Colossians 3:1-25 - Outline of Colossians (Book Notes menu page)
1. If ye then be risen with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear,
then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
If {ie., since} ye... be risen with Christ... then {therefore}...
Paul is not questioning the salvation or spiritual status of his readers. He is admonishing them to live according to the reality of their union with Christ (Col 2:10-13; Eph 2:5,6). {in order to find} those things which are above... (Php 3:12)
...where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (Rom 8:34; Mat 22:44; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3,13)
...set your affection {GK=phroneo, mind} on things above, not on things on the earth.
The believer's mind is to be filled with, and centered upon, his Head, who is the Fullness of God.
...not on things on the earth...
In the context of this passage, these earthly things include the philosophies, ordinances and religious rituals, by which men vainly think to gain righteousness (Col 2:8-23). But other types of earthly things can also distract our attention from Christ and from the pursuit of His purposes (eg., earthly resources, Mat 6:31-33; earthly tribulations, Acts 20:22-24).
...for ye are dead, and your life is hid with [the] Christ in God (Gal 2:20).-
When Christ died for our sin, the believer died with Him (Rom 6:1-7). Having died to sin, we have received the righteousness of God, and have peace with God (Rom 5:1; Heb 10:17,18). The former accusations against us have no jurisdiction on a dead man (Col 2:14). Man's futile attempts to raise himself above the deadness of his sinful flesh, are of no use to the living (Col 2:20 - 3:1).
risen with Christ...- Christ was raised by the power of God's Spirit,
likewise, the believer is raised by that same power, enabling him to have victory (2:12,13; Rom 6:8-10; 8:10,11).
your life is hid {GK=krupto, kept secret} with Christ in God...-
Like the mystery hid in ages past (Col 1:26,27) there are aspects, of the believer's life in Christ, which will remain too wonderful for us to comprehend until we join Him in glory. Just as that mystery was secure in God's keeping, until the time of its revealing, the believer's life in Christ is secure (Joh 10:27-30).
...when [the] Christ who is our life (Joh 11:25,26; 17:3; 20:31; Php 1:21; 1Tim 1:16)...
...shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory (Php 3:20,21; 1Joh 3:1,2).
"The argument of the entire passage (Col 2:8-3:4) is: What have ordinances to do with people who died with Christ? and: How can they possibly find a place in the realm into which those are brought who are risen with Christ?" [in quotes, GWms]
     The vain philosophies and religious theories and practices, which command the attention of men of this world, have no bearing upon those who are in union with the Christ, who as the Fullness of God, is superior to, and has dominion over, all earthly things. Our hope (confident expectation, Col 1:3-5) is to be with Him in His glory.
     If our minds are truly set upon Him... we will become "rooted and built up" in the knowledge of Him, rather than being led astray by "enticing words," such as those of which Paul warned us in 2:4-23.
     If our lives are hid with Christ in God... we will show forth His characteristics, rather than those of the world (Col 3:5- 4:6).
5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;
fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence,
and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8. But now ye also put off all these;
anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new [man],
which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,
Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free:
but Christ [is] all, and in all.
As with Paul's other epistles, the first portion of this letter presents doctrinal truth,
while the last part makes practical application of that truth to the believer's manner of life. The passage before us (Col 3:5 - 4:6) is strikingly similar to, but somewhat less detailed than Eph 4:17 - 6:9.
Mortify {GK=nekroo, put to death}, therefore, your members which are upon the earth...
In Christ, the believer's sinful nature has been put to death (v.3). Yet, while we are in the flesh, we are still troubled by the fleshly tendencies of the old nature. Therefore, counting on what Christ has done, we are to actively treat those tendencies as dead, putting them away (in 3:8, 'put off' is GK=apotithemi, lay aside). The root word {GK=tithemi, place, lay} is sometimes used of burial (eg., Mark 6:29; 15:47; 16:6; Joh 11:34; 19:41,42; 20:2,13,15), and sometimes of laying aside a garment (eg., Joh 13:4).
     In Ephesians, which emphasizes the condition and unity of the body of Christ, we are told to "put off" the old man which was dead in trespasses and sins, and to "put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph 4:22-24). The old fleshly nature was dead in trespasses and sins. Christ has raised believers up out of that deadness, to be joined to Him. Therefore, the members of His body are to live according to the new nature received at the new birth, and to grow into the likeness of Christ.
     In Colossians, where the emphasis is on our union with Christ, the Head of the body, we are told to "mortify" and "put off" the fleshly elements (characteristics) to which we have become dead, by means of our union with Christ, in His death (to sin) and in His resurrection, to life in fellowship with God.
     Thus, my fleshy members (character traits) are to be considered dead for two reasons: (a) they were, by nature, corrupt; and (b) in Christ, my old nature is dead and buried.
     Therefore, the old characteristics, like any other dead thing, must be laid aside.
