Your New Self
Colossians 3:12-14- New Self
The previous sections of the letter to the Colossians have dealt with the simple idea that a Christian does not live like they are in the world because they have died with Christ. The Christian has also been raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:4). The believer puts to death their old sinful self and is to put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Col 3:10). Last week we looked at the point that the believer is to put off the old self, and this week Paul will explain what we are to put on. Paul explained in Colossians 2:6-7 the Christian walk, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” This week Paul explains three names the Christian bears and eight virtues the Christian wears.
I. Three Names the Christian Bears
One of the first thing that happens in John Bunyan’s classic, ‘The Pilgrims Progress,’ is that Graceless becomes Christian. Throughout the book, we meet people who are rightly named, ‘Obstinate,’ ‘Pliable,’ or ‘Faithful.’ The believer has a name change, like an immigrant how migrates to another country might change their name to a name based on the language to the country they moved to. So to, the believer has a rapid transformation. It is important to note that these three names are given to Israel in the Old Testament (Cf. Duet 4:37, Lev 11:45, Ps 60:5). The mystery that was hidden, was that Christ came to save his elect people, which includes Greek and Jew, circumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free (Col 3:11). Paul explains that they bear new names, 1) God’s chosen ones, 2) Holy, and 3) beloved.
a. God’s Chosen Ones
Election, predestination, and chosen are all words that might be seen as consensus theological words. However, we need to realize these are words that are found in the Bible. We should use terms in the Bible as they are found in the Bible. We should then clearly and define what those words actually mean by Biblical standards, not our own interpretation of them. Maybe another time, I can write more thoroughly on my beliefs of soteriology found in the Bible, but that will be for another day. Israel was called God’s chosen people as his own possession (Deut 7:6). As Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14). We should see this as a gracious act from God, but this does not then mean we are God’s ‘frozen chosen.’ Peter explains that we are chosen that we might proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).
b. Holy Ones
Paul uses this word 40 times within his letters, using the term as an adjective to refer to a ‘Holy One.’ Saint can translate ‘Holy one’ or ‘sanctified one,’ and can be defined as believers who are united to Christ who are new creatures who are set apart and consecrated from the world. Frequently it is used in the plural to refer to the covenant community of the church. Believers are called to be Holy because God is Holy (Lev 11:45). This is Paul’s big point; you cannot be a Christian who lives like the unholy worldly people. We do not reach sinless perfection as some groups have taught, but we are, as Martin Luther said,
“Simultaneously saint and sinner.”
This small word is filled with great theological implications, but also daily implications to our life. RC Sproul wrote,
“To be a saint means to be separated. But it means more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. If we are justified, we must also be sanctified.”
Paul explains this point clearly in Colossians chapter three, we are dying to our old self but also putting on the new self.
c. Beloved Ones
The term beloved means dearly loved. We will look at this towards the end of the devotion, but it is important to note that we are not that lovable. We are rebellious sinners and children of wrath. Many people just think we are loveable. That is why God loves us. This is incorrect and minimizes God’s grace towards us. We were enemies with God, alienated from God, hostile in mind, and doing evil deeds (Col 1:21). To love a friend is one thing but to show love to your enemy is true grace. We are dearly loved by God not because of our own actions but only because of Christ who reconciled us in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present us holy and blameless before him (Col 1:22). The Christian is no longer in the world, but they leave the city of Destruction with a new name.
II. Eight Virtues the Christian wears
The Christian not only has new names to bear but also, they have new clothes to put on. Soldiers or sports teams have a uniform to be able to identify whose side they are on. In our house, we watch Formula 1 racing. Stella always is asking who is in the Orange, Black, Red, or Pink Car. Christians do not have clothes that actually set them apart. Our church does not have matching outfits that we wear on Sunday. However, the believer clothes themselves in the Fruit of the Spirit Gal 5:22-23) which is our ‘uniform.’ We are not set apart by days, or diets, or human precepts or traditions. Christians are being renewed into the image of their creator (Col 3:10). As we will see, these eight virtues are found in Christ.
The ESV translates this first virtue as ‘compassionate hearts.’ I prefer the KJV, ‘bowels of mercy.’ We tend to think of the heart purely as the organ of emotion; however, the heart in the Bible is not the center of emotion but the whole being of a person. We have a similar term when we speak of a ‘gut feeling.’ When we are compassionate, we should realize it is not an emotion but our whole being. When Judas hung himself, his ‘bowels gushed out’ (Acts 1:18). This is a very visual image, but very appropriate. The Christian, when poked and prodded, should pour out compassion. As paint can is filled with paint, the Christian is filled with compassionate hearts. One of the opposite words for compassion is heartless. We are compassionate because Christ is merciful and compassionate towards us (Mark 6:34). We are called to be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).
