The Bond of Perfection
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
1. In chapter three, Paul reminds us that we have been raised with Christ and are seated with Him at the right hand of the Father. (vs.1)
2. This glorious privilege carries with it certain responsibilities. (vs.2) We are thus to set our affection on things above… not on earthly things.
3. Our former earthly life is over and our new life is hidden with Christ in God. (vs. 3)
4. We are now commanded to PUT ON LOVE.
5. This is the context in which the command is given: saints who are indwelt by Christ… whose position is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father… reminded of our death to the world system and our new position in Christ… are now commanded to LIVE in such a way that manifests the indwelling life of Christ…
6. It is HIS mercy, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, and love that are to be manifested to others THROUGH our mortal bodies.
7. This is a supernatural work of God in our midst. This is HOW the Body of Christ functions. This is true Christianity: Christ IN you. And this is our witness to the world.
8. Above all these things, put on love!
AND ABOVE ALL THESE
A. And Above All These Things
a. This term links verse 14 with what has been previously discussed.
b. Paul had been using figurative language to describe appropriate behavior for a new creature in Christ.
c. In this figure of speech Paul linked the character of the old man and the new man to articles of clothing.
d. Because the old man is dead, we are to mortify our earthly members and PUT OFF the sins of the flesh (vs. 5-9)… like you put off dirty clothes.
e. Because we are a new man in Christ, we are to PUT ON new clothing FITTING for such a glorious position.
f. Therefore, we are also to PUT ON Christlike virtues, such as mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, and forgiveness. (vs. 10-13)
g. After speaking about putting off the dirty old clothing and putting on the new clean clothing, Paul says, AND… don’t forget this last and most important article of clothing: with all things you are putting on, don’t forget to put on love!
2. Above all these things (epi)
a. Epi = above; over; on; on top of; in a position over…
• It can have LOTS of various usages and can have different shades of meaning depending upon the context.
• It CAN mean that love reigns over the other virtues as superior.
• Luke 1:33 – And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever. (Christ rules over… sitting above the house.)
• Acts 8:27 – a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure. (This eunuch had authority over… he ruled over all the wealth of this queen.)
• It often speaks of someone or something that is in a superior position… reigning over someone or something else.
• It is possible that Paul meant that love reigns over all the other virtues listed… which is certainly true!
• The translators are forced to interpret this passage in translating this preposition. Some translations translate in this sense: love is superior to all these things… the other virtues.
• This does have scriptural support.
» Gal. 5:22 – it is listed first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit.
» II Pet. 1:5-7 – it is listed last in the list of virtues, because here Peter is building to a crescendo.
» I Cor. 13 – a whole chapter is dedicated to defining love.
» I Cor. 13:13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Love is listed as the most enduring virtue.
» Matt. 22:36-38 – Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.? 38This is the first and great commandment.
» There is good Scriptural reasoning for understanding “above all these things” as love is the most important virtue.
» Many translators and commentators attribute that meaning to “epi” here.
b. Epi CAN also mean over… on top of… (which is its most natural meaning).
• This seems the best way to understand the term to me, in light of the context in which it is found.
• Paul has been speaking (figuratively) about putting on articles of clothing… Christlike virtue.
• And over or on top of all of those articles of clothing, put on the final piece of clothing: love!
• This final piece of clothing goes over all the other clothing…
• And without this, a Christian is NOT well dressed!
• Now this interpretation does not exclude the idea that love is the most important, but speaks of love as being that outer piece… the final article of clothing one puts on.
• There are articles of clothing we put on that no one sees… (undergarments!) (Meekness before God; a heart of mercy; humility; longsuffering; forbearance; etc.)
• But LOVE ought to be a VISIBLE piece of clothing… an outer garment… the final piece we put on.
• It goes on top of all the other virtues.
• Love isn’t some quiet warm feeling we harbor in our hearts and no one knows about. It ought to be quite visible… it moves into action.
