Col 3:12-14 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
The word “therefore” in verse twelve calls our attention back to a previous statement. Just prior to these verses, Paul has told us that we have put on the new man and now live in the image of our Creator (see verse 10). Because we are not clothed with the new man, there are other aspects of our “attire” that we need to consider.
There is a glorious reason for these things that we are to “put on.” Strong’s defines the phrase “put on” as “in the sense of sinking into a garment); to invest with clothing (literally or figuratively): – array, clothe (with), endue, have (put) on.” We are to be arrayed according to Paul’s counsel because we are the elect of God. The word elect implies favorite or chosen (see Strong’s). Just the idea that we are God’s favorite should cause our hearts to leap within us!
As God’s favorites, consecrated unto Him and loved by Him, there were certain things that we should be arrayed with. We should have a deep sympathy (bowels of mercy) for each other, rather than considering harsh judgment against one another. Our attitude should be one of usefulness (see Strong’s definition of kindness) to our brothers and sisters. We should be modest (humbleness of mind) rather than boastful, gentle (meekness), and patient (longsuffering) with each other.
If we are attired in this manner, then we can show forbearance; according to Strong’s, “forbearing” means “to put up with.” Our natural inclination when we think of this term is not always one of kindness. When we think of putting up with something or someone, it is usually in a frame that indicates we have no real affection for that object or individual. However, this is clearly not the case here because forbearing is linked to forgiving.
Forgiving implies granting pardon or rescue. The instruction here is clear. It does not matter what reason we might have to hold blame (have a quarrel) with someone; we are to forbear and forgive. This is part of being that new man in Christ. Jesus had a multitude of reasons (all the sins of all His people) to blame us for having to leave Eternal Glory, come here as one of us, fulfill the law that He gave to us, and suffer and die for us.
Yet, rather than holding any of that against us, He still arrays Himself in sympathy for us, makes Himself useful toward us, walks modestly and gently among us, and is lovingly patient with us. As God’s Christ is arrayed toward us, so are we to be arrayed toward each other in everything. The thing that makes this possible, that is at the top of the list, is charity.
Again note that we are not just to have charity: we are to wear charity as a garment. The word rendered “charity” is in other places rendered “love.” It is not just any love: this is the Greek word agape (ag-ah’-pay). It is understood to be a selfless love, full of consideration for others. This is the love that God has extended to us; absolutely selfless and without requirement.
The selfless love of God is what completes our unity (bond of perfectness) with Him and with each other. Christ is our embodied example of the love of God. The scripture tells us that in order to put on the other outward attributes of God’s elect we must first put on this wonderful love, this marvelous charity that we have learned in Christ.
May we be perfectly united with one another according to the union that exists as a result of His love for us!