Colossians 3
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Exhortation to vital sanctification

CHAPTER 3:1–4:6

1. The foundation and prospect of a genuine Christian mind and walk.

(CHAP 3:1–4)

1If ye then be risen [were raised together] 1 with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth [is, sitting] on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection 3[mind] on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead2 [died] and 4your life is [or hath been] hid [χέχρυπται] with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life,3 shall appear [or be manifested], then shall ye also appear [or be manifested] with him in glory.


The injunction. Col 3:1, 2.

Col 3:1. If ye then were raised together with Christ takes up from the foregoing (2:12) a comprehensive thought, in a form reminding us of 2:20, to make it the basis of the exhortation. “If,” like 2:20, is not a doubtful hypothesis, but fact (2:12), from which, as undeniable, a certain conclusion is deduced (οὗν). By “raised together with Christ” we must understand the ethical renewal (see notes on 2:12). MEYER, who apparently refers this also to the corporeal resurrection, overlooks the “shall be manifested” (Col 3:4), and errs in regarding “actual” and “objective” as identical notions in contrast with “ethical;” this latter is no less actual. [ALFORD, ELLICOTT, WORDSWORTH refer the aorist to “baptism.” It refers to the definite point of time when this actual, “ethical” change took place. Is that necessarily at baptism? The two former object to the ethical sense on the ground that the injunction which follows would then be superfluous. Why should not a motive be drawn from this? What has been done for them is the ground for their doing, “seeking.”—R.]

Seek those things which are above.—Τὰ ἄνω, placed first for emphasis, is like τὰ ἑπουράνια (Eph. 2:6); to seek such things is a necessary consequence and requirement of being “raised together with Christ.” BENGEL: Christus a resurrectione statini contendit ad cælum (Jno. 20:17). Comp. Phil. 3:14, 20; Matth. 6:20, 23; Rom. 2:7.—Where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.—“Where” marks “the things above” as the region of the heavenly things of the Messianic salvation; “Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” indicates both the exultation after deep humiliation and certain rest after severe conflict. Thus a motive is given for the exhortation. Comp. Ps. 110:1. [The passage seems to abound in motives, though this is the principal one. The E. V. overlooks the fact that there are two enunciations: “Christ is there, and in all the glory of His regal and judiciary power” (ELLICOTT).—R.]

Col 3:2. Set your mind on things above.—The emphasis rests on the object; hence it is placed first here also. This is not mere repetition. After “seek” (ζητεῖν), which manifests itself in active and outward conduct, prominence is given to the cogitations of thought (φρονεῖν, Phil. 3:15, 19). BENGEL: qui vere suprema quærunt, non possunt non sapere suprema.—Not on things on the earth.—This is=τὰ ἐπίγεια, “earthly things” (Phil. 3:19), τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, “the things that are in the world” (1 Jno. 2:15). The earthly, that which is “to perish with the using” (2:22), should not be the object of inward care and thought; this is a sign of being “of the world,” which is not=being “in the world” (Jno. 17:14, 16, 12). The use of earthly things is not forbidden, but we are bidden, in the right use of the earthly to mind and seek heavenly things. [THEOPHILUS: Four-footed beasts are like images of men who mind earthly things; but they who live righteous lives soar aloft, like birds, on the wings of the soul, and mind those things that are above (WORDSWORTH).—R.]

Col 3:3. The Proof. For ye died, i. e., died to the world, to the earth (2:20: “from the rudiments of the world”). The aorist (ἀπεθάνετε) is used to denote an act that has occurred. Ye cannot then go backwards, live again or longer after the former fashion: your life is now another one.—And your life is hid with Christ in God.—“And” adds to the negative side, the having died, the positive side, “your life,” which however is “hid.” The perfect (κέκρυπται) denotes the continued relation, the verb itself marks the state of the existent life as still hidden, of course from the world, from men, from themselves also (1 Jno. 3:2: “It doth not yet appear”): the coherence of the life of Christians is denoted by “with Christ,” the inherence by “in God” (MEYER). Comp. 1 Pet. 3:4: “the hidden man of the heart;” Acts 17:28: “in Him we live and move and have our being.” [EADIE, against BARNES: “the idea of concealment, and not that of security, seems to be principally contained in the verb, for it is placed in contrast with open manifestation of Christ’s appearance. But this concealment is no argument against present and partial enjoyment.”—R.]—Evidently this is to be understood of eternal life, which has been awakened and is furthered in the present in consequence of the new birth. It remains concealed until its completion, which enters (Col 3:4; Rom. 8:19) with “the coming” (2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 1:7) of its Author and Finisher, Christ. The Greek fathers, CALVIN, GROTIUS, MEYER, incorrectly regard it as the life hereafter, [ALFORD: the resurrection life—R.], as if the Christian life were not already substantially, though incipiently, the life to be completed hereafter. GROTIUS is incorrect, jus ad rem rei nomine appellat; HEINRICH: sicuti Christus; ROSENMUELLER: in mente dei. [ALFORD: notice the solemnity of the repetition of the articles; and so all through these verses.—R.]

