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Christ All and In All (Col. 3:10-11)

When we come to a passage as glorious as this, we should, first, repent of all hopelessness about our times and about the lost around us. We should not lose heart at the sin remaining in us, for Jesus Christ is more powerful than our sins. We serve the risen Savior who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Even if we apply this more to the coming age than our own, he also said this: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). When the church lies in the doldrums of apathy or when love’s embers are cold and faith is pierced by many arrows of affliction and doubt, we must trust the risen Savior who is raising dead men and women to new life. When we “find that other law in our members,” the principle of sin that hates God and is opposed to all the good we desire to do, again, we must not despair but look to the Savior who is making us new and will perfect what concerns us. When we see the world divided and warring according to the flesh and its divisions of skin color, party affiliations, and bank accounts, we must remember that all are sinners, and that Jesus Christ rules this world by his power. Hear his voice this morning and believe in his name. If you are dead, he will make you alive. If you have lost your first love, he will rekindle it. He walks among the candlesticks. He is here by his Word and Spirit. Receive him; worship him; give him the glory and honor due unto his name.

The New Man Clothed and Renewed (vv. 10-11)

The New Man Is God’s Creation, Not Man’s

We return constantly to union with Christ, for he is our life. The new man or creation is not in our strength – either its beginning in the new birth or its progress in putting off sin. The new creation is God’s work, no less than the first or old creation. It is “God who shined the light out of darkness” then (2 Cor. 4:6), and he shines the light of Christ into our hearts now. This is made explicit by “image of him who created him.” The triune God is the only Creator. We did not help him create us in the beginning, and we do not help him re-create us in Christ. He made all things out of nothing at the beginning, and the new creation is similarly made without any good in us. We were dominated by sin, the “law of sin in our members” (Rom. 7:23-25). This law is a rule of our fallen existence. None can escape its presence, power, and tyranny. It is “enmity” against God (Rom. 8:7) – not simply an enemy of God. Enemies can be reconciled, but enmity can only be destroyed. Sin is the enmity, the disdain and hatred for God and his rule over us, that makes God and the sinner to be at war. And this principle of sin is universal, dominating our mind, will, and affections. Sin is intensive, meaning that it makes its killing, God-hating effects to be felt everywhere in us, in our members or body, in the world, and all our relations. Sin is relentless, destructive, never satisfied, and deceitful. This is the reason Scripture says we cannot know our own hearts – only God who searches the hearts (Jer. 17:9; 1 Chron. 28:9; Rom. 8:27; Rev. 2:23).

It has been wisely said that it was easier for God to create the world out of nothing than for him to make a new man out of a sinner. We cannot say there is a harder or easier in God, for there is nothing too hard for him (Jer. 32:17,27). At the same time, unless we take seriously our domination by sin, we shall not stand in awe of his new creation in Christ. In the believer, there is another law at work, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ” (Rom. 8:2). Sinners are born and live dead in sin and under the rule of sin, but in Jesus Christ, there is another rule. He powerfully breaks the killing reign of sin and erects the life-giving rule of new life in his Spirit. Thus, this new man is all God’s work by the Spirit (John 3:1-8). We do not make ourselves to be alive in Christ any more than we gave ourselves life in our mother’s womb. As we grow in Christ, the putting off the old man of sin (v. 9) and the putting on the new man (v. 10) is equally God’s work. We cannot sanctify ourselves any more than we can justify ourselves. We must draw all our life from Jesus Christ. He is the only Savior from sin, the only sin-killer, the only life that ends the reign of sin and death in us. Let us praise him and walk in his Spirit!

The New Man Is Renewed after God’s Image: Knowledge, Righteousness, Holiness

The triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is the Author of this new life, and so he defines it, tells us what it looks like if we have this new life, and shows us the kind of life to which we are to aspire. This is important to remember, for we live in an idolatrous age of expressive individualism and do-it-yourself religion. Everyone wants to pick and choose his own truth. This is not the gospel of everlasting life through Jesus Christ but the law of sin deceiving and killing men. In Jesus Christ God defines the new man, and he is defined primarily by knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Eph. 4:24). He begins with knowledge, for whenever we are brought to new life in Christ, the mind is renewed so that it can receive God’s truth. Remember that “the carnal mind is enmity” against God (Rom. 8:2). It hates God’s word, cannot understand it, and will not yield to it. It matters not how careful the presentation is, or how much care is taken not to offend the sinner’s sensitivities. No unbeliever has the capacity to understand and receive God’s word or to know God. The unbelieving mind hates God’s word and will not come to the light. The law of sin in the mind is aimed primarily at shielding itself from the light of God’s truth.

