Holy Living - Colossians 3 1-17

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The Principles Holy Living

Colossians 3:1–17

(READ V.1)

This is not the if of condition; it is really the if of argument. The lives of these Colossian Christians evidenced their salvation. What was the evidence? (Col 1:3-5)

3      We give thanks to God,  the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

4      since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

5                because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word   of truth, the gospel

It was that faith, hope, and lovethe fruit of the Spirit was in their lives. (Also see Gal 5:5-6).

Verse 1 would better be translated as “since you have been raised up with Christ”. Seek those things that are above where Christ is. Seek is an interesting word. It actually means “having an urgency and a desire and an ambition.” There should be an excitement that goes with seeking spiritual things. “Those things which are above”—these are the things of Christ. When you read the Bible, you are not looking at a dead person. You are looking at the real, living Christ. He is the One at God’s right hand. We are to seek those things which are above—we are to seek Him. Real study of the Word of God will get you through to the living Christ.

(READ V.2)

Actually the word for “affection” in the King James is mind. Think about the things that are above. In Philippians 4:8 Paul said that whatever things are true and honest and just and lovely, think on these things—the things of Christ. Life is full of its smaller problems (like whether or not you can get along with your mother-in-law), and they are very real to us, but by far the greatest need is for us to get through to Christ. That should come before everything else. “Set your affection on things above.”

(READ V.3)

“For ye are dead”, as it is translated in the King James, might better be translated “for ye have died.” If you have died, when did you die? Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ …” (Gal. 2:20) and in Romans 6:6-8, he said:

6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed  from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

 If you are Christ’s, you died two thousand years ago when Christ died. He took my place; He took your place. We died in Him. Christ not only died for us (substitution), but we died with Him (identification). Christ not only died for sin, bearing its penalty; but He died unto sin, breaking its power. Because we are “in Christ” through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13: 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..), we died with Christ. This means that we can have victory over the old sin nature that wants to control us. “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2)

“Your life is hid with Christ in God.” I have been taken out of the old Adam by baptism; that is, by the baptism of (not in) the Holy Spirit. I have been taken out of Adam and placed in Christ. I am now in Christ. Now that I am in Christ, I should live out His life and let His fullness be lived out through me.

(READ V.4)

If you have any life, it is Christ’s life. John wrote in his first epistle that it was his intent to “shew unto you that eternal life.” (1 John 1:2) How could he show eternal life? He was going to show us Christ; Christ is eternal life. And one of these days those who belong to Him are going to “appear with him in glory.”

In verse 4 Paul gives to Christ one of the great titles of devotion. He calls him Christ our life. Here is a thought which was very dear to the heart of Paul. When he was writing to the Philippians, he said, “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Years before, when he was writing to the Galatians, he had said, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). As Paul saw it, to the Christian Christ is the most important thing in life; more, he is life.

Christ is our life. Eternal life is not some heavenly substance that God imparts when we, as sinners, trust the Savior. Eternal life is Jesus Christ Himself. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). We are dead and alive at the same time—dead to sin and alive in Christ.

“Since you are risen with Christ, set your mind (affection) on things above!” (v. 1) In other words, let your earthly practice be worthy of your heavenly position. Once you were dead in sin (Eph. 2:1–3), but now you are dead to sin. Christ is in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), and someday soon that glory will be revealed (v. 4). In brief in verses 1-4, Paul says, “Live up to what Christ has done for you!” This simple principle of Christian living is more powerful than all the rules and regulations men can devise. “You are made full in Him” (Col 2:10); now live out that fullness in daily life.

We no longer belong to the world, but to Christ; and the sources of life that we enjoy come only from Him. “Hidden in Christ” means security and satisfaction. The eminent Greek scholar, Dr. A.T. Robertson, speaking of Romans 8:31–39 comments on this: “So here we are in Christ who is in God, and no burglar, not even Satan himself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Paul and the Intellectuals, Broadman, p. 98).

The Christian life is a “hidden life” as far as the world is concerned, because the world does not know Christ (see 1 John 4:1–6). Our sphere of life is not this earth, but heaven; and the things that attract us and excite us belong to heaven, not to earth. This does not mean that we should ignore our earthly responsibilities. Rather it means that our motives and our strength come from heaven, not earth.

