In 3:5-9a of Colossians, Paul told believers what to put off, while in 3:9b-11 he again describes the believer's new identity in Christ. In 3:12, Paul begins to tell believers what to put on. In this section in Colossians, Paul is using the analogy of clothing. He is telling them there are sinful actions to put off and godly actions to be put on. Listen to what the Lord said to Samuel:
1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB) But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
What does this verse tell us? It tells us that "man looks at the outward appearance." We can't see the heart like God can, so we look at the outward and tend to judge based on what we see. When we don't know people, we tend to judge them by their outward appearance; by the clothes they wear. Have you ever found yourself doing this?
In our modern world we can often tell a person's occupation by looking at them. You will not see a police officer directing traffic wearing a butcher's apron. You will not see a park ranger wearing a pizza delivery uniform. You will not see a doctor wearing a welding mask. Many people in our society wear clothing that identifies who they are.
What we wear is no more important than in the area of ethics. As God's children, we are to put on certain qualities. The Bible gives some guidelines for us about how we should be dressed as Christians.
Colossians 3:12 (NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
The first thing to note is the "therefore" It has the affect of causing the reader to cast their minds back to what's just preceded this statement. In Colossians 3:9-10, Paul concludes his statements about the old man and the fact that the Colossians have already put it off from themselves, going on to note that they've also put on the new man. It's because they have the new that Paul now goes on to describe what can be expected to be characteristic of it.
Paul speaks of the Colossians here with three labels which need our attention before we move on to consider what is to be put on. Each of them substantiate and affirm their position in Jesus Christ and their relationship to the Father so that what they're being expected to do has this foundation underlying it.
Those who have been Chosen of God - It's clear what this says, but what does it mean? The Greek word for "chosen" is eklektos, which according to Thayer's means: "picked out, chosen, select, elect." So, it means exactly what it says - God has chosen some people. What were they chosen for? Paul tells the Thessalonians that they were chosen for salvation:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
Why is it so hard for people to accept that God chooses people for salvation? Because realizing that God chooses people ultimately destroys the idea that an individual can get to heaven of his own volition; he has to be chosen. Some people use John 3:16 to argue that whosoever wants to can be saved; therefore, God cannot possibly choose people to be saved. What if a person wants to trust Jesus Christ, but he is not chosen? That is impossible, because apart from God's election nobody would want to come to Christ according to:
John 6:44 (NASB) "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
Some have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." But this is not what the word "draw" means. The Greek word translated "draw" is helkuo, which means: "to drag." It is used eight times in the New Testament. To understand what it means, let's look at a few of its uses.
John 18:10 (NASB) Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew [helkuo] it, and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus.
Now, did Peter invite or call his sword to come out? No! He grabbed it, and pulled it out.
Acts 16:19 (NASB) But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged [helkuo] them into the market place before the authorities,
James 2:6 (NASB) But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag [helkuo] you into court?
The usage of this word makes it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." So, John is saying that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them by irresistible superiority.
A sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not "will" not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls "regeneration", or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God, the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration.
Arthur Pink said:
God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing. And loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Merit mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently they who are the most bitter in denouncing election by the sovereign pleasure of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man.
Man in his falleness wants a part in his salvation, because he wants to exercise his pride. He wants to assume some responsibility for having believed; he wants some credit for having made the right choice. A correct understanding of God's election disallows any believer from feeling superior to any unbeliever.
What do the Scriptures say about election?
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NASB) "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
God chose Israel. God wasn't sitting up in heaven saying, "I hope some nation will believe in me and choose me." God says, "I choose you because I love you."
Deuteronomy 14:2 (NASB) "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Psalms 105:43 (NASB) And He brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with a joyful shout.
Psalms 135:4 (NASB) For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession.
The nation, Israel, was elect, chosen by God. Why? Because God willed to. Do you have a problem with that? Why Abraham? Did God choose him because he was godly? No! Abraham was a pagan moon worshiper when God called him. Why did God choose you? The "why" rests in God's will. God doesn't call the good people, because there isn't any.
Psalms 14:1-3 (NASB) (For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. 2 The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
God chose his people Israel by his own free choice. The idea that man has some personal integrity and freedom that God dare not violate is the reverse of what the Bible teaches.
