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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Colossians 3

 

 


Verse 1

Colossians 3:1. If, as in chap. Colossians 2:20, sets forth a fact, since then deduces an inference. The same fact has been presented in chap. Colossians 2:12.

Were raised together; the passive implies God’s agency, which is not suggested by the E. V. (‘be risen’). The past tense points to the time of their baptism comp. chap. Colossians 2:12), which in the case of these adult Christians followed their faith in Christ. The rite was the sign and seal of their participation in the resurrection of Christ. But baptism and this raising are not identical. The latter is the reality of which the former is the sign. This being raised together with Christ implies ethical renewal of the believer, and hence it forms an appropriate motive to the exhortations which follow. God thus raises us with Christ, our ethical transformation is the necessary result; comp. Romans 6:5; Ephesians 2:6.

Seek the things that are above. (The phrase occurs in Colossians 3:2 also, and the rendering is made to correspond; ‘that’ being preferable to ‘which.’) The emphasis rests on ‘the things,’ etc. To seek these is the necessary consequence and requirement of the fact previously stated. For these heavenly things are where Christ is, and we have been raised together with Him.

Sitting on the right hand or God. At the place of power and honor, after His humiliation, but ‘sitting’ there in assured rest after conflict and victory. (The E. V. overlooks the double statement) The Ascension is presupposed (Meyer). The position of Christ, our personal Head and Lord, is the strongest motive to a life whose ends are heavenly. The contrast with earthly things is brought out in the following verse.


Verses 1-4

1. Fellowship with the Exalted Christ the Motive for the New Life.

This section is closely joined in thought with what precedes; hence some regard it as the conclusion of the polemical portion of the Epistle. But it is better to take it as the beginning of the hortatory part. Fellowship with the death of Christ presents an enforcement of the previous warnings; but fellowship with the Exalted Christ is the great motive to vital sanctification. The ‘flesh’ can be overcome, not by human prohibitions, but by this vital connection with Christ. The folly of angel worship is implied, but the main purpose is, by showing that Christian living depends on fellowship with Christ, to present a motive for the subsequent exhortations.


Verses 1-6

III. HORTATORY PART: LIVE AS THOSE SHOULD LIVE WHO WERE RAISED WITH CHRIST THE HEAD.

(1.) Fellowship with the Exalted Christ the motive for the new life; Colossians 3:1-4. (Transitive paragraph.)

(2.) General exhortations; Colossians 3:5-17. (Negative, Colossians 3:5-11; and positive, Colossians 3:12-17.)

(3.) Special precepts as to household relations; chaps. Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1.

(a.) Wives and husbands (Colossians 3:18-19).

(b.) Children and parents (Colossians 3:20-21).

(c.) Servants and masters (chap. Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1).

(4.) Concluding exhortation, in relation to prayer and conduct toward those without; Colossians 3:2-6.


Verse 2

Colossians 3:2. Set your mind (not, ‘affection’), etc. ‘Seek’ pointed to the outward conduct, this carries the injunction to the inward thought and controlling desire. Lightfoot: ‘You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.’

The things that are on the earth. Comp. Philippians 3:19 : ‘earthly things;’ 1 John 2:15 : ‘the things that are in the world.’ Those who place this paragraph in the polemical portion of the Epistle find here a reference to the false precepts about eating, etc. Of course the injunction gains force in its application to these ascetic rules, which are about things ‘to perish with the using’ (chap. Colossians 2:22), but it should be limited to them. The tone henceforth is ethical, not controversial. ‘The use of earthly things is not forbidden, but we are bidden, in the right use of the earthly, to mind and seek heavenly things’ (Braune). Colossians 3:3. For introduces an enforcement of the preceding exhortation.

Ye died; in fellowship with the death of Christ (see marg. references); ‘died from the rudiments of the world’ (chap. Colossians 2:20). Hence ye cannot go back to that previous mode of living.

And your life is hid (or, ‘hath been hidden’) with Christ in God. The past and present are combined in the thought: your true life was hid and remains hidden together ‘with Christ,’ and this permanent concealment was ‘in God;’ in Him, ‘as the Father in whom is the Eternal Son (John 1:18; John 17:21), and with whom He forever reigns (Colossians 3:1), the life of which the Son is the essence lies shrouded and concealed’ (Ellicott). ‘Life’ here means more than the future resurrection life; or rather, it includes all that is involved in that life. The life to be completed hereafter begins here. That life is unknown to the world, and in its fulness even to believers themselves (1 John 3:2); but though ‘hidden’ it furnishes a motive for not living to the world. Being kept secure is not the thought suggested.


