To those fruitless exercises which the false apostles urged, as though perfection consisted in them, he opposes those true exercises in which it becomes Christians to employ themselves; and this has no slight bearing upon the point in hand; for when we see what God would have us do, we afterwards easily despise the inventions of men. When we perceive, too, that what God recommends to us is much more lofty and excellent than what men inculcate, our alacrity of mind increases for following God, so as to disregard men. Paul here exhorts the Colossians to meditation upon the heavenly life. And what as to his opponents? They were desirous to retain their childish rudiments. This doctrine, therefore, makes the ceremonies be the more lightly esteemed. Hence it is manifest that Paul, in this passage, exhorts in such a manner as to confirm the foregoing doctrine; for, in describing solid piety and holiness of life, his aim is, that those vain showsof human traditions may vanish. At the same time, he anticipates an objection with which the false apostles might assail him. What then? “Wouldst thou rather have men be idle than addict themselves to such exercises, of whatever sort they may be?” When, therefore, he bids Christians apply themselves to exercises of a greatly superior kind, he cuts off the handle for this calumny; nay more, he loads them with no small odium, on the ground that they impede the right course of the pious by worthless amusements.
1. If ye are risen with Christ.Ascension follows resurrection: hence, if we are the members of Christ we must ascend into heaven, because he, on being raised up from the dead, was received up into heaven, (Mar_16:19,) that he might draw us up with him. Now, we seek those things which are above, when in our minds we are truly sojourners in this world, and are not bound to it. The word rendered thinkuponexpresses rather assiduity and intensity of aim: “Let your whole meditation be as to this: to this apply your intellect — to this your mind.” But if we ought to think of nothing but of what is heavenly, because Christ is in heaven, how much less becoming were it to seek Christ upon the earth. Let us therefore bear in mind that thatis a true and holy thinkingas to Christ, which forthwith bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds may dwell with him.
As to the right hand of God, it is not confined to heaven, but fills the whole world. Paul has made mention of it here to intimate that Christ encompasses us by his power, that we may not think that distance of place is a cause of separation between us and him, and that at the same time his majesty may excite us wholly to reverence him.
Jamieson, fausset, and Brown
Col_3:1-25. Exhortations to heavenly aims, as opposed to earthly, on the ground of union to the risen Savior; To mortify and put off the old man, and to put on the new; In charity, humility, words of edification, thankfulness; Relative duties.
If … then — The connection with Col_2:18, Col_2:23, is, he had condemned the “fleshly mind” and the “satiating to the full the flesh”; in contrast to this he now says, “If then ye have been once for all raised up (Greek, aorist tense) together with Christ” (namely, at your conversion and baptism, Rom_6:4).
seek those things … above — (Mat_6:33; Phi_3:20).
sitteth — rather, as Greek, “Where Christ is, sitting on the right of God” (Eph_1:20). The Head being quickened, the members are also quickened with Him. Where the Head is, there the members must be. The contrast is between the believer’s former state, alive to the world but dead to God, and his present state, dead to the world but alive to God; and between the earthly abode of the unbeliever and the heavenly abode of the believer (1Co_15:47, 1Co_15:48). We are already seated there in Him as our Head; and hereafter shall be seated by Him, as the Bestower of our bliss. As Elisha (2Ki_2:2) said to Elijah when about to ascend, “As the Lord liveth … I will not leave thee”; so we must follow the ascended Savior with the wings of our meditations and the chariots of our affections. We should trample upon and subdue our lusts that our conversation may correspond to our Savior’s condition; that where the eyes of apostles were forced to leave Him, thither our thoughts may follow Him (Mat_6:21; Joh_12:32) [Pearson]. Of ourselves we can no more ascend than a bar of iron lift itself up’ from the earth. But the love of Christ is a powerful magnet to draw us up (Eph_2:5, Eph_2:6). The design of the Gospel is not merely to give rules, but mainly to supply motives to holiness.
If ye then be risen with Christ – The apostle in this place evidently founds the argument on what he had said in Col_2:12; see the notes at that passage. The argument is, that there was such an union between Christ and his people, that in virtue of his death they become dead to sin; that in virtue of his resurrection they rise to spiritual life, and that, therefore, as Christ now lives in heaven, they should live for heaven, and fix their affections there.
Seek those things which are above – That is, seek them as the objects of pursuit and affection; strive to secure them.
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God – Notes, Mar_16:19. The argument here is, that since Christ is there, and since he is the object of our supreme attachment, we should fix our affections on heavenly things, and seek to be prepared to dwell with him.
2. Not the things that are on earth.He does not mean, as he does a little afterwards, depraved appetites, which reign in earthly men, nor even riches, or fields, or houses, nor any other things of the present life, which we must
use, as though we did not use them, (1Co_7:30 ) but is still following out his discussion as to ceremonies, which he represents as resembling entanglements which constrain us to creep upon the ground. “Christ,” says he, “calls us upwards to himself, while these draw us downwards.” For this is the winding-up and exposition of what he had lately touched upon as to the abolition of ceremonies through the death of Christ. “The ceremonies are dead to you through the death of Christ, and you to them, in order that, being raised up to heaven with Christ, you may think only of those things that are above. Leave off therefore earthly things.” I shall not contend against others who are of a different mind; but certainly the Apostle appears to me to go on step by step, so that, in the first instance, he places traditions as to trivial matters in contrast with meditation on the heavenly life, and afterwards, as we shall see, goes a step farther.
Set your affection on things above – Τα ανω φρονειτε· Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely engrossed by them. Now, that ye are converted to God, act in reference to heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to those of earth; and vice versa. This is a very good general rule: “Be as much in earnest for heavenly and eternal things, as ye formerly were for those that are earthly and perishing.”
Set your mind on (phroneite). “Keep on thinking about.” It does matter what we think and we are responsible for our thoughts.
