“Stop lying to each other, for you have stripped off the old nature with its evil practices and have put on the new nature which is being molded afresh in the likeness of your Creator. In this new life there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, those circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free man. Christ is all that matters and He is equally available to everyone. As God’s chosen, purified, and beloved representatives, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Deal tolerantly and gently with each other’s grievances and complaints, readily forgiving each other as Christ has forgiven you.
It is imperative to gird yourselves with love, for this binds everything together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of God control your thinking as members of Christ’s body and learn to be grateful. Remember what Jesus taught and let His words enrich your lives and make you wise. Teach and encourage one another by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankful and joyful hearts. Everything you say and do must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, constantly expressing gratitude to God the Father through Him. (3:9-17, paraphrased)
As if to summarize the sins of the tongue listed in the previous verse, Paul admonishes the Colossians to “stop lying.” Because they have divested themselves of former habits (v. 8), it is inconsistent to continue in them. Falsehood tops the list because of the heretical lies propagated by the Gnostics. Honesty is the hallmark of the child of God.
We divest ourselves of the old nature when we take on Jesus’ nature. Even though a transformation has occurred, we must reject old vices that tend to resurface. “Renewed” (anakainoumenon) is in the present tense, emphasizing that the sanctification process depends upon perpetually increasing in spiritual knowledge (Titus 3:5). In contrast to the “knowledge” offered by the Colossian heretics, the knowledge of Christ is the purest form available to man.
The illumination of God’s Word transforms the soul into the image of its Creator. Paul says this is the goal for every soul. As God created man in His own image, Christ is the semblance into which Believers are being transposed (Gen. 1:26-27). Spiritual progress is measured by our willingness to be conformed to Christ’s persona (Heb. 1:3).
For those who have been regenerated, distinctions regarding race, religious affiliation, and social status no longer exist. Cultural barriers are torn down and racial walls are leveled. Paul addresses this by listing four contrasts:
Racism has been eliminated at Calvary
. The Hebrews erroneously concluded God’s promises to them guaranteed national superiority. Few ethnic separations are as distinct as those which exist between Jews and Gentiles. Believers should know that all claims regarding religious privilege are null and void (Gal. 3:28). It is ironic that Paul, formerly a strict law-abiding Pharisee, receives a commission as the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13).
Religious affiliation is unimportant.
Paul mentions the specific distinction between “circumcised and uncircumcised” in order to include Jewish proselytes. Most Jews are circumcised in infancy, but anyone converting to Judaism seals his allegiance with circumcision.
Cultural status is not a factor.
To the Greek, the rest of the world was uncivilized and barbarian. Anyone ignorant of the Greek language was considered barbarous, one whose speech is inarticulate, crude, or unintelligible.
Paul compares the numerous barbarian races with the most despised race of all barbarians. The Scythians were an ancient Iranian people regarded by Greeks as brutal sadists. The word “Scythian” became a synonym for the lowest class of human beings. Their proverbial savageness depicted them as no better than wild animals. Their chief pastime was war. It was their habit to drink the blood of the first adversary slain in battle from bowls made from enemy skulls. Scythian religion included drug-induced trances and divination by soothsayers. But Paul contends even the meanest people will enjoy equal standing before God after conversion.
Social distinctions are obliterated.
Later in this chapter Paul mentions the relationship between slave and master (3:22). Aristotle regarded slaves as “living tools.” Even in the Church, the chasm separating bondmen from their lords is too wide for empathy alone to bridge. Paul sends the runaway slave Onesimus back to his owner as a brother in Christ (Col. 4:9 & Philemon 1-25).
All the sins listed above pertain to divisiveness. Every Believer enjoys equal standing before God because racial, religious, cultural, and social walls are demolished by Jesus’ atonement. This is dramatically demonstrated by the arrival of the Holy Spirit amid a diverse cultural setting (Acts 2:1-4). The Great Commission compels Believers to take the Gospel message to all nations (ethnos). Every ethnic group has the right to hear the Good News of salvation (Mt. 28:19). In a world torn by bias and bigotry, the Church stands as a refuge where people of various backgrounds find safe haven.
In a broad sense, the previous verses (3:8-9) teach all Believers to put off personal petty squabbles and put on an unbiased determination to win souls globally (3:10-11). Christ is our “all in all,” for life with Him is the only life worth living.
Although the saints in Colossians are God’s chosen representatives, they are not exempt from proper conduct. Continuing the allegory of “putting on” Christian attributes, the Colossians must don a new world view. Those whom God loves and those who love Him wear the garments of sanctification. Paul asks them to “robe themselves” with seven things:
1. “Compassion” (oiktrimon) is to have mercy, pity, and empathy for the misfortune of others. This term is combined with “bowels” (splanchna) which literally means the internal organs such as the liver, lungs, and heart. For Greeks, Romans, and Jews of the first century, this area was considered the seat of the emotions. The phrase “heart of compassion” describes the inner anguish resulting from being burdened for someone else (Phil. 2:1-2).
2. “Kindness” (chrestotes) refers to one with a gracious disposition. It pictures a gentle person with a pleasant demeanor who is considerate of others.
3. “Humbleness of mind” is tapeinophrosunen and includes the attributes of modesty and lowliness of mind. It is essential for a Believer to have an honest opinion of himself (Rom. 12:3).
