Over the past two weeks in Colossians 3 we’ve emphasized that by believing in Christ God has done a wonderful thing and united us to Christ. Spiritually speaking then, in Christ’s death we died – in Christ’s resurrection we rose – and in Christ’s ascension we have truly and already been seated with Him in the heavenlies. All of this is now our real state before God but it is hidden. One day that will change as Christ appears, returning to bring in His Kingdom in full measure, then we will appear with Him in glory. Paul’s point in this is that since all this has occurred, we must seek what is above and set our minds on things above where Christ is rather than setting our minds on things below. Paul then keeps on pulling out implications after this by using clothing imagery to discuss our lives as Christians. Saying we must take off certain behaviors and lifestyles that we used to wear because they’re no longer compatible with our life in Christ. So in this 3 Marks Series we’re beginning the year with we’ve covered the first two marks of what all Christians are, 1) heavenly minded, and 2) those who put off the old. But Paul doesn’t stop here, no. In our passage this morning, Colossians 3:12-17, he moves on to discuss a third mark, we are 3) those who put on the new.

As we begin, let’s pray the words on the screen together one more time, “What we have not, give us; what we know not, teach us; what we are not, make us; all for the glory of Your beloved Son, Jesus, who lives and reigns with You, together with the Holy Spirit – one God, forever praised. Amen.”

I’m aware that my illustration last week about my three week stretch of not showering in Africa and how disgusting my shirt was…was well disgusting. This week allow me to begin with a more pleasant image. Think of a wedding dress. Hours are spent into finding the right one, then many more hours and a lot of money is put into the dress to make it fit exactly as it should, such that once it’s done there is only one woman in the world who could wear that dress. The day comes and the bride puts it on, prepares to walk out, and when the doors open it’s clear why everyone’s looking at her. The groom just has a rented tux which is nice, but it’s nothing like the dress. So here comes a beaming bride in a beautiful gown, suited only for her, custom made for this wedding. But more is in view. The wedding dress is itself evidence that a change is happening, that the old is gone and something new is being created, a uniting of one man and one woman, a new family, a new life where each one makes promises to the other one stating that they will be this kind of husband or wife regardless what the other does. What do we call this? Covenant. The wedding dress is a rich symbol of covenant: the creating and the confirming of a covenantal union.

In this sense the bride’s clothing is much like the new clothing in our text today we’re to put on as a result of being united to Christ. It’s covenantal clothing that displays how a great change has taken place: that the old is gone and the new has come! Let’s see these things in the text. v12-17 passage has four sections to work through.

Our New Clothes (v12a)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”

Earlier in v5 we saw Paul launch out with the instruction in Greek nekrosate ouv or “Put to death, therefore…” as he described the kind of life we’re to put off. In v12 almost the exact same Greek phrasing is present as he says endusasthe ouv or “Put on, therefore…” His point is clear. We’re in Christ now, and just as there is a kind of ‘life’ we must now put off there is also a kind of ‘life’ we must now put on. But do you notice that before he describes what we’re to ‘put on’ he once again mentions who we are? You’d expect him to say, ‘Put on therefore…’ and list all manner of pleasant things we’re to cultivate in our lives. But he doesn’t. What does he do? He pauses (he’s always doing things like this isn’t he?) and takes a moment to remind us who we are saying, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” Three grand and glorious terms: chosen, holy, beloved. Anything come mind as you hear these three terms? All three of these words were once God’s usual way of describing His people Israel.[1] For example, Deut. 7:6-7, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples…” Israel was God’s chosen, holy, and beloved people throughout the entire Old Covenant. Now in the New Covenant these three terms become the usual way God describes His Church. In Romans 1:7 Paul says, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” In 1 Peter 2:9-10 Peter does the same when he says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

