Author: Ron Graham
The Sixth Em: Membership
—A lesson from Colossians
The Messiah or Christ —who is the Son of God— is the King of the kingdom of Heaven. Paul tells us that we have been transferred from the world into that kingdom (Colossians 1:13). A few verses later, Paul puts this fact another way. Christ is the head of the body, the church (Colossians 1:18).
In the companion epistle, Paul tells us that we are members of this body (Ephesians 5:30). This spiritual body was made possible by the sacrifice of Christ's fleshly body enabling our forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation (Colossians 1:14,21-22)
What does it mean to be a Member of Christ’s Church?
When we consider the verses we have just cited, we realise how great a privilege it is to be a member of the church whose Head is Christ. This lesson marries that fact with Paul’s comments in Colossians 3:8-17. Here Paul outlines the characteristics that God expects of members of his kingdom or church.
In our next and final lesson, we will deal more with the privileges and benefits of belonging to Christ. Our present lesson is concerned with the responsibilities of membership and characteristics required.
1 A New Speech
Once we become Christians and members of the Lord's church, we begin through his power to transform and reform ourselves to become like him. One of the first problems we must tackle is our manner of speech. Paul mentions some of the sorts of speech which must be eliminated:
Paul’s Examples of Speech to Eliminate
- Outbursts of anger and wrath
- Malicious talk and slander
- Blasphemy (profane use of "Oh my God!", "Jesus!" etc)
- Abusive or filthy language
- Telling lies
Note that because these sorts of speech may have become a habit, eliminating them will be a difficult task, but with prayer and determination you will purify your speech. Do not become discouraged.
2 A New Standard
Paul says, "...you put off the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed...". Then he mentions a new standard by which this renewal is brought about, namely "true knowledge according to the image of the One who created" the new self.
The Christian is not one who lives by his principles more consistently than others do. Many non-Christians have high principles, and live by them faultlessly. Paul himself had done so before he became a Christian (Philippians 3:5-6). No, a Christian is one who throws away all his former code of conduct, and takes on the principles by which Jesus lived.
We have "true knowledge" of these principles through the gospel, which reveals an "image" of Christ as a pattern or exemplar for us to follow.
Since we have been created as new persons by Christ, it is fitting that we should now live by his principles exclusively, and lay aside our own.
3 A New Status
The world makes distinctions between people, treating some with partiality and favouritism, whilst mistreating others with injustice and prejudice. To the member of Christ's church, all people are one. "There is no distinction."
God has "qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12), and there is no higher status that human beings can achieve (Colossians 3:3-4).
However, being chosen thus by God does not cause us to look down on others, but rather to look up to God in humility and praise, to have compassion on our fellow men, and to wish and work to share our light with them, that they also might become chosen of God and accepted.
We associate with the poor and the lowly, with the sinners and the ignorant, with the persecuted and the downtrodden. We no longer think of ourselves as above them or superior to them. God wants them to be redeemed and reconciled to him too, and to share the kingdom with us. We are but his servants to that end (Colossians 1:20).
4 A New Spirit
Paul now tells God's holy and beloved to "put on a heart" that reflects the heart of Christ. He lists some characteristics of the kind of heart Christ expects to see in members of his church.
- Compassion and kindness
- Humility and meekness
- Patience and forbearance
- Willingness to forgive
- Love (the perfect bond)
- Peace and gratitude
5 A New Song
One of the high things of this world which everybody seems to love and enjoy, is music and song. When one enters into the church, music reaches new heights, because we express our love for God in song, and make the gospel known through song.
We enjoy "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" —those special songs in which there is a new lyric, praising and preaching Jesus Christ, who has made us members of his church and given us a new song to sing.
6 A New Service
Many people of the world are self-serving but when we become members of the church, we become servants of the Messiah and no longer serve ourselves. That's what Paul means when he says, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus..."
There is a parallel statement in verse 23 where Paul is speaking to slaves. "Whatever you do, do your work from the heart as for the Lord rather than for men".
This gives us a whole new outlook and a new work ethic. We serve others as though serving Christ. We bring Christ to people through the service we give them, whatever that may be —whether our job is to sell them a product, build them a house, cure their illnesses, or simply shine their shoes. We do it for them as slaves of Christ, trying to please him and to enhance his reputation among the people we serve.