Like grandchildren are the pride and joy of their grandparents, so to the church at Colossae must have been for the Apostle Paul. He did not actually establish this church, but instead a Colossian named Epaphras met Paul during his three year stint in Ephesus (see his 3rd missionary journey, Acts 19), responded to Paul’s gospel message, and returned to share the good news in Colossae. From Epaphras’ witness the church at Calossae was established.
In this section of his letter from a Roman prison Paul instructed the church on living the Christian life. The preceding verses dealt with sins of the past. Paul said: “Put to death what is earthly in you” (v.5). He gave an extensive list of things to put away: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (all of which is idolatry because they take God’s place as the focus of devotion); the list continued with anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (v.8). These five all have a negative bearing on social relationships among believers. Altogether Paul gave 10 sins of the past that were to be put to death in order to prepare to live like Christ. But putting away past sins is not enough. Christian virtue is essential.
Paul shifts his focus in verses 12-17 on the virtues of Christ’s character that were to be “put on.” He listed: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (v.12), tolerance of fellow Christians, and forgiveness based on the forgiveness received from Christ (v.13). But the most important virtue to put on is love (v.14). Love unites all Christian virtues. Love tolerates transgressions, believes the best about others, and looks optimistically forward enduring all difficulties (cf. 1 Co. 13:7). Not only does love put on Christlike virtues, it conquers (crucifies) the sins of the past enabling harmony among fellow Christians. The essence of living the Christian life is giving love just like Christ (cf. John 13:35).
Is your walk with Christ littered with sins of the past? Have you put to death the vices that hinder harmony with fellow believers? Is your love for others strong enough to endure their past transgressions? Or does pride block you from progressing beyond feeling disrespected? In your devotion to God ask Him to reveal those sins of the past and help you crucify each one. Then replace those old vices with the Christlike virtues listed above, the most important being the first element in the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). Now rejoice in God, knowing that the essence of your life is a demonstration of Christlike Giving (Love).