1. The pursuit of heavenly things based on union with the risen Christ, Colossians 3:1-4.
1.If ye then be risen—Better, if ye then be raised together. The reference is definitely to the period of their baptism, (Colossians 2:12,) and to the spiritual resurrection symbolized by it, and ideally coincident with it. As in Colossians 2:20, a rule of conduct is deduced from the fact of their having died with Christ, so here also another is founded on their resurrection with him. They then began a life of holiness. Thenceforth they were servants of the ascended Christ, and citizens of the heavenly kingdom. They were consecrated to the pursuit of things above, holy and heavenly.
Seek—Strive earnestly to gain all that heaven has for the redeemed, its mansion, its purity, its joy, its glory.
Christ sitteth—Two things are asserted: Christ is in heaven, and he is seated on the right hand of God. See on Ephesians 1:20.
2.Set your affection on things above—This is broader counsel than to seek them. Think of them, care for them. Let them occupy your thoughts and affections. Two courses of life and two classes of things were before them. They are more fully described in Philippians 3:17-20, where the words they “mind earthly things” finishes the climax on the unchristian side. Only things above comport with the life upon which the Christian enters at his conversion and baptism.
3.Ye are dead—Ye died, namely, to sin, and put off the things on the earth, its pleasure, its spirit, its worldly life. This is done in repentance, and it is formally declared in the terms of the baptismal covenant:—”Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow or be led by them?” A dead man has nothing to do with earthly things. But the new life, the inward and spiritual life begun under the power of the Holy Spirit in the moral resurrection which follows the dying to sin, proceeds from a vital union with Christ, and partakes of his life. It must, therefore, be heavenly in its character, and directed toward heavenly things. As yet, it is hid, or concealed, together with Christ, its source and element, in God, in whose bosom Christ is, (John 1:18,) so that it cannot be fully known until Christ is fully revealed.
4.When Christ’ shall appear—Shall be manifested at his second coming, being in hiddenness no longer. As he is now the life of all believers, they will share with him in all its ultimate developments in the resurrection and in the glorification of both soul and body.
2. General Christian duties, Colossians 3:5-17.
a. Avoidance of evil conduct and sinful tempers, Colossians 3:5-11.
5.Mortify—Make dead. Let nothing live that is at war with a death to sin and a true life in Christ. Kill your bodily members, so far as their action is merely earthly and sinful. Some specimens of it in this direction follow. See notes on Romans 1:24 and Ephesians 5:5. These sins of impurity, which are connected with the animal nature, have their seat in the soul. Renounced by the will, they must be unpractised in fact, and the tendencies to them destroyed by the sanctifying Spirit.
6.Wrath of God—Both in this world and the world to come. See on Ephesians 5:6, where the same expression occurs.
7.Ye also walked—They had once been alive to these things, and freely practised them, as did the mass of heathens around them. But they had now become alive to God, and had put off those sins.
8.But now—Having become alive with Christ.
Ye also put off all these—The passions herein enumerated by the apostle, besides the things previously mentioned; all sins of unkindness, of which some specimens are given.
Anger—Passion warmly venting itself outwardly.
Wrath—Passion boiling within.
Malice—Badness of heart.
Filthy communication—Not only obscene language, but all foul-mouthed abusiveness. These are all incompatible with a pure heart or the life of Christ.
9.Lie not—No lie is white in God’s sight. See on Ephesians 4:25, where the positive side of truthfulness is also enjoined. Lying was then and is now a frightfully prevalent vice of heathen communities. A converted heathen does not step at once from the vileness of his old life into the habit of the highest Christian morality. He must learn its laws. His conscience must be brought under their control. Even then he will need frequent and repeated admonition, accompanied with the motives and discipline, which the gospel so amply furnishes. This sufficiently accounts for the occurrence of such counsels against vice as are found here and in other epistles. They are a perpetual testimony against the moral debasement existing every-where and among all classes without the gospel, and a setting forth for all time of the lofty purity which Christianity forever demands. But is not the counsel needed to-day, and even among many Christians? Lying about one another is wrong; but lying to one another is the thing forbidden. Concealments and misrepresentations in trade, false colouring in narrative, exaggerations and omissions in conversation, intentional conveyance of wrong impressions, violation of pledges, disregard of promises, refusal to pay subscriptions, breaking of solemn covenants, are only specimens of the lying of the present day.
Seeing that—This verse being properly separated from the eighth only by a comma, the motive here assigned applies to the entire precept in the eighth and ninth verses. The truth expressed is the same with that in Colossians 3:3, only under the different figure of a garment laid aside and another put on.
The old man—The former unregenerate nature, the flesh, which they that are Christ’s have crucified. Galatians 5:24.
His deeds—The outward life inspired by this sinful nature, ranging from a neglect of the salvation of Christ to the low sensuality depicted above.