(READ VV.5-9)

We turn now from the positive to the negative. There are some people who do not like the negative. “Give us positive doctrines!” they say. “Forget about negative warnings and admonitions!” But the negative warnings and commands grow out of the positive truths of Christian doctrine. This is why Paul wrote, “Mortify therefore.”

No amount of positive talk about health will cure a ruptured appendix. The doctor will have to “get negative” and take out the appendix. No amount of lecturing on beauty will produce a garden. The gardener has to pull weeds! The positive and the negative go together, and one without the other leads to imbalance.

The word mortify means “put to death.” Because we have died with Christ (Col. 3:3), we have the spiritual power to slay the earthly, fleshly desires that want to control us. Paul called this “reckoning” ourselves to be dead to sin but alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11). Our Lord used the same idea when He said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” (Matt. 5:29–30).

Obviously, neither Paul nor Jesus was talking about literal surgery. Sin does not come from the eye, hand, or foot; it comes from the heart, the evil desires within. Centuries ago in England, if a pickpocket was convicted, his right hand was cut off. If he was convicted a second time, his left hand was amputated. One pickpocket lost both hands and continued his “trade” by using his teeth! Physical surgery can never change the heart.

Not only was Paul negative in this paragraph, but he also named sins; and some people do not like that. These sins belong to the old life and have no place in our new life in Christ. Furthermore, God’s judgment falls on those who practice these sins; and God is no respecter of persons. God’s wrath fell on the Gentile world because of these sins (Rom. 1:18ff), and His wrath will fall again. “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming,” Paul warned (Col. 3:6, niv).

Fornication refers to sexual immorality in general. Uncleanness means “lustful impurity that is connected with luxury and loose living.” Inordinate affection describes a state of mind that excites sexual impurity. Translated as lust or passion. The person who cultivates this kind of appetite can always find opportunity to satisfy it. Evil concupiscence means “base, evil desires.” It is clear that desires lead to deeds, appetites lead to actions. If we would purify our actions, then we must first purify our minds and hearts.

After he had named these sensual sins, Paul added, “and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5b). Covetousness is the sin of always wanting more, whether it be more things or more pleasures. It may better be translated as greed. The covetous person is never satisfied with what he has, and he is usually envious of what other people have. This is idolatry, for covetousness puts things in the place of God. “Thou shalt not covet” is the last of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17). Yet this sin can make us break all of the other nine! A covetous person will dishonor God, take God’s name in vain, lie, steal, and commit every other sin in order to satisfy his sinful desires.

(READ VV.8-9)

After warning us against the sensual sins, Paul then pointed out the dangers of the social sins (Col. 3:8–9). Dr. G. Campbell Morgan called these “the sins in good standing.” We are so accustomed to anger, critical attitudes, lying, and coarse humor among believers that we are no longer upset or convicted about these sins. We would be shocked to see a church member commit some sensual sin, but we will watch him lose his temper in a business meeting and call it “righteous indignation.”

Paul began with anger, wrath, and malice—sins of bad attitude toward others. The word anger is the same as the word wrath (Col. 3:6), referring there to the wrath of God. This word describes habitual attitudes, while wrath refers to the sudden outburst of anger. God has a right to be angry at sin and to judge it, because He is holy and just. In fact, there is a righteous anger against sin that ought to characterize the saints (Eph. 4:26). But none of us have the right to “play God” and pass final judgment on others by our attitudes. Malice is an attitude of ill will toward a person. If we have malice toward a person, we are sad when he is successful, and we rejoice when he has trouble. This is sinful.

Blasphemy describes speech that slanders others and tears them down. Often among Christians this kind of malicious gossip masquerades as a spiritual concern: “I would never tell you what I know about her, except that I know you’ll want to pray about it.” Evil speaking is caused by malice (1 Peter 2:1). If you have deep-seated ill will toward a person, you will use every opportunity to say something bad about him.

Filthy communication is just that: foul speech, coarse humor, obscene language. For some reason, some Christians think it is manly or contemporary to use this kind of speech. Low humor sometimes creeps into conversations. If someone says, “Now, take this with a grain of salt!” you can remind him of Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Salt is a symbol of purity, and grace and purity go together.

