Looking the Part
Colossians 3:5-11 Part Two
Tonight we will be looking at Colossians 3:5-11 and focusing on verse 8-11. I had a really funny experience one year at church camp. Becky Wood, one of the cooks, did not know who I was. I also should mention that at this point in my life I was shamefully beardless. It was actually my first year at church camp and I had just discovered the amazing benefit for counselors—free sodas in the kitchen. So, I journeyed into the back to get a soda only to have Becky chide me, “What are you doing!” Apparently, she thought I was a camper—I did not look the part.
We cannot be certain that the Christians in Colossae are not “looking the part” but Paul is warning them that this could at least be a danger in Colossae. As he has continued to do through the letter Paul is in this section pointing them to the work that Christ has done. From the third chapter on in Colossians Paul is giving directions on how the Colossians should live in light of what Christ has done, these direction apply directly to us as well. Last week we discovered that we are to not flirt with sin but we are to put to death sin in our lives—we are to take care of the weeds that grow up around our gospel flower. Tonight we will be looking at a different image—that of clothing. Some clothing should be worn others should be cast off. Read with me what God says in Colossians 3:5-11
There is a quote on the DC Talk album Jesus Freak that says this, “the single greatest cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle”. A common complaint among the unchurched is that the reason they do not come to church is because we are hypocritical. And the truth is we all dislike hypocrites. Even Jesus did not like hypocrites. He constantly preached against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. One story in particular is noteworthy. Apparently Jesus also hated hypocrisy in fig tress. In Mark 11 we read of Jesus cursing a fig tree because it advertised to the world that it had figs but when Jesus got there it had nothing but leaves. Therefore, Jesus cursed the tree.
Does it not rub you the wrong way when you see a person professing Christ at youth group, singing worship songs, coming to church, and then living like the world and being totally different and school and in the community? Does it not bother you to hear of preachers that called others to holiness but live lives of immorality? Is it not one of the most annoying things to hear someone say, “Do as I say and not as I do”? We get ticked off when we buy a bag of potato chips and find that 2/3 of the bag is filled with air.
We all hate hypocrisy. But we often forget one great truth about hypocrisy—we are not immune to it. If you do not believe me what would you do if I told you that all of your deep dark secrets would be plastered on the power point? Nobody knows everything about us. We all like to put together a much better image than we truly are. We are much like Teddy Roosevelt; during one of his political campaigns when a delegation called on him at home the President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. “Ah, gentlemen,” he said, “come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work.” At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, “John, where’s all the hay?” “Sorry, sir,” John called down from the hayloft. “I ain’t had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here.” Teddy wanted to give the image of a hard-worker; and truth be known he actually was, but on this occasion he was being hypocritical.
A hypocrite, as you know, is someone that proclaims one thing and lives another. Let me ask you a question. Is a man that puts on a police uniform to impersonate a police officer so that he can make fake arrest a hypocrite? If a king puts on clothes to act like a commoner so as to find out what people are saying about him, is he being a hypocrite? If one group of friends acts one way and another group of friends acts another way and you change your behavior to accommodate each group are you being a hypocrite? If Christ has transferred you into his kingdom but you live like you belong to another are you being a hypocrite?
That is what has happened in the life of the believer, we have been transferred into his kingdom. Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:5-11 is to live like that event has taken place. In other words; since Christ has transferred us into His community our lives must reflect such a change. There is one thing that is true of everyone here this evening: you are either in Adam’s community or you are in the community of Christ. As the Puritan Thomas Goodwin has said, “there are but two men that are seen standing before God, Adam and Jesus Christ; and these two men have all other men hanging in their [belts].” What Goodwin means is that every person is either represented by Christ or Adam. You either live in the community of Christ or the community of Adam; and you will be judged based upon which community you reside in.
All Christians have been transferred into the community of Christ. Tonight we will look at the Christian response to this mighty work of God. We will see that because of the work of God Christians must reflect a life dead to Adam’s community. And we will also see that Christians must reflect a life alive in Christ’s community.
