Summary: Four more imperatives for right Christian living.
THE UNIFORM OF THE DAY
1. This chapter has already furnished us with four imperatives: ‘seek those things which are above’ (Colossians 3:1); ‘set your affection on things above’ (Colossians 3:2); ‘put to death whatever in you is earthly’ (Colossians 3:5); and ‘put off’ those things in which you once lived (Colossians 3:8). Colossians 3:12 provides us with a fifth imperative: “PUT ON” those moral attributes which are more befitting a follower of Christ. This is the Uniform of the Day - every day.
Paul has already established the universality of the church, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc (Colossians 3:11). Now he transfers the titles of Israel to the church: not that Israel has ceased to be, but that Gentile Christians have been grafted in to Israel (Romans 11:17-18). Paul calls all true believers “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12).
As such, and because Christ is ‘all, and in all’ (Colossians 3:11), we should “therefore” clothe ourselves with such attitudes as have already been attributed to God, and such acts as have been demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ. The five virtues mentioned are all relational: “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience” (Colossians 3:12). Yet the list does not stop at these five: we are to “bear one another” - and to forgive each other “just as Christ forgave you” (13). A forgiving attitude is fundamental to right Christian living (Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:32-35).
This is not all: we are also to put on “love” (Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 5:1-2). Perhaps this, above all things, singled the early church out from the crowd: ‘see how these Christians love one another’ (John 13:34-35). In this we are bound together in complete and perfect harmony (1 Corinthians 13:13).
2. If we have ‘peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1), then we are to “LET PEACE PRESIDE” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Christ is ‘the head of the body’ (Colossians 1:18). The ‘government is upon His shoulder,’ and He is ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). He has ‘made peace through the blood of His cross’ and wrought reconciliation (Colossians 1:20-21).
We are “called in one body” - so as peace rules in each individual heart, so peace will be the guiding principle in all our relationships within the church. We are to be “thankful” (Greek: ‘Eucharist’) that this is possible. The mutual helpfulness of the church in matters of mediation is a ministry in itself (Philippians 4:2-3).
3. “LET THE WORD OF CHRIST…” (Colossians 3:16) is another imperative. In the parallel passage Paul exhorts the Ephesians to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Here he exhorts the Colossians to let “the Word of Christ” take up its dwelling in their midst. This is the true wisdom.
Elsewhere Paul speaks of ‘comparing spiritual things with spiritual’ (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Based on this we talk of ‘comparing scriptural things with scriptural’ as a sound method of Biblical exegesis. The Colossians needed to know, since they were troubled by other voices (Colossians 2:4; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:20-22), that there is no separating of the Spirit of God from the word of Christ.
So the greatest weapon in any church’s armoury is a right understanding of the Bible. Individually, like Jesus in His temptations (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10), we use Scripture to fight off the devious attacks of the devil. Collectively, a church enriched by the word of God is a church empowered to ward off every attack, and to take the world by storm.
It is interesting that the “teaching and admonition” of one another is the task of the whole church. The preaching of the word of God is for the edification of the whole body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Scripture equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
“Psalms and hymns and songs (spiritual)” are all headings in the Greek translation of the book of Psalms. It would be futile to try to make any distinction between these three terms. Our praise consists in “singing to the Lord” with gratitude in our hearts for the grace of God.
4. The final imperative of this section is “DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS” (Colossians 3:17). If we have ‘renewed our minds’ (Romans 12:2), and ‘set our affection on things above’ (Colossians 3:2), then our thoughts have already been ‘brought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Now Paul exhorts us to be careful what we say, what we teach, and how we live.