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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Colossians 3



Verse 1-2

Again we could translate "If" as "Since" (first class condition). It introduces another situation Paul assumed to be true for the sake of his argument (cf. Colossians 2:20). Paul returned to his thought about the believer"s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection ( Colossians 2:9-15). Two present imperatives identify the Christian"s responsibilities: "seek" ( Colossians 3:1) and "set your affection on" ( Colossians 3:2). Since God raised us with Christ and we are already as good as seated with Him in heaven, we should "keep seeking" heavenly things.

"The description of Christ as "seated at the right hand of God" is another implied rejoinder to those who were seeking to diminish Christ"s role as mediator, inasmuch as the right hand of God is a metaphor for the place of supreme privilege and divine authority." [Note: Vaughan, p209.]

Second, we should continually "set" our minds on the things of heaven (our spiritual blessings and hope, our Savior"s desires, etc.) rather than on the things that are only physical and temporal. They should occupy a large place in our thought lives.

"You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven." [Note: Lightfoot, p209.]

". . . from now on the Christian will see everything in the light and against the background of eternity. He will no longer live as if this world was all that mattered; he will see this world against the background of the larger world of eternity....

"He will, for instance, set giving above getting, serving above ruling, forgiving above avenging. The Christian will see things, not as they appear to men, but as they appear to God." [Note: Barclay, p177.]

"The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so help to make earth like heaven." [Note: Robertson, 4:500.]

This is the legitimate mysticism of Paul. The two commands differ in that the first emphasizes the more practical pursuits of life whereas the second stresses the whole bent of the life. The first is outward and the second inward.

Jesus Christ"s present rule on His Father"s throne over the church is not the same as His rule on David"s throne over David"s kingdom, which will begin when He returns to earth. [Note: See Cleon L. Rogers Jeremiah , "The Davidic Covenant in Acts -, Revelation ," Bibliotheca Sacra151:601 (January-March1994):81-82; John F. Walvoord, "Biblical Kingdoms Compared and Contrasted," in Issues in Dispensationalism, especially pp89-90; David A. Dean, "A Study of the Enthronement of Christ in Acts 2 , 3" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1992); John A. McLean, "Did Jesus Correct the Disciples" View of the Kingdom?" Bibliotheca Sacra151:602 (April-June1994):215-27; Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, pp81-82; and John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord, pp224-26.]

Verses 1-4

A. The basic principle3:1-4

To encourage his readers to turn away from their false teachers, Paul reminded them of their union with Christ. He also urged them to continue living in keeping with their position in Christ.

Verses 1-6


Paul moved from doctrine to practice, from the truth to its application in daily living. He began this next major section of the epistle by setting forth a basic principle. Then he explained the proper method of living. This led him to discuss the Christian"s fundamental relationships. He concluded this section by summarizing the essential practice.

Verse 3

Our life is hidden away with Christ. This statement that the believer died with Christ in the past (aorist tense in Greek) and continues to live with Christ in the present (perfect tense) suggests three thoughts. Our life draws nourishment from secret springs (cf. John 14:19; Philippians 3:20). Our life is as safe as a deposit locked in a bank vault. Our life is one with Christ who is in the bosom of the Father. [Note: Johnson, 479:212-13.]

"The aorist is simply a powerful metaphor for the fact that when they believed in Christ in baptism they were putting their previous way of life to death and having it buried out of sight. Consequently, it should no longer be a factor in their new way of life." [Note: Dunn, p206.]

For the false teachers, the treasures of wisdom were hidden in their secret books (Gr. apokryphoi), but for believers Christ is the treasury of Wisdom of Solomon , and our life is hidden (Gr. kekryptai) in Him.

Verse 4

"Sometimes we say of a Prayer of Manasseh , "Music is his life-Sport is his life-He lives for his work." Such a man finds life and all that life means in music, in sport, in work, as the case may be. For the Christian, Christ is his life. Jesus Christ dominates his thought and fills his life." [Note: Barclay, p179. Cf. Philippians 1:21.]

"Whenever" indicates that a revelation of Christ in the future is certain, but its time is unknown. The Greek word phaneroo ("revealed") stresses the open display of Christ at His coming. This is probably a reference to the Rapture. When He is revealed to us then, our lives will no longer be hidden in Him but revealed for what they are in our glorification. The Rapture will be a glorious revelation of Him to us and us in our glorified state. Now our eternal life is hidden ( Colossians 3:3), but then it will be manifest.

