Forgiving – Colossians 3:12-14 05/10/2020

Forgiving – Colossians 3:12-14 05/10/2020

There are few things that our faith requires of us that is more difficult than forgiving others. It doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t feel right, it’s unnatural.

Isn’t it nice that we’ve been forgiven? It is! But where this starts to become a problem is at this point; because we’ve been forgiven, our lives are supposed to be characterize by a willingness to forgive others. That… can be tough!

Our passage today is Colossians 3:12-14, which I leave to you to look up. In the Greek, Colossians 3:12-14 is all one rambling sentence,[1] something typical of Paul’s writing. It opens with “Therefore” (οὖν)[2] which looks back at the reality that we’ve become a new person joined to a community of new persons which eliminates the distinctions of race and social status. Since this is true, Paul tells us to do something, to be “putting on” (Ενδυσασθε)[3] clothing appropriate to who we are in Christ. The new self we’ve become will be clothed with new garments appropriate to who we are in Christ.[4] Because of this, there are virtues to cultivate;[5] again, take a look at Colossians 3:12-14.

Paul provides a list of Christian virtues to “put on,” (ενδυσασθε).[6] It means to put on, to be clothed with, or to be endued with.[7] These things we’re supposed to be covered by should remind us of the fruit of the Spirit[8] found in Galatians 5:22-23. These traits aren’t a reference to a disposition or feelings, what I mean is, these are not supposed to be emotionally driven. Rather, these are acts of volition, of choice, of the will, that reflect who we are.[9]

What Paul was doing was calling upon the Colossians, and by extension each of us, to turn from our sin and then, very intentionally, to cultivate the Christian virtues.[10] But this is more than a shopping list of things to do. In his letter to the Romans, Romans 13:14 specifically, Paul sums up these traits by saying, “put on Christ.”[11] These traits define how we, as Christians, should react when our equilibrium is upset.[12] Our calling is to mirror the life of Christ within us,[13] as we saw last week, through walking in the Spirit.

These traits Paul has listed for their, and our, reading pleasure are concluded in Colossians 3:13. The test of these qualities in each of our lives will come when someone in our Christian community, our church family, acts in a thoughtless of inconsiderate way.[14] It is then that we’ll be called upon to emulate Jesus’ own unwearyingly forgiving others.[15] As an isolated statement, the need to forgive doesn’t sound so terrible. But what this translates into is, when we’re robbed, when we’ve suffered identity theft, when someone cuts you off in traffic, when we’re physically attacked or our reputations have been damaged, when a loved one is killed, then… we’re called upon to forgive. That, that… is tough!

But there is a reason Paul can command this response. We, ourselves, have been forgiven of so much so freely that it’s only reasonable that we should be ready to extend forgiveness.[16] The interdependence of our willingness to forgive, and the reality of the forgiveness we’ve received cannot be missed here.[17] Our experience of being forgiven, when we know full well we do not deserve it, should produce a willingness to forgive others in the same way.[18]

So, let’s take a more careful look at this word “forgiveness.” We can begin to flesh out exactly what is, and what is not being required of us. The word Paul chose to use here is not the most common word translated into English as “forgive.” This specific word used is (χαριζομενοι)[19] and has the sense of forgiving freely.[20] (χαρίζομαι)[21] [khī rĭdz ō mī] means to grant forgiveness, or to pardon.[22] The sense that this specific word conveys is the idea of freely extending forgiveness.[23]

But… what does it mean to forgive? It means that we make the conscious choice to put aside the offense.[24] That’s hard work, it doesn’t “feel” natural.[25] No one, ever, has said that forgiving is easy. We want justice, and we want it now. If we’re being honest, we want more than justice, we want revenge. But as Christians we have to recognize that it’s not up to us to exact justice, to take our revenge.[26] God has reserved that right to Himself. Knowing that there will be justice, either through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or through the final judgment, we’re able to turn the offense over to God and leave it in His hands.[27]

