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Elect, Holy and Beloved (Col. 3:12)

God’s Command that We Be Clothed with Godliness (v. 12)

God’s command confronts our fleshly willfulness.

When it comes to Christian living, the first thing we should see is the Lord’s command to “put it on.” We do not like commands, for we are sinners. Even being redeemed by God’s grace, we are slow to obey. What was said of Israel of old is true of us: “From the day that you departed out of the land of Egypt, until you came unto this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord” (Deut. 7:7). It is sobering but necessary to see that we have provoked the Lord time after time by our evil thoughts and sinful actions, from selfishness to pride, worldliness and consumerism. He has redeemed us from the evils of our day, by the precious blood of his Beloved Son, but still we disobey him. Thus, in our self-pampering age especially, we need to see that holiness is a command. This is not so that we are ground down or discouraged, but so that we take seriously our union with Christ and his wonderful grace. He did not die for us to leave us in our sins. He with the Father did not give such a great gift as the Holy Spirit for us to continue in our sins but so that we would be delivered from them and serve him with thankful hearts. When this command seems hard, let us remember that with every one of our Savior’s commands come his promise of grace. If we seek him, we will find him, and he will help us.

God’s command is to bind ourselves with Christ.

Thus, we are commanded to put on the new man and the new life our Lord Jesus has purchased for us. In Romans 13:14, we are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14). Thus, to be holy in heart and life, we must be wrapped in Christ. We must be clothed with him. He must be the shirt we wear, his gospel our shoes, his grace, love, and strength like a coat that protects us from the elements, warms us, and makes us ready for whatever comes. The connection between having Jesus Christ and obedience to him as our loving duty is seen in 2 Timothy 2:19: “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Knowing Christ and being in union with him graciously obliges to holiness. It is not optional that we be holy. “Be you therefore holy, as I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15). As followers of Christ, we do not make up the rules as we go, but we are bound to Jesus Christ in a living union with him. Our relationship with him is based upon sovereign grace, and the Lord’s grace works toward holiness. We must put on Christ, for he is the strength and the model of the new man (v. 10). Christian living is following Jesus Christ as we learn from him and imitating him in his character of love and obedience and consecration to doing his Father’s will. It is taking his yoke upon us.

God’s command bears fruit by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Whenever we hear that godliness is a command and that we must put on mercy and humility and the whole panoply of Christian graces, something in us fights back a little. What do you mean “I must?” No one tells me what to do. Or, what about grace in all this? Since Jesus Christ is the model of the new man, how did he respond to his Father’s commands? “I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is in my heart?” (Ps. 40:8). “I always do those things that please my Father” (John 8:29). “Not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 22:42). “I honor my Father” (John 8:49). “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15,23). As in Deuteronomy, love begets obedience. God’s grace in his Son empowers obedience. Thus, God’s command to put on the new life in Christ comes with the promise of his strength to live as new men and women. Yes, the flesh fights back. The law of sin in our members hates God’s grace, hates Jesus Christ, and hates the command to forgive and love as we have been loved. But the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is stronger than the old man (Rom. 8:2). It is the office of our Savior as Mediator to break the dominion of sin in us so that we can walk in newness of life. Thus, do not cringe at the command to put on the new man of holiness and to live the new life of humility and lowliness of mind. Embrace Jesus Christ. Walk with him, and by his power you will be able to mortify sin and put on godliness. This is because of the grace we receive as we set our affections upon him and seek his strength from the Father’s right hand (3:1-3).

God’s command binds us to obedience.

