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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 3

Col 3:1-25. Exhortations to Heavenly Aims, as Opposed to Earthly, on the Ground of Union to the Risen Saviour; to Mortify and Put Off the Old Man, and to Put on the New; in Charity, Humility, Words of Edification, Thankfulness; Relative Duties.

1. If … then—The connection with Col 2:18, 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, Ro 6:4).

seek those things … above—(Mt 6:33; Php 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, 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 Saviour 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 Saviour's condition; that where the eyes of apostles were forced to leave Him, thither our thoughts may follow Him (Mt 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, 6). The design of the Gospel is not merely to give rules, but mainly to supply motives to holiness.

2. Translate, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things," &c. (Col 2:20). Contrast "who mind earthly things" (Php 3:19). Whatever we make an idol of, will either be a cross to us if we be believers, or a curse to us if unbelievers.

3. The Greek aorist tense implies, "For ye have died once for all" (Col 2:12; Ro 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—(Ps 83:3); like a seed buried in the earth; compare "planted," Ro 6:5. Compare Mt 13:31, 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 (Mt 5:14, 16); but his full manifestation is at Christ's manifestation (Mt 13:43; Ro 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 (Ps 51:1-19; Ro 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).

4. Translate, "When Christ shall be manifested who is our life (Joh 11:25; 14:6, 19), then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory" (1Pe 4:13). The spiritual life our souls have now in Him shall be extended to our bodies (Ro 8:11).

then—and not till then. Those err who think to find a perfect Church before then. The true Church is now militant. Rome errs in trying to set up a Church now regnant and triumphant. The true Church shall be visible as a perfect and reigning Church, when Christ shall be visibly manifested as her reigning Head. Rome having ceased to look for Him in patient faith, has set up a visible mockhead, a false anticipation of the millennial kingdom. The Papacy took to itself by robbery that glory which is an object of hope, and can only be reached by bearing the cross now. When the Church became a harlot, she ceased to be a bride who goes to meet her Bridegroom. Hence the millennial kingdom ceased to be looked for [Auberlen].

5. MortifyGreek, "make a corpse of"; "make dead"; "put to death."

therefore—(See on Col 3:3). Follow out to its necessary consequence the fact of your having once for all died with Christ spiritually at your regeneration, by daily "deadening your members," of which united "the body of the sins of the flesh" consists (compare Col 2:11). "The members" to be mortified are the fleshly instruments of lust, in so far as the members of the body are abused to such purposes. Habitually repress and do violence to corrupt desires of which the members are the instruments (compare Ro 6:19; 8:13; Ga 5:24, 25).

upon the earth—where they find their support [Bengel] (Compare Col 3:2, "things on earth"). See Eph 5:3, 4.

inordinate affection—"lustful passion."

evil concupiscence—more general than the last [Alford], the disorder of the external senses; "lustful passion," lust within [Bengel].

covetousness—marked off by the Greek article as forming a whole genus by itself, distinct from the genus containing the various species just enumerated. It implies a self-idolizing, grasping spirit; far worse than another Greek term translated "the love of money" (1Ti 6:10).

which is—that is, inasmuch as it is "idolatry." Compare Note, see on Eph 4:19, on its connection with sins of impurity. Self and mammon are deified in the heart instead of God (Mt 6:24; see on Eph 5:5).

6. (See on Eph 5:6.)

7. 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" (Ga 5:25). The "living" comes first in both cases, the walking follows.

8. But now—that ye are no longer living in them.

ye also—like other believers; answering to "ye also" (Col 3:7) like other unbelievers formerly.

put off—"Do ye also put away all these," namely, those just enumerated, and those which follow [Alford].

anger, wrath—(See on Eph 4:31).

blasphemy—rather, "reviling," "evil-speaking," as it is translated in Eph 4:31.

filthy communication—The context favors the translation, "abusive language," rather than impure conversation. "Foul language" best retains the ambiguity of the original.

9. (Eph 4:25.)

put offGreek, "wholly put off"; utterly renounced [Tittmann]. (Eph 4:22).

the old man—the unregenerate nature which ye had before conversion.

his deeds—habits of acting.

