Grace For The Journey
In today’s blog we come to the culmination of Paul’s general exhortations to the Colossians to live according to the new nature they received when they became Christians. Paul will continue his exhortations in the next section of this book, but they will be more narrowly focused on particular groups of people within the church – wives, husbands, parents, children, workers and employers.
Paul began the chapter by pointing out . . .
The radical change that occurs
When a person places their faith
In the Lord Jesus Christ
And becomes a Christian.
The old self has died with Christ and the new self has been raised up to newness of life with Him. The result is that the believer is to set his mind and seek the things above instead of the things that are on earth. Christians have a wonderful security in Christ because our lives are hidden in Him, and we have a wonderful promise for the future because we will be glorified with Him when He returns.
Because the Christian
By the Lord,
The old patterns
Are to be
As Paul states in Colossians 3:5-11, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – [a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
The old man may be dead, but the new man has to live in the same old body with the same old mind, and so it will take some work to break the old evil habits and be transformed by a mind renewed through the washing of the water of the word. It will also take some work to put into place the new godly habits that demonstrate a change of nature. Paul gives general exhortations to the Colossians concerning these Christian virtues in verses 12-17.
When I first outlined how I would divide up the text for a sermon schedule, I was planning to cover all of these virtues in just two sermons. One sermon on the character of the elect from verses 12 and 13, and then in the second sermon the actions of the elect from verses 14-17. Instead, we have found such rich material in these verses that it has taken six sermons to cover them – and even then we could have spent even more time plumbing the depths of the truths contained here.
Starting in verse 12 Paul exhorts us, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
While the non-Christian can mimic
Some of these virtues in particular situations,
Only those who are chosen by God,
Holy and beloved,
Have any hope of carrying
All of them out with all people.
Only by the power of
The Holy Spirit
Dwelling in you
The Lord Jesus Christ
Manifesting His life
Can any human
Have these attitudes
And behave in
The manner described
With all people
As Jesus pointed out in the Matthew 5:43-48 in the Sermon on the Mount, the follower of Jesus is to love his enemies and even pray for those that persecute him. Even the tax-gatherers could love those who loved them. The believer is to do much more than that by pressing on to be perfect as a reflection of God, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
You cannot do that on your own.
It must be God working in you.
Such as Paul explains in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is ultimately God’s work, but at the same time we must do our part in not dragging around the corpse of the old man by continuing in old habits, attitudes, and ways of thinking. We are to put those things to death. We are to lay them aside.
We are responsible to put on the new man and step forward in the obedience of faith in following Christ.
- We are to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and even bear with one another.
- We are to go beyond that and forgive one another in the same manner that Christ has forgiven us, and He is the one that initiated everything to bring about the reconciliation.
- We go beyond even that by loving others in the same way that God has loved us with a sacrificial commitment to the best interest of the other person.
God’s greatest demonstration of this was Jesus Christ dying as the sin sacrifice in our place to redeem us and offer the possibility of being adopted into His family. The result of living out these virtues is having the peace of Christ ruling our hearts. The way we think and our view on life is radically changed so that we are in actual harmony with God.
As I pointed in my last blog . . .
The more the Word of God
Richly dwells within us,
The greater we will change
And live out these virtues.
It is out of a knowledge of His Word applied by the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit that we know right from wrong and shun what is evil and embrace what is good. Those without this knowledge walk around in ignorance thinking they are doing what is right before God, while in actuality they live contrary to His Word and often even bring shame on His name. That is why is it important that the believer is actively involved within a body of believers who will help them know and apply God’s Word. We are to teach and admonish one another – instruct in righteousness and warn against unrighteous attitudes and behavior. We are to do that even in the music we listen to in the daily course of life.
For the past few days, we have been conducting some “exploratory heart surgery” as we have studied the character of the new Christian in Colossians 3:15-17. From these verses we noted two actions of Christians with new hearts:
We Learn To End Strife – Verse 15.
We Love The Scriptures – Verse 16.
Today’s post focuses on the culminating action given in verse 17 and teaches us that . . .
We Live for the Savior.