Verse 4

Colossians 3:4. When Christ, who is our life. The evidence in favor of the reading ‘your’ is strong (including that of Aleph, C, the best cursives, and the Vulgate), but is scarcely decisive against the Vatican manuscript and other weighty authorities. ‘Your’ might have been taken from the preceding verse. ‘Christ,’ occurring for the fourth time, is emphatic ‘Our’ points to Christians in general, ‘ye also’ to the Colossians. Christ Himself is ‘our life;’ He is ‘not merely a remote and separated Cause, but Impulse, Power, Object and Subject of the Life itself’ (Braune); comp. marg. references.

Shall be manifested; not, ‘appear.’ This manifestation is contrasted with ‘hath been hidden’ (Colossians 3:3); it will occur at the Second Advent.

Then shall ye also. See above. If ‘your’ is accepted in the previous clause. ‘also’ here must mean ‘as well as Christ,’ an idea expressed by with him, which has an emphatic position in the Greek.

In glory; comp. Romans 8:17 : ‘glorified with Him.’ Lightfoot: ‘The veil which now shrouds your higher life from others, and even partly from yourselves, will then be withdrawn. The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation.’ Thus the motives for sanctification are drawn from the past, present, and future; but all from Christ; ye were raised together with Him; ye can now set your mind on Him at God’s right hand; your future glory will begin in the day of His manifestation.


Verse 5

Colossians 3:5. Put to death. The term is stronger than that usually thus rendered; but ‘mortify’ is misleading, and ‘make dead’ is awkward. Kill once for all, is the thought of the original, and the command is an inference, therefore, from Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:3.

Your members. This distributes the figure of chap. Colossians 2:11 (‘the body of the flesh’).

Which are upon the earth; as the sphere of their activity. The putting to death is to be understood in an ethical, not in a physical sense; and the list of sins which follow shows that ‘members’ cannot refer to the parts of the body as such, but only as instruments of these sins. While sensuality is the prominent characteristic of the things to be ‘put to death;’ ‘covetous-ness,’ which forms the climax, is not distinctively a sin of the body. The command is more difficult to obey than are the rules of asceticism (chap. Colossians 2:21-22).

Fornication, etc. These are the ‘members,’ although some would supply ‘put off’ from Colossians 3:8. A special form of sexual sin comes first, the following terms are more general: uncleanness including impure acts of every kind (comp. Ephesians 5:3); lustfulness, shameful desire, being still more extensive, but still referring to impurity, not exclusively to unnatural sin. The former includes all ungovernable affections; the latter extends to all evil longings.

And covetousness. Prominence is given to this form of sin, by the presence of the article in the Greek, as well as by the relative clause which defines this alone: which (or, ‘seeing that it’) is idolatry. The relative here may be paraphrased thus. There is an intimate connection between sins of lust and sins of greed; they both spring from the same root, ‘the fierce and ever fiercer longing of the creature which has turned away from God, to fill itself with the inferior objects of sense’ (Trench). Idolatry and lust are connected in the Old Testament; out covetousness is more distinctly idolatrous. ‘The covetous man sets up another object of worship besides God. There is a sort of religious purpose, a devotion of the soul, to greed, which makes the sin of the miser so hateful’ (Lightfoot).


Verses 5-17

2. General Exhortations.

We find here, though in much briefer form, substantially the same exhortations contained in Ephesians 4:17 to Ephesians 5:21. The section may be thus divided:—

(1.) Negative precepts, answering to the fact that they died with Christ (Colossians 3:5-11), concerning earthly pleasures and possessions (Colossians 3:5-7), and social relations (Colossians 3:8-11).

(2.) Positive precepts, answering to the fact that they were raised together with Christ (Colossians 3:12-17); the exhortations are: to exercise Christian affection and forbearance, for Christ’s sake (Colossians 3:12-14), and to glorify Christ in grateful word and work (Colossians 3:15-17).