Not on the things that are upon the earth (mē ta epi tēs gēs). Paul does not mean that we should never think the things upon the earth, but that these should not be our aim, our goal, our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so help to make earth like heaven.
3. For ye are dead.No one can rise again with Christ, if he has not first died with him. Hence he draws an argument from rising again to dying, as from a consequent to an antecedent, meaning that we must be dead to the world that we may live to Christ. Why has he taught, that we must seek those things that are above? It is because the life of the pious is above. Why does he now teach, that the things which are on earth are to be left off? Because they are dead to the world. “Death goes before that resurrection, of which I have spoken. Hence both of them must be seen in you.”
It is worthy of observation, that our life is said to be hid, that we may not murmur or complain if our life, being buried under the ignominy of the cross, and under various distresses, differs nothing from death, but may patiently wait for the day of revelation. And in order that our waiting may not be painful, let us observe those expressions, in God, and with Christ, which intimate that our life is out of danger, although it does not appear. For, in the first place, God is faithful, and therefore will not deny what has been committed to him, (2Ti_1:12,) nor deceive in the guardianship which he has undertaken; and, secondly, the fellowship of Christ brings still greater security. For what is to be more desired by us than this — that our life remain with the very fountain of life. Hence there is no reason why we should be alarmed if, on looking around on every side, we nowhere see life. For we are saved by hope. But those things which are already seen with our eyes are not hoped for. (Rom_8:24.)
Nor does he teach that our life is hid merely in the opinion of the world, but even as to our own view, because this is the true and necessary trial of our hope, that being encompassed, as it were, with death, we may seek life somewhere else than in the world.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
The Greek aorist tense implies, “For ye have died once for all” (Col_2:12; Rom_6:4-7). It is not said, Ye must die practically to the world in order to become dead with Christ; but the latter is assumed as once for all having taken place in the regeneration; what believers are told is, Develop this spiritual life in practice. “No one longs for eternal, incorruptible, and immortal life, unless he be wearied of this temporal, corruptible, and mortal life” [Augustine].
and your life … hid — (Psa_83:3); like a seed buried in the earth; compare “planted,” Rom_6:5. Compare Mat_13:31, Mat_13:33, “like … leaven … hid.” As the glory of Christ now is hid from the world, so also the glory of believers’ inner life, proceeding from communion with Him, is still hidden with Christ in God; but (Col_3:4) when Christ, the Source of this life, shall manifest Himself in glory, then shall their hidden glory be manifest, and correspond in appearance to its original [Neander]. The Christian’s secret communion with God will now at times make itself seen without his intending it (Mat_5:14, Mat_5:16); but his full manifestation is at Christ’s manifestation (Mat_13:43; Rom_8:19-23). “It doth not yet appear (Greek, ‘is not yet manifested’) what we shall be” (1Jo_3:2; 1Pe_1:7). As yet Christians do not always recognize the “life” of one another, so hidden is it, and even at times doubt as to their own life, so weak is it, and so harassed with temptations (Psa_51:1-19; Rom_7:1-25).
in God — to whom Christ has ascended. Our “life” is “laid up for” us in God (Col_1:5), and is secured by the decree of Him who is invisible to the world (2Ti_4:8).
For ye are dead – Dead to the world; dead to sin; dead to earthly pleasures. On the meaning of the word “dead,” see the Rom_6:2 note; Eph_2:1 note. The idea of the apostle is, that as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, in virtue of our connection with him, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition. Or, in other words, we are to be to them as if we were dead, and they had no more influence over us than the things of earth had over him in the grave; Notes, Rom_6:2.
And your life – There is still life. Though dead to one class of objects, you are alive to others. See the sentiment here expressed, explained at large in the notes at Gal_2:20.
Is hid with Christ in God – The language here is taken probably from treasure which is “hid” or concealed in a place of security; and the idea is, that eternal life is an invaluable jewel or treasure, which is laid up with Christ in heaven where God is. There it is safely deposited. It has this security, that it is with the Redeemer, and that he is in the presence of God; and thus nothing can reach it or take it away. It is not left with us, or intrusted to our keeping – for then it might be lost as we might lose an invaluable jewel; or it might be wrested from us; or we might be defrauded of it; but it is now laid up far out of our sight, and far from the reach of all our enemies, and with one who can “keep that which we have committed to him against that day;” 2Ti_1:12. Our eternal life, therefore, is as secure as it could possibly be made. The true condition of the Christian is, that he is “dead” to this world, but that he has immortal life in prospect, and that is secure, being in the holy keeping of his Redeemer, now in the presence of God. From this it follows that he should regard himself as living for heaven.
4. But when Christ, our life, shall appear. Here we have a choice consolation — that the coming of Christ will be the manifestation of our life. And, at the same time, he admonishes us how unreasonable were the disposition of the man, who should refuse to bear up until that day. For if our life is shut up in Christ, it must be hid, until he shall appear
5. Mortify therefore. Hitherto he has been speaking of contempt of the world. He now proceeds further, and enters upon a higher philosophy, as to the mortification of the flesh. That this may be the better understood, let us take notice that there is a twofold mortification. The former relates to those things that are around us. Of this he has hitherto treated. The other is inward — that of the understanding and will, and of the whole of our corrupt nature. He makes mention of certain vices which he calls, not with strict accuracy, but at the same time elegantly, members. For he conceives of our nature as being, as it were, a mass made up of different vices. They are, therefore, our members, inasmuch as they in a manner stick close to us. He calls them also earthly, alluding to what he had said — not th e things that are on earth, (Col_3:2,) but in a different sense. “I have admonished you, that earthly things are to be disregarded: you must, however, make it your aim to mortify those vices which detain you on the earth.” He intimates, however, that we are earthly, so long as the vices of our flesh are vigorous in us, and that we are made heavenly by the renewing of the Spirit.