Verse 17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
This verse begins with a subjunctive clause that is stated as an independent nominative (also called a nominative absolute). What that means is that the phrase “whatever you do” supplies the subject and verb for the next part in the sentence which does not actually have a verb. The “whatever you do in word or deed” is without limit for it is the “all” that is to be done in the name of Christ.
Tragically, that is definitely not how the vast majority of professing Christians live, and especially so in western cultures. There is a strong tendency for westerners to partition their lives into sections which may or may not be interdependent upon each other. Most Christians in western culture tend to divide their lives according to what they regard as either secular or sacred. They may acknowledge some overlap between the two, but for the most part they remain separated from each other. There seems to be little application of what they learn in church to what they do at work, at home, and in recreational activities. Worse, there seems to be little understanding that what they profess to believe about God should be applied to how they live their lives outside of church.
This appears to be another factor in the reason why there is so little statistical difference between the vices of self-professing Christians and non-Christians. For example, there should be a huge difference in the divorce rates of Christians verses non-Christians, but there is not. In fact, the Christian rate is slightly higher, perhaps because those willing to identify themselves as Christians are more likely to bother to get married.
I have run into this myself and heard many comment about the same thing about people they work with, go to school with, or have some other association in which the person claims to be a Christian, but behaves in ways that are very overtly unrighteous. They can keep their mouth clean at church, but it is foul at work. They present themselves as humble at church, but they are self-centered braggarts at school. They portray themselves as thoughtful and caring at a Christian fellowship meeting, but at home they are selfish and demanding. If you question their behavior and ask about their profession of being a Christian, they always have some excuse for it, claim they are okay with God, and challenge you about being judgmental. The technique often works and we give up on talking to them about their actions and words. The result is that they cause the name of Christ to be blasphemed and it becomes much harder to witness for Christ because of the hypocrisy the non-Christian sees in this self-professed Christian.
This verse destroys this dichotomy between secular and sacred. For the Christian, there is not to be any such division in life. Everything you do is to be done with God and glorifying Him in mind. Everything? Yes, every word and every deed.
Now before I go on to expand on this phrase, I want to emphasize what is to control our communications and actions. They must all be all done “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and they must be done “with thankfulness.” What exactly these phrases mean?
“In the Name of the Lord Jesus”
For many people in our society, a name is not all that significant. It is just a label by which you refer to some particular individual. That was not true in the ancient world and it was certainly not true of Jesus. Notice that in this verse that Paul uses Jesus’ name. If Paul just wanted to make a reference to Jesus, he could have used one of His many titles such as Lord or Christ as he commonly does even here in his letter to the Colossians. In fact, Paul uses the term “Christ” 23 times in Colossians and the name “Jesus” only 7 times. Paul uses Jesus’ name because it is much more than a label used to identify Him. His name represents His very person, and it was very particularly chosen to signify His identity, all that He is and all that He would do. In Matthew 1:21 the angel of the Lord told Joseph specifically, “And she [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus , for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
In Acts 4:12 Peter boldly told the Sanhedrin, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Jesus made it clear that an individual’s salvation is dependent on them believing in His name, for they are the ones that receive Him and have the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Jesus said in John 3:18 that those who believe in His name are not judged while “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” In the future, it will be at the name of Jesus that “every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10).
The command here is similar to the command to pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14). Just as we are to pray according to Jesus’ will if we are to be confident in receiving what we ask (1 John 5:14-15), so in everything we do in word or deed, we are to do them in such a way that they would be according to Jesus’ will. The things we communicate to others and the deeds that we do are to be consistent with what Jesus would communicate and what Jesus would do.
Obviously then the greater the Word of God richly dwells within you the easier it will be to carry out this command. The greater my understanding of Jesus and His commandments, the greater will be my ability to live according to what He wants. That is the essence of statements by Paul such as Galatians 2:20 that Christ lives in him and that the life he was now living in the flesh was lived by faith in the Son of God or Philippians 1:21 that “for me to live is Christ.” To do all in the name of the Lord Jesus is to pursue His interests in your life instead of your own.
The attitude of fulfilling this command is simply this.
I want others to see
The Lord Jesus Christ
Living through me.
I want Jesus to
Manifest His life
In what I say,
What I write, and
The deeds that I do.
I want my light to so shine before men that they will glorify my Father who is in heaven because that light is reflecting Jesus.
