Walk in Newness of Life.
In the final two chapters of Colossians, Paul moved into the practical application of the doctrines he had been teaching. After all, it does little good if Christians declare and defend the truth, but fail to demonstrate it in their lives. There are some Christians who will defend the truth at the drop of a hat, but their personal lives deny the doctrines they profess to love. "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him" (Titus 1:16).
This section completes Paul's exhortation to the Christian to live a holy life. It continues the illustration of garments: "Put off... put on" (Col. 3:8-10). He exhorted his readers to put off the graveclothes of sin and the old life, and to put on the "graceclothes" of holiness and the new life in Christ.
The emphasis in this section is on motives. Why should we put off the old deeds and put on the qualities of the new life? Paul explained four motives that ought to encourage us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
The Grace of Christ (Col. 3:12-14)Grace is God's favor to undeserving sinners. Paul reminded the Colossians of what God's grace had done for them.
God chose them (v. 12a). The word elect means "chosen of God." God's words to Israel through Moses help us to understand the meaning of salvation by grace: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you ... hath the Lord brought you out [of Egypt] with a mighty hand" (Deut. 7:7-8).
God set them apart (v. 12). That is the meaning of the word holy. Because we have trusted Christ, we have been set apart from the world unto the Lord. We are not our own; we belong completely to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Just as the marriage ceremony sets apart a man and a woman for each other exclusively, so salvation sets the believer apart exclusively for Jesus Christ.
God loves them (v. 12). When an unbeliever sins, he is a creature breaking the laws of the holy Creator and Judge. But when a Christian sins, he is a child of God breaking the loving heart of his Father. Love is the strongest motivating power in the world. As the believer grows in his love for God, he will grow in his desire to obey Him and walk in the newness of life that he has in Christ.
God has forgiven them (vv. 13-14). "Having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13). God's forgiveness is complete and final; it is not conditional or partial. How is the holy God able to forgive us guilty sinners? Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. God has forgiven us "for Christ's sake" (Eph. 4:32), and not for our own sake.
Chosen by God, set apart for God, loved by God, and forgiven by God. They all add up to GRACE! Now, because of these gracious blessings, the Christian has some solemn responsibilities before God. He must put on the beautiful graces of the Christian life. Paul named eight graces.
1. Put on... tender mercies (Col. 3:12).
2. Put on... kindness (Col. 3:12).
3. Put on... humbleness of mind (Col. 3:12).
4. Put on... meekness (Col. 3:12).
5. Put on... longsuffering (Col. 3:12).
6. Put on... forbearance (Col. 3:13).
7. Put on... forgiveness (Col. 3:13).
8. Put on... love (Col. 3:14). This is the most important of the Christian virtues, and it acts like a "girdle" that ties all the other virtues together. All of the spiritual qualities Paul has named are aspects of true Christian love, as a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 will reveal. Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit and the other virtues follow—joy (Col. 3:16), peace (Col. 3:15), longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, and meekness (Col. 3:12).
When love rules in our lives, it unites all these spiritual virtues so that there is beauty and harmony, indicating spiritual maturity. This harmony and maturity keep the life balanced and growing. The gnostic system could never do this.
The Peace of Christ (Col. 3:15)In this verse Paul turned from character to conduct. How can a Christian know when he is doing God's will? One answer is: the peace of Christ in the heart and in the church. When the believer loses his inner peace, he knows that he has in some way disobeyed God.
The word translated "rule" is an athletic term. It means "to preside at the games and distribute the prizes." Paul used a variation of this word in his Letter to the Colossians: "Let no one declare you unworthy of a prize" (literal translation, Col. 2:18). In the Greek games, there were judges (we would call them umpires) who rejected the contestants who were not qualified, and who disqualified those who broke the rules.
The peace of God is the "Umpire" in our believing hearts and our churches. When we obey the will of God, we have His peace within; but when we step out of His will (even unintentionally), we lose His peace.