I. Christians must reflect a life dead to Adam’s community
When I speak of Adam’s community some of you may not know what I am talking about; so please let me briefly explain. In Romans 5:12 it says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. This is a reference to the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. In one sense when Adam fell we all fell. Whenever we are born we are born “into Adam” or as we are phrasing it tonight into Adam’s community. When we are referring to Adam’s community we are talking about fallen corrupt humanity that is separated from God; as it says in Colossians 1:13, we have been delivered from this “domain of darkness”. Let’s look now at the life that we have been delivered from:
Life in Adam’s community
There are numerous places in Scripture that discuss life in Adam’s community; I will focus only on the ones here in our context. The first characteristic that we see here in our text is anger. It is the Greek word orge; it is what we translated wrath last week. When referring to humans this word means a settled disposition—the settled heart attitude of the angry person. The next word is very similar—this is the one that is translated wrath. It is the Greek word thumos. Orge is the settled bitterness and thumos is the flying of the handle type of rage. Both have a common origin—a heart that is not satisfied in God which lashes out at others.
I do not miss this about life in Adam. I do not miss that unsettled feeling and silent rage within. I do not miss the having to walk on eggshells because of the anger and wrath of my friends. Anger and wrath belong to the old way of life and not the new community of Christ. Yet, I understand that we still struggle with anger and wrath. Even as I was writing this I was holding Isaiah and he kept trying to push buttons on my computer and I found myself starting to get a little angry. But this is living in Adam’s community and not Christ’s.
The next characteristic of life in Adam’s community is malice. Malice is a mean-spirited or vicious attitude. Lightfoot, the biblical scholar translates it as, “the vicious nature which is bent on doing harm to others.” Malice exalts itself and is bent on putting down others. Again this is one that belongs to Adam’s community and not Christ’s. Malice is laughing at the misfortune of others—but it is so much more. Malice is vicious. It is the desire to see someone else’s destruction.
The fourth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is slander. Slander is actually the same word that is translated blasphemy in other places. It is called slander when it is directed towards people and blasphemy when it is directed towards God. Slander is “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame, belittle or damage another’s reputation and cause them to fall into disrepute or to receive a bad reputation.” Slander is when you talk bad about someone and try to tear them down. It does not have to be a 100% false charge for it to be slander. This is the “gossip” that Christians often find themselves in. We are guilty of slandering one another. This too is part of Adam’s community and not Christ’s.
The fifth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is obscene talk. This is not only cuss words, it is also the filthy, perverted, and vile speech that Christians can sometimes engage in. Brothers and sisters we need to repent of this. I need to lead in this. My language is sometimes fitting in this category. I want to openly apologize to you for language that has come from my mouth before. I am very quick to not cuss, but I am guilty of improper language—and I beg your forgiveness. This has no place in Christ’s community.
The sixth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is lying. This is included those “little white lies”. It is anytime that we have the intent of misleading and deceiving someone. In the context this is talking specifically about lying to fellow Christians. Certainly this includes boasting and exalting self and making ourselves out better than we are. It also includes evil deceit. Any type of lying is not fit within the body of Christ; it belongs to Adam’s community.
The seventh characteristic of Adam’s community is the immorality and idolatry that we learned about last week. All of those things that are to be put to death—sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness—are part of Adam’s community and not part of the community of Christ. That is why they too must be put to death. Those that are living in Adam’s community are bent towards the immorality and idolatry that defines it.
The last characteristic from our text is that the community of Adam is under and subject to the wrath of God. We saw this last week in verse 7. And it is confirmed in Ephesians 2:3 when it is discussing Adam’s community and it says, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” All of those within Adam’s community will experience an eternity of God’s wrath.
Listen to what Revelation 21:8 says about those in Adam’s community, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death”. This is not mincing any words but it is true—the Adamic community and all those that reside there will experience the fullness of the wrath of God.