"In Colossians . . . there is an emphasis on realized eschatology. Within the "already-not yet" tension the stress falls upon the former, called forth by the circumstances of the letter.... The "already" of salvation needed to be asserted repeatedly over against those who were interested in the heavenly realm but who had false notions about it, believing it could be reached by legalistic observances, knowledge, visionary experiences and the like.. .

"But if the "already" pole received the emphasis, the "not yet" of salvation still needed to be mentioned, and here in Colossians 3:4 we find a clear future reference." [Note: O"Brien, Colossians . . ., pp171-72.]

In view of this prospect the Colossians and we need not pursue another system that claims to provide more than we have in Christ. God has provided all we need for acceptance with Him and godly living in Christ. All we need to do is act on the implications of these truths, which Paul proceeded to help his readers do.

Verse 5

In view of our actual position ( Colossians 3:1) we should adopt a certain attitude toward our present phase of experience. This will help us to become what we are. The key word translated "consider ... as dead" is an aorist imperative and means "put to death." There must be a decisive initial act (aorist tense) that introduces a settled attitude (present tense). [Note: Bruce, Commentary on ..., p267.]

"Despite the power of their having been identified with Christ in his death, there were still things, parts of their old lives, habits of hand and mind, which tied them "to the earth" and hindered the outworking of the "mind set on what is above."" [Note: Dunn, p212.]

To put something to death is never pleasant.

"This practice of reckoning dead finds an excellent illustration in the gardener"s practice of grafting. Once the graft has been made on the old stock the gardener is careful to snip off any shoot from the old stock that may appear. Song of Solomon , in the believer"s life, since he has now been grafted into the Last Adam and His new life, he must by the Spirit put to death any products of the old life that may appear (cf. Romans 8:13)." [Note: Johnson, 481:24.]

Paul"s first list deals with sexual practices. Lists of virtues and vices were common in the ethical systems of the ancient world, and the imagery of putting off and on was also well-known. [Note: Dunn, p211; O"Brien, Colossians . . ., pp179-81. Cf. Romans 1:29-32; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-23; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 4:3; et al. See Ren A. Lpez, "A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice Lists," Bibliotheca Sacra168:671 (July-September2011):301-16.]

Immorality (Gr. porneia) refers to illicit sexual intercourse.

Impurity (akatharsia) in any form is in view, especially moral impurity in this context.

Passion (pathos) means uncontrolled illegitimate desire.

Evil desire (epithymian kaken) means any evil desire in a more general sense.

Greed (pleonexian, lit. "desire to have more") is any materialistic desire, including lust, that disregards the rights of others. It is "the arrogant and ruthless assumption that all other persons and things exist for one"s own benefit." [Note: G. B. Caird, Paul"s Letters from Prison, p205.]

Verses 5-11

1. Things to put off3:5-11

On the basis of their position in Christ, Paul urged his readers to separate from the practices of their former way of life. He did this to enable them to realize in their experience all that Jesus Christ could produce in and through them. Three imperatives indicate Paul"s main points: consider as dead (lit. put to death, Colossians 3:5), put aside ( Colossians 3:8), and do not lie ( Colossians 3:9).

Verses 5-17

B. The proper method3:5-17

" Colossians 3:1-4 has provided the perspective from which the daily life of the Colossian Christians should be lived out. Now follows more specific advice that should help them the better to carry out the thematic exhortation to "walk in him" ( Colossians 2:6)." [Note: Dunn, p211.]

Verses 6-9

Such behavior will bring God"s wrath eventually. That Isaiah , God will discipline Christians as well as non-believers who practice these things. These activities normally characterize the unsaved, so Christians are to lay them aside ( Colossians 3:8; cf. Matthew 5:29-30; Romans 8:13; Ephesians 5:3-14).

"The Christian must kill self-centeredness; he must regard as dead all private desires and ambitions. There must be in his life a radical transformation of the will, and a radical shift of the centre. Everything which would keep him from fully obeying God and fully surrendering to Christ must be surgically excised." [Note: Barclay, pp180-81.]

The phrase "the wrath of God" ( Colossians 3:6) is usually eschatological in the New Testament and refers to the Tribulation period (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:9). That is probably its reference here too.

Paul"s second list deals with sins of speech.

Anger (Gr. orge) is a settled attitude of hostility.

Wrath (thymos) means a verbal outburst of evil passion.

Malice (kakia) is ill will, a vicious disposition that results in hurt to one"s neighbor.

Slander (blasphemia) refers to insulting, injurious, malicious speech in general.

