True Believers Will Be Like Christ
Philippians – Colossians – Philemon Lesson 11
CENTRAL THEME: WALK IN CHRISTLIKENESS
INTRODUCTION: Most of us pick out our wardrobe (or our spouse does), and choose what we are going to wear. It’s interesting that if two women show up at the same event wearing identical outfits, they are usually embarrassed. If two men show up wearing the same clothes; they might just become best friends. When selecting what to wear, sometimes we choose something that sets us apart, but other times we just want to blend in. As Christians the Bible tells us that we are to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. We are to mimic Him, and when others see us, they are to see Jesus in us. Paul challenged the Colossians to get rid of anything that distorted the image of Christ in their lives. Today, we need to provide an accurate reflection of our Savior as well.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
As is often the pattern in Paul’s writings, the content in his early part of his letters deal with good doctrine. Later in the Epistle, he turns his attention to practical issues of Christian living. In other words, now that you know the doctrines, this is how you should allow it to affect your life. The Letter to the Colossians is no different. In Ch. 1, Paul emphasized the Gospel’s power for emancipation and transformation. It helps us to be free from sin’s power and Satan’s control, as well as to make repentant sinners into mature and faithful followers of Jesus. In Ch. 2, the themes of forgiveness and freedom are the focus. False witnesses and teachers aside, forgiveness of sins comes only through God’s gift of His Son as the sin-bearer. Being fully forgiven, repentant sinners find through Christ the freedom to live a God-honoring life. Today, in Ch. 3, Paul is going to begin teaching principles of practical Christian living that honors Jesus. After warning the Colossians in the first two chapters of false teachers and deceivers, now Paul is giving instructions of how to curb the temptations of sin. The remedy for sinful desires is to be found in a believer’s experience of spiritual union with Christ. This union is the root principle for living a Christlike life. When we are “In Christ” we find a basic newness, in which believers put their focus on Jesus and the life He makes possible (3:1-4). Paul goes on to tell us our new lives should not resemble the sinful lives of our past. We must mortify those ungodly patterns and focus our life to be like Jesus. When we start to walk in Christlikeness, there are obvious fruits that are evident in our lives. We behave in a way that would honor Jesus and we take careful steps to practice the “one anothers” delineated here in Colossians 3:12-17. Above everything else, to be like Jesus, means we are to “put on charity” (vs. 14), as we live the way He would want us to live. Both our words and our actions are to model the fact that we are new creations in Christ!
EXPLORE THE TEXT: COLOSSIANS 3:1-17
Objective Statement: Believers can be Committed to Walk in Christlikeness by Following These 3 Outcomes of Salvation.
OUTCOME #1 – A NEW LIFE BEGINS (col. 3:1-4)
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
The “If ye then be risen with Christ” clause that begins this chapter (vs. 1), presupposes an affirmative conclusion. In other words, since we have been raised with Christ, our focus is supposed to change. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PHRASES IN VS. 1b AND VS. 2? Well, the statement in vs. 1 says, “seek those things which are above.” The idea of “seek” has the emphasis on the practical pursuits of one’s life. The “things which are above” are defined as heavenly things. That’s where Jesus, “sitteth on the right hand of God.” That speaks to a position of honor or supreme privilege and authority, reserved for Jesus, Only. To seek heavenly things means to desire and thus aspire to things that center in Christ and which reflect a personal connection with Him. That’s what we are supposed to seek. In vs. 2 it says, “Set your affections on things above.” The emphasis of this phrase is that we should not love the world, or the things in the world, but we should focus on our love of Jesus and our reunion with Him, one day. It draws our attention to the inner disposition or mindset that lies behind outward actions. As we “seek” and “set your affections” on those things which are above, we must not ignore the responsibility of having an impact on the people around us here on earth. As the old adage says, “Don’t become so heavenly minded, you are no earthly good!” So let’s seek to be like Jesus, and love the prospects of our future home, rather than love the temporary things that are here on earth. But while we are her, let’s let our light so shine before men that they will see Jesus in everything we do.
