It is said that a tradition sprang up, in the early years of church history, concerning the garments worn following baptism. The historian Philip Schaff wrote, “During the week following, the neophytes wore white garments as a symbol of purity” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, p. 252). Of course, this is not something the Bible requires. It was a human tradition practiced by some.
However, the Bible does speak of a change of spiritual clothing that should occur. There are things that should be put off (Colossians 3:8-9; Ephesians 4:22). There are things that should be put on (Colossians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:24). We should be concerned about how we present ourselves before the world. We should want others to see Christ in us (Colossians 3:10-11; Romans 13:14; Galatians 2:20; 4:19). It is not enough to put off certain bad characteristics. We are to put on Christ-like characteristics. We are to be Christians, followers of Christ.
Remember Whose You Are
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on…” (Colossians 3:12). Alan Adams remarked, “We are not to dress like commoners, rather as ‘God’s elect, holy and beloved’” (editor Garland Robinson, 1997, Seek The Old Paths Lectureship, The Church at Colosse, p. 149). We are God’s special people (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10 cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).
How To Dress (Notice that the first letter of each point spells out Christ)
Compassion for Others
Put on “tender mercies” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), compassionate hearts (ESV). We need to care about others. Jesus did (Philippians 2:5-ff). May we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
Put on “kindness” (Colossians 3:12). The original word can refer to “kindness shown, beneficence” (Perschbacher). Think of it as kindness in action. Our compassion for others should be manifested in actions (Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:17-18). Jesus’ was (Philippians 2:5-ff; 1 John 3:16).
Humility With Others
Put on “humility” (Colossians 3:12). We should not think of ourselves as too good to associate with others and serve others (Romans 12:16; Matthew 20:20-28). Jesus didn’t (Philippians 2:5-ff; Matthew 20:28; John 13:14-15). May we each be “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
Put on “meekness” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “gentleness” (NASB). The original word “described negatively… is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest” (Vine’s). We should be considerate of others. Jesus was.
Resilience/Restraint in Relationship
Put on “longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “patience” (NASB, ESV). God has been “longsuffering” toward us (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus is “longsuffering” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). We should not be quick to give up on others or cut others out of our lives. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Put on “bearing with one another” (Colossians 3:12 NKJV), “forbearing one another” (KJV). A.T. Robertson rendered it “holding yourselves back from one another” (studylight.org). God has been forbearing with man (Romans 3:25).
Imitate Christ in Forgiveness
Put on “forgiving one another… even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13). Christ forgives. If we are Christians, He has forgiven us. God forgives (Ephesians 4:32). Shouldn’t we be forgiving? We must be (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-35).
Superlative of Love
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14 NKJV), “…the perfect bond of unity” (NASB), “…brings together perfect harmony” (ESV). The word is agape. Alan Adams considers the things to be put on as the following garments: (1) vest = compassion, kindness; (2) pants = humility, meekness; (3) shoes = longsuffering, forbearing, forgiving; (4) belt = love. He said, “without this Christian ‘belt,’ one is at best unkempt and disheveled” (Robinson, p. 150).
Think of God’s love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Think of Jesus’ love (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16). We need this kind of love for others (1 John 4:11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Trust/Thanksgiving Toward God
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15 NJKV), “… the peace of Christ” (NASB, ESV). The word “rule” means “to be an umpire, to decide, determine; to direct, control, rule” (Thayer). Some believe “the peace of God” refers to “the system of peace” (cf. Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15). Others believe that it refers to inner peace which comes from God (cf. Philippians 4:6-7; John 14:27; 16:33). Either way, the world needs to see that we trust Him in this life and live for Him.
“And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). The subject of thanks comes up often in this book (Colossians 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). We have much for which we should be thankful. Don’t be a pessimist. Show the world the joy of Christian living.
The book of Colossians is Christ-exalting, and our lives should be as well. Let us put on Christ each day. As the song says, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me…” (Song: Let the Beauty of Jesus by Albert Osborn).
- This article first appeared in the Christian Worker June 2022