Book of Colossians Bible Study - Part 12
by Norma Becker
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Norma Becker

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Part 12 - No Distinctions or Favourites

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

There should be no distinction racially between Gentiles and Jews, between religious denominations, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, (The Greeks thought anyone who did not follow the Greek culture was a barbarian.) slave or free.

The Christian church shouldn’t have any barriers of nationality, race, education level, social standing, wealth, gender, religion or power. Christ breaks down all barriers and accepts all people who come to Him. No one is more important in the eyes of God than the next person.

It is saying that ultimately, all of these distinctions are of no importance once we see that Christ is everything and that He dwells in each one of His people no matter of their race or background. This is not saying that we are equal intellectually, physically, economically or socially, but all who are in these different categories are equal spiritually. All have God’s Spirit in them - but again, also different levels of spiritual maturity.

The work in a church and the church offices should be open equally to the church janitor as it is to a president of a large corporation - if they both qualify spiritually.

In the last few verses, these vices were of the old self and were to be shed. Now, we are to clothe ourselves with virtues - our new self - again, the idea of not putting new clothes on over old ones. God’s standards don’t get any easier.

God’s Chosen People
Colossians 3:12:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Again, to back this up:

“And you also became God’s people when you heard the true message, the Good News that brought you salvation. You believed in Christ, and God put his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit he had promised” (Ephesians 1:13 Good News).

We are chosen and holy:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4).

Notice, He chose us - all we had to do was respond to his choosing – He chose us while we were still sinners by choosing our own way.

Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness and Patience
Back to Colossians 3:12. We all know John 3:16: “For God so loved the world....” He has chosen us to be part of his family so we are to clothe ourselves, not put these things on our old self but now with the help of the Holy Spirit, with these new forms of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Compassion is genuine concern for the feelings of others. We can comfort because we have been comforted. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Kindness is the desire for another’s good; care and consideration for others; being concerned with the happiness of others; having a sweet disposition.

Humility is not something to be proud of. It is a lowly attitude toward God. When we see God in the right way, we will see ourselves in the right way.

Gentleness is meekness, having a lowly attitude toward others; having consideration for the rights and feelings of others; willingness to make concessions. It is not a weakness but a Christian courtesy. Gentleness is the opposite of rebellion, arrogance, self-assertiveness or violence.

Patience is longsuffering, forbearance, steadfastness. It has the idea of bearing injury or insult with the refusal to retaliate – definitely in contrast to the natural reaction.

Verse 13:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Some translations say"

“Be tolerant of each other.”

Tolerance and Forgiveness
When we have dressed ourselves with God’s compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, then we can be tolerant with one another. That means putting up with things we dislike in others and having a willingness to bear with those whose faults or unpleasant traits are an irritant to us.

Can you think of people in your life where this is needed? Then forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else.

Tolerance and forgiveness go together. To tolerate, you hold back your temper - a natural reaction. To forgive, you don’t hold back love - an unnatural reaction.

We can do this by forgiving as the Lord forgave us - graciously and freely and totally. Only when we realize and accept how much God has forgiven us, can we can put wrongs done to us in perspective and freely love and forgive others.

Even a reasonable cause for our complaint does not justify a refusal to forgive. The Lord certainly had a just cause for complaint against us because of our rebellion yet He extended His forgiveness.

Grudges have no place in a Christian’s life for they may lead to the sins mentioned in verse 8-9.

Love and Perfect Unity
Verse 14:

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Paul is still talking of the list of virtues that a Christian is to “put on.” Love is the final garment that binds or holds all things together.

“Be under obligation to no one - the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law” (Romans 13:8 GNB).

The two greatest commandments are:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When you follow these two commandments, you fulfill all the commandments. Love leads to maturity and unity and removes all feelings of anger, hatred or unforgiveness. You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.

Peace of Go
Verse 15:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Let’s look at some other places we are promised peace. Read Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Isaiah says about God:

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Are you always at peace? With God, with yourself, with others? Why or why not?

God gives us an inward peace that provides calmness regardless of circumstances; contentment with what you have, even if it isn’t what you want; lack of worry; lack of fear. We can receive that peace through obedience and acceptance of that peace.

True Thankfulness
Then verse 15 says, “And be thankful.” Anytime we look to God with thanksgiving, it promotes humility - which focuses our attention on God rather than ourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says:

“Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”

Also back in Colossians 1:12 it says for us to give thanks with joy to the Father.

