Living as His chosen people

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.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Colossians 3:12–17]

There are two key parts to this passage of scripture. As Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, in these two paragraphs, he gave them crucial instructions concerning how to go and what to do.

Why therefore?

The reality here is that this verse exists to express an action that is needed because of what was said in verses 1 to 11:

  • Because you now set your minds on things above, not earthly things.
  • Because you have been raised with Christ.
  • Because you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
  • Because you put to death your earthly nature:
    • sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
  • Because you rid yourself of these things:
    • anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.
  • Because you have taken off your old self with its practices.
  • Because you have put on the new self, being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Because Christ is all and is in all, that which was said before is a clear message that you should act accordingly

God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.

Yes, you are God’s chosen people; yes you are holy; yes you are dearly loved. These three things are true, not because of your own righteousness or your own perfection. These three things are true because of the unmerited grace of God. He did not choose you because of who or what you are; He chose you as an act of grace; He chose you exactly as you were; He filled you with His Holy Spirit and He sees you through the blood of Jesus Christ and it is His hope that you will change into the likeness of His only begotten Son. I don’t believe that God is into performing miraculous and instantaneous changes in our lives (He could if He wanted to); causing us to be something that we never were. I believe it is a journey that He places us on, so that through our love for Him we will change.

Therefore, because you are on that wonderful journey of change that God has directed you to and because he has given you all the help that you could ever need to change as you continue on that journey. There is one more thing that we need to do. As we change, He calls on us to not only to (metaphorically speaking) act the part, but to look the part as well. To clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Or to put it another way, to wrap yourself in the wonderful characteristics of Christ that Jesus portrayed to us so well.

And from within those righteous garments of the character of Christ, bear with each other. Don’t allow the frosty response of another person to chill your heart towards them; don’t let the cold heart of someone you meet send an icy chill down your spine; don’t permit the frozen attitude of someone else to make you slip and slide on your journey with God.

Instead, forgive one another. Don’t let someone pull you down as they slip from the grace of God. Instead, help to lift them up so they don’t get hurt.

Do you have a grievance against someone? Yes! They may have hurt you in something they have said or done. But if you will allow that grievance to grow in you, it will do two things:

  1. it will only separate you from God and,
  2. it will separate only you from God.

When you are hurt, remember this, what you feed will grow. If you allow your mind to meditate on the pain that you feel, that grievance will grow in you. If you continue to replay that internal video of the word or event that upset you in your mind, you give ground to the enemy and you give that grievance a reason to be there and grow. So often, when we have a grievance, the other person is completely ignorant of it. Rather than let that fester in you, forgive as the Lord forgave you. I’m sure you will remember that line in the Lord’s prayer that goes, ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Unforgiveness is a tremendous barrier that we are able to build up in our lives, that holds us away from God.

Now then (in keeping with that imagery that Paul wrote to the church in Colossae) when you are fully dressed with the characteristics of Christ covering you. Over the top of all that put on the big overcoat of love through which all of those Christly virtues can operate. As verse 14 says, it binds them all together in perfect Unity. It is that covering of love that holds everything together and keeps everything in order. It is both a protective barrier to everything that would try to attack you and a protective barrier to everything that might try to come from you that does not give the glory to God.

Love is important above all these things. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Paul concludes that 13th chapter of his letter saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Having clearly instructed the believers of this church how to go, Paul turns his attention to what believers should do.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. That peace is a divine blessing; that peace is a gift from Jesus to you as His word says, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [John 14:27]

That peace is given to you with a clear purpose for its use. It is not intended to do something for you. It is intended for you to do something with it. That peace that Jesus has given to you is intended to be the umpire of your heart. When things worry you, you are meant to use that peace as the arbiter of your heart to determine what is right and what is wrong.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:7]

That peace, given to you, is the ruling power of your heart; it is the supreme authority in your heart; it is the mediator of your heart

When situations make you anxious, before you do anything, allow your heart to find the balance where that peace exists and your actions will become in line with God’s will.

Is that peace given to you alone? No! You are members of one body. That peace is given to all believers. Your role is to use it and be thankful.

It is with thankfulness that we should remember the gift of peace that has been given to us for it is loaded with the fulness of God’s exceeding goodness for us.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly is, in its simplest form, a clear instruction to believers. However, quite what this means can be left open to debate until it is examined within the context in which it is written.

Contextually, this phrase, the message of Christ, is placed in-between two very distinctive pieces of information:

  1. the instruction to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and,
  2. as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

A psalm was originally a song accompanied by stringed instruments; a hymn is a song of praise; a song (an ode) is the general term used for a song of any kind, but specifically, in this context, being sung to God with gratitude in your hearts.

This tight bracketing of the phrase, ‘the message of Christ’ can only mean one thing. Worship to God being derived from a heart that is completely at peace with the meaning of the scriptures and Spirit-led in the revelation of them. However, this is not meant to be individual worship. Rather this is instructed to be corporate, Spirit led worship, so that, as a body of believers worships together, the truth of what is being sung is both instructive and corrective. Hence the songs being sung can both teach the truth and admonish false perceptions without the wagging of pointed fingers.

This is what John was talking about when he said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” [John 4:23]

The full meaning of this instruction can, perhaps, be expressed better in the Message as follows:

Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. [The Message]

When used in this way, the word of Christ is extremely effective.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12]

You might think to yourself, “What does this mean to us in a time of lock down because of a global pandemic virus and the need for social distancing?”

The truth is: it makes no difference at all. Worship is not an act we perform from time to time. Worship is a way of life that we should live at all times. That should be clear to all whom we meet, even if it is over the garden fence, on the phone or on the Internet. Corporate worship is not restricted to when we meet together as a fellowship, it is also how we interact with all people, and especially with our fellow believers.

It is then that the second part of that contextual bracketing comes into play — as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

When two believers come into contact, they should have one thing in common. That should not be the colour of their hair or the road in which they live. That should be an eagerness to share their thankfulness for what God has done for them with each other. To encourage each other with fresh detail about God’s goodness in their lives, and in doing so, open doors to enter into a deeper relationship with God.

Finally! Whatever you do, in word or in deed; do it in the name of the LORD; do it giving thanks to God; do it through Christ.

Whatever you do, do it in complete devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever you do, do it in the complete authority of Jesus Christ which He has given to you. Whatever you do, do it with a heart overflowing with thanks to the Father for the grace and mercy He has given to you.