The other attitude addressed in this command is one of thanksgiving. Obviously the two are inherently connected because the one who is living as Jesus desires will also be a person who is expressive of their thankfulness to God in all situations even as Jesus was thankful. He is our perfect mediator enabling us by the blood of His cross to come to the Father to worship and even present our petitions before His throne of Grace to receive His mercy (Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 4:16).
Thankfulness to God is one of the hallmarks of genuine Christian faith. Hebrews 13:15 tells us, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” According to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are to “give thanks in everything.”
That can only be done
If our hearts are correctly
Set on the Lord
So that we seek
To understand life
According to His direction
And trust Him
For the future
Even when we do not
Understand the present.
As we come to understand the will of the Lord and are filled with the Spirit we will bear the fruit of “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:17-20). The refusal to honor God or give Him thanks is a mark of the unbeliever (Romans 1:20).
Now that we have a general understanding of the command in this verse, let me expand on the idea of “whatever you do in word or deed.” “Whatever you do in word” covers everything you communicate by means of language. It covers both the spoken and written word. it is not only what you say with your lips, but also what you write out for others to read. That would also include sign language or use of symbols.
I did a study recently on James 3:1-12 and the dangers of the tongue because it is so powerful, yet it is so difficult to control. Only the perfect man is able to control it, and while the mature man will do better, even he will slip on occasion until the Lord returns and glorifies all of His disciples so that we are perfect. James makes several analogies about how small, yet powerful, the tongue is. Like a bit in a horses mouth, or a rudder on a ship, it is small but can direct something vastly greater by proportion. It is small, but like a spark, it can set a whole forest on fire. It is small, but very dangerous.
James 3:9-10 sums up the real problem, “With it we bless [our] Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come [both] blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” When we are actively thinking about what we are supposed to do and put the proper effort into it we will bless the Lord. When we are not so diligent we will say what comes to mind in the heat of the moment and will curse. It is easy to praise the Lord when you gather for a worship service. The combination of the music, Scripture reading, and message help us to focus our mind so that we can truly bless the Lord with your tongue from your heart. But what happens when you get into the car and head home and someone cuts you off and nearly causes an accident? It is easy for angry thoughts to slip off your tongue. James tells us this may be the reality of daily living, but it should not be. We need the wisdom from above so that we are continually putting off our old sinful ways and putting on the ways of righteousness including how we speak.
(By the way, I have a little acronym to help you when you get angry at someone. I am told it helps two ways. First, by the time you remember it, you have calmed down. Second, when you do remember the word and its meaning it will remind you of the truth you need to apply . . . The acronym is . . .
A – nd
M – ercy
Proverbs has a lot to say about the use of the tongue often contrasting wise use and wicked use. Here are some of them . . .
Proverbs 10:20-22, “The tongue of the righteous is [as] choice silver, The heart of the wicked is [worth] little. The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding. It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it.”
Proverbs 10:31-32, “The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted.”
Proverbs 12:18-19, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.”
Proverbs 15:1-2, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.”
Proverbs 15:4, “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Proverbs 21:23, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from trouble.”
Proverbs 28:23, “He who rebukes a man will afterward find [more] favor Than he who flatters with the tongue.”
And one of the good qualities of a godly woman is found in Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Jesus also had a lot to say about what comes out of our mouths. In Matthew 15:7-11, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their criticism about the disciples neglecting their tradition about ritual washing of hands. Jesus told them, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ And after He called the multitude to Him, He said to them, “Hear, and understand. “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth , this defiles the man.” Jesus then later explained to the disciples in verses 18-20, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
A major problem with our speech is that reveals what is in our hearts – what we are actually thinking and how we view the world. It is evil beliefs that result in expressions of evil and evil desires. People will say something cruel and then try to excuse it saying they did not mean it and so they add a lie onto what they have already done wrong. Of course they meant it. That is what they were thinking and that is why they said it. Don’t fall into that trap yourself. Be honest and instead of trying to excuse or diminish your wrong, acknowledge, repent, and ask for forgiveness.
