“Since you have been resurrected with Christ to a new life, aspire to the heavenly realm where He is enthroned on God’s right hand. Let your mind dwell on heavenly things rather than worry about earthly things. You are now dead to the world and your life is hidden in God through Christ. When Christ, whose life we share, shall be manifested, then you too will be glorified with Him. Therefore put to death such sins as sexual immorality, impurity, dirty-mindedness, uncontrolled passions, and covetousness (which is a form of idolatry). Because of these things God’s wrath will come upon those who disobey Him. You practiced these sins when you lived under their influence, but now you must rid yourselves completely of every kind of sin, including anger, rage, spitefulness, blasphemy, and abusive speech.” (3:1-8, paraphrased)
Paul’s “if” is not hypothetical. The phrase is better translated “since you are raised with Christ, center your interests on Him.” Paul has just reminded the Colossians rigid regulations are powerless to restrain the carnal nature. He proceeds to show how dying with Christ means proactive involvement in the resurrected life (2:20). Jesus ascended into heaven and those who anticipate living there should focus their attention on Him (Acts 1:9).
Dwelling on heavenly things allows a Believer to see life from a different perspective. “Seeking things above” includes emulating the characteristics of Jesus, thereby providing outward evidence of an inward change.
The Father’s right hand represents the position of supreme power (Heb. 1:3 & Mk. 16:19). The reference to Jesus’ authority is a curt reminder to heretics who seek to undermine His role as sole Mediator (Ps. 110:1). The Gnostics worship angels, but God never told an angel to sit on His right hand (Heb. 1:13).
Paul reiterates his remarks regarding heavenly things by reminding the Colossians their thoughts must dwell there as well. The phrase “set your affections” refers to a continuing experience. Although a Believer’s feet are on earth, his heart and mind must be in heaven. Most material things are not necessarily evil in themselves but become sinful when they are preferred over the things of God. Those who live on a higher spiritual plane cannot be bound by materialism, for no one can serve both God and riches (Mt. 6:24).
Although Paul has already mentioned our “death” with Christ, he feels compelled to emphasize this (2:12 & 20). One becomes closer to Christ as sensual desires are replaced by spiritual desires.
The life of each Believer is “hidden” in Christ. No thief can steal the heavenly treasure found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Mt. 6:19-20). “Because He lives, we shall live also” (Jn. 14:19). Life with Christ brings a peace the world cannot fathom (Jn. 14:27).
Paul refers to Jesus as “our life” for our existence is tied to His (I Jn. 3:2). We are not merely sharing His life, but are fully integrated into His eternal life. Paul states this succinctly when he writes, “for me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
The wonders of redemption and reconciliation are mysterious to the unconverted. But Christ’s relationship with His Church will not always be hidden from the world. Soon the veil will be lifted and the day of our vindication will dawn.
“Appear” (phaneroo) means “to make manifest or visible.” Believers look forward with great anticipation to Christ’s arrival, for we share in His ultimate victory (Phil. 3:20). It is imperative to remain heavenly minded for Jesus can return at any moment. The exact date of His arrival may be uncertain, but we are assured the event will occur. The glorious future that awaits every Believer is an incentive to live a holy life.
After completing the doctrinal section of a letter (Rom. 8:1), it is Paul’s habit to address the practical aspects of the Christian life. This verse marks the transition from doctrine to duty. Living for Christ manifests itself in personal, familial, and community living.
Every Believer should view his physical body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, the Gnostic goes to the opposite extreme and believes the soul is unaffected by the deeds of the body. Paul calls for decisive action to be taken against sin (Rom. 6:11). “Mortify” (nekrosate) is to “slay utterly, put to death, or deprive of power.” Nekrosate represents an attitude all Believers must assume regarding old habits.
Even though we have “died” with Christ, we continue to “kill” carnal desires. Paul uses a similar analogy when he writes to the Romans regarding slaying “the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). Speaking allegorically, Jesus taught it is better for a man to “cut off” an offending hand or foot than be forbidden entrance into heaven (Mt. 5:29). One’s new nature is continuously validated as former sinful pursuits are renounced.