4. “Meekness” (praotes) is defined as humility, courtesy, gentleness, and consideration. Praotes is an attitude toward God which views His dealings as beneficial. The truly meek person believes insults and injuries are permitted by God for chastening and spiritual education. Corrective measures are therefore accepted without resistance or argumentation. The meek person is more apt to endure injury than inflict it (Mt. 5:5).
5. “Longsuffering” (makrothumian) bespeaks patience, tolerance, and self-restraint. A person who is makrothumian remains composed and refuses to retaliate when facing provocation.
6. “Forbearance” (anechomenoi) is “to bear with, endure wrongs, and refrain from impulsive action.” Closely related to the concept of longsuffering, anechomenoi describes an attitude of self-restraint slow to avenge wrongs.
7. “Forgiveness” (charizomai) is “to bestow favor unconditionally by forgiving graciously.” There is a close correlation between God’s forgiveness and our willingness to forgive (Mt. 6:12 & Mk. 11:25-26). A “quarrel” (momphen) is a grievance or complaint against another. The motivation to settle differences is based on the fact God has so graciously pardoned us (Eph. 4:32).
These seven attributes underscore the importance of right interpersonal relationships. They combine to describe the disposition Believers should seek to adapt toward God, one another, and unbelievers.
Continuing his metaphor regarding “dressing ourselves” with certain virtues, Paul tops his list with love (agape). It is the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Love is the essential “overcoat” that completes, unites, and binds together all other virtues (I Cor. 13:1). To exhibit love to those who seem unlovable is a definitive sign of spiritual maturity (Lk. 10:27).
Having stressed the importance of love, Paul shows peace to be the result. Peace (eirene) is “inner tranquility.” Believers are known by a calm attitude that reflects the peaceable nature of Jesus. Peace is one of the most tangible evidences of the work of the Holy Spirit, guiding, counseling, and regulating personal relationships (Eph. 4:3).
The peace of God must be allowed to “reign” (brabeuein) in our hearts and govern our minds. Brabeuein is a verb that occurs only here in the New Testament and means “to act as an umpire, decide, or to give a verdict.” The peace the Holy Spirit imparts should arbitrate in every situation (Eph. 2:14). Paul reiterates that the proper response to the love, peace, and grace of God is a heart that habitually expresses sincere gratitude (Rom. 1:21).
God’s peace ruling our hearts works in tandem with sound Biblical doctrine. His Word dwells in the Church collectively and in members of the Church individually. In Paul’s day, the words Christ spoke were handed down verbally. Orally transmitted Gospel truth was the only media method in the early Church. Today, the written words of Jesus dwell “richly” (plousios) in many ways. The term plousios indicates God’s Word must should be given abundant room in our hearts and remain there as a rich treasure. Biblical precepts dwell richly in those who hunger for His wisdom (Mt. 5:6).
Whatever didactic methods are used should include both teaching (didaskontes) and admonition (nouthetountes). Whereas didaskontes involves proactive instruction, nouthetountes means corrective counseling. Both are imperative regarding personal spiritual advancement.
The Gospel is globally spread through both preaching and singing (I Cor. 14:15). When Believers assemble for worship, they know prayer, praise, and song offered to the Lord create an atmosphere conducive to His presence. Because doctrine is imbedded in the music, Christians teach and admonish each other as they sing. It is a means of instruction and edification because scriptural melodies resonate in the mind long after the songs have ended. Paul lists three examples:
A. “Psalms” refer to the Psalms of David. They were set to music and sung in the Church for generations (I Cor. 14:15).
B. “Hymns” include composed songs of praise and worship. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn before going to Gethsemane (Mt. 26:30).
C. “Spiritual songs” is a summary phrase referring to all music that uplifts the soul to God. This includes singing in the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 14:26).
Praise set to music is an outward expression of inner emotions and convictions. When joined in harmonious worship, Believers reaffirm their love for God and for each other. We sing “with grace in our hearts to the Lord.” Grace (charis) means “undeserved favor.” Gratitude for all His favors puts a song in the soul.
The primary theme of this epistle is the pre-eminence and sovereignty of Christ. Paul summarizes his thoughts by adding that whatever is done must be done with dependence upon Him and in His authority. A true Christian will maintain a grateful spirit that honors Him as one worthy of His name.
Points to Ponder
1. What particular “bias” mentioned in Galatians 3:28 is not found in Colossians 3:11?
2. What does Peter’s vision (Acts 10:9-16) and Jesus’ visit with the woman of Samaria (John 4:7-10) teach about racial and gender inclusiveness?
What qualities ascribed to Jesus are we encouraged to adapt?
Read the following verses and match each of them to one of these attributes: compassion, meekness, kindness, love, longsuffering, peace, and forgiveness.
3. Matthew 9:36
4. Matthew 11:29
5. Matthew 17:17 & I Peter 2:23
6. Luke 23:34 & Matthew 9:2
7. Revelation 1:5 & Mark 10:21
8. Mark 10:16; Eph. 2:7 & Titus 3:4.
9. Jn. 14:27
10. From the following Pauline passages, list other things Believers are encouraged to “put on.” Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:24 & 6:11.
11. By what title is God known (Romans 15:33; I Thessalonians 5:23 & Hebrews 13:20)?
12. We are to clothe ourselves with the attributes of Christ (Col. 3:12). What happened to the man who refused to wear the robe provided by the Master (Matthew 22:12-13)?
13. According to Hebrews 2:12, who will sing praises in the Church?