Are you a Legalist, or a Believer in Progressive Sanctification? (Colossians 3; Colossians 4)

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Scripture reading – Colossians 3; Colossians 4

We continue our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, and conclude our two-day study of the book with an examination of Colossians 3 and 4.

“Progressive Sanctification” may be the most neglected topic of the 21st century church. Tragically, few preachers teach this principle for fear of going into an arena where carnal believers will hurl accusations of extremism or legalism. Nevertheless, “Progressive Sanctification” is a Biblical principle, and I dare not overlook this important instruction on spiritual growth. The focus of this devotional will be Colossians 3.

Colossians 3 – New Creature, New Life

The Focus of the New Life (3:1).

In two words, the “new life” is the subject of Colossians 3, as Paul painted a portrait of the believer’s “new life” in Christ. Paul wrote, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1). The new believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ changes everything: His desires, focus, affections, and perspective on life, death, and eternity. When a sincere believer identifies with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (3:1a), he experiences a radical change in his affections. He begins to “seek” and desire “things which are above” (3:1b).

The Desires and Affections of the New Life (3:1c-4)

Rather than seek the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), the believer’s desires are heavenly, “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1c). His thoughts and “affections” are “set…on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:2). As a result, he is “dead” to sin, because he treasures the things “hid with Christ in God” (3:3).

Kill the Old Man (3:5-8)

With an eternal perspective and heavenly affections, a sincere believer will be progressively putting to death (“mortify”) sinful attitudes and deeds that have no place in the members of the body of Christ, which is the church. Paul named several sins that are all too familiar: “fornication” (immorality; sexual sins) “uncleanness” (impure thoughts), “inordinate affections” (sexual, vile, forbidden lusts), “evil concupiscence” (sinful desires), and “covetousness, which is idolatry” (greed; an insatiable appetite for more). (3:5)

Then, Paul paused in his litany of sins, and warned, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (3:6). He admitted, the Colossian believers were no different than others, for they were all guilty of some of the sins, for they had both “walked…and lived in them” (3:7).

Paul exhorted the believers, “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (3:8-9). To “put off” was an expression we would associate with changing clothes. To put on a new set of clothes, one must “put off,” (take off) the old; the same is spiritually true of the believer.

“Legalist!” you say? No, not if you live the “new life.” (3:9-11)

If we are to put on the likeness of Christ, we can have no tolerance for “anger, wrath, or malice” (malice representing a deep-seated root of hate and bitterness). Not only does a right relationship with Christ change our spirit, it will change our vocabulary. Blasphemy (insulting God, or slandering others), “filthy communication”(obscene, filthy jests), and lying must be put away, if we are to live the new life in Christ (3:8-9).

Believers are expected to “put off the old man with his deeds” (the sinful ways he named in 3:8-9). We are to “put on the new man” (whose ways, attitudes, and actions he will define in 3:12-14). We are to do all this, because we are members of one body in Christ (3:11).

The Portrait of the New Man in Christ (3:12-14).

Having removed the sinful ways of the unsaved man, Paul challenged believers to “put on” those things that are becoming a believer who is “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (3:12a). Paul identified 8 spiritual traits or qualities characteristic of a spiritually growing, mature believer (3:12-14).

A Christlike believer will be compassionate and sympathetic (“bowels of mercies”) and kind (“kindness”).  A believer will evidence humility (“humbleness of mind”), “meekness” (gentleness), and be patient (“longsufferings”). He will suffer slights (“forbearing one another”), and be forgiving (“forgiving one another…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” 3:13).

Closing thoughts (3:14-15) – The quality that binds and unifies those spiritual attributes (3:12-13) was summed up by Paul in verse 14: “14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness (3:14). “Charity,” self-sacrificing love is the perfect bond, that unifies and holds everything together! (3:15) Believer, if you will identify and put off your old sinful ways and attitudes (3:5, 8-9), and replace them with the spiritual character of Christ (3:12-14, you will be able to “let the peace of God rule in [your heart]” (3:15a).

If the “peace of God” does not rule your heart, put off your sinful ways, and put on the spiritual attitudes of Christ!

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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