In Colossians 3, Paul describes spiritual growth in terms of putting off the old man with his deeds 3:8-9), and putting on the new man with his godly virtues (3:12). Our old man is what we were before we became Christians and since we “put him off” at salvation we are now to put off the sinful lifestyle that goes with him. But the Christian life is not just about ceasing to commit sins it is also about developing godly or Christ-like character. As we put off the old man with his deeds we must put on the new man with his virtues.
In Colossians 3:12 Paul listed a number of those Christian virtues that we must put on: tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness and longsuffering. In verse 14, we are directed to put on love. In fact, over all these other virtues we are to put on love which is the bond of perfection. Love is not just another virtue in the long list of virtues we must put on. In fact, it is not listed along with the others but given a prominent place. It is to be put on over the others as a coat or shell is the last layer of clothing we put on before going out on a cold blustery winter day. Paul seems to be saying that love binds the other virtues together in a “bond of perfection.” It is love makes the other virtues complete. For example, we are to put on kindness, but showing kindness to others without being motivated by love is an imperfect or incomplete kindness. It is not only important to show kindness, but to be motivated by the right reason – love!
Let all that you do be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:14).