Saturday, November 30, 2013

Colossians 3:12-17

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Vs. 12 The Apostle Paul having revoked and removed all cultural, genealogical, and or societal distinctions by which some might seek to distinguish or separate themselves from other believers. Here declares one of the great and most edifying mysteries in the Bible, and that is that we who believe in Jesus Christ; who in faith have called upon His Name; are the elect of God. That is we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of world (Eph. 1:4). And so just as Jesus was foreordained by God to be the ransom for our souls, by His crucifixion death, before the Foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). So we have been chosen by God, and in due course of time, i.e. God's timing, we were appointed to eternal life (consider Acts 13:48 and John 6:37). Therefore as the elect of God who have put off the old man with his sinful deeds (3:5-9), we are to exemplify our new Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and "put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Vs. 12-14

And so rather than living by the old mans (or natures) sinful lusts, wrath, anger, malice, blasphemy and lying etc. we are given here several Godly attributes by which believers are to manifest Christ within them to each other and to all. Now the first Divine attribute or character listed is tender mercies. In the original language, from which the New Testament is translated, this word is actually two words. The first which here is rendered as tender may be understood as having compassion, while the second and more significant, being rendered here as mercies, carries within it some powerful overtones. Without going into this words origins and all the subtly of meanings derived from it, we can rightly say this word as used here, is not only an outworking of the deepest emotions and will (i.e. "heart and mind") it encompasses what *William Barclay coined as being "Divine Compassion". That is this word (as much as a single word can) embodies God's heart felt compassion, affection and tender mercies towards His own and towards all (see Luke 1:78; James 5:11). This is clearly seen in its verbs usage in the N.T. where Jesus uses it in His parable of the unforgiving servant, where God being moved with compassion towards His greatly indebted servant who begs Him for forgiveness, immediately does so (Matt 18:27). Or even more graphically where God's affections and mercies are seen as Jesus uses it to describe the Father's welling up inside with heartfelt compassion and unrestrained joy at the return of His prodigal son (Luke 15:20). Again Jesus uses it in His parable of the Good Samaritan who seeing the beaten and abandoned man by the side of road is immediately moved with compassion for him, and thus goes on to help him and aid him fully recover from his wounds (see Luke 10:33). And so we are commanded to do likewise (also consider 1 John 3:17). Elsewhere in the Gospel it is used to describe Jesus Himself as He is moved with compassion towards all kinds of people, in all kinds of circumstances of life (consider Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Luke 7:11-15, vs. 12). And so instead of wrath and anger; as the Prodigal Son's older brother exemplified at his wayward brother being restored by the Father; we must put on tender mercies. For only then do we rightly exemplify the Divine nature which we now bear (consider Eph. 4:32; 1 Peter 3:8). Now in regards to believers affections towards each other these again are a reflection of our new nature In Christ (consider 2 Cor 6:12; Phil 1:8; Philemon 7). The fact that the Apostle Paul combined these two words together only here in the N.T. indicates the  depth of compassion and mercy he wants us to exemplify towards each other.

The next Christ-like virtue we are to put on is kindness, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and thus is an attribute of Jesus Christ every believer has within them, so that both He and it might be manifested through us towards all (see Gal 5:22). The Book of Proverbs states that what is desired in a man is kindness (see 19:22) which again is a clear attribute of God's Person. Though kindness is not to be misunderstood as complacency towards evil. This word does contain within it a strong sense of grace and or benevolence, of doing good or what is good, towards all. Other aspects are moral goodness, honesty, even friendliness though the basic meaning as rendered in English should not be lost on us as we explore it's richness and depth. Technically this word appears nine times in the N.T. four times it is rendered goodness in the NKJ (Rom 2:4; 11:223x), the rest of the time it is rendered as kind (1 Cor 13:4) and kindness (2 Cor 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 2:7; Col. 3:12; Titus 3:4). With five of these being directly attributed to God Himself; being descriptive of either His Person, or of His dealings with us, both before salvation (Rom 2:4), and afterwards as His redeemed children (Eph. 2:7; Titus 3:4). Now it is because God has dealt so kindly with us, in remitting all our sins and restoring us to Himself. We as His children must also exemplify His kindness towards each other, and towards us all. And so kindness is a perceivable disposition of the children of God.

