Expositor's Greek Testament
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.Colossians 3:1-17. RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST MUST BE COMPLETED BY PARTICIPATION IN HIS HEAVENLY LIFE, WHICH THOUGH AT PRESENT CONCEALED, WILL NOT ALWAYS REMAIN SO. THIS LIFE WITH CHRIST IN HEAVEN DEMANDS THE DEATH OF THE MEMBERS ON THE EARTH, THE HEATHEN VICES OF IMPURITY AND COVETOUSNESS, WHICH BRING DOWN THE WRATH OF GOD. ALL SINS OF MALICE, ANGER AND ABUSE AND ALL LYING MUST BE GIVEN UP, FOR THESE BELONG TO THE OLD NATURE, AND ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE NEW, WITH ITS EVER-GROWING CONFORMITY TO THE DIVINE IMAGE, AND THE CANCELLING OF ALL THOSE DISTINCTIONS WHICH MAKE MEN ALIENS TO EACH OTHER.—With Colossians 3:1 Paul passes to the hortatory portion of the Epistle, the attack on the false teachers ending with Colossians 2:23, and there is no break between Colossians 3:1-4 and Colossians 3:5. The ethical exhortation has its basis in the dogmatic exposition already given, and is therefore connected with it by οὖν.
Colossians 3:1. εἰ οὖν συνηγέρθητε τῷ Χριστῷ: “if then [as is the case] you were raised together with Christ”. It is not their resurrection when Christ rose of which he speaks, but their personal resurrection with Him at the time of their conversion and baptism. This is the counterpart to death with Him, and as that breaks off the old relations, so this initiates them into the new. They must now work out to its consequences that which they then received in union with Christ. Alford denies that there is any ethical element in this resurrection, on the ground that if there were there would be no need to exhort to ethical realisation. But this is to misunderstand Paul’s idealistic language. Resurrection implies that the death has already taken place, and the death is ethical.—τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε. The reference is not, as Meyer characteristically makes it, eschatological. It is present fellowship with the exalted Lord, a life in heaven, of which he speaks. The true explanation is suggested by Ephesians 2:6, συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (cf. καθήμενος). Those who have risen with Christ must realise ascension with Him.—οὗ ὁ Χριστός ἐσστιν, ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ Θεοῦ καθήμενος: “where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God”. Two statements are made: Christ is in the region of the things above, and He is seated at the right hand of God. These facts supply the motive for τ. ἄνω ζ. Our home with Him is not simply in the region of the things above, but in the highest position there, at God’s right hand.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.Colossians 3:2. τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖτε. “Set your mind on the things above.” φρ. is wider in its sense than ζητ. It embraces, as Meyer says, “the whole practical bent of thought and disposition”.—μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. “The things on the earth” are not in themselves sinful, but become so if sought and thought on in preference to the things above (cf. Matthew 6:19-21). There seems to be no reference to the false teachers here.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.Colossians 3:3. ἀπεθάνετε γάρ: “for ye died,” that is to their old life, at the time of their conversion. It gives the reason for Colossians 3:2. The exhortation is justified because they have died with Christ.—καὶ ἡ ζωὴ … ἐν τῷ Θεῷ. This risen life (ζωή not βιός) which they now enjoy through union with Christ is concealed with Him in God. By the fact that it is hidden is not meant that it is secure (Kl), for the contrast to κέκ. is φαν. (Colossians 3:4), but that it belongs to the invisible and eternal, to which Christ belongs; perhaps not precisely “shrouded in the depths of inward experiences and the mystery of its union with the life of Christ” (Ell.). ἐν Θεῷ asserts Christ’s own union with God, and emphasises our union with God in Him. Meyer thinks ζωὴ is the “eternal life,” now hidden, but to be manifested at the second coming (Colossians 3:4). But this does not suit so well the language of the verse. Our life in God is opposed to life in the world (Colossians 2:20). The transition from the aorist to the perfect is to be noticed.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:4. This life is not always to remain hidden, it will be manifested at the second coming. And that not merely in union with Christ, for it is Christ Himself who is our Life. This is not to be toned down to mean that Christ is the possessor and giver of eternal life. Paul means quite literally what he says, that Christ is Himself the essence of the Christian life (cf. Php 1:21, ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς, also Galatians 2:20). His manifestation therefore includes that of those who are one with Him. And this can only be a manifestation in glory (cf. Romans 8:17).