Notice that, as with much of the Christian walk, forgiveness has almost nothing to do with how we feel.[28] Forgiving will often feel wrong since, as people made in the image of God, we want justice… at least for the other guy. This is… an act of obedience.[29] We’ll be talking about that next week. To forgive is a duty that’s set upon us as disciples, as followers, of Jesus Christ.[30] Our calling is to put aside resentment and the desire to get even.[31] That’s hard work, it’s not a one-time decision, it is a repeated decision, one that we make time and again, if necessary for as long as we live.[32]

Forgiveness is not saying that the offense is really ok, it’s not saying that it doesn’t matter. When God forgives He never says, “That’s ok, your sins didn’t really matter after all.” No, He says that the purchase of our pardons was of an inestimable price; look at 1 Peter 1:17-19. Through the pardon Jesus obtained, God does not hold us answerable for our sins, we are no longer accountable for them. When someone sins against us it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t harm us, or that somehow it was ok. When we forgive we recognize that we were wronged, but also, we recognize that we are not the Judge, God is. Our willingness to forgive is an expression of our confidence in God. We recognize that there will be a reckoning for what they’ve done, either through Jesus’ sacrifice, or they’ll answer to God for it.

So when we forgive, we make the very conscious decision to not hold them answerable to us. They are no longer our problem. The anger and hurt we feel are emotions, and they will pass with time, they are an issue separate from the decision to forgive. None of this means that we think our enemies are nice people when we know they aren’t.[33] Nor does it mean we approve of what they’ve done, in fact it is perfectly appropriate to loathe the things they do, while still loving the person.[34]

The strength to forgive is bound up in another command we’re given. Before anything else, we find, again, this command to love.[35] This command is stated in so many places that it would be hard to miss the emphasis. For Paul, this is always the most important grace.[36]

None of this is possible based on our own resources. God knew that, so He gave us His Spirit to do through us what we cannot do on our own. Then He provides this (ἀγάπη)[37] love we looked at a couple of weeks ago. All of the virtues listed is our passage today are an expression of this kind of love. This kind of love is greater, more powerful, than any of the individual graces listed, it is greater than even all of them together.[38] This love is called the bond of perfection, it is that which ultimately produces all of the other acts.[39] This love is the fulfillment of all the moral requirements of the Law.[40]

We have this command to forgive which is based on the love of God made available to us as we walk in step with the Spirit of God. We’re incapable of doing it… on our own.[41] He will guide us into forgiving. He will also enable us to do so. Through this, He will produce a spirit of unity within the Body of Christ that proclaims we belong to Jesus.

[1] Albert Lukaszweski, Mark Dubis, and Ted Blakely. The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, SBL Edition, Sentence Analysis. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009. [2]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:12. [3]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:12. [4] Curtis Vaughan, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 214. [5] Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 125. [6]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:12. [7] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [8] Curtis Vaughan, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 214. [9] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans., William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, NT eds., Helmut Koester, Harold Attridge, Adela Collins, Eldon Epp, and James Robinson, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 147. [10] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: a Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Commentary Series, gen. publisher. Donald Cady, exec. Ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 337. [11] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 152. [12] Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 125. [13] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: a Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Commentary Series, gen. publisher. Donald Cady, exec. Ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 338. [14] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hager, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 228. [15] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 155. [16] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 359. [17] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hager, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 231. [18] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hager, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 231. [19]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:13. [20] Curtis Vaughan, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 215. [21]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:13. [22] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). [23] The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011). [24] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publication Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 383. [25] Gary Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, 3rd Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 190. [26] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1994), 1147. [27] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1994), 1147. [28] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1973), 67. [29] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1973), 69. [30] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1973), 70. [31] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.: 1996), 107. [32] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.: 1996), 107. [33] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.: 1996), 105. [34] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY.: 1996), 105. [35] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 360. [36] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hager, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 232. [37]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Col 3:14. [38] Curtis Vaughan, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 215. [39] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans., William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, NT eds., Helmut Koester, Harold Attridge, Adela Collins, Eldon Epp, and James Robinson, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 149. [40] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 156. [41] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 359.

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