Colossians 3:1-17 | Put on the Nature of Christ
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
- We have been raised with Christ (2:12), our lives now living for an eternal purpose, not an earthly one. Therefore we should seek and pursue the things of Christ, that our heavenly reality might invade our earthly experience.
- Our duty and calling is to mirror our spiritual realities with earthly obedience, that we would ‘live out our calling’
- Christ is seated at the right hand of God in a place of victory, after “triumphing over them in the cross” (2:15). We do not live with vain hope, not knowing whether our efforts and faith will be worth it, but we live with a sure and victorious hope knowing that Christ has won the victory and is already seated at the right hand of God.
- We seek the things above by setting our minds on them. It is only through the mind first which truth and conviction can enter the heart. As Paul writes to the Philippians; ‘whatever is true…noble…right…think about such things” (Phil 4:8)
3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
- We have died through the waters of baptism, and our spiritual lives are currently hidden with Christ in God. They cannot be seen but like God they are a sure reality. The Christian experience then is often like living two lives, for one life is here and present, the other is hidden in God, unseen by the world around us. Of course we saturate our earthly lives with the things of the kingdom but there is always some level of disconnect.
- Our spiritual lives are not simply with Christ, but totally absorbed into Christ, so that it can be said “Christ is your life”. If Christ has not been raised then neither will we. We are part of his body, so that when he appears on that final day, we will appear with him with resurrected bodies (1 Cor 15:52)
5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
- Since we have died to sin and self, we should mirror that reality in our practical lives by putting to death all that is sinful in ourselves.
- This first list concentrates on our sexual and selfish lusts, which can enslave us to serve them. This is idolatry for we make these our masters instead of God.
- These sinful passions are about power and selfish gain, and invariably result in manipulative control of others. When we live by these selfish lusts we effectively make ourselves god, attempting to suck in all things for our own selfish gratification, which incurs his wrath.
- This first list then is about putting to death what dishonours God, for when we serve God, we acknowledge his Lordship and seek his desires, not our own.
7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
- The Colossians seemed to have walked in these behaviours beforehand, as we all have, but now in Christ are instructed to put them away.
- This second list concentrates on socially destructive behaviours. They all involve other people in a way which causes conflict and hatred between people. In the fall not only was our relationship with God severed, but our relationships with each other were also cursed. The gospel not only reconciles us to God but us to each other.
- This second list then is about putting away all which dishonours and harms each other. Instead of enemies we become brothers, sisters and friends in Christ.
9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
- We have put off the old self, we no longer live for self-gratification or the condemnation of others, for now we live to serve God and bless others.
- put off = apekduomai – which means to “thoroughly strip off/renounce”. This is a very emphatic word which strongly emphasises the ‘stripping away’ of sinful practises. This word is only used two times in the New Testament, here, and in Colossians 2:15 where “Christ disarmed (apekduomai) the rulers and authorities”. Just as Christ violently and totally stripped the rulers and authorities of their power, so we should violently and totally rid ourselves of all which is sinful and unholy.
- put on = enduo – which means to be clothed, in the sense of sinking into a garment. Just as a child lifts their arms to be dressed by their parents, so as we lift our hands in prayer and worship to God, so our heavenly Father clothes us with our new self.
- Both of these are middle verbs, neither active or passive, implying that it is by God’s grace and our participation/obedience through which this is accomplished.
- Our sanctification is not a finished work though, for our new self is still being renewed. It is God who is renewing us back into the image of himself, our creator, for our image was marred in the fall. God alone has the knowledge of what we should be and how we should live, and so he is constantly renewing us towards that image.
11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
- We are all brought to unity in Christ and therefore there are no exceptions to allow sin to continue in our lives. We die to our whole selves and we are raised wholly in Christ.
- There are no religious exceptions. These instructions do not apply to Jews only but Greek (and all gentiles) too. It is not a matter of physical circumcision, for we show by faith whether we are circumcised in the heart or not.
- There are no cultural exceptions. Whether from a barbarian (non-Greek, non-civilised) or Scythian (considered the wildest of barbarians) culture it does not matter. Culture and background does not permit anger, violence, obscene talk or any other sinfulness. We must be careful not to overlook sin in our lives simply because it is our cultural norm!
