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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 9, 2011
Part 1 – The Character of the Elect
I was glad to have David preach this past Sunday before he heads to Africa for the next six months. It was a challen
ging message for the church, parents and youth alike, yet our young adults do not need to become part of those tragic statistics if we will follow what God has told us to do. The church needs to be Christ’s body unafraid to proclaim God’s word without compromise and fulfill the great commission of making disciples including teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded. It is actually counterproductive for us to try to attract youth to Christ by mimicking society. Parents need to be faithful to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord so that they can become responsible young men and women. And youth need to fulfill the Lord’s expectations of them as responsible young adults and not our society’s view of them being children in adult bodies. They need to take the challenge to set their goals high and do hard things. A quote from Howard Hendricks made 50 years ago sums up this point well, “Don’t raise your sons to be good boys. Raise them to be good men. We already have too many good boys running around in men’s bodies.”
This morning we return to our study of Colossians 3 and the consequences of being raised up with Christ. For the last three sermons we have examined the changes that occur as a result of the old man being dead. As those redeemed by Jesus, we are no longer what we once were and so we should live accordingly by ceasing our former sinful practices. We are to put to death our former evil practices and their underlying selfish motives (See: Mortify the Flesh, Pt. 1) as well as ceasing to allow those sinful motives to control our manner of speech (See: Mortify the Flesh, Pt. 2). At the same time, since we are reconciled by God and now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are something new and should live according the Christian virtues God commands. That means our identity is now in Him and that should remove from us all basis of prejudice against those who have come from a different ethnic or cultural heritage or a different socio-economic or former religious background. All those ways of identifying ourselves are made of no consequence by virtue of being a Christian first and foremost and a brother or sister to all other true Christians. Whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or freeman, Christ is all and in all for true Christians.
In my last sermon I spent quite a bit of time explaining what it meant that the old man was dead and therefore should be put off and that the new man has come and so should be put on. (See: Mortify the Flesh, Pt. 3). Let me summarize that teaching by simply saying that the Bible clearly teaches that we are not spiritual schizophrenics having both an old and a new nature at the same time, though we often may feel that way. The reality is that the old man is dead and the new man has come, but the new man lives in the same old physical body using the same physical brain with its trained ways of thinking and needing to overcome a wrong old world view with all of its selfish priorities. This is not just semantics, but an important reality that gives us a basis for fighting temptation and sin in our lives while we await that wonderful day when the Lord returns and we will be glorified with Him to sin no more. The old man is dead, so put him off and quit dragging that old corpse around. The new man is come, so let us press on to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and live according to our redeemed nature.
This morning we begin our examination of the Christian virtues that come as a result of putting on the new man. Turn with me to Colossians 3:12-17
12 “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.”
We are going to break up our study of these virtues into at least two parts. This week we will concentrate on the Character Traits of the Elect, verses 1-14, and the next week The Actions of the Elect, verses 15-17.
The Elect of God
Paul begins this section by pointing out the basis for being able to fulfill the command he is going to give though he expresses it in a different way than he had earlier. As I already pointed out, the basis for all the commands in this chapter is the fact stated in verse 1 that the believer has been raised up with Christ. It is a consequence of that reality that we put off the old man and put on the new man. Here in verse 12 Paul states that it is because the true Christian is “the elect of God, holy and beloved.” This is just one of many passages that describes the disciples of Jesus as the elect or chosen of God. It is a doctrine very well established in the Scriptures, yet rejected within certain theological traditions which emphasize man’s choice in contrast to God’s sovereignty.
The great tragedy of rejecting this doctrine is that those doing so end up rejecting the clear statements of the Bible in favor of the logic of their own theological system. They trade the doctrine of God for their own teachings. Tragically, failures of similar kinds are common to Christian religious systems. It is important that we remember that proper and true interpretation of the Bible demands that we recognize that we are finite creatures with minds that have been handicapped by sin seeking to understand the revelation of an infinite God. We should not have any expectation that we will understand everything about God, and whenever we think we do, then we have reduced God down to something man sized. Moses exhorted the Israelites, “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever that we may observe all the words of this law.” It is enough for us to try to follow what is revealed and some things will remain secret.