The final sin Paul named was lying (Col. 3:9). He wrote this same warning to the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 4:25). Satan is the liar (John 8:44), while the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26). When a Christian lies, he is cooperating with Satan; when he speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), he is cooperating with the Spirit of God.

(READ VV.10-11)

The picture here is that of a person changing clothes: “Put off... put on” (Col. 3:9–10). This relates to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:1); for when He arose from the dead, Jesus Christ left the graveclothes behind (John 20:1–10). He had entered into a glorious resurrection life and had no need for the graveclothes. Likewise, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, Jesus instructed the people to “loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

Because we are alive in Christ, we must seek the things that are above. And, because we died with Christ, we must put off the things that belong to the earthly life of past sin. The result is that we can become like Jesus Christ! God wants to renew us and make us into the image of His Son!

The Greek verbs translated put off and put on (Col. 3:9–10) indicate a once-for-all action. When we trust Christ, we put off the old life and put on the new. The old man has been buried, and the new man is now in control. But the verb translated “renewed” is a present participle—“who is constantly being renewed.” The crisis of salvation leads to the process of sanctification, becoming more like Jesus Christ.

The Greeks had two different words for new. The word neos meant “new in time.” We use this word as an English prefix in such words as “neoorthodoxy” and “neoclassicism.” The word kainos meant “new in quality, fresh.” Sometimes the two words were used interchangeably in the New Testament, but there is still a fundamental difference.

The believer has once and for all put on the “new man” (neos˒tlgreek˓), and, as a consequence, he is being renewed (˒tlgreek˓kainos). There is a change in quality, for he is becoming like Jesus Christ. The “new Man” is Jesus Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), the Head of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

How does this renewal come about? Through knowledge (ἐπίγνωσιν). The word knowledge was one of the key terms in the vocabulary of the gnostics. But their so-called spiritual knowledge could never change a person’s life to make him like Christ. The better he gets to know Christ, the more he becomes like Him (Phil. 3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;).

Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27). This involves man’s personality (intellect, emotion, will) and man’s spirituality (he is more than a body). When man sinned, this image of God was marred and ruined. Adam’s children were born in the image of their father (Gen. 5:1, 3). In spite of the ravages of sin, man still bears the image of God (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9).

We were formed in God’s image, and deformed from God’s image by sin. But through Jesus Christ, we can be transformed into God’s image! We must be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:23 - And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;). As we grow in knowledge of the Word of God, we will be transformed by the Spirit of God to share in the glorious image of God (2 Cor. 3:18 - But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.). God transforms us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.), and this involves the study of God’s Word. It is the truth that sets us free from the old life, as Jesus said in John 8:31–32:

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

 “Christ is all and in all” is the emphasis in this letter. “That in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). Because we are complete in Christ, we can look beyond the earthly differences that separate people and enjoy a spiritual unity in the Lord. The gnostic false teachers, like the false teachers today, tried to rob God’s people of the richness of their oneness in Christ. Beware!

We are alive in Christ; therefore, we should seek the heavenly. We are dead in Christ; therefore, we should slay the earthly. We can become like Christ; therefore, we must strengthen the Christly and permit the Spirit to renew our minds, making us more into the image of God.

(READ VV.12-14)

The emphasis in this section is on motives. Why should we put off the old deeds and put on the qualities of the new life? Paul explained four motives that ought to encourage us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  “as the elect (ἐκλεκτός) of God” - pert. to being selected, chosen gener. of those whom God has chosen fr. the generality of mankind and drawn to himself [1]

The Grace of Christ (Col. 3:12–14)

Grace is God’s favor to undeserving sinners. Paul reminded the Colossians of what God’s grace had done for them.

Chosen by God, set apart for God, loved by God, and forgiven by God. They all add up to GRACE! Now, because of these gracious blessings, the Christian has some solemn responsibilities before God. He must put on the beautiful graces of the Christian life. Paul named eight graces.

