Colossians Chapter 3
Col. 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
“Seek those things which are above.” The implication is that when one consecrates, it does not automatically follow that his thoughts are suddenly all heavenly. One must seek and set his mind and affection on the things above (verse 2). The natural tendency, unless we fight it, is to gravitate toward earth, even when we are consecrated. Paul had just told the Colossians to leave worldly philosophies alone. Now they should work to lift their minds above.
The natural tendency is to seek earthly things, such as what we eat, drink, wear, etc., plus pleasure, entertainment, and pagan or worldly philosophies that are not Christ-centered. The commandments and teachings of men are also of earth origin. Notice how frequently in this epistle Paul called attention to the primacy of Christ—over and over again.
Col. 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
“Mind” is a better word, for “affection” limits the application to the emotion. “Set your mind [King James margin] on things above, not on things on the earth.” We are to set our minds, thoughts, purpose, and intent on heavenly things.
Set -- This word indicates continually setting. Keep setting your affections, and if they slip off a thousand times a day, set them back a thousand times, and by and by they will begin to stick to the heavenly things better
Col. 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
In baptism, or consecration, the human will dies and the person becomes alive to God, as expressed and shown in the life and teachings of Christ. But why was verse 3 inserted? In addition to the human will dying, the flesh is reckoned dead. In Colossians 2:23, Paul warned against gratification of the flesh by doing things such as punishing the body to impress others. Now he was showing the radical change to the opposite extreme for the Christian. One’s life is “hid with Christ”; that is, the Christian is dead to certain things but very much alive to, interested in, and dedicated to living hopes, aims, and ambitions in Christ. (Verse 3 harmonizes well with Colossians 2:10-12.) The Colossians were to follow Christ rather than the distracting elements that were troubling the Church.
Col. 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Verse 4 was inserted to show that glory and gratification are future. At present, our “life is hid.” Glory and honor will come when Jesus returns and the Church is with him. For now the flesh is reckoned as dead, and we are to be inconspicuous with regard to our sufferings, generally speaking. (Christian martyrs are the exception.) We do not look for admiration of men in the present life. The Christian’s reward and demonstration of worthiness will be openly manifested in the future, in the Kingdom Age. Now the Little Flock is virtually unknown.
Col. 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
What does the command “Mortify therefore your members” suggest? At first, it might appear to be a contradiction, but it is not. Although the flesh is reckoned dead, there is the danger of immorality, where the flesh is allowed to take the ascendancy. The mortification of the flesh that others were advocating was of an outward kind, having to do with manner of dress, for example, and had nothing to do with morals. Mortification of the flesh for the Christian is not outward flagellation of the flesh or “will-worship” but control of the flesh from the standpoint of its action in society along the lines of character and morals.
“Evil concupiscence” includes the aspect of passion and is the desire for forbidden things or people, such as another’s wife. “Inordinate affection” is strange sexual behavior, that which is unnatural, such as homosexuality or anything inordinate; it is abnormal behavior as opposed to the normal affection of the husband-wife relationship and family affection. Parental and filial affection is normal, but filial affection can become abnormal if it develops into homosexuality or lesbianism. To a large extent, our conscience knows the line dividing the ordinate from the inordinate.
“Covetousness” includes worshipping or idolizing either self or others. Another form of this sin is to desire something that someone else has such as money or a house. Covetousness is setting our affection on something apart from God.
“Idolatry” includes all of these sins: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness.
Col. 3:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
Verse 6 reminds us of the beginning of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. All down through history, God has been very displeased with sin and disobedience, but He has been patient. Thus the permission of evil has continued. Sometimes God’s wrath comes upon an individual, although it may not be recognized as such and is thought of as just a happening. For the most part, however, God’s wrath has been delayed down through the ages.
Col. 3:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Our former conduct is contrasted with the present. Now we live a consecrated life (compare verses 7 and 8).
Col. 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Verse 7 refers back to verse 5. Prior to consecration, we walked in gross sins like fornication, inordinate affection, and covetousness. Verse 8 lists less gross (or abominable), though nonetheless dangerous, sins the new creature is to put off. If practiced, these sins can also keep one from getting life. The gross behavior of verse 5 is more easily recognized, whereas the sins of verse 8 are usually not as apparent, for they are only occasionally manifest. However, all of the sins in verse 8 are dangerous and could be outward manifestations of grosser sins (verse 5) being secretly indulged in. Statements from the mouth are not hidden from the Church. In summary, verse 5 lists deeds of a wrong lifestyle. Verse 8 lists sins of the mouth that seem to be less important but are actually symptomatic of a serious condition.
