What Are We Putting On?
What Are We Putting On?
Text: Colossians 3:1-11
Now that January has passed, many of us are probably starting once again putting on pounds & inches. That’s a constant struggle for many of us – even without New Year’s resolutions. On the other hand, some of us may be putting on the dog (or the Ritz). Putting on the dog means making a display of wealth or importance, especially by dressing stylishly and flashily. Similarly, some of us are prone to putting on airs. &, like the ones skunks put on, they don’t do much for us. Our reading from Colossians 3 a few minutes ago began with the conditional phrase – “If then you were raised with Christ.” As with the 1st readers of this letter, it is a good inquiry for us today: Have we been raised with Christ? Paul’s readers would have had no trouble knowing the meaning of this question & neither should we as we remember Col. 2:12 – “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Paul is addressing his remarks to folks who have been buried with Christ in baptism – folks who have been raised to walk in newness of life according to Rom. 6:4. Those of us who have been raised with Christ – Christians or the church – are to seek heavenly things. That’s where our mind set should be rather than on earthly things. This is the same guidance Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount when He instructed His disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things – life’s necessities – shall be added to you.” In verses 5-9 of our text in Col. 3, Paul lists these things which we are to put to death or put away if we have been raised with Christ: fornication or sexual immorality, uncleanness or impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness or greed which amounts to idolatry, anger, malice, blasphemy or slander, filthy language or abusive speech out of your mouth & lying to one another. We don’t do these things anymore since we have put off the old man with his deeds according to v.9. The Greek verb translated “put off” (ajpekduvomai) is a compound word meaning to strip or take off clothes. Then in v.10, Paul uses a Greek word that is its antonym - ejnduvw - meaning to put on or wear. And have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Hopefully, we have put on the new man by having been raised with Christ. And, although Paul has told us several things to put off, he is now going to share several things we need to put on in the next 3 verses. So our question for this morning’s lesson is “What are we putting on?” Hopefully, not pounds & inches or the dog or airs but rather what is appropriate for Christians or the church.
With “Therefore” Paul draws a conclusion beginning in v.12 for the new man – the elect or chosen of God, holy and beloved. These are terms used to describe God’s people – the children of Israel – in the OT but now are used to describe the church or Cod’s people in the New. We studied back in the summer that the elect or chosen of God are those who are in Christ according to Eph. 1:3-14. You & I are holy in the sense that we are set aside for God’s service – Rom. 12:1. & we are beloved of God because He sent His only begotten Son that we might have everlasting life – John 3:16. And with that reminder of who we are – those of us who have been raised with Christ – Paul tells us what we should be putting on. First of all, tender mercies in the NKJV. The KJV has “bowels of mercies” because emotions were expressed this way in both Hebrew & Greek. But we often have gut feelings about something & courting people often get butterflies in their stomachs. The NASB has “a heart of compassion” but I can assure you that the normal Greek word for heart kardiva does not appear in the text but instead splavgcnon which refers to the internal organs in the belly or the intestines. However, we may choose to express this phrase, Christians are to be compassionate or merciful to others – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). &, of course, the neighbor in the parable of the good Samaritan was the one who showed mercy on the wounded traveler. In Lk. 10:33, we read that when the certain Samaritan saw the wounded man, he had compassion - splagcnivzomai - & I think you can hear the resemblance to the inward parts in this verb. But I want us to look at one more verse that stresses our need to be compassionate – 1 Jn. 3:17. If you’re reading out of the old KJV, you’ll see my point immediately. Let me read this verse out of the NKJV but you’ll also see it on the screen: But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart (splavgcnon) from him, how does the love of God abide in him? We must put on compassion 1st at home & then with our neighbors & brothers. We need to be compassionate with both our spouses & our children or they’ll see the hypocrisy – play acting – in our Christianity. The second thing we should be putting on is kindness. One commentator calls this “sweetness of disposition” based on 1 of the definitions of crhstovth" excellence in demeanor. We don’t really have to define kindness – we can let Jesus put it in words we can understand from the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” A 3rd quality we need to put on is humility. Of course, our paradigm for humility is our Lord & Savior as described in Phil 2:5-11 as He made Himself of no reputation & took the form of a bondservant. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” We would all do well to take the practical advice found in Rom. 12:3 not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. The 4th quality Paul commands us to put on is meekness or gentleness. In Matt. 11:28-29, Jesus invites the heavy laden to come to Him for rest because He is meek or gentle & humble or lowly in heart. But I suppose the greatest blessing in meekness is pronounced by Jesus in the 3rd beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) Meek does not mean weak. It takes a lot of inner strength to be gentle when people are cruel, rude & disrespectful to you & especially when they are brothers & sisters in Christ. The 5th quality we must put on is patience or longsuffering. Perhaps we know more about impatience because that seems to be more prevalent today but Christians are to exercise patience in our relationships with others. Patience or longsuffering is a characteristic of God Himself – Rom. 2:4 & 2 Pet. 3:9. & what about the patience of Jesus in 1 Pet. 2:20-24 as He suffered abuse for our sins. In v. 13 of our text, two more qualities are given which really go arm in arm. 1st, we are to bear with one another. In Eph. 4:2, the Holy Spirit commands us to bear with one another in love. With all of our imperfections, we need to bear with one another. Perhaps this is what we’ve often heard referred to as loving the unlovable. Then we are commanded to forgive one another. If you have a grievance against someone, forgive them as Christ has forgiven you. We mustn’t forget the parable of the unforgiving servant found in our Daily Bible reading this week from Matt. 18:21-35. Folks, we need to memorize Matt. 6:15 – “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” & don’t be waiting for someone to ask your forgiveness – take the lead from our Lord who prayed “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” as the Roman soldiers crucified Him – Lk. 23:34. The final article of clothing we are to put on is love. It is the bond of perfection or the glue that holds us together. It should not surprise us that love is mentioned last. Many of these things we’ve been told to put on are characteristics of love described in 1 Cor. 13. Remember Paul’s conclusion in the final verse of that chapter: & now abide faith, hope, love – these three – but the greatest of these is love. Interestingly, in the fruits of the Spirit, love is mentioned first along with several of the other qualities we have talked about this morning. Turn with me as we read this list from Gal. 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” As we conclude this lesson of “What are we putting on?”, let’s read from Eph. 4:1-3. It appears to me that this is just another way of describing the clothing we need to be putting on & the fruit of the Spirit we are to bear. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
As we close this lesson, the question remains, “What are we putting on?” Perhaps – & I’m sure there is with an audience this size – there’s someone in the audience who has not put on Christ. We talked about being raised with Christ at the beginning of the lesson. Now I’d like to urge you with these words from the apostle Paul in Gal. 3:27-28 – For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. &, yes, the word for “putting on” Christ is ejnduvw - to put Him on like a garment. Or perhaps you haven’t been putting on those qualities we Christians are to exhibit. The Lord invites you to come this A.M. to be buried with Him & to walk in newness of life. If you need to put on Christ or if you need to start your Christian walk again, we invite you to come as we stand & sing.
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 2/1/2009)