Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Paul describes the converts in the church at Colossae as “God’s chosen ones.” Before we look at this let’s set the context.
Paul has been talking and speaking strongly about our responsibility as Christians to live as followers of Christ (Colossians 3:1-10). He lists the things that are to be put to death, put off things like; sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covertness, anger, malice, slander, obscene talk and lying.
Beginning with 3:12 he will turn to more positive expressions of the kind of Christian behaviour we are to put on, such as; compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love.
This creates a problem for us, when considering the text above, as some would argue that the worst possible thing you can do is emphasise the privileges as that undermines the issues of getting rid of, putting off, or putting to death certain behaviours that are not to be found in the person following Christ.
To put it another way, if you tell people they are chosen, they are holy, they are accepted, they are forgiven, then what you have done is removed the impetus and incentive to be holy.
In fact there are some that would argue that such blessings are the reward for obedience, like a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow of faithful dogged effort and purposeful observance of God’s rules? No! Let me say that again, No!
Far from undermining holiness of life, the apostle believed that such glorious blessings undergird it. It is precisely because we are chosen of God and beloved that we long to heed Paul’s exhortations. It is because we are God’s chosen ones and beloved that we desire and want to becompassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient.
Here we are are again challenged by the reality of God’s amazing Grace and an abuse of God’s Grace. To say, “As God’s chosen ones we are exempt from excessive concern with behaviour,” is to portray a massive distortion of the nature of saving grace, indeed, of the very nature of Christianity itself. To think that privilege, status and security somehow release us from holiness or accountability is directly contrary to everything Paul has written and will write in this letter and other letters.
The grace of God has appeared in the person and work of Christ to train us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
Having been sovereignly and amazingly selected by God for salvation, set apart unto himself by his mercy and being made the focus and object of his affection and love, this the very reason for righteous behaviour! It is not an excuse for sinful self-indulgence or a licence to do what we please because we are “saved anyway.”
Paul’s design in describing the Colossians (and us) with such wonderful language isn’t to lull them into feeling warm and cuddly or having moral indifference but maybe to shock them, so to speak, with the stunning realisation of who they are in Christ. You are “chosen ones.”
His desire is to to awaken them to the awesome task of living a life that honours Christ and distinguishes them from the world. He is screaming at the page as he is writing, “Church at Colossae, do you have any idea who you are? Chosen, holy, beloved! This is not your making, this is God’s making. So live according to who you are, have compassionate hearts, show kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, forgive one another and display love.”
So who are we? We are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Simple, profound, wonderful, amazing truth. We are the object of the saving, sovereign love of an infinitely righteous and powerful and holy God.
The ESV says we are “God’s chosen ones” emphasising the idea of ownership. Other translations use the words “God’s elect” whichever version you have the emphasis is it is God who has made this choice. You are the elect “of God” in the sense of being chosen “by God.”
This decision emanated from him and him alone. It wasn’t your choice or mine. It was his.
Not everyone likes the doctrine of election, but God does! We were chosen according to His “will”. God didn’t predestine us unwillingly, begrudgingly, or reluctantly. He wanted to do it. He delighted to do it.
Choosing hell-deserving sinners to spend an eternity with him as his beloved children is uniquely joyful, exciting and satisfying to the heart of God! It pleased the Lord to set his love upon you. It made him very happy.
We must never think of election as a dispassionate choice on God’s part, as if he put some cards on a table and picked up one and said “yes” and then picked another and went “no.” It was not a cold choice. Deuteronomy 10:14-15 tells us that although both heaven and earth belong to God, he “Set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”
Jesus himself speaks about God’s election as “your good pleasure.”
God enjoys election, and so must we.
So what should our response be to all of this? How does it make you feel to know that you are his “beloved?” What should you do, knowing that you are the recipient of his infinite affection, joy, and favour? Paul’s answer: Change clothes…take off the old ways and put on the new way.
Live out who you are and not who you were.