“Anger” can be either held within or manifested by a look or a word. “Wrath” is an outward expression of anger. It can be accompanied by remarks or physical blows and thus is a more pronounced manifestation of anger. “Malice” is bearing ill will toward someone. “Blasphemy” is slander (see RSV).
Col. 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Col. 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
“Lie not one to another.” Deception and hypocrisy of thought or practice are not to occur with the new creature.
“Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him [God] that created him [the new creature].”
Notice the emphasis on knowledge. We must have the instruction in order to act upon it—and to be more and more sanctified. We are to copy God’s image as manifested in His Son. Jesus is our example, but he is an image of the Father.
How does God “create” us? He begets us with the Holy Spirit as new creatures. The “old man” is the old will, the human will. The “new man” is the new creature, the new mind.
We are to pattern our life after the image of Christ and his behavior subsequent to Jordan—his sacrificial life, his putting down the flesh, with the hope of future glory. The glory he partly received when he was raised from death, high above all powers and principalities, will be fully revealed in the last times. The Church, too, awaits their future reward.
In this epistle, Paul was showing that Christ is the outward manifestation of God (God manifest in the flesh), and that in Jesus dwells all the fullness of Deity bodily. In contrast, God is the Creator, the Emperor of the universe.
Col. 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Scythian - This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The name Scythian is applied in ancient geography to the people who lived on the north and northeast of the Black and Caspian seas, a region stretchings indefinitely into the unknown countries of Asia. They occupied the lands now peopled by the Monguls and Tartars. The name was almost synonymous with barbarian, for they were regarded as a wild and savage race. The meaning here is, that even such a ferocious and uncivilized people were not excluded from the gospel, but they were as welcome as any other, and were entitled to the same privileges as others. No one was excluded because he belonged to the most rude and uncivilized portion of mankind.
But Christ is all, and in all - The great thing that constitutes the uniqueness of the church is, that Christ is its Saviour, and that all are his friends and followers. Its members lay aside all other distinctions, and are known only as his friends. They are not known as Jews and Gentiles; as of this nation or that; as slaves or freemen, but they are known as Christians; distinguished from all the rest of mankind as the united friends of the Redeemer.
Col. 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Col. 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Col. 3:14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
Verses 12-14 more or less continue the theme of kindness, gentleness, etc. Why did Paul go into all this detail and description? Suppose that a certain experience was occurring in the congregation. These various categories would highlight the experience and help the Colossian brethren to get the point better than if Paul had just used the word “love,” or “charity,” as a broad term.
Incidentally, humility and meekness were looked down upon by many in the early Church who thought the Christian should be noble, cultured, educated, and proud. Christians who were “poor” in health, money, appearance, and education were often regarded as inferior.
Paul wrote this epistle a year or two before the end of his life, and things were changing. By this time, there had been numerous converts, relatively speaking, of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, and they brought certain opinions into the Church with regard to what the Christian should aspire to--false opinions not backed up by the Word of God. An epistle has survived where an elder at Ephesus was told about another class where sick and imprisoned brethren were not visited. In fact, they were regarded as inferior. Also, there were actual physical confrontations, and some wondered whether or not these attitudes were right—whether there was justification for them. The Apostle John tried to combat these wrong attitudes in his epistles with such expressions as “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15) and “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Some outwardly manifested this hatred—it was not just secretly in their hearts—by openly demeaning others.
“Bowels of mercies” are tender mercies that genuinely well up from within. The bowels are affected by strong emotions. What about “kindness”? Mercy is usually an inward disposition or thinking toward someone, whereas kindness is an outward act. Kindness is revealed or manifested in some way.
“Humbleness of mind” is humility. Humility can be secret, whereas there is more action with “meekness,” which is teachableness. One might be very humble yet not be teachable. These are two different characteristics.
What is the distinction between “longsuffering” and “forbearing one another.” Long-suffering is patient endurance; forbearing is exercised toward another. Again there is a similarity, but the former can be secret and the latter is manifested.
Verses 12-14 tell what our attitude should be toward the faults of others. (Transgressions and violations of principle are another matter.) If one is prone to be contentious, he will be active full-time in this capacity. If one is not prone to be contentious, he will be so only when circumstances warrant it.
