Week commencing 15th October 2017   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Colossians 3:12 “Clothe yourselves with compassion.”

DAY 1: Read Colossians 3:12-17

Great to read the whole of next week’s passage, but really we are just dealing with half a verse today:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

The implications of those few words are massive! First of all, the ‘therefore’ alerts us to the fact that what is to follow is grounded in what Paul has already taught the Colossians in the previous passage. Paul has just been saying that whatever these believers were before, whichever part of society they were from, they have come to a place of unity. Christ is all and is in all. Therefore…

But it’s possible that Paul is referring also to the start of ch 3, grounding what is to follow here in the fact that they are united to Christ (in the past) in his death, resurrection, and (in the future) glory.

To that grounding for his following appeal, Paul now adds new grounds. It is because the Colossians are ‘God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved’ that the Holy Spirit (via Paul) urges them to ‘put on’ the virtues of the second half of v12.

I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THAT ORDER IS! In keeping with the rest of the letter, we do not come into relationship with God by being good enough (as if we could be!). In fact, that is in keeping with the whole of Scripture. Consider the Israelites whom God rescued from Egypt. Only then did he give them the Law. Exodus 20:1-3 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me”. God’s call to right living is grounded in his work in redemption and establishing a relationship, not the other way around. How liberating!

The Colossians are God’s chosen people, just as the Israelites were God’s chosen people. They are holy, meaning that they are set apart for God’s special purposes, and they are dearly loved. God regards them with deep affection. They don’t need to impress God, so they are free to just get on with the happy duty of living life the way their Creator designed. More on that tomorrow…

DAY 2: Read Colossians 3:12-14

So then, if they are in that safe place as God’s people, how ought the Colossians behave? In answer, Paul continues the image of dressing that he started in v9. Whereas there he wrote of ‘taking off’ the old self with its vices, he now lists the virtues to ‘clothe yourselves with’ in their place: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness. What strikes me from that list is that these are qualities not celebrated in our society. In our dog-eat-dog world, people are encouraged to look after themselves and to pursue their goals with single-mindedness. Qualities such as these are regarded as quaint, even weak, but they are God’s ways. They are strength in his eyes and have the fragrance of his majesty about them.

The virtue that ties the whole outfit together is love. As in other places (eg 1 Corinthians 13:13) this is the supreme virtue, reflecting the fact that God himself is love (1 John 4:8), and that Jesus had commanded it of his followers and described it as the hallmark of his disciples (John 13:24-35).

Notice though that our role in the development of these virtues is not all passive. Yes, it is God who changes us, but there is also effort on our part, otherwise Paul would tell his readers to sit back and enjoy the ride as God makes them godlier! It takes discipline, sacrifice, forethought, fellowship, and above all prayerful reflection on God’s word.

Where are you lacking? Pray that we will view these virtues as he does and desire them! Pray that the Holy Spirit will bring them forth in us!

DAY 3: Read Colossians 3:15-16

After writing about virtues that are largely going to be seen in individuals, Paul turns to those that ought to mark the fellowship as a whole: peace, and word-based worship.

God has forged a unity out of people who formerly had nothing in common (v11). This is nothing short of a miracle! Small surprise, then, that he wants that unity preserved. He will do his bit, but God did not create robots. Instead, he has created relational beings who make decisions about how they treat him and each other. He partners with us in many things, including the preservation of church unity.

It is said that you can choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family. You have to put up with them! It is the same with our church family. There may well be times when we frustrate and annoy one another, but this is no excuse for letting things fall apart. When we exercise the virtues of v12-14, peace is preserved. Are there threats to our church unity? How can we combat them?

As the church of Christ, the word of Christ must be central to their meetings and to their ministry. (Notice how the peace dwelling amongst them is the peace of Christ; the word dwelling amongst them is the word of Christ: Christ is central.) In teaching, rebuking one another and in praising God, the Scriptures are to be prominent. So too is gratitude, which is the antidote to bitterness, and promotes goodwill toward one another and joy in one’s relationship with God.

DAY 4: Read Colossians 3:17

Just one verse to read today – but you may like to read the whole passage again so you read v17 in context.

How central is Jesus Christ to this letter! Earlier, Paul has shown how Jesus is supreme over creation, supreme in redemption, and the one in whom Christians find their identity both as individuals and as the Church. At every step, their spiritual life and growth have been acts of God through Christ. Now then, their activity for God is to be Christ-centred. ‘Do it in the name of the Lord Jesus’ means you don’t do it half-heartedly; it means you don’t do it with sneaky methods; it means you do it for the glory of God. And once again, Jesus inspires thankfulness to God.

Think of the activities of our church. Do you think Jesus would be happy for his name to be associated with them?

Think of your own words and deeds. Do you think Jesus would be happy for his name to be associated with them?

Do you give thanks to God the Father through Jesus?


These notes were originally published for 11th June 2012 for the Colossians series we were studying at the time.
Written by the Reverend Simon Keith.