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We continue this morning in examining chapter three of Colossians. We are in the midst of what we call a “Vice and Virtue” list. This is a common form within the NT Epistles. These lists “consists…of qualities or actions that typify morality or immorality from a Christian perspective.”
They sit near each other to put on display the significant differences between vices and virtues; they are indeed opposites. In essences, these vices and virtues list express the disparity that often is seen within the Christian community; that at times takes on the vices’ list more than the virtues. With the close proximity, it also allows for an in-depth examination of one’s heart condition. “Which list best describes you?” is meant to be the overall feel. We did the more difficult work last week of exposing vices, sinful tendencies, that might be in our hearts. Paul pressed us by using the phrase “put to death” and “put off.” Now he moves to the opposite and encourages us to “put on” the character reflected of a people who love God.
Now, this sort of makes sense, if you take something off, you must put something on. Newton’s Third Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Paul instructs us that what we Christians gain in union with Christ is the ability to become dead to the old self and become alive to the things of God, listen again to the text in its entirety to feel the weight of our union with Christ.
READ 3:1-17…for context
Therefore | 3:1-4...
We must remind ourselves again how we are able to virtuous. Let’s make no mistake about it, we rid ourselves of indulging the flesh and put on the virtuous character of God by our union with Christ. Paul gives a deep understanding of who Christ is and what that means to us specifically. We touched on this last week, but it is worth the reminder of who we are in Christ, he states that we have a unique relationship with Christ that is accomplished through his shed blood on the cross. This relationship, union with Christ, speaks of several different benefits we as Christians receive in the salvation Christ works in us. It is our connection with him, our hiddenness in his glorious finished work. We are raised to new life and dead to the old. Paul unpacks in those four short verses that our…past redemption has led to our present life which is hidden with Christ in God, we are uniquely in Christ in such a way that our life is now currently hidden,
We are so deeply connected in Him, that our past redemption has present help and will culminate in the future promise of appearing with him in glory, we are so united with Christ in such a way that we will be with him for eternity. So, last week, the more difficult examination of putting to death, taking off sin, now leads us to the joyous work of putting on a new set of clothes washed in the blood of our fully divine Savior Jesus.
What are those…3:12-16
Put on…stress again is on urgency, make this a top priority because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. A fresh reminder of who they/we are that should affect the way we live. God has made us alive in Christ and created a people that are holy and beloved. He chose us and made us his, so we don’t get to determine whatever we want, rather we look towards him for help and guidance. This clear articulation of who they are is strategic to place them firmly in God’s family to comfort and encourage right behavior. So since this is who they/we are, well then, put on…
Compassionate hearts…tender affection, Our response to a sinful person outside of Christ’s shed blood should be compassion. When the next news story is a tragic display of senseless killings, brothers, and sisters, compassion should be our first response for it will guard us against anger, which if you remember was mentioned in the vices’ list!!! This was the practice of the God-man in Matt 9:35-38 35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Compassion should mark the Christian community, not only for those hurting, or those who are sinful, or those who are far from God, but most certainly for the family of God. We should practice week in week out compassion towards each other. When we hear of suffering in someone's life, we pray with them, and we follow up the next week! When weakness is confessed from another brother or sister, we pray with them in compassion, we are quick to care rather than quick to identify their problem. Which naturally moves towards…
kindness, which is the quality of being helpful or beneficial. What if that was our mindset most days? How would that change your actions? What if we kept an eye towards helpfulness? When suffering, sin, struggle, weakness, mental fatigue is confessed to each other, we would think how can I help rather than the next task we need to complete. Compassion cannot stop with a quick platitude but move toward kind actions, helpful actions!