We have to remember that these letters, and thus this advice or counsel, is for actions and reactions among fellow believers. Is there a difference in the way you respond to a non-believer? Does this response always work? What do you do when it doesn’t? What do you do when it doesn’t work with a believer?

Hope, Wisdom and Understanding
Verse 16:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

In verse 15 he said, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” and now he says, “Let the WORD of Christ dwell in you.”

The Word of Christ is the Gospel message and the hope that we have. When what has been said by or about Christ indwells us, then we are equipped to teach and instruct each other with wisdom and understanding.

It’s interesting how the idea of wisdom carries through Paul’s letter:

  • Paul prays for their spiritual wisdom in doing God’s will. (in Colossians 1:9)

  • He showed the example of teaching with wisdom. (1:28)

  • He tells them where they can find true wisdom. (2:3)

  • They are to let Christ’s word dwell in them so they can teach believers with wisdom. (3:16)

  • They are to show wisdom in their dealing with unbelievers. (4:5)

Also when we are indwelt in this way, our worship will overflow with gratitude that will be expressed in psalms, hymns and sacred songs. Many of the sacred songs we sing are also a means of teaching and instructing us in different aspects of our faith.

General Guidelines for our New Life
Paul has no desire to set out a detailed list of do’s and don’ts to cover every aspect of the believer’s life, so in the preceding verses, he sets out general guidelines of what we are to rid our life of and what we are to bring into our new life. If he had made a binding list of things, he would have been reverting to legalism that he has been condemning the false teachers for and what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for.

Now he just gives a principle for them to follow.

Verse 17:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

In the Bible, a name indicated the essential character of a person. Paul has shown that Jesus is Lord of all as the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Reconciler and the One in whom the fullness of Deity dwells. So if we do or say something in Jesus’ name, it must be consistent with Jesus’ character and well. As His representatives, we act or speak as He would if He were present.

So doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus does away with the necessity for rules. Inward motivation replaces external rules. External rules, even when good, are not adequate for every situation - the rule of the indwelling Christ is the only sufficient guide.

Paul knew that a list of do’s and don’ts that covered every aspect of the believer’s life would be reverting to legalism – exactly what he had been condemning the false teachers for and what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for.Their life, word or deed, whatever they said or did, was to be under the direction of Christ. As a Christian, you represent Christ at all times - wherever you go and whatever you say. In other words, the best testimony of a new life is an obedient life.

Grateful Thanksgiving
Finally, “Give thanks to God the Father through him.” We are not to live our lives in obedience to Christ as a duty, but in freedom and with thanksgiving. All of this is in contrast to the enslaving rules and regulations of the false teachers.

Once again, Paul reminds them that Christ is the only mediator to God - not saints, pastors or priests. Notice how, in the last three verses, he has said we are to be thankful or grateful.

Here are some things that will help us live for God day by day:

  • Imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude. (Colossians 3:12-13)

  • Let love guide our life. (verse 14)

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in our heart. (verse 15)

  • Always be thankful. (verse 15)

  • Keep God’s Word in us at all times. (verse 16)

  • Live as Jesus’ representative. (verse 17)

Hindrances to Watch For
We’ve been talking about setting our hearts on things that are in heaven and not things here on earth. So we are to put to death the earthly desires in us, to rid ourselves of things that hindered our relationship to God, such as: immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions and greed.

Then there are the things that hinder our relationship with ourselves, such as: anger, rage and hateful feelings. These emotions are harder on ourselves than they are on the person we are angry with.

Then the things that hinder our relationships with others, such as: insults, obscene talk or lying.

You may not have problems with some of these things but maybe you can help someone else who does. We can all have more of the things we are to put on in place of the things we were to rid ourselves of - such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, helpfulness and forgiveness. To all of these we are to add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Not uniformity but unity.

Everything we do or say is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. That is, with the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of God.

Click here for Colossians study Part 13


Part 13: Leadership Qualities click here

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About Norma Becker:

Norma was born in Oregon in 1929. She received her BA in business and education from the University of Oregon. She and her husband Ed raised three children (have two now) and four grandchildren. They have travelled to over 30 countries sharing their spiritual journey with thousands of people.

Part 13:
Leadership Qualities
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