Next the Apostle Paul commends us to humility. Humility is the antithesis of pride and self-sufficiency (consider Matt 5:3), but it is not self-degradation, nor is it self abasement that sees oneself as unworthy of coming to the Lord directly, or which makes observance of man made regulations and or restrictions how one measures ones "humility" and or "spirituality" (consider Col 2:18, 20-23). No in contrast too that false humility which often generates pride in people given to those kinds of observances and beliefs (consider Habakkuk 2:4). Biblical humility begins by seeing oneself and others in the light of Jesus Christ's cross where He was crucified because of, and for all our sins transgressions. Thus it is first to see that ones only hope for redemption from sin and death must come through God and His work alone, through Jesus Christ's crucifixion death and resurrection from dead as the sole means for ones redemption and thus salvation. That is how humility is born within when one sees oneself as a sinner in need of God's salvation and in faith receives it through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Until then ones is just striving to earn God's favor, or else they are trying to stay away from Him. No clearer example of this is the Apostle Paul himself, who though a very religious man throughout his life, did not come too see himself as both a sinner and yet beloved by God until his faithful encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. For it was there where he had to face not only the depth of his own sin (that he in his Pharisee zeal for God, actually had only become an enemy of God in persecuting His church), yet when he saw God's willingness to forgive him and redeem him from his sins, if he believed and obeyed Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Saul seeing the depth of his error and believing Him who spoke to him, turned from his sins and turned in faith to receive Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. From that moment on, Saul though temporarily blinded by his encounter with God's holiness, was never the same man again.

And thus the once angry and driven Saul having been born-again by God's Holy Spirit became the Apostle Paul, whose love and self-sacrifices for Jesus Christ and His people, is well legendary. Though that was not the point of his doing so, to make himself into a "legend." The point of all that the Apostle Paul then did was so that all people everywhere might also believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and experience the power and glory of His resurrection, and thus Christ's life within them, just us all who believe in Him will and do so now. And that was the sole purpose of Paul's life from then on, too preach the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that everyone might be saved and also have a chance to come into a living relationship with the Living Lord Jesus Christ. And so the Apostle Paul having preached the Gospel (or Good News) would then go on to disciple (or have discipled) all who came to believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ for themselves. Yet almost as much as Paul's evangelism exploits was his deep love and concern for everyone who came into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so Paul, though himself an Apostle appointed by Christ, did not live like a "privileged" man who sought too financially profit from his exploits, or the Word of God (2 Cor 2:17). Nor did Paul lord his God given authority over God's people (2 Cor 11:18-21; 13:10). Instead Paul led by an example of humility and kindness (consider Acts 20:17-38, vs. 19) and so he commands the same from us all here and elsewhere (see Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3 also see 1 Peter 5:5).

Meekness is the next Christian virtue. Since humility is as a disposition of the heart and mind which is then manifested outwardly from there. Meekness, in effect is how humility is to be expressed in our lives. And so Paul gives it here to govern our relationships with each other. And just like every Christian virtue in the N.T. these are given to us not as a "law", but as a living reality of the Holy Spirit transformation that is taking place in our lives. And so we are to set our persons and lives in accord with them. For like Jesus Christ they transcend and transform all generations and cultures who believe and obey. Now Louw-Nida defines the word used here as: "gentleness of attitude and behavior, in contrast with harshness in one's dealings with others—gentleness, meekness, mildness." LN 88.59 In the NKJ this word is rendered meekness (2 Cor 10:1; Col. 3:12); gentleness (1 Cor 4:21; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Eph. 4:2; 1 Tim. 6:11) and humility (2 Tim 2:25; Titus 3:2) showing it's close connection with that virtue. Looking at it's (and it's related words usages in the New Testament) it is clearly an attribute of Jesus (Matt 11:29); as well as an attribute of the wise (James 3:13); it is even used of Moses (Num. 12:3) in the Septuagint (i.e. the ancient Greek rendering of the Hebrew Old Testament, and of course prophetically of the Lord Jesus in Psalm 45:9 and Zechariah 9:9 fulfilled in Matt 21:15) and thus is given to us as a Kingdom virtue to be pursued by all His followers (Matt 5:5; 1 Tim 6:11). That said it is given to us all who believe first as a fruit of the Spirit in our new lives (Gal 5:23) then as a commandment to govern our relationships with each other (Eph. 4:2; Col 3:12) and finally as an exhortation as how to act towards those outside of the house of faith, so that they might believe and be saved as well (2 Tim 2:25; Titus 3:2). Rather uniquely it is also commanded of us when restoring those who fall into sin or falter in their faith (Gal 6:1), which as, one matures in their own faith and life realizes the wisdom in doing so. For both humility and meekness always preclude any notions of "perfection" or of personally attaining too anything or sustaining anyone, even ones own faith, in ones own strengths or abilities. Thus the Apostle Paul in dealing with the waywardness he found within the church, if possible, always preferred to do so in a spirit of gentleness, rather than with a rod of correction (1 Cor 4:21) something I hope encapsulates our own hearts and minds when we need to correct those who go astray.

