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John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17

by Karl Kemp  
2/23/2013 / Bible Studies

We will finish this verse-by-verse study of John 1:1-18 and Col. 1:15-3:17 here in Part 9, starting with Col. 3:12.

(12) So, as those who have been chosen of God [[The Bible teaches that God chose/elected us, as individuals, before He created the world. This is an important topic, but we desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches on this topic (as on every topic, and especially those topics of key importance). ((I had a footnote: I have made it a high priority over many years to try to discern and teach the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches on this topic (it isn't good enough to be satisfied with what our denomination, church, favorite minister, etc. happens to teach), which includes important questions like: Is mankind so fallen that we have no capacity to cooperate with God's grace or to have faith, so God must give saving faith to those He has chosen? (Augustine and the Calvinists say yes; many others also teach that God must give saving faith to people), or is saving faith a response to God's grace? Does God's choice/election of individuals have anything to do with His foreknowledge of differences between people, like what is in their hearts, like how they will respond to His saving grace? (Augustine and the Calvinists deny this [unconditional election].) If God has chosen an individual, is it settled that that person will necessarily become a believer and then stay a believer to the end? (Augustine and the Calvinists say yes.) Did Christ die for all (most Calvinists deny this [limited atonement])? Does God call all people to repent and submit to the gospel in faith? See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?" (especially see pages 20-24 of the internet version of the paper). See my "A Paper on Faith" (much of the content of that paper is relevant to this topic; start with the Introduction). See under Eph. 1:3-14 and Rom. 8:28-30 and see the excerpts from Norman Geisler's "Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election" in the paper on my internet site that includes Ephesians chapters 1 and 4 and Rom. 8:16-39. See under 2 Pet. 1:10 in my paper on 2 Peter; much of the content of the Appendix of that paper is relevant to this topic too. See the Introduction to my paper on Romans chapters 9-11; most of the content of the section of that paper that deals with Romans chapter 9 is relevant to this topic, and some of the content of the sections dealing with Romans chapters 10 and 11 (especially see under Rom. 11:17-36). (All of these papers are available on my internet site. Many of these papers are available on this Christian article site.]], holy [As we discussed under Col. 1:22, Christians are called, enabled, and required to live in a state of holiness, set apart from sin for God.] and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility [[The Greek uses the same noun for "humility" here that was translated "self-abasement," speaking of a false humility, in Col. 2:18, 23. The context in which a word is used helps establish the meaning of that word in that context. Here in Col. 3:12 Paul is clearly speaking of genuine Christian humility.]], gentleness and patience [["i.e., forbearance toward others [or, longsuffering]" (margin of NASB). Compare 1 Cor. 13:4; 2 Cor. 6:6.

What Paul speaks of here in verse 12, and on throughout the rest of chapter 3 and on into chapter 4, is all part of PUTTING ON THE NEW MAN ONCE FOR ALL AND COMPLETELY. The Greek verb (enduo) behind "put on" here ((here it is an aorist imperative [The aorist fits the idea of putting on the new man once for all and completely. See under verses 8-10.])) was also used in verse 10 of having put on the new man (an aorist participle was used there). The same verb was used in Eph. 4:24 (which was discussed above), and other verses. The five virtues that Paul speaks of putting on here in verse 12 can all be considered fruit that is produced by the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22, 23). Three of the virtues listed here are called fruit of the Spirit by Paul in Gal. 5:22, 23, "kindness," "gentleness," and "patience" (forbearance toward others; longsuffering). As Paul continues he speaks of the importance of "love" in Col. 3:14, which is the first fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22, and he mentions "peace" in Col. 3:15, which is another of the nine fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22, 23.]]; (13) bearing with one another [The same Greek participle that was translated "bearing with" here was used in Eph. 4:2, where it was translated "showing tolerance for [one another in love]" by the NASB.], and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. [[This is important! For one thing, the New Testament makes it quite clear that we, who have been forgiven so much by God, must we quick to forgive others. If we don't forgive others, God will not forgive us (cf., e.g., Matt. 6:12-15; 18:21-35). Here Paul is speaking of forgiving one another in the body of Christ.