While the contrast between the old man and the new (Ephesians 4:17-32) and the motive from the love of Christ (Ephesians 5:1-21) appear here, the arrangement is more logical, and accords with the main theme of the Epistle. In Ephesians the thought of unity in Christ gives greater diversity to the exhortations; here the thought of Christ the one Head seems to arrange the precepts in accord with the fact of having died and rising again with Him.


Verse 6

Colossians 3:6. For which things’ sake; ‘on account of which sins;’ the wrath of God cometh, etc. Comp. Ephesians 5:6. The clause: on the sons (not, ‘children’) of disobedience is not found in the Vatican manuscript, and some versions omit it. The suspicion of an insertion from Ephesians 5:6 is against accepting it, but the weight of authority is too strong to be overcome by this consideration. If omitted, the verse should read in English: ‘cometh the wrath of God.’ In any case ‘cometh’ is emphatic, expressing a general principle. The full manifestation will be at the day of judgment, but present punishment is not necessarily excluded. On ‘the wrath of God,’ see on Romans 1:18.


Verse 7

Colossians 3:7. Among whom, or, ‘in which.’ The former rendering is preferable, if the longer reading be retained in Colossians 3:6 : among these sons of disobedience. Comp. Ephesians 2:2-3, where similar expressions occur, and the same general thought ‘In which’ would point to the sins enumerated (Colossians 3:5).

Ye also, like the other Gentiles, once walked, this describes their conduct; when ye lived in these things refers to their continued life and character. There is no doubt that ‘in these things’ is the correct reading and rendering. The distinction between the two verbs prevents tautology, if ‘in which’ be accepted as the correct explanation in the first clause. But the other seems preferable, if the longer reading is retained in Colossians 3:6.


Verse 8

Colossians 3:8. But now, in contrast with ‘once’ (Colossians 3:7), ye also, as well as other Christians, put off, as garments are put off (not the same word as in Colossians 3:9, but found in Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:25), all these, ‘the whole of them,’ including the sins named in Colossians 3:5, as well as those now mentioned. This is a command, not a declaration.

Anger, wrath, malice (these three form a climax), evil speaking (lit., ‘blasphemy’). See on Ephesians 4:31, where all the terms occur.

Abusive talking. In Ephesians 5:4 a similar expression is rendered ‘filthiness;’ this word occurs only here, and refers to coarse abusive speech, not exclusively to ‘filthy talking.’

Out of your month; this applies to the last two terms.


Verse 9

Colossians 3:9. Lie not one to another. Comp. Ephesians 4:25. The practice of lying is referred to.

Seeing that ye have put off, etc. This participle (‘having put off’) and that in Colossians 3:10 give the motive for the preceding precepts, pointing to a single act (once for all) which occurred in the past. Luther explains the clauses as imperative (so Lightfoot), a view favored by the command in Colossians 3:12; but the former agrees better with the Apostle’s habit of thought. Comp. Ephesians 4:22. The figure is that of putting off and putting away a useless garment. Comp. chap. Colossians 2:15.

The old man with his deeds, or, practices;’ the word usually having a bad sense in the New Testament (comp. Romans 8:13). The ‘flesh,’ in its ethical sense, is here personified; see on Ephesians 4:22; comp. also Galatians 5:24 : ‘the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.’


Verse 10

Colossians 3:10. And have put on the new man. This is coincident in time with the ‘putting off,’ but in the workings of grace ‘the initiative is with the new man and in virtue of the Divine power creating him’ (Braune). ‘New’ is here, young, fresh; in Ephesians 4:24 the idea is that of newness. But there the former idea is suggested by the verb, here the latter by the following participle; so that no very marked distinction is implied.

Which, or, ‘who.’ The latter accords better with the personification.

Being renewed; continually, by the Holy Ghost. The new man which was put on is thus developed

Unto full knowledge; possibly in contrast with the ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) of the false teachers. This perfect knowledge is the aim of the renewal.

After the image of him that created him. Comp. ?Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:24. Here, as there, there is an unmistakable allusion to Genesis 1:26-27; hence to God (not Christ) as the creator. The entire phrase qualifies ‘renewed,’ not ‘full knowledge.’ That was the aim of the renewal, this is its norm. But the passage implies more than a restoration of the image lost by the fall. The first and the new creations are analogous: ‘the Christian is the genuine man; Christianity is true, God-willed humanity’(Braune).