God’s grace in Christ thus has as its goal to empower our obedience and holiness of life. The reason we seek him and his strength is so that we can love the Lord and obey him. Christ our life has taken away our sin and death so that we can walk in obedience. To believe in the Lord Jesus and to love him binds us to obedience. Commands are binding. This should be obvious, but we make many excuses. The law of sin in our members constantly endeavors to subvert our good desires to obey the Lord. It is especially when we desire to do good that we find the old sin nature trying to drag us down and quench every godly desire. Thus, we need to feel the weight of God’s command. In Christ, the weight does not crush, for we are not under the law’s condemnation (Rom. 8:1; Gal. 5:18). Now, God’s commands, including this one to put on the new man, are mediated through Jesus Christ and empowered by our union with him. Thus, obedience can become our joy as it was our Savior’s. Our failings and sins are forgiven. The old man cannot win, for Jesus Christ has defeated sin and death. We can and must return to our Father often when we fall, and he will help us. We are accepted before him. His love and grace have bound us to the path of obedience. We walk it not in our strength, not fearing hell, but at the same time trembling before his love and mercy. Our Lord said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Love, pure love, gospel love, love for Christ prompted by the understanding and conviction of his love for us, is the strongest motivator of obedience. Love for Christ kills excuse-making, blaming others, and feeling oneself above the rules. It looks upon Christ. He suffered for our rule-breaking and rebellion. His dying love binds us to obedience, even as it binds us to the cross.

God’s Electing Grace Makes Us Holy and Beloved (v. 12)

Election means that God chose us in Christ.

But God’s command goes back much farther than our personal existence. He is the eternal, sovereign God who has made all things. He knows all his works, for he is working all things according to the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:11). We did not randomly appear or evolve by chance. Before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, he knew us, had ordained our existence, and determined to show mercy to his undeserving people. Believers in Jesus Christ are believers because God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He chose us in Christ to be his holy and beloved people and children (Eph. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 4:3). Therefore, we pursue holiness on a different foundation than guilt and fear of punishment, or conformity to man’s standards or pursuing personal merit before God. All our merit is in Christ, by God’s grace, according to his election. The sphere of our existence as Christians is Jesus Christ. The Father views us as forgiven and righteous in his Son. Jesus Christ is our Head who represents us at the throne of grace, our Elder Brother who ushers us in the heavenly Most Holy Place, and our great High Priest who always lives to make intercession for us. Being elect in Christ places our salvation upon an immovable foundation – God’s loving, gracious will to save us in his Son. Thus, election rightly seen in its connection to Jesus Christ does not breed doubt or presumption but amazement, fierce love for such wonderful grace, and thankful obedience. And yet, it empowers our fight against the sins that threaten to overwhelm us at times. We fight as God’s elect and beloved, men and women who are bound to Jesus Christ by faith.

Election means that we are God’s purchased people.

The language of election, love, and obedience is the same as used of old covenant Israel (Deut. 4:37; 7:6-8; 14:2; 26:18-19; Jer. 2:3). Especially in Deuteronomy 7:6-7 we see that the foundations of Israel’s obedience were never “earn your salvation” or “here is a second covenant of works for you to obey.” No, the Lord chose Israel to be his special people not for any worth in them but because he loved them. He loved them, made a covenant with them, and would not break it. He redeemed them (v. 8), and therefore he owns them in love, guards over them with holy jealousy, and calls them to live in thankful obedience. It is the same with us, though much higher, for now Christ the Son of God has come. And he has by his obedience unto death and substitutionary death on the cross purchased us by his blood. We are by God’s grace his holy nation and special people (1 Pet. 2:9). The Lord has chosen us in Christ to be his purchased people. As Christians, we are different. We are not of the world. We have a different relationship to God than the world – love and grace and acceptance, not fear, hatred, and judgment. Our Head is a living, reigning Savior, not a judged, cross-pierced devil. We therefore serve not the flesh and its fleeting pleasures but the living God, “in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).

God has chosen us to be different. We are his purchased people, his prized possession. He looks at us differently than he does the world. He sees us as his blood-purchased, chosen people, not as the children of disobedience and vessels of wrath. He has known us as his people long before we were born (2 Tim. 2:19). This is not because of anything good or worthy in us. We are sinful and deserve his wrath just as much as the world does, but the Lord set his love upon us. He chose us to be his peculiar or special people when he might justly have condemned us as his enemies. Thus, election is never a ground for boasting but for the most wondering, worshipping humility.

Election means we are God’s beloved.

