The Character of a Christian
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 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. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. NKJV
“You can tell a lot about people in our society by the way they dress. From baseball players to bus drivers, from postal carriers to policemen, people wear the uniform of their profession. Who we are determines what we wear, and failing to “dress the part” can sometimes have embarrassing consequences. Many years ago a very wealthy man in a Southern California town was found wandering around the local country club wearing shabby clothes. He was promptly seized by security guards and charged with vagrancy—even though he owned the country club. He had failed to dress consistent with who he was.” MacArthur Commentaries
I. Because of Who You Are
A. As the elect of God
1. Eph 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
2. Deut 7:6-8 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers,
3. 2 Thess 2:13-14 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. To have received such incredible grace from God ought to cause all believers to gladly lay aside their sinful desires in order to “put on” a nature that pleases God. LABC
1. Believers are holy and beloved. Hagios (holy) means “set apart,” or “separate.” God chose believers out of the mainstream of mankind and drew them to Himself. They are different from the world. When believers fail to act differently from the world, they violate the very purpose of their calling. MacArthur
2. this is one of the “already” but “not yet” components of our life in Christ. Believers are made holy in God’s sight because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, yet holiness is a progressive goal of salvation. Believers grow into persons who exhibit more and more of the character of Christ in the way they live. LABC
1. It is the love of God toward us that makes all this happen. For God is no machine but a loving benevolent God.
2. “Beloved is agapao, a perfect participle. This is the Greed word for God’s love, the love shown at Calvary, a love that denies self for the benefit of the object loved. The perfect tense is used to show the far reaching and the abiding character of that love.” Wuest on Colossians
II. Put on
A. In 3:5-9a, Paul told believers what to put off, while in 3:9b-11 he describes the believer’s new identity in Christ. MacArthur
B. The Christian has already put on the new self (the regenerate nature, v. 10). Now he must clothe himself with the garments that befit the new self. “Clothe yourselves” (endysasthe) should be compared with “put to death” (nekrosate, v. 5) and “rid yourselves” (apothesthe, v. 8). Those terms express the negative, this verse the positive aspects of the Christian’s reformation of character. The tense of endysasthe, an aorist imperative, speaks of an action to be undertaken with a sense of urgency. Expositor’s Bible Commentary
C. Tender mercies
1. Compassion. (nrsv) Genuine sensitivity and heartfelt sympathy for the needs of others. This is an attribute of God, who is described as compassionate and who acted so on our behalf. LABC
2. the phrase could be translated, “put on heartfelt compassion,” or “have a deep, gut-level feeling of compassion.” MacArthur
3. “Compassion” (splanchna oiktirmou) betokens pity and tenderness expressed toward the suffering and miserable. EBC
4. Jesus said, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
5. Matt 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
6. It is not too much to say that everything that has been done for the aged, the sick, the weak in body and in mind, the animal, the child, the woman has been done under the inspiration of Christianity. Barclay
1. Kindness is closely related to compassion. The Greek term refers to the grace that pervades the whole person, mellowing all that might be harsh. Jesus used the word when he said, “My yoke is easy” (Matt. 11:30), not harsh or hard to bear. MacArthur
2. Kindness. Acting charitably, benevolently toward others, as God has done toward us. God’s kindness is a continual theme in the Psalms and Prophets. Kindness takes the initiative in responding generously to others’ needs. Because believers have received kindness, we ought to act that way toward others. This does not come naturally; it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). LABC
3. Kindness was epitomized by the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), whose example we should follow. MacArthur
4. The word for “kindness” (chrestotes) combines the ideas of goodness, kindliness, and graciousness. Ellicott defines it as “sweetness of disposition” (p. 181). In Romans 11:22 it is contrasted with “severity,” and in Galatians 5:22 it is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. EBC
5. Josephus uses it as a description of Isaac, the man who dug wells and gave them to others because he would not fight about them (Gen.26:17-25). Barclay
1. In the ancient Greek world, humility was considered a weakness. It took Christianity to elevate humility to a virtue to be pursued.
2. Humility. An attitude of self-esteem that is neither puffed up with pride, nor self-depreciating. It is a true understanding of one’s position with God. As Christ humbled himself (Philippians 2:6-11), so believers ought to humble themselves in service to the Lord and Savior. LABC
3. Humility (tapeinophrosyne), which originally meant servility, came to denote a humble disposition—“the thinking lowly of ourselves because we are so” (Ellicott, p. 182). EBC
4. it is based on the awareness of the creatureliness of humanity. God is the Creator, man the creature, and in the presence of the Creator the creature cannot feel anything else but humility. Barclay
1. It is not weakness or spinelessness, but rather the willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. The gentle person knows he is a sinner among sinners and is willing to suffer the burdens others’ sin may impose on him. MacArthur
2. Real meekness is produced only by the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
3. It should be displayed when considering the sin of others. Gal. 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
4. Gentleness. (niv) Humble, considerate of others, submissive to God and his Word. Gentleness is not to be confused with weakness; instead, it means consideration for others and a willingness to give up one’s rights for the sake of another. Again, Christ is our example. LABC
5. “Gentleness” (prautes) the opposite of arrogance and self-assertiveness, is the special mark of the man who has a delicate consideration for the rights and feelings of others. C.F.D. Moule aptly defines it as “willingness to make concessions” (p. 123). It is mentioned in the NT as a characteristic of Christ (Matt 11:29), a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23), a distinctive trait of those who belong to Christ (Matt 5:5) EBC
1. William Barclay writes, “This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellow-men. Their foolishness and their unteachability never drive it to cynicism or despair; their insults and their ill-treatment never drive it to bitterness or wrath”
2. Patience. (nrsv) Long-suffering, or putting up with people who irritate. The person might have the right to retaliate, but chooses patience instead. The Holy Spirit’s work in us increases our endurance. LABC
3. “Patience” (makrothymia; lit., “longsuffering”) denotes the self-restraint that enables one to bear injury and insult without resorting to hasty retaliation. It is an attribute of God (Rom 2:4) and a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). EBC
H. All of the above are beyond the capacity of mortal men and women.
1. It is only by God’s grace and His work in us that we can hope to put these things on.
2. We are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit as God’s chosen people to move beyond our natural
I. Verse 12b contains a pentad of great Christian virtues: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” They point to those qualities of life which, if present in the community of believers, will eliminate, or at least reduce, frictions. Expositor’s Bible Commentary