• Not that we demonstrate love FOR SHOW… we don’t do deeds of love to be seen… but if we love someone it ought to SHOW!
• Love involves outward action; not just inward feelings.
THE BOND OF PERFECTNESS
a. Strong’s: that which binds together, a band, bond.
b. Lexicon: a bond of fastening; a union; that which keeps or binds something together…
2. Paul states here that love is BINDING something together… holding something together… fastening together…
a. In a figure, articles of clothing are being put on…
b. Everything in its proper place…
c. We need to think of the kind of clothing Paul had in mind: undergarments, sandals, scarf, and then a loose tunic or an overcoat.
d. But on top of all that… over all that, they would put on a girdle… which was a large sash that held it all together.
e. For most activities the tunic was worn full length.
f. But for work or if they had to run, they would gird up their loins… by pulling it up and binding it in place with the large cloth belt or sash called a girdle.
g. The girdle went OVER their outerwear and bound it all together.
h. The context seems to indicate that Paul was likening the Christlike virtue of LOVE to that final article of clothing… the sash… which held everything else together.
4. Love is comprehensive and multifaceted. It incorporates many other virtues under its umbrella.
a. Rom. 13:9-10 – Love is broad enough to include the whole law! And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The law can be boiled down to love… love God and love your neighbor.
b. Our WALK is to be characterized by love. Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us. (Eph. 5:2)
c. All the Christlike virtues mentioned in Col. 3:14 fall under the broad umbrella of love.
d. There are many virtues mentioned as appropriate clothing for the believer… but LOVE is all encompassing… it includes the whole law… it includes all of the other virtues!
5. Love binds all those other virtues together… to make one unified, coherent whole.
a. Just as the girdle held all the other articles of clothing in place so the person could function (work; walk; run; etc.), love holds all of the other virtues in place so that we can FUNCTION… and serve God acceptably.
b. Consider the usage of the term “bond” in Col. 2:19:
• As the Body holds the Head (Christ), the Body is supernaturally ministered to… from the Head in heaven. (Christ builds and builds up His Body.)
• There are joints and bands (same word) which are nourished, knit together, and INCREASE with the increase of God… supernatural increase.
• Because of spiritual fellowship, members of the body are joined together and BOUND together… drawn closer to each other and thus closer to the Lord.
• Individual members of the Body (of any body!) would be quite useless unless BOUND together… by joints and bands.
• Apart from the binding together, a body would not be able to function… we would just be a pile of individual body parts… not linked together into any cohesive union.
• Binding together of members of the body is essential for the Body to accomplish the will of the Head.
c. In the same sense, Christian virtues need to be BOUND together… there needs to be some cohesive unity and union… for sensible, coherent, balanced behavior.
d. Without love these virtues could even be sinful in God’s sight! (Giving alms to be seen of men; putting up with others, but not for their good; giving goods to the poor)
e. Without love, we will NOT be kind one to another; or show mercy; or put up with one another. Unless we LOVE one another… we won’t forbear and forgive. We will hold grudges and harbor resentment.
f. Love – self sacrifice for the spiritual well being of others is what makes these other virtues VIRTUOUS!
g. Practicing the other virtues IN LOVE adds a divine quality to all of them… selflessness… for God… empowered by God… motivated by the love of God…
h. God IS love… the love of God working in and through a yielded believer is what makes all the other qualities Christlike… adding a divine quality to it… it brings GOD right into the midst of all the other virtues… not just natural temperaments, but GOD is at work…
i. Even faith works by love…
j. Love forbears and suffers long… and is kind. But it also overcomes evil with good! It is extremely powerful!
k. If good deeds are motivated by anything other than love, they are nothing… but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals; nothing but religious jangling; religious hypocrisy.
l. True agape love motivates the believer into demonstrating the other virtues… it moves us to be kind, merciful, forgiving, etc… brings them all together… and unites them in harmony… a unified, cohesive, coherent, whole… for the glory of God.
