Overflowing with Peace
R.E.O. White, the British preacher, observed regarding the fullness that these verses command: "The surest sign that you are carrying a full bucket is wet feet." That is true of our experience, is it not? Whenever we attempt to carry a full bucket to clean the floor or wash the car, we always get wet feet! And when our lives are full, they will overflow!
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." - Colossians 3:15
What is this peace like?
I can still remember my first experience of this peace. Though I was not quite a teenager, I knew my sins were separating me from God. I had been under deep conviction for several months, for I had been attending a church where the gospel was clearly preached. I knew that I was on the outside of the mysteries of spiritual life, and I wanted in. Finally one night, in a rustic chapel high in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains, I met Christ. I yet remember the aroma of that room, the cedar and the redwood, the expression of the man who talked with me, and the initial fullness of Christ's peace. It saturated my whole being!
That night after "lights out," I scooted down in my sleeping bag and switched on my flashlight. There I opened the tiny India-paper Bible that my grandmother had given me when I was seven years old and reread the verses that I had underlined in the chapel that night. The peace of God surged over me again and again. I was at peace with God and the world!
"The peace of Christ" (v. 15) is different from any other kind. In the brief hours before he died, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27). He gives us a special peace that he calls "my peace." He gives us his own personal peace. It is not just the peace we experience when there is no conflict. It is a sense of wholeness and well-being, completeness and totality. But it is even more–it is the presence of Christ. His peace and his presence are marvelously associated in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures (see, for example, Numbers 6:24–26). It was his presence that was with me in the chapel in my grubby sleeping bag! It is this experience of peace–the cessation of hostility with God, the sense of well-being, and the sense of his presence–that has marked my life.
Our actions must say that Jesus is and does exactly what he claims.
What are we to do with this peace? "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." What does this mean? F.F. Bruce, the New Testament scholar to whom we owe so much, says "rule" carried the idea of "arbitrate." In many extra-Biblical sources, the Greek word used here referred to the function of one who took it on himself to decide what is right in a contest. The sense here is, "Let the peace of Christ be umpire in your heart amidst the conflicts of life. Let it decide what is right. Let it be your counselor."
Overflowing with Thanksgiving
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - Colossians 3:17
Few exhortations in Scripture are more comprehensive than this one. "Word or deed" takes in everything in life. "Deeds" can be preaching, teaching, eating, exercising, driving, cleaning house, shopping, visiting, working, playing (basketball, soccer, tennis, fishing, even watching)–everything! Our words are everything that passes our lips, even in unguarded moments. Everything we say or do is to be done "in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Our actions must say that Jesus is and does exactly what he claims! Just a few seconds of sin can disgrace the greatest of names. The Hebrew name Judah means "praise"; the New Testament equivalent is Judas. When our lives are full of Christ, praise to his name in word and deed floods our paths, bringing refreshment to all. What a responsibility is ours!
The fullness of Christ comes from an overflow of his peace, and it is also seen in our thankfulness. Verse 15 ends with "And be thankful." Verse 16 concludes with, "thankfulness in your hearts to God." Verse 17 says, "giving thanks to God the Father through him."
The most direct of these exhortations to thankfulness is in verse 15, "And be thankful." Literally it says, "become thankful," because we are to keep on striving for a deeper gratitude than we have yet attained. The word for "thankful" is the word eucharesteo, from which we get the English word Eucharist, another word for the Lord's Supper–a time for giving thanks.
When the buckets we carry are full of Christ, our lives are bathed with the peace of God in thanksgiving. Full pails cannot help but overflow. May each day result in deep thanksgiving.
This article is adapted from Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and The Supremacy of Christ by R. Kent Hughes, part of the Preaching the Word commentary series.