The rule for Bible study and interpretation concerning this has been well stated this way. “When two doctrines taught in the Bible appear to be contradictory, accept both as scriptural in the confident belief they will resolve themselves into a higher unity.” In other words, accept the Bible for what it says with confident belief that further study and illumination by the Holy Spirit may reveal the solution or that the apparent paradoxes and antinomies of the present will be understood after we are glorified. The doctrine of election and the doctrine of human choice and responsibility are both presented as true in the Scriptures. Any attempt to resolve the logical conflict between them cannot be resolved by diminishing the truth of either one. It is God that chooses who will be saved and at the same time God makes a genuine offer of salvation to whosoever will believe and He holds man responsible for failure to repent and believe.
What is the doctrine of election and what is the evidence that it is a clear teaching of God’s word? To state the Biblical doctrine in simple terms in regards to salvation, election is the expression of the eternal decree of God by which He has freely chosen according to His own grace certain human beings for salvation. The resistence to this is that election itself then is not dependent upon anything within man, which is a concept that some strongly resist insisting that salvation is according to man’s choice according to man’s own free will.
Certainly the scriptures are filled with many calls by God to man to repent and believe. 2 Peter 3:9 even directly states that God is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB). That was the message of Jesus in His preaching as well as the apostles (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 6:12; Luke 24:47). Acts 17:30 reveals that God commands all men everywhere to repent. Jesus consistently offered an invitation of salvation to “whosoever” (Matthew 10:32; 16:25; Mark 3:35; John 3:15-16; 4:13-14; 11:26; 12:46) and so did the apostles (Acts 2:21; 10:43; 1 John 4:15; 5:1). Even Paul, who more clearly defines the doctrine of election than any other Biblical writer, quotes Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13 saying, “whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But can man do that without the divine intervention of God?
In Romans 3:10-12 Paul quotes from Psalm 14:1-3 & Psalm 53:1-3 that “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” This is quite opposite of the idea that people will seek God on their own initiative. Paul describes all mankind as “dead in trespasses and sins” in Ephesians 2:1, and it is impossible for something dead to act by its own will. The dead can only receive action passively. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul describes the natural man as refusing to “accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him.” Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” From just these few passages alone it is easy to see that no man will choose to seek the Lord and call on Him unless God intervenes to cause it to happen.
Is there perhaps some good thing in man that might be the cause of God’s choice of that particular individual? Isaiah 64:6 states that all are unclean before the Lord and our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment before Him. David recognized that this was a problem from before birth saying in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Ephesians 2:1-4 describes the sinful manner in which even the saved had previously lived because they “were by nature children of wrath.” Here in Colossians 3:7 Paul specifically states we once walked and lived in the wretched sinfulness of the old man. Titus 3:5 specifically states that our salvation was not on the basis of righteous deeds which we have done.
What then is the basis of our salvation? God’s mercy, grace and love. Titus 3:5 states it was “according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 3:24 states that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Our salvation from sin arises totally out of God’s character and actions. One of those actions is election. Here are some of the verses describing election directly.
Ephesians 1:4 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” God’s action of choosing us occurred before the world was even formed much less our own birth. Paul expresses a similar thought in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” God’s choosing of them for salvation was from the beginning. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 describes the people God has chosen as those who were foolish, weak and despised as compared to the world’s emphasis on the wise, strong and noble so that these things could be shamed and God honored because “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” If it was not for God’s action, no one would be in Christ Jesus.
Here in Colossians 3:12 we find the radical results of being chosen by God. Our nature prior to salvation when we walked in the old man could not be described as holy in any way shape or form. We had walked according to the course of this world as sons of disobedience indulging the desires of our flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:2-3). In addition, we were objects of His wrath (Romans 1:18; 2:5). But now we are “holy and beloved” because God has chosen us by virtue of His own love and set us apart for Himself. No wonder then that Paul says in Ephesians 1:6 that our salvation is “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Because we who are disciples of Jesus Christ are chosen by God, holy and beloved, we are to live accordingly in a new manner exhibiting a holy character.
