Reactions to the Knowledge of Christ
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our text today is Colossians, chapter 3, beginning with verse 5:

Colossians 3

5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8But now ye also 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;
10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

One of the basic facts of life is the difference between talk and action. All of us have heard phrases like, “put your money where your mouth is,” or “do it, then talk about it,” things like that. The Scriptures deal with this concept also. The passage before us is one which talks about putting our thoughts to action, putting our words into actions. There are other passages of Scripture which deal with this same subject. Notice in James, chapter 2, verses 15 and 16:

James 2

15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

And Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, said, in Matthew, chapter 23, verse 3:

Matthew 23

3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said, “They talk a lot, but they don't practice what they preach.” So one of the underlying principles of the Word of God is the importance not only of knowing the truth, but doing it. In fact, the Scripture is full of indications that knowing the truth is really not God's intention for us. Oh, He wants us to know the truth, but truth is not really known unless it is practiced, and simply a mental assent to the truth is not at all what God has in mind.

That is the basic idea, as we come to chapter 3 of Paul's letter to the Colossians. In the first two chapters, he went into great detail about who Jesus Christ is and what Jesus Christ has done. We have talked about those chapters in great detail–the fact that He is the Creator of the Universe and not only the Creator of the Universe, but the One who holds all things together. And He is not only the Creator of the Universe, the wonderful mystery and the wonderful truth is that the Creator of the Universe also became our Savior. And Jesus Christ, being the second Person of the Trinity, became the Reconciler between God and man. The first two chapters of the book go into great detail about all of that concerning Jesus Christ.

In the last half of the book, chapters 3 and 4, Paul is dealing with the reaction that we as believers should have to that knowledge. Assuming that we understand what the first part of the book is about, how we should react to that? How should we act once we understand the statements? We should put our actions where our thoughts are, letting our actions be consistent with what we say we believe.

Outline of the Chapter

By way of outline, in chapter 3, he talks about reactions to the knowledge of Christ from three standpoints. First, there are reactions to the knowledge of Christ in terms of our attitudes. We thought together two weeks ago about our attitudes, and what Paul has to say, writing to the Colossians, about how we should react to the knowledge of Christ in our attitudes.

Then in verses 5-17, which we want to think about today, we find how we should react to the knowledge of Christ in our actions. We're going to see that some actions should be included in our lives and some actions should be put out of our lives and some actions are there in seed form, which we should allow to shine through.

Beginning in verse 18 and going through the first verse of chapter 4, we're going to see what our reactions to the knowledge of Christ should be in terms of our associations. Here we are going to see that every member of the family should be affected by the knowledge of Christ in relationship to each other. Knowledge of Christ, understanding who Christ is, what He has done, and understanding that He lives within us—those things that were established in the first two chapters—should make you and me better husbands and fathers. It should make you a better wife. It should make you a better son or daughter. It should get right down where we live.

Actions Resulting From Knowledge

Today we are going to think about our reaction to the knowledge of Christ in terms of our actions, as described in Colossians, chapter 3, verse 5-17. These verses speak of the actions, specifically, that should result from our knowledge of Christ. As Paul writes to us about the actions that should be a part of our lives and the actions that should be excluded from our lives, the first thing that he mentions is some actions that should be put off from our lives, some actions that we should be careful not to allow in our lives. In verses 5-9, some actions which should be put off. Notice again, verse 5:

Colossians 3

5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

The word mortify gives us the basic idea of what Paul is talking about. Although the more practical term put off , and the one we are using by way of outline is used specifically down in verse 8:

Colossians 3

8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

The idea is the same as we use the word mortify here in verse 1. The word mortify means simply to kill . That word mortify was more popular in the time when the King James Version, which we use in the pulpit here, was translated, but basically it simply means “put it to death.” So what he is saying is, “There are some actions which are really a normal part of life for many people, which as believers who understand the details about Jesus Christ, we should put to death in our lives.”

Action That Requires Discipline

Before we look at these more in detail, let me mention also what is implied in this term put off and in this term mortify . Those terms imply some action. Those terms imply some careful thought, and those terms imply some discipline. It is easy enough to say that a believer in Jesus Christ should not be involved in fornication, inordinate affection, and concupiscence, whatever those things are. It is easy enough to say those things, but what is important is that we recognize that by God's grace and strength, we are to do something about those. Put off is an active term, and what these verses are talking about is not simply a matter of saying, “Well a Christian shouldn't do that,” but it is a matter of being willing to take the steps that are necessary; it is a matter of being willing to trust God for strength to not include these things in our lives.