Longsuffering or forbearance is a foundational character trait of God (Exodus 34:6-7). And so throughout the Scriptures, in both Old and New Testaments, God displays it by foreboding His judgment in the hope of people's repentance. However God's longsuffering towards all is not the abolishment of God's righteous judgment, it is again its suspension, so that all people everywhere are given opportunity to repent. Therefore to reject God's offer of grace in the interval is only to store up more wrath and judgment upon oneself (consider Rom 2:4-5). Yet as the Apostle Paul points out it is the vessels of wrath that do so (Rom 9:22), but even in their doing so, in their ongoing defiance and rebellion towards God and His will for them, they only become agents by which God's glory is revealed and His mercy shown to all the vessels (i.e. people) of His mercy (Rom 9:22-23). Now it is because of God's longsuffering towards all, that we all can all take hope and seek refuge in God, as the Scripture commands that we all do. Therefore as the prophet Isaiah exhorts us all to do, please then: 6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7
For that is why Jesus Christ, God's Son, in the fulfillment of God's longsuffering towards sinful and wayward humanity went to the cross. So that He could be crucified and suffer in our place to make atonement for all our sins, so that when anyone sees themselves and their sin for what it is and what they are because of it (that is separated from God, and under the wrath of God) could in repentance and faith call upon the Lord Jesus Christ's Name and be saved from their sins and the wrath to come (Rom 10:9-10, 13). And that is the most important thing for any of us to do, at any point in our lives, to repent and come home to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is because of God's longsuffering towards us all, that he also first saved the Apostle Paul. A man who before his own salvation, was according to his own estimate of himself "the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15 paraphrase). Yet as Paul goes on to say of his own redemption from sin and death, Jesus Christ did so, so that through Paul, He might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:16). Thus in the Apostle Paul's pre-salvation life (or pre-conversion) we see a life being lived that was only hostile to God's will, yet God was exceedingly longsuffering towards him, even while Paul was persecuting the church, because Paul in his misguided religious zeal and ignorance of God's will was doing so. And so God patiently waited for the day when He would reveal Himself to Paul through Jesus Christ. And thus Paul having his eyes opened to his horrible ways, will on the Damascus Road in faith repent and be saved by Him.
 Now it is because of the incredible longsuffering that Jesus Christ has also shown us all who believe in Him, both pre-salvation, and even now as His redeemed children, that we also are to do likewise towards each other. No clearer picture of this, or commandment for this, is given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself in His parable of the unforgiving servant (see Matt. 18:21-35). I'll forgo expounding it here and leave that for you to read and explore. But suffice it to say just as the Lord Jesus commands it there, as the Apostle Paul is commanding it here, we also must be longsuffering and merciful towards each other (Eph. 4:2). For again that is the essence of having received God's mercy through Jesus Christ so that we might also become His agents of it, by which others might also become recipients of it (2 Peter 3:15). Therefore we are given by a Divine imputation of God's Spirit the ability to be longsuffering with all (Gal 5:22). Indeed our longsuffering is to be governed by love (2 Tim 3:10). For longsuffering is linked to having, and exemplifying true knowledge of God (2 Cor 6:6). As well in the list of the fruits of the Spirit there is a tangible link between peace, longsuffering and kindness (Gal 5:22). For you cannot have peace, or experience it, nor exemplify it, or kindness, if your not longsuffering with others. For impatience almost always leads too injustice and unjust wrath (consider James 1:19-20). Now whether this is directed towards God, or towards ones fellow person or believer, as is often the case with us. When our circumstances seemingly are about to overwhelm us. We need to remember that longsuffering and joy are also linked (see Col 1:11). So that we too might endure just as the prophets did who came before us in their own trials as well (James 5:10-11). Therefore 
remember longsuffering and joy, for not until the Lord of life comes will we get to experience life with each other free of this life's trials and tribulations (Acts 14:22).