Putting on Christian Virtues
Paul uses the same verb here as he did in verse 10 (ejnduvw / enduô). The idea of this word is to “enter,” “insinuate one’s self into” as one who “sinks into a garment” and hence to be clothed with or put on. Just as he commanded that we are to “put on the new man” so we are to also “put on” these Christian virtues. Just as we can be identified by the clothes we wear, so we should be identified by the new man and his holy character. Paul then goes on to list some of the virtues that should be part of the Christian’s character – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, forgiving, and loving. These are a contrast to the characteristics of the old man. Let us examine each of these.
Compassion (splavgcna oijktirmou / splagchna oiktirmou) this phrase is variously translated as “compassion” (RSV, NIV), “hearts of compassion” (NASB), “bowels of compassion” (DBY), “bowels of mercy” (KJV) and “tender mercies” (NKJV). The actual Greek words used here are the word for the bowels or viscera – your intestinal track – and the word for compassion. Both the Greeks and Hebrews viewed the bowels as the seat of emotion while we tend to refer to the heart as the expression of feelings which is why there is variation in the translations. For the Christian, compassion is not to be a trained, cognitive response to those in need as an obligation, but one by which we are moved emotionally with pity toward those in need resulting in actions of mercy and grace. It is a reflection of God Himself for the same word is used to describe Him as the Father of compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV) and in Romans 12:1 it is used to refer to all that God has done in redeeming us from our sins. We have been saved because God has had compassion on us.
Jesus often felt this emotion of compassion for the multitudes because they were distressed (Matthew 9:36) or sick (Matthew 14:14) or hungry (Matthew 15:32). Jesus had pity on humanity and responded as a shepherd toward sheep without a shepherd. We are to follow that example by having sympathy and empathy for others which in turn motivates us to action. Such actions of compassion should be the normal response of those who are saved. 1 John 3:17 states, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (KJV).
The reality is that you may not be able to actually relieve the suffering, but the issue here concerns your emotional response to it. Is it one arising from the new man or the old man. Compassion regards the conditions of others and considers what it can do to help. The evil desire and greed of the old man considers the condition of others and considers what can be done to exploit. The longer I walk with Christ, the greater compassion grips me as I see the suffering in this world caused by sin. There is even an increasing compassion toward my enemies. Though I may suffer from their evil deeds, I view them with pity for they are entrapped within their sin, and so I cry out for God to magnify His holiness in justice while at the same time pleading that He would bring them to repentance and salvation.
Kindness and Humility are the next two characteristics. They are related in that both describe the temper of mind the new man brings to the Christian which are opposite of the mindset of the old man. Kindness is how a Christian is to think toward others and humility is how the Christian is to think of himself.
Kindness (crhstovth” / chrêstotês) is variously translated as goodness, kindness and gentleness. Kindness is another characteristic that will exhibit itself in action. It is the desire to do what is upright and good toward others. Kindness is a characteristic of God that has been clearly displayed to mankind and according to Romans 2:4 should lead to man’s repentance. It includes not only His general provision to man, but more importantly His provision of salvation through Jesus (Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4) and especially its application to us who are Gentiles (Romans 11:22).
Compassion is a response to those in need while kindness is toward everyone. Kindness considers others and does good to them which is the opposite of malice which desires the harm and results in harsh treatment of others. Romans 3:12 uses this very same word when it says of the unregenerate, “there is none who does good.” Yet, Galatians 5:22 uses the same word stating that this kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. The more closely we walk according to God’s Spirit, the more this characteristic will mark our lives.
Humility is one of the most cherished of Christian virtues. The ancient Greeks had a negative view of humility giving higher value to those who are proud and boastful much like celebrity culture has done in our own society. Humble people who do great things are ignored in favor of arrogant people who do things of little actual value with the purpose of attracting media attention.
Humility (tapeinofrosuvnh / tapeinophrosunê) is actually a compound word combining the word for being low-lying, or low degree with the word for mind, so it actually means, lowly of mind. This is a person who is modest in their assessment of themselves and it arises out of an understanding of the bigger picture that makes the proper comparison. A proud person compares themselves with those that have lesser abilities or have not accomplished as much and concludes that they are superior. A humble person regards himself rightly so as to have sound judgement (Romans 12:3). They may clearly recognize they have superior abilities and accomplishments compared to some while being inferior to others, but more importantly, they recognize where they fit into God’s plans and know that whatever their abilities or accomplishments it is only because of God (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) so that all praise is to go to Him and not themselves.