Col 3:4. The exalted prospect. When Christ shall appear.—Rapidly, without καί or δέ, this reminder and prospect is added, to animate their zeal. “When” marks the time, viz.: the appearing of Christ.—Our life—[the E. V. inserts “who is,” thus bringing out the force of the passage.—R.] This is in apposition with “Christ,” as “the hope of glory” (1:27). It forms the basis of the conclusion (“then shall ye also appear”); hence it is added to signify not merely that Christ is a remote and sundered Cause, but Impulse, Power, Object and Substance of the Life itself (Phil. 1:21; Jno. 11:25). BENGEL: Ratio sub qua manifestabitur. [EADIE is unfortunate in his interpretation: “shall appear in the character of our life.” Christ is our life itself, the essence and the impersonation of it (ELLICOTT).—R.]

Then shall ye also appear with him in glory.—“Then” refers to “when” (BENGEL: prius non debemus postulare); “ye also” to “Christ.” [ELLICOTT: The more verbally exact opposition would have been “your hidden life;” but this the Apostle perhaps designedly neglects, to prevent ζωή being applied as it has been applied, merely to the resurrection-life.—R.] “With Him,” which might otherwise have been omitted, is emphatic. “Appear with Him in glory” is=“glorified together” (Rom. 8:17), there preceded by “suffer with Him,” as this is by “died” (Col 3:3; 2:20: “with Christ”). Comp. 1 Cor. 15:42–44, 53.


1. Here and hereafter no more fall into two incongruous parts, than the year with seed time and harvest, human life with childhood and riper age, man with body and soul, the church in invisibly visible manner, with its militant and triumphant congregations. It is more than indistinctness and superficiality, it is anti-christian error to say, as does Kaüffer (De ζωῆς αἰωνίον notione, p. 93): vitam enim piam et honestam, quam homo Christianus in hac terra vivere possit ac debeat, Paulus dicere non poterat nunc cum Christo in deo (in cœlis puta, in quibus Christus nunc est) reconditam esse, atque olim in splendido Jesu reditu de cœlo revelatam iri: hæc nonnisi vitæ cœlesti conveniunt. Such an affirmation grossly offends against the Lord’s words (Jno. 5:24, “hath eternal life”) and Paul’s (Phil. 3:20: “our conversation is in heaven). So “ethical” and “physical” are very different, but not incongruous ideas. The Ethos should become Physis, and the latter should be made ethical. The Hereafter is not locally separated, is not a limited place, but a spiritual life-sphere, whose rudiments and germs lie in the narrow corporeal life, as in a concentric inner circle. God’s world cannot be dualistically split into a visible and invisible world; as little can it be separated by a rationalistic or deistical cross-cut into an upper and under world. He has created His world, the material world, to be glorified with a receptivity for eternal spiritual being, finitum infiniti capax.

2. The Ethical Consequence of the Christian view is: in the earthly life to begin the heavenly, in time to seek and to find eternity, faithful in the least, the perishing, to gain the greatest, the eternal. Aptly and elegantly says the Epistle to Diognetus (chap. v. 6 in scholz: Apostolic Fathers, p. 170) of Christians; they inhabit—Being in heaven. Comp. the beautiful hymn of Richter : es glänzet der Christen inwendiges Leben.

3. Only in and with Christ can we be even here assured of and joyful in eternal life; the true life is Christ in us.

4. The motive to constancy and fidelity in such a life is the glimpse of future glory, not the slavish fear of perdition, but child-like confidence and joy in the glory of the heritage and the heritage of glory.


Do not indefinitely seek what is above in heaven, but think of this, that there Christ is in glory with the Father, resting in the assurance of victory, taking part in the rule of the world. As the leaves that cool thee with their shade, shining in the sunlight and gaily rustling and dancing on the stem, were only born in the spring, begotten the summer before, in the sleeping eye as in a cradle, so in the heat of life is hiddenly prepared thy life to be manifested above: so God creates thy life in the quiet depth of the heart through and with Christ.—Wouldst thou be one day in heaven, then must heaven be in thee here: first the kingdom of God is in thee, then thou in it.

