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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Colossians 3

 

 

Verses 1-25

CHANGING THE OLD FOR THE NEW

(vs.1-11)

We have seen some practical exhortations mingled with the doctrine of this epistle. Now this chapter begins what is mainly practical instruction based on the truth before declared. Just as before there are glimpses of practical lines mingled with the doctrine, so here, when practice is considered, there are also glimpses of the doctrine shining through.

The believer has both died and risen with Christ. Here he is looked at, not as seated in the heavenlies, as in Ephesians (Ephesians 2:6), but as still walking on the earth, though Christ is sitting on the right hand of God (v.1). Therefore His place is our true sphere of blessing, and we are to seek those things that are above the level on which we walk, He Himself being our true Object and delight. We cannot ignore our earthly relationships and the necessity of providing for our own bodies and families, but these are not to be the chief occupation of our minds. Our minds are to be set on things above (v.2), willing at any moment to leave all that is of earth, to exchange what is only a temporary tenancy for that which "our own" in permanent possessions.

We have died judicially before God, and our true life is hid with Christ in God (v.3). What perfect security! It is untouchable by men or the devil. The true character of that life is only seen fully in Christ who is Himself the very image of God. That life cannot be fully manifest in us toward the world as long as we also still have the fleshly nature, even though the believer has eternal life abiding in Him. So, at the present, eternal life's absolute perfection and beauty is hid with Christ in God.

But its future manifestation is certain. When Christ is manifested, we also shall be manifested with Him, and in glory, no longer in circumstances of weakness and trial. Before that manifestation, we will have been taken up to be with Him at the Rapture, before we can come with Him in the day of His manifestation. Our life then will be no more hidden, for Christ is our life.

We have seen the positive side of seeking those things above that are connected with our true life. In verse 5 the negative side is now pressed upon us. We are to put to death our members which are on the earth. As before God, in principle, we have died, but there things we are responsible to put to death. They are called members because they are things that cling to the flesh. Since we have crucified the flesh (Galatians 5:24), then let us also consistently put to death all of its activities, The force of the Greek verb here is to have this matter done as a settled thing, not to have to keep on doing it. These evils, fornication, uncleanness, passion, etc. should be so totally judged by the child of God that they have no more influence over him at all. The last one (covetousness) may be too easily ignored, but it is equated with idolatry, for only God should be the Object of our ardent desire.

It is because of these things that God's wrath comes on the ungodly, who are characterized as children of disobedience (v.6). These things therefore certainly have no place in a believer's life. Before being saved, we walked and lived in them, but under the wrath of God! Christ's salvation totally changes this.

Verse 8 uses the same form of verb as does verse 5. We are once and for all to have put off such things as anger, wrath, malice, vile language and lies. A believer has no excuse for not controlling his temper. And his least tendency to harbor hard feelings should be thoroughly judged as evil. No word should escape his lips that has any unwholesome character. Lies are utterly foreign to the pure true of God, by which alone blessing has come to our souls.

Believers have put off the old man with his deeds (v.9). The old man is what the believer was as a man in the flesh. That has been put off forever: he can no longer be the same. Of course, the fleshly nature remains, but we are not "in the flesh" (Romans 8:9), though the flesh is in us. We have put on the new man. This happened when we first trusted the Lord Jesus as Savior. There has been a vital renewing in knowledge, for the new man is part of God's new creation, in which the life that is in God Himself is the pervading power, so that the new man is after the image of the Creator, a representation of His own nature.

