The Christian in the Church

Bible Book: Colossians  3 : 12-17
Subject: Christian Living; Church Life

The preeminence of Christ is the theme of Colossians, and the first two chapters of the book state this again and again. Jesus is the Cosmic Christ and Creator-Lord of the Universe! Beginning in chapter 3 Paul shifts from writing about who Jesus is to discussing how the fact of who He is affects the believer.

Francis A. Shaeffer, the late, world-reknowned Christian philosopher and theologian wrote a book entitled, "How Should We Then Live"? The book looks at the rise and decline of Western Civilization and asks how Christians are to live in a world such as we have today. Paul did that long ago, only he was not speaking about how we should live in light of the culture we are in, rather he was addressing how we should live in light of the Savior whom we know and love! Paul was speaking to all of us who are in the Church - that is, in Christ!

The way we think about things can effect our attitude regarding those things. Did you hear about the two men who were talking about our new open relationship with China? One was from New York and the other was from Louisiana. The one from New York asked, "Do you believe in Bhudda?" The man from Louisiana replied, "Well, Bhudda has been around a long time, and I guess Bhudda is alright, but personally I like margarine better!" It is apparent that the poor fellow from New York didn't understand the question. I want to sure you understand what I'm talking about in this message when I speak of the Church.

As a child I did not understand that the church was more than a building. When I became older I learned that the church was more than a material structure and that is was actually made up of people who are in Christ. The Church is a body of people who have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ and his blood sacrifice for sin! A church building will never be the Church. The Minnix family lives on a street in Mount Holly, North Carolina and that is the Minnix house, but that house will never be the Minnixes. Certainly the way we keep up the yard, the exterior and interior of the home will reflect upon who we are. To be sure, the way we act in that house will reveal our character and nature, but the house will never actually be the Minnixes. Our family is so much more than the house we live in. Likewise, a church building will never be the Church. You, ladies and gentlemen, are the Church. Every saved person in this building today is a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. You are called living stones. Everyone here who is member of this local congregation constitutes the First Baptist Church. The building is the place where we meet, but WE are the Church - God's redeemed people. How we take care of the building from the inside to the outside will speak of who we are, but the building will never be the Church.

So when I speak of the Christian in the Church, I am not just speaking of how we act when we come to the church building, but rather I addressing how we act as a part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ (all the saved people in the earth living and dead) and our own local church family (members of First Baptist Church). As Paul wrote to the Church at Colossae, he was writing to the Christians who were a part of the local congregation there. He was not writing to a building. Furthermore, as he wrote to the future generations, like our own, who would be a part of the Church, he was writing to born again people in local congregations - just like those of us here at First Baptist Church! I am talking about you, not the building where we meet.

I heard about a man who said to his maid, "Alice, I can write my name in the dust on the top of this dresser". She replied, "I know, sir, education's a wonderful thing, ain't it!" Well, we need to be educated in the matter of church membership. We are the Church and how we act everyday, not just when we are in the church building, reflects upon our Lord.

Note the opening words of verse 12 and the introduction to the entire section of scripture: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved...".

i. Chosen by the Lord (chosen)
ii. Cleansed by the Lord (holy)
iii. Cherished by the Lord (dearly loved)

The perfect participle in the passage regarding God's love indicates the lasting nature of God's love for His own. As God's chosen, cleansed and cherished people - as members of the Church - how should we then live? That is the question introduced by the opening words in verse 12 and the words which follow begin to answer the inquiry at once.

I. What we are to Wear in Church

"clothe yourselves..." This is an aorist (at once) imperative (we must obey or be guilty of disobedience to God) statement. It means "to envelope oneself in." There was a time in the local church when a lot was said about what people were to wear when attending church. Today, we are not calling attention to the clothes on your body, but rather we are looking at how we clothe our souls.

