Putting On New Clothes
Study #20 Colossians 3:9-17
by Bob Burridge ©2022
In Colossians chapter 3 Paul deals with our attitudes and behaviors. He compares them with clothing.
We’ve all had clothes we’ve been comfortable with. It’s hard to put them away when they go out of style or when our our sizes change with age. When they’re no longer fitting for us to wear, we shop for a new wardrobe. But it can be tempting to slip the old ones on again.
We also have attitudes and behaviors we’ve worn because of our fallen nature and world’s influence around us. When we put our trust in the work of our Savior we see that some of these old ways aren’t appropriate anymore. God tells us what attitudes and behaviors we should put on to please him. We need to prayerfully and carefully examine our moral outfits, and resist slipping back into the inappropriate ones.
God made us to be active in mind and body as representatives of our Creator’s glory. The problem is that in our fallen condition we often tend to abuse that duty. We’re told to overcome our formerly ungodly selves.
God doesn’t ask us to just put off our
former sinful habits. He calls us to replace them.
No life can be morally naked. It wears something. In the last section of this chapter Paul told us about the old ways we have to take off. In verse 5 he told us to put to death, to become totally separated from immorality, impurity, wrong passions, evil desires, and coveting. In verses 8 and the beginning of 9 he told us to put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene speech, and lies.
He ends the list at the beginning of verse 9 with lying, then he explains what to do when we replace those things.
9. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
10. and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
In one sense, we have already put on the new self, but we always have some new dressing to do. We’re fundamentally changed when we’re regenerated by God’s grace. We have a new relationship with God since our guilt is paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. That new relationship begins to show itself by a gradual change that takes place in our lives. The way we behave, talk, and treat others eventually reveals what’s really inside. Jesus said, “you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20)
Having put on a new self doesn’t mean we are completely different people than we were before. We still have our same self-identity and consciousness. Our tastes & talents remain basically the same. We don’t suddenly start wearing different clothes when we go out, or enjoying different styles of music. If we liked the beach and pizza, we won’t suddenly prefer being indoors eating caviar. Certainly immoral dress styles and music begin to bother us. But our genetics and personal preferences aren’t just replaced. Our basic human parts and memories remain the same. It’s our moral nature, our ethical characteristics, that take on dramatic changes. With our different relationship with God, a new set of convictions, attitudes, and behaviors start to emerge.
There’s a more humanistic form of Christianity that wants our will to be sovereign instead of God. It imagines the human will alone decides which desires in us will win. But God not only equips us for spiritual battle, he’s the victor who gives us understanding, and the desire to fight. In Christ we’re already victors over the old dominion of sin. Now, by the power he implants in us, we can be growing to be more like him.
While we may have desires to be holy, we also have the remains of unholiness inside. In this earthly part of our lives a moral battle rages on.
The battle for holiness won’t be won by making superficial changes. The Pharisees and Legalists in Colossae put their hope in traditional customs and rituals. But now that the Messiah had come, what those old ceremonies foreshadowed is replaced by the realities they represented. Therefore we have work to do, an obligation and duty. Paul said in Ephesians 4:24, we have put on the new self. Though our new relationship has already started, there is a sense in which it must be “put on”. There’s a process. This new self is to be “… being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
This renewal means that no temporal divisions
should remain in the church of Christ.
11. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Our understanding of the world around us is often distorted by our yet imperfect minds. God distinguishes between the redeemed and the unredeemed, between his covenant people and those who refuse to be identified with the True God. Fallen people tend to create perversions of that. They want to be around people of the same race, nationality, income, politics, and culture. The soul separated from God looks for ways to feel superior to others.
When we’re united as a family of God through Christ, we need to end those divisions. The old division between Jew and Gentile, between those circumcised and those not, no longer serves its purpose of teaching about God’s choosing of his people. The rituals and ceremonial distinctions of Moses were our teachers to prepare us for Christ.
