Colossians 3:12-25 by Robert Dean
Pastor Dean gives us the history of Memorial Day and the importance of its observance.

We see the first of many reports on Pastor Dean’s trip to Israel, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In an overview of the last half of Colossians 3 we understand that to live in the believer’s newness of life we are to live a certain way now that we are His. We learn that we teach and admonish one another through Psalms and hymns. We see how, as we grow, Christians serve in many capacities using spiritual gifts. Most importantly we learn that service to the Lord is what life is all about.

Memorial Day - Israel Trip. Colossians 3:12-25


In the section from Colossians 2:6 to 3:11 Paul really lays the foundation for our Christian life and Christian walk, constantly going back to the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit which takes place at the instant of salvation. At the instant of salvation every believer is identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection and that that instant simultaneous with the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit we are given all of the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, according to Ephesians 1:3. Nothing has been left out. What we have to do is learn what those blessings are so that we can live in light of those blessings. That is really the focus in Colossians.

By the time we get down to verse 12 in chapter three Paul is shifting gears to draw a conclusion in terms of some behavioural mandates—behavioural mandates in terms of now that we understand who we are in Christ and what we have been give, that necessitates a change in certain behaviours and activities. He talks about this, as we have covered in vv. 12-14, in terms of putting on a new set of clothes, a new dress code. Colossians 3:12 NASB "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] Beyond all these things {put on} love, which is the perfect bond of unity" – the ligament of maturity. Love is essential to reaching that ultimate goal of spiritual growth and maturity.

Then Paul shifts again and begins to use these injunctions to us, a third person type of imperative as opposed to a second person imperative. We really don't have a third person imperative in English, and it is the idea of "let us" do something. It is really a command, not a suggestion. Colossians 3:15 NASB "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." So again he is returning to that emphasis on the body of Christ. Then he says, [16] "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another …" This is going to be a tremendous verse to get into because it shows that part of the result of letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is that it produces a result in teaching and admonishing one another. But how? "with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Just as a preview of what we will be getting to we should note that the purpose of singing isn't entertainment. It is not just to sing for singing's sake, but it is through the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that the body of Christ learns and admonishes one another. It is an aspect of teaching and correction. If singing isn't accomplishing that because of the words and the kind of music then it is a complete failure and is not spiritual.   

Colossians 3:17 NASB "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 covers everything in life, there is nothing untouched. Gratitude is to permeate everything.

Then from verse 18 on there are various commands and instructions to different segments of the body of Christ: to wives, to husbands, to children, parents, servants, and masters. It concludes in verse 23, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." So we are going to get into another sub-series on the impact of the Word of God on family and marriage. Then the concluding part of this chapter, vv. 24, 25, takes us back to the whole issue of inheritance for the believer and that the motivation in the Christian life is not negatively by the fear of losing salvation but the reality that we serve the Lord and are motivated toward rewards for service. God uses both the carrot and the stick, and the carrot involves inheritance and rewards. There will be distinctions at the judgment seat of Christ between those who have served the Lord and those who have served themselves. We only have those two options in life. We are either living our life in service to God or we are living our life in service to ourselves. Sometimes as we grow and mature there is a little bit more of one than the other, but the ultimate goal is this goal of serving the Lord.

We can serve the Lord in many different capacities. One of the first has to do with our area of spiritual gift. We may not know our area of spiritual gift and we don't have to know our spiritual gift in order to serve in the capacity of our spiritual gift because some spiritual gifts are broad categories such as serving or leadership or teaching. These can be manifested in a lot of different ways like Sunday school, Prep school or even outside the church in some different activities. But there are many different ways in which people can serve in the local church manifesting the gift of service. As long as we are growing as believers we are going to manifest something in terms of our spiritual gift and we don't have to know it in order to do it.

This can be taught by using the analogy of a young person growing up just normally and naturally. Everybody has certain physical talents as well as intellectual abilities. As a person growing up goes out and explores different things that he can do these give opportunities to explore capabilities, things that develop interests, things that he might excel in, and as he grows and matures he gravitates to the areas where he has strengths and stays away from things where he has weaknesses. The same thing is true in the Christian life. A spiritual adolescent may not know what his spiritual gift is but he is probably already using it, manifesting it in some area. There is nothing that says we have to know our spiritual gift in order to use it. What is essential is the mental attitude that underlies all spiritual growth. That mental attitude is one of humility that usually crystallizes in some sense in a person's growth in a realisation that they have been saved for a purpose and that their spiritual life is not just another elective option in their life but it is the main thing. This is indicated in Romans 12:1, 2. What Paul is getting at in Colossians chapter three is with this whole series of commands he is what the believer is to do and how this is to manifest in his service to God. 

