If I were to ask you: “What, in your opinion, are the greatest motivations the Bible gives us to live holy lives?” How would you answer? Some of you may think it’s the love of Christ on the cross, His atoning work, His sacrifice that moves us toward holy living. Some of you may think it’s Christ’s life and ministry that gives us the example and is itself the motivation and model of holy living. Others of you may think holy living comes from being exposed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God which calls us to holy living. While all 3 of these answers are motivations for holy living, there is a motivation given in Scripture that is rarely spoken of. This one motivation is the doctrine of election/predestination. But don’t take my word for it; lets see this unfold before us in the text itself.
I have 4 points to work through today. Point 1: The Holiness of Electing Love (3:12a). Point 2: The Fruit of Electing Love (3:12b-15). Point 3: The Habits of Electing Love (3:16). Point 4: The Aim of Electing of Love (3:17)
1) The Holiness of Electing Love (3:12a)
Paul begins this passage by saying, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” As Paul began 3:5 with the word ‘mortify’ and continued onto 3:10 instructing us as to what we should ‘put off’ in our lives, so too in 3:12 we see him doing the same thing, instructing us as to what we should ‘put on’ by beginning the sentence with the Greek word ‘Endusasthe’ which means to ‘clothe’ or ‘dress’ or ‘put on.’ But before describing what we should ‘put on’ Paul mentions that we should ‘put on’ all these things because we are ‘God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…’ Meaning that we, having been set apart by God in His sovereign – electing – predestining love, are to live lives that are set apart as well. This means we were set apart by God from before the foundation of the world, and now God calls us to live lives that are set apart from the rest of the world, lives that look different, lives that are holy. Elsewhere the same message is given to us. Speaking of God’s election and predestination in Ephesians 1:3-4 Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” After calling us to live lives of faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love Peter in 2 Peter 1:10 says by living this way you make your “…calling and election sure.”
This truth calls for a shift in our thinking. This shift reminds us that we must not ignore the doctrine of sovereign election and grieve the Holy Spirit who inspired these great passages of Scripture. Because by ignoring this doctrine and all the verses about this doctrine we remove ourselves from one of the greatest motivations for leading a holy life. Church, learn here that a proper and right understanding of the doctrine of election doesn’t lead to a life of complacency or smugness but leads to a life of holiness. Chosen before the foundation of the world that we might what? That we should be holy and blameless before Him. Puritan Matthew Henry believed this and said, “None can know their election but by their conformity to Christ; for all who are chosen are chosen to sanctification.” He means here that one of the greatest evidences that you really are a child of God is growth in God. The evidence of election shows itself in sanctification. If you can look back over your life and see growth and maturity in Christ, you can be fairly certain that you’re a true child of God. If you cannot look back over your life and see growth and maturity in Christ, you can be fairly certain that you’re not a child of God. So think back over your life, the past year, the past 5 years, the past 10 years even – do you know Jesus better today than you did then? Do you yearn for the fruit of the Spirit to be present in your life more today than you did back then? Do you desire to read, study, and meditate on God’s Word more today than you used to? Do you love God’s Church more now than you used to? Do you have a greater burden for reaching the lost with the gospel now than you used too? Growth in grace, not perfection in grace, is one of the greatest evidences that you really are a child of God. The electing love of God always produces holiness. Well what does that holiness look like?
2) The Fruit of Electing Love (3:12b-15)
What does it look like when the sovereign electing love of God impresses itself upon a human heart in due time? We have the description in 3:12b-15, “…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” This list is the fruit of electing love. ‘Compassionate hearts’ meaning we’re to cultivate and live in a gracious disposition toward one another, rather than a hard and unrelenting temperament that is quicker to punish than to pardon. ‘Kindness’ meaning we’re to be generous, courteous, and polite in our dealings with each other rather than shrewd, harsh, or short-fused. ‘Humility’ and ‘meekness’ in the verse denote a kind of honoring others or putting the needs of others before our own, and counting others as more significant than ourselves. As Tim Keller often says, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” I would add that humility isn’t making ourselves small when we really are great individuals, no. Rather, it’s the awareness and esteeming ourselves to be small because that’s what we really are. This idea of humility is a grace of God leading us to be utterly dependent on God. When you meet a genuinely humble person they won’t feel showy, but ordinary, and the thing you’ll be aware of is that this is a person who really does care about you. ‘Patience’ meaning we’re to deal with one another in the same way God has dealt with us.
It is these virtues that certainly suit the elect of God, holy and beloved. At the root of it all this fruit of electing love is an imitation of what God has felt towards us. We have experienced divine mercy in its sweep and fullness, we have been given pardon not punishment through the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And though we daily sin, daily fall short, and ever commit sins of omission and commission the one thing we can all attest to is that God has been patient with us. If we have experienced so great a salvation, and if we receive such great mercy from God day to day, how could we not in turn have that same gracious heart toward each other? You may ask ‘Ok, but why? Why does God call His people to be like Him in this respect? Do you know the people I’m around everyday? You want me to be gracious to them?’ The answer comes in 3:13 – we must have this kind of heart toward another because the reality is that we will sin against one another, this is why Paul adds that we must bear with one another and forgive one another if there are grievances present. Why? Again, 3:13, ‘…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.’ You’ve heard us often say that ‘life in Christ is life together, and life together is messy.’ This is true, and messy though it is, we can show each other the gospel by how we treat each other. Jesus has forgiven us fully and freely, once forever, not pardoning 7 times, but 70 x 7 times. This is our model. It’s not demanding an apology, or coming back with a stinging comment, or harboring hate, or secretly indulging a feeling of offence and waiting for the perfect moment of retaliation, but fully and freely giving others what God in Christ has given us.
