Your outfit says who you are… and as a Christian you are chosen, holy and dearly beloved. – This is a sermon about how your identity affects your appearance.
Colossians 3:12–14 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
THE APOSTLE BEGAN a new section with a welcome and a soothing description of believers: “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (v. 12). What is remarkable is that each of these three titles was an honored Old Testament appellation for Israel, “God’s chosen ones.” “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8a). The Colossians were now chosen by God and thus were secure. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). Israel also had been designated “holy”—that is, set apart for God himself. These Colossians were now given that august title. And, most beautifully, Israel was called “beloved.” These Colossian believers now wore this title with all its privileges and rights. What a rich array of titles! These opulent appellations were meant to soothe the Colossian believers’ Gentile Christian hearts and prepare them for the great putting on that was immediately commanded. In these verses the Colossians were commanded to put on virtues that stood in brilliant contrast to the vices that the Colossians were previously commanded to put off. Here we have the wardrobe of the saints, and what beautiful garments they are! – Kent Hughes
“Compassion” literally reads “bowels of mercies” (KJV). Taking “bowels” as the “seat of the emotions,”14 some have rendered this phrase “heart of compassion” (ASV, NASB), “heart of mercy” (NET), or even “tenderhearted mercy” (NLT). By itself, “bowels” can point to compassion or kind acts, in both the OT (Prov 12:10) and NT (2 Cor 6:12; 7:15), and it has also been used in parallel with “mercy” elsewhere in Paul (Phil 2:1).
“Kindness”, a word that can refer to any benevolent act in extracanonical writings,17 is also often used for God’s merciful acts for his people (Pss 25:7; 31:19 [LXX 30:20]; 68:10 [LXX 67:11]; Rom 2:4; 11:22; Eph 2:7; Titus 3:4).18 Paul is again calling believers to live out the kindness they have already experienced from the compassionate God.
“Humility” is the posture of one who submits to the lordship of Christ. It represents the opposition to a self-centered will (Phil 2:3), and it points to the virtue of mutual submission (cf. 1 Pet 5:5). The related word group is used particularly in reference to those who await God’s salvific act in the eschatological reversal to come (Matt 18:4; 23:12; Luke 1:52; 14:11; 18:14; 2 Cor 7:6; Jas 4:6, 10; 1 Pet 5:5).
In the LXX, “meekness” [gentleness] can refer to the state of being humiliated (Pss 89:10; 131:1), but in later writings it often points the virtue of being humble and gentle (LXX Esth 15:8; Sir 4:8; 10:28; 36:23; 45:4; cf. Ps 45:4 [LXX 44:5]). In the NT, it is used in reference to Christ (2 Cor 10:1).19 As the opposite of acting in anger, it is the opposite of the behavior in the vice list of v. 8.
Finally, “patience” points to God’s forbearance for his people (cf. Isa 57:15 LXX) as noted also by Paul’s description of God in a rhetorical question: “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” (Rom 9:22; cf. 2:4). As God is patient with his people, believers are called to be patient with those around them. Some have considered the difference between “meekness” and “patience” to be best illustrated by their opposites: “meekness” is the opposite of “rudeness, harshness,” while “patience” is the opposite of “resentment, revenge, wrath.”20 The note on forgiveness (v. 13) is particularly relevant after this call to be patient and not seek revenge.
– David Pao
We should never confuse being moral with being Christian, but we cannot claim to be Christian if we ignore morality. A lukewarm morality can hardly damp down the scorching flames of heathenism. Our behavior as Christians becomes an advertisement for what being in Christ does to a person’s life. In the words of Lohse, “It is precisely in the Christian’s everyday life, where he toils and sweats, that he is placed under the command to prove his allegiance to the Lord.”72 Unbelievers look at Christians and ask how are they any different from anybody else. They should see a clear difference in the way Christians handle their sexuality and anger, how they treat others who are different from them, and how they are forgiving and free from avarice. – David Garland