Verse 11

Colossians 3:11. Where, in the region of the new creation, in contrast with that in which the old man dwelt, there is not (‘not only does the distinction not exist, but it cannot exist;’ Lightfoot) Greek and Jew, no division as respects nationality, circumcision and uncircumcision, as respects religion, Barbarian, Scythian, as respects civilization (‘Scythians, more barbarous than the barbarians;’ Bengel), bondman, freeman (so Ellicott), as respects social condition. Comp. Galatians 3:28. ‘He perhaps does not say “bond and free because these relations actually subsisted: but the persons in them were not thus regarded in Christ—no man is, as a Christian, bond nor free’ (Alford).

But Christ is all and in all ‘But,’ strongly adversative, presents the contrast with the world of carnal men, where all these distinctions not only exist, but are emphasized and control the conduct. The first ‘all’ is neuter, the second probably masculine: ‘all things and in all persons.’ Ellicott: ‘Christ is the aggregation of all things, distinctions, prerogatives, blessings, and moreover is in all, dwelling in all, and so uniting all in the common element of Himself.’ The order of the Greek places the word ‘Christ’ last for emphasis, and the entire clause is in accord with the theme of the Epistle: Christ the Head of all things.


Verse 12

Colossians 3:12. Put on therefore. Thus the positive precepts are introduced; ‘therefore’ points to Colossians 3:10. ‘For although the putting on of the new man as a fact, has historically occurred through the conversion to Christ, yet it has, according to the nature of the new man, its continued acts, which should occur, namely, through the appropriation of those virtues, which the new man as such must possess’ (Meyer)

As elect of God. It is assumed that they belong to this class, and this is urged as a motive. The act of God chose them; and as His elect, they are further defined as holy and beloved. The terms are not parallel with ‘elect,’ nor are they vocatives. ‘Holy’ suggests the idea of consecration, rather than of sanctification, while ‘beloved’ (a participle, not an adjective) means beloved of God. ‘The consciousness of this extraordinary privilege, of being the elect of God, who as such are holy and beloved of God—how it must have affected the conscience of the readers and aroused them to the very virtues, corresponding with so high a position, which Paul here enjoins’ (Meyer). No view of election which fails to do this, can be in accordance with the teaching of Scripture.

Bowels of mercy. The best authorities read ‘mercy,’ the figure is a common one in the New Testament, expressing the tame idea conveyed by ‘heart’ in modern speech. Following this mention of the inmost seat of compassion, we find kindness, humility, ‘which describe the Christian temper of mind generally, and this in two aspects, as it affects either (1) our relation to others, or (2) our estimate of self’ (Lightfoot); then, meekness, longsuffering, which according to the same author ‘denote the exercise of the Christian temper in its outward bearing toward others.’ The former, the opposite of ‘fierceness,’ is mildness toward faults which are blameworthy, the latter is slowness to punish, quietness toward wrongdoing. See on Ephesians 4:2; comp. Galatians 5:22.


Verse 13

Colossians 3:13. Forbearing one another, and forgiving each other. The pronouns are different, as in Ephesians 4:32; the latter marking more strongly the relation of Christians as members of Christ. On ‘forbearing,’ see Ephesians 4:2.

If (as is probable) any man have a complaint (a cause of blame) against any: even as the Lord forgave you. The authorities vary: many of the best read ‘the Lord;’ most have ‘Christ,’ and two of the best have ‘God.’ This state of things renders it most probable that ‘the Lord’ was the original form, especially since the parallel passage (Ephesians 4:23) has ‘God in Christ.’

so also do ye. In English we supply an imperative (‘do’), but the grammatical ellipsis is that of a participle (‘so also doing yourselves’). The mode of forgiveness is here—spoken of (‘even as,’ ‘so’); the ground of Christ’s forgiveness is left out of view.


Verse 14

Colossians 3:14. And (or, ‘but;’ the same being slightly in contrast with what precedes) above ill these things. Not simply ‘in addition to,’ nor ‘above all,’ in the colloquial sense, but ‘over’ as one puts on an outer garment or girdle, this figure being still in mind. Hence the E. V. properly supplies put on from Colossians 3:12.

