Colossians 3:1-11


Verses 1-11 comprise two paragraphs: 1-4 is a summary of the Christian's life; 5-11 the parenetic or hortatory section begins. The first word of our text points us back to 2:12. The first word of the hortatory section begins that section. Christ's death, resurrection and life are mind by faith in Him. Whatever Christ did, we are regarded by God the Father as having done also, see 2:12 and Romans 6:8.

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

The adverb "since" or "if" does not denote doubt or uncertainty.

Lenski: Paul has an 'if' of reality, just as in 2:20. . . 'You were raised up' reaches back much farther, for it repeats the 'you were raise up' of 2:12. The word refers back to the whole of the previous part, in particular to what the Colossians have themselves experienced.

"Set you heart, be eager for" is in the present tense. The Christians can do this for in his renewed state he has the strength to do so. "things above" does not refer to heavenly alone. Heaven itself belongs to the Christians. It means everything, all things I already have by faith in Christ.

Kretzmann: The transitory things of this world should engage our attention only inasmuch as we are stewards of the gifts of God for the space of this short life . . . . The things of this world are at best only a means to an end. . . . In the right use of the earthly things entrusted to us, we really mind and seek heavenly things; with their attainment our hearts are engrossed.

God does not expect Christians to be ascetics.

"Where" does not denote a place, but the state of exaltation. Christ's human nature was highly exalted and now fully uses all the qualities of the divine nature. The right hand of God is everywhere and Christ alone is everywhere at God's right hand. Christ's session at God's right hand is proof that our salvation is fully accomplished.

The last phrase can be translated either "where Christ sits" or "where Christ is, seated."

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

In verse 1 Paul says "set your heart on" and here he says "let your thinking be occupied with." These two verbs cover the entire life of the renewed being.

"Things above" denotes the things of the renewed life. "Earthly things" has to do with the flesh, the old Adam. Paul is not saying hat the Christian is not to enjoy the things of this life. In his renewed state the Christian is to enjoy and rejoice in the rightful use of all things which God has loaned to him. Paul is stressing the renewal.

Lenski: They are perfectly free to use all earthly things; no devils control any of them, Christ has utterly stripped all devils of power, see 2:15.

It is clear from this Epistle that the false teachers were telling the Colossian Christians that they were to abstain from the use of certain physical things. Paul is not saying that. But, as Thomas correctly observes: "There should be an absolute cessation of all known sin."

Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Here we have the reason. "You see, I repeat, you died." This is a reminder of verse 20.

Bruce: The idea is so strange that it must be repeated and emphasized.

Because of what Christ did for him the Christian has died to the guilt and power of sin and death. Your life is hidden, it is lastingly hidden. It is a work of God in Christ.

Thomas: The word translated 'is hid' seems to include the two ideas of secrecy and safety. Our life is 'hid' and therefore unseen by man; it is also 'hid' in the sense that it is incapable of being touched or hurt by any evil power, look at Isaiah 32:2.

My new, eternal life is just as certain and safe as is Christ Himself. This is the intimate mystic union of the Christian with God. I am as close to God as is Christ. Any my union with God is as certain as is Christ's union with God.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Note the contrast between this verse and verse 3. We are reminded of 1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is..

Kretzmann: Christ, our Savior, is our Life; He is at the same time both Possessor and Source of all true life, spiritual and eternal.

By faith I am now tightly bound to Christ. And, beginning with the last great day, along with Christ I shall be glorified so that everyone can see it visibly. It all seems so impossible now but it is certain and will surely happen.

Thomas: We are to account as belonging to us everything that Christ has done and is, and then live in the power of these blessed spiritual realities.

Christ is THE Life. Christ is YOUR life. It is now a matter of certain faith. In eternity it will be a matter of actual experience.