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:Colossians 3:5. Partially parallel to Ephesians 5:3-5.—νεκρώσατε οὖν. “Put to death, therefore” (cf. Romans 8:13). The aorist implies a single decisive act. Perhaps νεκ. is chosen as a weaker word than θανατόω (Cremer, Haupt), implying the cessation of functions during life, οὖν is interesting. It seems strange that the assertions in the previous verses, of their death and resurrection with Christ and hidden life with Him in God, should be followed by the exhortation to put their members to death. Clearly these assertions are idealistic. The death and resurrection potentially theirs are to be realised in the putting to death of their members,—τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. The members are referred to in so far as they are the instruments of the σάρξ, and are included in the “things on the earth,” with which the Christian has no more concern (Colossians 3:2). Lightfoot places a stop at γῆς, and regards πορνείαν κ.τ.λ. as governed by ἀπόθεσθε (Colossians 3:8). He thinks Paul intended to make these accusatives directly dependent on ἀπ., but, owing to the intervening clauses, changed the form of the sentence. It is true that the apposition of μέλη and the list of sins that follows is strange, but not so strange as to make this very forced construction preferable. We should have expected ἀπ. at the beginning of the sentence.—καὶ τὴν πλεονεξίαν: “and covetousness,” not “impurity”. It comes fitly here, for gold provided the means for indulging these lustful passions. For the noun with the article at the end of a series without it, see Winer-Moulton,9 p. 145.—ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία: “inasmuch as it is idolatry”. ἥτις refers simply to πλ., not to the whole series of vices enumerated, nor to μέλη, by attraction for ἅτινα. The lust for wealth sets riches in the place of God (cf. Matthew 6:24).
For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:Colossians 3:6. Parallel to Ephesians 5:6, from which ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας has been added in most MSS. The sentence is abrupt without them, and Colossians 3:7 is more easily explained if they are retained (as by Mey., Kl, Ol.), yet their omission in , combined with their presence in the parallel Ephesians 5:6, is too strong to admit of their retention. The verse may refer to a general principle which acts in human life, or the reference may be eschatological. The latter seems to be more in accordance with Paul’s usage. ὀργὴ is here the outward manifestation of the anger which God even now feels at sin.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.Colossians 3:7. ἐν οἶς: in which vices. If τ. υἱοὺς τ. ἀπ. be retained, the probable translation is “in whom”. Lightfoot thinks in any case the reference to the vices is to be preferred, the chief reason being that Paul could not blame his readers for living among the Gentiles. But, as Meyer points out, περιεπ. implies participation in conduct.—καὶ ὑμεῖς: you as well as those who still practise these vices.—περιεπατήσατέ: a Hebraistic metaphor expressing moral conduct.—ἐζῆτε ἐν τούτοις: “ye were living in them,” i.e., in these vices. The reference is to their pre-Christian state, in which sin was the atmosphere of their lives. The change of tense should be noticed.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.Colossians 3:8. Colossians 3:8-10 are largely parallel to Ephesians 4:22-25; Ephesians 4:31.—νυνὶ δὲ: “but now,” emphatic contrast to ποτε, now that you have passed from that life of sinful conduct, see that you strip yourselves of these vices.—ἀπόθεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς τὰ πάντα: “do ye also put away all of them”.—κ. ὑμ.: obviously not you as well as the Ephesians (Holtzm.), but you as well as other Christians. It is not clear whether τὰ π. refers exclusively to the preceding sins, to which then ὀργ. κ.τ.λ. forms a loose apposition, or whether it includes the latter also. It seems less harsh to give the injunction a forward as well as a backward reference.—ὀργήν, θυμόν: usually the former is regarded as the settled anger, of which the latter is the sudden and passionate outburst. Cremer, however, followed by Haupt, regards θ. as the inner emotion, of which ὀρ. is the external expression. ὀρ. is certainly used of the external manifestation of wrath in Colossians 3:6.—κακίαν: “malignity,” the feeling which prompts a man to injure his neighbour.—βλασφημίαν: as the other sins are against men, so this, “slander” not “blasphemy”.—αἰσχρολογίαν. The word may mean “filthy speech” or “abusive speech”. Here the context decides for the latter. Lightfoot, combining both senses, translates “foulmouthed abuse,” but such combinations are generally to be distrusted.—ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν: probably this should be connected both with βλ. and αἰσχρ. Whether it is dependent on ἀποθ., “banish from your mouth” (Mey., Ol., Abb.), is more doubtful, since the interpolation of sins which are not sins of speech makes such a connexion awkward. Probably, then, the meaning is “proceeding out of your mouth”. ὑμ. is emphatic, and recalls the readers to their Christian profession.