Putting on the New Man

Posted: June 9, 2008 in Colossians


Sometimes knowing what NOT to do can be helpful in knowing how to handle situations.

Paul began Ch 3 by telling us what to put off (take off/kill)…the old man. (Described by sensual sins & social sins) That’s what NOT to do. But once you’ve put it off, what are we supposed to put on? The new man who is renewed in knowledge (vs. 10)… Both aspects of this are important to know. We cannot put on the new man until the old man is gone; but once the old man is gone, we need to replace it – or the old man will be replaced for us…

Remember the foundation of all this: we have been raised with Christ! He is the preeminent one – in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom & knowledge – we are complete in Him. Great theology & doctrine! So now what? So now we don’t merely let Jesus change our mind; we let Him change our life. Jesus is LORD – He is the image of the invisible God – the 1st born over all creation…as a born-again Christian, we don’t have the option of simple mental assent. Our very lives belong to Him…thus we’re to glorify Him with everything that we are. Part of that is putting on the new man…

Colossians 3:12-17 (NKJV)
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;

A. therefore”: because of everything that Paul had written about us dying & living in Christ…

B. the elect of God”: simple statement of fact – as born-again believers, we ARE the elect. Simply means that as born-again Christians, we’re chosen of God (we’re all God’s favorites!). (We love Him; He 1st loved us – 1 Jn 4:19)

a. Don’t let theological debates scare you off from the term. “Elect” has gotten a bad rap in the Calvinist/Arminian wars – thus many non-Calvinists don’t want to even accept the word. (I’ve heard pastors say “I don’t believe in the elect.”) If you don’t believe in the elect, then you don’t believe your Bible… Word is used 12 times in the NT epistles alone!

i. Beware of the tendency (trap) of trying to force the Word of God into the logical system of Man. God’s Word is absolutely true & rational – but it’s still talking about an infinite God… The Bible plainly speaks about God’s election & predestination (see Eph 1) AND plainly speaks about man’s responsibility to choose God in repentance (see John 3, Acts 17 – Athens). We simply need to believe what the Bible says.

b. How do you know if you’re one of the elect? Repent, trust Christ, and be born again. If you do, you’re elect!

C. How are the elect described? As “holy & beloved”.

a. We are holy because HE is holy! Because Jesus set us apart to Himself – because He gave us His righteousness – because of HIM, we are considered holy. ‘But wait a second…I know me. I’m anything but holy!’ Not according to God. When you were born again, He clothed you in the righteousness of Christ & you are holy! Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. [] PTL!

b. We are beloved (ἀγαπάω)…how do we know? Because we’ve been made holy! J This is how He demonstrated His love for us (Rom 5:8)…

D. What are the elect supposed to do? Put on the character traits of the new man…

a. Tender mercies: Lit “bowels of compassion” – reaching from the depth of our being to show mercy to one another in the Body.

b. Kindness: defined by some as “benevolence in action.” It should be common sense that Christians would be kind to one another…

c. Humility: “egotistical Christian” is a contradiction in terms. We’re supposed to crucify the flesh & put the old man to death – which most certainly includes our ego.

d. Meekness: could be defined as “power under control”…NOT weakness! Jesus is definitely meek (wouldn’t break a bruised reed – Is 42:3), but He is definitely (infinitely!) powerful!

e. Longsuffering: Patience, but more so. I like the translation “longsuffering” b/c it describes what patience does. Patience is more than the ability to wait through a traffic light – the patience of Christ helps us endure during suffering…

f. Ultimately, these are all character traits of Christ! He IS merciful – kind – humble – meek – longsuffering… This is God’s plan for us as believers…He desires for us to look like Jesus – Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. []

– Paul goes on to describe what these character traits do…
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

A. Bearing with one another: How to deal with present offenses/complaints caused by fellow Christians? Bear with it – endure it – be longsuffering… Sometimes it’s easier to do this with the world under the idea of being a witness for Christ; but we’re not quite as ready to do it with others in the Church. [] We’re supposed to bear with one another…

B. Forgiving one another: How to deal with past offenses/complaints… “Forgiveness” in the NT has its root in cariV (grace) – the whole idea of the word is to “give grace” to someone else. [] In what way are we supposed to forgive? As Christ forgave us. That raises the bar, doesn’t it? When we forgive others, we need to forgive them fully & completely. Christians have no place (or even a right!) to bear grudges against one another…doing so is completely the opposite of what Christ did for us.

a. Our natural tendency is to want to BE forgiven, but then to withhold forgiveness from someone else (re: unforgiving servant – Matt 18:21-35). How important is this? So much so that Jesus included it in His model prayer for us – Matthew 6:12, 14-15 (12) And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. … (14) “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [] Serious stuff! If we withhold forgiveness from others, our fellowship with God is broken…why? We’re playing the hypocrite & thus in sin.

b. Be careful not to make forgiveness into “lip service”…we have to do it! so you also must do.

