The Dynamics of Grace, Part 6
INTRODUCTION: The Colossian letter was written that Christians might know that their acceptance before God is through Christ only (they are “complete” in Christ, Col. 2:10).
The Colossian error embraced a philosophical system that depicted angels as a form of intermediary between God and men. False teachers influenced the Colossians to become ascetics (those who practice severe treatment of the body as religious devotion). Some of the deceived also revered angels to the point of worshipping them.
The error of the false teachers promoted a Jewish-pagan piety. Colossian believers were tempted to seek “something more” than the gospel of Jesus provided. (The “something more” included: a legalistic veneration of holy days, legalistic rules about food and drink, visions, religious ecstasy and secret knowledge.)
The Apostle’s answer to this dangerous error involved an exhortation to the Colossians to contemplate afresh God’s revelation of Christ. Redemption is the heart of the gospel – the Colossians must understand that their whole existence is rooted and grounded in Christ (Col. 1:23; 2:19).
The epistle was written to show that the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ is NOT an abstract religious concept – it is the theme of the gospel objectively andsubjectively.
Christ is supreme and preeminent – All authority has been given to Him. He is Lord of the universe. God’s plan is that Christ have first place in everything (He is Logos, Lion, Lamb – Creator, Redeemer, King, Prophet, Lawgiver, Judge).
Christ is all-sufficient toward His people – Our Christian life turns upon the experimental knowledge of Who He is toward us now and who we are in Him now. We live by faith in what He has done for us and what He will do for us. (His “relational grace” entails who He is toward us in His supremacy and sufficiency. In Him, we are new creatures, circumcised in heart, justified, forgiven all our transgressions. He is actively renewing us, transforming us into His image).
COLOSSIANS 1 & 2 SETS FORTH THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL REALITIES THAT FORM THE BASIS FOR ALL CHRISTIAN DUTY.
One’s relationship with Christ is foundational for all the duties commanded in Colossians 3 & 4. (Our relationship with the Lord is characterized by heart knowledge of Him, devotion to Him, praise, worship, thanksgiving, vital faith and piety.)
Without that vital union/fellowship, the duties and practice of Colossians 3 & 4 will only be burdensome laws, frustration and bondage. The evangelical pattern always joins the fruits of righteousness to one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.
IN COLOSSIANS 3 & 4, PAUL ADDRESSES HOW CHRIST’S SUPREMACY AND SUFFICIECY EFFECTS OUR PERSONAL HOLINESS, OUR SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS, OUR FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, OUR WORKPLACE RELATIONSHIPS AND OUR MINISTRY.
Paul immediately moves Christian experience out of the private arena and into the corporate body – the implications are in all spheres of relationships. The constant affirmation is that those who have received mercy (have been justified by faith), ought to be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, also Eph. 4:1ff.).
Colossians 3:1-4 – This section addresses what the cross of Christ accomplishedfor you, to you and in you. Paul makes it incumbent upon the believer that the change of 2:9-14 must be realized in the Christian’s life. “I died once for all to the world, I’m living another life now. My true citizenship is in heaven.”
The believer is to occupy his mind with his true treasure (“things above”) – not have his mind consumed with earthly things. These first four verses of chapter 3 concern the believer’s new identity in Christ. God placed you in Him in love, now “be who you really are!”
Paul’s logic is as follows: our true identity is an unseen reality now (hidden, not esteemed by natural reason) – our radical identity with Christ is comprehended by faith in God’s revelation. When we “set our minds” upon these glorious realities, they exert a transforming power in our walk and relationships.
Christ is our life – our “Source Person.” All that God communicates to us by way of life and infinite riches comes to us because we are in union with Christ.
Our new “heavenly” life revolves around Christ. The glories of the gospel have an eschatological dimension – The “hope of glory” permeates our life with resolve to pursue sanctification. (See 1 Jn. 3:2; Phil. 3:20,21; 2 Cor. 5:9 and the “overcomer” passages of Revelation).
Application – When we meditate upon the Word and its revelation of Christ, the eyes of our hearts are able to focus upon unseen spiritual realities. As a result, we will increasingly reckon the fact that we have been translated from earth to heaven in the spheres of position, purpose, relationships and destiny. Repeatedly fixing our minds upon these truths “pulls back the veil.” Our preoccupation with the material, transitory and the mundane will give way to the heavenly, the moral and the ethical. There is no progress to maturity without this practice.
Colossians 3:5-11 – Because of the gospel realities of union, identification and glorification – therefore we must be done with the old. (i.e., the skunk-sprayed clothes illustration)
“Consider,” (put to death, treat as dead, reckon as dead, realize you’re dead to the world).
Sins born of lust deceive the soul (Eph. 4:22). They wage war upon the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). They train the heart in greed (2 Pet. 2:14). They constitute idolatry (Col. 3:5).