“Forgiving one another [freely] ... even as Christ [freely] forgave you.” “Forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.” The word “quarrel” is rendered “complaint” in the King James margin. Forgiveness that is granted so freely would be for relatively minor things—for complaints, faults, little differences, ethnic characteristics, etc., as opposed to violations of doctrine or principle that are of a more serious nature. Stated another way, with regard to the unpleasant characteristics of others that disturb us, we should be kind, longsuffering, and forgiving.
All of the above qualities are general attitudes of the heart and mind of the Christian. On the one hand, Gentiles who came into the early Church had very little (if any) Old Testament background. Not only were the documents unavailable, but it takes time to study the principles of the Law. Thus they did not have the advantage we possess today with our Bibles. Coming from foreign, or alien, backgrounds into a new arrangement that required a lot of learning, the Gentiles naturally brought in considerable uncouth behavior, mannerisms, and expressions that in time would be smoothed out as the Holy Spirit operated on and changed their lives. As they developed in understanding, the changes took place. Thus forbearance was essential in the early Church. Jewish Christians, on the other hand, had the advantage of a past education under the Law. As a result, they were less apt to forbear with the Gentiles and tended to regard them as inferior. The Jewish Christians needed to be patient and forbearing toward the Gentiles, making an allowance for their background, habits, etc. In other words, faults were more apparent in the early Church than they are today.
We should also keep in mind that the various ecclesias in the early Church had just the Old Testament and the Gospels—plus perhaps the epistle especially directed to them and personal instruction from an apostle or a Christian like Timothy for a short time. They did not have the whole Bible as we do.
“And above [over] all these things put on charity [love], which is the bond of perfectness [completeness].” Love is like the girdle that embraces, or includes, all of the foregoing qualities.
Paul also said, “Above all, ... [put on] the shield of faith”; that is, faith is the big shield that covers the other pieces of armor (Eph. 6:16). In other words, “love” is the summation of all the points just mentioned. It is the sum of all the graces and the rounding out of them. Love is not a new subject but the “bond” that holds the others in place. Thus the “bond of perfectness” is the bond of completeness or maturity.
Col. 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
If one had the opposite characteristics of those listed in verses 12-14, there would not be peace in the individual or in the congregation. Ecclesia disputes and quarrels do not result in the brethren going home happy and rejoicing. Instead they feel they did not get anything out of the meeting. When trouble dominates an ecclesia, the brethren bring the trouble home.
Peace is desired and is important in our Christian development—but not at any cost. The Song of Solomon speaks about feeding on the “lilies,” which represent constructive, beautiful, helpful thoughts (Song 4:5).
The Diaglott has “the Anointed” instead of “God,” the thought being, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” And verse 16 continues, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Christ is certainly emphasized in this epistle as the Teacher of the Church, and not the pagan or worldly philosophies. Verse 17 also mentions Jesus: “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Of the three verses, only the end of verse 17 raises the thought up one level to the Father: “Giving thanks to God, even the Father, by him.”
Col. 3:16 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.
It is interesting to see the prominence Paul gave to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These are a part of Christian faith, especially the Book of Psalms. Music has its place.
How would psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs be used to teach and admonish?
It would be appropriate to sing a song for a testimony (a solo) if one were so moved. An occasional from-the-heart “Amen” is also in order. The wording in the Psalms is often an expression of desiring closeness to the Lord, of wanting His mercy, forgiveness, or grace. In reading or singing a hymn (even as a group), we can receive instructions. For example, “Savior, more than life to me, I am clinging, clinging, close to thee” teaches humbleness of mind. Many hymns have helpful expressions and are reminders of what is taught in the Word. Thus they are a form of teaching and admonishing without personalizing the words. “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The New American Standard translates “grace” as “thankfulness.” We should be thankful as we sing. When we have a special experience, very often a particular hymn will come to mind. And poetry is certainly a way to praise the Lord.
Emotion is good where it does not distort reason. Sometimes a psalm or a hymn helps us to express a feeling or sentiment we are unable to say in our own words.
Col. 3:17 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.
Col. 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Col. 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Verses 18 and 19 pertain to various matrimonial intimacies. In addition, they are general rules and guidelines where principle and conscience are not involved.