Characteristics of fleshly deadness (v.5)
   (cp. Rom 1:29-32; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-8; These lists are not exhaustive.)
  • fornication {GK=porneia, illicit sexual activity}
  • uncleanness {GK=akatharsia, moral defilement} Rom 1:24
  • inordinate affection {GK=pathos, passion, passionate desire (beyond that which is proper)}
  • evil concupiscence {GK=epithumia, burning desire (for that which is forbidden)}
  • covetousness {GK=pleonixia, greedy desire to have more} which is idolatry (because it is the worship of that which is not God)
for which things sake, the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience...
in which ye also walked some time {previously}, when ye lived in them (v.5-7)...-
These sins in which we once indulged, are obviously worthy of judgment, coming under both the present (eg., Rom 1:26-27) and future (eg., Rom 2:12,16; 2Tim 4:1) judgments of God. But God has shown mercy to us, for Christ's sake (1Cor 6:9-11; Eph 2:1-5; Titus 3:3-7).
but now ye also put off all these...
Paul lists additional characteristics of fleshly deadness, which the world considers less serious, and more socially acceptable, but which are not compatible with the life of Christ within the believer (v.8,9)...
  • anger {GK=orge, smoldering desire for vengeance}
  • wrath {GK=thumos, hot or sudden indignation, rage}
  • malice {GK=kakia, evil, malignity} - the desire to cause harm
  • blasphemy {GK=blasphemia, injurious speech} - slander against God or man (Eph 4:31,32)
  • filthy communication {GK=aischrologia, vile or obscene speech} (Eph 4:29)
  • lying {GK=pseudomai, speaking to deceive with deliberate falsehoods}
ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man
which is renewed... after the image of Him that created 'him' {ie., the new man}. (v.9,10)...-
The new nature is continually being made new within the believer (as indicated by the GK tense of "is renewed"), not by his own efforts, but by the working of "Him that created" that new nature, and for the purpose of bringing the believer into conformity with His likeness. The word "image" {GK=eikon} is applied to Christ's perfect likeness with the Father, in Col 1:15.
which is renewed in knowledge {GK=epignosis, full knowledge}...-
This renewing occurs as the believer personally grows in the knowledge of, and in fellowship with, Christ (Php 3:10-14; 2Pet 3:18). As we grow to know Him, we become more like Him.
where... Christ is all and in all (v.11; Col 2:10; Eph 1:22,23; Joh 15:5; 17:23)-
Individual believers, who are in personal union with the Head of the Church, find themselves in union with all other believers. The things, which divided us from one another previously, have been laid aside (like all other earthly things) because, together, "our life is hid with Christ in God" (v.3,4).
In Christ there is neither:
  • Jew nor Greek (circumcision or uncircumcision) -
    The barrier between Jew and Gentile is removed (Eph 2:11-18).
  • Barbarian, Scythian...-
    Barbarians were at odds with the civilized Gentile world. Scythians, who were from a region north of the Black Sea (the term 'Caucasian' is rooted in this region), were regarded as savages, even by the barbarians. But as they received the Gospel of Christ, which is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom 1:16), even these were "delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of [God's] dear Son" (Col 1:13,14).
  • Bond nor free... The prisoner and the slave are made free, in Christ. Likewise, the "free man," convicted of his bondage to sin, finds deliverance through Christ (1Cor 7:21,22, Eph 6:5-9).
12. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,
bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13 Forbearing one another,
and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any:
even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.
14 And above all these things [put on] charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts,
to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed,
[do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
put on {GK=enduo, get into, be clothed with, be arrayed}, therefore...-
Having "put on" the new nature (v.10), by which we are set apart from the world unto God as His chosen people, beloved for Christ's sake... believers are to take decisive action to array themselves with the characteristics of that new nature. While, these characteristics are not produced by self-effort, but rather as the fruit of the Spirit, the believer must actively desire them, and must allow the Spirit to do His work within his heart and life (Gal 5:22-26; Eph 4:30-32).
Several characteristics of the 'new man,' are listed in v.12-17 (in stark contrast to those of the old nature, listed in v.5,8)...
  • bowels of mercies {ie., hearts of compassion} (Php 2:1,2)
  • kindness {GK=krestotes, gentleness, goodness}
  • humbleness of mind (lowliness of mind, Php 2:3-5)
  • meekness - Meekness should not be confused with weakness.
    Meekness finds its strength in humble submission to the will of God (Mat 11:29,30).
  • longsuffering {GK=makrothumia, long tempered, ie., slow to wrath} -
  • forbearing one another -
    Both of these terms (above) speak of taking wrong and bearing up under offenses,
    over a long period of time (Rom 12:17-21; 1Pet 2:19-23).
  • forgiving one another - according to Christ's forgiveness toward us...
    which was at great cost to Himself, requiring His death (Mat 26:28).
