Gospel clothing - Colossians 3:12-17

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 17th July 2022.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

An audio recording of this sermon is available.

Click here to download and save for future listening

Colossians 3 v 12-17 “Gospel Clothing”


(Slide 1) Is there anything more frustrating in this life than being told by someone in authority to do something which you simply do not have the power or the ability to do? Teachers get this all the time; “Make sure that student gets a level 4 or 5 in their Maths exam” – “That student can’t even count to 10 yet, there is absolutely nothing I will be able to do to get them passing GCSE Maths.” Being told to do something that is impossible is very demoralising indeed. One of the blessings Joey and I are experiencing as our kids get older is the easing of the morning routine – we can now tell our kids to get dressed and they can walk upstairs, get their clothes out of the right places and put them on. This was not always the case – there was a time when it was both unfair to Isaac and just stupid in general to tell him to put his clothes on – he couldn’t possibly have managed it (out of reach!).


(Slide 2) Paul starts today by not just telling God’s people to get dressed, but instructing them to put on some of the most amazing and wonderful clothes in existence. And here is the brilliant truth that should transform our attitude to these teachings – Paul is not telling us to do something impossible. Paul is telling us to do something vital that every single Christian IS ABLE to do, that whole church families are able to do together. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves …”

It is so important at the beginning of this sermon for us to see this clearly – the commands that Paul gives us in these verses, whilst utterly out of reach for unbelievers, are realistic, achievable and necessary for anyone who has already been made holy by God. Since we have already been chosen, loved, and made holy by God in Christ, we can PUT ON the new clothes God has for us to wear and the result of this is something very beautiful in the church family.  


        1) The clothes of love (v12-14)


(Slide 3) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” What a delightful contrast that list is from the lists we looked at last week, the sins we are to put to death from our lives, the old clothes that we are to take off and be done with. Another minister made the comment on these verses that if there was a town filled with people living out verses 12-14 and another town next to it living out the lists in verses 5 and 8 there would be no contest as to where you would want to live. The town marked out by verses 12-14 would be packed full. In fact, living in that town would be a taste of living in an urban Eden – living as God’s chosen people, in his image, without sin.

(Slide 4) When a fashion brand brings out a new range they give it a name; the name of Jesus’ new range that he always wears and that we are to wear is, “Love.” Christians are new people, with new life who are done with the old range of “Hate” that is so fashionable. They are chosen, loved and holy and so when a person has Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour every single part of their life is to be saturated with holiness and love – they don’t just wear love on the outside and keep their old comfortable grotty disgusting clothes on underneath, instead, every single garment is new, every single garment matches up to love; they all add up to make clothes that are fit for the day when we appear with Christ in glory.

What exactly are we to put on (not wait to magically feel, but deliberately clothe ourselves with)? The list is there; “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness.” As we work through these beautiful clothes we will see that they are Jesus’ clothes, that it is his work in our life that make them our clothes, and that we need all of them!

(Slide 5) Compassion is a very strong word – it has been translated as “bowels of mercy.” We are to look at the people around us and be deeply moved by the predicament that sin in this world has put them in; their trials and difficulties, their struggles and sadness, the chains of sin that cause so much damage. Rather than looking at people with hearts full of judgement we are to see them with post-Genesis 3 eyes – we are to understand the misery that sin and death brings. We are to look at sinful people the way we would look at a newborn baby abandoned on the side of the road – “I must help”.

This is exactly how Jesus looked at people, even people who hated him and wanted him dead (Luke 13v34 “Jerusalem Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…”) This is exactly how Jesus looked at you and me when he stayed on that terrible cross to the bitter end. If you and I put on compassion then we will look at the people in our lives (both Christian and non-Christian) very differently indeed, it will be a look that causes us to stoop down to help lift others up.


(Slide 6) Kindness means we give this help at a cost to ourselves without needing payback. So we don’t give this help in a begrudging way, a patronising way, a “holier-than-thou” way that pays us back by making us feel superior. Kindness means we don’t need people to be really appreciative so that we get our payback in thankfulness. Kindness means we meet the need because it is there and because that is the character of our God. In Luke 17 Jesus healed 10 men who had leprosy, who shouted to him “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” 9 of them never returned any gratitude or praise to God, but they were cleansed all the same. Think of the hardest people you have to deal with in your life – how will putting on Jesus-type kindness change how you relate to them this week?


(Slide 7) Where compassion causes us to stoop down to help, and kindness sets the rules for how we help, humility allows us to go as low as is needed to give this help.

In our Home Group this week I listened to a conversation between 2 people with experience in the NHS talking about walking into the ward, putting your apron on and dealing with all the horrible stuff associated with illness and infirmity. Stuff that might normally make you feel sick yourself, stuff that many people feel they are definitely too important to deal with. Putting on humility will allow us to get involved with people in their struggles rather than ignoring them and hoping someone else does it. As you walk into church on a Sunday morning, get that apron of humility on and get ready to be involved in one another’s lives in a real way. Is that a challenge to you? In Philippians Paul puts it like this;

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness. And having been found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

Let’s be honest though – stooping down really low out of love for others in compassion, kindness and humility is incredibly difficult (actually, without the Spirit of Christ living in us, it is impossible). But even with God at work in Christians, even with the new life he gives to those who come to him in repentance and faith, this way of relating to other people will bring huge challenges into our lives.

