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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Christian's Wardrobe
Text:Colossians 3:12-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us

O Love of God, How Strong and True

I Sought the Lord

Help Us Accept Each Other

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Christian’s Wardrobe”
Colossians 3:12-14

About a month ago my son-in-law stopped by the house and left a large bag of clothes that he no longer wanted. He said to me, “If there is anything in the bag you don’t want, just give it to Bibles for Missions or the Christian School resale, but I don’t want these clothes anymore. I thought you might want them.”

I thought about the clothes, but I didn’t open the bag. It sat by the front door for quite a while, and my wife said, “You really should sort through those clothes, or we might mistake that bag for garbage and throw them out. Someone could really use them.” I did almost throw them out with the garbage one day, so I took the second step and brought the bag of clothes upstairs.

The bag of clothes remained on the floor for about a week and a half (my side of the bed, not my wife’s side which is immaculate). Then one night, a little after our normal bed time, I opened the bag and tried on one of the shirts. It was a pullover shirt, which I used to wear and always liked, but haven’t worn in years. It fit perfectly! It even hid, at least to some degree, the potbelly that us older men seem to acquire so easily. I said to my wife, “Look at this nice shirt that Matt gave me. I look 30 years younger wearing his clothes!”

My wife didn’t seem impressed with that observation. I knew she was tired, and it was past our normal time to go to sleep, but having tried on one shirt I had to try on all the others. I liked them all! I was really excited! I have a brand-new wardrobe of pullover shirts and they didn’t cost me anything!

In the passage before us, Paul tells us that we are to put on clothes. He’s not speaking of those nice pull-on shirts that my son-in-law gave me. Instead, the apostle says, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And then he goes on to tell how we are to do three things that my wife did that night when she was so tired, and I was trying on all those shirts.

First, she bore with me. Verse 13 says, Bear with each other.  She did that. She bore with me even though she was tired from babysitting the grandchildren.

Secondly, she forgave me for keeping her awake. Verse 13 goes on to say forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. When it says “whatever grievances” it includes even small grievances. Most of us realize that it is the small grievances that often cause the greatest trouble in any relationship. It is the little things that can be so irritating and cause large problems, whether between a couple, or in the family, or in the church, whether in Colossae 2000 years ago, or in Oak Lawn today.

And the way to forgive is two-fold: first remember how you have been forgiven by God, and then, secondly, extend His forgiving love to others no matter what they have done to you, “whatever grievances” they have caused.

Why did my wife bear with me on a night when she was tired, and I was trying on shirts after procrastinating for a month and a half or so? Why did she forgive me for that?  In addition to knowing that God has forgiven her, she also loves me, which is the third thing that Paul tells us in this short paragraph to put on. Verse 14, And over all these virtues – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience – put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I hope that I am not misleading any of you into thinking that these verses before us are light and easy verses, especially after telling you about that bag of clothes I got from my son-in-law. Yet, putting on a “Christian wardrobe” is an essential part of Christianity, and we see that in the three-fold motivation for putting on “a Christian wardrobe.”

God’s Chosen People

Verse 12 begins with the word “Therefore,” and that word goes all the way back to the opening verses of this chapter where we saw that by God’s grace we have been raised with Christ. Because of that, we are to set our hearts and thoughts on things above, where Christ is. We read in the next paragraph of how we have died with Christ and therefore are to put to death our earthly nature, taking off the old self and putting on the new.

How is it possible for sinners like us to go through such a transformation? It is certainly not because of any goodness or innate ability on our part to “be spiritual.”  Instead, the reason why we have this new life from above and are able to put off the old self and put on the new is because we are God’s chosen people. That is how verse 12 begins, Therefore, as God’s chosen people we are to put on the Christian wardrobe described in these verses of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We are to do so because before the world was even formed God, in grace, for His own good pleasure, chose to lavish His love upon us.

The doctrine of election is woven throughout the Bible. It is a teaching that angers many people and causes many to charge God with being unfair. But the question is never, “Why didn’t God choose to save everyone?” Rather, the question is, “Why did God choose to save anyone?” Why did God choose to save you? Why did He choose to save me?