Our old man must be piteously slain – this is our present obligation (Rom. 8:12,13).
WHEN WE PUT ON THE GARMENTS OF GRACE, WE MUST PUT OFF THE OLD CORRUPT GARMENTS AS WELL.
The mortification of sin is not merely abstinence, it is replacement. It is not merely the avoidance of the negative, it is a striving for the virtuous, positive graces.
These grace garments are to be our dress. They are the glory of the church now. The grace garments manifest an ever-deepening image of Christ stamped upon us. God’s grace is exalted, not just in keeping us out of hell, but in making men new!
THE NEW MAN IS CONSTRUCTED COMPLETELY AROUND CHRIST.
Christ is the “Architect” of the new man – Col. 3:10
Christ is the “Blueprint” for the new man – Col. 3:10, Rom. 8:28,29
Christ is the “Contractor” of the new man – Col. 3:11; 2:19; Eph. 4:15,16
Christ is the “Resident” in the new man – Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10
Christ as the Creator of the new man is also fashioning each new creation He shapes into a master edifice which will serve as God’s eternal temple (Eph. 2:19-22).
Application – True community thrives where Christ’s preeminence, supremacy, sufficiency are lived out. Where He shines and where His people seek to glorify Him, the grace garments of Colossians 3 will be worn.
Where Christ’s master plan for the new man is kept before the minds and hearts of God’s people, there will be vision for transformation. God’s goals for the new man will become our goals. The elect embrace God’s purpose for the new man.
The moral image of Christ was first graciously imputed to us in forensic justification. Then the actual internal reality of possessing Christ’s moral perfection will be ours at glorification. The day by day renewal of the new man concerns our present existence between the events of justification and glorification. Thus, our present duty is sanctification by means of the development of the new man (Col. 3:10; 2;19; Eph. 4:22-24).
Colossians 3:12-14 – The objects of God’s love are summoned to the privileges and duties of the gospel.
Chosen of God – Since God has chosen us as members of His new creation, we must fulfill the command to conduct ourselves according to the ethics of the new man.
Put on therefore a heart – The wardrobe of grace garments begins with a heart of pity and compassion – tender-hearted kindness and compassion. It’s a disposition that seeks to meet the needs of others through deeds of kindness.
Humility – Lowliness of mind is to recognize one’s own weakness, but also to recognize the power of God. A humble opinion of self is accompanied by a deep sense of one’s moral littleness. Humility avoids a demanding spirit where personal rights are concerned.
Meekness – This virtue is only possible when a person is exercising obedient submissiveness to God and His will. It is known for gentleness with others. Unwavering faith and enduring patience will display itself in gentleness and kindness towards others – especially in the face of opposition. Where meekness is exercised, the powers of personality are brought into subjection and submission to God’s will by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23). (The opposite of meekness is “quick-draw” retorts of rudeness, harshness, resentment, revenge and wrath.)
Longsuffering – It is a long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion. It indicates the patient longsuffering that bears with injustices or unpleasant circumstances without revenge or retaliation. It maintains the hope that such self-control will result in a positive outcome.
Forbearing – The word is in the present tense, indicating continual action. It means to endure, to bear, to put up with someone. It is to restrain oneself so as not to burst forth (which would produce dire consequences). When we show forbearance, we suspend rightful demands out of consideration for the weakness of the brethren. (Each of us has our own set of weaknesses.)
Forgiving – The literal word is to be gracious – that is to be gracious so as to forgive “as members of one another.” If Christ has forgiven us, should we not be generous in extending forgiveness to others? It is “gracious” to bestow favor unconditionally.
“If any man has a quarrel” (by quarrel is meant complaint, or cause for blame. It is to find fault so as to be dissatisfied with someone. It refers most commonly to errors of omission. Therefore, to refuse to forgive would be to regard the offense as a debt to be remitted.
We forgive because He forgives us and because He commands it.
Love – “Above all these things – in addition to – on top of all” put on love which is the outer garment which holds the other grace garments in place. (Remember, our ethical treatment of others to a great measure issues from our inner disposition towards them.)
The bond of love is the perfect expression of Christ’s personality – that is His divine life in the Christian community. (Love by the Spirit’s enablement is a choice to give no place to bitter words, angry feelings, dishonesty and unseemly speech.)
The “top coat” of love should characterize a congregation. This is not the sentimental love the world talks about, but the kind of self-sacrificial love the Bible speaks about. Love is bond that protects unity and leads to maturity.
All these grace garments are facets of Christ’s character – to “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14) is to put on Christ’s character.
Application – The power to obey these commands (put on the garments of grace) flows out of faith in God. It involves reckoning the unseen realities of union with Christ.