10. the new man—(See on Eph 4:23). Here (neon) the Greek, means "the recently-put-on nature"; that lately received at regeneration (see on Eph 4:23, 24).

which is renewedGreek, "which is being renewed" (anakainottmenou); namely, its development into a perfectly renewed nature is continually progressing to completion.

in knowledge—rather as the Greek, "unto perfect knowledge" (see on Col 1:6; Col 1:9, 10). Perfect knowledge of God excludes all sin (Joh 17:3).

after the image of him that created him—namely, of God that created the new man (Eph 2:10; 4:24). The new creation is analogous to the first creation (2Co 4:6). As man was then made in the image of God naturally, so now spiritually. But the image of God formed in us by the Spirit of God, is as much more glorious than that borne by Adam, as the Second Man, the Lord from heaven, is more glorious than the first man. Ge 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The "image" is claimed for man, 1Co 11:7; the "likeness," Jas 3:9. Origen [On First Principles, 3:6] taught, the image was something in which all were created, and which continued to man after the fall (Ge 9:6). The likeness was something towards which man was created, that he might strive after it and attain it. Trench thinks God in the double statement (Ge 1:26), contemplates both man's first creation and his being "renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him."

11. 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, Ga 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 (Da 7:14, 22, 27; Lu 19:17, 19; Re 20:1-6; 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; Ga 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; 3:21-23; Ga 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.

12. the elect of God—There is no "the" in the Greek, "God's elect" (compare Ro 8:3; 1Th 1:4). The order of the words "elect, holy, beloved," answers to the order of the things. Election from eternity precedes sanctification in time; the sanctified, feeling God's love, imitate it [Bengel].

bowels of mercies—Some of the oldest manuscripts read singular, "mercy." Bowels express the yearning compassion, which has its seat in the heart, and which we feel to act on our inward parts (Ge 43:30; Jer 31:20; Lu 1:78, Margin).

humbleness of mind—True "lowliness of mind"; not the mock "humility" of the false teachers (Col 2:23; Eph 4:2, 32).

13. Forbearing—as to present offenses.

forgiving—as to past offenses.

quarrel—rather as Greek, "cause of blame," "cause of complaint."

Christ—who had so infinitely greater cause of complaint against us. The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read "the Lord." English Version is supported by one very old manuscript and old versions. It seems to have crept in from Eph 4:32.

14. 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 (Mt 5:44, 48). Love … be ye perfect, &c. (Jas 2:21, 22; 1Jo 2:5). "If we love one another, God's love is perfected in us" (Ro 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. peace of God—The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "The peace of Christ" (compare Php 4:7). "The peace of God." Therefore Christ is God. Peace was His legacy to His disciples before He left them (Joh 14:27), "My peace I give unto you." Peace is peculiarly His to give. Peace follows love (Col 3:14; Eph 4:2, 3).

rule—literally, "sit as umpire"; the same Greek verb simple, as appears compounded (Col 2:18). The false teacher, as a self-constituted umpire, defrauds you of your prize; but if the peace of Christ be your umpire ruling in your hearts, your reward is sure. "Let the peace of Christ act as umpire when anger, envy, and such passions arise; and restrain them." Let not those passions give the award, so that you should be swayed by them, but let Christ's peace be the decider of everything.

in your hearts—Many wear a peaceful countenance and speak peace with the mouth, while war is in their hearts (Ps 28:3; 55:21).

to the which—that is, with a view to which state of Christian peace (Isa 26:3); 1Co 7:15, "God hath called us to peace."

ye are calledGreek, "ye were also called." The "also" implies that besides Paul's exhortation, they have also as a motive to "peace," their having been once for all called.

in one body—(Eph 4:4). The unity of the body is a strong argument for "peace" among the members.

be ye thankful—for your "calling." Not to have "peace ruling in your hearts" would be inconsistent with the "calling in one body," and would be practical unthankfulness to God who called us (Eph 5:4, 19, 20).

