Chapter 2 -- THE CHRISTIAN IN COLOSSIANS
"Praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love that ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven" (Col. 1:3-5).
Faith, hope and love, the great trinity of Christian graces, were the foundation of the Christian character of the disciples at Colosse. From these all the graces of the Spirit unfolded in a manifold and beautiful variety and completeness. Nowhere have we a simpler, stronger and more attractive picture of an ideal Christian life.
I. THEIR EVOLUTION
It was out of darkness. "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13).
It was out of doom. For they had been under condemnation as the enemies of God.
It was out of death. "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13).
There is something very definite about their experience. It is all expressed in the perfect tense.
· He "hath delivered us from the power of darkness."
· He "hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
· "He hath reconciled us in the body of his flesh through death."
· "We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins."
· "We were resurrected with Christ."
· "We have put off the old man with his deeds."
· We have "put on the new man."
· We are "complete in him."
There is no ambiguity, no place for mere hoping and half believing. We have an accomplished salvation, and the great transaction is done.
II. THEIR LIFE
It is a redeemed life. It was forfeited and brought back by the ransom of the Savior's blood. Therefore it is not our own, but belongs to him (Col. 1: 14).
It is a resurrected life. "If ye then be risen," or better, were resurrected "with Christ, seek those things which are above." It is not the old natural life improved. It is something of foreign birth, something that has come to us out of heaven, something that is wholly divine. It is Christ Himself "living in us."
It is a life which is hid. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).
III. THEIR DRESS
By a very fine metaphor the Apostle describes the Christian life under the figure of disrobing and robing a person. Our garments are frequently used to denote our character. And so the word habit has come to mean both our dress and manner of living.
There is first the process of disrobing. It begins with the putting off of our old habits and dispositions, our old clothes. "Ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another." All this has reference to sinful acts and dispositions. Next, however, we strip not only to the skin, but to the bone, and to the very heart. For we put off our very selves. "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Col. 3:8, 9). This is the entire renunciation and crucifixion of our old self and our whole natural life.
Next comes the process of robing.
IV. THEIR WALK
As soon as we are dressed it is right that we should go forth to our various walks.
First we read of their former walk in evil things. "In which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them" (Col. 3:7).
Next we have the companion of their walk. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Col. 2:6). This is not a solitary walk, but like Enoch they walk with God.
Then we have the posture in which they walk, their pose of lofty dignity as the children of a king. "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10).
And finally, we have their walk before the world. In all carefulness and consistency, so deporting themselves as not to bring reproach upon the name of Christ before the ungodly, and to use every opportunity to bear witness for the Lord, and to be a blessing to men. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time" (Col. 4:5). Beloved, is this our walk?
V. THEIR TALK
It is not a silent life. Our conversation forms a large part of our activity and influence, and just as the tongue is the best sign of good or bad health in the physical world, so a wholesome tongue is the symptom of true holiness, and an ungoverned tongue setteth on fire the whole course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell. James has said with awful emphasis that "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
Our conversation among our Christian associates is vividly described in Colossians 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." It is to be flavored with the word of Christ. It is to be illuminated by songs and gladness, and even when we have to admonish and reprove our brethren it is to be with sweetness and love.
But especially in our general conversation are we reminded,
· "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). This is a high standard and excludes a good deal of the light and frivolous and inane conversation even of Christians. We should never speak without saying something.
· The salt suggests wholesomeness, purity and good sense.
· The word grace suggests enough of religion to lift it above the ordinary plane, yet not too much to make it stilted and set. It is possible to talk to the people of the world in such a way as to commend Christ without preaching at them.
· "That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man," suggests the need of tact and discrimination. "Answer not a fool according to his folly," is just as timely sometimes as the other precept, "Answer a fool according to his folly," is at other times. Christ was the Master of right speech. His noblest victories were in silencing the criticisms and carpings of His enemies by replies which searched their very hearts and exposed them to their own contempt and the ridicule of the people so that "they durst no more ask him any further questions." God give to us a "wholesome tongue."