Thankfully; we are: Lifted from Adam’s community
We see this truth in Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”. When we went through this text a few months ago we looked at the awesome act of what God has done here. Those in the community of Adam are not neutral in their relationship with God they are adamantly opposed to him. God goes on a rescue mission to save his enemies.
We also see that we are lifted from Adam’s community in Colossians 2:11. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off (does that word sound familiar) the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ…” This text is showing us that Christ has removed the wicked propensity to sin that defines all those in the Adamic community.
We also see what has happened in out text. Look at verse 9. Notice the tense in verse 9. It says that you have put off the old self. That is a past action with a continuing result. It is something that has already taken place. In other words if you are in Christ you are lifted out of Adam’s community. You no longer reside there. In fact you never will reside there. However, we sometimes still reflect our old culture.
Leaving Adam’s community
We have been delivered from the Adamic community but it seems like we have a hard time leaving. We still have the stain and corruption of Adam’s community. We lived so long in this community that we are trained to live in such a way. If any of you were married I could give a good analogy that you would understand. I will still tell you but you will have to look back and say, “OH, that’s what he meant”.
When you get married you learn something about yourself—your family had a few really weird idiosyncrasies. Some are funny and some can actually be a hindrance to unity in your marriage. When you live for so long with your parents (or even parent, or foster parent, or brother or sister) you get shaped by that person. People are weird. You pick up their weird habits; especially if you belong to my extended family. One of the funny things that I discovered when I first got married happened when my wife put silverware in the refrigerator. My mother never put silverware in the fridge. I had a hard time adjusting to my new culture of putting silverware in the fridge. We are like that in our walk with Christ—our old habits need to be changed.
In verse 7 Paul is discussing the manner in which we used to live walking in the ways of the earth (or Adam’s community). In verse 8 we are commanded to “put them all away”. That means to cast off like it is an old piece of clothing. In other words stop dressing like somebody that lives in Adam’s community. You live in Christ’s community now look like it. We are dead to that community. Therefore we must reflect a life that is dead to the community of Adam. Cast off all those characteristics of Adam’s community like you would a filthy garment. Get rid of it, and do not keep it around for a dust rag. Totally abandon it.
II. Christians must reflect a life alive in Christ’s community
In verse 10 we are told that we have “put on the new self”. Again notice the tenses. It is something that has been completed in the past and has a continuing result. Once we were lifted out of Adam’s community we were transferred into the community of Christ. In Colossians 3:12-17 we are given a good outline of life in Christ’s community. We will be discussing those characteristics in a couple of weeks. Tonight we will focus on the characteristics of Christ’s community in the immediate context of our passage.
Life in Christ’s community
The first thing that we see about life in Christ’s community is that we are constantly being renewed. The tense of this one is also significant; it is in the continuous present tense, which means that it is an ongoing process. It is not a completed thing but we are daily being made new. And we are being made new by God. This is not something that we are told to do—it is something that God is doing to us. He is making us new every day.
This text also gets specific about what we are being renewed in; knowledge. The Colossian heretics are very keen on having fullness and a deep understanding. Paul counters that by saying that those in Christ’s community are being renewed (daily) in knowledge. And we also see what type of knowledge this is—“after the image of its creator”. What this means is that those within the community of Christ are being progressively renewed to know God and to look like God.
I like how Richard Melick explains this, “People were created in the image of God. That image was marred when they sinned. Through conversion and growing in Christlikeness, believers are renewed, “according to the image” of God. The measurement of growth is the restored image of God in people.” So those who live in Christ’s community are (and in fact over time) will look more and more like Jesus and less like Adam.
There is another significant difference between Adam’s community and the community of Christ. In the community of Adam there is anger, wrath, malice, covetousness, and all of those vices we have mentioned previously. All of these hold one thing in common—they are selfish and individualistic. From such attitudes comes a breech in fellowship. In Adam’s community fellowship with other people is next to impossible. Friendships are shaky. Relationships are rocky. Selfishness abounds. Adam’s community provides fertile ground for such detestable things as racism, sexism, slavery, and all sorts of bigotry. But in the community of Christ there is no place for such a thing.