There truly was a glory to the Old Covenant as God chose one nation out of all nations to reveal His majesty to and set His affection upon. But now there is a greater glory in the New Covenant as God has chosen not one nation but men and women from all nations to reveal His majesty to and set His affection upon. Once Israel was the chosen nation. Now in the Church God has brought about the fulfillment of Israel by choosing, setting apart, and loving a new people from among all the nations. There is a true progression to see in this as we move from the Old to the New but see that a large similarity exists as well. Israel as God’s set apart people was called by God, to follow God’s Law, and be a light to the nations. Now the Church as God’s set apart people are called by God, to follow Christ, and go to all nations with the message of Christ. Paul apparently thinks it worthwhile to state these things before calling us to put on our new clothes. So, I do wonder, how do you view yourself? Now, we all know there’s a true arrogance, a swagger, and bent where someone can be far too impressed with themselves. Because of our sin and remaining corruption, before God we truly have nothing to boast of. But while we should be honest about our lowliness we should also own what and who God has made us to be in Christ. So, who are you? If you’re a Christian you can say with the utmost assurance that ‘Right now, not because of anything in me, in fact very much despite me and only because of Christ and in Christ, I am chosen, holy, and beloved of God.’ If you’re a Christian this is who you are and this is how you should view yourself.

Now, all of this is moving somewhere. All that we’ve lingered on so far is how Paul begins this argument here. So having been set apart by God in His sovereign – electing – predestining love, we’re to respond by putting on a new kind of life. What’s included in this new life? New virtues (v12b-14), new gratitude (v15-16), and a new purpose (v17). Let’s look at these now.

New Virtues (v12b-14)

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…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.”

This list of new virtues we must put on stands in stark contrast to the list of old vices that used to define us in v5 and v9. ‘Compassionate hearts’ meaning a gracious disposition toward one another, rather than a hard and unrelenting temperament that is quicker to punish than to pardon. ‘Kindness’ meaning a generous, courteous, and polite posture rather than a shrewd or harsh posture in our dealings with one another. ‘Humility’ and ‘meekness’ meaning an honoring of 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 that which we really are, small. This idea of humility is a grace of God leading us to be utterly dependent on God. So when you meet a genuinely humble person who has put on these virtues they won’t feel showy, but ordinary, and the thing you’ll mainly be aware of is how much this person seems to truly does care about you. ‘Patience’ is also here, meaning we’re to put on the clothes of longsuffering with one another as opposed to only giving one another a few chances to act appropriately before we’re done with them. 

In our membership vows the promise is made that we will ‘as becomes followers of Christ.’ It is these virtues that become us, it is these virtues that certainly suit the chosen, holy, and beloved of God. At the root of it all these virtues can be simply defined as Christlikeness. In other letters Paul says much of the same thing he’s saying here but in Romans 13 rather than going into a list he simply states one thing. What kind of lives are Christians to live in this world? “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” He is the ultimate clothing we wear.

Church, we have experienced divine mercy in its fullness. In our sinful plight it was the power of God that intervened and saved us. Since that day of first believing, have any of you ever achieved sinless perfection? Right…we sin daily, we fall short daily, and are ever committing sins of omission and commission. In all of this there is God. The One who called us out darkness into His light, who watches us and is grieved as we return to the dark to seek for what only His light can give us. And yet, the whole time, He is patient with us and as our Father He slowly and steadily matures us in faith, weaning us from the world into greater and greener pastures. 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 respond, ‘Ok…but do you know the people I’m around everyday? You want me to be gracious to them?’ In v13-14 Paul anticipates this objection and in a way he shows us how to apply these virtues with two more commands: forgiveness and love. You see, if we really forgive and love one another, as v13-14 says, we’ll be showing that we’ve put on the clothes of v12. All of this language assumes that every Church is made up of Christians who are different than us. And as those differences come out and rub against us in ways that are more abrasive than soothing we’re not to turn away from those people, we bear with them as they bear with us. Why? There it is at the end of v13, “…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” His love is perfect, and when we love one another as He loved us we’re bound in perfect harmony.

New Gratitude (v15-16)

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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.”

Twice in these verses we read of thankfulness, once at the end of v15 and then again at the end of v16. Do you wonder why Paul returns to this twice? Why in all that makes up the glory of v15-16 does he mention thankfulness and then return to thankfulness again? I think answering the question is as easy as asking it. If we possessed and cherished and truly put on what is now ours 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, we would be men and women filled up and overflowing with gratitude. What does this gratitude look like? In v15 it looks like peace, and in v16 it looks like worship. 