VI. THEIR EDUCATION
For just as the child must be instructed so the Christian has to pass through the school of discipline. And so we read,
VII. THEIR TEMPER
The Christian temper has reference especially to the finer qualities of disposition rather than to the cardinal virtues, moralities and proprieties, which, of course, are taken for granted in a life of holiness. Many of these finer traits are touched upon in this beautiful portrait. Here is a finer touch.
· "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto," not some great achievement, some eloquent address, some outward activity; but to suffer in sweetness, or as is so finely expressed here, "unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." To suffer, to suffer long, to suffer all not only with patience, but with joyfulness. That, indeed, is a final touch of the refining fire.
· Here again is a fine touch. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (Col. 3:15). There is nothing more delightful to the possessor or comforting to his associates than a tranquil, peaceful spirit. There is a delicate charm in the peace of God which sheds beauty and benignity upon the most ordinary countenance and manner.
· Then we have the heavenly temper (Col. 1: 1, 2). "Seek those things which are above." "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." This gives loftiness to the character and lifts the soul above the groveling things of time.
· Finally, there is the thankful and happy temper which runs as an undertone through many passages in this epistle, "Be ye thankful . Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord . . . Giving thanks unto God and the Father by him." (Col. 3:15, 16, 17.) There is nothing more welcome in this world of clouds and tears, than a cheerful disposition, a shining face, a thankful heart. Of such a spirit one of our simplest poets has said:
"There's not a cheaper thing on earth,
Nor yet one half so dear;
'Tis better than distinguished birth,
Or thousands gained a year."
VIII. THEIR PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE
Of course, their Christian life was a practical one, reaching through a whole circle of domestic, social and public life, making them better wives, husbands, fathers, children, masters, servants and business men. But it is not their practice so much as their principles that the Apostle emphasizes. Christian ethics do not consist so much in a thousand minute directions about the details of duty, as a few sound, comprehensive principles of action which apply to every question and settle every point. Three such principles are given here.
1. "Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10).
2. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17).
3. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men" (Col. 3:23).
The first of these principles sets before us a high aim and we are inspired to live up to it. We have been lately told that the reason the late Commissioner Waring required his street cleaning brigade to wear white duck suits at their dirty work was because he felt that it would be an incentive to them to keep the streets so clean that their clothes would not be soiled, and he succeeded. And so God robes us in the garments of kingliness, and then bids us live up to it by keeping them clean.
The second of these principles requires us to identify ourselves so fully with Christ that we really act as if we were He. A great actress lately said that when she was acting the part of some strong character she actually felt all the emotions, affections and sufferings required by the play, and that her tears, her smiles and all her expressions were absolutely natural and spontaneous, and for the time being she was really lost in her character. Beloved, God gives to you and me the honor of acting the title role in the greatest drama of the ages. You are permitted to represent the very character of Christ Himself and exhibit to the world the excellencies and graces of Him who is the glory of heaven and the paragon of all goodness, loveliness and grace. Surely this is an inspiration to live up to the highest things.
Then the third of these principles, a single aim to glorify God, is as far-reaching and uplifting in its power. A distinguished clergyman once told the writer that he announced a special sermon on popular amusements, and great numbers of young people came to hear it. He did not once mention cards, dancing or the theater, and yet two at least of his auditors went home that night saying to each other, "I will not play cards, I will not go to the theater, I will not indulge in the worldly dance again." He had simply brought home with convincing power to the hearts of his hearers the single verse, "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things which please him." This will accomplish more to lift people above the world than all our denunciation of forbidden things.
IX. THEIR HOPE
"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven"(Col. 1:5). This was one of the things for which he thanked God. "To present you holy and unblamable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col. 1:22).This was the glorious purpose of Christ's atonement. "That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1 :28).