After fornication he adds uncleanness, by which term he expresses all kinds of wantonness, by which lascivious persons pollute themselves. To these is added, πάθος that is, lust, which includes all the allurements of unhallowed desire. This term, it is true, denotes mental perturbations of other kinds, and disorderly motions contrary to reason; but lustis not an unsuitable rendering of this passage. As to the reason why covetousnessis here spoken of as a worshipping of images, consult the Epistle to the Ephesians, that I may not say the same thing twice.
Mortify, therefore, you members – Νεκρωσατε· Put them to death: the verb is used metaphorically to signify, to deprive a thing of its power, to destroy its strength. Use no member of your body to sin against God; keep all under dominion; and never permit the beast to run away with the man. To gratify any sensual appetite is to give it the very food and nourishment by which it lives, thrives, and is active. However the body may suffer by excessive sensual indulgences, the appetite increases with the indulgence. Deny yourselves, and let reason rule; and the animal will not get the ascendency over the rational man. See the notes on Rom_6:11, etc.
Inordinate affection – Παθος· Unnatural and degrading passion; bestial lusts. See Rom_1:26, Rom_1:27; and the notes there.
Evil concupiscence – Επιθυμιαν κακην. As επιθυμια signifies strong and vehement desire of any kind, it is here joined with κακη, evil, to show the sense more particularly in which the apostle uses it.
Covetousness, which is idolatry – For the covetous man makes his money his god. Now, it is the prerogative of God to confer happiness; every godly man seeks his happiness in God; the covetous man seeks that in his money which God alone can give; therefore his covetousness is properly idolatry. It is true his idol is of gold and silver, but his idolatry is not the less criminal on that account.
6. On account of which things the wrath of God cometh. I do not find fault with the rendering of Erasmus — soletvenire— (iswonttocome,) but as the present tense is often taken in Scripture instead of the future, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, I have preferred to leave the rendering undecided, so that it might be accommodated to either meaning. He warns the Colossians, then, either of the ordinary judgments of God, which are seen daily, or of the vengeance which he has once denounced upon the wicked, and which impends over them, but will not be manifested until the last day. I willingly, however, admit the former meaning — that God, who is the perpetual Judge of the world, is accustomed to punish the crimes in question.
He says, however, expressly, that the wrath of God will come, or is wont to come, upon the unbelieving or disobedient, instead of threatening them with anything of this nature. For God would rather that we should see his wrath upon the reprobate, than feel it in ourselves. It is true, that when the promises of grace are set before us, every one of the pious ought to embrace them equally as though they were designed for himself particularly; but, on the other hand, let us dread the threatenings of wrath and destruction in such a manner, that those things which are suitable for the reprobate, may serve as a lesson to us. God, it is true, is often said to be angry even with his children, and sometimes chastens their sins with severity. Paul speaks here, however, of eternal destruction, of which a mirror is to be seen only in the reprobate. In short, whenever God threatens, he shews, as it were, indirectly the punishment, that, beholding it in the reprobate, we may be deterred from sinning.
Cometh the wrath of God (erchetai hē orgē tou theou). Paul does not regard these sins of the flesh as matters of indifference, far otherwise. Many old MSS. do not have “upon the sons of disobedience,” genuine words in Eph_5:6.
7. In which ye walked.Erasmus mistakingly refers this to men, rendering it, “interquos,” (“among whom,”) for there can be no doubt that Paul had in view the vices, in which he, says that the Colossians had walked, during the time that they lived in them. For livingand walkingdiffer from each other, as power does from action. Livingholds the first place: walkingcomes afterwards, as in Gal_5:25, If ye live in the SPIRIT, WALK also in the Spirit.
By these words he intimates, that it were an unseemly thing that they should addict themselves any more to the vices, to which they had died through Christ. See the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is an argument from a withdrawment of the cause to a withdrawment of the effect.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
sometime — “once.”
walked … when ye lived in them — These sins were the very element in which ye “lived” (before ye became once for all dead with Christ to them); no wonder, then, that ye “walked” in them. Compare on the opposite side, “living in the Spirit,” having as its legitimate consequence, “walking in the Spirit” (Gal_5:25). The “living” comes first in both cases, the walking follows.
8. But now— that is, after having ceased to live in the flesh. For the power and nature of mortification are such, that all corrupt affections are extinguished in us, lest sin should afterwards produce in us its wonted fruits. What I have rendered indignationem, (indignation,) is in the Greek θυμός— a term, which denotes a more impetuous passionateness than ὀργὴ, (anger.) Here, however, he enumerates, as may easily be perceived, forms of vice that were different from those previously mentioned.
But now (nuni de). Emphatic form of nun in decided contrast (to pote in Col_3:7) in the resurrection life of Col_2:12; Col_3:1.
Put ye also away (apothesthe kai humeis). Second aorist middle imperative of old verb apotithēmi, to put away, lay aside like old clothes. This metaphor of clothing Paul now uses with several verbs (apothesthe here, apekdusamenoi in Col_3:9, endusamenoi in Col_3:10, endusasthe in Col_3:12).
All these (ta panta). The whole bunch of filthy rags (anger orgēn, wrath thumon, malice kakian, railing blasphēmian, shameful speaking aischrologian). See somewhat similar lists of vices in Col_3:5; Gal_5:20; Eph_4:29-31. These words have all been discussed except aischrologian, an old word for low and obscene speech which occurs here only in the N.T. It is made from aischrologos (aischros as in 1Co_11:6 and that from aischos, disgrace). Note also the addition of “out of your mouth” (ek tou stomatos humōn). The word was used for both abusive and filthy talk and Lightfoot combines both ideas as often happens. Such language should never come out of the mouth of a Christian living the new life in Christ.