  • charity {GK=agape}- The kind of love that is willing to bear the cost of forbearing and forgiving, for the sake of the one loved (eg., Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4-6).
Remember, these things can only be produced by the Holy Spirit, who continually renews the yielded heart of a believer.
let the peace of God rule {GK=brabeuo, govern, preside, arbitrate} in your hearts...
This peace is not only personal (within the hearts of individual believers, Php 4:6,7), but also the corporate peace which is able to arbitrate every conflict that may arise within the Church (if we will 'let' that peace rule), in order to preserve the unity of the body of Christ (Eph 2:14; 4:1-3).
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly {ie., abundantly} in all wisdom... (v.16; Joh 15:7)
We need the knowledge of God's Word, and also the 'wisdom' to comprehend and apply His will to our lives, in various circumstances (Col 1:9,10).
     Each believer is responsible for personal Bible study and life application (Psa 119:11; 2Tim 2:15; 3:16,17). But there is also a corporate responsibility, involving the concerted effort of the members of the body to edify one another: "teaching and admonishing one another" (cf. Deu 6:6-9; 11:18-20). 'Admonishing,' which includes reproof and correction, requires wisdom and love (Gal 6:1,2; 2Tim 2:24-26). psalms and hymns and spiritual songs...-
Note that music has an important role in "teaching and admonishing." While the melody, in our hearts, should reflect the joy of our salvation, it is of critical importance that the lyrics, of our songs, richly and accurately convey the substance of God's Word.
whatsoever ye do... all in the name of the Lord Jesus...- 1Cor 10:31
The Head of the body deserves our full attention, in every aspect of our individual lives and also in all of the church's corporate activities, so that He who is 'the Fullness' may fill all in all (v.11; Eph 1:22,23).
     'Everything about us' is to be an expression of "thanksgiving" to the Lord, who has called us to Himself, by His grace {GK=charis, favor}. Note the emphasis on "thanksgiving" in v.15,16 and 17 (in v. 15,17, 'thanksgiving' {GK=eucharistos, lit., good grace}; in v.16, "with grace {GK=charis, grace, gratitude} in your hearts to the Lord"). Our hearts should overflow with gratitude toward Him, because He has abundantly bestowed undeserved favor upon us.
     Thanksgiving, 'for all things,' is a mark of spiritual maturity, upon those who trust the Lord fully (Eph 5:20).
     But, remember, our thanksgiving is not merely to be spoken, but to be expressed in "whatsoever ye do in word or deed." Thus, our every word and action ought to bring glory to our Lord (Col 1:9-13; 1Joh 2:6).
18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands,
as it is fit in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love [your] wives, and be not bitter against them.
20 Children, obey [your] parents in all things:
for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
21 Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger],
lest they be discouraged.
[For a more detailed discussion of the subjects touched in Col 3:18 - 4:1, see the Book Notes on Eph 5:21 - 6:9.]
wives, submit yourselves... as it is fit in the Lord...-
Submission is based upon the order of authority which the Lord has ordained. Husband and wife are equals before Him. Submission does not imply inferiority, but rather expresses obedience to the order established by the Lord (1Cor 11:3). The wife's submission is limited by that which "is fit in the Lord." Can she do what her husband requires "in the name of the Lord Jesus" (v.17; Acts 5:29; Eph 5:3-7)?
husbands, love {GK=agapao} your wives and be not bitter against {ie., toward} them (v.19).
Husbands are to give themselves (with the same costly love by which Christ gave Himself for us) for the benefit of their wives. The Lord gives grace, in those situations where a believing husband is embittered by his wife's attitude toward him. But the primary sense of this verse is that a husband is not to embitter his wife, by treating her harshly (compare v.21; Eph 4:31,32).
children, obey your parents...-
The relationship of husband and wife is based on love and mutual submission. The relationship of child to parents rests upon obedience. The word 'obey' {GK=hupakouo, listen, attend} means 'to do as instructed' (Eph 6:1-3).
fathers, provoke not your children... lest they be discouraged (Eph 6:4).
A father ought to deal with his children lovingly, honestly, consistently and without hypocrisy, lest they become disheartened and turn away from his instruction.
22 Servants, obey in all things [your] masters according to the flesh;
not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
23 And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance:
for ye serve the Lord Christ.
25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done:
and there is no respect of persons.
4:1. Masters, give unto [your] servants that which is just and equal;
knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Servants, obey in all things your masters...
Like children, servants are to 'do as instructed,' by their earthly master. The believing slave is to engage diligently in his work (serving honestly from the heart, not just to make things look good), recognizing that his service represents his true Master, the Lord Christ, who sees beyond what men can observe, and who will reward his servants accordingly (v.17; 2Cor 5:10; 1Cor 7:22).
masters, give unto your servants that which is just {right} and equal {equitable}.
The same true Master will hold earthly masters accountable, without respect of persons (Eph 6:5-9).

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