Notice also in verse 5, the second word of the verse, the word therefore . At this particular point, we need to look at the first two words in verse 5, specifically. The word mortify first, then the word therefore . The word therefore is also very important. It's important to notice that Paul doesn't give this list of things that should be put out of our lives until he has first established the principles behind it, in verses 1-4. That is why he includes the word therefore . He is saying, “Because those are true, therefore, do the things I am about to say.”

By way of review, let me mention that the basic principle of verses 1-4 is to have an attitude of exalting Jesus Christ because of what He has done. That is really the basic point of verses 1-4–that we should not worry so much about a list of dos and don'ts, a list of taboos, things that we should stay away from, so much as we should have the right mental attitude. Remember that first section of the chapter deals with the reactions to the knowledge of Christ in our attitudes. The attitude that we as believers are to adopt is an attitude of exalting Jesus Christ because of what He has done in every situation that we face, in every decision that we need to make, in every action we are considering taking, doing the thing that most exalts Jesus Christ, doing the thing that is most honorable to Him. That is the message of verse 1-4.

In these verses Paul is going to give us some specific suggestions about the kinds of things that we may have to do away with, as we exalt Jesus Christ. That is why he uses the word therefore . Therefore we are to eliminate certain things from our lives.

Actions to Eliminate

I am mentioning that in detail, because I think that we need to understand very carefully that what we have here is not just a list of taboos. It is not just a checklist that we can go through and say, “Well, I'm not doing this, and I am not doing this, and I'm not doing this. Therefore, I am spiritual.” That is legalism at its core, and we need to be very careful that we do not think that just because we are staying away from the filthy five, or the terrible twelve, or whatever you want to term such a list as that, we are therefore automatically spiritual. A person is spiritual as he walks at the direction of the Holy Spirit. That is the only way a person is spiritual, and doing this list of things or not doing that list of things is not what makes us spiritual.

As we walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, of course, there are going to be some things that we will not do. The Holy Spirit will not lead us to do those things ever, and as we walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will direct us to do these other things. But the real problem that many Christians seem to have is the problem of getting the cart before the horse, and thinking, “If I don't do these things, I am spiritual; and if I do these things over here, I am spiritual.” It is really just the other way around. If I walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, I am not going to do these things. If I walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, I will do these things. And that is the attitude with which Paul makes this list.

It is always important to keep that in mind when you look at any list in the Scriptures. It is the Word of God, and these are things that we must be careful to put out of our lives, but we must remember they are only to be put out as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit will give us an attitude of exalting Jesus Christ; and as He does, we will know that He is giving us that attitude, and we will know that we are exalting Him as we stay away from these kinds of things listed here.

The Principle of Selfishness

We are not going to take the time to look in detail at the things that are listed in these verses. But if we did look at them in detail, we would find that there is a common denominator that runs through the whole list, an underlying principle that gives rise to each of these individual sins, and that is the matter of selfishness or self-centeredness. Look at the list beginning in the last part of verse 5 and going on down in verse 8 and 9. Fornication, uncleanness and down in verses 8 and 9, anger, wrath, malice, etc.—all of these things, as well as most sins, really are simply a matter of doing what I want to do, regardless of how it affects anybody else. If I want to blow my stack and tell somebody off, then I will do it. Well, the Scripture says that the person who is exalting Jesus Christ, the person who is recognizing Jesus Christ for who He is, and who is reacting properly to the knowledge of Christ, is going to put off anger and wrath and blasphemy and malice and all of those things. But, you see, we give in to all of those things because we are selfish, because we want to do it, because it fits the way that we feel right now.

I think this is a most appropriate thing, for the Word of God to touch on in the society in which we live, because we live in an age of selfishness. We live, even secular sociologist are telling us, in a me generation. “If I want it, I should have it.” “If I want it, I am entitled to it, even if it means having to borrow the money to get it, even if it means having to assert my rights over the privileges of someone else—whatever it means, I should have it. If I want it, that is reason enough for having it.” That's the spirit of our day, and surely you recognize that. The Word of God says that the Spirit-directed believer, the person who is exalting Jesus Christ, the person who is reacting properly to the realization that the God of the Universe gave Himself for us, is not going to be a selfish person. He is not going to include those kinds of things in his life.