Therefore, the new man is in this new creation, where all national barriers, all religious distinctions, all cultural and social differences are done away: for these things belong to a world that has been corrupted by sin. But Christ is all and in all. So far as our associations on earth are concerned, the above distinctions certainly exist and must be recognized, but our position in Christ is that of new creation and thus connected with the future day of eternity when all things are made new. In this new creation the Person of Christ is everything, He Himself pervading the very atmosphere and character of His new creation. Therefore, in a very precious, living way, the child of God anticipates eternity. Verse 12 again uses the same form of verb as in verses 5 and 8, so that we are to put on permanently such virtuous characteristics as are consistent for those who are the elect of God, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering. bearing with one another, and forgiving one another (v.13). The incentive here is that we have this high and holy calling, settled and secure, and are considered by God as holy and beloved. And Christ is the great example as to our forgiving one another. Every believer must remember he has been forgiven much, therefore it should not be a hard thing for him to forgive others.

In all these lovely characteristics it is good for us to remember the example of the Lord Jesus. Tender mercies are beautifully seen in Him, if we consider His being "moved with compassion" (Matthew 9:36), and kindness in His gentle dealings even with Judas right to the end, though well knowing the deceit and treachery that animated this deluded disciple (Matthew 26:50). Humility is beautifully seen in Philippians 2:5-8 in Christ's coming down voluntarily to the dreadful death of the cross. Meekness (not standing up for His rights) is manifest in all His life, even when subjected to the cruel hatred and persecution of Jews and Gentiles as they were determined to crucify Him. He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). Long-suffering (patient putting up with constant affliction) characterized His entire life. Indeed, it is still true of Him now, having patiently suffered with the cold rejection of men all through this age of grace, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Bearing with others involves the restraining of any negative reaction to things that tend to provoke people. How true was this of the Lord Jesus, and with this is linked the forgiving of others. We know that those words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 13:34) came from the depths of His loving heart. Thus, for us too forgiveness should be frank and ungrudging.

To all of these things love is to be added, for it is the only true motivating power for them all. Love's genuine concern for the good of others should permeate every virtue. It is the bond of perfectness, that is, of proper, full-grown spiritual development, which has in it precious uniting power."And let the peace of Christ preside in your hearts" (v.15 - JND). It is the peace of Him now raised from the dead, in calm, tranquil triumph over all things. We are not told to make peace rule, but Let it rule, for the only hindrance to this is an unsubmissive will. We are called to this rule of peace, and a most salutary brief word is added, "and be thankful," for we too easily forget this simple and important matter.Verse 16 gives us the eighth time the title Christ (the Anointed One) appears in this chapter, for His Headship of the new creation is predominant to the end of verse 17. The word of Christ is that word connected with Him in resurrection glory, as is true of the peace of Christ. The word of Christ is to "dwell in you richly" as a settled, permanent thing, with fullness of spiritual prosperity. The comma in the New King James Version after "wisdom," should rather be placed after "richly" (JND), for wisdom is connected with the teaching and admonishing, where it is deeply needed. Another comma is well placed after "one another" (JND). In a place distinct from the teaching, yet accompanying it, is the wonderful exercise of singing. This included psalms, denoting songs accompanied by stringed instruments; hymns, songs of praise; and spiritual songs, those of Christian experience, exercises of soul, enjoyment of scriptural teaching, etc. All of this music should be accompanied by grace in our hearts toward God. This is not merely being able to sing well or beautifully, but with hearts responsive to the grace of God by which we have been so infinitely blessed. The words we sing should fully coincide with the truth of the Word of God, and grace in our hearts will deeply drink in their significance, for though singing is a precious exercise, the music must be only secondary to the words.

Last of all in this section our actual actions are referred to, whether in word or deed. These are to be regulated by the grand principle of acting directly toward the Lord Jesus in all that is said and done, in a spirit of genuine thanksgiving to the Father by Him. If with this in mind, in contrast to a mere legal spirit, we honestly watch our actions, how precious will the character of those actions be!

EARTHLY RELATIONSHIPS

(vs.18-4:6)

This is another section of Colossians, which deals with particular relationships which are connected, not with the new creation, but with the first creation. All believers have a vital part in the new creation, but they are not on this account relieved of the responsibilities of earthly relationships, no matter how greatly we enjoy the new creation. In fact, such enjoyment should render us all the more diligent and faithful in these. temporary relationships.

