A Study of Colossians 3:12–14
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (Colossians 3:12–14)
Since we who believe and are saved are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death. Since Christ is risen from the dead, and we are in Him, we are raised to walk in newness of life.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
This is the key to the “victorious Christian life”. As we agree with God that the old man is crucified with Christ, we also agree and reckon it to be so that we are alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. “Reckoning” means “to put to the account of”. It is the word λογίζομαι—”logízomai“, also translated “impute” and “count”. In Romans 4:3–8, the word in its tenses is used five times. It is accounting language. God has made a deposit in our account of righteousness, and accordingly will not make deposits into our account of sin.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not RECKONED of grace, but of debt.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is COUNTED for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God IMPUTETH righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not IMPUTE sin. (Romans 4:3-8)
Our part of this is to write the same deposit in our “ledger” that God has written in His. We are to live as though it is true because it is true. And since it is true that we died with Christ, and are now risen with Christ, we are to no longer wear the clothes of the dead man. We are to put on the clothing of the resurrection. We put these on, not to make ourselves the “elect of God”, but because we ARE the elect of God. As such, this is a position of honor and we should do our diligence to “wear it well”. And here in Colossians 3:12–14 we are told what the clothing of resurrection looks like.
As we look over these enumerated things listed, they are not singular parts, but the entirety of the garment that we are to put on. The bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering are components woven together in this garment. This is the attitude that is proper in the members of the body of Christ, especially with each other. This is manifest especially in the next verse where we are told how this is to “play out”:
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. (Colossians 3:13)
What a difference this is from those imposing the law, and how that “plays out”.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Galatians 5:15)
And now we come to that which holds the garment together:
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (Colossians 3:14)
Quite a step up from biting and devouring one another is it not? This is what makes the suit a complete outfit, and without it, the Christian, and the body itself is not fully dressed.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
This term “charity” is often said to be better translated “love”, but if we look at this term even in English, it seems to have its root word the Greek word “charis”, which is often translated “grace”. Etymology dictionaries do not speak of the word “charity” coming to us in this way, but by way of the Latin and French. It usually now means kindness shown to the poor and destitute, which is a great way to show the kindness and love and grace of God, because we were poor and destitute when God showed His love to us:
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
I cannot help but think that the Latin word from which we get our term “charity” is somehow related to the Greek word “charis” that is often translated “grace”. God showed His love to us by giving:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Grace is by definition a gift that never incurs debt. It is free, and we are justified freely by His grace (Romans 3:24). We can show that love by giving to others, and that is often how that word charity is defined. It is an action, but it is an action with an attitude as well. The action and the attitude go together, or else it is not charity:
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
This is also how we can forgive, even as Christ forgave us. That brings us to another thought: How did Christ forgive us? Many are beginning to teach that we do not and should not forgive until the person who wronged us has “repented”, and will say this on the “authority” that God does not forgive until the sinner has repented. This is part and parcel to the mainstream “Christian” heresy of “Lordship” salvation.
Look, we come to Christ dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). There is nothing that we can do to change that. God forgives us because of Christ, because HE is rich in mercy, and HE made us alive in Christ because of the great love (charity) that HE loved and loves us with (Ephesians 2:4-5). We are forgiven, not because of our repentance, but because of the riches of His grace:
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… (Ephesians 1:6-7)
This is full forgiveness. In Colossians chapter 2, we just saw that when God raised us up with Christ, He forgave us ALL TRESPASSES (Colossians 2:13). We are forgiven because of God’s grace. We can forgive others because of God’s grace. It really is that simple. It really is that freeing. We do not need our forgiveness of others to depend on them. Forgiveness of others depends on Christ. We are free to “let it go”.
Now some of these “Lordship” salvationists may accuse me of being “antinomian” and teaching “cheap grace”. The teaching here is not “cheap” grace, it is the riches of God’s grace provided by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not purchased with lesser things like “repentance” or anything else that depends on the sinner. We are called to a change of mind, but we must be saved first. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that HE died for your sins, was buried, and rose again. When we hear the gospel of our salvation and take God at His word and believe it, HE gives us the new life that we can only then appropriate by faith. It is only then that we can can reckon ourselves alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. He does all of the saving. We do all of the being saved. It is that simple.