Sinful Mental Attitudes

In verses 5 through the first part of verse 9, we have eleven specific sins listed here. As I said, we are not going to look at these individually in detail, but let me further point out that of the eleven specific sins listed in verses 5-9, seven of them are mental attitude sins. In other words, they are things that take place in the mind, and they give rise to physical sins, but they could be carried on completely without ever giving rise to physical sins, or you could be thoroughly guilty of these sins without someone else being able to observe it in your outward activities. Notice in verse 5:

Colossians 3

5…uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness…

Then down in verse 8:

Colossians 3

8…anger, wrath, malice…

You see, all of these things are things that you could be guilty of without anyone else knowing it. Sooner or later they'll give rise to some activities. Sooner or later it will begin to show on your face, but you could be completely guilty of these sins without someone else being able to observe the overt activity. And it is important for us to keep in mind that God looks upon the heart as well as upon the outward activity. In fact, it is significant to remember man is the one who looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

As we think about these actions that are to be put off, it includes some of these mental attitude sins, as well as specifically physical sins. Only four of the eleven sins that are listed here, in fact, are overtly physical sins: fornication,in verse 5; blasphemy, filthy communications out of your mouth, and lying, listed down in verses 8 and 9.

Forgiveness Through Christ

With those things in mind, let's notice a very important comment that's made about these sins in verses 6 and 7:

Colossians 3

6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

Then look at the first words of verse 8: But now . In verses 6 and 7, we have a reference to the fact that the Colossians and other believers used to walk in the kinds of things that are listed in verses 5-9. “This used to characterize our lives, but now…” Here is a very important comparison between the saved and the unsaved in God's sight. This is not the only place in Scripture where this comparison is mentioned, but here is one of the places in which we are told that in God's sight only those who have not yet accepted the sacrifice of Christ are seen as murderers or thieves or fornicators, etc.

It is very possible that a person has murdered and has been sent to death row–in our society, at this particular point in history, that is about all that will happen to them–and somebody comes along and gives him the Gospel, and that person accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior, and he knows the freedom of the forgiveness of his sins, including the sin of murder. He knows and the courts have declared that he was guilty of that sin of murder. Now, in the eyes of the state that man is still a murderer. In the eyes of his fellow human beings, that man is still a murderer, and he deserves whatever fate the system of justice metes out, and he may deserve more than he gets under certain forms of government. But he is guilty of murder in our sight. He is worthy of punishment. In God's sight, that murder becomes past tense. He was a murderer in God's sight, but now he is forgiven. He will still have to pay the penalty for his crime, from a human standpoint, but the eternal penalty for the crime has already been taken care of by Jesus Christ. That person was a murderer in God's sight, but now he is not because Jesus Christ paid for that.

I use the illustration of murder because chances are there are relatively few of us in this room today who are guilty of that. I hope there are relatively few of us. There are probably a number of us who are guilty of it mentally, but physically speaking, there are probably relatively few.

It is just as true, you know, of the sin of covetousness that is listed here. It is just as true of the sin of fornication, and that could be a mental thing or a physical thing. It is just as true of the sin of lying or gossiping or any of the other sins that we commit every day. When God looks at you and me, having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, even though from a human standpoint we're still guilty of those sins, those sins are past tense.

Notice he says: “In the which ye also walked”—past tense—in verse 7. And that is a very warm, wonderful truth to keep in mind. And of course, this is made possible because of what we refer to as the double imputation of II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21. We quote this verse often here at Abilene Bible Church. It is a verse all of us ought to memorize. It is a very important verse to us in witnessing to others about Jesus Christ. I'm sure you will recognize it:

II Corinthians 5

21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The most important message of the Scripture, the basic message of the Scripture, is that God made Jesus Christ to be sin for us. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross some two thousand years ago, He wasn't dying as a martyr to a lost cause. He wasn't dying because He claimed to be the King of the Jews. Technically that was why He was dying, but that was just an excuse from the human standpoint. He was dying because of the predetermined plan of God that He would bear your sins and mine; and II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21, tells us that as God looked at Jesus Christ on the Cross He looked at the sin of the universe. He looked at your sin and my sin and the sin of every human being. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.