This is another area where we desperately need the balanced truth of what the apostle Paul (and the entire Bible) teaches. Sometimes (fairly often) we need a lot more than Christians forgiving other "Christians." (By putting the word Christians in quotation marks, I am not saying those persons are not born-again Christians, but that some of them may not be born-again Christians.) The body of Christ cannot function as it should if some "Christians" continue to willfully sin against other Christians, often without even asking for forgiveness, and, more importantly, without repentance. ((I had a footnote: As individual Christians we can and we must (by an act of our will, even if it takes a while for our emotions to catch up with our decision to forgive) forgive those who sin against us, whether Christians, or not. For one thing, we are not the Judge, and God has given us the privilege to forgive and to turn the matter over to Him who is the Judge, the Judge who will (sooner or later) make all things right (cf., e.g., Rom. 12:17-21).

The Christian church, however, has an obligation before God to deal with the obvious sin of "Christians" (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 5:1-13). For one thing, the church has an obligation to the "Christians" who are sinning; if we love them, we will want to help them turn from everything that is sinful. When "Christians" are clearly sinning against the Word of God, it is the Word of God that is the Judge, not the Christians who (under God, and in accordance with His Word) deal with the matter.)) See what Jesus said in Matt. 18:15-18 about the need for the church to confront those "Christians" who are sinning with the need to repent. God, the Judge, doesn't forgive those who don't repent. True repentance includes making things right to the fullest extent possible and making it a top priority to not sin any more. The apostle Paul warned those "Christians" at Corinth who were sinning against their brethren that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God." (See 1 Cor. 6:8-11 [see under Col. 3:6 in this paper]; the New Testament is full of such warnings.)]] (14) [See John 17:20-26; Eph. 4:1-6.] Beyond ["above" NKJV] all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. [["Lit. the uniting bond of perfection" (margin of NASB). There is something very special about God's love. For one thing, "God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him" (1 John 4:12). It is appropriate that those who are "chosen of God, holy and beloved [of God]" (Col. 3:12) walk in love, and especially toward other Christians - they are "chosen of God, holy, and beloved [of God]" too. ((I had a footnote: God is not a respecter of persons, but that does not mean that He loves every person the same or treats them the same. It depends on how they respond to Him, to His Word, to His grace. The Bible makes it very clear, for example, that God has a special love for those who submit to Him and love Him; they are beloved. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that those who continue to rebel against God to the end will be excluded from His eternal kingdom and suffer eternal torment, which isn't a manifestation of love. God would not be a good God, or a God of love, or an effective Judge if He permitted rebellion to destroy divine order and to hurt His people forever.)) "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). All the emphasis on the love of God in the fourth chapter of 1 John is regarding love for the brethren in the body of Christ.

Love is the first fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Gal. 5:22, 23, he mentions that "love is the fulfillment of the law" in Rom. 13:8-10 (cf., e.g., Matt. 22:36-40); and in 1 Cor. 13:13 he says, "But now faith, hope, and love abide these three [Faith, hope, and love abide forever; they are eternal, unlike the charismatic gifts, which are for this age. The apostle's point was not that these three virtues abide "now" (though it is true that they do abide now); the Greek word behind "now" here, like our English word "now," was sometimes used in contexts where there was no reference to the present time.], but the greatest of these is love."

The apostle Paul says here (in Col. 3:14) that God's love (when Christians fully walk in that love) will bind Christians together in perfect unity. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: As I mentioned, however, we cannot have true unity in the body of Christ unless Christians are united in holding the foundational doctrines of Christianity and unless we are living in accordance with those doctrines in righteousness and holiness by grace through faith. Also, there is a definite limit to how much Christians can really manifest the fruit of the Spirit of love apart from holding the foundational doctrines of Christianity and apart from living in accordance with those doctrines in righteousness and holiness.