The peace in v15 isn’t just any peace, it’s the peace of Christ, and not just the peace of Christ that’s present with us, no, this speaks of the peace of Christ that rules in us. The result of Christ’s peace ruling in us is gratitude. And the Word of Christ in v16 isn’t just to be in us or among us but to dwell in us richly. And when His Word is richly dwelling in us a rich worship will be coming from us. Worship where our minds are informed in teaching and our hearts are enlivened in singing. The result of this is again, gratitude in our hearts to God.

When you take the past 10 verses into account it’s as if Paul says when the sinful vices of v5-11 are put off and the virtues of v12-17 are put on, the result is that the peace of Christ shall reign within us and in His happy peace we’ll gladly and gratefully give ourselves to two things as we worship Him publicly and privately: His Word and His praise. Notice this isn’t Word without praise, or praise without Word, it’s doctrine and devotion, it’s theology and doxology in view here and both are to be rich and abundant, fueling and igniting one another.

So it’s not a surprise that the Church, ever since its beginning, has made much of these two things: His Word and His praise. The moment the worship of God’s people begins it’s His Word in view. No man calls us to worship, God calls us in His Word. And we then sing, not to make us feel good or stir us up into a kind of sweet frame or mood, no. We sing songs made up of lyrics saturated with what? The Word. Some songs that are deep and profound that overwhelm us and other songs that are simple meditative that help us reflect. We then hear the Word in the sermon, see the Word in the sacraments, and respond to the Word with more songs filled with the Word and close it out all with the Word. The instruction of the Word is to lead us to singing, and in singing about the Word we’re to be instructed.[2] And while this is to happen privately it’s the gathered worship of God’s people that’s in view here. Martin Luther is helpful in this. Many think the reformation was mainly a doctrinal movement, an attempt to recover truth. And yes, the finished work of Christ was at the heart of the reformation…explaining it, studying it, seeing it. But because the glory of Christ was their main concern, how Christ was worshiped was just as major of a concern. Luther believed that right doctrine would be as much caught as well as taught. So he and countless other reformers slowly and steadily changed how worship happened.[3] And in a matter of years thousands and thousands of people had memorized Luther’s hymns and orders of service, and from them they heard and learned gospel truth!

Lesson? God’s Word and God’s praise are bound up together, so what God has united let no man separate! In it all, we sit back in wonder that through this reverberation of God’s Word in the worship of God’s people God builds and brings about His will in His Church. For this, we are a thankful people.

So we’ve seen our new clothes, our new virtues, and our new gratitude, now see our…

Conclusion: New Purpose (v17)

v17, “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.”

v17 is an all of life, whatever you do, type of statement. All things are to be done in the name of Jesus, which is to say for the fame of Jesus. This is a high and holy calling 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. A phrase that became popular during the reformation ‘coram Deo’ which is Latin for ‘before the face of God.” R.C. Sproul often said, “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 a Colossians 3:17 life.

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 whatever you do, all that is done in life is to be done as to the Lord. Perhaps though, from seeing this verse in context we can go further. Worship, Word and praise, is squarely in view in v16, then in v17 we have this all of life statement. I think we’re meant to see these two verses as connected. So connected that the worship present in v16 must not only be kept in v16, no, it must go beyond it to the call present in v17, which would lead us to conclude that all of life must be seen as worship.[4] This is how we’re to view the Christian life.

So Church remember: all those who believe in Christ have been united to Christ…in Christ’s death we died – in Christ’s resurrection we rose – and in Christ’s ascension we ascended. All of this is now our real state before God but it is hidden. One day that will change as Christ appears, returning to bring in His Kingdom in full measure, then we will appear with Him in glory. Until that day, we’re to be putting off the old and putting on the new.

Come back to where we began, the wedding dress. In a true sense, the Church universal, the Bride of Christ…is being prepared, made beautiful, dressed properly by Christ so that at the moment of Christ’s return, we’ll be ready to walk down the aisle to Christ Himself in the marriage supper of the Lamb. May the nearing of that day move us, more and more in these days, to put on the new worshipful clothes of the Christian life.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon – PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008) accessed via Logos Bible software, 1/3/20.

[2] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians – NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984) 158.

[3] See Reformation Worship, Gibson and Earngey.

[4] Moo, see citation above.

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