(Slide 8) Let’s think about that abandoned baby on the side of the road again. The moment you pick that baby up, your life is going to change. Showing compassion and kindness and humility to get involved in this helpless and demanding little person’s life is going to cause you massive problems. (Slide 9) It is no different if you are going to live properly as part of God’s chosen people, the church. Being involved in other people’s lives, showing compassion and kindness and humility to bear one another’s burdens is going to make life far tougher in many ways (people’s sin, anxiety, financial problems, relationship breakdowns, mental health issues, mourning etc). That is why there are other clothes to put on, called Gentleness, Patience and Forgiveness.

Gentleness means using your strength to protect and prosper others in their weakness. This is utterly counter-cultural – we normally boast about how strong we are and use that strength to get the best life for ourselves. Patience will mean being tested and tried by the behaviour and attitude of others again and again and again in the same area and still managing to persevere, still managing to love and support and care for even those who are hurting you. Forgiveness is at the very centre of Christianity because without forgiveness there simply cannot be any lasting relationships in a world broken by sin. If you get properly involved in the lives of the people sitting around you then you are going to have to forgive them at times because they will let you down. Without the forgiveness of the cross we couldn’t have any relationship at all with God, but because Jesus died we do!


(Slide 10) CC Riverside, for anyone who has the new life Jesus gives, it is possible to put on these clothes BECAUSE they are Jesus’ clothes and he gives them to his followers. Don’t despair and don’t be overwhelmed. These clothes come straight out of Jesus’ wardrobe, he has them for every one of God’s people. His perfect love means that we can live lives of love, the apostle John summarises it like this;

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”


        2) The peace these clothes bring (v15-17)


(Slide 11) What a challenge so far. But what a privilege this leads to. As we finish, let’s think back to that town filled with people wearing these clothes of love, these Jesus-clothes. It would be an amazing place to live wouldn’t it? Think of when someone has treated you with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness. A place where everyone lived this way would be incredible. That is exactly what CC Riverside is to more and more look like, v15; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace.”



(Slide 12) As this local church sits under God’s word, as the Holy Spirit works in us and among us, as we seek to obey by taking off our old filthy hateful clothes and instead put on these amazing love-soaked clothes, we will more and more be able to delight in the peace of having a church family that looks like their Saviour. A church family which you can gather with on a Sunday morning and sigh with relief and thankfulness that you are there, among people who love God and love one another. Quite often, going to church can be a really big barrier for people, who somehow think they have to pass an exam on Sunday mornings so that people still think well of them. A church full of people dressed in Jesus’ clothes will be a place you can bring your sin and failures to because there will be people there who will jump down into the gutter with you and lift you back up to Jesus.  

As we put on these clothes then more and more this church family will be filled with God’s peace, as people come in the doors they will come to a taste of the new creation because of all the new creatures that are there. Of course we will be thankful people because of the privilege and delight this brings. This is happening already here as God works in us. How then can we ensure it keeps happening, and that it grows and grows? Verse 16; “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly.” God’s word is at the very centre of any healthy church, of any church with any real spiritual life in it. Yes the preached and proclaimed word from the front is vital, but Paul says here that we are to allow the word to dwell richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

The more consumed you personally are with God’s word, the more you sit under it and obey it, the more you love God’s commands and memorise them and meditate on them, the more at peace this church family will be. The more we share what we have been learning about God with one another, the more we corporately feast on his word, the more thankful this church family will be. Think hard on that when you are deciding between time in God’s word and time in front of the TV – you can be of such benefit to others in this church family by soaking more and more in God’s life-giving word.


I really love the contrast in these verses between the active “Put on” and the passive “Let the.” It really helps us to see things clearly. Christians are to put real effort into their walk with God, we are to be serious about obedience and deliberate about trying to change. And yet, the power to do any of this all comes from Jesus. We are to do the right things but ultimately we are to rest in his having done all the right things. Yes, PUT ON  Jesus’ new clothes of love and treat one another in a new amazing way. But “Let the” peace of Christ and the message of Christ rule in our own lives and in our church. Letting his peace rule and letting his word dwell richly will make us into a singing praising worshipping church family. A church family where thankfulness and gratitude keeps our hearts soft and our hope intact until the day that Christ appears and we appear with him in glory!

Colossians 3 v 12-16 “Gospel Clothing”


Intro: Our new clothes are not out of reach



         1) The clothes of love (v12-14)


A choice of 2 towns to live in



Jesus’ fashion range called “Love”;


  • Compassion




  • Kindness




  • Humility




  • Gentleness



  • Patience



  • Forgiveness


“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 Jn 3 v 16)


         2) The peace these clothes bring (v15-16)


Let the;

  • Peace of Christ



  • Message of Christ


How consumed are you with God’s word?



Conclusion: “Put on” and “Let the”



Colossians 3 v 12-16 “Gospel Clothing” Home Group Questions


1) Read verses 12-14. Think of the most difficult people and situations you have to deal with and talk through how putting on each of these pieces of clothes will affect that relationship.   


2) How does the fact that we already belong to God help us to bear the cost of relating to others in this sacrificial way?


3) Read verses 15-16. In CC Riverside, can you see us letting the peace of Christ rule and letting the message of Christ dwell richly? How can you personally help to make this happen more?


Copyright information: The sermon texts are copyright and are available for personal use only. Sermon media provided by Christ Church Network. If you wish to use them in other ways, please contact us for permission.