STARKE:—Ascendamus interim corde, ut olim sequamur et corpore (Augustine).—Think not, that by earnest meditation on the kingdom of God, all duties of house and office must be laid aside. We can find a place for that, even when the body is outwardly busy. Indeed through spiritual care of the soul, external business is properly regulated, sanctified and blessed.

GERLACH:—As Christ has concealed Himself from the bodily eye, and now lives a higher, heavenly, divine life; so does the Christian united to Him through faith. But the life of Christ will not always be thus concealed.

SCHLEIERMACHER:—The old man and the new man: this is the great contrast in which Paul’s entire proclamation of the gospel moved. The old man is both the man of sin and the man of the law; the new man is both the new creature in whom Christ lives, and he, who serves the righteousness, which comes through faith and avails before God.—The walk is manifest, the life is hid, we can conclude respecting the latter, only from what is manifested in the former.

PASSAVANT:—The world knows not, sees not, what a new being has arisen in the believer through the risen Christ. He feels the life of Jesus in his heart.—Highest stand the prophets, apostles, martyrs, who “overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). But all the rest, who have fought unto death, in patience and long-suffering, in holy fidelity, who are made kings and priests, will be called conquerors by their Head.

HEUBNER:—The higher, heavenly sense of the Christian proceeds from Christ, the Risen One,—this is its origin, its power—thither it goes also to His heavenly glory as its goal. He who has found the higher, forgets the lower.—PALMER:—The life in God: 1) a life of profound concealment, yet to be made manifest; 2) a life in blessed rest, yet with daily unrest and labor; 3) a life in heaven, yet with an appropriate blessing for earth.

GESETZ UND ZEUGNISS [a German theological periodical.—R.] : Live with Christ in God! 1) We have to make this way clear to ourselves; 2) to acquaint ourselves with the nature and quality of this life; 3) to inquire respecting the end, to which it develops itself.—The sign of spiritual resurrection; 1) heavenly mind; 2) divine life; 3) blessed hope.—The exhortation of the Apostle: Seek the things which are above! 1) How the Apostle explains it; 2) what grounds he adduces for it.—Our past and present and future [Unser Sonst und Jetzt und Einst.] 1) our past; a seeking and minding what is on the earth; a life without Christ and without God, manifest in sin and shame. 2) Our present; a seeking and minding what is above, where Christ is; a life hid with Christ in God. 3) Our future; a possessing and enjoying all that after which we here strive in faith; a life with God manifested with Christ in glory.

[ANDREWES: Col 3:1, 2. Christ is risen, and if Christ then we. If we so be, then we “seek;” and that we cannot unless we “set our minds.” On what? On “things above,” not on earth, but where “Christ is.” And why there? Because where He is, there are the things we seek for, and here cannot find. There He “is sitting” and so at rest. And at “the right hand” so in glory. “God’s right hand” and so forever. These we seek, rest in eternal glory. These Christ hath found and so shall we, if we begin to “set our minds” to search after them.—LUTHER:

Ver, 2. We live not in the flesh, but we dwell in the flesh. Bp. DAN. Wilson :—Things on earth too naturally draw us down, attract us, fix us. Esau’s red pottage prevails over the birthright. The guests in the parable turn away to their land, or oxen, or families. The Gadarene mind wishes Christ to depart from its coasts.—R.]

[EADIE :—The pilgrim is not to despise the comforts which ho may meet with by the way, but he is not to tarry among them, or leave them with regret.—WORDSWORTH:—Be ye good trees. Now, in the world’s eye, is your winter; to men ye appear like dry sticks. Your life is hid with Christ. Ye are dead in appearance, but not dead in reality; dead as to show of luxuriant leaves, but not dead in your spiritual root. Your root is Christ. His coming will be your summer. Then ye will put forth a glorious foliage. Ye will appear with Him in glory. And the leafy fig-tree of this world will be withered by His coming.—R.]

[BEVERIDGE: Sermon on Col 3:2. 1) Why “not on things on the earth?” a) they are below you and unsuitable to you both as men and Christians; b) they can never satisfy your desires; c) are troublesome and disquieting; d) unimportant and unnecessary (can neither make you happy themselves, nor conduce thereto); e) fleeting and unconstant, 2) Why “on things above?” a) nothing was made or designed as a proper object for our affections but these; b) our relations “above;” c) our possessions. 3) What affections? a) our thoughts and meditations; b) our affection of love; c) our desires; d) our joy. Thus become holy and happy.—R.]