- There are no exceptions to life circumstances. Whether slave or free it does not permit sinful behaviours to exist in our lives. Those in slavery and suffering may be tempted to show contempt and hatred for their masters or those in power. Those who are free or wealthy may be tempted to hoard more and more wealth and possessions.
- The gospel shows no partiality to culture, religious background or life circumstances, for there is only Christ and those in him. Christ is all and in all.
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
- Put on – Paul now starts to describe what the born again life should look like, going in reverse order; dealing with the social behaviours first and then those between us and God.
- God’s chosen ones – as before we should ‘live up to our calling and election’, mirroring the spiritual reality of our salvation in our earthly lives.
- holy and beloved – when we truly believe in faith that we are holy and beloved then we start to live according to that in our daily living,
- Paul fleshes out the social behaviours which we should clothe ourselves with, which draw us together instead of causing conflict and separation:
- Compassion instead of indifference
- Kindness instead of cruelty
- Humility instead of arrogance
- Meekness/gentleness instead of aggression
- Patience instead of anger
- Even though we are born again and raised with Christ, we are still being renewed and inevitably will have complaints against each other. So there must also be forgiveness, it has been said that Christians are to be ‘experts in forgiveness’. We stand and live in the forgiveness of Christ. Therefore, how can we not also forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ for their sin, which shrinks in comparison to our sin against God?
14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
- Above all these things we should love each other, for that is how God has approached us through the cross of Christ.
- If love is the perfect description of God’s attitude towards us, then it should be the perfect description of our dealings with others. Our lives are to be shaped by the love of God, and the cross is the shape of love.
15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
- Paul has shown what holy social behaviours (v12) should take the place of sinful social behaviours (v9). Paul now starts to address his first list (v5) and describe what should take the place of these sinful and selfish desires.
- The first of which is peace. Instead of selfish and lustful desires ruling our hearts, we should let the peace of Christ rule our hearts. The reason why we lust and crave with never ending selfish passion is because we have no peace. But when we come to God in prayer, being filled with the Holy Spirit and reminded of God’s promises in the gospel, our hearts can be filled with an eternal peace. That peace is like the water which quenches selfish and lustful desires.
- If we lack peace in our hearts then it is like there is a division in our body, we are conflicted. For some part of us trusts in the Lord, yet another part of us is serving our selfishness. We have been called ‘in one body’ so should let the peace of Christ rule all of it.
- The second is thankfulness. We lust and crave more in life because we feel we do not have enough, yet the more we get the more we want. However, in the gospel we are to be thankful, for thankfulness fills our hearts with contentment and gratitude. We have much to be thankful for in the gospel, for God’s rich blessings have been poured out on us abundantly, therefore we should overflow with thankful joy.
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- To remain within the peace of God and maintain a thankful attitude, we must let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. This harks back to verses 1 and 2 whereby we set our minds on things above. We allow the word of Christ to dwell in us by reminding ourselves of the great truths of the gospel, thereby deepening our convictions and allowing the peace of Christ to rest on our hearts. It is often the believers experience that simply reading the word of God lifts the believers spirit and brings greater peace.
- This need not be just an individual activity, for we are to teach and admonish one another with the word of Christ. There is where the body of Christ grows as each part, joint and ligament does its work. We should be proactive then in sharing the word of God with each other that we might bring about greater peace and thankfulness in each other.
- This need not be a dry and cerebral activity either, for we are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs out of our thankfulness to God:
- Psalms (psalmos) are the songs of the Old Testament, for remembering all that God had done for his people. Some songs are great for reminding us of the great truths and promises of God.
- Hymns (humnos) are songs of praise, honour and celebration, much like the song which Israel sang about David; “David has killed tens of thousands”. Some songs are enthused with celebration, joy and victory in Christ.
- Spiritual songs (pneumatikos ódé) are spontaneous songs of praise from a spirit filled heart. Some songs are simple and spontaneous and erupt from a heart filled with the spirit of God.
17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- Finally, as before, let Christ be all and in all. Since we have died to sin and self and are putting on the new Christlike self we should do everything in the name of Jesus.
- How foolish it would be to only put on half of the nature of Christ, and to allow duplicity within our lives. It would be like only getting half dressed in the morning and commencing with our day. Yet that is how many believers live! All that we speak and do should be in honour to and accordance with Christ.
- The goal then is to live a life consumed with Christ and his gospel, continually giving thanks for God through him.