The Expository Files.

Become What You Are 

Colossians 3


 In the third chapter of the inspired letter to the church at Colosse, Paul tells them and us that we are to become what we are. To become what we are is to make a change of life that reflects our change of status in baptism. In other words he tells us, "If you're a Christian, live a life consistent with that Christianity." Paul tells us that to become what we are we must "seek those things which are above." We seek those things which are above because that is "where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God." If we are going to wear His name and claim to be His, we must seek those things which are His. As we look at this text we see that there are four things involved in seeking those things which are above: 1] Set your mind on things above (verses 2-4), 2] Put to death your members which are on the earth (verses 5-11), 3] Put on the character of Christ (verses 12-16), and 4] Whatever you all in the name of the Lord Jesus (verse 17). Let us examine these four points as we seek to become what we are.

Set Your Mind On Things Above.

You cannot truly seek after something without setting your mind on it. If a young man falls for a young lady and wants to ask her out for a date and maybe eventually ask her to marry him, he will set his mind on her. In fact, she is the only thing he thinks about. She consumes his thoughts. His grades may suffer, his other interests are neglected. Nothing else matters but her. He is intent and determined. So it should be with a child of God. If we want heaven, we must be intent and determined...nothing else matters!

We are to set our minds on the things above, not on things on the earth. Why? Because we have died (verse 3). In what way have we died? "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourself to regulations" (2:20). We died with Christ in baptism: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3). This is a common theme in the New Testament. It shows how inconceivable it is for a Christian to be living in sin (see Romans 6:1-14). Christ has separated us from such.

We have been made dead to the world but alive to Christ. "And your life is hidden with Christ in God" (verse 3). This points to where our affections, desires, thoughts, and interests should be: in Christ and the things of His. Not only are we alive to Christ (that is, seeking Him and being aware of what He wants for us), but He is our life. This same Paul said, in another place: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). He is our motivation and our source of life. "Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).What hope this gives! "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (verse 4). If we have this hope of heaven we should seek heavenly things. This shows a consistency of heart and mind. A consistency between what we claim to be and what we really are.

Put To Death Your Members Which Are On The Earth.

Once we've determined to serve the Lord ("Set your minds on things above.") we must now actually do something about it. If our sight has changed directions, so should our actions. This begins negatively by removing the old sinful habits and actions of the "old man." One cannot truly "seek those things which are above," while living by this world's standards. Either we are living for this world and the things of it, or we are living for heaven and the things of it. If the claim is made that we hope for heaven then we must live a life to prove it. We prove it by living our life seeking the things of heaven. Again we note that the inspired Paul is stressing consistency. There must be a consistency between our theology and our ethics; a consistency between what we claim to be and what we are. If we died (2:20; 3:3) and were raised (3:1) with Christ (all evidently pointing to our baptism into Christ death, being raised to newness of life), then a drastic transformation has taken place. We were once dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1), we were enemies of God (James 4:4), separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and condemned to spend eternity in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Revelation 21:8). But a change to place through our baptism. We have been made alive (Ephesians 2:1), have become friends of God (John 15:14-15), brought closer to God (James 4:8), and can look forward to spending an eternity in heaven (Colossians 1:5). What a change! Is this change in name only, just a theoretical change that sounds grand and makes one feel warm inside? Or is it a real change of status and living? The qu!estion really is, Is our Christianity real or just a facade? If our Christianity is to be real we must first cease the old practices of the sinful man. Our baptism was a death; a death to sin. "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:2). Paul then (in verses 5,8,9) lists some of the sins that should be put off or put to death. (Please refer to Appendix A where these words are dealt with and defined. Suffice it here to say that these are all sins that are inconsistent with one who has been raised with Christ.)

Put On The Character Of Christ.