There is a counterfeit love and the devil doesn't mind Christians emphasizing that love so long as they don't have much of the real thing. Love is very popular in the world today (including in liberal Christianity, where they deny the basics of the gospel, in much modern psychiatry and psychology, and in other religions and the occult). One of the main emphases of this worldly love is "tolerance" that is understood to mean that there are no absolutes, so you can never tell a person that what they believe is wrong or what they are doing is wrong. One exception is that they must be "intolerant" toward Christians who insist that the Bible and Christianity are true (with absolute truth) and that those that don't agree are necessarily in error.))

The virtues Paul listed in verses 12, 13 will be manifested to the extent Christians are walking in/by/after the Spirit and in accordance with God's Word (by faith), which includes manifesting the fruit of the Spirit of love (Greek "agape"). In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 Paul speaks of agape love; it is clear that the characteristics of love he mentions in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 will promote unity in the body of Christ. I'll quote 1 Cor. 13:4, 5, "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered."]] (15) Let the peace of Christ [This peace that is to characterize the body of Christ is the "peace of Christ" in that it comes from Him (cf. John 14:27) through the indwelling Spirit of peace.] rule ["Or act as arbiter [or judge, umpire]" (margin of the NASB)] in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body [[If we do the things Paul has mentioned in Col. 3:12-14 (cf. Eph. 4:1-6), as we walk in/by/after the Spirit by faith, in accordance with Paul's instructions (God's commands), we will experience the "peace of Christ" in the body of Christ. To the extent we do not have peace, we are not functioning as "one body," to which we have been called. I believe Paul's primary point here is this: Think/make decisions "in your hearts" (and then act accordingly) in such a way that you do not violate the peace that is essential for there to be "one body."

It is to be understood, of course, that it is more important for Christians to have peace with God than for them to have peace with one another. (If "Christians" do not have peace with God, their peace with one another is not worth much.) Some "Christians" have made the serious mistake of making peace between "Christians" so high of a priority that they are willing to sacrifice just about anything for the sake of unity (for the appearance of unity; it isn't true Christian unity).

There are things we cannot sacrifice for the sake of supposed unity and still have valid Christianity. We cannot set aside foundational Christian doctrines to promote unity in the Christian church (doctrines like the virgin birth and deity of Christ; like the fact that God is the Creator and Judge of all people; the reality of miracles, angels, and demons; and like the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again at the end of this age to save His own and to judge and remove all who persist in rebellion). There is no legitimate body of Christ apart from holding the truth of the Bible (in faith) and from living in accordance with the truth of the Bible in righteousness and holiness (by grace through faith). The apostle clearly did not want his readers to submit to the false teachings he spoke of throughout chapter 2, for example, in the name of love, for the sake of peace, or for any other reason.]]; and be thankful. [[It is very important for Christians to put a high priority on being thankful to God (the triune God), and on taking time to thank Him, for the super-glorious new-covenant salvation He has freely given us at a very high cost to Himself. To the extent we understand the gospel and are walking in it by faith, we cannot help but be filled with thanksgiving. And that's true even when we are in the midst of trials. We know that He will bring us through, one way, or another, that all things work together for our good (as long as we keep doing the things God requires of us by grace through faith), and that we will end up in eternal glory, reigning with Him forever. The apostle goes on to mention "thankfulness" and "giving thanks" in the two following verses.]] (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. [[See Eph. 5:18-20. Apparently "the word of Christ" here means the word about Christ and the full salvation that we have in union with Him (cf., e.g., Rom. 10:17). We need to have God's Word richly dwelling within us through reading it, studying it, hearing about it (from teachers, etc.), thinking about it (meditating on it), talking about it, singing about it, and through living it. God's Word (especially the gospel of new-covenant salvation) is infinitely important for Christians because our faith must be based on that Word, and our Christian walk will not rise above our understanding of the covenant that God has made with us.

