As we have seen in previous studies, Paul in this section of his letter is dealing with various aspects of the behaviour expected of the members of the new humanity composed of believers in Jesus Christ. The apostle has used the illustration of putting of and on clothes to depict the necessity of disposing of sinful attitudes and replacing them with godly ones. In addition, he has reminded the Colossians that their King provides an environment of peace within their hearts which has to be worked out as they interact with one another. And one way by which they do so is by using psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to teach and admonish one another.
In verse 17, he further clarifies how this new life is worked out and gives two general features that must mark all that the Colossians say and do. The first feature is that all must be done ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ and the second feature is that all must be accompanied by ‘giving thanks to God the Father through’ Jesus. Christians should have these two aspects at the forefront of their minds.
It is clear from Paul’s words that we cannot compartmentalise our lives and divide them into areas that can be classified as sacred and secular, holy and worldly. The apostle makes a comprehensive statement which says all aspects of a believer’s life must be covered by the name of Jesus and that believer should be able to thank God in every area of life. Paul is not merely talking about our actions – he also covers our attitudes and thoughts, our aspirations and intentions.
The apostle has already mentioned gratitude several times in this passage, so indicating that the new humanity is composed of those who are grateful to God for his many blessings. All of them come to believers through Jesus, but they can also be traced to the eternal purpose of the heavenly Father.
It is good for us to take stock and ask ourselves where all our blessings come from. The answer is that they came from the loving heart of God. Every time we wear the beautiful garments of holiness we should thank the Father. Every time, we sense the beautiful inner peace of the Christian life, we should thank the Father, the God of peace. Every time we interact with another, we should thank the Father that he has brought us into a community where the truth is spoken.
Yet Paul reminds us that expressions of gratitude must have a Christ-awareness as well as an appreciation that God is our Father and we are members of his family. We are accepted in Christ alone, not because of our dedication to his rule. No matter how lucid our understanding of his instructions are, no matter how insightful our grasp is of his sovereign position, we do not gain access to God’s presence based on our knowledge. There is only one name that opens the door for believers into the presence of God and that is the name of Jesus.
The members of the new humanity depend upon the person of their covenant head, the Mediator between them and God, the one who conveys to them all that the Father has planned, the only Saviour, Jesus Christ. And because that is the case, they will ‘do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’