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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Colossians 3

Verses 1-25




1. The life hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4 )

2. The contrast: The old man and the new man (Colossians 3:5-11 )

3. Manifesting Christ (Colossians 3:12-17 )

4. Relationships (Colossians 3:18-25 ; Colossians 4:1 )

Colossians 3:1-4

Risen with Christ; such is the believer’s position. “Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” These are the great truths of Christianity: The believer dead with Christ; risen with Christ and in possession of a life which is hid with Christ in God and therefore safe and secure. And these facts constitute the controlling motive of the believer’s life on earth. If apprehended in faith they will lead the soul to seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. The mind will then be constantly set on the things above and not on things which are on the earth. The more a believer enters into those blessed truths, making them his own by reckoning himself dead with Christ and risen with Him, with his life hid with Christ in God, the more will the things above be for him the great attraction and the things on earth will lose their charm. The things above are Christ and His glory. The things on earth include all the deceiving things mentioned in the previous chapter, such as the rudiments of the world, philosophy and words of vain deceit, legalism, ritualism, ordinances, as well as worldly ambitions, honors, pleasures and achievements. All these will fade away when the believer’s heart is occupied with Him who fills the throne in glory. This is the true and only way of sanctification--heart occupation with the risen Christ. When the eyes of the heart see the risen and glorified Christ and faith lays hold of the wonderful meaning for us who believe, then we learn to walk in that separation into which God has called His people. What the Christian therefore needs is an ever increasing realization in faith of his position in Christ, and then to be energized by the indwelling Spirit to seek those things which are above and not the things on earth. Such a life means joy and peace. It is a life of obedience and quietness, victorious over all earthly circumstances. And because it is a life which is hid with Christ in God, it is hidden from the world. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” (1 John 3:1 ). The world, which lieth in the wicked one, cannot understand nor estimate such a life of separation through faith in an unseen person, a life which reaches out after an unseen goal and which spurns worldly honors and the things which are the boast of the natural man. (Philippians 3:18-19 tells us that those who mind earthly things, though Christians in profession, are the enemies of the cross of Christ and that their end will be destruction. Such is the state of the masses of Christendom today--minding earthly things; filled with the love of the world and dead to the spiritual heavenly things.) But it will not be always thus. A day is coming when this life, hidden now, will be fully manifested. “When Christ is manifested who is our life, then shall ye also be manifested with Him in glory.” It will be a manifestation in glory. It comes when He comes again. “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:10 ). It is not the day when He comes for His saints; it is the day of His visible manifestation, when all His own share His glory and come with Him, when He brings His many sons unto glory. To look constantly in holy anticipation to this promised glory-event, is inseparably connected with the statements of the preceding verses. What blessed links these are:--dead with Christ--risen with Christ--a life hid with Christ in God--a life to be manifested when He comes again! May God’s people know the reality of all this in power and be kept from a mere profession, lifeless and powerless, of these fundamental facts of the gospel.