Jesus gives a strong warning about being careful before you speak in Matthew 12:35-37, “The good man out of [his] good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of [his] evil treasure brings forth what is evil. “And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. “For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Everything the Scriptures say about the use of your tongue also applies to what you communicate by writing. Since a letter or note has to be written by hand or typed and then hand delivered or mailed, there is usually more thought put into what is written and caution before it is sent for delivery. Electronic communication through things such as email, instant messaging, phone texting, blogging, and social networks have exponentially escalated the problems with written communication in several ways.
First, written communication lacks the nuances of emotion that occur in spoken speech and especially when you can also see the person. Written messages sent electronically are notorious for their use of contractions, acronyms, and code words and symbols. It is even more difficult to understand the message itself. I have had to intervene into a few rifts in relationships caused directly by the unclear meaning of the messages sent back and forth. Be careful that what you write can be clearly understood by those receiving it.
Second, modern electronic communications can send out what you write instantly. That can be a great advantage in many situations, but it can be a great disadvantage when you respond quickly without thinking carefully about what you are going to say. A harsh response only stirs up more anger (Proberbs 15:1). A harshly written letter had the advantage of a delay from writing to delivery so that it could be either torn up or rewritten before being mailed. You cannot do that when hitting the send button on your computer or phone.
Third, modern electronic communications can broadcast your message widely in an instant. Again, that is an advantage in many situations, but a disadvantage if you are not careful about what you write. There are horror stories about people hitting the wrong button and sending an email to the wrong group of people. And it gets worse if the message is forwarded. Social networks and blogs have caused all sorts of problems because what is written is available to a lot more people than the writer intended to see it. Don’t use your Facebook page like a diary. If you don’t want the world to see it, don’t post it where the world can see it.
Perhaps Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:29 is a good summary of this principle. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to those who hear.”
If it does not glorify the Lord
Or at least is in keeping
With His character,
Then don’t say it or write it.
Seek to be a positive
Witness for Jesus
That will build others
Up by what you
Say and write.
The word for “deed” is also translated as “work, action and behavior.” It is referring to all the various actions of your behavior. All the general principles that apply to whatever you do in word also apply to whatever you do in deed. Your behavior also communicates and sometimes louder than what you say. As one person quipped, “I can’t hear you because your actions are shouting too loudly.” People can get away with lying until their actual deeds become known, for then their behavior proves their words are simply empty rhetoric. Why pay attention to anything said by anyone whose actions prove them to be a liar? Your words and deeds must correspond and they must be in keeping with Jesus’ character and will.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that inherent in our salvation is the fact that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Bible adds in Titus 2:14 that Jesus redeemed us in order to “purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” While we cannot be saved by our righteous deeds (Titus 3:5), we are saved to walk in good deeds. We are to perform those deeds in such a way that others will see them and glorify our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16), and we need to be in relationships with one another to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
What good deeds?
Whatever you do and
That means everything.
This is not just church work,
Religious deeds or spiritual actions.
This includes everything.
Your behavior at work, school, social events, and recreational activities. It includes the activities of daily life including how you drive your car, your behavior while shopping, cooking, and eating. It includes your behavior while doing all your chores whether sweeping the floor, dusting the furniture, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, or taking out the trash. It includes the mundane things of life too including taking care of your body, dressing yourself, and personal hygiene – you should even brush your teeth in a God glorifying way. Do a good job and clean up after yourself.
All that we do is to be done
In the name of the Lord Jesus,
That is, we are to live our lives
In a manner that is consistent
With His character and will.
How can you live in such a way so that all is done in the name of the Lord Jesus?
Apply the lessons we have already learned in Colossians . . .
1) Make sure you understand who Jesus actually is, His character, and work.
2) By faith, identify yourself with Jesus who has redeemed, regenerated, and reconciled
you to God.
3) As one who is raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above and set your
mind on the things above and not the earth.
4) Put to death the old habits and ways of thinking that belong to the old man.
5) Put on the virtues of the new man.
6) Strive to have the Word of God richly dwell in you.
Put another way . . .
Strife is Nullified
The Scriptures are Internalized
The Savior is Glorified.
If these things are being done, then you will also be striving to make sure that all that you do in word or deed will be done in the name of the Lord Jesus desiring to honor Him and fulfill His will which in turn will result in thanksgiving to God through Him.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”