When a Christian loses the peace of God, he begins to go off in directions that are out of the will of God. He turns to the things of the world and the flesh to compensate for his lack of peace within. He tries to escape, but he cannot escape himself. It is only when he confesses his sin, claims God's forgiveness, and does God's will that he experiences God's peace within.
When there is peace in the heart, there will be praise on the lips: "And be ye thankful" (Col. 3:15). The Christian out of God's will is never found giving sincere praise to God. When David covered up his sins, he lost his peace and his praise (Pss. 32; 51). When he confessed his sins, then his song returned.
The Word of Christ (Col. 3:16)This means, of course, the Word of God. The false teachers came to Colossae with man-made traditions, religious rules,, and human philosophies. They tried to harmonize God's Word with their teachings, but they could not succeed. God's Word always magnifies Jesus Christ.
It was not the word of false teachers that brought salvation to the Colossians; it was the Word of the truth of the Gospel (Col. 1:5). This same Word gives us life and sustains and strengthens us (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).
The Word will transform our lives if we will but permit it to "dwell" in us richly. The word dwell means "to feel at home." If we have experienced the grace and the peace of Christ, then the Word of Christ will feel at home in our hearts. We will discover how rich the Word is with spiritual treasures that give value to our lives.
However, we must not think that Paul wrote this only to individual Christians; for he directed it to the entire church body. "Let the Word of Christ dwell among you" is a possible translation. As it dwells richly in each member of the church, it will dwell richly in the church fellowship.
There is (according to Paul) a definite relationship between our knowledge of the Bible and our expression of worship in song. One way we teach and encourage ourselves and others is through the singing of the Word of God. But if we do not know the Bible and understand it, we cannot honestly sing it from our hearts.
The Name of Christ (Col. 3:17)In modern society, we pay little attention to names. But the ancient world held a man's name to be of utmost importance. Often, during Old Testament days, God changed a person's name because of some important experience or some new development As Christians, we bear the name of Christ. The word Christian is found only three times in the entire New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The name was given originally as a term of contempt, but gradually it became a name of honor. The name of Christ, then, means identification: we belong to Jesus Christ.
But His name also means authority. A man's name signed to a check authorizes the withdrawal of money from the bank. The President's name signed to a bill makes it a law. In the same way, it is in the name of Jesus Christ that we have the authority to pray (John 14:13-14; 16:23-26). Because Jesus Christ is God, and He has died for us, we have authority in His name.
Bearing the name of Jesus is a great privilege, but it is also a tremendous responsibility. We suffer persecution because we bear His name (John 15:20-21). I have noticed in conversations that you can tell people you are a Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even an atheist, and there will be little response. But if you tell people you are a Christian, and bring the name of Christ into the conversation, almost immediately there is some kind of response, and it is usually negative.
Every parent tries to teach his children to honor the family name. In just a few minutes, a person can disgrace a name that it has taken his ancestors years to build. For example, the Hebrew name Judah is a respected name; it means "praise." The New Testament equivalent is "Judas"—and who would name his son Judas?
Note that Paul again mentioned thanksgiving in this Colossian letter. Whatever we do in the name of Christ ought to be joined with thanksgiving. If we cannot give thanks, then we had better not do it or say it! This is the fifth of six references in Colossians to thanksgiving (Col. 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). When we remember that Paul was a Roman prisoner when he wrote this letter, it makes this emphasis on thanksgiving that much more wonderful.
As we review these four spiritual motivations for godly living, we are impressed with the centrality of Jesus Christ.
We forgive because Christ forgave us (Col. 3:13). It is the peace of Christ that should rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). The Word of Christ should dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The name of Christ should be our identification and our authority. "Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).
Since we are united with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have all the resources we need for holy living. But we must be spiritually motivated. Because we have experienced the grace of Christ, we want to live for Him. Because we have enjoyed the peace of Christ, we want to obey Him. We have been enriched by the Word of Christ, and ennobled by the name of Christ; therefore, we want to honor and glorify Him.
Can we desire any higher motivation?
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.