The state achieved when a goal has been accomplished; completeness; maturity; full-grown.
a. The term in this same form is used only twice in the New Testament: here and Heb. 6:1 – “let us go on to perfection.”
b. Verb form used in John 4:34 – My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
c. Heb. 10:1 – the law and its shadows could NOT make the comers thereto perfect… or mature… full-grown…
d. Phil. 3:12 – Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…
e. Heb. 6:1 challenges us all to “go on to perfection”… as a goal… Christlike maturity… realizing that in this life, we will never fully obtain that goal… there is always MORE…
3. Perfection for the believer.
a. This term does not mean “sinless perfection.”
b. It means: full grown maturity in Christ.
c. It speaks of the GOAL we all strive for… Christlikeness.
d. It speaks of the fruit of the Spirit or Christlike virtues which God seeks to manifest through us…
e. That’s what maturity is: being like Christ.
f. Maturity means a full-grown demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit… a continual, consistent manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit… Christlike virtues…
g. I John 4:12 – As we practice love, as we WALK in love, God’s love is being perfected in us!
• The words “His love” do not refer to our love for Him, nor to His love for us, but to the love which is peculiarly His own, – His nature).
• Supernatural divine love is manifested in and through the yielded believer. It is supernatural…
• And note the word “perfected.” It is possible to have a small amount of divine love manifested through us… in our immature state.
• But it is also possible to have that divine love grow, flourish, and become full-grown… ripe… mature… perfected.
• In this case, practice makes perfect! As we practice love… as we practice doing deeds of love… God’s love is being developed in us… and ultimately, over time, is brought to maturity.
• As we grow and mature in Christ, God’s love will grow and mature IN us… in proportion to our spiritual growth.
• If we love (present tense) one another, God’s love is perfected in us. (Perfect passive. (God’s love stands full grown and fruitful!)
• And note again that the development of God’s love IN us is related to the fact God DWELLS in us. It is a manifestation of HIM in our lives.
• As we mature, and God’s love matures in us, there will be less of self and more of Christ manifested through our mortal bodies.
• One CANNOT be brought to maturity with head knowledge only. It requires experientially putting on the virtues mentioned… especially love!
4. LOVE is what binds all the fruit or virtue together… and results in MATURITY in a local church setting too.
a. Love binds together all the virtues and graces mentioned previously.
b. When all of those virtues are being practiced regularly, love will also bind the members of the body together… in peace and unity.
c. Where there was strife, envy, division, schism, contention, quarrels, there will be peace and unity.
d. Col. 2:2-3 – when hearts of believers are knit together in LOVE… it results in assurance… which results in understanding of truth… of the mystery of Christ in us… and in Him are hidden ALL treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which leads to maturity!
e. With hearts knit together in love, the Body is spiritually healthy… and fit… and able to function as God designed. That results in a mature Body.
f. Gal. 5:22 – love is a fruit of the Spirit. Love is produced by the Spirit in the yielded believer. When a believer walks consistently in the Spirit, spiritual growth and maturity will ALWAYS be the result! Love, the firstfruit of the Spirit is essential for maturity… for the individual and the Body.
5. The mature believer wears these clothes every day!
a. We should not think of these Christlike virtues… (mercy; kindness; humility; meekness; forbearance; forgiveness; and love) these articles of clothing as our “dress clothes” that we wear only to church or a special occasion.
b. We wear our dress clothes only to special occasions because we don’t want to wear them out or ruin them… they fade, wear out, get ripped…
c. Rather, the articles of clothing Paul mentions are dress clothes that we wear every day… everyplace we go… in every situation!
d. They never go out of style… never fade… they never wear out…
e. In fact, the more you wear them, the stronger they become!
f. These are the clothing necessary for a worthy walk.
PUT ON LOVE
1. We are COMMANDED to put on love.
a. Note that the verb is italicized, which means it was not in the original. It was added by the translators.
b. The verb is implied from the context. To put it into sensible English, the verb must be supplied, and the KJV translators did a perfect job, by carrying on the preceding verb.
c. Even though it is implied, not stated, the same verb form applies as well: it is an IMPERATIVE!