Love, lit, ‘the love,’ that well known Christian grace, described by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13.

Which (neuter in the Greek, yet referring to ‘love,’ no to the act of putting it on) is the bond of perfectness. Love binds together into one moral perfection all the Christian graces. ‘Bond’ is not = sum total, nor is the phrase = perfect love, nor to be explained as love which is the distinctive feature of perfection. ‘Without love there is no perfectness; since this has its conditio sine qua non in the including of all its other parts in love’ (Meyer) The principal grace is here named last, as if it were supplementary, because of the figure. To find here justification by works is to misconceive the whole Epistle.


Verse 15

Colossians 3:15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The word ‘rule’ is more exactly: ‘act as umpire,’ a figure borrowed from the Grecian games. In Philippians 4:7, ‘the peace of God’ occurs, and this passage was probably altered to conform. The idea is, however, substantially the same. It is from God, but Christ’s gift (John 14:27), and is to be here understood in its widest sense. Those who accept ‘rule’ as the meaning of the verb, refer the precept more immediately to Christian concord. If the sense of arbitrating, acting as umpire, is retained, then the reference is to internal conflict in which this peace decides. The word itself favors the latter view, the context the former.

Unto which also. ‘Also’ indicates that this is a reason for the previous exhortation, or wish.

Ye were called in one body. The ‘one body’ is the body of Christ, the Church; comp. Ephesians throughout ‘To have become through the call one body with the sharers in that call, and yet not to permit the holy moral disposition, for the sake of which one is called, to be the common controlling power of life, what a contradiction!’ (Meyer.)

And be (lit, ‘become’) ye thankful. The adjective does not occur elsewhere, but the general thought is very frequent in the Apostle’s writings. ‘Become’ suggests increase, constant advance toward a gratitude not yet attained.


Verse 16

Colossians 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (The most ancient authorities vary here; but ‘Christ’ is well sustained.) ‘The word of Christ’ is the word which Christ has spoken, or caused to be proclaimed. For us the record of this ‘word’ is in the New Testament ‘In you,’ not, ‘among you;’ but the personal indwelling involves the application to the body of believers, especially since social duties are so closely joined with this precept ‘Richly;’ ‘not with a scanty foothold, out with a large and liberal occupancy’ (Eadie).

In all wisdom. This may be joined with what precedes, as in the E. V., or with what follows. The latter preserves the correspondence in the form of the clauses, and makes this phrase emphatic (comp. chap. Colossians 1:28, where the same words are grouped together).

Teaching and admonishing one another. Comp. Ephesians 5:19. The two words have been variously distinguished as referring to instruction about faith and repentance, doctrine and practice, for intellect and heart.

In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. See Ephesians 5:19. The words refer (though not exclusively) to the Old Testament psalms, to hymns of praise to Christ, and to other poetic productions, the result of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Others say the three classes of religious poetry are, Scriptural, congregational, private. ‘One another’ does not imply responsive singing, though that was common. Singing took a large place in the early Christian worship; but the Apostle here refers to all the intercourse of Christians, in social assemblies, in the family, and not in the public service alone.

Singing with grace. Or, more literally, ‘in grace,’ Christ’s grace. It should not be weakened into ‘gracefully’ or, ‘thankfully.’ The main question is, whether this explains ‘teaching and admonishing,’ or is another manifestation of the indwelling of the word of Christ. The former view teaches that the public and social singing should be hearty and religious. But the latter view is preferable: in addition to the public and social singing for mutual edification, there should be private praise to God. The one should express itself ‘in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs:’ the other may be without a sound in your hearts, but not the less singing. The evidence in favor of the reading, to God, is decisive.


Verse 17

Colossians 3:17. And whatsoever ye do, etc. This verse may be regarded as summing up all the preceding exhortations, or as a third manifestation of the indwelling of the word of Christ, or, better still, as an advance in thought: not only let His word dwell in you, but let your whole conduct find in Him its sphere and motive.

In the name of the Lord Jesus. Not by invoking Him at all times, but by making Him the centre of our lives, so that His name stands for the source of our strength, the guide in our duty, the keynote of our words, the end of our effort.