What if in conflict, we took the position of helpfulness/kindness instead of anger (vices’ list). What if we leaned into kindness/helpfulness instead of making sure we are right? Perhaps resolve would happen rather than hatred. The Christian community, for goodness sake, should be able to work through conflict with kindness. We are God’s chosen people set aside to reflect his character. He has dealt very kindly with us, and you should do the same with each other. But this takes the next virtue on our list…
humility…interesting that this is the same word as asceticism back in Chapter 2, but here means it is without arrogance; that one’s actions are not used to be noticed or praised but rather out of gratitude. Humbleness causes us to consider others first, to put other’s well-being first. Humbleness is having a right understanding of who we are in light of who God is. It is an understanding that we are His people, it is an acknowledgment that he knows best, so in…
meekness, we surrender and follow him…the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance. Unfortunate that meekness rhymes with weakness but that is not at all the sense of what it means to be meek, it is actually a strength under control, a willing submission to God because there is no need to make much of you and your abilities but rather God’s assessment of you and the world around you. So we trust him and exhibit the next one…
patience…remaining calm, keeping temper down and awaiting the outcome of any given situation. Oh, how crucial this is for the people of God. Proverbs 16:32, ”Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Mightiness is seen in patience! You want to be perceived as someone who has something to say, then be patient. Proverbs 14:29, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Foolishness is seen in impatience. Patience is crucial to have the next virtue of
bearing with one another…continually bear, put up with each other, this is reciprocal. A common characteristic of a believer is long-suffering with other brothers and sisters to see them through hard times, to walk patiently as they continue to struggle with sin and fight temptation.
But this bearing is also seen in…
forgiving, as the Lord has forgiven you…how can one miss the standard by which we are called to forgive!!
Loving …above all else love! It is the fastener that binds all things together, especially the church. There will be frustration, there will be disagreements, there will be tension, there will be a clash of views of what is prudent, but these never supersede love. In vices and virtues list often the bottom is a culmination, a summary of shorts, this is true here. Love should define the Christian!
But what about the daily grind as we put these things on. Because Paul is not foolish, nor is God’s Word, to the reality of the already not yet of our battle with sin. The most difficult question with a list like this is, “How do I continue in these new garments? How do I keep these new clothes looking good?”
(3:14-16) Perhaps the next few things would ensure an ongoing display of the virtues.
Like skin that holds the organs in place to continually do their job, these things we wrap ourselves in to keep putting on Godliness. To allow the putting off and putting on to continue.
(15) Let the peace of Christ rule in you, not the self-pride of keeping rituals but resting in his finished work on the cross, it is Christ who undresses our sinful tendencies and dresses us in new clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving.
(15) Be thankful…become thankful, let the gratitude for the work of God through Christ work its way out in thankfulness. Hard to be grumpy when your general outlook is thankfulness. Being thankful is the dressing room for putting off the old self and then putting on our new garments of Godliness, it is the environment that allows sin to be put to death and godliness to be put on.
(16) Capped off with…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, which will teach and admonish in all the right wisdom, by means of singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Apparently, our singing is crucial to continue putting off the old self and putting on the new self. There is a real sense that our corporate gathering is a place where the word of Christ can dwell in us. Christ words are not cool, nifty statements, but rather a guide for our life. Brothers and Sisters, we fail you if we do not consistently with our time together to read God’s Word, pray God’s Word, sing God’s Word, and preach God’s Word. It must dwell in us richly, and we will do whatever it takes to let the word of God reverberate in your life. The simplest way to do that is to meet with each other throughout the week and read the scripture from the sermon and talk about what God did and is doing as a result of his Word.
Does this list describe you? Seriously, if I were to ask those close to you what would they say? Your kids, spouse, best friend, parents, co-workers? If everyone in the church acted like you, how would the church be described in our community?
Let us not miss the context of this list…it is written to the Church in how they should be with each other. The Church should and must show compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, ability to bear with one another, forgiving, and loving. The church must display that sexual immorality, all sexual sin, anger, wrath, malice, slander, covetousness can be dealt with and overcome.
If you do not have a regular time in God’s Word…make it a priority! This becomes one of the most significant things you can do as a response to today’s message…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!
Nonbeliever, let me make something abundantly clear. Christ moves us from our complete slavery to sin to victors who can put to death its hold on them. We move from vices to virtues through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
All definitions are from BDAG:
Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.