Jesus is the example of humility we are to follow. Paul commands in Philippians 4:5 that we are to have the same humble attitude as was in Christ Jesus. How humble was He? Jesus set aside the glories and honor of His deity to become a man, live among us and then die as the substitute offering for sin. Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father’s will allowing Him to determine when He would be exalted again. We are to do the same and humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God and let Him exalt us in His timing (1 Peter 5:6).
A proper mindset toward others and yourself will result in proper actions toward others. The next two characteristics, gentleness and patience are the expression of a proper Christian temperament toward others.
Gentleness (prau?th” / prautês) is also translated as meekness and humility. It is the opposite of being rude or harsh. This should not be associated with weakness, for it is rather power under control. The root word is used to describe Moses (Numbers 12:3 LXX) and Jesus (Matthew 11:19). Neither of these men were weak men in the least. Moses stood face to face against one of the most powerful rulers on earth at that time, yet he did not use his strength for himself but submitted it to doing the Lord’s will. Jesus avoided unnecessary conflict, but also had no trouble clearing out the money changers from the temple (John 2:15) or rebuking the religious authorities when needed (Matthew 23). The reality is that there never has been a man as powerful as Jesus, but Jesus submitted that power completely to the Lord’s will (John 5:30).
It is another of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:23) and describes the manner in which we are to deal with one another. It is to be a characteristic of both Christian men and women (1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Peter 3:4). We are to put to death abusive speech and wrath and instead are to be polite and courteous to others. The Scriptures instruct us that even when we have to rebuke someone we are to do it with gentleness and strive to restore them (2 Timothy 2:25; Galatians 6:1). Such behavior is also the demonstration of someone wise and understanding (James 3:13) which is why the word became an adjective describing refined society. A gentleman or gentlewoman is someone who can handle themselves with proper decorum and courtesies in all situations.
Patience (makroqumiva / makrothumia) here is a word meaning “long suffering” and so is the quality of having self control to be able to wait, persevere, and endure without complaint. It is the opposite of anger, wrath and passion. Passion in Colossians 3:5 is a yielding to emotions which itself is a loss of self control, and anger and wrath arise when a selfish person does not get what they want. Patience is the expression of kindness and humility which seek good for others and are not selfish.
Patience is another characteristic of God that should cause men to repent according to Romans 2:4, and you might recall from our study of 2 Peter 3:15 that we are to regard the patience of the Lord to be salvation since without it we would have been destroyed by His holy and just wrath long before we ever repented. It is a quality that will be developed in the Christian since it is another fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And while this long suffering patience does not complain, that does not mean it prevents rebuke and correction. Paul charged Timothy to“preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (1 Tim. 4:2). I can tell you from first had experience that you do have to be longsuffering in the quest to help people know and follow God, for there will be those that cause damage by their immaturity, others are frustratingly slow at learning, and still others will actively turn against you. Even then, we are to be gentle and patient in reproving, rebuking, exhorting and instructing them in the truth of God’s word.
The next three qualities, bearing with one another, forgiving each other and being loving I will only mention briefly this morning. We are about out of time and I do not want to minimize them so we will deal with them in depth next week.
Paul adds in Colossians 3:13 that we are be “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
In brief, Paul addresses the reality that the church is not mature and will not be mature until the Lord returns and it is glorified. Until then there will always be new believers who are simply ignorant of how to put off the old man and put on the new as well as older believers that for various reasons have remained immature. This is not even addressing the tares (unregenerate) that are mixed in with the wheat (regenerate). Bearing with one another and forgiving each other take compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience to a higher and more difficult level of dealing with people that can be very irritating and those that sin against you. Next week I will address how the putting on the new man enables you to do that.
In Colossians 3:14 Paul adds “And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” This is ajgavph / agapê love, the love of self-sacrifice for the best interest of others. It is the love God has for us (Romans 5:8) and the love by which we demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus Christ (John 13:35). It is also the quality that forms the foundation and motivation for all the other characteristics of the new man
God, by His own character and will, has chosen us to be His own, redeeming us and reconciling us to Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ and making us into something new. The core being we used to be has died with Christ and He has raised us up with Christ to be something new. The old man is dead and the new man is come and therefore we are to put to death our old way of life and put on a new way of life consistent with our new identity with Christ. The selfishness that was at the core of our existence gives way to a loving self sacrifice for the good of others resulting in having compassion instead of either contempt or indifference for others; kindness instead of malice; humility instead of pride; gentleness instead of rudeness; and patience instead of anger; forebearing instead of wrath; and forgiveness instead of revenge.