Abusive speech (aischrologia) means filthy, disgraceful, dishonorable speech.

Lying (pseudesthe) refers to deceptive, distorting, untruthful speech.

The imperative command against lying is very strong. Paul said, Never lie. The reason given ( Colossians 3:9) applies to all the preceding activities. The "old self" is the person the Christian was before God united him or her with Christ.

Verse 10

The "new self" is who the Christian is after his or her union with Christ. One writer argued that "the new man" refers to the church, the body of Christ. [Note: Darrell L. Bock, ""The New Man" as Community in Colossians and Ephesians ," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp158-60.] But this is a minority view. Colossians 3:10 describes the process of individual sanctification. "True knowledge" (epignosis) is full knowledge of God and His will. Sanctification results in increasing likeness to Christ. Only by sanctification can people attain to the full image of God and Christ that God created them to bear ( Genesis 1:26-28).

Verse 11

There is no national or racial distinction that determines one"s acceptability to God nor is there any religious, cultural, or social distinction. Jesus Christ is essentially all that we need for new birth and growth. He indwells every believer and permeates all the relationships of life. "In all" probably means that Christ is everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28; Galatians 3:28). [Note: See C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles ..., pp121-22.] A barbarian was one who did not know Greek; his or her language was foreign. Scythians originated from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea area, and the Greeks thought of them as the lowest type of barbarian. [Note: See McGee, 5:358.]

"The new man lives in a new environment where all racial, national, religious, cultural and social distinctions are no more. Rather, Christ is now all that matters and in all who believe. The statement is one of the most inclusive in the New Testament and is amply supported by the pre-eminence of Christ in New Testament theology. It is a particularly appropriate statement for the Colossians and affords an excellent summary statement of the teaching of the letter. There are three realms, relevant to the Colossians , in which He is all. He is everything in salvation; hence there is no place for angelic mediation in God"s redemptive work (cf. Colossians 1:18-22; Colossians 2:18). He is everything in sanctification; hence legality and asceticism are out of place in the Christian life (cf. Colossians 2:16-23). He is our life ( Colossians 3:3-4). Finally, He is everything necessary for human satisfaction; hence there is no need for philosophy, or the deeds of the old man ( Colossians 1:26-28; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 2:9-10). He fills the whole life, and all else is hindering and harmful." [Note: Johnson, 481:28.]

Verses 12-14

Paul reminded the Colossians of who they were because an appreciation of who one is affects how he or she behaves. In doing prison evangelism, I have learned that many prisoners grew up hearing from their parent or parents that they would never amount to anything and would probably end up in prison. Thinking of themselves as "losers", they became what they thought they were. God has specially selected believers, has set them apart for great things, and has made them the objects of His love. In view of this privilege the following characteristics are only reasonable.

"They deal with a believer"s treatment of others, with his estimate of himself, and with his reaction to his treatment by others." [Note: Carson, p86.]

Compassion (Gr. splanchna oiktirmou) shows sensitivity to those suffering and in need.

Kindness (chrestotes) manifests itself in a sweet disposition and thoughtful interpersonal dealings.

Humility (tapeinophrosyne) means having a realistic view of oneself, "thinking lowly of ourselves because we are so." [Note: C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul"s Epistles to the Philippians ,, Colossians , and to Philemon , p190.]

Gentleness (prautes) means not behaving harshly, arrogantly, or self-assertively but with consideration for others.

Patience (makrothymia) is the quality of being long-suffering, self-restraining. The following two qualities expand on the thought of patience.

Forbearing (anechomenoi) means putting up with others and enduring discomfort.

Forgiving (charizomenoi) involves not holding a grudge or grievance.

Love (agape) means doing what is best for another person.

All these features deal with the believer"s interpersonal relationships. In this area of life especially the life of Christ should be visible in us. Love is the supremely important Christian virtue. We should put it on over all the other garments in this figure like a belt that holds the others in place (cf. Ephesians 6:14).

Verses 12-17

2. Things to put on3:12-17

Paul urged his readers not only to divest themselves of behavior that is inappropriate to their union with Christ but also to clothe themselves with attitudes and actions that are appropriate. He did so to complete their understanding of their responsibilities as Christians.

"The emphasis in this section is on motives. Why should we put off the old deeds and put on the qualities of the new life? Paul explained four motives that ought to encourage us to walk in newness of life ( Romans 6:4)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:137.]