Colossians 3:5-11

An exhortation follows to mortify the members which are upon the earth. And what shameful and shameless things are mentioned here! “Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” From this exhortation addressed to those who are believers, dead and risen with Christ, we learn that the old nature is not eradicated in the child of God. The believer knows that the old man is crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6 ), that being in Christ he is now no longer seen by God as in the flesh; but the believer also knows that the old nature is still in him. He finds this out daily “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” The spiritually minded believer acknowledges freely that in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and that in his fallen nature are all these shameful things and that this old nature is capable of all of which the apostle writes. On account of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. “In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” The natural man lives in these things; but not so the believer. A child of God may commit these horrible things of the flesh, but he no longer lives in them. And what is to be done to these members? The translation, “mortify your members which are on the earth,” does not fully express the original meaning. It does not mean that we are to be doing it as it is so often attempted by resolutions, fasting and other exercises, ever trying to fight the flesh and conquer the evil things of the old nature. We are never told to fight the flesh, but to flee and abstain from fleshly lusts. Fighting the flesh, trying to put it to death ourselves leads to defeat. We cannot do it, but it has been done for us. The old man was put to death in the cross of Christ; we are now dead to sin--sin is not to have dominion over us. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:11-12 ). “Mortify your members” means keep them in the place Of death where they have been put by the death of Christ. “Let it be as done”--exercise the power which redemption gives by holding in the place of death the members which are upon earth. This, however, is not possible unless the believer walks in the Spirit, is occupied with Christ and seeks those things which are above. For this reason the exhortations of Colossians 3:5-11 are the result of doing what the opening verses of this chapter put before us. And there are other things besides the gross things of the flesh. “Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications, lying one to another” are likewise the works of the flesh. They are to be put off. The same Greek tense, aorist imperative, is here also employed-- “let it be as done”--have it put off, because grace in redemption has made it possible. No need, therefore, to tolerate these things any longer in your lives, “seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Born again, believers have received a new nature, the nature from above; and this new man is being renewed in knowledge, not after the pattern of the first man, Adam, but after the image of Him, who created him. Christ Himself is the type of the new man; Christ is the object of the faith and the ambitions of the new nature in the believer. And in this new man all differences have ceased, all human distinctions disappear forever. Greek, Jew, circumcision, uncircumcision, barbarian, and the worst type of the barbarian, the Scythian, bond and free, are completely obliterated and gone. Having believed in Christ the new man is formed in each, and Christ is all as well as in all. He Himself is everything and all things are found in Him. The new man is independent of all earthly things and conditions and blessedly dependent upon Him, who created the new man. It is a great truth that Christ is all and also “in all.” The believer must look upon all fellow-believers as being indwelt by Christ, that He is in all. This brings deliverance from self; all jealousy, pride and fleshly ambitions will end among the saints of God if they look upon each other after this manner, that Christ is in all. Here is comfort and power.

Colossians 3:12-17

Therefore, as the elect of God, who are the new man indwelt by Christ and one with Him, holy and beloved, are exhorted to put on (have it done) the things which manifest Christ. Bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering. It is the fruit of knowing Christ risen and seated in glory. His own character is reproduced and Christ is manifested in the believer’s walk. “As the elect of God, those who owe everything to His will, His choice as those set apart to Him, and those upon whom He has set His love, we are to put on the things which properly accompany this: ‘bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another.’ It is striking how, in all these, there is found some form of self-denial. Power is shown by competence for stooping; God turning also the very things that are against us into the means of educating us in this. Things evil in themselves may, nevertheless, furnish us with a wholesome discipline for the way and enable us, in answer, to bring forth fruit which is according to God. We are to forbear as God has forborne. We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us; to all which is to be added love as that which is the ‘bond of perfectness,’ which keeps everything in its place and perfects every detail of life. Think how the world, even, has to put on the appearance of love, the more if it has not the reality; but love itself has no need to put on an appearance. It will manifest itself in harmony in every tone and gesture. The manifestation of the divine nature has a unity in it which makes everything to be in harmony. If there is love in the heart, the words will not be hard or unseemly; their very tone will be affected” (Numerical Bible). “And let the peace of Christ (not ‘Peace of God’ as in the Authorized Version) preside in your hearts, to which also ye have been called in one body, and be thankful.” All God’s true children have peace with God and their calling in one body is also to have the peace of Christ presiding in their hearts. This blessed heritage (John 14:27 ) will be enjoyed by all who walk in the Spirit, who walk in love, obedient to His will and in unbroken fellowship with Him. The crown and glory of such a walk is the peace of Christ, the very peace which He possessed while down here. Blessed, unspeakable privilege! Yet how few know this peace of Christ and enjoy it daily! If Christ is all for the believer and seen as being “in all,” in every member of the body of Christ, then that peace will rule in the heart and we shall know the comfort and joy of it. Furthermore the word of Christ is to dwell richly in the believer’s heart in all wisdom. And this word ever directs us to Himself. It does not teach us self-occupation but occupation with Himself, His own person and glory. It is through His word that we learn to know Him better and by which we are kept in His fellowship. And this again bears the blessed fruits of joy and praise, as well as spiritual fellowship with the saints. “Teaching, and admonishing one another; with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God.” And all the believer does in word or in deed is all to be done in His own worthy name, “giving thanks to God the Father by Him.” The Lord Jesus is to be in all our thoughts; in every word and in every deed must be given Him the preeminence. “This consciousness of relationship with Christ, in the life which is of Him in us, applies to everything. Nothing is done without Him. If He is the life, all which that life does has Him for its end and object, as far as the heart is concerned. He is present as that which is the governing motive, and gives its character to our actions, and which preoccupies our heart in performing them. Everything relates to Him: we do not eat without Him (how can we when He is our very life?); we do not drink without Him; what we say, what we do, is said and done in the name of the Lord Jesus. There is the sense of His presence; the consciousness that everything relates to Him, that we can do nothing--unless carnally--without Him, because the life which we have of Him acts with Him and in Him, does not separate from Him, and has Him for its aim in all things, even as water rises to the height from which it descended. This is what characterizes the life of the Christian. And what a life! Through Him, dwelling in the consciousness of divine love, we give thanks to our God and Father.”