14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

A. All the traits Paul just listed are needful – but one is more so. We need to put on mercies, etc., but most of all we need to put on love! (ἀγάπη) [selfless – sacrificial]

a. If you put on love, you’ll put on the rest. Love suffers long, is kind, bears all things, etc., (1 Cor 13)…

B. Paul’s description of agape is interesting: it’s “the bond of perfection”. Not only does it perfectly bond the other character traits of Christ together (like an outer jacket on the New Man), love bonds US together as believers. It’s one of our primary defining characteristics! The world knows we are in Christ through our love for each other (John 13:35) – without love, we have nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3). In fact, if we DON’T have love for one another as believers, it’s a good sign we need to reexamine our faith. 1 John 4:7-8 (7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. []

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

A. In addition to love (ἀγάπη), we need peace (εἰρήνη)…we need to let the “peace of God rule” in our hearts. Rule” is an athletic term – like an umpire, the peace of God through Jesus Christ should help “call the shots” & help us walk with Christ. Two aspects to this:

a. Within the Body of Christ: The whole context leading up to this point has been how we relate to other believers – either through sinning in the Old Man, or by following Christ in the New Man. The New Man deals with conflicts in bearing, forgiving, loving…and seeking the peace of God. Got a question in how to act with a brother or sister whom you’ve offended? Or has offended you? – What can you do that would bring about peace – what would demonstrate the peace of God? Wonderful rule of thumb in acting out in love & grace…

b. Within ourselves: As we make decisions, the peace of God is a deciding factor. Whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom 14:23), so the peace of God is one way in determining these things… When we DON’T have the peace of God about something, we should stop what we’re doing & go to the Lord in prayer & Scripture. With that in mind…the peace of God should be a guiding rule for our practice – but be careful not to be driven by false notions of what this is. (Wiersbe) ““I had peace about it!” is not sufficient evidence that we are in the will of God. We must pray, surrender to His will, and seek His guidance in the Scriptures. The peace of heart alone is not always the peace of God.”

B. Be thankful! Be thankful for what? Be thankful for the peace that God gives you through Christ Jesus. God doesn’t merely shout out a command to us & then leaves us to blindly grope about wondering how to apply it…He graciously gives us peace by working in us through the Holy Spirit as we walk day-by-day.

a. Too many Christians live with a dead faith. To them, everything about Jesus & the Bible is past tense…but it’s VASTLY more than that! Jesus is alive & is interceding for you before the throne of God right now – the Holy Spirit is indwelling you & ready to empower every believer right now – God the Father reigns & is using His word to speak to us right now! [] Why be thankful? Be thankful that every day is supernatural to those in Christ Jesus. You have access to go boldly before the throne of grace in prayer (Heb 4:16), and God supernaturally responds through many ways – including His peace.

b. Why else? Be thankful that you were called to one body! IOW – be thankful that you’re saved! J You were dead in your transgressions, headed for the judgment of God & preparing to spend eternity in Hell – but the Lord Jesus changed everything! When you cried out to Him in faith, He forgave you – gave you a new birth – made you a new creation – sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in you – gave you an inheritance in glory – blessed you with every spiritual blessing! That we should be thankful is a blessed understatement.

16 Let 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.

A. Paul has discussed who we are supposed to BE when we put on the new man (our characteristics)…now he describes what we are supposed to do.

B. 1st – let the word dwell within: What’s the “word of Christ”? The Scripture – the gospel – both? Commentaries are somewhat split, but if the gospel of Christ is dwelling in us, we’re obviously going to be meditating on the Scripture as well…it’s all His word. (Be careful of being a “red-letter Christian” – ALL of it is the inspired word of God…) [] “dwell” = “To feel at home.” Ever feel awkward traveling? [This week…] Always great to be home! … That’s the idea Paul’s getting across – many Christians only “visit” the Bible (the Word of God); it should be at home in us!