". . . I have written a message on this passage of Scripture, and I have called it, "What the Well-Dressed Christian Will Wear This Year."" [Note: McGee, 5:358.]

Verse 15

Four imperatives in Colossians 3:15-17 identify the precepts believers must follow. The first of these is "let rule." When Christians need to make choices, the peace that Christ produces in our hearts should be a determining factor. [Note: Lightfoot, p221.] We should choose what will result in peace between us and God, and between us and one another, if such a course of action lies within God"s moral will (cf. John 14:27).

"This directive forms, with the Word of God and the witness of the indwelling Spirit, one of the most important principles of guidance in the Christian life." [Note: Johnson, 481:30-31.]

When these three indicators line up we can move ahead confidently. Realization of the unity of the body and the peace of Christ results in thankfulness that should also mark our behavior. The second imperative is "be thankful."

Verse 16

The third imperative is "let dwell." The "word of Christ," used only here in the New Testament, is Christ"s teachings, not only during His earthly ministry but also in all of Scripture. His Word should permeate our whole being so that we make all decisions and plans in its light.

". . . as the rabbis later pointed out, he who dwells in a house is the master of the house, not just a passing guest ..." [Note: Dunn, p236.]

"Thus we are to submit to the demands of the Christian message and let it become so deeply implanted within us as to control all our thinking." [Note: Vaughan, p216.]

"Many saved people cannot honestly say that God"s Word dwells in their hearts richly because they do not take time to read, study, and memorize it." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:140.]

Teaching is the imparting of truth, and admonition is warning against error. We should perform these activities joyfully and with song. "Psalm" probably refers to the inspired Old Testament psalms. The word "psalms" implies that the believers sang them with musical accompaniment. Hymns are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. Spiritual songs probably refer to expressions of Christian experience set to music. Thankfulness to God is to mark our singing too (cf. Colossians 3:15). [Note: See David F. Detwiler, "Church Music and Colossians 3:16 ," Bibliotheca Sacra158:631 (July-September2001):347-69.]

"Whether with instrument or with voice or with both it is all for naught if the adoration is not in the heart." [Note: Robertson, 4:505.]

"One of the first descriptions of a Church service which we possess is that of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, who sent a report of the activities of the Christians to Trajan the Roman Emperor. In that report he said, "They meet at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God." The gratitude of the Church has always gone up to God in Christian praise and Christian song." [Note: Barclay, p191.]

"It has often been noticed that the Colossian passage is parallel with Ephesians 5:18-20. In the latter passage the hymns and songs are the outgrowth of the filling of the Spirit, while in Colossians they are the result of the deep assimilation of the Word of God. In other words, the Word-filled Christian is a Spirit-filled Christian, and the examination of the two passages would save us from a great deal of error on this subject. Undisciplined emphasis on the Holy Spirit is accompanied too frequently by shallow grounding in the Word of God." [Note: Johnson, 481:32.]

Verse 17

This verse covers all other thoughts and actions.

"The NT does not contain a detailed code of rules for the Christian, like those which were elaborated with ever-increasing particularity in rabbinical casuistry. Codes of rules, as Paul explains elsewhere (e.g, in Galatians 3:23 to Galatians 4:7), are suited to the period of immaturity when he and his readers were still under guardians; the son who has come to years of responsibility knows his father"s will without having to be provided with a long list of "Do"s" and "Don"t"s [sic]." What the NT does provide is those basic principles of Christian living which may be applied to all the situations of life as they arise (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:21)." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p285.]

The basic principle, as opposed to a set of specific rules, is this. We should say all words and practice all deeds in harmony with the revelation of Jesus Christ, namely, under His authority and as His followers. The "name" comprehends everything revealed and known about the person bearing the name. Moreover we are to do all with thanksgiving to God. The fourth imperative is implicit in the Greek text, but the translators have supplied it in the English text: "Do."

When faced with a question about what the Christian should do, Paul taught that we should simply ask ourselves what conduct would be appropriate for one identified with Christ. "What would Jesus do?" is quite similar. This approach is vastly different from the legal one that provides a specific command for every situation. In this contrast we see a basic difference between the New and Old Covenants.