9. Lie not. When he forbids lying, he condemns every sort of cunning, and all base artifices of deception. For I do not understand the term as referring merely to calumnies, but I view it as contrasted in a general way with sincerity. Hence it might be allowable to render it more briefly, and I am not sure but that it might also be a better rendering, thus: Lie not one to another. He follows out, however, his argument as to the fellowship, which believers have in the death and resurrection of Christ, but employs other forms of expression.
The old man denotes — whatever we bring from our mother’s womb, and whatever we are by nature. It is put off by all that are renewed by Christ. The new man, on the other hand, is that which is renewed by the Spirit of Christ to the obedience of righteousness, or it is nature restored to its true integrity by the same Spirit. The old man, however, comes first in order, because we are first born from Adam, and afterwards are born again through Christ. And as what we have from Adam becomes old, and tends towards ruin, so what we obtain through Christ remains for ever, and is not frail; but, on the contrary, tends towards immortality. This passage is worthy of notice, inasmuch as a definition of regeneration may be gathered from it. For it contains two parts — the putting off of the old man, and the putting onof the new, and of these Paul here makes mention. It is also to be noticed, that the old manis distinguished by his works, as a tree is by its fruits. Hence it follows, that the depravity that is innate in us is denoted by the term old man
Lie not one to another – Notes, Eph_4:25.
Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds – Your former corrupt and evil nature; Notes, Eph_4:22. The reason for putting away lying, stated in Eph_4:25, is, that we “are members one of another” – or are brethren. The reason assigned here is, that we have put off the old man with his deeds. The sense is, that lying is one of the fruits of sin. It is that which the corrupt nature of man naturally produces; and when that is put off, then all that that nature produces should be also put off with it. The vice of lying is a universal fruit of sin, and seems to exist everywhere where the gospel does not prevail; compare the notes at Tit_1:12. There is, perhaps, no single form of sin that reigns so universally in the pagan world.
Lie not to another (mē pseudesthe eis allēlous). Lying (pseudos) could have been included in the preceding list where it belongs in reality. But it is put more pointedly thus in the prohibition (mē and the present middle imperative). It means either “stop lying” or “do not have the habit of lying.”
Seeing that ye have put off (apekdusamenoi). First aorist middle participle (causal sense of the circumstantial participle) of the double compound verb apekduomai, for which see note on Col_2:15. The apo has the perfective sense (wholly), “having stripped clean off.” The same metaphor as apothesthe in Col_3:8.
The old man (ton palaion anthrōpon). Here Paul brings in another metaphor (mixes his metaphors as he often does), that of the old life of sin regarded as “the ancient man” of sin already crucified (Rom_6:6) and dropped now once and for all as a mode of life (aorist tense). See same figure in Eph_4:22. Palaios is ancient in contrast with neos (young, new) as in Mat_9:17 or kainos (fresh, unused) as in Mat_13:52.
With his doings (sun tais praxesin autou). Practice must square with profession.
10. Which is renewed in knowledge.He shews in the first place, that newness of life consists in knowledge— not as though a simple and bare knowledge were sufficient, but he speaks of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is lively and effectual, so as not merely to enlighten the mind by kindling it up with the light of truth, but transforming the whole man. And this is what he immediately adds, that we are renewed after the image of God. Now, the image of God resides in the whole of the soul, inasmuch as it is not the reason merely that is rectified, but also the will. Hence, too, we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration, that is, that we may be made like God, and that his glory may shine forth in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God, of which mention is made by Moses in Gen_9:6, the rectitude and integrity of the whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God. He speaks somewhat differently in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but the meaning is the same. See the passage — Eph_4:24. Paul, at the same time, teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection and blessedness to bear the image of God.
And have put on (kai endusamenoi). First aorist middle participle (in causal sense as before) of endunō, old and common verb (Latin induo, English endue) for putting on a garment. Used of putting on Christ (Gal_3:27; Rom_13:14).
The new man (ton neon). “The new (young as opposed to old palaion) man” (though anthrōpon is not here expressed, but understood from the preceding phrase). In Eph_4:24 Paul has endusasthai ton kainon (fresh as opposed to worn out) anthrōpon.
Which is being renewed (ton anakainoumenon). Present passive articular participle of anakainoō. Paul apparently coined this word on the analogy of ananeomai. Anakainizō already existed (Heb_6:6). Paul also uses anakainōsis (Rom_12:2; Tit_3:5) found nowhere before him. By this word Paul adds the meaning of kainos to that of neos just before. It is a continual refreshment (kainos) of the new (neos, young) man in Christ Jesus.
Unto knowledge (eis epignōsin). “Unto full (additional) knowledge,” one of the keywords in this Epistle.
After the image (kat’ eikona). An allusion to Gen_1:26, Gen_1:28. The restoration of the image of God in us is gradual and progressive (2Co_3:18), but will be complete in the final result (Rom_8:29; 1Jo_3:2).
11. Where there is neither Jew. He has added this intentionally, that he may again draw away the Colossians from ceremonies. For the meaning of the statement is this, that Christian perfection does not stand in need of those outward observances, nay, that they are things that are altogether at variance with it. For under the distinction of circumcisionand uncircumcision, of Jew and Greek, he includes, by synecdoche, all outward things. The terms that follow, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free, are added by way of amplification.