2. There are many passages where love is COMMANDED.
a. I John 4:21 – And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
b. John 15:12 – This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
c. I Pet. 1:22 – see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
d. I Cor. 16:14 – Let all your things be done with charity.
3. But there is something NEW about this commandment.
a. John 13:34 – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
b. “New” in this passage does not mean new in time, but new in quality (fresh; not worn out).
c. The command to love one another is not new in time. Old Testament saints were given that command.
d. But the coming of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit gives this commandment a fresh new meaning…
e. It is elevated far above the law! (AS I have loved you!)
• Note the comparison – we are to forgive AS Christ forgave you!)
• Christ is the standard now… the kind of love HE demonstrated…
• The Holy Spirit provides the power to obey… and Christ LIVES IN US…
• His indwelling LIFE is manifested through us… never so clearly as when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
f. This command is new in this way… that it is inspired by LIFE… rather than LAW.
• I John 4:10-11 – it is MOTIVATED by the cross: the greatest manifestation of love the universe has ever seen! And since we are recipients, it is incumbent upon us to SHOW love to others.
• I John 3:14 – it is an EVIDENCE of divine LIFE. It is natural for one who has been born again.
• I John 2:10 – He that loveth his brother abideth in the light. It is evidence of a life lived in the LIGHT.
• Gal. 5:22 – it is the natural outflow of being under the control of the Holy Spirit.
• The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
• I Thess. 4:9 – But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
• God lives IN us… and teaches us HOW to love… He guides us as to when and where we should demonstrate DEEDS of love. This is a NEW kind of love… divine…
• Rom. 5:5 – the love of God shed abroad in our hearts!
• The Bible tells us to love… but it doesn’t give us specifics.
• God who lives IN us, teaches us and guides us through the specifics… in WHAT deeds to do… when and to whom…
• So while love IS a command, it is a NEW KIND of command. It is internal.
• It is not an external code demanding compliance, but internal LIFE… moving us… to limitless heights…
• It shouldn’t be considered a duty… an obligation… as a burden… a yoke around our necks…
• It should be just as natural as breathing for a Spirit filled child of God. That is what makes it NEW!
• It is CHRIST in you… His love flowing through a yielded vessel. It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.
• And the love of God motivates us, compels us, and moves us to do FAR MORE than law ever could!
• It is LIMITLESS! AS Christ loved us!
4. What is the relationship between LOVE and MATURITY (the bond of perfection… maturity)?
a. Calvary is the illustration of love… Christ is our pattern of love…
b. Spiritual maturity is gauged or measured in direct proportion to the depth of selfless, Christlike love that is consistently manifested in our lives.
c. We are to be growing, from glory to glory, into the image of Christ… the closer we get… the more of His love will be manifested through us.
d. We will NEVER fully arrive at that goal in this life… (we will never match the love He demonstrated)… but that is our goal… what we are to STRIVE for…
e. Hence, we are to PUT ON this kind of love…
LOVE AND QUARRELS
1. In context, Paul is speaking about quarrels that arise among believers… and how to handle them.
a. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells the Christian soldier how to dress for battle in conflicts against the enemy. (The armor of God.)
b. In Colossians 3, Paul tells the member of the Body how to dress in handling conflicts among the saints.
c. How do we handle conflicts among the saints? Paul’s answer is simple: DRESS for the occasion!
d. Wear the following articles of clothing: put on mercy, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and on top of it all, LOVE!
e. It’s mighty hard to pick a fight with someone dressed like that!
f. And even if you do pick a fight with such a person, it is virtually impossible to keep it going.
g. Just as the fiery darts of the wicked one will not be able to penetrate the armor (the shield of faith), so no quarrel will be able to undo the believer… not when he’s dressed in the clothes mentioned here!