Psalms 65:4 (NASB) How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, To dwell in Thy courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple.
It is clear from the Scriptures that the nature of our election rests in God's sovereign choice.
James 1:18 (NASB) In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
You are a Christian, because God has chosen you. You might think that you are a Christian because you believed the gospel, but the only reason you believed the gospel is because God chose you and gave you a new birth.
God chooses, he appoints. Notice carefully who is said to believe the gospel:
Acts 13:46-48 (NASB) And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 "For thus the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Who is said to have believed? Those who were appointed! Notice why it is that Lydia believes the gospel:
Acts 16:13-14 (NASB) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
This is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "opened her heart,"and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power and not to man's will. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth.
Notice exactly what God did. We see here demonstrated what God must do before Lydia can be saved. (l) He provided a salvation of "by grace through faith" that could be preached. Obviously, "the things spoken" by Paul were the gospel facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) God also brought the message of His provision to Lydia. He sent a preacher to tell her about this great plan of salvation. God went to a lot of trouble to provide such a gospel - He gave His only begotten Son up to death. He went to great ends to provide such a preacher as Paul. It is at this point that Arminianism departs from the Bible and proceeds to apply human logic to the above truths. They tragically fail to look at the rest of the Biblical text and see that God must do something else. (3) God must open Lydia's heart (or give her faith), so she will be able to believe. Her natural mind is blind, her natural heart is averse to God, and her will is in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. It is impossible not to see that in this text, unless you simply refuse to accept what God clearly says.
Look at the words carefully: "whose heart the LORD OPENED...." If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God.
One commentator writing on Colossians 3:12 says this: "God may have called the Colossians to follow Jesus, Christ but it was their response to the message of salvation preached to them (Col 1:6) that prompted the Father to make the choice." He's wrong! God chooses based upon His own sovereign will. There is nothing good in man. They could not respond to the message apart from the power of God.
The doctrine of election is hard for man to accept. It's hard for man to acknowledge that his salvation is an act of God. In his fallen state, he wants to assume some responsibility, even if it's a small responsibility, for having believed. He wants some credit for having made the right choice. The doctrine of election is repulsive to us, because, by our standards, it seems unfair that God should, out of all the human beings, choose some at his own discretion to be saved and not the rest. Man, in his fallenness, wants a part, because he wants to exercise his pride! Pink states, "The doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God is a great battering-ram against human pride."
Psalms 115:1 (NASB) Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Thy name give glory Because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth.
Calvin says, "We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know His eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: That He does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others."
The doctrine of election teaches us two things:
1. God is in charge, He is sovereign.
2. God is so gracious to those of us who could never have earned it that we ought to spend eternity praising and thanking Him.
In our text in Colossians, God appeals for us to live the Christian life on the basis of our election. Believer, you have been chosen - live like a chosen one!
Not only does He call them "chosen," but He also calls them "Holy."
"Holy" means: "separated unto God". The word "saint" is the same word as "holy." God calls Christians "saints" (holy) in Colossians 1:2, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae." The meaning of holy, saint, sanctification, holiness is: "set apart." Because of Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, believers have been "set apart" to God. This is speaking of our position.
Not only are believers chosen and set apart for God, we are also "Beloved."
That believers are beloved of God means they are objects of His special love. Election is not a cold, fatalistic doctrine. On the contrary, it is based in God's incomprehensible love for His elect.
God is immutable in his love, which means that his love never changes toward us. God's love can never change under any circumstance toward us. Our love may wane toward God. As a member of the human race, all of us are unstable to some extent.
The Father loves the Son with an infinite amount of love. When we enter into union with Christ, God accepts us in the beloved one (Eph. 1:6). Therefore, the Father loves us with the same amount of love that he has for the Son - an infinite amount.
Every believer is elect, holy, and beloved. You may be the worst believer who ever lived. You
may be the most carnal Christian imaginable. You may have committed sins that shock both
yourself and the Christian community. You may have violated all ten commandments. Yet you,
in God's eyes, are elect, holy, and beloved.
These three terms: "chosen, holy and beloved" are all used of Israel in the Old Testament. A change has taken place in the economy of God. What was once true of the elect nation is now true of all who come to faith in Christ.