The second virtue we should wear is kindness or goodness. Many of these virtues are interconnected. One is kind or tender-hearted. The Christian shows goodness and loving-kindness to others because God has shown us kindness. We were foolish, disobedient, passing our days in malice and envy, hating others and one another (Tit 3:3). However, verse four gives us glorious conjunction, but, “When the goodness and loving-kindness of God, our Savior appeared” (Tit 3:4). We put on kindness because we have been shown kindness from God.
Previously Paul had explained that the false teacher(s) had false Humility (Col 2:18, 23). False teachers use others for their own gain (Jude 16). CS Lewis explains Humility as “Thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself.” Humility is putting others above yourself. Philippians explains Humility as “counting others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). We are to clothe ourselves in Humility towards one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). Andrew Murray has a great quote on Humility,
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
Christians being renewed into the image of Christ put on Humility as Christ humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8). Christians have nothing to be proud of because it is by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:8).
Meekness or gentleness is the fourth virtue that the Christian wears. We are commanded in scripture to restore members of the church who have sinned with gentleness (Gal 6:1). The servant of the Lord needs to be able to correct their opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:24-25). Even to show perfect courtesy towards all people (Tit 3:2). Meekness is not rolling over or compromising. However, we often think they are opposites. Peter explains that we should always be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks about the hope in us, but he explains we should do so with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15). Meek is not weak. Christians are meek and gentle because Christ is gentle. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29). The word gentle is the same root word found in Colossians 3:12. Dane Ortland has an excellent book, ‘Gentle and Lowly,’ on this one verse (I highly recommend you read it). He explains that “lowly gentleness is not one-way Jesus occasionally acts towards others, gentleness is who he is.” Paul explains that he entreats the Corinthians by the ‘meekness and gentleness of Christ’ (2 Cor 10:1).
The ESV translates this Greek word as ‘patience,’ and the NKJV translates it as ‘long-suffering.’ Both of these translations are good. I tend to like ‘long-suffering’ because it shows the length of time and the difficulty of the task. Being patient is something we are not very good at. In the 21st century, we do not need to be patient with many things: high-speed internet, text messages, emails, online shopping with two-day shipping, streaming services, etc. Everything is almost on-demand. I have to chuckle at our children when they complain when something does not work instantly, I give my “back in my day” speech. Patience is not a known quantity. Therefore, the length of time is unknown. But also, patience is difficult; sometimes, it is during a difficult season of much suffering, like the persistent widow who speaks to the unjust judge daily, not knowing the outcome of her request (Luke 18:1-8). Christians are patient because the Lord is patient with us. He is long-suffering with us (1 Tim 1:16). Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” I am often reminded of God’s patience with me and my impatience with others. However, the Christian shows patience because of the great patience God has shown to them. God truly does ‘long-suffer’ with us.
We are called to bear one another. All relationships, at some level, call for us to bear with one another. Just because Christians are called saints doesn’t mean we are one. We are being made into the image of our creator, but not instantaneously transformed into his image. That is the whole point of this passage. Paul instructs that we should take off and put on. This process is called sanctification. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (35) explains that sanctification is,
“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.”
We should display long-suffering with one another. The church is not filled with perfect people, but the sick. “[Christ] came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17b). We should bear with one another, for we know that Christ bears with us.
Bearing with one another means we need to forgive one another. Some conflicts can be endured, and we bear with one another. However, some others require deliberate forgiveness. Believers realize that we have been forgiven much. Therefore, we should forgive much. John Owen said, “Our forgiving of others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves, but our not forgiving of others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven.” Forgiveness does not mean we are not required to be able to biblically approach a brother or sister who has sinned against us (Matt 18:15-20). However, we know we are the great sinner who washes the feet of Jesus, not the righteous Pharisee (Luke 7:41-43). We even pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12). We forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven us, so we also must forgive (Col 3:13).
Finally, Paul explains that the believer should put on love because it binds everything together in perfect harmony. The summary of the whole moral law is summarized in this one word, Love God and Love others. It is love that binds everything together. This word is used to describe the ligaments of the body (Col 2:19). It is also used of those in chains in prison. Love unites all of these virtues. Love is not an abstract term that cannot be defined but has a biblical definition. Paul explains what love is in the famous ‘love chapter,’ 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter, we see many of these virtues that the Christian wears. The Christian loves because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). True love is only from God because God is love (1 John 4:8). 1 John 4:10–11, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
The Christian is dead to the world and alive in Christ. They put to death the things of the world and bear the names given to them by Christ and through Christ. They also start to ‘dress’ like Christ and look like Christ. They have a new uniform to wear, which sets them apart from the world. We should constantly be in our Christian walk, taking off the old self and putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Col 3:10).