We have been made alive in Christ. What do our lives look like now? What should they look like? And what impact may that have on the Church?
Paul encourages us to live renewed lives by the mercy of God and to enter into God-centered community with one another. Which of these six attributes do you already wear by His grace, and which do you need to put on today?
Wednesday in the Word
Come with me as I walk through a passage of Scripture phrase by phrase, reviewing its context, interpreting, and offering an application. Some of us - including me - learn best by watching somebody else. That’s what I am inviting you to do today as I study through Colossians 3:12-17:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Before we jump into the passage, let’s back up and get a feel for the letter to the Colossians.
Paul opens this letter with a prayer of thanksgiving. He declares that our supreme God is the reason for his ministry to the Colossians and everyone else. He continues by explaining that in Christ, we have spiritual fullness and freedom from sin and religious rituals.
For that reason, he admonishes us, we should live as those who have been made alive in Christ. That means to do away with evil practices, speech, and attitudes.
Instead… here we go…
The Attributes of a Christian
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
While things like lust, anger, and filthy language belonged to our old selves, those of us who have been chosen by God to be made clean through the blood of Jesus and welcomed into His family as beloved children, should live lives marked by these:
- bearing with and forgiving one another
The latter seems to need more explanation because Paul lingers here a little. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Have you ever noticed that?
To be honest, I think we can have grievances with one another over sin (like when someone intentionally hurts us) and over imperfections (like when someone unintentionally annoys us with the same mistake over and over again).
We need to bear with one another.
We need to forgive one another.
Why? It’s because God forgave us. Who are we, sinners ourselves, to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged or annoyed us, when the perfect God has forgiven us and them for all the sins we have committed?
The perfect way to thank God for His forgiveness is to pass that forgiveness on to others.
How can we sum up these virtues Paul is describing? Love!
Love binds compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness into one God-honoring bundle.
Is this what your life looks like? Oh boy, do I have room to grow in these areas! “God, make me clean and clothe me in these: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.”
The Attributes of the Church
5 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This isn’t the first time, we have read about God’s peace reigning in our hearts. Clearly, Paul has experienced this amazing peace himself and loves it so much, he can’t stop talking about it. I hope that’s true of you!
That list of evil practices in verses 5 and 8 - immorality, greed, rage, slander - stands in stark contrast to God’s peace. One is a raging, angry wildfire. The other is a calm breeze rustling through the trees. One is full of tense, stressful emotions. The other is refreshing and joy-filled.
1. This, God’s peace, should mark our personal lives as well as the church as a community. We are called to live in peaceful unity.
2. The gospel, Christ’s message, should be central to our lives in that we teach it and use it to encourage one another. When this is true of our community, how much more natural it will be to proclaim the good news to those outside the church, as Paul encourages us later! (Colossians 4:5)
3. We should worship God together with thankfulness reigning in our hearts. Are you getting a feel for this God-centered, encouraging, worship-filled community? I see believers who love one another with kindness and patience, not the superficial, plastered-on-smile kind, but rather the kind that comes from true care grounded in their love for God and one another. I envision not only Sunday morning worship music in the sanctuary but praising God for His goodness day in and day out.
4. Another theme runs through these verses: thankfulness.
- We are to be thankful. (verse 15)
- When we sing to God, our hearts should be filled with gratitude. (verse 16)
- In whatever we do, we are to thank God the Father. (verse 17)
5. Our words and our actions should be such that Jesus would put His stamp of approval on them - that is one way to explain the phrase “doing everything in the name of the Lord”.
Paul continues this letter with a few instructions for Christian homes, which are a discussion for another day. Then he encourages us to…
6. Pray! In Colossians 4:2-3, Paul tells the Colossians to be devoted to prayer - surely for their own walk with and work for the Lord but also those of missionaries like Paul. Can we come together in unity and pray for one another that we may follow Christ whole-heartedly and see others join God’s family?
By dying for our sins, Jesus gave us new life. As our lives are transformed in Him, the Church will be as well. We start by centering our lives around Christ, and our Christian fellowship will follow suit.
Which of these attributes stood out to you and why? Share with us in the comments below.
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