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Colossians 3: 12-17: The Gospel is unique

If we fail to read this paragraph very carefully we can make a grave mistake. It can then sound as if these words could just as well fit the mouth of a Muslim or Buddhist or whatever religion. And because many people do not understand it, they think that there is not much difference between the Christian Faith and other religions. Because all of them are saying the same thing: “You must (with the help of your god) try to be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient and forgiving and loving and thankful … THEN one day you might make it onto heaven…”

If you listen on radio to Muslim devotions, you hear exactly that: “Just be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient and forgiving and loving and thankful… then maybe Allah will begin to like you and perhaps forgive and accept you… But you never know whether you are doing all these things well enough, therefore you can never know for certain IF Allah has accepted you, but you just have to do your best to be obedient and hope for the best…”

And then you turn to your Bible and read a passage like Colossians 3:12-17 and hear Paul saying: “Be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient and forgiving and loving and thankful…” And then it sounds almost exactly the same as what the Muslim had said on the radio! One should just strive toward certain virtues – whether you are Christian or Muslim or Buddhist. They are more or less the same virtues. Do this, do that, do the other… and hope for the best!

But if we listen carefully we will hear that it is exactly what Paul is NOT saying! He is decidedly NOT giving a list of do’s and don’ts that the Colossians (and us) must strive towards in the hope of getting into (and remaining in) God’s good books! The Christian Faith is in no way the same as other religions. Yes, all other religions operates in the way as described above, but by no means the Christian Faith!

The word THEREFORE in verse 12 discloses the mystery: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience etc…”

And concerning forgiveness, look carefully how the Apostle puts it: “Forgive each other AS the Lord forgave you”

Can you see the enormous difference between the non-Christian religions and the Gospel-message of Jesus Christ?

When all the listed virtues are mentioned in the Christian Faith, it is the natural FRUIT or RESULT or OUTCOME of salvation / deliverance / forgiveness / acceptance / election / grace which has ALREADY taken place with 100% assurance.

The non-Christian religions want to turn these virtues into CONDITIONS whereby one may possibly get into God’s good books.

The Gospel-message regard these virtues as the Spirit-FRUIT of an absolute assurance of salvation that is already fixed and true in Jesus Christ’s blood.

The difference between the truth and lie, between light and darkness, between the Gospel-message and all other religions and philosophies and cults, is the living Person of JESUS CHRIST!

If one (it does not matter who) is not IN Him, such a person does not have any assurance of salvation and redemption and forgiveness and eternal life, and the striving efforts towards those listed virtues are useless. It is simply a waste of time and energy.

If you are IN Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you, your life is transformed, you are a new creation in Him and the Word of God controls your thinking. You have assurance that you already have eternal life thanks to the success of Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection. The Bible calls you CHOSEN. That means that you have received the rebirth because God had given you to His Son already before the Creation. All the people who are saved in Christ, are the true church and they are called “God’s chosen people”, because they are the new nation of God from all the nations, the same as Israel was in the OT.

These are the people whom the Father dearly loves. His love applies to those people who are chosen/elected for salvation. His love applies to the Lord Jesus Christ and also to everyone who is included in Him. God’s love is not a sentimental emotional feeling that He feels for all the people on earth. It is His free choice of Divine love which is focused on the Lord Jesus and all people who are in Him!

These are the people who are already 100% forgiven of their sins by His blood. And BECAUSE they are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, they can and must and should also forgive those who trespass against them.

But, did the Lord not say in His Sermon on the Mount that we should forgive others IN ORDER THAT we can be forgiven by the Father? (Matt 6: 14-15)? It sounds as if He is making the forgiveness we give a condition to be forgiven by God! Indeed, that is what Muslims and Buddhists and all idolaters believe!

Yet, the same Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 18 that our forgiving-of-others should be built upon the Father’s forgiveness (which comes first). Whatever other people have done to us, is but insignificant by comparison of what our sin has done to God. Therefore we can and must write it off and forget about it.

It is like the man who owed the king R10 million, and because he could not pay it, the king wrote it off completely. Everything. To the very last cent. By grace alone!

But then this man met someone at the mall who owed him R100. And the man couldn’t pay it back. So the creditor grabbed him and dragged him to the police to lay a charge against him!

When the king got to hear about this, he was furious and handed the man – whose debt he had written off – over to the tormentors to be tortured.

That is more or less the truth taught of Matt 18. It agrees with Colossians 3: Forgive others (write off the R100) BECAUSE you have already been forgiven (the millions of rand) in Christ.

Then how should we understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 6? Do you first forgive, THEN God will forgive you…?

We must understand that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching people whom He believed to be already forgiven and saved – his followers (5:1). In principle they are already forgiven and saved. But on a daily basis the spiritual feeding-pipe can become stopped-up by stuff like disobedience and unforgiveness. The Lord disciplines those who already belong to Him. Sometimes they are disobedient and will not forgive others. Then the Father disciplines them by closing His ears in order to bring them to their senses.

In Matthew 6 Jesus does not mean the Father’s forgiveness in the sense of going either to heaven or to hell. He is talking about the chastisement and discipline in the life of someone who is already on the way to heaven, but is still unforgiving.

What about you and I today?

Are you and I sure that in Jesus we are in principle already forgiven and saved – that the millions are already written off because Jesus paid for it with His blood?

If so, are there people towards whom we are still feeling bitter and are we struggling to forgive and forget?

A person who is the subject of God’s love, who is forgiven and who is part of His chosen nation, has a transformed life with a shift in focus to place OTHERS ahead of himself.

It is this shift in focus which causes us to strive for and seek the peace and unity of Christ’s body. And have gratitude instead of dissatisfied negativity. That is why Christians sing and are joyful. And praise and worship. And love and honour and revere the Name of Jesus. And are sympathetic – not aloof towards the life of the community of the church.

Someone who is concerned only with himself is mostly unconcerned and uninvolved and impatient towards other members of the church. It is very difficult to be tolerant if the heart is not controlled by the living Jesus. Things like sincere humility and gentleness are things which are humanly impossible to achieve. It is Jesus’s heartbeat that has to be transplanted into a person by the Holy Spirit. But just think how wonderful it will be in a church and family and home where this atmosphere prevails. It is something that attracts outsiders and glorify the Name of the Lord!

But how must the Lord’s people manage to do all this?

The Holy Spirit mentions – through the pen of the Apostle – two principles in verses 15 & 16: Firstly: We must listen for the whistle of the referee and take note of it and act on it. Secondly: We must consciously fill ourselves daily with something specific.

FIRSTLY: The presence or absence of God’s peace in our hearts is His referee-whistle. When something goes amiss in the game, the referee blows the whistle and all the players immediately react by stopping the game and correcting the mistake.

That is the way it works in the life of a Christian also.

When a Christian-believer has veered off the path and the Holy Spirit is grieved, there will be a great vacuum in your and my heart: God’s peace will be absent.

That is the indication that we must stop immediately and look at what went wrong, and then put it right.

1 John 1:9 says how it is put right.

SECONDLY: We must continuously fill ourselves with His Word. Filled with the Word = controlled by the Holy Spirit. Look at how this verse agrees with Eph 5:18-20. It is almost the same wording, except that Col 3:16 mentions the Word and Eph 6 mentions the Spirit.

What does it say? Controlled by the Word IS controlled by the Spirit!

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Colossians Series

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