2. Love incorporates the other virtues mentioned here. The others are sub-points under love… various aspects OF love. Consider some of the articles of clothing:
a. Kindness: Love is kind (I Cor. 13:4)
b. Humbleness of mind: Love is not puffed up (I Cor. 13:4)
c. Longsuffering: Love suffers long (I Cor. 13:4)
d. Forbearance: Love bears all things (I Cor. 13:7)
e. And though not specifically stated in I Cor.13, it is fair to say that love is also behind every act of mercy and every act of forgiveness!
f. Love incorporates all of these virtues and loves BINDS them all together into one unified WHOLE and enables them all to function in their place… as the ligaments in our bodies hold us together that we might walk and function as designed!
3. How can you possibly quarrel with a person dressed like this?
a. Humbleness of mind:
• Solomon wrote: Only by pride cometh contention. Pride in one form or another is behind every quarrel. (Me first! I want MY way! I’m not budging! I’m right!)
• But when we put on love which incorporates humbleness of mind (the opposite of pride), we remove the essence of every conflict and contention!
b. Longsuffering: (long fused; not easily provoked; not rash; not soon angry).
• Solomon also wrote: An angry man stirreth up strife.
• Without anger you don’t have much of a quarrel! Anger seems to be the fuel of controversy.
• Short fuses blow up easily… quickly… and the longer a quarrel goes on, the shorter our fuses become… and things spiral downward very rapidly.
• But a man who is longsuffering (long fused—not easily provoked—not soon angry) is not going to be dragged into a quarrel very easily.
• Love suffers long; it is longsuffering.
• When cruel words are thrown at this person like fiery darts, instead of blowing up, he responds with a soft answer which turns away wrath… and defuses the argument.
• Put on longsuffering (an aspect of love) and that quarrel will struggle to survive! It will be gasping for air… will sputter a bit, and then finally pass out!
• Love bears all things… which means ALL things!
• Love puts up with a lot…
• The flesh which is self centered by nature won’t put up with much, but the love of God in us will!
• Love endures all things… hopes all things… believeth all things… endureth all things!
• Love enables us to put up with all kinds of mistreatment… cruelty… and to ENDURE through it all!
• Love BEARS UP under all kinds of pressure… and it keeps on going… it endures… it perseveres… it doesn’t throw in the towel… love is not a cowardly quitter… but perseveres with supernatural strength… it is strong in the LORD!
• When quarrels arise in a local church, some people end the controversy by leaving the church.
• When quarrels arise in a marriage, many folks end the controversy by getting divorced.
• When quarrels arise at work, many folks end the quarrels by quitting.
• We have such a shallow concept of commitment to anything but self.
• When the love of God is binding these virtues together into a unified WHOLE, we will bear with quarrels God’s way: by sticking it out… by being faithful… by dressing for the occasion!
• Love bears all things. ALL things.
d. And on top of that, love is kind… merciful… does not retaliate… turns the other cheek… when reviled, it reviles not again…
e. It is mighty hard to keep a quarrel going when a person is dressed like that.
f. Quarrels and arguments are not won by getting in the last jab… or winning the verbal debate.
g. Quarrels are won by manifesting the love of God…
h. Putting yourself ABOVE the fray, in fact FAR above… by reminding ourselves that we DIED to the old way of life and are ALIVE unto God… a new selfless life hidden with Christ in God… far above the fray of this old world… and itching for opportunities to manifest the LOVE of Christ.
i. Those opportunities arise daily.
j. Quarrels arise far too often. And they are usually precipitated by sin.
k. But rather than allowing them to destroy us… to destroy our marriage… our home… our family… our church… our lives… put on love… and use those quarrels as an occasion to manifest Christ… His character… and especially, His LOVE.
l. Love is strong enough to defuse ANY quarrel… no matter how longstanding… how bitter… how deep… or how cruel.
m. It is able to do so because it is GOD’S love in us…
n. Eph. 3:18-19 – Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers might comprehend the love of Christ that passes knowledge… It is inexhaustible… limitless… boundless…
o. We know it and learn it experientially when we put it into practice… in real life situations… like quarrels!