"And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Colossians 3:14

Colossians 3:12-25

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."

"The Apostle recognized how great and how many the hindrances are and hence he exhorted us to mortify certain things. The "members which are upon the earth," of which he speaks in verse 5, are not of course the actual members of our bodies. The term is used metaphorically as indicating certain moral, or rather immoral, features of an earthly nature which characterized us more or less in our unconverted days. We now have heavenly interests and therefore these purely earthly features are to be mortified; that is, put to death.

Put to death is a strong and forcible expression. Our tendency is to parley with these things, and sometimes even to play with them and make provision for them. Our safety however, lies in action of a ruthless kind. Sword in hand, so to speak, we are to meet them without any idea of giving quarter. We should rather meet them after the fashion of Samuel who hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord.

But there are other things besides those specified in verse 5, which we must have done with, and these are mentioned in verses 8 and 9. It is not now, "Mortify," but, "put off." Once we lived wrapped up in these things as in a garment. When men looked at us that is what they saw. But they are to be seen no more. 

The ugly garment that once characterized us is to be visible no more. Another garment is to be put on as we shall see when we arrive at verse 12.

Notice how much the things mentioned in verses 8 and 9 have to do with our tongues, and consequently with our hearts which express themselves thereby. Sins of the tongue are terribly common even among Christians. We all know the kind of words that are provoked by anger, wrath and malice. Would any true believer blaspheme? Hardly, yet how very easily it is to fall into speaking of God and of divine things in a light and irreverent way. How easy too it is to utter unsavoury things with our lips, even if we do not go so far as "filthy communications." And what about lying? An Ananias or a Sapphira may still be found. And we may go further and assert that every one of us who possesses a sensitive conscience knows right well that it is no easy thing to stick to absolute and rigid truth in all our utterances.

Truth, however, is incumbent upon us because we have put off the old man and have put on the new. This is what we have done in our conversion, and the exhortations to put off and put on in verses 8 and 12 are based upon it. Conversion means that we have learnt to judge and condemn and refuse the old order of man and his character, and to put on the new man which is God's creation and partakes of His character. We do not for one moment say that we understood this or realized it at the moment of our conversion. But we do say, in the light of this Scripture, that this is what was really involved in our conversion, and that it is high time that we do understand and realize it.

In this new man the distinctions of this world — whether national, religious, cultural or social — simply do not exist. Christ is everything, and in all who have put on the man, for the new man is a reproduction of Himself.

Just what the old man is and what the new man is, is not easy to grasp and still less easy to explain. In both expressions we have a certain character of man personified. In the one you have the Adam character, in the other Christ. Only it is not just idealism but a real transaction. The Adam order is judged and we have done with it and put on Christ and consequently the character of His life. We put it on however not just as a man may don a new coat, but rather as a bird dons a new dress of feathers after moulting. The new character grows naturally out of the new life we have in Christ.

In verses 12 to 15 we find portrayed the character that we are to put on. It is just the opposite to those things that we are to put off according to verses 8 and 9. We are to put off the characteristics of the old man because we have put off the old man. We are to put on the characteristics of the new man because we have put on the new man. What we are to be hinges entirely upon what we are. We are the elect of God — if indeed we are believers — holy and beloved of God. From this flows what we are to be. Grace always works thus — first what we are, then what we should be.

In these verses CHRIST is in evidence. It is His character that we are to wear. If a standard is set as to the forgiveness we are to accord to others it is, "as Christ forgave you." The peace that is to rule in our hearts is "the peace of Christ," for so it should read, and not "the peace of God," as in our Authorized Version.

Also the word, "quarrel," in verse 13 is really "complaint," as the margin of a reference Bible shows. Have we ever heard of any Christian having a complaint against another? Ever heard of a complaint! we should reply. Why the air is frequently thick with complaints! The difficulty would be to discover any Christian company without them! Well, see what is enjoined upon us in connection with such — forbearance and forgiveness; and that after the pattern of Christ Himself. For this we need the humbleness of mind, the meekness and long-suffering mentioned in verse 12, as well as the charity, or love, which verse 14 enjoins. Love is the bond of perfectness for it is the very nature of God."

F. B. Hole

Note: This blog post was originally published in September 11, 2017 and was updated and republished in June 2, 2018.

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