Christ is all, and in all, that is, Christ alone holds, as they say, the prow and the stern— the beginning and the end. Farther, by Christ, he means the spiritual righteousness of Christ, which puts an end to ceremonies, as we have formerly seen. They are, therefore, superfluous in a state of true perfection, nay more, they ought to have no place, inasmuch as injustice would otherwise be done to Christ, as though it were necessary to call in those helps for making up his deficiencies.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Where — Translate, “Wherein,” namely, in the sphere of the renewed man.
neither … nor … nor … nor — Translate as Greek, “There is no such thing as Greek and Jew (the difference of privilege between those born of the natural seed of Abraham and those not, is abolished), circumcision and uncircumcision (the difference of legal standing between the circumcised and uncircumcised is done away, Gal_6:15) – bondman, freeman.” The present Church is one called out of the flesh, and the present world-course (Eph_2:2), wherein such distinctions exist, to life in the Spirit, and to the future first resurrection: and this because Satan has such power now over the flesh and the world. At Christ’s coming when Satan shall no longer rule the flesh and the world, the nations in the flesh, and the word in millennial felicity, shall be the willing subjects of Christ and His glorified saints (Dan_7:14, Dan_7:22, Dan_7:27; Luk_19:17, Luk_19:19; Rev_20:1-6; Rev_3:21). Israel in Canaan was a type of that future state when the Jews, so miraculously preserved distinct now in their dispersion, shall be the central Church of the Christianized world. As expressly as Scripture abolishes the distinction of Jew and Greek now as to religious privileges, so does it expressly foretell that in the coming new order of things, Israel shall be first of the Christian nations, not for her own selfish aggrandizement, but for their good, as the medium of blessing to them. Finally, after the millennium, the life that is in Christ becomes the power which transfigures nature, in the time of the new heaven and the new earth; as, before, it first transfigured the spiritual, then the political and social world.
Scythian — heretofore regarded as more barbarian than the barbarians. Though the relation of bond and free actually existed, yet in relation to Christ, all alike were free in one aspect, and servants of Christ in another (1Co_7:22; Gal_3:28).
Christ is all — Christ absorbs in Himself all distinctions, being to all alike, everything that they need for justification, sanctification, and glorification (1Co_1:30; 1Co_3:21-23; Gal_2:20).
in all — who believe and are renewed, without distinction of person; the sole distinction now is, how much each draws from Christ. The unity of the divine life shared in by all believers, counterbalances all differences, even as great as that between the polished “Greek” and the rude “Scythian.” Christianity imparts to the most uncivilized the only spring of sound, social and moral culture.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew – See this fully explained in the notes at Gal_3:28. The meaning here is, that all are on a level; that there is no distinction of nation in the church; that all are to be regarded and treated as brethren, and that therefore no one should be false to another, or lie to another.
Circumcision nor uncircumcision – No one is admitted into that blessed society because he is circumcised; no one is excluded because he is uncircumcised. That distinction is unknown, and all are on a level.
Barbarian – No one is excluded because he is a barbarian, or because he lives among those who are uncivilized, and is unpolished in his manners; see the word “barbarian” explained in the notes at Rom_1:14.
Scythian – This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The name Scythian is applied in ancient geography to the people who lived on the north and northeast of the Black and Caspian seas, a region stretchings indefinitely into the unknown countries of Asia. They occupied the lands now peopled by the Monguls and Tartars. The name was almost synonymous with barbarian, for they were regarded as a wild and savage race. The meaning here is, that even such a ferocious and uncivilized people were not excluded from the gospel, but they were as welcome as any other, and were entitled to the same privileges as others. No one was excluded because he belonged to the most rude and uncivilized portion of mankind.
Bond nor free – See the notes at Gal_3:28.
But Christ is all, and in all – The great thing that constitutes the uniqueness of the church is, that Christ is its Saviour, and that all are his friends and followers. Its members lay aside all other distinctions, and are known only as his friends. They are not known as Jews and Gentiles; as of this nation or that; as slaves or freemen, but they are known as Christians; distinguished from all the rest of mankind as the united friends of the Redeemer; compare the notes at Gal_3:28.
Where (hopou). In this “new man” in Christ. Cf. Gal_3:28.
There cannot be (ouk eni). Eni is the long (original) form of en and estin is to be understood. “There does not exist.” This is the ideal which is still a long way ahead of modern Christians as the Great War proved. Race distinctions (Greek Hellēn and Jew Ioudaios) disappear in Christ and in the new man in Christ. The Jews looked on all others as Greeks (Gentiles). Circumcision (peritomē) and uncircumcision (akrobustia) put the Jewish picture with the cleavage made plainer (cf. Ephesians 2). The Greeks and Romans regarded all others as barbarians (barbaroi, Rom_1:14), users of outlandish jargon or gibberish, onomatopoetic repetition (baṙbar).
A Scythian (Skuthēs) was simply the climax of barbarity, bar-baris barbariores (Bengel), used for any rough person like our “Goths and Vandals.”
Bondman (doulos, from deō, to bind), freeman (eleutheros, from erchomai, to go). Class distinctions vanish in Christ. In the Christian churches were found slaves, freedmen, freemen, masters. Perhaps Paul has Philemon and Onesimus in mind. But labour and capital still furnish a problem for modern Christianity.
But Christ is all (alla panta Christos). Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural panta is more inclusive than the singular pān would be.
And in all (kai en pāsin). Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word adelphos (brother).
13. Put on therefore. As he has enumerated some parts of the old man, so he now also enumerates some parts of the new. “Then,” says he, “will it appear that ye are renewed by Christ, when ye are merciful and kind. For these are the effects and evidences of renovation.” Hence the exhortation depends on the second clause, and, accordingly, he keeps up the metaphor in the word rendered put on
He mentions, first, bowels of mercy, by which expression he means an earnest affection, with yearnings, as it were, of the bowels: Secondly, he makes mention of kindness, (for in this manner I have chosen to render χρηστότητα,) by which we make ourselves amiable. To this he adds humility, because no one will be kind and gentle but the man who, laying aside haughtiness, and high mindedness, brings himself down to the exercise of modesty, claiming nothing for himself.