"When?" We know not when He will appear. We only know it is certain. Our being made manifest depends on the manifestation of Christ. How will we appear? In glory.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

The verse starts with a "therefore" in Greek. This is in view of what was said in verses 1-4. In verse 3 we have what Christ did for us. Now we have what a Christian does by faith.

"Put to death" could also be translated "reckon as dead."

Carson: Paul uses a vigorous metaphor, and calls for a slaying of the limbs of the body. The body in so far as it becomes earth-bound is to be dealt with radically.
Kretzmann: The apostle here speaks of the members of the body in its unregenerate state as servants and instruments of sin . . . . By reason of the Christian's evil nature the tendency, the proclivity, toward all these sins is found also in their hearts.
Lenski:Look at Romans 8:13 and compare it with Galatians 5:24. In our passage, the decisive act is to strike dead the bodily members, so that being dead they shall become incapable of being used for any of the vices here listed and indicated.

All five nouns have to do with sexual sins in deed and thought. Only the last one has an article. And that is the chief vice, covetousness.

Paul is talking about the sinful tendency to desire what belongs to another, here sexually. The ninth and tenth commandments are devoted to this sin. To desire another man's wife means to break the first commandment. It is an idol. It takes the place of God. Note again that Paul is speaking of sexual sins, not of sex itself. Sex is a wonderful gift of God and should be fully enjoyed by married people. But, even they are not immune to these awful sins of thought and deed.

Carson: It is characteristic of sexual indulgence that it leads to an unhealthy, and ultimately perverted obsession . . . . When godliness is rejected it is not long before sex is worshiped instead of God.
Bruce: covetousness is the more dangerous because it may assume so many respectable forms.

Colossians 3:6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

Compare this verse with Ephesians 5:6. By the way, the similarities between Colossians and Ephesians are most prominent in this chapter.

We prefer the AAT translation: "These are bringing down God's anger."

Carson: In Romans 1 it is quite clear in the repeated usage of the phrase 'God gave them up' that Paul has in mind the direct personal activity of God Himself . . . God intervenes in a judgment which may manifest itself in leaving men to wallow in the filth of their own lusts.
Lenski: It comes not merely on the day of final judgment, but whenever this wrath blazes froth in judgments on individuals and even on rotten nations.

Some version include the phrase "upon the sons of disobedience" and since these very words are found in Ephesians 5:6 we won't be wrong in reading them here.

Lenski: These words are genuine and should be included here. The Gentiles stifled even the voice of the conscience and the natural law, see Romans 1:32.
Bruce: The phrase 'upon the sons of disobedience' denotes those whose lives are characterized by defiance of the law of God and consequent liability to His wrath.

Colossians 3:7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

If the above mentioned phrase is maintained, the last word in verse 7 will be "them." In that case verse 7 reads as the NKJV: "in which you also once walked when you lived in them."

Carson: If we retain the phrase in verse 6 it would seen best to take the two relative pronouns as being masculine and neuter respectively, and render them 'among whom' and 'in these.'

For the unregenerate the sins mentioned in verse 6 are a way of life. They become customary for them. Bengel mentions: "As if in your first principle, origin, elements."

In this verse we have two words for living, the first metaphorical, the second literal.

Notice the repetition of "you also" in verses 4, 7 and 8.

Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

"But now" denotes the time since conversion, since they have risen with Christ. Once for all they must put away "all such things," a strong expression. They put them away as a way of life. Christians still have a flesh and, therefore, are still guilty of these sins occasionally, but not as a way of life. God gives them the strength to put these sins away. God gives the Christian the strength. The Christian should not expect God to do his work for him, if we may put it that way.

In verse 5 Paul mentions five particular sins. Here, in verse 8, he also mentions five particular sins. Possibly these five sins are primarily sins of the tongue. All depict the vicious nature bent on harming others. These are abusive words or slander directed against another.