Romans 12:1 NASB "Therefore I urge you brethren …" This is a word that is standard for Paul, he uses it many times. It really has the idea of urging someone to a course of action, challenging them to a course of action, pushing them in a certain direction. "… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…" The phrase "by the mercies of God" has the idea of the means or instrument, or the way in which something is accomplished. An instrumental clause talks about the way in which something is done, and in this phrase what Paul is expressing is that the way this is accomplished is through the grace of God, on the basis of the grace of God; not on the basis of our own human effort. A lot can be counterfeited by the works of the flesh. There are a lot of excellent, moral people in the world and religions that emphasize morality and ethics but know nothing of the grace of God. The spiritual life that we live is on the basis of a walk by means of God the Holy Spirit. He is the one who works in and through us to produce a character change, a transformational change, and He only does that through the Word of God. Remember that in the first eleven chapters of Romans Paul is talking about how a human being can be justified before God. His answer is that God is does everything and all we do is accept it. Grace is the foundation for everything Paul says in those first eleven chapters. So on the basis of understanding everything that has been said in those first eleven chapters and understanding the grace of God; he says on that basis we are to do something. We are to present ourselves to God. It is the expression of a mandate; this isn't an option for the Christian life.

Paul says, "present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, {which is} your spiritual service of worship." The word "present," paristemi [paristhmi] is fundamental to Paul's thinking already. In Romans 6:13 he said, "Don't present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but instead present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God… [16] Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone {as} slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" These are the only two options. If we present ourselves to our sin nature then we become a slave to our sin nature, or if we present ourselves to the service of God then that leads to righteousness, i.e. in the context experiential righteousness in terms of spiritual growth. [19] "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in {further} lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification." That is the same idea as in Romans 12:1.

The idea of presenting ourselves is the idea of presenting ourselves in service. The believer has to make a decision to serve God on a moment by moment basis, and that service is as much a sacrifice in serving God as it is for a soldier serving his country.

Paul uses this same imagery in 2 Timothy 2:3 where he addresses specifically in relationship to his role as a pastor. But this also applies to any believer in the Christian life. NASB "Suffer hardship with {me,} as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." "Suffer hardship" is the Greek word sunkakopatheo [sugkakopaqew] which indicates a harsh suffering. You are going to miss out on things. It may be a passive suffering where there are just certain benefits, certain aspects of affluence or creature comforts that you are going to miss out on, but it also may involve a much more active hostility and opposition, and maybe even persecution. Paul says you must endure hardship. It is an aorist imperative. You have to have this mental attitude that you are going to face whatever comes in life because the higher goal is you are serving the Lord and whatever that costs is irrelevant. He then expands on the analogy, [4] "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." We are all engaged in spiritual warfare. Whether we are active or AWOL we are still involved in spiritual warfare. Paul isn't say that we shouldn't participate in a retirement plan or that we shouldn't be aware of what is going on in the political sphere, because that is also part of our roles and responsibilities. But it doesn't become a distraction; it is not something that will interfere with our understanding of our true purpose and goal and for the reason that God has saved us. The ultimate governing rule is that we are there to serve the nation if we are a soldier, or in the spiritual life it is about serving God. It is all about Him, it is not about me.

He then shifts to a second metaphor in verse 5, using the athletic metaphor. 2 Timothy 2:5 NASB "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." We have to understand that if we are going to compete and win, or if we are going to truly serve in any capacity then we have to set aside our own desires, our own agenda, for someone else.       

Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world …" We have to be involved in a cleaning out ceremony. We have been storing up a lot of garbage in our soul and we have to get rid of that. All that garbage comes from the world system, the culture around us, and we have been in a position where we have been constantly conforming to the world's standards and we have to change that modus operandi. The way to do that is, "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …" We are transformed through the content of the Word; we are not transformed by serving God. The key issue is having our thinking transformed before we start to be effective at serving God. We have to quit being conformed to the world and then be transformed by the "renewing," the complete renovation of out thinking. "… so that you may prove," that is, to demonstrate something in our life, "what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

That takes us back to what is going to happen in Colossians 3:15, the next command. And there is a series of commands related to letting the peace of God rule in our hearts, letting the Word of God richly dwell within us, and each of these categories is going to take us to at least one or two lessons in understanding what these things mean and how it is to transform our thinking.