Those who still promote those differences fail to understand the work of the Savior. There is an ancient old prayer that was said by certain pious Jewish men. They thanked God daily that they were not made to be Gentiles, slaves, or women. The civilized cultures looked down on the barbarians and even worse the Scythians. They were seen as a particularly uncultured group of barbarians
The renewal we receive in Christ removes those outward circumstantial distinctions. We should end those preferences based on race, culture, or social status. Every believer should be working toward seeing others as God sees them, specially in the church. Our concern should be for the salvation of others making them treasured and equal brothers in Christ.
So Paul summarizes the new attitudes
we should put on:
12. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
13. bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
14. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
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 dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We are to get into the garments of Christ-likeness. In the verses leading up to this Paul tells us what things to put off in our lives.
– Instead of our former love for immorality and impurity we’re to be centered on God’s glory, doing what pleases him.
– Instead of passion, evil desires and covetous greed we’re to be patient and thankful to God for all he gives us in his mercy and wisdom.
– Instead of anger, wrath and malice we’re to have compassion, kindness, humility, and gentleness
– Instead of slander we’re to be forgiving one another and live in the unity of love
– Instead of obscene talk we’re to speak respectfully of God and of others
– instead of lies we’re to embrace and promote truth, the word of Christ
In verse 16 he tells us to teach and admonish
one another in all Godly wisdom with song
In our new relationship with God, sinful ways aren’t only to be removed, they are replaced. There is no neutral life style. Either you wear the new garments of holiness, or you still wear the old outfit of the dominion of sin.
Every year the fashion designers parade out the new clothes for the season. People in style don’t want to be seen in last year’s colors, cuts, and cloth. They clean out their closets, and fill them with the new styles.
God shows us what’s appropriate for those now secured in Christ. Off with immorality, impurity, wrong passions, evil desires, and covetous greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech and lies. It’s on with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other, love, peace, the word of Christ, wisdom, and encouragement by teaching and admonishing one another with music and song.
Regardless of Nationality, Custom, Culture, or Status, we are a brotherhood. We’re to look out for one another and be encouraging one another for the other’s benefit.
This putting off and putting on process is summarized in Shorter Catechism question 35:
“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”
But you’re not to just sit passively and wait to get holy. Putting on is a duty, an activity. These are commands from our loving Redeemer. Look at all the imperatives here! All the words commanding us to do something as believers:
:1 Keep seeking the things that are above — the realities behind the world we see.
:2 Set your mind on those things
:5 Consider what to do with the members of our earthy bodies. Consider them to be dead to the old ways!
:8 Put off those selfish and evil ways.
:9 don’t lie any more
:10-16 Put on the characteristics of the new self … all of them!
But remember the prerequisite, the thing that must come first. In the first verse of chapter 3 he says we must first be raised up with Christ! Without being restored to fellowship with God through him, our efforts will only bring frustration and confusion. Yet, by the power of the risen Christ and in the certainty of his promises we are assured of success as we work on these things.
The last verse tells us the great
motive and power that drives us on:
17. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
One of the sure evidences that we are renewed in Christ, is that we give him all the credit. Paul isn’t just telling us to say we are in Christ by using his name a lot. There are cults and churches in our day, as there were in the time of the New Testament, which openly use the name of Christ while they distort who he is and what he’s done.
We put on these good new spiritual clothes in the name of Christ. That is we do them while humbly recognizing that they are works of God’s grace in us. The pride of self-superiority and arrogance are at the root of the clothing we should remove. In their place we need to clothe ourselves in humble attitudes of Christ-centeredness. That means we do these good things because we know it pleases our God.
It’s often helpful to look in the mirror to see if we are dressed properly. But what do we look for in our spiritual attire when we take a look in the mirror? To summarize the outfit we ought to be putting on, there are 4 principles:
1. We should remain within the boundaries of God’s moral law in all we think, speak, and act.
2. We should keep in mind that everything belongs to our Sovereign God for his glory. This means that all we see is part of what God made for his glory.
3. We should therefore treat those around us with a humble kindness and patience. We should do all we can for their benefit while not neglecting our own responsibilities.
4. As we grow in our ability to see God at work in all things, we are compelled to live gratefully showing evidence of changed hearts and lives.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.