Remember this is a letter written specifically to the Colossian believers who were battling the heresy of pre-Gnosticism and false teachers. Some of the false teachers were saying you had to go through Jewish rituals such as circumcision. Paul upsets the apple cart by calling this mostly Gentile congregation "chosen."
Colossians 3:12 (NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
As God's chosen, holy, and beloved we are to "put on " certain virtues. "Put on" is from enduo¯,
which means: "to put on clothes," or "envelope in." It has the idea of a garment which is
wrapped around oneself, and the Greek word is used literally this way in a number of places in
the New Testament. The qualities that follow are to cover the new man.
We cannot put on our position in Christ. Our position before God was put on at the point of salvation, and it goes on forever. We cannot put on our election. We can only put on our experience based on our election or position.
Paul now lists several things that we are to put on. As we look at these, examine your own life and see if you are wearing the proper clothing.
"A heart of compassion..."
Heart translates splagchnon, a Hebraism that literally refers to the inward parts of the human body (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.). It is often used in the New Testament to speak figuratively of the seat of the emotions. That is its use here. Compassion is from the Greek word oiktirmos, which means: "pity," "mercy," "sympathy," or "compassion." Taken together, the phrase could be translated: "put on heartfelt compassion," or "have a deep, gut-level feeling of compassion." Believers must not be indifferent to suffering, but should be concerned to meet people's needs. God wants us to be full of compassion, full of pity toward others. One of the garments God wants us to clothe ourselves with is the garment of empathy. Is your heart callused toward others? Are you hardhearted toward people who hurt? The world is heartless today. It has become indifferent to suffering and hurt. But as God's children, we are to have a heartfelt compassion toward those who hurt.
How do we get this heartfelt compassion ? By spending time with God. The more you walk with Him, the more you will look like Him. Bible study, prayer, and fellowship aid us in walking in fellowship with our God.
We are also to put on "kindness" - This comes from the Greek word chrestotes, which means: "to show oneself useful, to act benevolently: - be kind." The New Testament has much to say about the kindness of God, and, as his children we are to imitate Him.
Luke 6:35 (NASB) "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Here the Greek word chrestos, is translated: "kind," and in Romans 2:4 the same word is translated: "good" in the NKJV.
Romans 2:4 (NKJV) Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Kindness and goodness are so closely related that they are often used interchangeably. We are to be kind to one another, we are to be good to each other, we are to be gracious to each other. We see this fleshed out in the story of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan was kind, he responded to the need that he saw.
Kindness manifests compassion. This is action that comes out of empathy. It may take the form of a kind word, an invitation to lunch, an offer to help. In our cruel and unkind society, we have unlimited opportunities to show the world love through kindness.
Many centuries ago, a certain young man from a rural setting went to live in a large city and fell in with the wrong crowd. He lived a wild and dissolute life, becoming involved in many hurtful things which almost destroyed him. But he heard a preacher one day, and though he did not particularly appreciate his preaching, he was struck by the man. He went to hear him again, and soon that preacher was able to lead him to Christ. That young man has become famous as the great Augustine. This is what Augustine wrote of Ambrose, pastor of the cathedral in Milan: "I began to love him, not at first as a teacher of the truth, which I despaired of finding in the church, but as a fellow creature who was kind to me." What an open door kindness can be!
We are also to put on "humility" - This is the Greek word tapeinophrosune, it means: " humiliation of mind, i.e. modesty:--humbleness of mind, lowliness (of mind)." This word is not found in any Greek writings before the New Testament, which means the New Testament writers invented this word. The adjective form, tapeinos, was often used to describe the mentality of a slave. It conveys the idea of base, shabby, scummy, unfit, low, common, useless. Humility was never seen in the pre New Testament world as a virtue. It was ugly and never to be sought.
In the Old Testament, God extolled the virtue of humility, He chose the insignificant and humble for His work, He chose the lowly and meek. Who was the most humble or meek man according to the Scripture?
Numbers 12:3 (KJV) (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
To the pagans, humility was a vise, and I believe it still is. The world encourages pride, the world says you are somebody, think highly of yourself, you're better than others. The sad thing is that this attitude is also prevalent in the church. Even though the Word of God clearly tells us to think humbly of ourselves.
1 Peter 5:5-6 (NASB) You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
Tapeinophrosune is a recognition of our creaturely dependence upon God and our true condition in His sight. Humility is dependence upon God.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis calls pride the great sin and says this about it:
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else. Pride is spiritual cancer, it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can I think tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step too. At least nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.