In this context the apostle is apparently just dealing with Christians "[letting] the word of Christ richly dwell within [them], with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another" through corporate singing. The NIV takes it differently, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

"Teaching and admonishing" were taking place through the words they were singing, but it is clear that worship was taking place too, as they were "singing with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God." The fact that their corporate singing involved teaching and admonishing one another shows that (at least many of the) songs they were singing were filled with solid Christian doctrine (the Word of God).

The "psalms" they were singing undoubtedly included at least some of the psalms of the Old Testament. The "hymns" undoubtedly incorporated verses from the Old Testament (especially verses that dealt with Christ and our salvation) and from the writings of the apostles and other early Christian writings that dealt with basic Christian doctrines. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote part of what F. F. Bruce says here ("Epistles to the Colossians to Philemon and to the Ephesians" [Eerdmans, 1984], pages 158, 159). "It has been asked sometimes if a strict threefold classification of praise is signified in the mention of 'psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.' It is unlikely that any sharply demarcated division is intended, although the 'psalms' might be drawn from the OT Psalter (which has supplied a chief vehicle for Christian praise from primitive times), the 'hymns' might be Christian canticles (some of which are reproduced, in whole or in part, in the NT text [I'll quote part of a footnote Bruce has here, "Such as...Luke 1:46-55...Luke 1:68-79 [and]...Luke 2:29-32, which have been used in Christian praise from the early centuries. Other canticles or portions of canticles have been recognized in the Christ-hymns of Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:6-11; and 1 Tim. 3:16, in the baptismal hymn of Eph. 5:14...." Bruce is speaking of songs that were incorporated into the writings that became the New Testament. There is no doubting that songs were also formed from the writings that were destined to become part of the New Testament. Songs are still being composed in our day that are taken from the words of Scripture.]), and the 'spiritual songs' might be unpremeditated words sung 'in the Spirit,' voicing holy aspirations.")) (The apostolic writings had not yet been put together to make the New Testament at the time Paul wrote Colossians. For one thing, many of the writings that were to be incorporated into the New Testament had not been written yet.) The "spiritual songs" may have been given directly by the Holy Spirit who dwelled in the saints (cf. 1 Cor. 14:15).]] (17) Whatever you do in word or deed [cf. 1 Cor. 10:31], do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [[Doing all things (including thinking and speaking) "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" includes doing what He (and God the Father) wants us to do (we certainly don't want to do things that will bring a reproach on His name or the name of the Father), of doing it for Him (and God the Father), of doing it by the authority and grace given to us in union with Him, and by doing it for His glory (and for the glory of the One who sent Him).]], giving thanks through Him to God the Father. [[Compare Eph. 5:20, "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." It is very important for us to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in every way possible, but we must never forget/ignore the One who sent Him, God the Father. It seems to me that this is a major problem with many Christians in our day. One factor that lends itself to this problem is the fact that the oneness doctrine is very widely dispersed. (Those who hold the oneness view of God and deny the Trinity often speak of the Father, Son, and Spirit, but they deny the three Persons of the Trinity. Many of them emphasize that when you get to heaven you will only see, interact with, and worship Jesus, Jesus and Him alone.) I find that even many who say they believe in the Trinity focus only on God the Son. I am speaking of areas like who they talk about, who they pray to, who they worship (in song, for example). See my papers, "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son." They are all available on my internet site and on this Christian article site.

I am very sure (based on what the Bible teaches) that the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to always exalt the Father first and foremost. (As discussed in the papers I just mentioned, although the Lord Jesus Christ is fully deity with God the Father [and God the Spirit], He is subordinate to God the Father in His role.) Note that the apostle Paul speaks of giving thanks "to God the Father" here, "through [Christ]." I am not suggesting, of course, that is improper to give thanks to God the Son, or to pray to Him on occasion, or to sing songs that are directed to Him, but we must never ignore the Father, at whose right hand the Lord Jesus Christ is. This is part of divine order, for one thing.]]

May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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