Colossians Chapter 3

 by Matt Slick

Our life in Christ (3:1-17)
Raised with Christ (3:1-4)

1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

In the previous chapter, in verse 20, Paul spoke of our death in 2:20 when he said, " have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world." But, here, he speaks of our resurrection.

It is because of our union, because of us being "in Christ" that we are said to have been raised up with Christ.

In order for resurrection to occur, death must first have occurred.  Our death occurred on the cross when Christ died.

The phrase "in Christ" is used in 90 times in the New Testament and it has a variety of associations:   redemption, eternal life, being in the church, approved before God, sanctified, justified, etc.

This resurrection means death has occurred.  Paul is speaking about our death, in Christ, to sin.

Jesus, died, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.  Since we are in him and with him, we need to have our minds set on the things above (mentioned in the next verse) because Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

The right hand is a position of authority.  Jesus in the position of authority with God the father.

He has the right to judge. On the day of judgment, those who own the right of Christ are saved.  Those on his left are damned.

Matt. 25:33-34,41,  "and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."

Heb. 1:13, "But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Thy feet” ?"

2 Set your mind on the
things above, not on the things that are on earth.

Because we have been raised up with Christ, we must consider ourselves dead to sin and, therefore, we should set our minds on the things above.  That is, we should think of godly things.

Phil. 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."

3 For you have died and
your life is hidden with
in God.

Paul elaborates on the reason for setting our minds on godly things.  It is because we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God.  But what does this mean?

From what I understand of Scripture, it means that my fully redeemed heart, mind, soul, and body is hidden with Jesus.  That is, it is not yet fully revealed.

Our eternal lives are secure in Christ.

but it also means that it is secure in Christ.  To be hidden in Christ speaks of both that which is concealed (and yet to be revealed) as well as security.

4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with
Him in glory.

Paul tells us that when Christ is revealed; that is, when he returns then we will also be revealed with him in glory.  This revelation means that the full redemption of what we are both spiritually and physically will be revealed when Jesus returns.  This will include the glorification of our bodies (which is manifested when Christ returns).  This means that the real you, will be revealed. You will be without the carnal flesh. It will be a wondrous day when we exist without sin dwelling in our hearts.

John 14:1-3, ”Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

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."

So, look upward to where Christ is, and forward to when he returns.

Our life in Christ

Put off the old man (3:5-11)

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly
body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Because of what Paul has said in verses 1-4, we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin.  We are to reckon ourselves, to see ourselves as dead to these things.

In this case he lists five things:  immorality (porneia - sexual sins of fornication, adultery, pornography); impurity (akatharsis - lustful, luxurious living); passion (pathos - depraved and abnormal passions); evil desires (kakos epithymia - bad cravings..drugs, alcohol); and greed (pleonoxia - greed, covetousness... abnormal desire to have more than you should).

Notice that Paul equates these with idolatry.  Why idolatry?  Because these sins are based on self gratification, self serving carnal sins, instead of sufficiency and reliance upon God and his grace.

All things that we focus on that move us away from God, that bring us to give more devotion to it than to God, can be said to be idolatrous.

6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come,

God's wrath is his judgment upon all who break is holy and perfect law.  Remember, the law of God is a reflection of his holy character.  But those who practice immorality, those who practice that which is contrary to the holy nature of God will be judged.  If God did not judge the lawbreaker, he would be condoning sin by not dealing with it.  Therefore, sin brings wrath and it is on account of sin that the wrath of God must come.

7 and in them you also
once walked, when you
were living in them.

Paul is reminding the Colossians of how they used to walk in these sins.  But, by his grace, they have been redeemed.

This should be extremely comforting to know that God, through Christ, has forgiven the Colossians (and also us) of our great trespasses.

8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

"But now" occurs 38 times in the New Testament.  It is a worthwhile study to see what follows each statement.

Nevertheless, here we see the contrast of how the Colossians used to follow sin, but now they have put sin should we.

Put aside, get rid of anger, harmful intention, evil words, and foul language.

9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

Lying is part of the old self, the carnal nature.  Christian should have no part of lying.

It is an evil practice not because God has arbitrarily decided that it is evil.  Instead, it is evil because it is contrary to the holy nature of God.  Heb. 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie.

10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One
who created him

The new self is the new man.  In Christ we are made new.  Though we are not completely redeemed in the sense that our physical bodies have not yet been glorified, we are already new.

We are constantly being renewed in the sense that we are constantly warring against sin and seeking to be victorious over it.

The true knowledge is what Paul is revealing here which is based upon the work of Christ and the guarantee of our future resurrection.  Remember, our life is hidden with Christ and it will be revealed when he comes back.  Because of this truth, because it is true knowledge, we can have confidence in the renewal that is yet to come and is yet occurring

11 —a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

The new self is a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, or circumcised and uncircumcised.  Paul says this because all who were redeemed are one in Christ.  That is, there is no class level or distinction in redemption.

Our life in Christ
Put on the new man (3:12-17)

12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

The word for chosen is "eklektos".  From this word we get the Greek "eklesia" or "church."

Eph. 1:4-5, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."

2 Thess. 2:13, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."

Rom. 9:11-13, "for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Because we have been chosen of God we are to be holy.

Notice that Paul speaks of the heart.  It is our hearts, the deepest part of what we are that Paul speaks when he says to adopt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

If we are compassionate and kind to one another, we will also be forgiving to each other.  Mutual forgiveness leads to health in the church.

This is a strong reminder to us that we are to be generous and forgiveness just as Christ has been generous and for giving us.

This is a convicting statement.

14 And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Beyond all of the virtues listed above, we are to put on love.  It was the love of God that sent the Son (John 3:16).  It is the nature of love to sacrifice for another (John 15:13).  If we love one another, we fulfill the law of God and we will also be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient with one another, and self sacrificing.