Husbands are instructed, “Be not bitter against them [your wives]”; that is, “Do not be harsh or sharp to your wives.” Paul gave this instruction to consecrated husbands whether or not their wives were consecrated. In some countries, the husband regards the wife as a servant or a commodity and accords her no respect. Paul was counteracting such a tendency by saying not to speak or act harshly or inconsiderately. “Bitter,” from the Greek pikraino, means “to make sharp or pointed.” The same word is used in Revelation 10:10, where John ate the “little book,” which was sweet in his mouth and bitter in his belly. If a husband is unreasonable to his wife, his attitude could lead to varying degrees of coolness and perhaps even to the extent of harshness. A Christian husband should not so act.
Col. 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is wellpleasing unto the Lord.
Verse 20 applies to children who are minors. When consecrated, the children answer to the Lord first, and to parents second, where conscience and principle are concerned. Incidentally, the epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written about the same time. Hence there is a similarity and an overlapping of some expressions.
Col. 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Verse 21 balances out verse 20. Both fathers (or parents) and children have responsibilities and requirements. If a child is criticized and scolded too much, his respect for the parent is squelched. The very purpose of the instruction is defeated.
And there is a higher lesson. We are told to present our bodies a living sacrifice, and this is a reasonable service to the Heavenly Father. On a much more elementary plane, would not the principle be the same with the natural parent? The child should render a reasonable service but not be expected to give an unreasonable service.
Col. 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
Col. 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
The advice to servants was that no matter how ill-tempered or unreasonable a master was, the servant was to try to obey with a good spirit (where principle was not violated), thereby bringing honor to the Christian cause. If the proper attitude is not appreciated in the present life, it certainly will be in the next life (see verse 24).
Servants were to obey and serve their masters with “singleness of heart ... as [un]to the Lord,” as long as there was not a violation of conscience. That is also true with regard to the parentchild relationship. A child should not necessarily obey the parent in every single matter because the parent may go astray. In an extreme case, the parent might even turn against God.
With the Jew, the servants were mostly people who were indebted and took the position as indentured servants to pay off a debt. In the Gentile world, the situation was different. Today the servant/master relationship is our jobs. We have bosses who are our masters in a sense. It is our duty to do our jobs as unto the Lord and not try to get by doing as little as possible, taking extra-long breaks, coming in late and then sitting and having a cup of coffee before we start the day.
Col. 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
The calling is of God, but when the saints come to the heavenly plane, they will see Jesus first. Jesus will receive and then later present them to the Father, confessing their names before Him and all the holy angels (Rev. 3:5). We are called Christians, that is, followers and disciples of Christ. We are not called Theists, even though we reverence God to the highest degree.
Hence there is a decorum when one is resurrected. In other words, the initial reception or handshake, as it were, will be first to Jesus; then maybe to the apostles, messengers, etc.; and later to the Father. Throughout eternity, we will get to know the Father better, but Paul was referring to the initial decorum here. Christ will do the presentation.
Col. 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
The pronoun “he” refers to anyone who does wrong, whether consecrated or unconsecrated, and whether the individual is a father, child, servant, master, husband, or wife. This verse is an encouragement to Christians who are under unreasonable masters, husbands, etc. Rewards are not to be expected in the present age, but they will come sooner or later. And punishment for wrongdoing will come sooner or later.
Most slaves hoped that some day they would be either granted liberty or accepted into the master’s household on a higher plane. For the unconsecrated, that was about as much as could be hoped for. With a Christian slave, however, the goal or aim should not have been the same. If freedom was granted, that was fine, but it was far more important to receive the “inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).
Another aspect is brought out in the Book of Revelation with regard to the world of mankind. Those who have maligned and persecuted the Lord’s little ones during the Gospel Age will, in the Kingdom, have to come before the feet of such and confess that they now recognize their faithfulness and identity (Rev. 3:9). In other words, some in the world will get retribution along this line in the next age. What they previously did will be brought to their attention, and amends will have to be made. Primarily, of course, it has been members of the professed Church who have maligned those of the true Church.
Some sins go beforehand to judgment, and some come after (1 Tim. 5:24). With regard to wrongs done by the master to the slave, the husband to the wife, etc., some will receive retribution in the present life and some in the future. But God will see that justice is done in His own way and time. If the Christian serves as faithfully as he can, he will receive his inheritance, and the other individual will also receive his inheritance or retribution. They are separate individuals.
“There is no respect of persons.” A person’s position in life was an influencing factor. One who was wealthy or in the ruling family was accorded more esteem and honor, but with the Christian, these things are meaningless. We do not want to be favored in this way if doing so will cause the new creature to suffer.