Giving thanks to God the Father through hint. This is the manner in which all is done in the name of the Lord Jesus, namely, by living a life of constant gratitude to God the Father. Augustine: ‘Both in His gifts and in His chastisements, praise Him, who either wins thee by giving, that thou mayest not want, or punishes thee when wandering that thou mayest not perish.’ Such gratitude is ‘through Him,’ since what He is and has done as our Redeemer not only makes us grateful, but gives us a Mediator for the expression of our thanksgiving. The first human motive in the Christian life is gratitude for redemption, and it does not lose its power as we feel more and more bow great a Redeemer the Lord Jesus is.


Verse 18

Colossians 3:18. Wives, submit yourselves, etc. (The word ‘own’ is to be omitted; it was inserted to conform with the parallel passage.) Comp. the similar exhortation, with the basis of it, in Ephesians 5:22-24 : ‘The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church.’ The Bible everywhere recognizes the relation as of this character (from Genesis 2:18-24 to Revelation 22:17). Hence the submission is to be a loving one, with a Christian motive: As if fitting (as it should be) in the Lord. This means: as should be the case, in consequence of the fellowship with Jesus Christ.


Verse 18

3. Special Precepts as to Household Relations.

This section agrees, not only in outline, but in detail, with the corresponding passage in Ephesians. The arrangement is identical, the precepts and motives in the main the same. Here, however, the relation of wife and husband is not enlarged upon, as in Ephesians. The fundamental thought of that Epistle would suggest a fuller treatment. From this nothing can be inferred as to which was first written. The precepts are as follows: —

(a.) To wives (Colossians 3:18) and husbands (Colossians 3:19).

(b.) To children (Colossians 3:20) and parents (Colossians 3:21).

(c.) To servants (Colossians 3:22-25) and masters (chap. Colossians 4:1).

Nowhere is the division of chapters more infelicitous than here.


Verse 19

Colossians 3:19. Husbands, love your wives. (The word ‘your’ is supplied several times in this section; it represents the Greek article with its possessive force; hence the italics of the E. V. are unnecessary.) ‘Even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it’ (Ephesians 5:25). This example and motive put a transforming power into the corrupt social life of the first century. The love commanded is more than the fancy or passion of youth.

And be not bitter (or, ‘embittered’) against them. ‘This special warning concerns a foul blot in married life, when the husband, as head of the house, not as head of the wife, not in love to her, but ruled by “the old man,” either shows bitterness in word or deed or in tone to the wife, should she be wanting in humility or submission, or have violated or disregarded the household right of the husband; or treats her with indifference, neglect, or harshness, without any fault of hers, from the cares and weariness of business, or the changing moods of the flesh, or mere habit’ (Braune). On the duties of husband and wife all other social duties rest. To make the marriage the less sacred, to encourage its dissolution, is like poisoning the wells of an entire community.


Verse 20

Colossians 3:20. Children, obey your parents. ‘Obey’ is stronger than ‘submit’ (Colossians 3:18); the wife is to be consulted, her wishes considered; but children should ‘obey.’ whether they know the reasons for the command or not. In their earliest years children learn respecting God from their relation to their parents. If they do not learn to obey, the foundation of their ethics, as well as of their theology, is not properly laid.

In all things. This is the rule; exceptions are left out of view. Christian parents are referred to (Ephesians 6:1 : ‘in the Lord’), and Christian children are addressed, since this motive is added: for this is well pleasing in the Lord. (The received reading is poorly supported) Such obedience is indeed well pleasing ‘unto the Lord,’ but the Apostle uses the phrase ‘in the Lord,’ in connection with these social precepts, to set forth the Christian character of the duty: ‘as judged by a Christian standard, as judged by those who are members of Christ’s body’ (Lightfoot). Comp. Ephesians 6:1-2.


Verse 21

Colossians 3:21. Fathers; as representing the ultimate household authority, and hence as especially needing this caution.

Provoke not your children; or, ‘do not irritate your children.’ ‘To anger’ is an unnecessary addition; the term used in Ephesians is different. Severe, unjust, capricious treatment is forbidden.