C. 2nd – let the word spring forth: We don’t read the Word of God to do nothing with it – how do we use it (and the wisdom it brings) within the church? By “teaching and admonishing one another… Through the Word we are to instruct one another & help build up one another in Christ. We’re also to caution & correct each other. It’s profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, & instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) – since it’s profitable, let us use it!

a. Notice the “one another. Are pastors/teachers the only people who can teach & admonish those within the church? No. We are the Body of Christ – we’re ALL the priesthood of believers, thus we’re to help each other. That’s not to say we’re supposed to preach a sermon…simply that God may give you a word or Scripture for someone – share it!

D. How is this expressed? Through music! (Say what?!) It’s possible that doctrine was taught through the worship songs of the church (church today does much the same thing…which is why it’s important for worship leaders to be careful about the lyrics we sing). Also possible that Paul’s saying, “As you teach & admonish one another, break out in song because of what Christ is doing through you.”

a. psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”: Almost every commentary defines these terms differently…probably the best distinction is psalms (OT hymnbook), hymns (NT odes to Christ), songs (NT odes about Christ). Whatever the case is, the idea is worshipful singing!

b. BTW – this should put all the ideas about “worship wars” to rest. The Bible tells us to sing in hymns, so we sing hymns. The Bible tells us to sing in psalms & spiritual songs, so we do that as well. Arguing about the style is unhelpful & illogical. What is a “traditional” hymn to the church today was obviously a new song at one time…and people probably argued about it in 1600 too.

E. Proper worship?

a. Sing with “grace in your hearts”: Some translations say “thankfulness” – the word is χάρις, which is translated “grace” 130 times in the NT in most versions. Granted, we always sing with a thankful heart unto the Lord – but we sing with the grace of God because we have experienced the grace of God…so in our praise, we give God what He deserves: glory!

b. Sing “to the Lord”: We don’t merely sin to hear how pretty our voices are…we’re singing to God! []

c. Notice the implication here: we’ve got to be Christian before we can worship Christ. If we haven’t experienced the grace OF God, we cannot sing with grace TO God. [] A lot of people show up in churches because the worship is exciting & they want to be a part of it – but without belonging to Jesus Christ, all our singing is in vain. Over & over through the OT, we see that God doesn’t care about our worship if there’s sin in the way. [Isaiah 1:13 – “futile sacrifices”] Psalm 51:16-17 (16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise. [] What’s necessary? Repentance & a new birth!

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

A. Paul opens it up far beyond worship and instruction in the church. Whatever” we do, we do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. word or deed” is all inclusive…whatever we do it going to fall in either one of those categories. J BOTH are important. Words DO matter… Our intentions must be followed by deeds…

a. Whatever it is, do it in His name! (Walvoord & Zuck) “there is no sacred-secular split in God’s eyes; He is Sovereign over all— whether in word or deed (by lip or life) should all be done in the name of the Lord Jesus (i.e., for His glory; cf. 1 Cor. 10:31)”

b. This makes a wonderful guideline for what we should & shouldn’t do as Christians. [People wonder how far they can go…] Ask yourself, “Can I do XYZ in the name of Jesus Christ?” If not, it’s probably something to avoid, if not outright sin.

B. Undergirding all of it? Thankfulness! As in verse 15, we’re thankful that God is working in our lives & thankful for our salvation in Christ.

a. We can only give thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ. There is no other way!


What glorious instruction to the church! In Christ, we put the old sinful man to death – but we’re not left wanting. We’re raised with Christ (Col 3:1) & thus raised to a new man nature. So put it on! ‘Don’t we automatically get this new nature in Christ? Why this exhortation?’ Yes – we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ & been made into new creations. But it’s our choice whether or not to walk as one. Many Christians (including myself!) make the mistake of thinking that life is the same-old, same-old…that when sin & temptation arises, we’ll just fall back into old patterns. Or if conflict pops up, we just respond like we always did in our flesh. … But God has SO much more for us than that!

We have been FREED from sin, death, and the power of the old man nature…we don’t have to walk in it any longer! We’ve been given new clothes & a new man in Christ – thus we need to appropriate it by faith. We can put on the characteristics of Jesus Christ – put on love – be ruled by the peace of God – and edify each other by the Scripture as we worship God in grace. This is something that’s flagrantly impossible for the world – but available to every believer in Christ! Why settle for anything less?


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