The world, the devil, and the flesh do all they can to make us forget that we belong to the Lord and therefore are the beloved of the Father. We do not often feel “beloved,” but the Lord regards us far more highly than we know. He has made us his beloved? He says of his Son, “This is my beloved Son, and he says the same to us? He is the Beloved by eternal deity and fellowship with the Father, and we are the beloved by adoption. What love and grace is in this little word “beloved!” You may be struggling with horrible sin and feel like you are holding to Christ by a fingernail. If you are looking to him, crying to him, and believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, you are beloved of the Father. Your warfare, however hard, does not nullify his great love for you. Do not fall into this fleshly, consumerist trap – that God loves me only if I get what I want, and life is going wonderfully. No, look at the Beloved, Jesus Christ. None was ever tempted as he was, or sorrowed as he sorrowed, or was as mocked, reviled, and hated, but his Father loved him. It is the same with us, even when we struggle, for we are chosen in Christ. We are loved. Our names are known and celebrated in heaven, at this moment, born up to the throne of God by the beautiful Savior in whom we believe. Do not go through life doubting God’s love. Believe in Jesus Christ. He is the gift of the Father’s great love. We are beloved in the Beloved. Rightly understood, this does not lead to presumption or carelessness, but breeds awe and humility. Embrace his grace in his electing love, and it will transform your self-understanding and your approach to personal, family, and corporate godliness. Imperfect? We are the beloved. Struggling? God chose us in Christ, and we are precious to him. At war with sin? Those whom God loves are at war in this life because they love him and hate sin. Embrace being God’s beloved. Do not doubt his love. See Jesus.

Election makes our standing with God sure.

Unless we believe that we are God’s elect and beloved children, Christian joy and strength will elude us. How can we have joy and peace if we remain uncertain of our standing before God or unsure of his love? How can we be strong against the world and temptation unless we know that we are children of our Father and that he has pledged to be our Helper and Defender? Thus, God’s electing grace making us holy and beloved, is the destroyer of our doubts – as we look away from self and make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10) by believing on the name of Jesus Christ. “As many as were ordained unto eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Jesus Christ is the Father’s Beloved Son, and we are accepted in the beloved by faith in him (Eph. 1:6). Believing in God’s sovereign grace in Christ, we need not scurry around trying to establish our own righteousness or doubt if we shall make to it heaven. Jesus Christ is our Savior. He loves us. We must believe in Him and seek his fellowship. All our joy and strength is in union with him, which was ordained in eternity. The Father is smiling at us because he is smiling at his Son, our Savior. Thus, election does not cast us upon an open sea of doubt but upon God’s love and mercy. We need never doubt these, for we see Jesus, crucified for us, the gift of the Father’s love.

Election means we are set apart to God.

Now, the motivation of the new life we have in Christ is increased as we appreciate that we are “holy.” We are presently by election and redemption holy in Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ we are set apart to God, marked for his service, his redeemed children, his Spirit-sealed people. And as holy, we have the strongest incentive to put off the sins of the flesh and to put on godliness. It is no wonder that many who profess Christ but who live like the world are sad and weak. They are living against their holy status in Christ. When professing believers have other gods and loves before the Lord, how can they be confident that they are God’s beloved children? In such a state, they are divided, and therefore unstable and disturbed. This can be true whether or not we recognize it. If God says, “Be merciful and forgive, as I have forgiven you,” but we hold grudges and slight those who have offended us in some way, we are not living as holy unto God. This is true of our lies and lusts, our covetousness and every other sin. And if we think of the indwelling sin that afflicts us all, the “law of sin in our members,” one way we daily strike a blow against it is to renew our commitment to fight the good fight as God’s holy and beloved children. Our joys now are hard-fought and never complete, for the warfare is not only in the world but in our own hearts. Nevertheless, we belong to the Lord, and he claims us for himself. We are holy. His grace has made this profound difference in our lives. In union with Christ, we can make progress in putting off the sins that afflict us and putting on the godliness that shows we are children of our heavenly Father.

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