[1]Col 3:1.—[So Ellicott, Alford. The former renders the whole verse: “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting on the right hand of God,” which rendering is justified in the notes below. His note on the distinction between “which” and “that” is interesting.—R.]

[2]Col 3:3.—[Ἀπεθάνετε; aorist, referring to definite past time, hence: “died”—as in Col 3:1: “were raised.”—R.]

[3]Col 3:4.—א. C. D.1 E.1 F. G. and others read ὑμῶν; while B. and many others have ὴμῶν. A. has a lacuna here. The authorities are equal, the internal grounds also; the former is more striking, fitting, the latter the stranger, more difficult reading; not like the other dependent on Col 3:3. Certainly it cannot be referred merely to Paul and Timothy (Schenkel), but to Christians in general. [Braune, following Meyer, seems to prefer ὑμῶν; but with Rec., Lachmann, Tischendorf, and modern English editors, ἡμῶν (“our,” E. V.) is to be preferred.—R.]

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
2. General exhortations

CHAPTER 3:5–17

a) Exhortation to put off the old fleshly nature

(COL 3:5–11.)

5Mortify therefore your4 members which are upon the earth: fornication, unclean-ness, inordinate affection [lustfulness],5 evil concupiscence [or shameful desire],6 and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6For which things’7 sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:8 7In the which [Among whom]9 ye also walked sometime 8[once], when ye lived [imperfect, were living] in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy [evil speaking],10 filthy [abusive]11 communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10And have put on the new man, which is renewed [is being renewed]12 in [unto, εἰς] knowledge [,] after the image of him that created him: 11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor [ omit nor]13 free: but Christ is all, and in all.


The first exhortation concerning the relation to the pleasures and possessions of earth. Col 3:5–7.

Col 3:5. Mortify therefore your members, which are upon the earth.—“Mortify therefore” is joined to Col 3:1–4, containing an inference from “were raised together” (Col 3:1) and “died” (Col 3:3). Their being dead has as its result a new life, in which a “making dead” (νεκροῦν) is possible and necessary. The verb (only here and Rom. 4:19; Heb. 11:12) is reddere νεκρόν, i. e, cadaver omnibus viribus privatum (πτῶμα), stronger than θανατοῦν (Rom. 8:13). See TITTMANN, Syn. I. p. 168. [The aorist denotes a definite act, which ELLICOTT thus expresses: “kill at once;” ALFORD: “put to death.”—R.] After the Christian died (Col 3:3), he has as quickened (Col 3:1), with the newly gained vital power, to kill the “members which are upon the earth.” This expression corresponds with the context, and refers in its sense to “putting off the body of the flesh” (2:11). There the whole organism was brought into view, here the individual members; there “of the flesh” describes what here, in accordance with Col 3:3, is described by “which are upon the earth” (BENGEL: where is found the sustenance of those members, of which collectively the body of sin consists). Because they are “fleshly,” there is a motive for putting them to death. This must be understood in an ethical, not a physical sense (HUTHER, UNGER and others), not of the Church members as the vital activities of the body of the Church (SCHENKEL); for the Christian is not required to mutilate his body, nor are members or masses of members “who are on the earth,” organs of the Church and its activity, since it is a creation of God; the words might be applied to Christians, who are worldly minded, but, as regards these, νεκροῦν, putting to death, is a duty only in the view of fanatics.

[ELLICOTT thus aptly paraphrases: “As you died, and your true life is hidden with Christ, and hereafter to be developed in glory, act conformably to it—let nothing live inimical to such a state, kill at once the organs and media of a merely earthly life.” Put to death the portions of your body, which are the instruments of sin, as respects the sphere (on the earth) of these sinful activities, and the actions and desires below specified: a duty very different from and more difficult than asceticism, or obedience to “the commandments of men” (2:21, 22).—R.]

The substantives, which follow in appositional relation to “members,” show more specifically what is meant: fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.BENGEL: “these (μέλη, members) are enumerated.” There is no metonymy here (DE WETTE), nor are these the ethical ingredients inhering in the members (MEYER, WINER’S Gram. p. 494). On the first two and the last substantives, see on Eph. 5:3. “Lustfulness” (πάθος) [not limited to unnatural lust, as Rom. 1:26.—R.] and “evil concupiscence” (ἐπιθυμία κακή) are to be referred, according to the context, to sexual sin; the former denoting rather the formal eagerness, the latter the intrinsic unworthiness, determined by the object; the former is always the latter also, but not vice versa (1 Thess. 4:5: “in the lust of concupiscence,” ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας). [The latter being more general.—R.] The category introduced by “fornication,” on account of its manifold and frequent manifestations (Gal. 5:19), is prominently set forth in detail; unnatural uncleanness is included in the last two substantives, but not specially described (ERASMUS and others).