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;Colossians 3:9. μὴ ψεύδεσθε εἰς ἀλλήλους: “lie not to one another”. The imperative changes its tense from aorist to present, the exhortation to the decisive act being followed by a rule for their daily life. εἰς expresses the direction of the utterance. It should not be translated “against” (Kl, Fr.).—ἀπεκδυσάμενοι … ἐνδυσάμενοι. These participles may be translated as part of the exhortation, “lie not one to another putting off … and putting on,” in other words, “put off … and put on … and lie not”. Or they may give a reason for the exhortation, “lie not, seeing ye have put off … and put on”. In favour of the former is the addition σὺν τ. πρ. αὐτ., for if the practices had been put off at conversion the warning might seem superfluous. ἀνακαιν. (pres.) also points to a continuous process. Either view harmonises with Paul’s theology, for he speaks of death to the old and life to the new either as ideally complete in the moment of conversion or as realised gradually in actual experience. But the latter, which is taken by most commentators, is preferable; for the reference is much wider than in the foregoing words. They refer only to the discarding of vices. Paul now emphasises the positive side also, the putting on the new as well as casting off the old.—τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον: i.e., the old non-Christian self (cf. Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22).—πράξεσιν: “practices,” such as those already enumerated.
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:Colossians 3:10. τὸν νέον. In Ephesians 4:24 we have καινός, “fresh” (as opposed to “worn out”); νέος is new as opposed to old. The idea contained in κ. is here expressed by ἀνακ. Some (including Sod.) regard “the new man” as Christ, according to which “the old man” will be Adam. But this is negatived by the next verse, for if the new man is Christ, Χριστός would be a strange tautology. κτίς. is also against it, though we have μορφωθῇ Χ., Galatians 4:19. It is the regenerate self, regenerate, of course, because united with Christ.—ἀνακαινούμενον: “being renewed,” the present expressing the continuous process of renewal (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16). There is no reference to a restoration to a former state.—εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν: not to be connected (as by Mey. and Hofm.) with κατʼ εἰκόνα, which would give a strange and obscure thought, but to be taken as the object of the renewal. The knowledge is ethical rather than theoretical in this connexion.—κατʼ εἰκόνα: to be taken with ἀνακαιν. There is a clear allusion to Genesis 1:26-28, the new self grows to be more and more the image of God. There may perhaps be a side reference to “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” in εἰς ἐπίγ.—τοῦ κτίσαντος: i.e., God, not (as Chrys. and others) Christ. Some take κατʼ εἰκ. τ. κτ. α. to mean “according to Christ”. It is true that Christ is the image of God, but the parallel κατὰ Θεὸν, in Ephesians 4:24, makes this improbable, and we should have expected the article before εἰκ.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.Colossians 3:11. Cf. Galatians 3:28. He has been speaking of sins inconsistent with brotherly love, anger and falsehood. Such sins are incompatible with Christianity, which has abolished even those deep distinctions that divided mankind into hostile camps. In the splendid sweep of the great principle, which has cancelled the most radical differences of nationality, ceremonial status, culture and social position, all minor causes of strife are necessarily included. The solvent of national, racial and even religious hate cannot be powerless before the petty strifes of a Christian church.—ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι: “where there cannot be”, ὅπ. seems to refer to “the new man,” not to “knowledge” or “the image”. In the new man created by God all these distinctions vanish. ἔνι seems not to be for ἐνεστι, as used to be said, but, as Buttmann maintained, a form of ἐν. Winer-Schmiedel says “ἔνι is the older form of ἐν, and has the significance of ἔνεστιν”.—Ἕλλην κ.τ.λ. The first two pairs contain opposites, in race and then in religion. For the third pair Paul cannot employ an antithesis, since Ἕλλ., the contrast to βάρ., has already been used in the sense of Gentile. He therefore adds to barbarian the Scythian as the extreme example—Scythae barbaris barbariores (Beng.)—but reverts to the method of opposition in the last pair. The order Έλλ. κ. Ἰουδ. is unusual, and perhaps due to the fact that he is writing to Gentiles, but in Galatians 3:28 he is writing to Gentiles too. The usual order is resumed in περ. κ. ἀκρ. In δοῦλ. ἐλεύθ. he may have a reference to Philemon and Onesimus, but the terms occur also in the Galatian list.—πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός. This expresses the thought that Christ is all, and that He is in all the relations of life; πᾶσιν is neuter, and Χ. is placed at the end for emphasis. Since He is all, and all things are one in Him, He is the principle of unity, through whom all the distinctions that mar the oneness of mankind are done away.