Vs. 13 "bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."

In a continuation on the Apostle Paul to be longsuffering, here commands us all to bear with one another, and forgive one another... Now to bear with each other means we accept and embrace each other with all of our unique quirks and idiosyncrasies, with all of our personal likes and dislikes, and thus we do not make any of these insignificant things causes for dissension or disunity. Indeed in Eph. 4:2 the parallel exhortation says we are to be "bearing with one another in love". For that is exactly how our Lord and Savior accepts and bears with us, while He makes the necessary changes that need to be made to us. And so we as "His works in progress" are to be likeminded towards each other. Therefore let us all be people of grace, who give each other grace, guided by Biblical truth, so that we can all become what we have been redesigned by God to become In Christ. For there is no one who does not sin against another while walking this narrow path that we all must journey homeward on (Ecc. 7:20). Therefore we must not let our personal complaints and differences become causes for divisions and disputing. Rather just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also forgave me and you, so we must do so towards each other (Matt 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4). And thus both seeking reconciliation when we offend, and extending reconciliation when we have been offended.

Vs. 14 "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." 

The greatest commanded Jesus gave us to obey is that we love one another (John 13:34-35). And so more than just following Godly virtues and or personal self-sacrifices, the true Christian is known by their love for their brethren. For as the Apostle says here love is the bond of perfection. Not knowledge, not wisdom, but love. For love exemplified says to one and to all, Jesus Christ is here, and He is being obeyed as Lord here! Indeed when one is filled with the Holy Spirit one should expect to experience and enjoy a great sense of God's love, both for themselves, and for all brethren. For that is a sound measure of being filled with the Holy Spirit, exemplifying the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the first one being love. The Apostle John wrote: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:16

Vs. 15 "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."

The Lord Jesus Christ promised in the Gospel: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27 And so just as we have God's love within us, we also have His peace. Now we have the peace of God within us because with Jesus' crucifixion death for all our sins, then His resurrection from the dead (and thus our receiving remission of all our sins and new and everlasting life by our faith in Him), Jesus' ascended back to the Father, and then He poured out His Holy Spirit into the world, and thus into our lives, to both bring us to life with Himself, but also give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace etc. by which we are to live through Him. And so the peace of God being within us, we are to let it rule in our hearts and lives. For we who believe in Jesus Christ are One Body. And so we should always strive to live peaceable with each other. And be thankful. Thankful because you belong to God, thankful because Christ's life is within you, and He has a plan for you, if you die to your own plans and desires so that He might give you His. Thankful because of all that He has done, and is doing for you and through you. Thankful because... please fill in the blank and thank God for whatever you put there.