By the side of “fornication” thus specified, the Apostle puts “covetousness” as a second category, indicated by the article. Bengel: articulus facit ad epitasin et totum genus vitii a genere enumeratarum modo specierum diversum complectitur. He gives prominence to this by means of the relative clause, which characterizes it and gives a motive for mortifying it. “Which” (quippe quæ, “which indeed;” WINER’S GRAM. pp. III, 157). See on Eph. 5:5. It is incorrect to apply it to insatiable voluptuousness (ESTIUS and others) or to “gains from lust” (BAEHR and others). [Braune in the parallel passage extends the application of the relative clause to all the preceding forms of sin, which application is grammatically inadmissible here, though allowable there. Πλεονεξία, “covetousness,” is marked by the article as the notorious form of sin, not merely introduced thus as forming a new category; for while it is another form of sin, there is an intimate connection in point of fact, “monsters of covetousness have been also monsters of lust.” Covetousness has as its primary object—wealth—but there is no objection to expanding its meaning here, as TRENCH does. He intimates that the Greek Fathers use this word to designate both the sins of impurity and avarice, “even as the root out of which they alike grow; namely, the fierce and ever fiercer longing of the creature which has turned from God, to fill itself with the inferior objects of sense is one and the same.” Syn. N. T. § 24. This is idolatry. It is worthy of notice too that idolatry and lust are connected historically, as well as in the O. T. passim.—R.]

Col 3:6. For which things’ sake the wrath of God Cometh.—Thus he adds a motive for the necessity of the exhortation, “mortify:” you must either kill or be killed. The relative refers to the sins mentioned above,14 on account of which “the wrath of God Cometh.” See on Eph. 5:6. [Also for notes upon: on the children of disobedience, which Braune rejects here.—R.] The absence of “on the children of disobedience” denotes a reference to God’s judgment on earth, under which the saints also suffer. The expression, which is to be distinguished from “the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5), and the context which is to be distinguished from 1 Thess. 1:10, “the wrath to come,” does not refer to the future judgment (MEYER, BLEEK and others). [ELLICOTT, following Theophilus, refers it to punishment here and hereafter. There is this strong objection to Braune’s view, that the New Testament does not represent the wrath of God as coming in any sense upon the saints. If the longer reading be adopted, his remark is also grammatically incorrect. Whatever interpretation be put upon ἐν οἷς, the following verse excludes the Colossian Christians from the threatened wrath.—R.]

Col 3:7. Among whom ye also once walked.—If “on the children of disobedience” be retained, the relative must be joined to that antecedent; otherwise it refers as δι’ἄ to the enumerated sins. “Once walked” denotes their conduct in different relations. See on Eph. 2:2.—When ye were living in them.—[That is, in these sins, as the sphere of life. There is no tautology if the personal reference of the last clause be adopted.—R.] The verb, in emphatic position, marks the internal life with undisturbed gratification, while “walk” denotes the manifestations of it in thought, word and deed; the imperfect (“were living”) refers to a continued state, the aorist (“walked”) to the individual acts, corresponding thus with the meaning of the verbs. Their sinful walk was conditioned by their sinful nature, not merely by habit and circumstance. BENGEL: Vivebatis tanquam in veslro principio, origins, elemento (Gal. 5:25). Hence ἐντούτοις and ἐνοἷς refer to the same antecedent. This is not tautological (MEYER) but emphatic: the first is not merely walking in heathenism, and the other a vicious life (SCHENKEL); the former is rather the “act” and the latter the “power” of sin (CALVIN) or the one “energy,” ἐνεργεία, the other “habit of nature” (ESTIUS).—[It is obvious how much is gained in the exegesis of this verse, by retaining “on the children of disobedience.” It then means: “Among which children of disobedience ye also walked, when ye wore living in these sins.” Surely with preponderant uncial authority, this exegetical advantage should decide in favor of retaining it, instead of being used to support the omission as lectio difficilior.—R.]

The second exhortation concerning their social relations to each other. Col 3:8–11.