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;Colossians 3:12. This verse and Colossians 3:13 are parallel to Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:32. The ethical consequences of having put on the new man are now drawn out in detail.—ἐνδύσασθε οὖν: not since Christ has become all and in all to you (Lightf.), but since you have put on the new man.—ὡς ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ: i.e., as conformity to your position as God’s elect demands. The election is God’s choice of them in Christ before creation (Ephesians 1:4).—ἅγιοι καὶ ἠγαπημένοι qualify ἐκλ., and are not vocatives. ἠλ. means, as elsewhere in N.T., beloved of God; he is speaking of their position as Christians.—σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ: “a heart of compassion,” the σπλ. being regarded as the seat of emotion.—χρηστότητα: almost “sweetness of disposition”. It is opposed to “severity” (of God) in Romans 11:22.—ταπεινοφροσύνην, πραΰτητα: both virtues towards fellow-men, and quite different from ταπ. in Colossians 2:18. Neither has reference to man’s relation to God. Each is a specifically Christian virtue.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.Colossians 3:13. χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς: “forgiving yourselves,” but while the variation from ἀλλήλ. is probably intentional, the practical difference is very slight. The thought that Christians are members one of another may underlie the choice of expression (cf. 1 Peter 4:8). It may be chosen to correspond to ὑμῖν.—μομφήν may have reference to the case of Philemon and Onesimus.—ὁ Κύριος: whether this or ὁ χριστὸς be read the reference is to Christ. In the parallel Ephesians 4:32 we have “God in Christ,” which is Paul’s usual way of putting it. But that is no reason for referring Κύρ. to God, for Jesus when on earth forgave sins. The forgiveness they have received is used to enforce the duty of forgiving others. The best illustration is the parable in Matthew 18:23-25.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.Colossians 3:14. ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ τούτοις τὴν ἀγάπην: probably “over all these,” carrying on the metaphor of clothing, not “in addition to all”. These virtues are manifestations of love, but may be conceivably exhibited where love is absent, so that the mention of it is not superfluous.—ὅ ἐστιν: probably “that is,” though for criticism of Lightfoot’s examples see Abbott. The relative cannot mean τὸ ἐνδύσασθαι τ. ἀγ., for love itself is the σύνδ.—σύδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος. Generally σύνδ. is explained as that which binds together all the virtues. The genitive is variously interpreted. It has been taken as genitive of the object, but the objection (Luther, Ol., Haupt) that the bond binds the virtues into a unity but does not bind together the unity itself is forcible. It has also been taken as a genitive of quality, “the perfect bond,” which Paul would have said if he had meant it. Ellicott regards it as a subjective genitive, the bond possessed by perfectness; but this seems unlikely. Again, it is explained as the bond which produces perfection in these virtues (Ol.), or as the bond which binds these virtues together and so produces Christian perfection (Sod). If, however, we do not take τελ. as an objective genitive, there is no ground for assuming that the bond is that which binds the virtues together. The function of love as a bond is to bind Christians together, and Haupt explains the word in this way. The genitive he regards as one of apposition, the bond in which perfection consists. When love binds all Christians together, the ideal of Christian perfection is attained. This gives a natural and appropriate sense, and is probably right. The view that σύνδ. is the sum total gives a sense to the word which it does not bear; nor does it suit the context.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.Colossians 3:15. ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ: “the peace which Christ gives”. It might be the peace between the members of the Church bestowed by Christ (Calv., Ol., Sod.). This suits the preceding, but not the following words so well, especially, perhaps, εὐχ. γίν.—βραβευέτω: “rule” (cf. Colossians 2:18). The word has lost its old sense “to act as umpire,” and there is no reference to a contest or a prize. The meaning is: in deciding on any course of action, let that be chosen which does not ruffle the peace within you.—εἰς ἣν καὶ ἐκλήθητε: i.e., to the enjoyment of which ye were called.—ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι: “so that ye are in one body,” result rather than aim being expressed. Disunion in the body is incompatible with the peace of individual members.—καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε: “and become thankful,” i.e., to God for calling you, or more probably for the peace in your hearts, which is the main thought. εὐχ. might mean “gracious” (a rare sense), but this would not be weighty enough to end these exhortations.