Gentleness— the term which follows — has a wider acceptation than kindness, for that is chiefly in look and speech, while this is also in inward disposition. As, however, it frequently happens, that we come in contact with wicked and ungrateful men, there is need of patience, that it may cherish mildness in us. He at length explains what he meant by long-suffering— that we embrace each other indulgently, and forgive also where any offense has been given. As, however, it is a thing that is hard and difficult, he confirms this doctrine by the example of Christ, and teaches, that the same thing is required from us, that as we, who have so frequently and so grievously offended, have nevertheless been received into favor, we should manifest the same kindness towards our neighbors, by forgiving whatever offenses they have committed against us. Hence he says,if any one have a quarrel against another.By this he means, that even just occasions of quarrel, according to the views of men, ought not to be followed out.
As the chosen of God. Elect I take here to mean, set apart. “God has chosen you to himself, has sanctified you, and received you into his love on this condition, that ye be merciful, etc. To no purpose does the man that has not these excellences boast that he is holy, and beloved of God; to no purpose does he reckon himself among the number of believers.”
Put on – as the elect of God – As the principal design of the apostle was to show that God had chosen the Gentiles, and called them to the same privileges as the Jews, and intended to make them as truly his people as the Jews ever were, he calls them the elect or chosen of God; and as the Jews, who were formerly the elect, were still beloved, and called to be holy, so he calls the Colossians beloved, and shows them that they are called with the same holy calling.
Bowels of mercies, etc – Be merciful, not in act merely, but in spirit and affection. In all cases of this kind let your heart dictate to your hand; be clothed with bowels of mercy – let your tenderest feelings come in contact with the miseries of the distressed as soon as ever they present themselves. Though I know that to put on, and to be clothed with, are figurative expressions, and mean to assume such and such characters and qualities; yet there may be a higher meaning here. The apostle would have them to feel the slightest touch of another’s misery; and, as their clothes are put over their body, so their tenderest feeling should be always within the reach of the miserable. Let your feelings be at hand, and feel and commiserate as soon as touched. See on Eph_4:2 (note). Instead of οικτιρμον mercies, in the plural, almost every MS. of importance, with many of the fathers, read οικτιρμου, bowels of mercy, in the singular. This various reading makes scarcely any alteration in the sense.
Put on therefore (endusasthe oun). First aorist middle imperative of endunō (Col_3:10). He explains and applies (oun therefore) the figure of “the new man” as “the new garment.”
As God’s elect (hōs eklektoi tou theou). Same phrase in Rom_8:33; Tit_1:1. In the Gospels a distinction exists between klētos and eklektos (Mat_24:22, Mat_24:24, Mat_24:31), but no distinction appears in Paul’s writings. Here further described as “holy and beloved” (hagioi kai ēgapēmenoi). The items in the new clothing for the new man in Christ Paul now gives in contrast with what was put off (Col_3:8). The garments include a heart of compassion (splagchna oiktirmou, the nobler viscera as the seat of emotion as in Luk_1:78; Phi_1:8), kindness (chrēstotēta, as in Gal_5:22), humility (tapeinophrosunēn, in the good sense as in Phi_2:3), meekness (prautēta, in Gal_5:23 and in Eph_4:2 also with tapeinophrosunē), long-suffering (makrothumian, in Gal_5:22; Col_1:11; Jam_5:10).
Forbearing one another – Avoid all occasions of irritating or provoking each other.
Forgiving one another – If ye receive offense, be instantly ready to forgive on the first acknowledgment of the fault.
Even as Christ forgave you – Who required no satisfaction, and sought for nothing in you but the broken, contrite heart, and freely forgave you as soon as you returned to Him. No man should for a moment harbour ill will in his heart to any; but the offended party is not called actually to forgive, till the offender, with sorrow, acknowledges his fault. He should be ready to forgive, and while he is so, he can neither feel hatred nor malice towards the offender; but, as Christ does not forgive us till with penitent hearts we return unto him, acknowledging our offenses, so those who have trespassed against their neighbor are not to expect any act of forgiveness from the person they have injured, till they acknowledge the offense. Forgive, says the apostle, καθως και ὁ Χριστος even as Christ
forgave you – show the same disposition and the same readiness to forgive your offending brethren, as Christ showed towards you.
Forbearing one another – Notes, Eph_4:2.
And forgiving one another – Notes, Mat_6:12, Mat_6:14.
If any man have a quarrel against any – Margin, “or complaint.” The word used here – μομφή momphē – occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, “fault found, blame, censure;” and here denotes occasion of complaint. The idea is, that if another one has given us just occasion of complaint, we are to forgive him; that is, we are:
(1) to harbor no malice against him;
(2) we are to be ready to do him good as if he had not given us occasion of complaint;
(3) we are to be willing to declare that we forgive him when be asks it; and,
(4) we are always afterward to treat him as kindly as if he had not injured us – as God treats us when he forgives us; see the notes at Mat_18:21.
Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye – Learn here that Christ has power to forgive sin; compare the Mat_9:6 note; Act_5:31 note. Christ forgave us:
(1) freely – he did not hesitate or delay when we asked him;
(2) entirely – he pardoned all our offences;
(3) forever – he did it so as to remember our sins no more, and to treat us ever onward as if we had not sinned.
So we should forgive an offending brother.
14. On account of all these things.The rendering that has been given by others, “superomnia haec,” (above all these things,) instead of insuper, (over and above,) is, in my opinion, meagre. It would be more suitable to render it, Before all these things. I have chosen, however, the more ordinary signification of the word ἐπί. For as all the things that he has hitherto enumerated flow from love, he now on good grounds exhorts the Colossians to cherish love among themselves, for the sake of these things — that they may be merciful, gentle, ready to forgive, as though he had said, that they would be such only in the event of their having love. For where love is wanting, all these things are sought for in vain. That he may commend it the more, he calls it the bond of perfection, meaning by this, that the troop of all the virtues is comprehended under it. For this truly is the rule of our whole life, and of all our actions, so that everything that is not regulated according to it is faulty, whatever attractiveness it may otherwise possess. This is the reason why it is called here the bond of perfection; because there is nothing in our life that is well regulated if it be not directed towards it, but everything that we attempt is mere waste.