That they be not disheartened; this is the certain result of such treatment. Bengel: ‘a broken spirit, the bane of youth.’ The child feels: I can never satisfy my father. Affection and confidence are destroyed, or at least cease to act as motives. Obedience becomes soulless, and the child loses its moral discrimination, and finally becomes reckless. The history of too many brought up in nominally Christian families. Comp. the positive precept; ‘bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). ‘Our heavenly Father, the Father of our spirits, Himself carefully guards against our becoming disheartened under His chastisement, and nothing rejoices Him more than that “we cast not away our confidence;” and so also in the relations of parents and children, much depends upon our not being rendered morose by the faults, but taking courage as to final triumph’ (Rieger).


Verse 22

Colossians 3:22. Servants, lit., ‘bondmen,’ slaves. See Ephesians 6:5-6.

In all things. Peculiar to this passage. Here, as in Colossians 3:20, it states the general rule; the limitations arise from the modifications of the relation, but chiefly from the superior commands of God.

Hasten according to the flesh; in contrast with the higher Master; ‘Lord’ representing the same Greek word.

Not with eyeservice, lit., ‘eyeservices.’ In Ephesians, the singular points to the abstract spirit; the plural here, to the various manifestations of it. The word was coined by the Apostle to express the service which aims only to seem faithful.

As menpleasers. The motive must be a higher one than that of pleasing men. ‘Eyeservices’ are the natural result of being ‘men-pleasers.’

But in singleness of heart. Duplicity is a vice engendered by slavery, but wherever one serves another for wages there is room for it. The Christian should render the service due another, with a desire to be, not merely to seem, faithful.

Fearing the Lord. (The reading, ‘God,’ is poorly supported.) The same word is translated ‘master’ in the beginning of the verse. Hence the thought is: your real Master (not ‘according to the flesh’) is Christ; jour obedience is to be prompted, not by a desire to please men, but by a fear of the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24). Too often employers have been expected to act in a Christian, benevolent spirit, while the employees forgot their true Lord.


Verse 23

Colossians 3:23. Whatsoever, however small, ye do, in this relation, work from the heart ‘Do it’ is inexact; the same word is not repeated. ‘From the heart,’ or, ‘soul,’ is equivalent to ‘heartily,’ but should be rendered in correspondence with Ephesians 6:6. ‘With good heart, not from servile necessity, but of a free mind and choice’ (Chrysostom).

As to the Lord, and not to men. Every thing should be done as for Christ, as service rendered for Him, in view of the relation to Him. ‘And the relation to the human master should not, in this method of regarding it, be taken into the account at all, on the principle of not serving two masters’ (Meyer).


Verse 24

Colossians 3:24. Knowing. Or, ‘seeing that ye know.’ The motive which has been alluded to through-out is plainly stated.

That from the Lord, i.e., from Christ, the true Master of the Christian.

Ye shall receive the recompense. Not pay or reward, but that which is a compensation for the present privations.

Of the inheritance. This is the compensation, the heritage of heaven, full salvation. Because it is an inheritance, it is not purchased by the privations or the good service for which it becomes a compensation.

Ye serve. The word ‘for’ is to be omitted; and the original may mean either ‘ye serve,’ or ‘serve ye.’ The latter is preferable, summing up in one phrase the contents of all the previous precepts.

The Lord Christ, i.e., the Master Christ.


Verse 25

Colossians 3:25. For (so the best authorities) introduces a proof of the preceding clause: either that they ought to serve Christ, or that the service is Christ’s, according to the view taken of that clause.

He that doeth wrong, etc. The general principle is: ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ (Galatians 6:7). But it is disputed whether it is to be applied to the conduct of the masters, or to the servants also. In the former case, it encourages the servants by the fact that their wrongs will be righted; in the latter, it includes the wrong-doing of the servants, their unfaithfulness, as well as the harsh, injurious treatment they suffered. As the admonitions have been addressed to the servants, it seems improper to limit a general statement so as to exclude such a warning here.

And there is no respect of persons. In Ephesians 6:9, this is applied to masters; but here, according to our view of the previous clause, it is a caution to the other class. It has an important application to the poor and to those employed by others. Men often talk and act as though God always took the part of the poor and of the laboring class. Yet this view makes Him a respecter of persons. Such a mistake will not aid in solving the serious problems of the ‘labor question;’ problems as real and in some respects as dangerous as those of slavery. But, as God has proven the adaptation of the gospel for all human relations, He will solve these problems also by means of the same gospel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Colossians 3:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/colossians-3.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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