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.Colossians 3:16-17. Partially parallel to Ephesians 5:19-20.
Colossians 3:16. ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χριστοῦ: probably, as usually explained, “the Gospel,” so called because He proclaimed it and speaks it through His messengers. Lightfoot interprets it as “the presence of Christ in the heart as an inward monitor”. The phrase occurs only here, but cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:1.—ἐν ὑμῖν: according to Pauline usage must mean within you, and probably not collectively (Mey., Alf., Abb.) “in you as a Church,” but individually.—ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ: to be taken with the following words (Beng., Mey., Alf., Ell., Ol., Haupt, Abb.), since ἐνοικ. is sufficiently qualified by πλουσίως, and σοφ. suits διδάσκ. much better than ἐνοικ. The balance is better preserved, as ἐν π. ς. is then parallel to ἐν χάρ. Lightfoot meets the last point by taking ἐν χάρ. with διδάσκ., but even if this were probable the other arguments are decisive for the connexion with the following words.—διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες: cf. Colossians 1:28. Lightfoot regards the participles as used for imperatives, which Ellicott thinks impossible. There is a slight, but quite intelligible, anacoluthon here.—ἑαυτοὺς, as in Colossians 3:13.—ψαλμοῖς, ὕμνοις, ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς: to be connected with διδ. κ. νουθ., not with ᾄδοντες (Hofm., Kl, Weiss), with which the accusative should have been used. The precise distinctions intended are not certain, and perhaps they should not be sharply drawn. The meaning is, whatever kind of song it may be, let it be made the vehicle of religious instruction and admonition. ψαλ. may be restricted to the Old Testament Psalms, but this is improbable, ὕμν. are songs of praise to God. ᾠδ. has a wider sense, and was used of any class of song. Hence πν. is added to it, and not to the others, for ψαλ. is used exclusively and ὕμν. usually in a religious sense. The word of Christ is to dwell in them so richly that it finds spontaneous expression in religious song in the Christian assemblies or the home.—ἐν τῇ χάριτι. Not with sweetness or acceptableness (Colossians 4:6), which does not suit τ. Θεῷ or the emphatic position. It may be “by the help of Divine grace,” but more probably the meaning is “with thankfulness” (De W., Sod., Haupt, Abb.), on account of the reference to thankfulness in Colossians 3:15; Colossians 3:17. Thankfulness finds expression in song.—ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις. The reference is to the inner song of praise, which is to be the counterpart of the audible singing. What is meant is probably not singing from the heart, though cf. Matthew 22:37.
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.Colossians 3:17. πᾶν … ἐργῷ: a nominative absolute.—πάντα is governed by ποιεῖτε (not ποιοῦντες, as Sod.), supplied from ποιῆτε.—εὐχαριστοῦντες. This is not something additional to actions done in the name of Christ; but these actions are themselves expressions of thankfulness.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.Colossians 3:18. ἀνῆκεν has been taken as a perfect in sense of present (Luther, Bleek, Ol.), a view said by Winer to be “as unnecessary as it is grammatically inadmissible” (Winer-Moulton,9 p. 338). Usually it is taken as an imperfect, “as was fitting,” and is thought (but this is very dubious) to imply a reproach. Probably ἐν Κυρ. is to be joined to it, not to ὑποτ. (cf. Colossians 3:20).
Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1. ENFORCEMENT OF THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF WIVES AND HUSBANDS, CHILDREN AND PARENTS, SLAVES AND MASTERS, WITH FREQUENT REFERENCE TO THESE DUTIES AS INVOLVED IN THEIR DUTY TO CHRIST.—In this section the reference to the subject precedes that to the ruling parties, and the duty of obedience is emphasised to prevent false inferences from the doctrine that natural distinctions are done away in Christ. Holtzmann, Oltramare and Weiss think these precepts are added in protest against the false teachers’ asceticism. The fact that we have similar, and fuller, injunctions in Ephesians tells against this. Ephesians 5:22 sq. and 1 Peter 3:6 may be compared.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.Colossians 3:19. μὴ πικραίνεσθε: i.e., do not be harsh or irritable. Bengel defines πικρία as “odium amori mixtum,” which is acute, but “odium” is too strong.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.Colossians 3:20. κατὰ πάντα is omitted in Ephesians 6:1.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.Colossians 3:21. ἐρεθίζετε: i.e., irritate by exacting commands and perpetual faultfinding and interference for interference, sake. The consequence of such foolish exercise of authority is that the child becomes discouraged; in other words, his spirit is broken, and since what he does leads to constant blame, he loses hope of ever being able to please. “Fractus animus pestis juventutis” (Beng.).