The Papists, however, act a ridiculous part in abusing this declaration, with the view of maintaining justification by works. “Love,” say they, “is the bond of perfection: now perfection is righteousness; therefore we are justified by love.” The answer is twofold; for Paul here is not reasoning as to the manner in which men are made perfect in the sight of God, but as to the manner in which they may live perfectly among themselves. For the genuine exposition of the passage is this — that other things will be in a desirable state as to our life, if lovebe exercised among us. When, however, we grant that loveis righteousness, they groundlessly and childishly take occasion from this to maintain, that we are justified by love, for where will perfect love be found? We, however, do not say that men are justified by faith alone, on the ground that the observance of the law is not righteousness, but rather on this ground, that as we are all transgressors of the law, we are, in consequence of our being destitute of any righteousness of our own, constrained to borrow righteousness from Christ. There remains nothing, therefore, but the righteousness of faith, because perfect love is nowhere to be found.
And above all these things – Επι πασι δε τουτοις· Upon all, over all; as the outer garment envelopes all the clothing, so let charity or love invest and encompass all the rest. Even bowels of mercy are to be set in motion by love; from love they derive all their feeling, and all their power and promptitude to action. Let this, therefore, be as the upper garment; the surtout that invests the whole man.
Which is the bond of perfectness – Love to God and man is not only to cover all, but also to unite and consolidate the whole. It is therefore represented here under the notion of a girdle, by which all the rest of the clothing is bound close about the body. To love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and one’s neighbor as one’s self, is the perfection which the new covenant requires, and which the grace and Spirit of Christ work in every sincerely obedient, humble believer; and that very love, which is the fulfilling of the law and the perfection itself which the Gospel requires, is also the bond of that perfection. It is by love to God and man that love is to be preserved. Love begets love; and the more a man loves God and his neighbor, the more he is enabled to do so. Love, while properly exercised, is ever increasing and reproducing itself.
Instead of τελειοτητος, perfection, several reputable MSS., with the Itala, read ἑνοτητος, unity; but the former is doubtless the genuine reading.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
above — rather “over,” as in Eph_6:16. Charity, which is the crowning grace, covering the multitude of others’ sins (1Pe_4:8), must overlie all the other graces enumerated.
which is — that is, “for it is”; literally, “which thing is.”
bond of perfectness — an upper garment which completes and keeps together the rest, which, without it, would be loose and disconnected. Seeming graces, where love is wanting, are mere hypocrisy. Justification by faith is assumed as already having taken place in those whom Paul addresses, Col_3:12, “elect of God, holy … beloved,” and Col_2:12; so that there is no plea here for Rome’s view of justification by works. Love and its works “perfect,” that is, manifest the full maturity of faith developed (Mat_5:44, Mat_5:48).
Love … be ye perfect, etc. (Jam_2:21, Jam_2:22; 1Jo_2:5). “If we love one another, God’s love is perfected in us” (Rom_13:8; 1Co_13:1-13; 1Ti_1:5; 1Jo_4:12). As to “bond,” compare Col_2:2, “knit together in love” (Eph_4:3), “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
15. And the peace of God. He gives the name of the peace of God to that which God has established among us, as will appear from what follows. He would have it reign in our hearts. He employs, however, a very appropriate metaphor; for as among wrestlers, he who has vanquished all the others carries off the palm, so he would have the peace of God be superior to all carnal affections, which often hurry us on to contentions, disagreements, quarrels, secret grudges. He accordingly prohibits us from giving loose reins to corrupt affections of this kind. As, however it is difficult to restrain them, he points out also the remedy, that the peace of God may carry the victory, because it must be a bridle, by which carnal affections may be restrained. Hence he says, in our hearts; because we constantly feel theregreat conflicts, while the flesh lusteth against theSpirit. (Gal_5:17.)
The clause, to which ye are called, intimates what manner of peace this is — that unity which Christ has consecrated among us under his own direction. For God has reconciled us to himself in Christ, (2Co_5:18,) with this view, that we may live in entire harmony among ourselves. He adds, in one body, meaning by this, that we cannot be in a state of agreement with God otherwise than by being united among ourselves as members of one body. When he bids us be thankful, I do not take this as referring so much to the remembrance of favors, as to sweetness of manners. Hence, with the view of removing ambiguity, I prefer to render it, “Be amiable.” At the same time I acknowledge that, if gratitude takes possession of our minds, we shall without fail be inclined to cherish mutual affection among ourselves.
And let the peace of God – Instead of Θεου, God, Χριστου, Christ, is the reading of ABC*D*FG, several others, both the Syriac, the Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Ethopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, with several of the fathers; on this evidence Griesbach has inserted it in the text.
Rule in your hearts – Βραβευετω· Let the peace of Christ judge, decide, and govern in your hearts, as the brabeus, or judge, does in the Olympic contests. No heart is right with God where the peace of Christ does not rule; and the continual prevalence of the peace of Christ is the decisive proof that the heart is right with God. When a man loses his peace, it is an awful proof that he has lost something else; that he has given way to evil, and grieved the Spirit of God. While peace rules, all is safe.
In one body – Ye cannot have peace with God, in yourselves, nor among each other, unless ye continue in unity; and, as one body, continue in connection and dependence on him who is your only head: to this ye are called; it is a glorious state of salvation, and ye should be for ever thankful that ye are thus privileged.
16. Let the word of Christ dwell.He would have the doctrine of the gospel be familiarly known by them. Hence we may infer by what spirit those are actuated in the present day, who cruelly interdict the Christian people from making use of it, and furiously vociferate, that no pestilence is more to be dreaded, than that the reading of the Scriptures should be thrown open to the common people. For, unquestionably, Paul here addresses men and women of all ranks; nor would he simply have them take a slight taste merely of the word of Christ, but exhorts that it should dwell in them; that is, that it should have a settled abode, and that largely, that they may make it their aim to advance and increase more and more every day. As, however, the desire of learning is extravagant on the part of many, while they pervert the word of the Lord for their own ambition, or for vain curiosity, or in some way corrupt it, he on this account adds, in all wisdom— that, being instructed by it, we may be wise as we ought to be.