We are to be enveloped in the character and disposition of our Lord to the point that we represent him in the body of Christ! We are to be clothed in the Lord. When you and I were saved, we were clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Now that we belong to Him, we are to clothe ourselves in His nature - in actions, thoughts and words. What exactly does this mean? Well, let's look at it from the Word of God...

A. Cover your Heart with Compassion

First, to be clothed in the Lord means that every church member is to have a tender heart toward Christ and others! We are to have a heart like our Lord, one that feels for the lost, the hurting, the lonely, the confused and troubled. The Christian must care, especially about those in the family of God. A Christian cannot say that he loves God and lack a heart of compassion toward other people.

B. Cover your Disposition with Kindness

This means that we are to be kind at all cost. We are to speak words of encouragement to those who serve God. It means acting in a kind way toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. It goes against the nature of a Christ to be unkind and thoughtless toward fellow believers and toward people in the world? Our Lord was so loving and thoughtful! If we are like Him, if we are clothed in Him, we will have a kind and tender heart.

C. Cover your Pride with Humility

Eve was persuaded by the serpent that a god-like nature awaited her if she ate of the tree that God had forbidden. The sin she committed was one of pride. It was the first sin - it was Satan's sin! Pride in a church is like a devil in the pew. It makes no sense, and yet pride has divided many a fellowship and harmed so many congregations. Pride puffs one up and makes a person act like the devil! Every generation has been guilty of listening to Satan when it comes to pride. Dear friends, true Christians ought to grow sweeter the longer they know and serve Jesus.

D. Cover your Soul with Gentleness

Gentleness means the ability to accept your lot in life without complaint. Being gentle is akin to, which is exactly what God has been toward us. When we are clothed in gentleness, we are becoming more like our Lord.

E. Cover your Mind with Patience

You will recall from a previous study that patience speaks of the ability to go forward in the face of great obstacles and troubles. It does not mean to sit idly by and do nothing, but defines having our minds set on being faithful in devotion and service regardless of the circumstances we face. Impatience has been the downfall of many believers, for they try to pry open a door not yet ready and lose the opportunity forever to have what God had behind that door. We are to wrap ourselves in the garment of patience and wait on the Lord as we faithful continue our service to Him.

F. Wrap it all up in the Garment of Love

In verse 14 Paul says that we must wrap all of this in "agape" love or it will come apart. You can put ingredients into a pan for cooking, but you must have something to hold all the ingredients together. People who cook know it as a binding agent. The same is true in Christian virtues. We must wrap all the above with God's love if it is to hold and be effective!

Well, we have gone through quite a list already and I feel we have done none of them justice , but my purpose is not for us to fully detail each aspect that is present here, but to grasp the larger picture the scripture is giving us. So, let's now look at...

II. What we are to Bear in the Church

"Bear with each other...." we are told.

If we have the clothing mentioned in the first part of this scripture, it will certainly make it easier to understand this second section. Nevertheless, there is an important issue here in learning to "bear with each other."

A. Grievences Will Come

It is inevitable that complaints and differences will come about in the Church and this fact is never denied nor diminished in the scriptures. Do not think that it is strange that such things occur among the family of God. One cannot read the New Testament without seeing how people had problems at time getting along with each other. You can see this from the dispute between the Hebrew and Greek women in the church at Jerusalem to the fracas between Paul and Barnabas regarding John Mark's particpation in a missionary journey. We cannot live in this world without some grievences, but we must handle them God's way, for God's sake!

B. Grievences Must Go

They will come, but they must go! We have no right to hold grudges against each other. There is no place in a congregation for hateful feelings and actions by members! We are to rid our lives of such attitudes and actions. We are to forgive ("charizomai" = to be gracious, forgive where it is not deserved) as the Lord forgave us ("as" comes from "kathos" meaning "to the same degree"). If we will not forgive each other, it means that we are not forgiven. If you will not forgive your brother, then God will not forgive you. This means that we must be forgiving of wrongs done or perceived to have been done against us. I dare say that someone under the sound of my voice right now has a "hard feeling" against a fellow Christian for something said or done days, months or years ago. Let it go! That is what God did for you. He buried your sins in the depth of the sea. He will never bring them up again. Remember, your sins and mine are the nails in the hands of Jesus on the cross, yet God forgave us. We have no excuse but to forgive, and when we do we become more like Jesus than perhaps at any other time.

