Chapter 2

2:1-10 Made alive by grace

To understand what Paul meant when wrote about being made alive, we need to grasp the language-game he has in mind for being dead. He is referring back to the Garden of Eden. "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis 2:17). The serpent said to the woman, "You will not die" (Genesis 3:4) and he was right in the sense that the couple did not die physically. But something died. They died spiritually, and they began hiding from God, blaming one another, and finding life a misery (Genesis 3:8-19).

Jesus made the same distinction between physical death and spiritual death in his words to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who was physically dead in the tomb. "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (John 11:25). But what kind of death and life is Jesus referring to? Lazarus was physically raised from the dead to live some more years on earth. But Jesus also said "The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

In this section Paul writes to those who "were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air" (2:1). Life is therefore being made alive from being moved along like a dead fish in a river.

2:1 Sin is insisting on tasting what is forbidden, which goes back to eating "the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil" and it results in spiritual deadness" (Genesis 2:17, see comment above).

2:2 Sin does not mean being particularly bad by comparison with others. It is "following the course" (like a dead fish being carried down a river) of the world. Which is doing what everyone else is doing (sleeping around, jealousy, hating, revenge, focusing on money and self-importance.. Deadness is also taking for granted the lies of Satan. As Jesus explained "He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan lies about God to deny his love. He lies about the person to keep him or her in a constant state of guilt (Revelation 12:10) and he imparts a sense of hopelessness about this life and one's life after death. He also lies about others to prevent us loving and trusting them. As opposed to Satan's lying spirit "among those who are disobedient," the Holy Spirit (1:13) reveals to us the truth about God, the truth about ourselves, and enables to see others in a new light.

2:3 The flesh can be defined as our natural instincts as they have been influenced (in some cases abused and twisted) by our early childhood upbringing. Our flesh can be trained (like a horse trained for show jumping) to do what it would not naturally do. And many people are given social skills, good manners, and civilized habits by their education. This is our normal state of mind "like everyone else." Only the Holy Spirit can produce God's kind of love in us including loving enemies, praying in the Spirit, and the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) needed for us to function in the body of the Messiah.

This is why Paul explained that our flesh cannot produce what is needed, and we need to set our minds on the Spirit (Romans 7:14-15). Setting the mind on the flesh is death (Romans 8:6). It also leaves us at the mercy of wrath (deserved and undeserved bad consequences of life in this world). By the Spirit we are not guaranteed freedom from accidents or eventual death, but the Spirit can keeps us from what Paul calls the works of the flesh : fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19-21).

2:4 -7 It is God's great love that calls us out of spiritual death by uniting us with the Messiah in his resurrection. Paul uses the term "heavenly places" (1:3, 2:6, 3:10) to refer to the heaven where Jesus ascended. But do not have to wait till we die. We already belong there by faith, and find ourselves reigning with him. As we experience this union with him we are astonished by the grace that has invited into that relationship. And this kind of spiritual transformation is not earned by self-effort but by grace alone (2:8 see the note on grace in the comment on 1:2).

2:8-9 Paul has used the term grace in his introduction (see note on 1:3). Now he explains that grace is a gift given to us by God. Since it is not by own achievement, good works or performance, there is certainly no room for self-righteousness or boasting.

2:10 We soon discover the good works that God has in mind for us "to be our way of life." This way of life is the very opposite of the deadness of being carried along "following the course of this world" (2:1).

2:11-22 Jews and Gentiles in one church

In the previous chapter Paul described the change that took place when his readers were "marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit" (1:13) and they now had access to "a spirit of wisdom and revelation" (1:17) and tremendous spiritual power (1:19-20).

Now Paul adds that a change of universal significance had occured by the incorporation of people of all nations with Jews in one church (2:11-16). This process of reconciliation (Colossians 1:20) began when Simon Peter (who had been given the keys in Matthew 16:19) welcomed the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household into the Christian church (Acts 10:34, 44-48, see how Peter answered the strong objections to this, Acts 11:2, 9, 15-18). And Paul explains that the Jews who did not come to faith in the Messiah would eventually be made jealous of what had happened in the world-wide church (Romans 11:11-12) and be reunited with the Jews who became Christians in the first century.

Meanwhile a first result of this momentous change is that by the Spirit (2:18) his Gentile readers have been made citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, members of the household (family) of God, and part of God's holy temple (2:19-22).

2:11-12 Whereas Jewish people (those whose males were circumcised) had some sense of belonging to God's people who lived under the covenants given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), other nations (the Gentiles) live under the fear of capricious gods, feel alienated, and have no reason for hope.

2:13-14 For the word "blood" as a shorthand for death by murder of execution see comments on 1:7a. By the execution of the Messiah on the cross Paul says that non-Jewish nations have been brought near, and the dividing wall of hostility between them and the Jewish people has ended. The Messiah was a Jew, and it was his own people who had him crucified. That means the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection now belong to all people, and that good news is being preached in all the main languages of the world. We might contrast this with Islam where the Qur'an should only be read in Arabic, and it must be interpreted by the traditions of the Arabs of Saudi Arabia.

2:15-16 The pursuit of Jewish law "with its commandments and ordinances"had resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus. But Jesus' willingness to die on the cross freed both Jews and Gentiles from the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem temple, the kosher laws concerning clean and unclean foods, the patriarchal rules of marriage and divorce, and many other ceremonial rules and practices. Jews and non-Jews are now reconciled in one body (the one church in each city). The reconciling of Jews and Greeks on the cross is a foretaste of the future reconciliation of enemy tribes of Europe, Black and White people, Jews and Arabs, Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and every other festering hatred in the world (as in Colossians 1:20). In the Messiah people do not lose their own culture, but both parties come to admit they are sinners, both are forgiven, and they serve the same heavenly Lord.

2:17 As a result of the cross the good news of peace with God and the new freedom (see John 8:36, worked out in detail in Religions Enslave : God wants us Free) can be preached among all nations. In the first century many Jews came to accept this invitation (see Acts 2:41, 47, 5:14, 6:7). Those who reject it in our day, either have to follow the ideas of the strict Orthodox Jews, or become totally secular, or try to find some form of Judaism between these two extremes.

2:18-19 Paul offers a Trinitarian experience of access to God the Father, by knowing the Messiah Son of God, and the inspiration and power of the Spirit. This makes us citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and family members in the very household of God.

2:20-22 Instead of the temple in Jerusalem, which was about to be destroyed in a few years (in AD 70), there is now a temple of the Holy Spirit in each city and its surrounding area (as in Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Rome). The foundation of this new temple is the teaching of the apostles and prophets, and its cornerstone is Jesus the Messiah (he is also the head of this body, 4:15-16, as in Colossians 1:18). It is a temple whose head is in heaven, but it appears on earth in each city, where people of all classes and races can come to worship, pray, be assured of forgiveness, take communion together. The disciples only grasped the implications of this after the resurrection (John 2:21-22). Peter later explained that we are the living stones of this temple. "Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah" (1 Peter 2:5)

Chapter 3