as if seasoned with salt), so you will know how to respond to everyone rightly.
7-9 I am sending this letter by Tychicus and Onesimus, both dear brothers. Tychicus has been a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. He will update you on me and my[f] situation here, and he will no doubt be an encouragement to you. Onesimus is one of you; and he, too, has been faithful. You will get the whole story from them.
10 My cellmate Aristarchus sends his love, as does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. (You’ve been sent instructions about him, so if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, also called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only workers in God’s kingdom here who are of the circumcision, and they are a great comfort to me.
12 Epaphras, another one of your hometown fellows and a servant of Jesus the Anointed sends his regards and wants you to know how passionately and sincerely he speaks to the Lord about you. He prays for your spiritual journey, that you will continue to mature and stand tall in the kind of confidence that comes from knowing God’s will. 13 I can testify to his zeal for you and those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
14 Luke, the beloved doctor, says hello; and so does Demas. 15 Send my well wishes to the brothers and sisters of Laodicea, especially Nympha and the church that meets in her house. 16 After this letter has been read among you, see that it is also read to the church of Laodicea, and make sure you publicly share the letter I am sending to them. 17 Tell Archippus, “Take care that you complete the service you received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, am signing this letter in my own hand. Remember that I am chained. Grace be with you all.
1 Thessalonians 1-2 The Voice (VOICE)
1 Paul, Silvanus,[a] and Timothy to the church gathering in Thessalonica, those living in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus the Anointed.
May grace and peace be yours [from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Anointed].[b]
2 We always thank God for all of you in our prayers. 3 Your actions on behalf of the true faith, your tireless toil of love, and your unfailing, unwavering, unending hope in our Lord Jesus the Anointed before God our Father have put you consistently at the forefront of our thoughts. 4 O brothers and sisters loved by God, we know He has chosen you. 5 And here is why: what you experienced in the good news we brought you was more than words channeling down your ears; it came to you as a life-empowering, Spirit-infused message that offers complete hope and assurance! We lived transparently before you so that you would know what sort of people we truly are. We did it for your sake, 6 and you have modeled your lives after ours just as we are modeling ours after the Lord. You took to heart the word we taught with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, even in the face of trouble. 7 As a result, you have turned into a model of faith yourselves for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 In fact, not only has the message of our Lord thundered from your gathering into Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere we go, your faith in God is talked about so we don’t even have to say a thing! 9 You see, they go on and on telling us the story of how you welcomed us when we were introduced to you; how you turned toward God and realigned your life to serve the one true living God—leaving your idols to crumble in the dust— 10 and how you now await the return from heaven of His Son, whom He raised from the dead—namely, Jesus—our rescuer from the wrath to come.
It’s only by the leading of the Spirit that these first-generation church planters find themselves in this most disagreeable city (although it seems there’s no place Paul can go without causing a commotion). Likewise, it is neither by chance nor by any human power that these people are drawn out of their comfy old habits into a radical new way of living. A miracle really takes shape when, by trading in their old ways of living, believers take to heart the message of Jesus, and their unshakable faith shakes up conversations everywhere.
Kingdom work begins at the surrender of life, by giving yourself away and expecting nothing in return. Real change is then ushered in by the loving touch of the Spirit, moving out from people living transparently faithful lives even in the middle of commotion.
2 Brothers and sisters, you yourselves know that our coming to you was not a waste of time. 2 You remember how we had just suffered through brutal and insulting attacks in Philippi; but because of God, we boldly stepped into the open to tell you His good news, even though it would likely mean more conflict for us. 3 For we haven’t approached you—or anyone else for that matter—with some error or impure motives or deceitful agenda; 4 but as we have been approved by God and entrusted with the good news, that’s how we are telling the world. We aren’t trying to please everybody, but God, the only One who can truly examine our motives. 5 As you know, we didn’t sandwich the truth between cunning compliments—we told it straight—and before the eye of God, we never conspired to make a single cent off of you. 6 We didn’t come seeking respect from people—not from you or anyone else—although we could have leveraged our position as emissaries[c] of the Anointed One, the Liberating King. 7 Instead, we proved to be gentle among you, like a nursing mother caring for her own children. 8 We were so taken by you that we not only eagerly shared with you God’s good news, but we also shared with you our own lives. That’s how much you’ve come to mean to us.
9 Don’t you remember, my brothers and sisters, how hard we worked and struggled? We worked day and night so that we wouldn’t be a burden to any of you and so that we could continue to proclaim to you the good news of God. 10 Both you and God can confirm how well we treated the believers: we were always holy, just, and blameless. 11-12 As you know, we comforted and consoled each of you as a father soothes his own children, encouraging you to live lives worthy of God—of the One calling you into His own kingdom and into His glory.
Unlike the Corinthians who struggled to break their old religious and cultural ties when they came to faith, the Thessalonians followed Jesus wholeheartedly and thus faced persecution for their devotion.
13 So we have good reason to give thanks to God without pausing. For you have taken into yourselves the word of God we brought to you and received it as a message from God—not just something whipped up by someone like you or us—and that word is at work in you who believe. 14 And, brothers and sisters, you even became imitators of the churches of God in Jesus the Anointed that gather in Judea because you were willing to suffer at the hands of your own countrymen as they suffered from the unbelieving Judeans. 15 These are the same people who killed the Lord Jesus, as well as the prophets, and continued attacking until they drove all of us out. They don’t just offend God; they are clearly hostile to the rest of the people 16 because they are trying to silence our life-saving message to the nations; and as a result, their sins are always filling up and overflowing. But in the end, they will face God’s wrath.
17 Brothers and sisters, we are like orphans, separated from you for a short time (in presence, yes, but not in heart); and we desperately desire to see your faces again. 18 However, as much as we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, assure you we tried again and again—Satan thwarted our plans. 19 For what is our true hope, our true joy, our victor’s crown in all this? It is nothing if it isn’t you standing before our Lord Jesus the Anointed at His arrival. 20 You are our glory! You are our joy!
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