But the wonderful truth, and the reason that we refer to it as double imputation, is that just as God looked at Jesus Christ and saw your sin and my sin, He looks at you and me and sees the righteousness of Christ. That is why it is important that the verse says, “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.” Because as God looks at you and me, He looks at you and me as if we were the ones who knew no sin. He looks at us with our sins forgiven, and that is why Paul can write to the Colossians, “You were murderers, you were thieves, you were fornicators, but now you are pure and clean in God's sight.” If you don't get anything else I say today, the most important thing for you to understand is that Jesus Christ died for you.

I know that many of you here today have given personal testimony to having accepted that fact, but for those of you whom I have no way of knowing about, let me stress to you that Jesus Christ died in your place. God made Him to be sin, and God looks at you and sees the perfect righteousness of Christ, if you will accept the sacrifice of Christ in your behalf. And then it can be true with you as it was true of the Colossians, that we can speak in the past tense: “In the which you sometimes walked, but now things are different.” And so there is the wonderful truth of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. These are things that should be put out of our lives because Jesus Christ died for us, and because they are no longer a part of our lifestyle.

Specific Positive Action

Another aspect of the actions that should result from our knowledge of Christ is in the area of some things that should be put on. Notice in verse 12 a specific reference to the things that should be put on:

Colossians 3

12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

But there is an important prerequisite to this putting on given in the last part of verse 9 and going into verse 10:

Colossians 3

9…that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

You see, when Paul gives us a list of things that should be put on in our lives, it is not just a technical list; it is not just a list of things that we do and automatically we are spiritual. Rather, it is a matter of recognizing that we have put on Christ. That's what is really to be put on, to put on Jesus Christ, to recognize that He is part of us. Having accepted Him as Savior, we are His, but He is ours. “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” Paul wrote in chapter 1. And so these verses are speaking of the rebirth of the spirit that comes when we accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior.

Actually the Greek text reads in verse 10, “which keeps on being renewed in knowledge.” It is present tense in the Greek. It keeps on being renewed in knowledge. As we have God the Holy Spirit within us, we continue to be stirred spiritually, led spiritually; and it's only this spiritual perception that makes it possible to do the things listed in verses 12-14, the specific actions that are to be put on there.

Verse 11 points out that this is equally true of all believers, regardless of background:

Colossians 3

11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Someone says, “Well, you know, I would like to be a better Christian; but my circumstances, the people that I am thrown with, the kinds of conditions that I have to live in and work in, I just can't be the kind of Christian that I ought to be.” And the Word of God says, “Nonsense. There is neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, circumcision nor uncircumcision; but Christ is all and in all.” You can obey the Word of God. You can adopt the actions God tells you to adopt regardless of the circumstances in which you live, because it is a matter of putting on Christ. It is a matter of recognizing that Christ dwells within us. It is a matter of walking at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Experience the Peace of God

Finally, in verses 15-17, we see some things that should be put out in reaction to the knowledge of Christ. The emphasis on these verses is again on that which is within, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, being allowed to shine out through our lives and our actions. The term put out , as such, is not used in these verses. We are using it primarily so that it will fit the outline. But the idea is there, and the phrase that we are using, put out , is based on two phrases that are found in these verses. First, in verse 15:

Colossians 3

15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Notice the phrase, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” One of the basic points of Scripture is that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When you accept the fact that Christ died in your place, you have peace with God. There is no feeling of guilt there. Your sins are forgiven. You don't have to feel awkward in the presence of God or when God's name comes up, because there is no longer any animosity there. We have peace with God. And the Scripture also tells us that we can experience the peace of God as we commit our lives to Him, as we walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Paul is saying, “You have that peace with God in your heart. Now, let that come out.” Notice what he said there, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” The word rule there is a translation of a Greek word that means “to preside,” or “to umpire,” to be the guide. So the practical application of what Paul is saying is that you can know whether or not you are doing the right thing as a believer if you have peace in regard to it. Let the peace of God, which is there if you walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, serve as an umpire. If you have the peace of God in your heart about the decision that you're making, then you can be sure that it is the right decision. If you are about to make a decision, but you just don't have the peace of God about it, then let the umpire tell you that that is not the right decision to make.