The sinful mind is delivered from darkness by the power of God and by being remade to know God. The Spirit has to shine in the darkness to give the light of the knowledge of God. This knowledge is both knowledge about God, the ability to know God, and the new joy of knowing God. Sin extinguishes the knowledge of God that all men have by virtue of having been made in God’s image. That original light is little more than the smallest flicker and cannot lead to a knowledge of the truth. God has to reveal himself to the sinner, for it “is in his light that we see light” (Ps. 36:9). It is by God revealing himself to the sinner and revealing Christ to him (Gal. 1:16) that we are brought into the light (2 Cor. 4:6). As he is writing to Christians, the process of putting off the old man and putting on the new is also unto knowing God. God has revealed himself in his word. The more we abide in his word, the better we shall know him. And knowing him in his glory, his perfections, his holiness, transcendence, self-sufficiency, and majesty, we are transformed (2 Cor. 4:18). His image is renewed in us. What our sin shattered, God’s glory renews. One of the most important things we can do to gain strength and diligence in putting off sin and putting on holiness is to know God better (2 Pet. 2:18). If our minds are filled with our own silly and worldly thoughts, or even intelligent thoughts but without reference to God in Christ, we cannot possibly experience much renewal in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. It is in knowing who God is and what he has done for us in Christ that we have eternal life (John 17:3).

Consider how knowing God as the sovereign God who “works all things according to the counsel of his own will” renews us (Eph. 1:11). He made and governs everything. There is not an autonomous atom anywhere in the universe. He rules everything so immediately by his power that all things exist in him and only at his pleasure. And, therefore, the free, unconstrained choices of men are so ordained and governed by him that he uses them to accomplish his holy, wise purposes. Our lives, also, however circumstantially blessed or troubled, how much leash is seems wicked men have at a given moment of history, are all governed by him. What peace this gives to the one who knows God as sovereign. Would you be freed from the old man of anxiety and put on the new man of trusting confidence? Know God as sovereign. Nothing that is happening is outside his counsel but part of his counsel, the outworking of his purposes. Our lives are actually significant and dripping with purpose because we know that our existence was ordained by the Lord, and our redemption in Christ, for he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This is one ray of the glory that is God and permeates all he is and does. Knowing he is sovereign breaks the fear of man, quenches vengeance and violence, and strongly motivates us to make sure our ways please him, for he has made us for himself. We are his.

God is also holy. When this knowledge of God dawns in our soul and grows in us, we become strongly motivated to put off sin and put on righteousness. Why should no child of God curse like a worldling? God is our Father. Why should we not slander one another and think “our lips are our own, who can reign over us?” The Son of God is our Savior, and he paid dearly with his holy blood for every proud, grumbling, jealous, and angry word we have ever uttered. When the holiness of God, the holiness of our Savior, and the holiness of the Holy Spirit lose their hold upon our hearts, we think and act and talk like the world. We are not in awe that the sovereign God, who needs nothing, would send his holy and beloved Son to shed his blood for our unholy ways. We are so filthy, and he is so holy. Like Peter, we should always be jumping into the sea and confessing: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). But he would not depart from us. He loved us, as holy as he is and unholy as we are. He died to make us holy before his Father and holy in life by his Spirit. Knowing God as holy transforms our views of sin, whether or not we should work in a certain place, be with certain people, or think in a certain way. God is holy, holy, holy. He is our Father. He calls us to be holy as he is holy.

