BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES/Putting on Christ
Please turn to Colossians 3:9-17. In this passage, the apostle Paul defines what it looks like to live under the rule of Christ. Specifically, he tells us that to live under the rule of Christ means to be made a new person by being united to Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. Living under the rule of Christ also means that we stop our old patterns of living, thinking, and behaving which are not in accord with the God’s Word. So to live under the rule of Christ means to be a new creation, and it also means to put off sin and to put on righteousness. This passage divides easily into two sections. First, in verses 9-11, Paul says that believers must make sure that their speech is not destructive to church unity. Secondly, in verses 12-17, Paul says that believers must put on the characteristics of the new creation.
I. A Christian’s Speech Must Promote Unity.
In verses 9-11, Paul asserts that believers must make sure that their speech does not undercut church unity. Throughout this passage, Paul is concerned that church unity be realized and experienced in the life of this local congregation. And he begins by saying “do not lie to one another” because he knew that lying would be destructive of the unity of the congregation. But Paul does not just say, “Don’t lie.” Instead, he tells them how it is that they are able not to follow the trends of their culture which did not emphasize truthfulness of speech. And he gives them the answer in that little phrase, “Since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices and have put on the new self.” How is it that our previous conduct can change? Our behavior can change because we have died to the old self and we have put on the new self. Because we have been embraced by the grace of Christ, we are now able to speak in such a way that builds up the congregation. Christianity is a religion which recognizes that in and of ourselves we are weak, and we are incapable of doing what the Lord wants us to do. Paul recognizes that our renovation in Christ is an on-going work. There’s a lot more work to be done in us. Sanctification is an on-going process. So the apostle Paul reminds them of the transformation that God is performing in believers. Thus, he says to the Colossians don’t destroy the unity of the fellowship by using your tongues in a destructive way. Paul also tells them that it doesn’t matter what backgrounds they are from in this congregation. God is doing the same work in all of them regardless of their educational level, regardless of their ethnic background, regardless of their national credentials, and regardless of any other factor in their background. Paul is reminding us in this passage that God is doing a work in us, and therefore we are to treat others with our lips in such a way as to build them up and to establish unity in the local congregation.
II. Christians Must Put On The Behavior Of A New Creation.
In verses 12-17, Paul instructs these believers to put on the characteristics of the new creation. And as he calls believers to live like the new creation, notice that he does not just recite a list of virtues. Instead, he gives them a basis. He answers the question, “How is it that we can do these things?” Paul says we can do it because of who we are. Specifically, in verse 12, Paul says, “You are chosen, you are holy and you are beloved.” He goes back to the electing love of God, and he says, “God has set His heart on you. He has chosen you, and because He has chosen you, He has called you to holiness, and He has evidenced His love for you by His choosing of you.”
Is it not interesting that Paul applies to this tiny congregation in Colossae the same blessings which were given by God to the children of Israel in the Old Testament? They were called God’s chosen people, and now Paul is saying to this little group of Christians in Colossae, “You are the chosen people of God. God has chosen you, and He has elected you for holiness of life, for service of His church, and His election of you is proof of your love. And because of who you are, because you are the chosen people, therefore, I want you to put off the old life, and I want you to put on the new life. Dress yourself in the reality of what it is to be the new creation.” In relation, he speaks of five virtues in verse 12 which include compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Paul was telling the Colossians and us if we want a life of unity in the congregation, these are the things which are going to have to characterize our dealings with one another.
In verse 13, Paul pulls it all together where he specifically says, “forebear and forgive one another.” It’s so encouraging that Paul doesn’t see this local congregation of Colossian Christians as an outpost of heaven on earth where everyone is perfect. He knows that the only way these people will ever get along is if they are forbearing and forgiving as well as being compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient with one another. The apostle Paul knows that these principles must be in place because there are so many sins and faults in each of us. Thus, he calls us to put off sin and put on the newness of self.
It is also important to note that Paul’s idea of a new self does not mean that our personality is evacuated. In fact, the apostle Paul means that our personality and our humanity is heightened as it is restored in the image of God and as we walk in newness of life; as we put off old behavior, old attitudes, and old thoughts; and as we live in accordance with the principle of the new creation that God has implanted in us. Only when you’ve met Christ, and you’ve renounced your own efforts because you see how useless and how sinful they are, and you’ve trusted on Christ, only then can you experience the type of strength that Paul knows is necessary for a person to live like this. And if you do want to be like this, and yet you sense your weakness, then you are right where God wants you. Because it is only when you are reliant upon the work of the Holy Spirit in your life that you are ready to take the first step down the road in being a person of compassion, kindness, humility, patience, and gentleness. May God enable us to build others up with our speech and live as new creations through our union with Christ.