It is not enough to cease from sin. Ceasing from sin is crucial and important, but it is only half of the story. We are to "put off the old man with his deeds," but we are also to "put on the new man." We may become unlike Satan by ceasing from sin, but we can only become Christ-like by putting on His virtues. We often stress (and rightly so) that Christians must not do certain things. There are certain practices that clearly do not belong in the life of a disciple of Christ. Have we emphasized properly the role that positive Christian values are to have in our lives? Have we spent too much time telling ourselves to not be bad, and not enough time telling ourselves to be good. Not only have we "died with Christ" (2:20; 3:3), but we have also been raised with Him (3:1). Remember Galatians 2:20? "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." We lose the character of the old sinful man and put on the character of the new, spiritual man; and this is the character of Christ. (Please note Appendix B for a complete list and definitions of the words used here, verses 12-14). We are to put on those qualities "as the elect of God, holy and beloved". It is as God's chosen that we clothe ourselves with the qualities God wants His children to possess. These are terms previously applied to Old Testament Israel, now applied to the church (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9). Not only are we chosen of God, we have been sanctified or set apart (holy) to be His special people (beloved). After listing the eight qualities the child of God is to "put on," Paul then mentions two things the Christian is to have in him: the peace of God and the word of Christ. We are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. When we have put off the old man with his deeds and have clothed ourselves as God intended, this change of life brought about by our change of status (in baptism) gives us true peace. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). What a comfort! Let the peace of God rule in your hearts and let the word of Christ dwell in you. The peace of God comes as a result of "putting off" and "putting on." The word of Christ dwelling in us makes this change possible. When we read the Word, meditate upon it, let it fill our thoughts and mold our actions, we can then truly become what we are. The Scriptures are our only source "the things above." If we are to seek those things which are above we must seek them through the word of Christ, which is to dwell in us richly. The word dwelling in us richly is manifested in our worship, "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (verse 16).

Whatever you all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whether we are just beginning (setting our mind on things above), or we have are casting off the old man (putting to death our members which are on the earth), or clothing ourselves with the new man (putting on the character of Christ), we must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. It would have been impossible for Paul to list all the vices that must be stopped or all the pure qualities that must be added, so Paul adds the general statement that whatever we do must be in accordance to our baptism which was in the name of Christ. We were baptized into the name of Christ and must live under His authority. All that we do must be for Him and according to His guidance. Everything we do must reflect our relationship to Christ, remembering His name, doing all to glorify it and Him. Do nothing that is inconsistent with His name. The rest of our text (3:18-4:1), deals with some specifics of our seeking those things which are above. Our family and work relationships are dealt with. Our relationship to our wife, husband, children, servants, masters all depend upon our relationship to God. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ" (3:23-24). Wearing the name of Christ is a wonderful honor for the child of God. We must do more than wear the name, we must "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." In other words, we must become what we are. "Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right
hand of God."

Appendix A
Put To Death...

Fornication (porneia) A general term for any illicit sexual intercourse; includes adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism , bestiality.
Uncleanness (akatharsia) Uncleanness in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living.
Passion (pathos) Used by the Greeks in either a good or bad sense; in the New Testament in a bad sense, it means depraved passion, vile passions.
Evil Desire (epithumia) Desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.
Covetousness (pleonexia) Greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice.
Anger (orge) Movement or agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but especially anger.
Wrath (thumos) Passion, angry, heat, anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again.
Malice (kakia) Malignity, malice, ill-will, desire to injure.
Blasphemy (blasphemia) Slander, detraction, speech injurious to another's good name; impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.
Filthy language (aischrologia) Foul speaking, low and obscene speech.
Lying (pseudomai) To lie, to speak deliberate falsehoods; to deceive one by a lie, to lie to.

Appendix B
Put On...

Tender Mercies (splagchon oiktirmos) The first word literally means "bowels...for the bowels were regarded by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion". The second word describes compassion, pity, mercy. Thus we are to have "bowels in which compassion resides," or as we might say today, a heart of compassion.
Kindness (chrestotes) Benignity, kindness.
Humility (tapeinophrosune) The having a humble opinion of one's self; a deep sense of one's (moral) littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind.
Meekness (praotes) Gentleness, mildness, meekness.
Longsuffering (makrothumia) Patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.
Bearing With One Another (anechomai) To sustain, to bear, to endure.
Forgiving One Another (charizomai) Meaning to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favor to, gratify; to grant forgiveness, to pardon.
Love (agape) Good will, benevolence.


 By Ken Chapman
 From Expository Files 3.10; October 1996