Colossians 3:12, 13
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;…
The apostle, having bidden the Colossian converts strip off the filthy rags of their old life, takes them into the Christian's wardrobe and shows them some of the robes of righteousness, the beauties of holiness, the jewels of grace, with which they may decorate themselves. These are the only priestly vestments in which God's "royal priesthood" may appear "glorious in the eyes of the Lord." Nor should we ever dare present ourselves before the Lord unless we are attempting to "put on" all these. (Illustrate from "court dress," or Matthew 22:11-13.) This spiritual investiture is urged on the Colossians by two considerations.
I. THEIR RELATIONS TO GOD. "Elect, holy, beloved."
1. Elect. Our outward religious privileges (1 Corinthians 4:7) and our inward spiritual state (1 Corinthians 15:10) are the result of a Divine choice. Christian experience, no less than God's Word, attributes the beginning of the new life within us to a work of God, and therefore to a purpose anti choice of God (2 Timothy 1:9). But for what end has he thus chosen us .9 We find answers in such words as "fruit" (John 15:16), "holy" (Ephesians 1:3, 4), "sanctification" (2 Thessalonians 2:13), "obedience" (1 Peter 1:2).
2. Holy. Here is the true idea of the only Christian priesthood, viz. consecration, being set apart for service and spiritual sacrifices to God. The self denial of the one High Priest is our pattern and our inspiration (John 17:19; Hebrews 3:1). There are not, in the New Testament, two groups of virtues, one for the clergy, the other for the laity, as (Mr. Ruskin tells us) are represented by some of the mediaeval poets and painters. All Christ's disciples are called as priests, to be equally "saints," "holy" (1 Peter 1:14, 15).
3. "Beloved;" enjoying that special love of complacency and delight of which Christ speaks (John 14:21; John 16:27). "The order of the words admirably corresponds to the order of the things: eternal election precedes sanctification in time; the sanctified feel God's love and forthwith imitate it" (Bengel).
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF THESE CHRISTIAN GRACES.
1. "A heart of compassion" towards those who are in a worse condition than ourselves, whether caused by sin or calamity. A compassionate nature brings pain with it, yet it is "twice blessed." Silver is no substitute for sympathy. Money sent by a rich Christian who will not take the trouble to "visit the fatherless and widows" is worth less than the sympathetic words and deeds of a poor compassionate neighbour. Refer to Christ being often "moved with compassion" and putting forth a healing touch. So now Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:17, 18.
2. "Kindess to all, perhaps especially to those who are our equals and need no special compassion (cf. Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 3:8). A kind heart is a cheerful heart, and provides a continual feast" (Acts 20:35).
3. "Humility." "There are many," says Augustine, "who would more readily give all they have to feed the poor than become beggars themselves before God." So humility needs to go hand in hand, with compassion and kindness. It is fostered by a true view both of our own sinfulness and the dignity bestowed upon us. We need it in prosperity lest we become insolent to our neighbours (Esther 3:5; Luke 18:11), or even towards God (2 Chronicles 26:16; Hosea 13:6); and in adversity, lest we "faint," etc. (Hebrews 12:5-9).
4. "Meekness;" that quiet, gentle spirit which will calmly endure disappointments or slights. It is a source of power (Ecclesiastes 7:8). It is not constantly vindicating itself and disputing with assailants (Psalm 37:5, 6, 11). When we see the power which meek spirits gain over others stronger and rougher than themselves, we see the words fulfilled, "A little child shall lead them."
5. Long suffering. In regard to Divine afflictions, see on Colossians 1:11. It is more difficult to exercise it towards men than towards God. In relation to our fellow sinners we may learn from God's long suffering towards them. (See the legend of Abraham and the fire worshipper in Stanley's 'Jewish Church,' 1:21.) And if we are long suffering towards those that sin against God, how much more towards those that offend us! Let us learn of God (Matthew 5:45; Romans 2:4) and of his beloved Son (1 Peter 2:23).
6. Forbearance and forgiveness. "Forbearing one another." This is often the first step towards frank forgiveness. It may avert a quarrel, for which two are needed. "To conquer one's self is the greatest of conquests," says Plato (cf. Proverbs 16:32). This victory over self aids us in the victory over the transgressor (Romans 12:21; e.g. David, 1 Samuel 24.). "Forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any." Our Lord has laid down the law of offences among disciples (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3, 4). A Christian spirit will hail the signs of incipient repentance, and will exact no unreasonable humiliation. And even towards the most impenitent offender we may exercise the most forgiving spirit, like God, "ready to forgive" (Matthew 5:44, 45). Observe the pathetic plea urged: "Even as the Lord forgave you," etc. Our Master Christ still has this power (Matthew 9:6; Acts 5:31). He has used it on our behalf, first when we applied to him with the burden of all the guilty past, and since then day by day (John 13:10). Shall he be so prompt and free, and we be hesitating and reluctant (1 John 2:12)? And this motive is as stringent as it is pathetic. Note the prayer taught (Luke 11:4), the command given (Mark 11:25, 26), the warning uttered (Matthew 18:35). Imagine an unforgiving man offering the prayer (Matthew 6:12), "As we forgive," etc., and interpret it into plain language. If we do not forgive, do not let us dare to pray (1 Timothy 2:8). - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;