Colossians 3


Rules for Holy Living

3     Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

That passage reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We focus way too little on Heaven, in my view.  Focusing on Jesus and the glory to come can help us keep things in the right priorities here and now and help us endure.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Those are long lists of things to avoid!  But Jesus has given us freedom from sin if we will let the Holy Spirit work.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Verse 15 is sometimes taken out of context to justify decisions that we feel a “peace” about.  But this isn’t about how to make decisions.  We may make many Godly decisions that we don’t have peace about.  The proper interpretation is that we are to resolve conflicts with fellow believers. 

If you are here then you are obeying v. 16!

Rules for Christian Households

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

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Peter and Paul give roughly the same marriage and family advice in several places.  Once again, our culture tends to overreact to the word submit but when they got this letter in Colosse it was probably just as controversial for the opposite reasons.  Women were property then, yet here Paul is telling husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh. 

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

“Slaves” would be any employees in our culture.  V. 23 convicts me, because I often wonder if I’m working hard enough at my job.  The results are great, but they come so easy I feel like I should be doing more.

3 thoughts on “Colossians 3”

  1. 11 “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” – The barbarian was someone who did not speak Greek and was thought to be uncivilized. Scythians were known especially for their brutality and were considered by others as little better than wild beasts. They came originally from what is today south Russia. Christ transcends all barriers and unifies people from all cultures, races and nations. Such distinctions are no longer significant. Christ alone matters.

    16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you…sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” – Some of the most important doctrines were expressed in Christian hymns preserved for us now only in Paul’s letters; Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 5:14, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16.

    22 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything…” – Paul neither condones slavery nor sanctions revolt agains masters. Rather, he calls on both slaves and masters to show Christian principles in their relationship and thus to attempt to change the institution from within. The reason Paul writes more about slaves and masters than about wives, husbands, children and fathers may be that the slave Onesimus (4:9) is going along with Tychicus to deliver this Colossian letter and the letter to Philemon, Onesimus’s master, who also lives in Colosse.


  2. “slaves” – this is another word we got stuck on because of our current definition coloring our interpretation. This would be far closer equated to the welfare system of the time with rich individuals being the source of support rather than the government. Those without money, land and family to support them through hard times could indenture themselves to someone that could feed and house them in exchange for working for them. After seven years, the Jewish masters were obligated to release them unless they elected to stay for life and be a bondservant – a lifelong slave. This is Paul’s reference elsewhere when he calls himself a bondservant to Christ – a life long commitment to his Master.

    So, this is where I’d like to see a contempory English rewrite to better define what the slave of the time is. Too many anti-Christian attacks use this misinterpreted term to come after what we believe.


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