  • Compassion - As believers, we need to display tender feelings of compassion toward one another (see Phil. 2:1ff). This is not something that we turn on and off, like the TV set. It is a constant attitude of heart that makes us easy to live with.
  • Kindness - We have been saved because of God’s kindness toward us through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:7; Titus 3:4). We, in turn, ought to show kindness toward others. “Be ye kind one to another” (Eph. 4:32) is God’s command.
  • Humility - The pagan world of Paul’s day did not admire humility. Instead, they admired pride and domination. Jesus Christ is the greatest example of humbleness of mind (Phil. 2:1ff). Humility is not thinking poorly of oneself. Rather, it is having the proper estimate of oneself in the will of God (Rom. 12:3). The person with humbleness of mind thinks of others first and not of himself.
  • Meekness - Meekness is not weakness; it is power under control. This word was used to describe a soothing wind, a healing medicine, and a colt that had been broken. In each instance, there is power: a wind can become a storm; too much medicine can kill; a horse can break loose. But this power is under control. The meek person does not have to fly off the handle because he has everything under control.
  • Patience - This word is literally “long-temper.” The short-tempered person speaks and acts impulsively and lacks self-control. When a person is long-suffering, he can put up with provoking people or circumstances without retaliating. It is good to be able to get angry, for this is a sign of holy character. But it is wrong to get angry quickly at the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.
  • Forbearance – (V.13) This word literally means “to hold up” or “to hold back.” God is forbearing toward sinners in that He holds back His judgment (Rom. 2:4; 3:25). Meekness, long-suffering, and forbearance go together.
  • Forgiveness – (V.13) This is the logical result of all that Paul has written so far in this section. It is not enough that the Christian must endure grief and provocation, and refuse to retaliate; he must also forgive the troublemaker. If he does not, then feelings of malice will develop in the heart; and these can lead to greater sins. It is Christlike to forgive (Eph. 4:32), and forgiveness opens the heart to the fullness of the love of God. The very instant we have a complaint against another person, we should forgive him in our hearts.
  • Love – (V.14) This is the most important of the Christian virtues, and it acts like a “girdle” that ties all the other virtues together. All of the spiritual qualities Paul has named are aspects of true Christian love, as a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 will reveal. Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit and the other virtues follow—joy (Col. 3:16), peace (Col. 3:15), long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, and meekness (Col. 3:12).

(READ V.15)

In this verse Paul turns from character to conduct. How can a Christian know when he is doing God’s will? One answer is: the peace of Christ in the heart and in the church. When the believer loses his inner peace, he knows that he has in some way disobeyed God.

The word translated “rule” is an athletic term. It means “to preside at the games and distribute the prizes.” Paul used a variation of this word in his Letter to the Colossians: “Let no one declare you unworthy of a prize” (literal translation, Col. 2:18). In the Greek games, there were judges (we would call them umpires) who rejected the contestants who were not qualified, and who disqualified those who broke the rules.

(READ V.16)

The Word of Christ (Col. 3:16)

This means, of course, the Word of God. The false teachers came to Colossae with man-made traditions, religious rules, and human philosophies. They tried to harmonize God’s Word with their teachings, but they could not succeed. God’s Word always magnifies Jesus Christ.

The Word will transform our lives if we will but permit it to “dwell” in us richly. The word dwell means “to feel at home.” If we have experienced the grace and the peace of Christ, then the Word of Christ will feel at home in our hearts. We will discover how rich the Word is with spiritual treasures that give value to our lives.

(READ V.17)

In modern society, we pay little attention to names. But the ancient world held a man’s name to be of utmost importance. Often, during Old Testament days, God changed a person’s name because of some important experience or some new development.

As Christians, we bear the name of Christ. The word Christian is found only three times in the entire New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The name was given originally as a term of contempt, but gradually it became a name of honor. The name of Christ, then, means identification: we belong to Jesus Christ.

Bearing the name of Jesus is a great privilege, but it is also a tremendous responsibility. We suffer persecution because we bear His name (John 15:20–21). I have noticed in conversations that you can tell people you are a Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even an atheist, and there will be little response. But if you tell people you are a Christian, and bring the name of Christ into the conversation, almost immediately there is some kind of response, and it is usually negative.


1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affectiona on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrelb against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. [2]


pert. pert. = pertaining (to)

gener. gener. = generally

fr. fr. = from

[1]Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. "Based on Walter Bauer's Griechisch-deutsches Wr̲terbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frhchristlichen [sic] Literatur, sixth edition, ed. Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, with Viktor Reichmann and on previous English editions by W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker." (3rd ed.) (306). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

a affection: or, mind

b quarrel: or, complaint

[2]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Col 3:1-17). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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