Verse 18

C. The fundamental relationships3:18-4:1

Paul next set forth certain principles to guide his readers in their most important interpersonal relationships. Geisler saw this section as containing exhortations to perfect the private life ( Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1), the prayer life ( Colossians 4:2-4), and the public life ( Colossians 4:5-6). He also saw Colossians 4:7-18 as expressing Paul"s concern to perfect the personal lives of the Colossian believers. [Note: Geisler, " Colossians ," p683.] Paul wrote this instruction to enable the readers to understand what behavior is consistent with union with Christ in these relationships. This is one of several "house-rule" lists in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; 1 Peter 2:18 to 1 Peter 3:7). The writings of some Apostolic Fathers also contain such lists. [Note: See O"Brien, Colossians . . ., pp214-19 , for a discussion of them.] Luther referred to these sections as haustafel, and some scholars still use this technical term when referring to these lists.

". . . the earliest churches were all "house churches" (see on Colossians 4:15), so that the model of the well-run household provided precedent for the well-run church ..." [Note: Dunn, p245.]

The apostle grouped six classes of people in three pairs in the following verses. In each pair he first addressed the subordinate member and then the one in authority. Bear in mind that Paul was speaking to people who are in Christ in each case.

"The Christian ethic is an ethic of reciprocal obligation. It is never an ethic on which all the duties are on one side." [Note: Barclay, p192.]

Verse 18

Paul did not say all women should be subject to all men, only that wives should be to their own husbands.

"The exhortation should not be weakened in translation in deference to modern sensibilities (cf. again 1 Corinthians 14:34 ...). But neither should its significance be exaggerated; "subjection" means "subordination," not "subjugation" ..." [Note: Ibid, p247. Cf. Ralph P. Martin, Colossians and Philemon , p119; and W. Schrage, The Ethics of the New Testament, p253.]

This subjection rests on divinely prescribed authority, not on any inherent inferiority in spirituality, intelligence, worth, or anything else. This is "fitting" in that it is consistent with what God ordained at the creation of the human race ( Genesis 2:18; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13).

"The thought of this passage moves in the realm of respect for another"s position and place, not in the realm of inferiority." [Note: Johnson, 482:109. See Anthonie von den Doel, "Submission in the New Testament," Brethren Life and Thought31:2 (Spring1986):121-25; and Paul S. Fiddes, ""Woman"s Head is Man" A Doctrinal Reflection upon a Pauline Text," Baptist Quarterly31:8 (October1986):370-83.]

Submission is "an attitude that recognizes the rights of authority. His [Paul"s] main thought is that the wife is to defer to, that Isaiah , be willing to take second place to, her husband." [Note: Vaughan, p218.]

I do not think that God intends for a wife to yield to a husband who abuses her or orders her to do things contrary to God"s will. She should maintain a submissive attitude toward him and defer to him, but she need not subject herself or her children to danger. Paul"s point was that a wife should always relate to her husband as God"s appointed leader. I take Paul"s phrase "in everything" in Ephesians 5:24 to mean "in every sphere of life" (i.e, in domestic life, in church life, and in civil life).

Verse 18-19

1. Wives and husbands3:18-19 (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7)

Verse 19

Husbands have two responsibilities toward their wives. First, they must love them rather than treating them as subjects. Loving here involves doing what is best for the one loved, sacrificing self-interests for those of the one loved (cf. John 15:13), and behaving unselfishly ( 1 Corinthians 13). The Greek word translated "love" is agapao, the "all give" type of love, not phileo, the "give and take" type, nor erao, the "all take" type.

Second, husbands must not allow a bitter attitude to develop toward their wives because of the wife"s lack of submission or for any other reason. "Embittered" means irritated or cross. This attitude is a specific and all too common manifestation of lack of love.

"Both under Jewish and under Greek laws and custom, all the privileges belonged to the husband, and all the duties to the wife; but here in Christianity we have for the first time an ethic of mutual and reciprocal obligation." [Note: Barclay, p193.]

Verse 20

Children are to obey (hypakoute) both parents. The Greek word for obey implies a readiness to listen to and carry out parental instructions. The Greek word for children (tekna) means youths in contrast to babes and toddlers. "All things" is the general principle and would cover99 percent of the cases involved in a Christian home. However every Christian is primarily responsible to the Lord, of course. Consequently if the parent required the child to disobey God, the child should obey God rather than man ( Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; Ephesians 6:1). The reason children should please their parents by obeying them is that this behavior pleases the Lord (cf. Exodus 20:12; 2 Corinthians 5:9).

"I have seen some literature that tells young married couples that they are still to go to their parents and obey them. I think that is nonsense and entirely unscriptural (see Genesis 2:24). "Children, obey your parents in all things" is a verse for children, for minors." [Note: McGee, 5:361.]