III. What we are to Share in the Church

"Let the peace of Christ rule."

A. The Directing Peace of Christ

The word for "rule" is "brabeuo" which means "an umpire." It means an umpire the very way we use the word today. An umpire watches the contestants and rules those with infractions as out of bounds, out of order and can disqualify the participant. Christ's peace is the rule of our hearts. That is, we are to seek to please Jesus with all we say and do. We should insure that Christ is at peace in our descisions, words, actions, etc. You may act a certain way for your own benefit and then get a church  member to agree that you, but were you right in what you did? Did your action please Jesus? That is all that matters. If Christ is displeased with your action, you have upset the Umpire. What good is the opinion of your friends, if you have angered the Umpire and been disqualified? Always, our desire is to please Him and have peace with our Lord - the ultimate Umpire!

Often a member in a church will seek to gather support for or against a cause. Forces are gathered and they seek to use their personal influence as a means of urging others to join them in a cause. At first, the person who beings the action may feel that he or she is right in a matter, but after a while the person urging others to join in is simply seeking to win at all cost. Many times the results are costly indeed, for the members end up divided, the church loses members, the influence of the fellowship is greatly diminished, and the cause of Christ is damaged for years.

We are to seek the peace of Christ in our labors for the Father. Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways after a disagreement over whether John Mark was to go with them on the second missionary journey of Paul, but it was a peaceful solution that did not hinder the ongoing missionary work of the early Church. Years later, when Paul was in prison in Rome, he actually wrote asking that Mark come to him. This reveals that whatever the problem, or how deep it may have seemed at the time, the issue never got in the way of the kindness, love and duty each one had in God's work. Let us work for the peace of Christ, so that His work is never diminished.

B. The Dwelling Word of Christ

If we are to do all that we are talking about today, Paul says that we must have the indwelling Word of Christ. The terms used here are in the imperative! Just as we began, we conclude - with the imperative from the Lord.

Christ's Word means all the scripture approved by our Lord. That would be inclusive of your entire Bible today. This text means that the Word of Jesus must be at home in our hearts and lives.

The Word of God is to "dwell" (live) in our hearts! This means we must know it and obey it! We should be willing for him to rule over us by his presence and his Word. For God's Word to dwell in us, it means that we are conscious of His direction in all matters, and at all times.

A professor I had while in college told the story of his wayward brother. It seems that the brother had been paid when he was young to memorize scripture. The grandmother gave the boy money when he quoted an entire chapter from the Bible. So, the boy began to look up the shorest chapters in the Bible and to memorize them. Later, when he was an adult, he developed a terrible drinking problem, and his drinking sprees often landed him in jail. When someone in the family went down to the jail to see him, he would be standing there holding on to the bars and quoting scripture - one chapter after the other. The scripture did not help him because it did not "dwell" in him. He had simply memorized it for a selfish cause.

You and I are to know the word, but as we are reminded by James to be doers of the Word as well. You will not obey what you know unless that Word which you learned is living (dwelling) in you.


Paul concludes by stating that we must do what we do as unto the Lord. That is, we must be sure that we are acting in a way that reflects how we would act if Jesus were in our very presence - after all, He actually is in our presence!!! You see, we are the Church whether we are in this building or out of this building. If fact, if this building were destroyed next week by a tornado, no one would say that First Baptist Church is destoryed. We would still be His Church. We would meet somewhere next week to worship, serve and grow in Christ.

Let us this week go out into the world as His people, always conscious that we belong to Him, we serve Him, we are family in Him and one day we are going home to be with Him. Let us ever please Him!