Colossians & Philemonby Mike Raiter
Let us return to the wardrobe. We have just taken off, and hopefully thrown away, the old clothes. Now let us dress ourselves in garments of life and beauty.
I do hope you understand—because Paul has been repeating it constantly—that the power to live the Christian life comes from outside of us. It comes from our union with Christ. His death to sin was our death to sin; His rising to life was our resurrection. We are not what we were before: we are being remade into something completely new. This is not moralism. Moralism is: do it yourself. Moralism says, “Just do it! Change yourself.” Christian living is: remember what God has done for you in Christ, and remember who you are in Christ.
Paul begins this section with, “Therefore [because you’re being renewed in God’s image], as God’s chosen people [that’s who you are], holy and dearly loved [set apart by God’s love lavished upon you], clothe yourselves with . . .” (v. 12). All that Paul is calling us to do springs from our understanding of who we are in Christ.
Since we are now “in Christ”, it is not surprising that the clothes we put on must bear the image of Christ. Paul calls us to be compassionate like Jesus, who had compassion on the crowds that were harassed and helpless. We are to be kind, humble, gentle and patient like Jesus, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . . or I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28–29). We are to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Above all, we must put on love, “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). In short, we are to be clothed with Christ-likeness. Of course, God will definitely do this in the lives of those He is remaking in His Son’s image.
Sadly, too often are Christians taught to rely on themselves to change instead of Christ. We need to be reminded to focus on what God has done for us in Christ and who we are in Christ, only then will our hearts and lives be transformed—from the inside out.
Reflect upon your own Christian gatherings. Do they display the kind of conduct Paul describes here? How can we see our churches grow in this kind of Christ-likeness?
Which of the Christian virtues that Paul mentions here do you particularly struggle with? What would moralism say to you? How does the gospel transform you?