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Bible Commentaries

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Colossians 3

Verses 1-11

Christ is all

Colossians 3:1-11

Colossians 3:1 . ‘If it be true that you are crucified with Christ, buried with him in baptism, risen with him and seated with him in the heavens, then seek those things which are above.’

1. Seek the heavenly country (Psalms 17:15; Hebrews 11:9-10; 1 Peter 1:3-4).

2. Seek Christ and his righteousness (Philippians 3:9-11).

3. Seek all spiritual blessings, as peace, life and glory (Ephesians 1:3; James 1:17; James 3:17).

We seek those things which are above; for he is there, seated at God's right hand.

Colossians 3:2. ‘Set your affection [your heart] on things above.’ Unless our hearts are set on the things of Christ, they will not be sought in the proper manner. ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). Do not set your mind, thoughts and desires on the things of this world (Romans 8:5). Food and clothing, care of families, health and necessities of life are to be sought after and provided for, yet not with anxiety and distress, as if these were our chief end or the source of our chief happiness (Matthew 6:28-34). All the things of this earth shall fade away, ‘but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever’ (l John 2:15-17).

Colossians 3:3. As far as this world is concerned (with its riches, honour, temporary glory, fame, pleasures and relationships), ‘ye are dead’! Our new life, our real life and interest, is with Christ in God. ‘Hid with Christ’ denotes the secrecy of it (the natural man does not understand it), and the safety of it (it shall never perish). The more we are aware of our union with Christ and the more our minds are set on him, the less interest we have in this world and its passing vanities.

Colossians 3:4. Our real glory is yet to come! It will be revealed when he is revealed in his glory. Christ is our life; his life and ours are one (Galatians 2:20). He is our hope. He is our happiness; true happiness is in knowing him. He is our portion; we are joint heirs with him, and when he comes in his glory, we will enter into his glory! (1 John 3:1-3; Romans 8:16-18.)

Colossians 3:5-6. Since we seek things above, are mindful of things above, are dead to the things of this world and are one with Christ, we must constantly put to death these sinful desires that remain in our flesh (Romans 7:18-23). Let us face our bodily members and their sinful desires with honesty and truth, putting them down and refusing to yield to them when they appear.

Paul lists some of the fleshly temptations which we are to put down and deaden: fornication, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires and imaginations and all greed and covetousness. The work of mortification is not perfected in an instant (nor is it ever completely perfected in this life). So this body of sin and death remains in us that we must make it our daily task to put down evil thoughts and desires. The Lord's people are still human and will have a real struggle with the flesh. However, he will give grace and mercy for every need. The very fact that we are exhorted to mortify these fleshly appetites indicates that they still exist to some degree in the believer. God's wrath is upon the children of disobedience because this is their way of life.

Colossians 3:7. Before we met Christ, this was our way of life. We walked and lived in these things, giving full release to the flesh, greed, covetousness and sin. Now we love Christ and long to be like him in conduct, conversation and attitude. It is not so much sin in itself that brings the wrath of God, but love for sin, hardness in sin and continuance in sin. There is sin in his people, but they confess their sins and he forgives them (1 John 2:1).

Colossians 3:8. Paul returns to his exhortation to put down and mortify sin in our members. He mentions six sins; the first three are of the heart and the rest are sins of the mouth! The right order of mortification is to begin with the heart (Matthew 23:26). Proceed then to the tongue and the outward man.

Colossians 3:9-10. This is regeneration, this is the new birth the Holy Spirit has created a new man with new desires, new principles, new attitudes. This new man is created in the image of Christ. We know him, his will and his ways. We hate the old man of flesh and continually put him off. By God's grace the new man will grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ until at death the old man will be totally eradicated and we will be like Christ.

Colossians 3:11. It is usual for natural men to think that they will be accepted of God because of nationality, ceremony, outward piety, works, or knowledge. It is also usual for men to conclude that God will take less notice of them if they lack these things. This verse clears that up. In regeneration, Christ is all (John 1:12). In righteousness, Christ is all (2 Corinthians 5:21). In sanctification, Christ is all (1 Corinthians 1:30). In acceptance, Christ is all (Ephesians 1:6-7). In love, Christ is all (Romans 8:39). In redemption, Christ is all (1 Peter 1:18).

Verses 12-16

Christian graces

Colossians 3:12-16

In the preceding verses of this chapter, the apostle exhorts us to put off the old man with his deeds. The conduct and character of the old man are anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy talk and lies. In these verses we are exhorted as the elect of God, as children of God, to behave as such in thought, word and deed. Put on the new man and his deeds; this is the fruit of the Spirit.

Colossians 3:12. It is not sufficient to cease from outward deeds of evil. We must also learn to do well and live as new creatures in Christ.

‘Put on, as the elect of God.’ There is an inseparable connection between being God's children and behaving like God's children (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:9; 1 John 4:7-8; 1 John 4:20). We do well to question our union with Christ where there is no evidence of growth in the grace of Christ, the love of Christ and the fruit of his spirit.

‘Bowels of mercy’ an inward pity and tenderness toward the needs, misery and infirmities of others.

‘Kindness.’ Our sympathy toward others should not only be inward, but outward also, expressed in words, conduct and deeds of kindness.

‘Humbleness of mind.’ This arises from a genuine sense of our own sins, infirmities and short-comings, as well as a sense of God's mercy toward us in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:7). We look upon ourselves as the chief of sinners, inferior to others in graces, gifts and knowledge.

‘Meekness’ the opposite of pride and arrogance. It destroys envy, jealousy and quarrels (1 Peter 3:4). A meek and quiet spirit will lead to patience or long-suffering. We don't feel it necessary to avenge ourselves or even to defend ourselves.

