In the preceding verses of this chapter the apostle exhorts us to put off the old man with his deeds. The conduct and character of the old man are anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy talk and lies. In these verses we are exhorted as the elect of God, as children of God, to behave as such in thought, word and deed. Put on the new man and his deeds; this is the fruit of the Spirit.
(Vs. 12.) It is not sufficient to cease from outward deeds of evil.
We must also learn to do well and live as new creatures in Christ.
"Put on, as the elect of God." There is an inseparable connection between being God's children and behaving like God's children (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 8:9; 1 John 4:7,8,20). We do well to question our union with Christ where there is no evidence of growth in the grace of Christ, the love of Christ and the fruit of his Spirit.
"Bowels of mercy" an inward pity and tenderness toward the needs, misery and infirmities of others.
"Kindness." Our sympathy toward others should not only be inward, but outward also, expressed in words, conduct and deeds of kindness.
"Humbleness of mind." This arises from a genuine sense of our own sins, infirmities and short-comings, as well as a sense of God's mercy toward us in Christ (1 Cor. 4:7). We look upon ourselves as the chief of sinners, inferior to others in graces, gifts and knowledge.
"Meekness" the opposite of pride and arrogance. It destroys envy, jealousy and quarrels (1 Peter 3:4). A meek and quiet spirit will lead to patience or long-suffering. We don't feel it necessary to avenge ourselves or even to defend ourselves.
(Vs. 13.) As long as we are in the flesh we will have misunderstandings, unpleasantnesses and even injustices (we will feel that our rights have been violated and others have been wrong in what they have said and done). What is to be our attitude? It is to be twofold: "forbearing" and "forgiving". To forbear is to control our emotions, surrendering our rights for the time being in patient hope that God will reveal his purpose and will. To forgive is actually to put the misunderstanding out of mind and restore a state of love and fellowship. This is the way our Lord treats us. He is longsuffering and patient with us, forgiving our sins, remembering them no more!
(Vs. 14.) "Above all things," the most necessary grace is love (Matt. 22:36-40; I Cor. 13:1-3,13). This is the bond which binds everything together in complete harmony for the glory of God and the good of one another. Knowledge, activity, zeal and morality won't bind us to Christ or to one another.
(Vs. 15.) Let the peace which comes through Christ (Rom. 5:1) and the peace which comes from Christ (Rom. 12:18; 14:19; 2 Cor. 13:11,12) actually rule our hearts, deciding and settling all matters that arise in our minds or in the assembly. As members of the body of Christ we were called to live in peace and love (1 Cor. 7:15). Let us be thankful and appreciative, first to God for all grace and then to one another. These virtues are absolutely necessary. Where love, peace and thanksgiving are absent, faith is absent!
(Vs. 16.) We are exhorted to a diligent study of God's Word. This is not for information and doctrine alone, but that God's Word might become such a part of us that it is said to dwell in us as a member of the family lives in a home. It is loved, respected, obeyed and delighted in richly (Ps. 1:1,2) in an abundant fashion. We are not to study just one part of the Scripture, but all of it, that we may benefit and grow in grace (1 Peter 2:1,2). It is not only the duty of the ministers to teach, encourage and instruct others; but it is the duty of all believers to witness, teach and encourage one another in spiritual matters. This can be done in private, in groups and in public worship. It is all to be done as unto the Lord, for the glory of the Lord and from the heart.