Notice in verse 11 how all of these political, racial, and social walls are broken down. In Paul’s culture you were either a sophisticated Greek or you were a barbarian. In Jewish circles you were either a holy undefiled Jew or you were a dirty Gentile. In society you were either a free man or you were a slave. Therefore, in the community of Christ there is no place for factions. There is no place for racism. There is no place for sexism. There is no place for social standings. There should not be cliques in the community of Christ. All of those distinctions have been obliterated by Christ and replaced with familial titles. We are now brothers and sisters. Why? Because as verse 11 says, “Christ is all and in all”.
This statement tells us two things. First, Christ is the center and ground for everything in the Christians existence. For those who live in the Christian community one thing is clear—it’s all about Jesus and not about me. Whereas in Adam’s community it is individualistic and fellowship with God and man is broken, in Christ’s community we experience true fellowship—a shared commitment to a single goal—Jesus Christ. And this is maintained by the second truth we learn from this text: Christ is in all. Christ dwells in all believers and therefore we are united in fellowship.
Locked in Christ’s community
And remember that believers have been lifted into Christ’s community. This is a completed action; the exhortation for us is to live like it. I want to share one final thing about Christ’s community—it is eternal. You can pick this up from the context and tenses of some of the words in this passage—but I think we can see this best by going to another place; turn with me to John 6: 37-40. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Let us transfer the language of Colossians into this passage. “All that the Father gives me will come to me”, says Jesus. Does this not sound somewhat like Colossians 1:13, “He (the Father) has delivered us and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”. In other words the Father has given us to Jesus. And because of that action on God’s part all those that he gives will respond to Him in faith. And what does Jesus say, “And whoever comes to me I will never cast out”. Do you see the security and finality of that?
In case you do not see the security let me show you how this text really drives the finality of our security home. According to this passage what is the will of God for Jesus? It is, “That (he) should lose nothing of all that (the Father) has given (him). Now if Jesus loses one person that the Father has given to Jesus—one person that has been transferred into his community—what does that mean for Jesus? It means two things 1) He is unfaithful to God’s will for his life. Which makes him a sinner. 2) It is also makes him a liar, because he just said that he will lose nobody and that he has come to do his will. So, if God has given you to Jesus and you fall and perish into Hell then Jesus is a sinful liar. Jesus is not a sinful liar. You will not perish into hell. As sure as the character of Jesus all those that have been transferred into Christ’s community will be ultimately renewed and transformed and will forever enjoy the King.
How do you know if you have been transferred into Christ’s community? What does verse 40 say? “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”. Do you trust in the promises of God? Do you trust in Christ for your salvation and your security? If so, that is evidence (not necessarily the grounds) but the evidence of the grace of God in your life.
Oh, the beauty of this truth. The position of the Christian as a child of God and a citizen of the community of Christ is eternally secure. We are holy and blameless before God because of the mighty work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. God is the hero to this story. Jesus is the one that has completed his rescue mission. It is the Spirit of God that is continually renewing us and shaping us into the image of God. And it is all by the grace, mercy, and love of the Father that any of this has taken place. That is all true and will always be true.
Why then are we exhorted to “put to death” and to “put away” the deeds of the flesh? If Christ has taken care of it why does Paul need to say that? Because our experience does not always match our position. These essence of what Paul is saying to the Colossians and what God is saying to us tonight is this—look at what Christ has done. Live in that grace. Be motivated by that grace. Live from the storehouse of that grace. Christ has graciously transferred you into his community—live like that is true. Since Christ has transferred us into His community our lives must reflect such a change.
I want to remind you of what the Puritan Thomas Goodwin said, ““there are but two men that are seen standing before God, Adam and Jesus Christ; and these two men have all other men hanging in their [belts].” Living in Adam’s community is deadly because it is subject to the wrath of God. If you are living tonight in Adam’s community I urge you to trust in the promises of God and believe in Jesus Christ. Cry out to God to save you from Adam’s community.