“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” Colossians 3:12 (ESV)
The Scriptures set forth a threefold perspective regarding the doctrine of salvation. Salvation is the gracious work of and by God wherein He delivers the sinner from their sin. This deliverance is not only first from the penalty of sin, which is Hell, but also from the eventual presence of sin, which is Heaven. In between these two opposite extremes is a third perspective of salvation. This is God’s deliverance of the sinner from the power of sin during their time here on earth as converted Christians.
This threefold perspective of salvation leads us logically to a threefold perspective concerning the doctrine of holiness. The justified sinner will be completely holy, separate from sin, when they are ushered into the presence of God at the moment of physical death. Prior to their physical death, God commands the believer in Christ to become progressively holy, not only unto the Lord but also unto men (I Peter 1:13-16). This is only possible because the believer in Christ, as testified by today’s text, is positionally holy before the Lord.
The Apostle Paul explained that because the justified sinner has been raised with Christ, they are to seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). Believers are to set their minds on the things of God (Colossians 3:2-4).
This involves a radical departure from one’s old, sinful life and lifestyle (Colossians 3:5-11). At the same time, believers are also to fulfill the obligation of daily taking on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Colossians 3:12-4:6). How is this possible?
The believer in Christ is able to not only depart from their old sinful lifestyle but to also fulfill the obligation of mirroring the character of Christ because of three truths as to their new identity in Christ: Believers in Christ are chosen, holy and beloved before the Lord.
Paul called the Colossian Christians, and by extension all believers in Christ, God’s chosen ones. The word chosen (ἐκλεκτοὶ; eklektoi) means elect. It is from this biblical word that we derive the term “election.” This sovereign election by God of choosing to save sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, is clearly taught in Scripture (John 6:37-65; Romans 9; Ephesians 1:3-5; 2:1-10; Philippian 1:1-6; Titus 1:1).
Believers in Christ are not only God’s chosen ones, but they also are beloved. To be beloved (ἠγαπημένοι; egapemenoi) means to be self-sacrificially loved. God chose to graciously love sinners unto salvation. They are the passive recipients and objects of His active love. This love was radially displayed in the substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on the cross (I John 4:7-11).
Thirdly, believers in Christ are not only God’s chosen ones and beloved, but they are also holy. As with the previous two characteristics, this third one describes what the believer is before God, and in Christ. To be holy (ἅγιοι; hagioi) is to be pure and dedicated unto God. Within this context, to be holy is not a goal to pursue but rather a position the believer occupies.
A parallel passage to what the Apostle Paul is writing to the Colossians is what he wrote to the church at Rome in Romans 3:21-26. “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
The holiness within, and expressed by, the believer in Christ is known as the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is a gracious gift from God to be received by God-given faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to either be positionally, or practically, holy before the Lord.
It is because of these three positional characteristics the believer in Christ possesses, that they can pursue the practical goal of holiness which includes, but not limited to, having compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Holiness must express itself in practical ways in the believer’s life, or there will be no evidence of holiness at all and therefore, no evidence of conversion.
Have you ever considered yourself to be God’s chosen one, holy and beloved? In light of these positional truths of the believer’s identity in Christ, may each of us put into practice what each believer in Christ is in position before God.
Soli deo Gloria!