It is all because of His grace. If it wasn’t of God’s initiative, it would no longer be of grace. Grace means “unmerited favor.” None of us merit God’s favor and yet if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with saving faith this morning, then you can know with certainty that it is because you are God’s chosen, God’s elect. It is as we sang before, “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me. It was not I that found, O Savior true; No, I was found of Thee.” 

However, when we think of election, we so often think of it only in regard to our salvation. But we are God’s chosen people not only for salvation, but for service, for the way we live our lives. As Jesus said in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” God chose us, in other words, not only to save us but to sanctify us. And verse 12 also speaks to that as it describes us as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.


To be holy is to be separate, specifically separate from sin and separated to God. But how can we live a holy life if we still live the way most people in the world live, looking out for number one and stepping on whoever gets in our way?

Did you notice how each one of those items of spiritual clothing that verse 12 tells us to clothe ourselves with encompasses a holy life? The person who is holy will separate themselves from sin and seek to be separated to God by having compassion for others. The person who is holy will express kindness in everyday activities. They will have true humility and will consider – in the words of Philippians 2:3 – others better than ourselves. The person who strives to be holy will practice patience and gentleness in their dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ, with their neighbors in the community, and certainly within their own family circles.

God is holy, and repeatedly in Scripture we are told to be holy for our God Himself is holy. He is totally separated from sin, and His holiness is evident in His compassion and love to us through the giving of His son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. Therefore, we are to show His kindness, compassion and love to others by the way we relate to them.

Dearly Loved

A third reason given for putting on the spiritual clothes described in verse 12 is that we are dearly loved. It is because God dearly loved us already in eternity that He elected to save us, to wash us with the precious blood of Christ and to sanctify us through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved we are to show others that same compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience that God has shown to us.

When we clothe ourselves with each one of these virtues listed in verse 12, we recognize that they overlap. When I was trying on those pullover shirts my son-in-law gave me, it was one shirt at a time. But in the winter, we know the value of dressing in layers. And in the case of these virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience it is similar to dressing in layers.  Each virtue is to be in each one of our lives and we recognize that all the virtues overlap.

If, by God’s grace, you have compassion, then you will also be kind to others because of the compassion God has put in your heart. The person who is kind and compassionate will invariably be humble because they will not be looking down with pride on those around them. In a similar way the humble, kind, compassionate person will be gentle and patient with all those whom he or she encounters.

The “Must Have” Wardrobe

As we look at verse 13 and 14 more closely, I need to emphasize again that these are not easy verses. These verses may be easy to speak or to read, but they are hard verses to put into practice. And yet they are crucial verses to put into practice. As an example, what good would have it done the Colossian church to be spared from the false teachers, which we have seen is one of the main reasons the letter was written, but then fight with one another?

They would have had correct theology in their mind. They would have been spared from the false teaching of many of their leaders, but if they could not bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances they had against one another, they would be destroyed from within.

That is why it is crucial that we clothe ourselves with these virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. If we do not, we won’t be able to bear with each other. What is the opposite of bearing with each other?  It is either isolating ourselves in hostility from others or attacking others because we cannot bear with them.

In almost all his letters the apostle Paul stressed the need for harmony within the churches to which he wrote. To the Ephesians he wrote, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God for gave you (Ephesians 4:32).

To the Philippians he wrote, Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others above yourselves. Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

And to the Galatians he pointed out, The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  And then he gave this warning: If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15).

I have heard about churches, sound in doctrine, blessed by God in many ways, where little things caused division in the church. In one church it was the color of the new carpet. Many of the people liked the new color, but the ones who didn’t could not bear with the others and left the church. I read about a similar division in a church over the color of the grills on the overhead speakers.

We might shake our heads and ask, “How can that be?”  But it is those little things that the devil loves to stir up. It’s the “whatever grievances” (v. 13)grievances that may be very small, like a sharp pebble in your shoe, that often bring division among God’s people. Little grievances lead to big divisions when God’s people do not put these verses into practice in their lives.