Make it your goal this week and every week to be actively putting on these qualities as your step of faith as God changes you and conforms you to be like Jesus our Lord.
Sermon Notes – 1/9/2011
Christian Virtues, Part 1: The Character of the Elect – Colossians 3:12-14
Introduction & Review
Christians “have been ______________ with Christ” – Colossians 3:1-4
We are to put to death our former evil practices and their underlying _______motives – Colossians 3:5-9
Our identity in Christ removes all basis for _______________ – Colossians 3:10-11
The old man is _____, but the new man lives in the same old body & mind combating old beliefs / habits
Because the new man has come we can press on to be _________________by the renewing of our minds
The Elect of God – Colossians 3:12
The doctrine of ________is well established in the Scriptures, yet rejected by certain theological systems
Proper Bible interpretation demands we recognize we are ______yet trying to understand an infinite God
We accept the Bible for what it says, believing paradoxes will be ____________with study or in eternity
Election and human choice & responsibility are __________doctrines – resolution cannot diminish either
By God’s election, we have become “____________and beloved” – we ought to live accordingly
Putting on Christian Virtues – Colossians 3:12
Put on: ejnduvw / enduô = as one who “sinks into a garment” – put on, be ______________with
Just as we can be identified by our clothes, so the new man should be identified by his _______character
Compassion (splavgcna oijktirmou / splagchna oiktirmou) – “bowels of compassion”
“Bowels” – were considered the seat of ________________
We are moved emotionally with pity toward those in __________________
___________was compassionate – Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32
________ are to be compassionate – 1 John 3:17
Compassion regards the conditions of others and considers what it can do to __________
Kindness (crhstovth” / chrêstotês) – goodness, kindness, gentleness
The desire to do what is upright and _____________ toward others – the opposite of malice
A fruit of the spirit – Galatians 5:22. We grow in kindness as we walk in the ____________
Humility (tapeinofrosuvnh / tapeinophrosunê) – being lowly of mind
The humble regard themselves ________________ so as to have sound judgment (Romans 12:3)
_____________ is the example of humility we are to follow – Philippians 4:5f
We do not seek our own __________________ – we leave that in the Lord’s hands – 1 Peter 5:6
Gentleness (prau?th” / prautês) – meekness:
________________ under control – examples: Moses & Jesus
Patience (makroqumiva / makrothumia) = “long suffering”
The self control to wait, persevere, _______without complaint – the opposite of anger, wrath and passion
Bearing with One Another and Forgiving Each Other – Colossians 3:13
We must learn to properly live with those ______ the church that will irritate, offend and sin against you
Put on Love – Colossians 3:14
Love is the foundation and motivation for ________ the other characteristics of the new man.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how man times the phrase “new man” is used. Pick one of the characteristics in Colossians 3:12 and discuss with your parents how you can live that way.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What changes have been made in your life since you “have been raised up with Christ” (Col. 3:1)? What old habits have ended, what new habits have been started? What effect should Biblical Christianity have on prejudice? It is possible for any human to completely understand God? Why or why not? What should you do when you find your Bible study results in contradictory conclusions? What is the Biblical doctrine of Election in reference to salvation? List some of the verses in which God calls on man to repent? List some of the verses in which salvation is offered to “whosoever” will. Will any man repent or respond to God’s offer of salvation on the basis of own will / ability? Why or why not? Is there anything good in man which might be a cause of God’s choice of them? What does the Bible teach about the basis of our salvation? List out some of the verses that state salvation is by God’s election / choice. The following questions are all in reference to Colossians 3:12, what is the result of God’s election? What does it mean to “put on” and how do you do it? Define compassion. How did Jesus demonstrate compassion? Are you compassionate? Define kindness. Are you kind? Define humility. Are you humble? Define gentleness. Are you gentle? Define patience. Are you patient? Make a plan to develop any of these characteristics in which you are deficient. Share your plan with someone you trust to hold you accountable and encourage you.
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