Colossians 3:13. As long as we are in the flesh we will have misunderstandings, unpleasantness and even injustices (we will feel that our rights have been violated and others have been wrong in what they have said and done). What is to be our attitude? It is to be twofold: ‘forbearing’ and ‘forgiving.’ To forbear is to control our emotions, surrendering our rights for the time being in patient hope that God will reveal his purpose and will. To forgive is actually to put the misunderstanding out of mind and restore a state of love and fellowship. This is the way our Lord treats us. He is longsuffering and patient with us, forgiving our sins, remembering them no more!

Colossians 3:14. ‘Above all things,’ the most necessary grace is love (Matthew 22:36-40; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13:13). This is the bond which binds everything together in complete harmony for the glory of God and the good of one another. Knowledge, activity, zeal and morality won't bind us to Christ or to one another.

Colossians 3:15. Let the peace which comes through Christ (Romans 5:1) and the peace which comes from Christ (Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 13:11-12) actually rule our hearts, deciding and settling all matters that arise in our minds or in the assembly. As members of the body of Christ we were called to live in peace and love (1 Corinthians 7:15). Let us be thankful and appreciative, first to God for all grace and then to one another. These virtues are absolutely necessary. Where love, peace and thanksgiving are absent, faith is absent!

Colossians 3:16. We are exhorted to a diligent study of God's word. This is not for information and doctrine alone, but that God's word might become such a part of us that it is said to dwell in us as a member of the family lives in a home. It is loved, respected, obeyed and delighted in richly (Psalms 1:1-2) in an abundant fashion. We are not to study just one part of the scripture, but all of it, that we may benefit and grow in grace (1 Peter 2:1-2). It is not only the duty of the ministers to teach, encourage and instruct others; but it is the duty of all believers to witness, teach and encourage one another in spiritual matters. This can be done in private, in groups and in public worship. It is all to be done as unto the Lord, for the glory of the Lord and from the heart.

Verses 17-25

The common rule for all our actions

Colossians 3:17-25

Colossians 3:17. This is the key verse in our study. Paul gives us a common rule for all our actions in worship and in daily life. They are to be done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for his glory and with thanksgiving to the Father for our interest in Christ, our position in Christ and our acceptance in Christ.

1. Whether in preaching, singing, praying, teaching, or in conversation with other believers, let us do what we do in the name of Christ and for his glory.

2. Whether in the home, on the job, or in any of our business and social contacts, we are not left at liberty to do as we please, but we are to aim at his glory and his will.

3. This will bring God's blessings, will bring unity of heart and purpose, will drive out divisions and strife, if we do all that we do, not for selfish purposes, but for Christ's sake.

Colossians 3:18-19. From this verse to the end of the chapter, Paul talks about the duties and deeds which relate to Christians as they are members of a family. In this family there are three pairs: husbands and wives, parents and children and masters and servants. He points out the duties of each to the other, to be fulfilled for the glory of Christ and in the name of Christ.

In order for a home to be well-ordered, a place of love and contentment and for Christ to have preeminence, these two things must be true:

1. The wife must be in subjection to the husband as is fit in the Lord, obeying him, respecting his judgments and decisions, and following his leadership as long as he does not violate the word of God (Ephesians 5:22-24; Genesis 3:16).

2. The husband should love his wife, treat her with kindness, respect and defend her before his parents, children and all who would discredit or abuse her. Husband and wife are one in the Lord and must not suffer this union to be broken, either in their own eyes or the eyes of others, particularly their children. No home can be built for Christ's glory or for our good if we are pulling our separate, selfish ways. We walk together in love and affection if we seek the glory of Christ.

Colossians 3:20-21. Do you children want to be happy? Do you want God's blessings on your lives? Do you desire to live for the glory of God and do all things in the name of Christ? Then ‘Obey your parents.’ Honour your father and mother. Respect them and their decisions. Speak respectfully of and to them. This is well pleasing to the Lord! (Exodus 20:12.)

Parents, do not abuse your parental authority. There are two dangerous directions we take in raising children: either being too hard and unreasonable with them, or being too indulgent and easy with them. Either way children will become discouraged, spoiled and rebellious. If we can seek God's will and not our own, God's glory and not our own, God's tenderness and way and not our own in dealing with our children, we will build a relationship the Lord will bless.

Colossians 3:22. ‘Servants’ here refers to all who work in the employ or service of someone else:

1. Let us give an honest, dedicated, full effort in our labors as if we were working for the Lord, not just in appearance, but with a dedicated heart.

2. Let us be concerned for our employer's business, property and profit, not stealing, wasting, or misusing equipment or tools.

3. Let us be content with our pay, asking for it in the right spirit, considering his ability to pay.

‘Masters,’ you have some obligations to your servants:

1. Give them fair and equal pay. They have families to support, children to educate and they enjoy the same things you enjoy.

2. Expect them to work, produce and promote the business; but don't be unreasonable. Treat them as you want to be treated. Don't lay burdens on them you are unwilling to bear.

3. Treat them with respect. A man may dress poorly or have less ability and education, but he is a son of God. He is an important person in the eyes of God.

Colossians 3:25. ‘Whatever you do in all these areas (husbands and wives, children and parents, servants and masters), do what you do sincerely, with all your heart, as unto the Lord and before the Lord.’ If we are his children, our activities have a higher purpose and calling than just building relationships and programs that will one day crumble. We are serving the Lord Jesus Christ and his greater glory. From him we shall receive a ‘well done’ or judgement.

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Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Colossians 3". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.