Col 3:8. But now ye also put off all these.—“But now” (νυνὶδέ), in contrast with “once,” (ποτέ, ὄτε), is the present Christian state, which begins with conversion. Hence “put off” corresponds with “mortify” (Col 3:5), or “put away from you” (Eph. 4:31), and “ye also” puts the readers here beside other Christians, as in Col 3:7 by other heathen. “All these” (τὰπάντα) refers to what follows (WINER’S Gram. p. 102); not to all those (Col 3:5) and these also which follow (MEYER, SCHENKEL). [ELLICOTT, ALFORD follow Meyer, but Braune’s view is more strictly grammatical. EADIE unfortunately makes the verb indicative instead of imperative.—R.]—Anger, wrath, malice, evil-speaking, abusive communication out of your mouth.—See on Eph. 4:31. The last substantive is wanting there, but corresponds to αίσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία (Eph. 5:4). It describes shameful speech in-general, which, according to the context injures the neighbor, who hears it or of whom it is spoken, as “evil speaking” (βλασφημία). It is not to be applied to lewd speaking (HUTHER and others), at least not exclusively, though it may include it. The first three substantives form a climax, describing the internal condition, from perceptible excitement to passionateness which is its basis, then to deep-seated malicious nature; the other two refer to speech, hence to both is significantly added: “out of your mouth.” It might be joined with “put off,” but without any reference to the first three, since it would not be enough that among Christians these never found expression in words (SCHENKEL); they should not be found at all.

Col 3:9. Lie not one to another.—See Eph. 4:25. Εἰς denotes the direction: belie not one another. [The practice is thus stamped as a social wrong (ELLICOTT). MICHAELIS observes that it is only in this Epistle and that to the Ephesians, that the Apostle warns his readers against lying (BARNES).—R.] The aorist participles which follow (Col 3:9 b–11) give a motive for the injunction in Col 3:8, 9 a.—Seeing that ye have put off the old man.—[The E. V. thus admirably expresses the force of the aorist participle ἀπεκδυσάμενοι.—R.] The aorist requires this as the Apostle’s view: first, the experienced death and rising, then the active mortification of the members, first the experienced putting off the old man and putting on the new, then the active removal of what is contrary thereto, here a motive, drawn from what has preceded, is pre-supposed. Hence the Vulgate: exspoliantes, and BENGEL: “putting off,” as if it were contemporaneous, are incorrect; LUTHER also: put off, as though it were an injunction. The verb is to be taken according to the parallel expression (Eph. 4:22: ἀπόθεσθε) like the substantive 2:11, and its object as in Eph. 4:22. The old man, the sinful nature as it is before conversion and regeneration is to be laid off as a garment that has become useless, with all its peculiarities, hence: with his deeds.—Here is the stringent conclusion that what was detailed above must of course be put away. Comp. Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:24: “the flesh with the affections (παθήμασιν) and lusts.”

Col 3:10. And have put on the new man.—The putting off and on, connected by καί, are to be regarded as contemporaneous, according to the principle: natura et gratia non patiuntur vacuum (nature and grace do not tolerate a vacuum); only in the domain of grace in distinction from the physical, the initiative is with the new man and in virtue of the divine power creating him. In contrast with παλαιός, old, we have in Eph. 4:24, καινός, new, as not yet present, here νέος; παλαιός being therefore old, superannuated, senile; both are found in Eph. 4:23, 24 [ἀνανεοῦσθαικαινόν) and here in the adjective and added participle. The motive drawn from νέον, recent, young, as it were [newly entered and fresh state. ELLICOTT.—R.], lies in the danger prepared by the false teachers for Christians, who had been just now or not long converted.

The condition of the new man and his immediate task is more closely defined: which is being renewed, τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον.—The present participle denotes what is to go on in the present. The context requires the middle sense to denote the self-exertion, the active life. The new man is not anything complete at once, but in a state of vital growth, of further development, and that by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5). [This seems to contradict the last opinion that the participle is middle. ALFORD, ELLICOTT, WORDSWORTH all regard it as passive. The latter naturally suggests: “the new man was born in you at your regeneration in baptism, but needs the daily renewal of the Holy Ghost.” Omit “in baptism,” and the explanation will be generally received as correct. The passive or middle interpretation will be adopted as the stress is laid upon the divine or human side of the progressive work of sanctification, and yet as the Apostle is speaking of the new man, of our becoming holy, which lies back of active holiness, the passive is to be preferred. The new man is being renewed, rather than renewing himself.—R.] Comp. 2 Cor. 4:16. The preposition ἀνά marks the further, upward, onward striving, which is then more closely defined:

Unto knowledge, after the image of him that created him.—“Unto knowledge” denotes the end, “after the image of Him that created him,” the norm. According to 2:2; 1:9, “knowledge” is not further characterized as a knowledge corresponding to the image of the Creator, for by thus regarding both clauses as one (HOFFMANN, MEYER), no natural sense is given. In this knowledge, which cannot be supplied by worldly wisdom, the new man must grow according to the image of his Creator, God; this image is Christ, since the Christian is a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). There is an unmistakable allusion and reference to the first creation” (Gen. 1:26, 27). The second new creation is not to be separated from the first, the Christian is the genuine man, Christianity is true, God-willed humanity. [The latter clause is to be joined with “being renewed” (ALFORD, ELLICOTT). The final word “him” refers to the “new man.” The passage means more than the restoration of the image of God lost by Adam. “It is certain that the image of God, in which Christ’s Spirit re-creates us, will be as much more glorious than that, as the second man is more glorious than the first” (ALFORD). So EADIE in loco. Compare Eph. 4:24.—R.]

Col 3:11. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, free.—“Where” refers to the region of the new creation in Christ, in contrast with the domain of creation without Christ; in the latter there is division, contrariety and discord; in the former union, fraternity. Just as in the parallel passage (Eph. 4:25: “for we are members one of another”), this fellowship of the regenerate, the converted, requires truth and friendship among each other. It is incorrect to join “where,” as =qua in se, to the yet remote “knowledge” alone, finding here its object now brought in (SCHENKEL). ̓́Ενι means, as in Homer: there is there, therein; οὐκ ἔνι denies division as respects nationality (“Greek and Jew”),15 as respects religion (“circumcision and uncircumcision”), culture (“Barbarian, Scythian”), social status (“bond, free”). It is worthy of note, that, in nationality, the Greek who ruled in language is put before the Roman who held empire; in religion, Israel honored with revelation takes precedence; in culture, the step is from the uncultivated to the extreme savage (BENGEL: “Scythians, more barbarous than the Barbarians;” βαρβαρώτατοι), as in Rom. 1:14, the polished Greek not being again mentioned, while the summary is indicated by the omission of the conjunction; in the social category, the slave stands before the freeman to note the receptivity of the insignificant, and the exalting power of the gospel. Comp. Gal. 3:28. [LANGE’S Com. pp. 88, 91.—R.]

But Christ is all and in all.—“But” presents the contrast to the condition in the region of the natural life; hence within the Church there is not difference, divisions; in spite of the distinctions, there is no schism there, but union, concord on the ground of unity; in all these four directions (τὰπἀντα), and in all the individual persons, the Christians (“in all,” καὶἐνπᾶσι) is the same (Χριστός), “who alone occupies the whole, as the saying is, between stem and stern, and is both beginning and end” (CALVIN). Comp. 1 Cor. 15:28; Gal. 6:15. BENGEL: “Scythian is not Scythian, but Christ’s; Barbarian is not Barbarian, but Christ’s. Christ is all things, and that in all who believe. In Christ are new creatures.” [MEYER: “The subject is placed at the end, for the greatest emphasis, He, the all determining principle of the new life and activity (τἁ πάντα) in all his believers (ἐν πᾶσι), forms the higher unity, in which all those old divisions and antitheses become without significance and as if no longer existing.” ELLICOTT: “Christ is the aggregation of all things, distinctions, prerogatives, blessings, and moreover is in all, dwelling in all, and so uniting all in the common element of Himself.”—R.]


1. Christian Exhortation. All truly Christian exhortation to a moral life, internal and external alike, is directed mainly towards the right use of salvation as already possessed, towards its preservation in given circumstances, and the maintenance of conduct which meets the conditions of the rightly adjusted relations of the Christian. What is accepted and received as a germ through faith in the mercy of God in Christ, must be held fast, ever more vitally appropriated, nourished and developed practically in every direction. The regenerated believer, with the powers imparted to him by God, must now so work, that his action and conduct are as much his consenting, as God’s continued action. Christ for us becomes Christ in us, and Christ before us becomes Christ through us.

2. The world in and about the Christian. With respect to its pleasure, sensual, especially sexual pleasure, he must strive after purity; with respect to its possessions, after contentment, in order not to fall away from God and under His wrath. [For the sin of sensuality is not only intimately connected with that of covetousness, but both are essentially idolatrous. Those “without God” (Eph. 2:12) are “in the world,” and the world’s pleasures and possessions are put by them in the place of God.—R.]