The willing submission of wives to their husbands is first spoken of as a normal, suitable attitude "in the Lord." It is the proper character of the relationship into which she has voluntarily entered - a relationship that holds wonderful blessing for those who regard it rightly and who appreciate the grace of God that has established the sacred marriage union between two believers.

Husbands are no less responsible. They are to love their wives. Let them make no excuse for not doing so! They are not told to enforce their wives' submission, but real love for the wife would encourage her submission. It is a sad necessity that requires the added words, "do not be bitter toward them" (v.19). Often a husband expects his wife to measure up to a certain standard, and if she does not, he may disobey Scripture by being bitter toward her. He may well ask himself, what standard does he himself measure up to? -- for it is not the standard of Scripture. His bitterness will certainly not encourage either her love or her submission to him. If he obeys Scripture by truly loving his wife and not being bitter toward her, this is the only way he will influence her attitude ;and actions for good. On the other hand, the obedience of the wife to Scripture in practicing a gracious submission of faith will go far in properly influencing her husband.

Children are to obey their parents. Certainly the parents are responsible to guide and train the children properly, for children need proper discipline. Whether the discipline is always perfectly fair or not, still the child is to obey. Let the child always be reminded that the Lord is well pleased with their obedience. There may be very unusual circumstances in which a parent requires something morally wrong from a child, as for instance, stealing or cheating, or worshiping an idol. This would be a plain exception, in which case the child should firmly, but not defiantly, refuse to obey the parent. Ephesians 6:1 reads, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord," So the child should always obey unless he is required to disobey the Lord.

Fathers are to especially guard against being unfair or unduly hard or demanding. This might easily provoke a child to act badly and to be discouraged, so the discipline would fail to fulfill its proper objective, and would only result in the opposite behavior of what the father hoped. We know how easy it is for a father to make a snap judgment when his child has apparently done something wrong, and because he is angry, to punish the child severely. Then he may find out afterward that it was not as serious a matter as he thought, and he knows he has been unfair to the child. His only recourse then is to humbly apologize to his child for this. Let us never discipline in a fit of anger, but seek grace to calmly consider before the Lord what discipline is necessary. For it is true that discipline is sometimes required. The Lord said of Eli that he himself and his house would be judged by God because he had failed to discipline his sons (1 Samuel 3:11-13). How often it has been true that children, in later years, have thanked their parents for disciplining them when they needed it! - while many others have sunk into crime and misery because they were never disciplined in youth.

In verse 22 slaves are addressed, yet the principle applies also to employees and students in school. If even slaves are to be obedient, then certainly those who are well paid have more reason to obey; and students who are taught for their own good should recognize it is only sensible to be subject to their teachers. Their obedience is not to be "eye service," that is, service when the master is watching, but as being at all times under the eye of God, in sincerity of heart, which is the opposite of duplicity, influenced by the true fear of God.

Verse 23, though especially addressed to slaves, may be taken to heart by every believer. What a difference it will make in our whole existence if we do everything heartily Lord, rather than grudgingly or unwillingly! This attitude will make pleasant even irresponsibilities.

Doing all things heartily as to the Lord gives present reward, even if it is only in the joy of the Lord's approval; but verse 24 speaks of the future inheritance, a reward for all believers, but especially to be valued by slaves who have no earthly inheritance of any kind. For above all, "You serve the Lord Christ." Keeping their eyes in this way higher than their earthly master, there is true dignity in serving.

On the other hand, verse 25 warns that wrongdoing (whether or not the servant felt it justified by his master's treatment of him) would result in the servant reaping what he sowed. No doubt it would be so for the master too, but that is no real consolation for the servant. God shows no respect of persons. No matter how great the wrong one may suffer, this never justifies doing wrong in return.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Colossians 3:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/colossians-3.html. 1897-1910.

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Saturday, March 28th, 2020
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