Verses 3-4 remind us that we are dead in Christ but we are still alive (Col. 2:13; Gal. 2:20). And that new life which we have been given is “hid with Christ in God.” One truth that emerges from that statement is the eternal security of the believers. For Satan to snatch away a Christian he would have to detach the believer from union with Christ. That is not possible (John 10:28-30)! The truth of hiddenness with Christ means we have a heavenly attachment already established, since that is the abode of Jesus after His ascension to the Father’s right hand. Because of our salvation, we have an unbreakable relationship with Jesus and that demands that we walk like Him on our earthly sojourn. This world is not my home, I’m just passing through, but while I’m passing, I’m supposed to point others to Jesus. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear” (vs. 4), speaks of the return of Jesus. Because we are “IN HIM,” He is our LIFE! That will be a glorious day, “with Him in glory” when believers will be on open display with Christ at His coming. In the meanwhile, we are to focus on Jesus and the life He provides for us.
OUTCOME #2 – PUT OFF THE OLD (col. 3:5-11)
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
As a result of salvation, Paul called the Colossian believers, and all Christians, to cease practicing the sinful actions they once carried out. His call was for them to “Mortify” what belonged to their earthly nature. Having just emphasized that they had died to their old life and now their life was hidden with Christ in God (vs. 3), Paul’s call was for them to make this death to the old life real in everyday living. Suppressing sinful acts and attitudes was neither sufficient nor of lasting effect; these sins needed to be slain. Paul speaks of our earthly bodies when he says, “your members which are upon the earth” (vs. 5). But Paul didn’t want to make such a general statement of practical living and let them wonder what he was talking about. So he enumerated some of the old practices of their earthly nature that needed to be buried. First on the list was “fornication,” and interestingly, most of these behaviors deal with sexual vices. The Greek term which we translate “fornication” is “porneia,” which gives to English the term pornography. It was a broad term associated with sexual immorality of any kind, such as promiscuity, prostitution, and illicit sexual behavior. As it was in the days of Paul, this remains a pervasive problem in our society today. As a follower of Christ we must decisively put away (“mortify”) these kinds of behavior by the Power of the Holy Spirit and our love for Jesus. We must always resist the temptations that are constantly inundating our culture. We must expressly protect our families and children from the influence of such sins. The next four examples in vs. 5, speak of one’s earthly nature, and move from outward acts to inward inclinations. Of these four, “uncleanness” occurs first. It refers to moral uncleanness not only in actions but also in thoughts and speech. So much of our language in modern America is crude, ignorant, guttural, slang, that saturates our society. Parents, you must be proactive in monitoring what your children watch and read as these flippant, immoral, words and innuendoes inundate our culture. They lead to “uncleanness” in our lives. “Inordinate affection” is next named. It carries the idea of uncontrolled desire and unnatural lust, and leads naturally to the next named item, “evil concupiscence” [con-que-pis-sense], which suggests a desire for more without thought for the rights or integrity of others. The concluding vice is “covetousness, which is idolatry,” and serves as a kind of summary of the others in that it puts self-interest and fleshly pursuits ahead of God and His rightful place in the life of a believer. Verse 6 draws the conclusion that such sins invite “the wrath of God.” Paul’s focus seems to be on the future judgment of God that will come upon the disobedient and unforgiven sinners. But what a sobering reminder of God’s justice on those who reject Him and have lived for their selfish, sinful, patterns. Paul also reminds the Colossians to remember that many of them walked in such unrighteousness and ungodliness in the past (vs. 7). They should rejoice that they were saved out of that sinful lifestyle, and be constantly vigilant that they not be tempted to go back toward those patterns.