If we stop at knowing God as sovereign and holy, we might be led into despair. Each of God’s attributes is so wonderful and infinite in itself that we cannot know him aright except as he has revealed himself in his Son. And thus, we are renewed as we know that God is merciful and loving. He extends his mercy to us through his Son. He revealed his great love in not condemning this world but in sending his Son to save the world by his death on the cross. Our renewal demands we know that God is merciful. How did he reveal himself to Moses and all his children in the older covenant? “The Lord, the Lord God, gracious and merciful” (Ex. 34:6-7). His mercy is his pity toward sinners – not a pity that leaves them to their own works to accomplish salvation, but his pity to give life to dead, helpless, and vile sinners. It was loving pity that moved him to help us, to save us, to send his Son, to lay upon him all our sins and punish his Beloved instead of punishing us. We cannot know God’s mercy without being fundamentally altered. He casts our sins into the sea, behind his back, and blots them out by the precious blood of his Son. This is such a basic aspect of knowing God that it is imbedded in almost every call to seek and to show mercy, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to pity one another because we have received pity, to treat one another kindly as God has treated us (Matt. 6:12; 18:33-35; Eph. 4:30-32).

The New Man Conformed to Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29)

The new man has a model – Jesus Christ our Lord! The renewal of God’s image in us is so that we are made like Jesus Christ, especially in his human character and the way he walked when on the earth. This is specifically stated by his commands: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me” (Matt. 11:29). “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). And the beloved disciple wrote on this point: “He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). To say that the new man is remade in conformity to Christ is the plain statement of Scripture (Rom. 8:29). The imitation of Jesus Christ is our daily and delightful duty as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is also a duty wholly beyond our capacity. It is far more than moralism and sentiment. None of us can be conformed to Jesus Christ unless we have been quickened by the Holy Spirit to new life and are being renewed by him. Those who hear his voice and are in union with him begin to look like him, albeit very imperfectly and never completely in this life, and never in such a way that the “flesh does not war against the Spirit.”

And yet, where there is endurance under hardship without complaining, there we see the Christ-likeness of the new man. Where there is humility before God and man, a humility that obeys unto death, seeks nothing for itself, and stands ready to serve at all times, there is the new man being made like Jesus Christ. Where there is courage to stand for God’s truth, the living Word is manifesting his own strength in that soul. Let us therefore, as many as believe upon the name of the Son of God and receive him as the Christ of God and only Deliverer from sin, keep our eyes upon him. Every disciple of Jesus Christ will be consumed with the study of Jesus Christ – and yet, the flesh will fight back against our coming to him and learning of him. He is so bright that the darkness remaining in us is repelled by him. We, even Christians, would prefer to follow man’s versions of manhood and womanhood, man’s models of character and piety, rather than to sit at his feet, have his eyes pierce us to the core of our being, and endure his shaping hand upon us from the inside out. But let us come to him and endure now with tears and warfare what we shall later experience with unspeakable joy, power, and satisfaction.

Christ All and In All (v. 11)

As God created all men of one blood at the beginning, so the new creation is by the blood of one man, Jesus Christ. The human race by creation is essentially one, so in Christ all the old divisions that so eviscerated our unity are nullified. Ethnicity, cultural level, Jew or Gentile – all are one in Christ Jesus. All believers in Jesus Christ are united by “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” (Eph. 4:3). And thus, we must treat one another within the body accordingly – no racial slurs or looking down upon believers in other parts of the body, suspicion toward those from other portions of the human family, and unwillingness to fellowship with all who know and love the Savior. To be more specific, we should be  more at home with a fellow believer of another skin color than one of our kin who is an enemy of Jesus Christ by wicked works. For “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body and have been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). From every tribe and tongue our Savior is building his church, and the “whole family in heaven and earth is named after the one Father” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 3:15).

This is the Holy Spirit’s way of teaching us two things. First, the gospel is for all men and nations. Our vision must be as wide as the world. While we naturally consider those like us first, the new man in Christ is given the Spirit’s eyes to see the kingdom of Jesus Christ more broadly than his own people according to the flesh. As Paul said, “From now on, I know no one after the flesh,” by merely human considerations (2 Cor. 5:16). Second, in the body of Christ, he alone is preeminent. We are all brethren, and when we put on the new man, we are putting on Christ. Therefore, love for him, desire to follow him, and his Spirit unite all who look to him alone for salvation and place no confidence in human works. We must be wary of today’s tribalism, for there is not much of Jesus Christ in it. Where he has his rightful place, believers embrace one another warmly, love all who profess his name, look down upon no believer in Jesus, even the meanest, and are thus most conformed to Jesus Christ. He loved all his sheep and separated from none. He calls us to the same love and unity. He is all and in all.

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