Verse 20-21

2. Children and parents3:20-21 (cf. Ephesians 6:1-4)

Verse 21

While children must obey both parents, the father (pateron) has the primary responsibility for his children as head of the household. For this reason Paul addressed the fathers here. What is in view here is the habitual provoking of children by insensitive parents, especially fathers. Some provocation is necessary in disciplining, but ceaseless irritation causes children to become discouraged, sullen, angry, and even hateful.

"Paul may have had in mind the regimen of "don"ts" that loomed so large in the Colossian heresy." [Note: Vaughan, p219.]

Verse 22

3. Slaves and masters3:22-4:1 (cf. Ephesians 6:5-9; 1 Peter 2:18-25)

Verse 22

Paul probably made this section longer than the preceding two because he sent this epistle to Colosse with the Epistle to Philemon. Onesimus, Philemon"s run-away slave, carried them. [Note: Johnson, 482:109 , 113; Lightfoot, p226.] Moreover there may well have been more slaves in the Colossian church than masters (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26). The friction inherent in this situation probably called for extended comments on master-slave relationships in the body of Christ and in this church particularly. Note also that Paul did not argue for the abolition of slavery but urged Christians to behave as Christians within that social structure.

". . . those who live in modern social democracies, in which interest groups can hope to exert political pressure by intensive lobbying, should remember that in the cities of Paul"s day the great bulk of Christians would have had no possibility whatsoever of exerting any political pressure for any particular policy or reform. In such circumstances a pragmatic quietism was the most effective means of gaining room enough to develop the quality of personal relationships which would establish and build up the microcosms (churches) of transformed communities." [Note: Dunn, p253.]

Paul"s view was this. It is more important for Christians to carry out our mission as Christians, in whatever social conditions we find ourselves, than it is for us to make changing those conditions our primary concern (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 7:20-22). [Note: See Wiersbe, 2:144.] "On earth" means in your physical relationships. In spiritual matters the slave and his master were equal brothers in Christ. Slaves in the Roman Empire were similar to domestic servants in Victorian Britain. [Note: Dunn, p252.]

Verses 23-25

Slaves should do their work primarily for the Lord. This view of work transforms a worker"s attitudes and performance. Even the most servile work thereby becomes a ministry and an act of worship.

"He means, "Don"t keep your eye on the clock. Keep your eye on Christ. He is the One whom you are serving." This is the way you ought to do your job.

"If you are lazy on the Job , you are not dedicated to Jesus Christ." [Note: McGee, 5:361.]

The Lord will reward such service with an inheritance ( 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 22:12). Imagine a slave receiving an inheritance! The title "Lord Christ" occurs only here in the New Testament. Evidently Paul coined it to stress Jesus" lordship. Jesus is the Messiah who as Lord will reward the faithful in the future. There may be an intended contrast with "Lord Caesar."

"The inheritance is a reward which is received as "wages" for work done. Nothing could be plainer. The context is speaking of the return a man should receive because of his work, as in an employer-employee relationship. The inheritance is received as a result of work; it does not come as a gift. The Greek antapodosis means repayment or reward. The verb antapodidomi never means to receive as a gift; it is always used in the New Testament of a repayment due to an obligation." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p68. See also O"Brien, Colossians .., p231.]

The New Testament revelation concerning the inheritance that believers can merit by faithful perseverance in the faith and good works is extensive. All believers will receive much inheritance simply because God chooses to bestow it on all (cf. John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:16; John 3:36; Romans 5:1; Romans 5:9; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 15:53-57; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Peter 1:9). Nevertheless believers who remain faithful to the Lord will receive even more inheritance (cf. Matthew 5:12; Matthew 5:46; Matthew 6:1-2; Matthew 6:4-6; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 6:18; Matthew 10:41-42; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23; Luke 6:35; Luke 19:17; Luke 19:19; John 12:26; John 15:14; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16-18; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 4:1; Colossians 3:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:18; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 5:4; 2 John 1:8; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:10-11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 22:12). Some passages indicate that this inheritance involves participation in the wedding banquet at the beginning of the messianic kingdom (e.g, Matthew 25; et al.). Other passages speak of it as reigning with Christ ( Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 19:17-19; Luke 22:28-30; Romans 8:17-21) or as treasure in heaven ( Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 6:29; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:32-33; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). It also involves receiving praise and honor from Jesus Christ and the Father ( Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 25:21; John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Peter 1:10-11). These honors are sometimes spoken of as crowns ( Philippians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 4:9-10). [Note: See Dillow, pp551-83.]


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Colossians 3:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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