Archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where they believe Jesus taught. Like most things archaeological, there is a bit of educated guesswork going on. The town is named Magdala, from which Mary Magdalene may have derived her name, and its close proximity to water would have supported a fishing economy, so prevalent in the gospel accounts.
It is unlikely that we will ever know with absolute certainty, but it is still interesting to ponder the possibility that Christ stood right there and spoke the words that changed the course of history!
In similar news, a time capsule buried by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, two of our nation’s founding fathers, was recently unearthed. It was placed under the State House in Boston in 1795 and contains coins, engravings, newspaper clippings, and other documents. It was designed to be found and was intended to give future generations insight into the history of our country.
A more modern twist on the time capsule concept is the video time capsule. People will typically videotape themselves talking to their future selves, future children, or future generations. Several movies and books have told the tragic story of people dying from cancer or some other disease who record a video to document their final thoughts or instructions to those who will be left behind.
When Paul penned the epistles that constitute such a large portion of the New Testament, one wonders if he knew that they would eventually become a spiritual time capsule for multiple generations of believers. Certainly, he had specific people and situations in mind. And certainly, with all the beatings, jailings, stonings, and shipwrecks, he knew that death was ever imminent. But regardless of his intentions,
God knew how important those letters would be and saw to it that they were preserved.
Before we open up the spiritual time capsule of Colossians to see what Paul has placed inside, let’s take a moment to consider what we would put in a time capsule for future generations to find.
- What items would you put in time capsule to be opened in 100 years?
- What if it were opened in 10 years, or 50, or 200? Would the time frame matter?
- What thoughts, ideas, or advice would you want to leave behind, if you found you had only a few months to live?
- Would those thoughts, ideas, or advice be specific to individuals, universal in application, or maybe both?
Now let’s look at what Paul placed inside the time capsule of the book of Colossians. Upon examination of this book as a whole, we note that his instructions fall into two broad categories: How we view God and how we interact with our fellow man.
The Ten Commandments can be similarly divided, and when Christ was asked to name the greatest commandment, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)
- Love God. Love People. Why is this a recurrent theme in Scripture?
- Can you love God without loving people? (see John 13:35, 1 John 4:19-21)
- Can you love people without loving God? (see Proverbs 17:17, Matthew 5:44-47)
- What are some ways to show your love for God? (John 14:15)
- What are some ways to show your love for people? (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, James 2:15-16)
Regarding how we view God, Paul discussed the superiority of Christ:
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
After discussing this briefly, Paul pointed out a few things that tend to distract us from Christ.
Obviously, distraction was not a problem exclusive to the early Christians. We face similar obstacles today: our distractions may be physical distractions or philosophical distractions.
- What are some simple things in our day-to-day life that can distract us from Christ?
- Are these things inherently bad, or only bad because we give them greater importance than they deserve?
- What are some ideas or philosophies that can distract us from Christ?
- Can good ideas wrongly applied or carried to an extreme become bad ideas or even idolatry?
- Can you think of modern examples of well meaning people going too far and losing sight of Christ?
- What can we do to help minimize the distractions we face?
Regarding human relations, Paul’s advice can be summed up as follows:
If you are in authority, show compassion; if you are under authority, show deference.
- What are some situations in your life where you are in authority?
- How can you show Christ-like compassion to those under you?
- If we interviewed those under you, what would they say?
- What are some circumstances where you are under authority?
- Do you tend to play the rebel or have a servant’s heart?
- If we had instant replay in life, like they do in sports, what would that show? Would the ruling of the judges support your viewpoint?
These are the big themes in the book of Colossians — themes that form a spiritual time capsule which remains as culturally relevant today as when Paul first penned it!
NOTE: This post is adapted from my Life’s Big Questions Series, which encourages readers to examine all of life’s questions in the light of Scripture.
Whether used for personal devotions, as family discussion guides, or in a study group, this series provides an invaluable resource for enhancing your spiritual walk.