10.And have put on the new man—The regenerate nature, attained in the new birth, which is a new creation. Their action was a free submission of themselves to God’s working in them by his renewing power. This state, utterly incompatible at the outset with a life of selfishness and impurity, is one of growth and development. It is a characteristic of the new man that it is continually being renewed more and more after the image of Christ, the creator of this new man, who in himself (Colossians 1:15) “the image of the invisible God.” His likeness is more or less perfectly created in every regenerate heart.
In knowledge—Rather, unto full knowledge, namely, of God. As the new birth gives us our first knowledge of him, growth increases our knowledge. As Olshausen (followed by Alford) points out, the intellectual aspect of the divine image is here put forward, while Ephesians 4:24 exhibits its ethical character. Perfect knowledge of God is, then, the end of the new creation.
11.Where—In this new order of humanity, of which Christ is the head and representative, no class distinction of worth, or privilege, or disability is recognized, whether based on national differences, as Greek and Jew; on previous religious forms, as circumcised and uncircumcised; on lowness in culture, as Barbarian and Scythian; or on social position, as bond and free. These differences remain as between man and man, but none of them affects their relation to Christ. He is all. Every thing centres in him, and he becomes every thing to them who love him. He is also in all believers, dwelling in them, and so bringing all into union with himself, and brotherhood with each other.
b. Duty in culture and exercise of Christian graces, Colossians 3:12-14.
12.Put on—As putting off the old man carries with it his characteristic qualities, putting on the new man in like manner requires the possession of his virtues. They are to be as an outer garment, the first seen or felt in our intercourse with others.
As the elect—Chosen on gospel terms, as God’s spiritual Israel, to possess and exhibit these graces.
Bowels of mercies—Answering to the term tender-hearted in the parallel passage.
Humbleness—Toward one another. Ephesians 4:2.
13.Forbearing—As to present offences, thus emphasizing the last two virtues.
Forgiving—The past, freely, absolutely, lovingly.
Quarrel— Better, ground of complaint.
Even as Christ—Here is the model for our forgiving. For the maintenance of governmental authority he must require the offender to ask forgiveness. So may we when we are, like him, upholders of law. But the spirit which led him to the cross, that he might buy the chance to forgive, will, if it be in us, beget forgiveness of our brethren without the asking.
14.Above all’ charity—Of this spiritual robing, love is the outer garment. It is the love, literally; the well-known love, often standing as the representative and sum of all the graces of the Christian, but here as a beautiful and important addition.
The bond—The girdle binding together all the other graces into a perfect whole, thus keeping each article of this spiritual dress in its proper place and office. So love is both the supplement and the inspiration of all the rest.
c. Unity and mutual helpfulness, Colossians 3:15-17.
15.The peace of God—Rather, of Christ. The peace which he breathes into the soul, reigning in and governing their affections toward one another, becomes the blessed bond of their Church unity.
Be ye thankful—Grateful to God for the calling into his Church.
16.The word’ dwell—So that the individual members of the Church shall have a perfect familiarity with the teaching of Christ as given by the evangelists and apostles. Ellicott and Alford, following Bengel and others, agree that this clause properly ends with the word richly. The remaining clauses will then correspond: in all wisdom teaching, etc., almost identical with Colossians 1:28, and in grace’ singing, etc. The former refers to their singing to each other in public and social worship, and for their mutual edification; the latter is a singing silently, in their hearts, when alone, and to God. See on Ephesians 5:19.
17.Whatsoever—In the relations mentioned, though the rule may properly enough cover our entire conduct.
In the name—As Christians, bearing his name, having his Spirit, moving in his presence.
Giving thanks—Making the whole life abound in thanksgiving.
To God’ the Father—Omitting and with the oldest MSS.; and always through Christ, as our only way of approach to him.
3. Special social duties, Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1.
a. Wives and husbands, Colossians 3:18, Colossians 3:19.
18.Wives—This and the following verses have their parallels nearly verbatim, though often expanded by argument or illustration, in Ephesians 5:22, etc., where see the notes.
Fit in the Lord—In their relation as Christians, for in a Christian marriage the husband is the divinely ordained head of the wife.
19.Love your wives—As their head and protector, with Christ’s love for the Church as the model.
Be not bitter—Sharp, exasperated, the exact opposite and ruin of love.
b. Children and parents, Colossians 3:20-21.
20.Children—The precept notes no exceptions. While obedience to parents is the natural duty of children, the reason here assigned is its acceptableness as befitting their relation as Christians. Most MSS. read , in the Lord.
21.Provoke not—Do not irritate your children, by unreasonableness, undue severity, perpetual faultfinding, or passionate speech and conduct.
Many a child becomes discouraged in the performance of his filial duty, and reckless of results, by the sad home treatment to which he is subjected. And if he be ruined forever, a share of the responsibility belongs to the irritating father.
c. Servants and masters, Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1.
22.Servants—See notes on 1 Corinthians 8:21, and Ephesians 6:5.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Colossians 3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Easter