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:Colossians 3:22. The case of slaves is treated at greater length than that of the other family relations, probably on account of Onesimus. But Paul was much possessed with the need for keeping Christianity free from the suspicion it naturally created of undermining the constitution of society. So while δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος is a distinction which has vanished for Christianity, in the interests of Christianity as a spiritual power social freedom had to be cheerfully foregone till the new religion was able to assert its principle with success. An instructive parallel is the exhortation to submission to constituted authority in Romans 13. In Paul’s time slaves probably made up the larger part of the population of the empire.—τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις: opposed to their spiritual Lord.—ὁφθαλμοδουλείαις: acts of eye-service (singular in Ephesians 6:6), i.e., service which is most zealous when the eye of the master or overseer is upon them. The word was perhaps coined by Paul.—ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι. It is the Christian’s first duty to please the Lord, and this he can do only by conscientious performance of his tasks quite apart from the recognition he receives from men. If the principle of his conduct is the pleasing of men, he will neglect his duty where this motive cannot operate.—ἁπλότητι καρδίας: “singleness of heart,” opposed to the double-dealing of eye-service.—τὸν Κύριον: in significant contrast to the masters according to the flesh.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;Colossians 3:23. Not only must the slave’s work be done in the fear of the Lord, but done as if it were actually for the Lord that he was doing it, and not for a mere human master. And this principle is to govern every detail of his varied service.—ἐκ ψυχῆς: heartily and with good will.—οὐκ ἀνθρώποις: their service, Paul would say, is not to be rendered at all (οὐκ not μὴ) to their earthly master, but exclusively to Christ.
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:24. However their earthly master may reward their service, there is a Master who will give them a just recompense; although they cannot receive an earthly, He will give them a heavenly inheritance.—ἀπὸ Κυρίου: in Ephesians 6:8 παρὰ Κ. The absence of the article is noteworthy. It emphasises the position rather than identifies the Person of Him who gives the reward (cf. the anarthrous ἐν υἱῷ, Hebrews 1:1). Haupt thinks that there is no significance to be attached to its omission; but, as Lightfoot says, “it is studiously inserted in the context”.—ἀνταπόδοσιν τῆς κληρονομίας: the “just recompense consisting in the inheritance”. κλ. is a genitive of apposition.—δουλεύετε. This may be taken as an indicative (Lightf., Findl., Moule, Haupt) or as an imperative (Mey., Ell., Alf., Abb.). The indicative is defended on the ground that it is needed to explain who is meant by ἀπὸ Κυρίου (but this was surely obvious), and that the imperative seems to require ὡς τῷ Κ. But Lightfoot himself quotes Romans 12:11, where ὡς is absent. On the other hand the indicative gives a somewhat flat sense, and the imperative seems to yield a better connexion with Colossians 3:25. It is best then to take it as an imperative.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.Colossians 3:25. This verse provides the reason (γὰρ) for δουλεύετε. It is disputed whether ὁ ἀδ. means the master who treats his slave unjustly, or the slave who by his idleness wrongs his master. To include both (Lightf., Findl., Ol.) is highly questionable, not only because a double reference is on principle to be avoided in exegesis, but because the connexion with δουλ. implies that one side of the relation only is being dealt with. It is commonly thought that the verse is an encouragement to the slave, based on the assurance that the master who ill treats him will receive his recompense in due course. In favour of this οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπ. is urged, since it implies that they are in a social position which might influence earthly courts, but cannot mitigate the judgment of God. But while a Christian writer could dissuade from vengeance by the thought that vengeance belonged to God alone, it is not credible that Paul should console the slave or encourage him in his duty by the thought that for every wrong he received his master would have to suffer. And, as Haupt says, we should have expected ὑμᾶς after ἀδικῶν and δὲ instead of γὰρ. There is also a presumption in favour of an exhortation to the slave here. If it referred to the masters it would have come more naturally after Colossians 4:1. Nor does προσωπ. necessarily imply that the wrongdoer is socially more highly placed. It equally well applies to favouritism that might be expected from God on the ground of religious position. So we should interpret the verse (with Weiss and Haupt) as a warning to the Christian slave not to presume on his Christianity, so as to think that God will overlook his misdeeds or idleness.