So you see, there are some things that we should let out, put out, that are already there within, but our actions should show those things that are there. The peace of God within us should be put out into action in our lives.

Christ At Home In Your Heart

Then, the other significant term in these verses is in verse 16:

Colossians 3

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

The word dwell in this verse is a translation of the Greek word ednoikeo , which means, in this form, “to be at home.” “Let the Word of Christ be at home in your heart.” The Word of Christ, of course, is the Scripture, so the point that he is making is, “Let the Word of God be at home in your heart, and in your life.”

What does it mean, to be at home? We come home, or we try to as we can, at Christmas or Thanksgiving; and why do we do that? Because our loved ones are there. But there is something about being at home that's relaxing, isn't there? There is something about being at home that's not like anywhere else. Being at home implies all that's involved with being ourselves, being able to stretch out and relax and take it easy and just let things be like we like them to be. That's what is involved in being at home. You cannot relax anywhere else as well as you can at home, can you? That is what this verse is saying. “Let the Word of God be at home in your life.”

Are you comfortable with the Word of God? Are you at ease with the principles of the Word of God, or are they constantly jabbing into you? Are they constantly at odds with your lifestyle? What the Scripture says is, “Bring your life into conformity with the Word of God to the extent that you can relax in the presence of the Word of God. Let the Word of God dwell in you. Let the Word of God be at home in you.”

That involves the fact that you are going to have to make some changes. It's not a matter of accommodating the Word of God to your lifestyle. It is a matter of accommodating your lifestyle to the Word of God. That's how you let the Word of God be at home in your heart, richly. And to the extent that the Word of God is at home in your heart, you will be able to fulfill the rest of that passage there, “Teaching and admonishing one another with songs and hymns and spiritual songs,” etc. As the Word of God is at home in our hearts, we will be able to be obedient to the Word of God.

A summary of this section of the passage in Colossians would be to study and to obey the Word of God. Let it be at home in your life. You can't really let it be at home in your life unless you know what the principles are, unless you know what the Word of God is saying. And as you know what the Word of God is saying, and as you study the Word of God, and as you are obedient to it and become comfortable with it, and it is a part of your life, and then pay attention as to whether you have the peace of God in your life as you go about various activities, and the peace of God will serve as an umpire, will serve as a gauge, as to whether or not you are in conformity to the Word of God. That is what Paul is saying. These are actions; some should be included in our lives, some put out of our lives, and some allowed to shine forth out of what's already there in our lives.

Forgiving One Another

In conclusion, there are two verses which more or less summarize the actions which should characterize our lives in reaction to the knowledge of Christ. The first one is back in verse 13:

Colossians 3

13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another”—that's a part of the activity, the lifestyle, that should characterize the believer who understands Who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. Here is the rule of thumb, we might say, for our actions toward others. The key phrase is the last little phrase there, “even as Christ forgave you.” A very good watchword in our relationship to others is to ask ourselves this: “Where would I be if Christ had had the attitude that I've got right now?” Were you upset with somebody? They genuinely offended you. The Scripture says, “Forbearing one another, forgiving one another.” And you say, “Well, they just made me so mad, I can't do that. They don't deserve to be forgiven.” Where would you be if Christ had said that? Where would any of us be, if God the Father, and God the Son had discussed the possibility of redeeming the human race and the Son had said, “Father, they are not worth it. They don't deserve it. I don't have any reason to go.” Just the way we talk, isn't it? Jesus Christ didn't talk that way. And the Word of God says, “Forbearing one another, forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you.”

A Guide to Actions

An the other summary verse is verse 17:

Colossians 3

17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

If we remember that all of our actions should be worthy of His name, it will be a guide to those actions, won't it? And it will enable us to give thanks for whatever comes along. Can you honestly attach the name of Jesus Christ to all of the actions that you pursue day by day? That's what the Word of God says. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There is a handy guide too, isn't it?

What kind of actions should result in our lives from knowing Christ? The kind of actions that can be done in His name. And those, of course, are actions that we can be thankful for. Whether they turn out the way we thought they would or not, whether they result in the things we had hoped for or not, we can give thanks to God and the Father by him.

As we conclude our thinking about this section of the chapter, we should again seriously ask ourselves the question, “How do we react to the wonderful truth that Christ lives within us?”


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org