“Since you have been brought back to life in Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God.” These beautiful lines begin Chapter 3 of the Letter of St Paul to the Colossians and make a fitting note on which to end Fr Robbie’s series of talks on these Love Letters to the Church.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible… all things were created through him and in him. Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity.” Colossians 1: 15-17. St Paul’s great theological hymn of praise to Christ forms part of these two chapters of the Letter to the Colossians. They also contain an exhortation to remain faithful to the truth and not to follow false gods. Gnosticism in its various forms was an early Christian heresy. Fr Robbie delves into its shadows and half-truths, contrasting it with the Gospel preached by St Paul and the Apostles – the Good News of our redemption in Christ.
After a look back at the end of Chapter Four in which Fr Robbie usefully summarises the ways in which to interpret Scripture with the mind of the Church, he moves on to examine St Paul’s exhortation to live by the Spirit of God, rather than according to our sinful human nature, the fruits of the Spirit being, as listed in this well-known passage – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
‘I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from that which we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned’. Galatians 1: 6-8. Fr Robbie looks more deeply at this well-known passage the theme of which forms the basis of the first chapters of this Epistle.
Beginning with the right treatment of slaves by Christians, St Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians with the well-known description of the ‘armour of God’. In a few paragraphs he sets out the necessary dispositions for our spiritual warfare – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandles of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. An unforgettable passage, ably expounded by Fr Robbie, for our encouragement.
Beginning with an outline of the practical behaviour expected from Christians, Fr Robbie moves on to look at St Paul’s teaching on marriage. His words are familiar: ‘Give way to one another in obedience to Christ… husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her… wives submit to your husbands…children, obey your parents…’ However, beyond the marriage bond between husband and wife is the imagery of St John in the Book of the Apocalypse of the Church as the Bride of Christ prepared for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
In a well-known passage, St Paul exhorts all Christians to unity: ‘Do all you can to preserve the unity of Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same Hope… There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all, and within all.’ Eph 4: 3-6. Fr Robbie further expounds this key doctrine in the theology of St Paul, who had such care for the new churches he had founded and who longed and prayed that they may remain united in Christ, come what may.
And you were dead, through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world…..but God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy…. he brought us to life in Christ – it is through grace you have been saved. St Paul, acutely conscious of his own terrible misunderstanding of Jesus before his conversion, speaks with passion of the change wrought by Christ in those who come to believe in Him. You who were once so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ, for he is the peace between us…