Summary: Being a Christian, living a Christian life is not something which occurs spontaneously or automatically. It doesn’t just happen. We don’t just sit back and do nothing about it.
The book of Colossians, or the letter to the churches in Colosse and the surrounding areas, was written by Paul about 30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Paul’s words were written while he was in prison in Rome, awaiting trial. Tradition tells us that Paul would be beheaded only a few years later in Rome, while Nero was Emperor. So Colossians is considered to be one of Paul’s prison epistles. And as we have mentioned before, it is only by the grace of God that Paul could write words of love, words of encouragement, words of warning and words of compassion while he was in chains, beaten and persecuted.
He is writing this letter to help the church get back on track. The church at Colosse began during Paul’s three year ministry at Ephesus. Its founder was not Paul, who had never been there, but Epaphras who was saved during a visit to Ephesus and then likely started the Colossian Church when he returned home. Several years after it was founded, a dangerous heresy arose to threaten it – Gnosticism; that God is good, but matter is evil, that Jesus Christ descended from God, and being less than God, that a secret higher knowledge of Scripture was necessary for enlightenment and salvation. More Jewish legalism, that circumcision was necessary for salvation, observance of the ceremonial rituals of the Old Testament, (diets, festivals) the worship of Angels and other mystical experiences. We read in chapter 4 verses 12 & 13 that Epaphras was so concerned about this heresy that he made the long journey from Colosse (in modern Turkey) to Rome (in Italy) to visit and speak with Paul.
Similar things were happening in the Ephesian church where Paul ministered. Ephesus was located about 100 miles to the west of Colosse. Remember a few weeks ago we read from the book of Acts where Paul found some disciples of Jesus Christ in Ephesus and asked them if “They received the Holy Spirit when they believed?” And they answered him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
Here are Paul’s words found in Colossians, chapter 3, verses 12 through 17: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 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. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 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. 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.”
If we go back to verse 10 we would have read that Paul tells his readers at Colossae to put on the new self being renewed in the knowledge and image of its creator. Christians are being made anew in the image of their Creator. We all are made in the image of God; that image is marred by sin, ruined by sin. But as we come to Christ, as we become Christian then that image is renewed and restored in us.
Being a Christian, living a Christian life is not something which occurs spontaneously or automatically. It doesn’t just happen. We don’t just sit back and do nothing about it. Rather, we do have to actively strive to be compassionate and kind.
And the other things which Paul mentions too: Bear with each other, he says, forgive each other, and what greater motive is there to forgive each other that Jesus Christ himself has forgiven us. How can we refuse to forgive our brother or sister their small and trivial offences? And over all these virtues, says Paul, put on love which binds everything in perfect unity.
The American commentator John Macarthur says this: “Love is the beauty of the believer dispelling the ugly sins of the flesh that destroy unity.”
And it is love which binds everything in perfect unity. This means that we can see the measure of how much the love of Christ dwells within a Christian congregation, within a Christian fellowship by the degree of unity. Is a Christian congregation or fellowship divided within itself? Then there is very little of the love of Christ in its member’s hearts. Sadly the history of the Christian church we see so much of that lacks of unity; a lack of the love of Christ.