Before we leave this verse we call attention to Ephesians 4:26 which reads: "Be angry and sin not. Do not let the sun set on your wrath." This indicates that there is such a thing as righteous anger among Christians. But it dare never turn into a grudge.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Carson: We are still moving in the sphere of sins of the tongue, as lying is forbidden.
Lenski: Never lie to one another!

Here compare Ephesians 4:25 which is very strong.

"Each other" includes all people. Among the unregenerate, lying is an expected way of life. It is characteristic of the devil. John 8:44. To tell a lie means to yield to the one who is called the father of lies.

Here we have the metaphor of dress. Because the Christian has put off the old man and because he has put on the new man, etc. Of course, we know that the Christian still has an Old Adam. Look at Galatians 5:16 and 17 where Paul speaks of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. But the undressing and dressing began at conversion. It goes on constantly. The Old Man along with all his activities was put off in conversion and this must continue daily.

Kretzmann: This was a single process, it took place in regeneration; but it is also a continued process.
Lenski: Our whole old nature must be removed. . . . We must read it in the light of the death and the resurrection in 2:20; 3:3, also 2:12 and 3:1. The operation is by no means painless; it is violent, it is called a crucifixion in Romans 6:6. The old man is not converted, he cannot be; he is not renewed, he cannot be.

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The New Man is "new" in the sense that he never existed before. Note the passive voice of the verb. And note that it is in the present tense. It is a daily process. In this sense Christians cannot and dare not rest until they die.

All this happens through the Means of Grace. It is a knowledge of God brought to us in the Means of Grace.

Bengel: In knowledge of the truth, 1:6,9,10, whereby all love of lying is destroyed.
Kretzmann: We must be renewed in knowledge and unto knowledge.
Bruce: The 'knowledge' that was held out to the Colossians by their would-be teachers was a distorted and imperfect thing in comparison with the full knowledge available to those who, through their union with Christ, had been transformed by the renewing of their minds.

"In keeping with, in accordance with." The righteousness and holiness of the Creator Himself are the standard of our renewal in and for spiritual knowledge. Look at Genesis 1:26ff and Ephesians 4:24.

The Apology, Tappert 102: This the Scripture shows when it says that man was created in the image of God and after his likeness, Genesis 1:27. What else is this than that a wisdom and righteousness was implanted in man that would grasp God and reflect him, that is, that man received gifts like the knowledge of God, fear of God, and trust in God? . . . . In Ephesians 5:9 and Colossians 3:10 Paul shows that the image of God is the knowledge of God, righteousness, and truth. Peter Lombard is not afraid to say that original righteousness is the very likeness of God which he put into man.
The Apology, Tappert 161: We are renewed, as Paul says in Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 'in knowledge' and 'beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed into his likeness'; that is, we acquire the true knowledge of God, enabling us truly to fear him and to trust that he cares for us and hears us.

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 tell us that not only justification but also sanctification is a great leveller.

Bruce: Natural and racial idiosyncrasies may survive, but not so as to perpetuate any difference in spiritual status.
Lenski: Men in general made these distinctions. There is one prerogative that erases all differences. This is the new man.

Some translate: "Here there cannot be Greek, etc." Others: There is no question here of Greek, etc." Perhaps the best is NASB: "A renewal in which there is not distinction between, etc."

Note the words. The first two are national, concrete; the second two are religious, abstract, both work-righteous; the third pair denotes those who could not speak Greek and the lowest of all cultures; the fourth pair denotes social differences. The condescending, Pharisaic spirit vanishes where there is the renewed man. This can actually be seen and experienced. This is spiritual renewal but does not do away with distinctions in the kingdom of power, the kingdom of the left hand.

The old man in a Christians is totally corrupt, cannot be converted, see Romans 7. The new man in a Christian is a gracious creation of God for the sake of Jesus Christ, which new man is constantly being renewed.

The last part of verse 11 means that Christ is simply everything in every way. Let no one ever tell a simple, believing child of God that he is not a complete Christian. All Christians are complete by grace.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 54-58. Used with permission.

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