The Marks, Method, and Motive of the Christian Life
Colossians 3:12-17
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;…

This paragraph is part of the practical application of the great principle St. Paul has been expounding in this chapter, viz. the Christian's death to evil through the death of Christ, and life to holiness through his life. We have here -

I. THE MARKS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. When the Christian life is illustrated, as here, by a garment, the analogy must not be pressed too far. For instance, unlike a garment, the Christian character is not

(1) merely outside a man, nor

(2) separable from a man. But that character is like a garment:

1. Because by it a man is known and recognizable.

2. Because by it a man is adorned. There are in Paul's description eight characteristics by which, as by a beautiful garment, the Christian man is recognizable and is adorned.

(1) "Bowels of mercies," which we may paraphrase as "a heart of compassion." Anthropologists largely judge what physical race a man belongs to by his skull; the Christian must judge what race a man belongs to by his heart. Tender heartedness is a sign of the Christian as certainly as truthfulness, or temperance, or honesty.

(2) "Kindness:" this is the constant, steady, often noiseless, but always beneficent, stream flowing from such a heart.

(3) "Meekness;" for whilst the apostle sternly condemns mock humility, which the pietistic among the Colossians had affected, he rigorously insists on that self humiliation without which no man can be reckoned a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus.

(4) "Long suffering:" this is a temper of life described in the beautiful word "patience," and it indicates freedom from the intellectual impatience which makes men proud and restive, and from the emotional impatience which makes men fretful and irritable.

(5) "Forbearance and forgivingness," which need no description.

(6) "Charity;" the love that girdles and holds together all the graces.

(7) "Peace of Christ;" which is the peace Christ gives, and is like the peace he possesses.

(8) "Thankfulness;" gratitude to God and to one another, which implies a whole catalogue of virtues.

II. THE METHOD OF ATTAINING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The method here described is threefold.

1. Christ's dealing with us. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." "The Word of Christ." By this we understand:

(1) The Word that came from Christ to us. That Word is not to pass away, but to "dwell" in us.

(2) The Word that spoke of him. Whether it were in Scripture prophecy, parable, or statement, it unveiled Christ to us. That vision is not to pass away, but to "dwell" in us.

(3) The Word that Christ himself speaks. He communes with us in the secret chambers of our soul, and what his still, small voice says to us there about pardon, duty, God, must not pass away; it must dwell there.

(4) The Word is indeed Christ himself. He is the uttered thought, the expressed love from God to our soul. He must dwell in us.

2. Our words to one another. We only gain ourselves as we help others. We must communicate what we have received if we are to become strong.

(1) We are to teach.

(2) We are to admonish.

Of this there are many ways. One is here described by "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."

3. Our word to God. "Sieging with grace in your hearts to the Lord." There must be the outpouring of the heart to God.


1. Here is the widest description of the Christian life. It covers "word and deed."

2. Here is the deepest motive of the Christian life. "The Name of the Lord Jesus." It is the Name of him who brings God near, who is the Reconciliation of all things to God. So that what is truly done in the Name of Christ brings the world near God, lifts up human nature into fellowship with God. No wonder that Paul adds, for all this let there be "giving of thanks." The Christian life ought to be a eucharist. - U.R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

WEB: Put on therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance;

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