Paul defines humility toward our fellow man for us in:
Philippians 2:3 (NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;
Humility is "regarding one another as more important than himself." If you're humble, this will be easy for you -- are you humble?
It is difficult for us to care about others when we do not have this garment of humbleness of mind. The contrast to humility is self-sufficient arrogance; we estimate ourselves above other people.
We live in a prideful society. We think that the world revolves around us, and when it doesn't, we try to make it revolve around us. In June 2003, in Medford, Oregon a man who was running late for his flight to Phoenix called in a phony bomb threat in hopes that the plane would be delayed long enough for him to get on board. America West clerks at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport became suspicious and notified police after the man came to their desk asking about Flight 6262, which by then was on its way back to the airport because of the threat. The plane had been in the air for just a few moments when a flight attendant took a call from the pilot. One of the passengers said that he knew they were in trouble when he saw the attendant turn white. The 30 passengers were evacuated and a bomb squad searched the plane with the help of a dog. All bags were rechecked for any trace of an explosive device, but nothing suspicious was discovered. Did that man show caring toward the passengers that were on that plane? How do you think the attendant who took that call felt about getting back on the plane? The only person that man cared for was himself. Many of us behave in that same uncaring kind of way.
In contrast to that story the story, is told of the great Black American educator and inventor Booker T. Washington. He was walking through town when a well-to-do woman asked him if he would like to earn a few dollars chopping wood. Instead of being offended or telling her who he was, he simply rolled up his sleeves and chopped the wood. A couple of days later the woman sheepishly walked into his office at Tusgegee University and profusely apologized for her actions. A neighbor had told her who Mr. Washington was. Some time later this woman organized a group of women to donate large sums of money to help fund his experiments. She was blown away by his humility. John Stott calls humility: "the rarest and fairest of all Christian virtues...because it is the exact opposite of the vilest of sins, which is pride." True humility is a right understanding of our position with God and others.
We are also to put on "genteelness"- This is from the Greek word praiotes. The KJV translates this word as: "meekness" but the NASB translates it: "genteelness." It is used 9 times in the New Testament, and it is difficult to gather its meaning from its usages.
It is closely related to humility. It is not weakness or spinelessness, but rather the willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. The gentle person knows he is a sinner among sinners and is willing to suffer the burdens others' sins may impose on him.
Kittels defines the word as meaning: "mild and gentle friendliness," but, as this can imply an easy-going attitude that has nothing intrinsically dynamic about it, they go on to note that the ancient Greeks, "value this virtue highly so long as there is compensating strength." That is, we shouldn't think of the word as denoting an attitude which has no power with which to meet the situations that confronts the person who displays it.
Gentleness means not behaving harshly, arrogantly, or self-assertively but with consideration for others.
We are also to put on "patience" - Patience is the Greek word makrothumia. The patient person does not get angry at others. William Barclay writes: "This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellow-men. Their foolishness and their unteachability never drive it to cynicism or despair; their insults and their ill-treatment never drive it to bitterness or wrath" (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians [Louisville: Westminster, 1975], p. 158).
Patience is the opposite of resentment and revenge. Although we have the power to take revenge, we do not exercise that power. Although we might resent someone for what they do to us, we choose not to become resentful. The word was often used of bringing a wild horse under control, so that the word means that a person's strengths, power of personality, intelligence is under the control of the Spirit, so that this person might demonstrate true kindness to others.
Patience for the long haul. Most of us can suffer for a short time. Few can endure a trial for long. We need to have courage for the great trial and patience for the ongoing trial.
One of the most difficult character traits to develop is the ability to suffer for a long time. That is one of the hardest things God calls upon to do. Many of us can put up with provocation if it is not for very long. God wants us to suffer long both the mischief of men and the rebukes of God's providential working.
God is patient with us, why shouldn't we be patient with others? To suffer for a short time is bearable, but to suffer for a long time, that is quite another matter.
Those who are the elect of God, holy, and beloved, ought to conduct themselves in a manner fitting who they are. As we put on these virtues: a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, we become more and more like our Lord and Savior and our God and Father in our daily lives! As we do this, we display to the world the love of God.
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