16. The form which "thankfulness" (Col 3:15) ought to take.

Let the word of Christ—the Gospel word by which ye have been called.

richly—(Col 2:2; Ro 15:14).

in all wisdomAlford joins this clause with "teaching," &c., not with "dwell in you," as English Version, for so we find in Col 1:28, "teaching in all wisdom," and the two clauses will thus correspond, "In all wisdom teaching," and "in grace singing in your hears" (so the Greek order).

and … and—The oldest manuscripts read "psalms, hymns, spiritual songs" (see on Eph 5:19). At the Agapæ or love-feasts, and in their family circles, they were to be so full of the Word of Christ in the heart that the mouth should give it utterance in hymns of instruction, admonition, and praise (compare De 6:7). Tertullian [Apology, 39], records that at the love-feasts, after the water had been furnished for the hands and the lights had been literally, according as any had the power, whether by his remembrance of Scripture, or by his powers of composition, he used to be invited to sing praises to God for the common good. Paul contrasts (as in Eph 5:18, 19) the songs of Christians at their social meetings, with the bacchanalian and licentious songs of heathen feasts. Singing usually formed part of the entertainment at Greek banquets (compare Jas 5:13).

with graceGreek, "IN grace," the element in which your singing is to be: "the grace" of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This clause expresses the seat and source of true psalmody, whether in private or public, namely, the heart as well as the voice; singing (compare Col 3:15, "peace … rule in your hearts"), the psalm of love and praise being in the heart before it finds vent by the lips, and even when it is not actually expressed by the voice, as in closet-worship. The Greek order forbids English Version, "with grace in your hearts"; rather, "singing in your hearts."

to the Lord—The oldest manuscripts read, "to God."

17. Literally, "And everything whatsoever ye do … do all," &c.; this includes words as well as deeds.

in the name of the Lord Jesusas disciples called by His name as His, seeking His guidance and help, and desiring to act so as to gain His approval (Ro 14:8; 1Co 10:31; 2Co 5:15; 1Pe 4:11). Compare "in the Lord," Col 3:18, and "Christ is all," Col 3:11.

God and the Father—The oldest manuscripts omit "and," which seems to have crept in from Eph 5:20.

by himGreek, "through Him" as the channel of His grace to us, and of our thanksgiving to Him (Joh 14:6, end).

18. unto your own husbands—The oldest manuscripts omit "own," which crept in from Eph 5:22.

as it is fit in the LordGreek, "was fit," implying that there was at Colosse some degree of failure in fulfilling this duty, "as it was your duty to have done as disciples of the Lord."

19. (Eph 5:22-33.)

be not bitter—ill-tempered and provoking. Many who are polite abroad, are rude and bitter at home because they are not afraid to be so there.

20. (Eph 6:1.)

unto the Lord—The oldest manuscripts read, "IN the Lord," that is, this is acceptable to God when it is done in the Lord, namely, from the principle of faith, and as disciples in union with the Lord.

21. (Eph 6:4.) It is a different Greek verb, therefore translate here, "irritate not." By perpetual fault-finding "children" are "discouraged" or "disheartened." A broken-down spirit is fatal to youth [Bengel].

22. (Eph 6:5, 6.) This is to fear God, when, though none sees us, we do no evil: but if we do evil, it is not God, but men, whom we fear.

singleness—"simplicity of heart."

fearing God—The oldest manuscripts read, "the Lord."

23. And—omitted in the oldest manuscripts (compare Eph 6:7, 8). Compare the same principle in the case of all men, Hezekiah (2Ch 31:21; Ro 12:11).

do, do it—two distinct Greek verbs, "Whatsoever ye do, work at it" (or "labor at" it).

heartily—not from servile constraint, but with hearty good will.

24. the reward of the inheritance—"Knowing that it is from the Lord (the ultimate source of reward), ye shall receive the compensation (or recompense, which will make ample amends for your having no earthly possession as slaves now) consisting of the inheritance" (a term excluding the notion of meriting it by works: it is all of grace, Ro 4:14; Ga 3:18).

for ye serve—The oldest manuscripts omit "for," then translate as Vulgate, "Serve ye the Lord Christ;" compare Col 3:23, "To the Lord and not unto men" (1Co 7:22, 23).

25. But—The oldest manuscripts read, "for," which accords with "serve ye," &c. (Col 3:24), the oldest reading: the for here gives a motive for obeying the precept. He addresses the slaves: Serve ye the Lord Christ, and leave your wrongs in His hands to put to rights: (translate), "For he that doeth wrong shall receive back the wrong which he hath done (by just retribution in kind), and there is no respect of persons" with the Great Judge in the day of the Lord. He favors the master no more than the slave (Re 6:15).

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