Farther, he gives a short definition of this wisdom — that the Colossians teach one another Teaching is taken here to mean profitable instruction, which tends to edification, as in Rom_12:7 — He that teacheth, on teaching; also in Timothy — “All Scripture is profitable for teaching.” (2Ti_3:16.) This is the true use of Christ’s word. As, however, doctrine is sometimes in itself cold, and, as one says, when it is simply shewn what is right, virtue is praised and left to starve he adds at the same time admonition, which is, as it were, a confirmation of doctrine and incitement to it. Nor does he mean that the word of Christ ought to be of benefit merely to individuals, that they may teach themselves, but he requires mutual teaching and admonition.
Psalms, hymns. He does not restrict the word of Christ to these particular departments, but rather intimates that all our communications should be adapted to edification, that even those which tend to hilarity may have no empty savor. “Leave to unbelievers that foolish delight which they take from ludicrous and frivolous jests and witticisms; and let your communications, not merely those that are grave, but those also that are joyful and exhilarating, contain something profitable. In place of their obscene, or at least barely modest and decent, songs, it becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God’s praise.” Farther, under these three terms he includes all kinds of songs. They are commonly distinguished in this way — that a psalm is that, in the singing of which some musical instrument besides the tongue is made use of: a hymn is properly a song of praise, whether it be sung simply with the voice or otherwise; while an ode contains not merely praises, but exhortations and other matters. He would have the songs of Christians, however, to be spiritual, not made up of frivolities and worthless trifles. For this has a connection with his argument.
The clause, in grace, Chrysostom explains in different ways. I, however, take it simply, as also afterwards, in Col_4:6, where he says, “Let your speech be seasoned with salt, in grace,” that is, by way of a dexterity that may be agreeable, and may please the hearers by its profitableness, so that it may be opposed to buffoonery and similar trifles.
Singing in your hearts.This relates to disposition; for as we ought to stir up others, so we ought also to sing from the heart, that there may not be merely an external sound with the mouth. At the same time, we must not understand it as though he would have every one sing inwardly to himself, but he would have both conjoined, provided the heart goes before the tongue.
The word of Christ (ho logos tou Christou). This precise phrase only here, though “the word of the Lord” in 1Th_1:8; 1Th_4:15; 2Th_3:1. Elsewhere “the word of God.” Paul is exalting Christ in this Epistle. Christou can be either the subjective genitive (the word delivered by Christ) or the objective genitive (the word about Christ). See note on 1Jo_2:14.
Dwell (enoikeitō). Present active imperative of enoikeō, to make one’s home, to be at home.
In you (en humin). Not “among you.”
Richly (plousiōs). Old adverb from plousios (rich). See note on 1Ti_6:17. The following words explain plousiōs.
In all wisdom (en pasēi sophiāi). It is not clear whether this phrase goes with plousiōs (richly) or with the participles following (didaskontes kai nouthetountes, see note on Col_1:28). Either punctuation makes good sense. The older Greek MSS. had no punctuation. There is an anacoluthon here. The participles may be used as imperatives as in Rom_12:11., Rom_12:16.
With psalms (psalmois, the Psalms in the Old Testament originally with musical accompaniment), hymns (humnois, praises to God composed by the Christians like 1Ti_3:16), spiritual songs (ōidais pneumatikais, general description of all whether with or without instrumental accompaniment). The same song can have all three words applied to it.
Singing with grace (en chariti āidontes). In God’s grace (2Co_1:12). The phrase can be taken with the preceding words. The verb āidō is an old one (Eph_5:19) for lyrical emotion in a devout soul.
In your hearts (en tais kardiais humōn). Without this there is no real worship “to God” (tōi theōi). How can a Jew or Unitarian in the choir lead in the worship of Christ as Saviour? Whether with instrument or with voice or with both it is all for naught if the adoration is not in the heart.
17. And whatsoever ye do.We have already explained these things, and what goes before, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same things are said almost word for word. As he had already begun to discourse in reference to different parts of the Christian life, and had simply touched upon a few precepts, it would have been too tedious a thing to follow out the rest one by one, he therefore concludes in a summary way, that life must be regulated in such a manner, that whatever we say or do may be wholly governed by the authority of Christ, and may have an eye to his glory as the mark. For we shall fitly comprehend under this term the two following things — that all our aims may set out with invocation of Christ, and may be subservient to his glory. From invocation follows the act of blessing God, which supplies us with matter of thanksgiving. It is also to be observed, that he teaches that we must give thanks to the Father through Christ, as we obtain through him every good thing that God confers upon us.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed – Whatever ye say or do – whether relating to temporal affairs or to religion. The command here extends to all that we do.
Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus – Do it all because he requires and commands it, and with a desire to honor him. His authority should be the warrant; his glory the aim of all our actions and words. See the general sentiment here expressed, fully illustrated in the notes at 1Co_10:31.
Giving thanks to God and the Father by him – Through him; or in his name. All our actions are to be accompanied with thanksgiving; Notes, Phi_4:6. We are to engage in every duty, not only in the name of Christ, but with thankfulness for strength and reason; for the privilege of acting so that we may honor him; and with a grateful remembrance of the mercy of God that gave us such a Saviour to be an example and guide. He is most likely to do his duty well who goes to it with a heart overflowing with gratitude to God for his mercies, and he who is likely to perform his duties with the most cheerful fidelity, is he who has the deepest sense of the divine goodness in providing a Saviour for his lost and ruined soul; see the notes at 2Co_5:14-15.