Forgiven and Forgiving

Verse 13 goes on to teach us that the way we bear with each other and forgive each other “whatever grievances” we have against them, is to remember how the Lord has forgiven us. Verse 13 concludes by saying, Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

How many grievances has the Lord forgiven you for? How many times has the Lord forgiven me for grievances that I have caused Him? And our grievances are not little things, it is not as though He is grieved over the color of the carpet that we chose. No, He is grieved at our sin, and all of us have sinned against Him more times than we could ever count.

It is, in fact, your sins and mine that caused Jesus to be crucified on the cross of Calvary. It is your sins and mine that have grieved the Holy Spirit deeply, as we have often sinned willfully and deliberately, knowing full well that we are transgressing God’s law. The sins of humanity are so great that in Genesis 6 it describes how God, in a manner of speaking, was grieved that He had even created mankind. Genesis 6:6 describes how as the Lord looked at the wickedness of humanity “His heart was filled with pain.”

Our repetitive sins are likened in Scripture to a dog returning to its vomit. The sins that we repeatedly commit are likened to a hog wallowing again in its slime. Our sin is likened in Scripture to a very deep dark pit. And it is into that pit, into the revulsion of our sin, that God, through Christ, redeemed us and forgave us.

If we thought about how God has forgiven us so much, would we be quicker to clothe ourselves with the virtues listed in verse 12? If we thought about how much God has forgiven us would we be quicker to bear with others and to forgive whatever grievances we may have against another person, forgiving them as the Lord has forgiven us? That is what this passage calls us to do.

Love Binds Together

Third, in verse 14 we are told to put on love, which binds all Christian virtues together. Love is the supreme virtue. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

Love is the bond that holds all the other virtues together. Where does compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience come from? It comes from love, not just any love but the love of Christ within us. Because of God’s grace, because God chose us, because He is in the process of sanctifying us, because He dearly loves us, we are to love each other with that same love.

1 John 4:19 teaches us that we love because He first loved us. It is only by God’s grace that we know what true biblical – “agape” – love is. But even though it is given us by the sovereign work of God, we are responsible to put that love of God into action in our lives. 1 John 4:11: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


It was a long time before I finally tried on the clothes that were in the bag that my son-in-law had dropped off. The clothes, which I now value very much, sat like a bag of garbage, first downstairs and then upstairs.

But it’s the same way for the spiritual clothes described in these verses. The gospel is proclaimed to people around the world every day, but a lot of people never respond, and many of them treat the gospel like garbage. And what is true in the world is also true, to some degree, in the church. We know how we are to clothe ourselves, but do we truly put these verses into action?

On the one hand we know that God is sovereign, and we are very thankful that it is by His sovereign grace that we are saved. But the Bible never separates our human responsibility from the sovereignty of God. It is God who begins the good work in us, and it is God who carries that work to completion. But that doesn’t mean that we are passive in the work of sanctification. As Philippians 2:12-13 puts it, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.

We have to actively put on Christ in the words of Romans 13:14. And we have to actively clothe ourselves with the virtues listed here in Colossians 3:12: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, binding them together with a Christ-like love.

By doing so we will be able to bear with each other, to forgive each other, and to bind all the virtues together with the love of Christ – for God’s glory, for the good of His church, and for our own growth in grace and sanctification! Amen.


sermon outline:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe
yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and
patience. - Colossians 3:12
                            “The Christian’s Wardrobe”
                                      Colossians 3:12-14
I.  There is a threefold motivation for being attired with “a Christian
     wardrobe.”   We are (12a):
      1) God’s chosen people
      2) Holy
      3) Dearly loved
II. Therefore we are to “clothe” ourselves with compassion, kindness,
     humility, gentleness and patience (12b) as we:
     1) Bear with each other (13a)
     2) Forgive others as we have been forgiven (13b; Ephesians 4:32)
     3) Develop a Christ-like love which binds all Christian virtues
          together (14; 1 Cor. 13:1-3)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Ted Gray

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