In verses 8-10, Paul directly confronts the issue that these transformed believers in Colosse should never view their past lives as something to be reconsidered or revisited. They were new creations in Christ and they had “put off all these” (vs. 8a). Paul named five sins to be “put off” when Christ is received into one’s heart by faith. WHAT ARE THOSE FIVE SINS AND WHAT DO THEY MEAN? The first is “anger” followed by its companion sin, “wrath.” We often think of these terms as interchangeable. But Paul makes these distinctions. Anger is a smoldering persistent feeling of the heart, while wrath is the sudden outburst of that feeling. Sometimes people experience the slow boil of anger that hangs on for a season, whereas others may experience a sudden explosion of wrath, but its consequences impact others. He next mentions, “malice” which commonly speaks of a vicious or hurtful disposition bent on doing harm to the focus of that rage. This is followed by “blasphemy,” which suggests insulting words uttered against its object with a view to hurting someone’s reputation. “Filthy communication” carries overtones of abusive speech and foul-mouthed language. Verse 9 begins with “Lie not” which in a modern context seems less offensive than our previous words. We sometimes soften its sinful emphasis by euphemisms like, “a little white lie” or maybe you have heard the word “a peccadillo” (which is a small insignificant sin). Paul may have waited to single it out for special mention in order to let its condemnation stand out all the more. In fact, the implication is that Paul had found believers who practiced lying with hardly a twinge of conscience. The way he worded it carries the force of “stop lying,” implying that it was a lingering sin found too frequently among church members who had not “put off the old man!” The reason for putting away lying is twofold. A person who is genuinely saved puts off the “old man with his deeds,” and also has “put on the new man” (vs. 10). WHO ARE WE TO BE LIKE WHEN WE BECOME NEW? The right answer is always Jesus. Paul says, “after the image of Him that created him” (vs. 10b). That’s walking in Christlikeness! We would refer to this as godliness in the process of being formed in God’s people. It is progressive Sanctification, which is why we stop living like we used to live in sin. WHAT DOES VERSE 11 MEAN? Well, no matter our national background (“Greek” or “Jew”) or our ceremonial practices (“circumcision” or “uncircumcision”) or cultural distinctives (“Barbarian” or “Scythian”) or our social standing (“bond” or “free”), we are all the same in Jesus! We are New Creations!
OUTCOME #3 – PUT ON THE NEW (col. 3:12-17)
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye 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 whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
In keeping with the analogy of putting off certain behaviors and attitudes as one would shed soiled clothes, this section draws attention to qualities that a Christian is to “PUT ON” (vs. 12), as one might replace the old clothes with new ones. When Paul says, “the elect of God” who were “holy and beloved,” he was simply addressing every saved believer in the Colossian church. In verses 12-13, WHAT ARE THE CHARACTER QUALITIES SOMEONE IS TO “PUT ON” IF THEY ARE TRUE CHRIST FOLLOWERS? List the distinctives of: “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another (being patient with someone), and “forgiving one another” as qualities of a true believer! And why are we to forgive others? Because, “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (vs. 13). Forgiving others who have wronged you is the Christlike thing to do!
In Verses 14-17, Paul makes this most sublime statement of a person who has “PUT ON” Christ. He starts by concluding the most important of all garments with which Christians are to clothe themselves is WHAT? “And above all these things put on CHARITY, which is the bond of perfectness” (vs. 14). Jesus said it this way, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Love can bind a fellowship together when nothing else suffices. This quality is the primary descriptor of God, Himself. Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), loving others is the most godly quality a believer can possess. In verses 15-17 point out every phrase that speaks to the blessing of being a new creation in Jesus because of His salvation. Almost every independent statement should be emphasized. Very clear and powerful words of encouragement. Especially notice verse 16a where Paul encourages all believers to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” When we let the Word of God (specifically the words Jesus said in the Gospels) to permeate our hearts and minds to control our thinking and our behavior, that is allowing us to be “filled with the Spirit” something all Christians strive for. When we are walking in the Spirit (i.e. Walking in Christlikeness), then all of these results will be a part of our life (vs. 16-17). Also emphasize vs. 17, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed,” is for the glory of Jesus and God the Father.
Remember our Objective Statement: Believers can be Committed to Walk in Christlikeness by Following These 3 Outcomes of Salvation.