Colossians 1:18-29 ; Colossians 2:1-23 ; Colossians 3:1-25 ; Colossians 4:1 .

Wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants and masters are exhorted how to walk in the different relationships while still in the body. The more complete exhortations as to husband and wife are found in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:22-23 ); and as to children, fathers, servants and masters in Ephesians 6:1-9 . The same loving submission of the wives to their husbands “as is fitting in the Lord” is here stated once more. And husbands are to love their wives and be not bitter against them. God has established and sanctioned the marriage relation; sin has come in and brought its corruption, never so much in evidence as in our own days. Believers in this relationship are exhorted to give in it a lovely display of the union which exists between Christ and the Church. Children in the believer’s family are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 ), and seeing the truth that “Christ is all” exemplified in the family life they are exhorted to obey their parents in all things. The disintegration of the family life is one of the evil things of the closing days of this age. Among the characteristics of “the perilous times” with which our age closes we find “disobedience to parents” and “without natural affection” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ). And fathers must take heed so as not to provoke their children to anger by any unjust treatment, so that the children be not discouraged to obey in all things. How often a spirit of rebellion is fostered in children by the treatment of parents, who do not manifest the love of Christ. But if “Christ is all” in the family life, if the peace of Christ presides in the hearts, if the Word of Christ dwells there richly, then love will govern all. The servants exhorted were slaves, who had believed and become in Christ true freedmen. Not a word is said about the wrong of slavery. Sin is responsible for it. But these Christian slaves are exhorted to obey their masters according to the flesh in all things. In serving them, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in faithfulness, meekness and devotedness they do it as unto the Lord. The place of honor belonged to these slaves in Christ, for they could manifest in their low place the life of Christ, who was here on earth the servant who came not to be ministered to but to minister; the servant of all. In the coming day of Christ many of the slaves who believed on Christ and served in meekness and lowliness will receive a great reward. “Two principles act in the heart of the Christian slave: his conscience in all his conduct is before God; the fear of God governs him, and not his master’s eye. And he is conscious of his relationship to Christ, of the presence of Christ, which sustains and lifts him above everything. It is a secret which nothing can take from him, and which has power over everything, because it is within and on high--Christ in him, the hope of glory. Yes, how admirably does the knowledge of Christ exalt everything that it pervades; and with what consoling power does it descend into all that is desolate and cast down, all that groans, all that is humbled in this world of sin! “Three times in these two verses, while holding their conscience in the presence of God, the apostle brings in the Lord, the Lord Christ, to fill the hearts of these poor slaves, and make them feel who it was to whom they rendered service. Such is Christianity” (Synopsis of the Bible). And masters are exhorted to render unto the slaves that which is just and equal. “Knowing that ye also have a Master who is in heaven.” Before that Master, all will have to appear and there will be no respect of persons.

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Colossians 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.