Vs. 16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

As Jesus' disciples we are to not just abide in His Word; which is clearly beneficial to us and to all (see John 8:31-32; 15:7-8) but we are to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. Now the word translated dwell here is not a temporal dwelling but something that is fixed and permanent (consider the words usages in Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 6:16; 2 Tim 1:14). Therefore we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly; that is in great abundance, in great joy, for just as God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17) so He has given us Christ's Word through which we may be edified and grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2). Thus the word of Christ is to dwell in us both richly, but also in all wisdom. Which indicates both an ongoing growth in our knowledge of Christ, but also of His Will, and thus ones conduct as His disciple (Col 1:9-10). And so wisdom here also embraces discretion and discernment as the Apostle makes clear in Col. 4:5. That's the first half of the Apostles exhortation, while the second "...teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." I believe is essential in not only enriching our lives personally, but also in helping us to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly. For unless you move the heart, it's not likely you will open the mind to receive God's Word. And so down through the ages believing mankind has always encapsulated God's Praise with God's Word so as to teach and admonish each other as the Apostle is exhorting us to do here. " psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Psalms are the Inspired praises and songs we find in the Old Testament portion of the Scriptures, which have praises, prophecies, wisdom, knowledge as well as Godly counsels and commandment's within them, and thus teach us much about God; especially His faithfulness and longsuffering; but also reveal to us much about the trials of His people in their relationship with Him. And so within them we find that much of their realties in their journeying homeward with Him through this fallen world we also find in our own lives and experiences as well, both the highs and the lows. And so the Biblical Psalms not only enrich and instruct us personally as well as corporately, as God's people. But they have inspired and continue to inspire faith and praise in God's people. Now hymns and spiritual songs, though related, are not the Inspired Word of God. They are though the means by which God's people often express their faith and devotion to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.  And so through them we not only teach and admonish one another to faith and obedience, but we also unite in our worship and praise by singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.

Vs. 17 "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Notice that the Apostle Paul says whatever we do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ... That is in this life, and in all of the works and activities that we find ourselves engaged in, we are to be light bearers of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. So whenever we do something good or charitable or that is blessing to someone we can acknowledge the Source behind our deeds and even our desires to do good and be a blessing to all, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ who Himself is a blessing to all of mankind. "...Giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Giving thanks to God the Father through Christ is as natural as breathing for all who believe in Jesus, because Jesus is Himself from the Father (John 14:6-11), and so to not acknowledge either Jesus Christ the Son of God or God the Father from whom He came forth is not honoring to either. Therefore let us all give thanks to God the Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

Additional Resources Consulted

Believers Bible Commentary; Col 3:12, MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Edited by Arthur Farstad. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.

*William Barclay: New Testament Words, John Knox Press, page 276

Louw-Nida (LN), Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985.

Word Studies

Vs. 12
Tender: STR 3628; GK 3880; TDNT 5.159; LN 88.80; (Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 1:3; Phil 2:1; Col 3:12; Heb. 10:28) 6x
Mercies: STR 4698; GK 5073; TDNT 7.548; TDNTA 1067; LN 8.58; 25.49; 25.50; 25.54; 25.55; 26.11; (Luke 1.78; Acts 1:18; 2 Cor 6:12; 7:15; Phil 1:8; 2:1; Col 3:12; Philemon 7, 12, 20; 1 John 3:17) 11x

Kindness: STR 5544; GK 5983; TDNT 9.489; TDNTA; LN. 88.10; 88.67; (Rom 2:4; 11:223x; 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph. 2:7; Col 3:12; Titus 3:4; Rom 9:23) 10x

Humility: STR 5012; GK 5425; TDNT 8.1; TDNTA; 1152 LN 88.53; (Acts 20:19; Eph. 4:2; Phil 2:3; Col 2:18, 23; 3:12; 1 Peter 5:5) 7x

Meekness: STR 4236 (also see 4240); GK 4559; TDNT 6.645; TDNTA 929; LN 88.59; (1 Cor 4:21; 2 Cor 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2; James 1:21; 3:13; 1 Peter 3:16) 9x
Longsuffering: STR 3115; GK 3429; TDNT 4.374; TDNTA 550; LN 25.167; (Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Cor 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 6:12; James 5:10; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15) 14x

Vs. 13
Bearing: STR 430; GK 462; LN. 25.171; 31.54; 56.10; TDNT 1.369; TDNTA; (Matt 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41; Acts 18:14; 1 Cor. 4:12; 2 Cor 11:12x, 4, 19, 20; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:22) 15x

Vs. 16
Dwell: STR 1774; GK 1940; LN 85.73; (Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 6:16; 2 Tim 1:5; 1:14) 4x

Richly: STR 4146; GK 4455; LN 59.57; 78.15; (Col. 3:16; 1 Tim 6:17; Titus 3:6; 2 Peter 1:11) 4x

Wisdom: STR 4678; GK 5053; TDNT 7.465; TDNTA; LN 28.8; 32.32; 32.37; 32.41; (Col. 1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5) 51x


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