This is why the very next thing we read in 3:14 is to put on love, because love binds all these things in 3:12-13 together in perfect harmony. Love, true Christ-like love, unites all these different virtues into one whole, so much so that if we desire to clothe ourselves with love, we’ll find these virtues in 3:12-13 becoming realities within us. Love to God and love to neighbor is the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets, giving a sweetness to every act, a pleasant odor to every deed, and a lovely aroma to every endeavor. When this kind of love is present in the heart, do you see what it leads to in 3:15? Peace and thankfulness. There is no question, if we possessed and cherished what we have in Christ, if we had full assurance and truly knew God was for us, if the various forms of our sinful passions were subdued by the Holy Spirit, if the peace of Christ was at home in us, and all the graces and benefits that are ours in Christ were vibrant and full in our hearts, the exuberant peace we would then enjoy would be second only to the bliss of heaven. The peace in 3:15 isn’t just any peace, but the peace of Christ, and not just the peace of Christ that’s present in us, but the peace of Christ that rules in us. He is ruling and reigning this very moment, building His Church through His Word and Spirit, spreading His peace from shore to shore, one heart at a time. For this, we’re forever thankful.
3) The Habits of Electing Love (3:16)
Electing love not only produces all this fruit we’ve just examined, but it creates habits in our lives as well. When you take the past 10 verses into account it’s as if Paul says when the sinful vices of 3:5-10 are put off and the holy virtues of 3:12-15 are put on, the result is that the peace of Christ shall reign within us and in that happy sensation we’ll gladly and gratefully give ourselves to two things. The two things are given to us in 3:16, His Word and His praise. 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The first habit the electing love of God leads to is a deep and rich study of the Word of God. We’re to give ourselves to the reading, to the meditation, and to the study of the Word of God because in it we find the word/teaching of Christ, and the teaching of Christ is life to the weary soul. In the front of every Gideon Bible you’ll find the following words, ‘The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.’ Though this paragraph does a very good job, there are no words, in any language, good enough to describe the sufficiency, the clarity, the immensity, and the necessity of the Word of God in the Christian life.
Because of this you find one of the reasons why the Church, ever since it’s beginning, has made much of the sermon. In the sermon the man of God opens the Word of God to the people of God, and it is no surprise that in doing so God builds His Church, and brings about His will in the life of His people. This moment isn’t optional. History will teach us that as goes the pulpit, so goes the people. Will we learn? You may think it’s funny to ask such a question, but recall that in the early Church North Africa was a stronghold of Christian truth, having the great world-changing theologian in it named St. Augustine. The Christians of that day thought North Africa would stand forever throughout history as the fortress of Biblical truth. But tell me, what’s filled North Africa today? Islam. Church, do you see how we can never allow our zeal for God’s Word to be quenched? We must continually, as Paul says, ‘let the Word dwell in us richly.’ Why? 3:16, so we can teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. If we don’t let the word dwell in us richly how can we possibly teach and admonish each other? We can’t, so we must cling to the Word.
The second habit the electing love of God leads to is a devotion to the praise of God. Did you notice what Paul says next? ‘…singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your heart to God.’ There is a progression here we would do well to see. We devote ourselves to the Word of God, which teaches us from Genesis to Revelation the message of Christ. That message of Christ in turn moves us to teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. That community exercise of teaching one another the truth leads to singing Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankful hearts. This is why the Church down through the ages has been zealous about the praise of God as well as the sermon. The truth in the Word, reflected in song, is to fill our hearts, pour forth from our mouths, and rise up before the throne of God. Now, you may think certain kinds of tunes or certain people sing off key, but to God – the truth filled praise of His name is pleasing to Him. This verse blasts the whole idea of preference out the window when it comes to tune or key or singer. The main concern of the music of the people of God has always been and should always be content. One of the ways we ‘teach and admonish’ one another (3:16) is to sing songs filled with truth. By singing to out loud together we remember and remind others what the truth is. So, if a song contains Biblical, truth-filled, gospel-saturated, Christ-exalting words we should sing it, even if it was just written yesterday or written 10,000 years ago. Just as we’re to give ourselves to the written Word of God, so too each Christian is to give themselves to the praise of God.
4) The Aim of Electing Love (3:17)
So we’ve seen how the electing love of God produces holiness in the Christian life, we’ve seen how the electing love of God brings about fruit in the Christian life, and we’ve seen how the electing love of God creates certain habits in the Christian life. Lastly, see the aim or end, of the electing love of God. 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
After Paul has explained in detail about what we should put off and then what we should put on, he summarizes his teaching in one verse before moving onto another topic. All of life -‘whatever you do’ – is to be done lived for the fame of Christ. This is the highest Christian morality because it calls for giving Christ recognition in every sphere of life. This is more than acting like you’re in a church service your whole life, more than mere talk of religious things, but a resolute conviction in the heart that all of life is lived before the God, and therefore all of life must be lived to the glory of God. The reformers often spoke of this saying, ‘Coram Deo’ which is Latin for ‘Before the face of God.” R.C. Sproul says, “Living Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” There can be no compartments in the Christian life, as if our religious life were tucked away neat and tidy over there while our work, family, friends, and fun are all filed in different places in our souls. To live Coram Deo is to live in line with Colossians 3:17.
It’s to live with integrity and consistency. It’s to live in the church and out of the church in the same manner. It’s a life that is open, honest, and sincere before God. In whatever you do, whether you’re a politician, a salesman, a cook, a mechanic, a student, retired, or in grade school, all that is done in life is to be done as to the Lord.
Let me end with this: is that you? Do you live in a Coram Deo manner, before the face of God? Or are you phony, compartmentalizing your life between the religious and non-religious? God sees through these phony facades, and is calling you to give up your fighting and lay it all out there before Him. Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been – come as you are, come into His sovereign loving arms.