Although our lives are hidden with Christ above, we are still exposed to temptations below. Since we have “died with Christ” former sinful habits must die also. If we do not destroy these sins they will destroy us. Paul does not tell us to control or suppress carnal desires but to eradicate them. “Mortifying our members that are on earth” concerns one’s anatomical connection with the following sins.
• “Fornication” (porneia) includes prostitution, all forms of immorality, and any illicit sexual activities.
• “Uncleanness” (akatharsia) means sensuous living, immorality, and impurity in thought, word, or deed.
• “Inordinate affection” is a single word in Greek. Pathos means uncontrolled, passionate desires and points to an evil disposition which feeds on lust.
• “Evil concupiscence” (kake epithymia) denotes the depraved craving for sexual satisfaction.
• “Covetousness” (pleonexia) is the selfish desire to obtain more. Paul equates coveting with idolatry (eidololatreia) for material things are easily idolized. Anything becomes a “god” when enthroned in God’s stead (Ex. 20). Greed is idolatrous because it lowers our focus from heavenly to earthly things. Because all other sins listed here deal with sexual matters, Paul may have in mind the close connection between coveting and sensuality. A man is forbidden to covet his neighbor’s wife (Deut. 5:21).
Yielding to such sins incites God’s wrath (orge), the strongest of all passions. Paul warns God’s orge will be revealed on judgment day (Rom. 2:5-11). Knowing such sins incur His displeasure should be an incentive to “kill them off” (v. 5).
The “sons of disobedience” are those whose lives are characterized by disregard for God’s laws. Paul uses this same phrase when writing to the Ephesians. Satan and heretics have a strong influence upon “the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2 & 5:6).
Although the lives of the Colossian Believers were formerly characterized by sin, this is clearly no longer the case (I Cor 6:11 & Rom 6:19). Paul briefly reminds them of what they once were that they might better appreciate what they now are. Bearing in mind God’s forgiveness of former sins should help us avoid new ones.
Using the metaphor of clothing, Paul urges the Colossians to “put off” (apothesthe) ungodly attitudes. It is a strong term employed to show the necessity of “casting off” certain sins as one might discard useless clothing. The apostle exhorts them to divest themselves of five sins that concern bad attitudes, actions, and verbiage.
• “Anger” (orge) refers to the resentful, malicious abiding attitude of a person determined to get revenge.
• “Wrath” is thumos from which the concept of thermal heat is derived. Whereas anger bespeaks a permanent attitude of the mind, thumos pictures a boiling agitation expressed by sudden, vengeful, passionate outbursts of rage.
• Malice (kakia) is a more intensive term than either anger or wrath. Kakia pictures a person with a depraved, wicked character who has a fervent determination to injure another.
• Blasphemy (blasphemia) means using slanderous, or defamatory words intended to damage one’s reputation. Blasphemia is hateful speech aimed at human beings, but can also target God.
• Filthy communication (aischrologia) is offensive language or foul-mouthed abuse. This includes not only obscenities but flirtatious activities as well.
A bad attitude must first develop in the heart before it can reach the mouth. Anger, wrath and malice eventually express themselves through blasphemy and abusive language. Paul exhorts his readers to edify one another with speech that is “seasoned with salt” instead (Col. 4:6).
Points to Ponder
1. What is the significance of being raised with Christ? How does this concept help you live a stronger Christian life (3:1)?
2. In Colossians 3:3, Paul refers to Christ as “our life.” Paraphrase and explain these verses expressing a similar concept: Philippians 1:21, Galatians 4:19, and II Corinthians 4:10.
3. Paraphrase Paul’s remark to the Thessalonians regarding the Rapture (I Thess. 4:16-17).
4. Explain how the holy wrath of God (Col. 3:6) differs from the unholy wrath of a human being (Col. 3:8).
5. What incurs God’s wrath (John 3:36, Rev. 6:16, & Rom. 1:18)?
6. Compare the lists of sins in Romans 1:29-31 & Gal 5:19-21 with the list in Colossians 3:6 & 8. Which sins seem to be the most prevalent?
7. Paraphrase James’ remark regarding the use of the tongue (James 3:5-11).
8. Paraphrase Ephesians 4:29-32. Why must we guard our speech (v. 29)? Who is grieved when we do not (v. 30)? What is our responsibility to others regarding this (v. 31)?