When we are loving to one another, we will have unity.  When we consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), when we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, we glorify God.  This helps to bring unity, compassion, patience, with one another in the body of Christ.

By contrast, perhaps we could say that the reason we have so much division of the body of Christ is because we have not properly put on love.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were
in one body; and be thankful.

If we are living as Paul is teaching, considering ourselves dead to sin, looking forward to the hope of the full redemption of our bodies upon the return of Christ, putting aside malice, turning from sinfulness, and putting on love, then we will have the peace of God living in us.  It is a natural result of living in the will of God.

John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives..."

Because we are redeemed, chosen of God, we are called to be in the one body of Christ.

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The word of Christ here can be the specific words of Christ taught in the Gospels and also the words he speaks through his apostles.

When the word of God is dwelling within us, the natural result will be to speak to each other in Psalms (from the book of Psalms), hymns (various songs of praise to God), and spiritual songs (songs of praise that are neither hymns nor Psalms).  In other words, we will speak according to the word of God and our desire will be to do so, to have gods word in us so that we might speak at fourth.

Notice that thankfulness is expressed.  It comes from the heart where God dwells and where the peace of God rules.

17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him
to God the Father.

All that you do, whether it be work, thought, speech, marriage, friendships, etc., do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  This means that you do it as a work, as a ministry that has been given to you by God -- which means you do it with honor before God and responsibility before man.

Also, Paul tells us to be thankful to God the Father through Jesus.  Remember, Jesus is our mediator between God and ourselves (1 Tim. 2:5) and it is because of him and before that we have our being.

Therefore, you must the mindful that he is always with us and sees and hears all that we do and think.

Teachings about holiness (3:18-4:6)
In the family (3:18-21)

18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Subjection, deals with order so that chaos is not the result of everyone trying to be a leader.  You cannot have two heads in the family.

Subjection does not mean inferiority.  Jesus himself was made under the law (Galatians 4:4), a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9), said that the Father was greater than he (John 14:28), and that came not to do his own will but the will of the Father (Luke 22:42).  Does this mean that Jesus, who is subject to the will of the Father, was inferior to him?  Not at all.

Subjection does not mean being a slave.

Submission does not mean being immoral...which is why Paul says "as is fitting in the Lord."  If a husband wants his wife to do something simple, she is not to submit.

Undoubtedly Paul was aware that there would be husbands who would misuse their position of authority.

We are also under authority to the government.  But we are not to obey the government if it asks us to do something against Scripture.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.

Husbands to love their wives.  Love is sacrificial and other centered.  Jesus, who is God in flesh, had all power and authority.  He could have ordered the universe out of existence.  But, how did he use his authority?  He taught; he healed; and he died for his bride.  So too, the husband is to use his authority in a serving and edifying capacity.

Eph. 5:28-29, "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church."

To not be embittered against them means to not be rude, ill tempered, or harsh.  The husband is to be compassionate, supportive, a godly leader, a good provider, and the man to whom his wife would be glad to submit.

1 Pet. 3:7, "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

We Christians gladly submit to the loving, nurturing, and kind direction of Christ.  Husbands are to reflect Jesus in that way so lives would want to submit to them as they willingly do to Christ.


20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

God desires that the home be ordered and that children submit to the teaching and discipline of their parents.  God has given to parents the position of raising children for the Lord.  Children are to honor their parents.  Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you."

Exodus 21:17, "and he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death."

Even Jesus honored his mother and father.  Luke 2:51, "And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart."

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. It was the will of the Father at the Son be subject to his parents.  Likewise, it is the will of the Father that children be subject to the parents in obedience.  It pleases God when children do this.


21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.

As fathers are in charge of the home, and children are to obey the parents, it is easy for fathers to misuse their position and exasperate their children.  The word for "exasperate" is "erethidzo".  It means to excite, to provoke.

Father are not to provoke or frustrate there children because a father can easily destroy the heart of his child by being too strong, too harsh, and withholding the proper balance of love and encouragement that children need.

Teachings about holiness
At work (3:22-4:1)

22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

Paul advocated the slaves of the day to likewise obey their masters with sincere hearts.  the slavery as an undesirable situation, Paul's goal was not open rebellion, but harmony within society.  Of course, eventually society would be changed from within as all people obeying Christ's  example and teaching.

Slavery back then was not like it was here in the United States 200 years ago.  Slavery was often considered a vocation that people voluntarily entered into.

Nevertheless, there is no slavery today.  But, the concept of serving our masters, of serving our employers fits the context well.  Christians are to work properly with willing submission, obeying their bosses.  They are to do their work with their eyes on Christ as if they were serving Jesus.  They are not to misuse their time or the resources provided to them.


23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men;

Paul repeats himself here.  He had already said this in verse 17.  Paul is showing us that our eyes should always be on the Lord.  If we believe that Jesus is in our hearts and is aware of all of our actions, and if we further believe that we have been redeemed from sinfulness by the loving sacrifice of Christ, then we should realize that we are set free from selfish desires and ungodly practices.

This is why Paul is telling us to work for the Lord Jesus rather than men.

Besides, what employer would not be delighted to have employees who work with honesty, integrity, and fervent effort?  The natural outcome is that the employee would be recognized and blessed.


24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

If we are working for the Lord Jesus, even in our employment, our reward will be from the Lord as well be our blessings.a

25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

God is a fair and impartial judge.  He does not alter his judgment times of who a person is or what position he holds.  Since he knows all things, those who do evil will be judged fairly it appropriately.

Of course, this judgment will occur at the great white throne.

We must always remember that though we may do well or poorly in our walk with God and man, it does not mean that our efforts effect our salvation with God.  That has been taking care of once and for all on the cross.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.