3. Towards his neighbor, especially the brethren, there must be friendliness in disposition, word and truth.

4. All sin must be repelled. All that is opposed to what is required, both in its various shades from coarser to finer and finest, and in its different manifestations in act, word, thought, perception, from external to internal and inmost, must be contended against and repelled. Only what is sinful, yet all that is sinful, is contrary to Christianity and Christian character.

5. Christ the point of unity. Upon the absolute dignity of Christ and His central position toward the world (1:17: “in Him all things subsist”), which points to His Divine Fulness (1:19; 2:9), to Him as the image of the Creator, rests the fact that He is the absolute point of unity, the central and terminal point for men. What He is for the macrocosm He is also for the microcosm; He is the Second Adam, “a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). Hence the requirement to become a Christian and be a Christian must be deemed absolute for every man. Union with Christ is absolutely right, but it alone; contrasted with it all diversities as to nationality, confession, culture and station (Col 3:11) are only relatively right; this they are, in so far as that absolute right remains unimpaired. Cosmopolitism in political and social life, union in denominational life are fruitless, or stunted products of the natural man working within the Church, when and where they do not recognize and maintain union with Christ, established above all unions. This is then the rule: one with Christ, united with one another. By this every Christian, that is every evangelical Christian, and every age, such as that of the Reformation, must be tested. [By it too must be tested many human organizations, which aim at uniting selfish men so as to contribute to the common good. Many social and political problems remain to be solved, but social science has not always remembered that “the putting on of the new man” alone brings man “where there is neither Greek nor Jew—bond nor free, but Christ all and in all.”—R.] Compare the notes on Eph. 4:22 sq.; 5:25; 5:5, 6.


With every sin look at its concealed beginning in the heart, and its public issue in the judgment of God, who regards the heart.—Be not content with strength enough to prevent the sin of the heart from breaking out unto word and work. Be so ashamed of the past, that the present may not be as it was, and the future become far worse.—As a rule lying to others is closely connected with lying about others.

STARKE:—Improvement of the sinful life is as difficult for the flesh, as if the man should go to his death; for he is as much in love with fleshly lusts, as if this were his life. One of the chiefest members of the old man is “the lust of the flesh;” this secret poison hides in all. Though this fire be at once quenched in believers, yet, if they do not take care, the ever-glowing cinders may easily and quickly burst into a flame again. 2 Sam. 11:2 sq.—Covetousness breaks not only the eighth and tenth commandments of the second table, but the first and second of the other also; hence the covetous are idolaters too.—Old rags we throw away; sin, which makes us so old and deformed and ugly before God, the Christian must so put away, that he not only restrains its outbreak, but also exhausts the spring itself, draining it more and more, even if he does not dry it up entirely.—[What a mark of our great corruption, that the tongue, which should be the means of doing our neighbor good, is so often the instrument to injure him.—R.]—The state of the regenerate is a putting off the old and a putting on the new man. Hence in a believer there are as it were, two men or a double nature. Spirit and flesh, which contend against each other. Gal. 5:17. The one from its corrupt propensity wills what is evil, the other from divine operation what is good.

RIEGER:—With all that belongs to the old nature, we are never done; yet we should not be grieved by the, way: the quietest plan is with childlike mind to learn, and to regard the matter as ever in progress.—GERLACH:—The capacity for knowing and loving God is that alone wherein man excels the rest of creation, whereby he rules it. Is he a mirror of the Most High, then there is in him an image of God, which sin has not obliterated, but so polluted and marred that his own power can never more restore it.—When the image of God is restored in the soul, the partition-walls among men fall down.

SCHLEIERMACHER:—When Christians seem to us to be not yet permeated entirely by the new life in Christ, we may not thence infer an entire lack of the Spirit.—Paul admonishes them to put off their old members, not by virtue of the old man itself, but by virtue of the new and because the vital strength of the new man in them is presupposed.—This work of putting off the old man and putting on the new is a common one, and we should not believe in the fancy that somewhere it is wanting altogether.

PASSAVANT:—[Col 3:15. Covetousness which is idolatry can be found among Christians, in men who rejoice in a Christian education, and bow before the cross of Christ as the tree of life. The life of the covetous man is hid with his hoards in iron chests; the life of the Christian is “hid with Christ in God.”

Col 3:7. It is better, if one has never walked in these things, if they have never been the elements of our life, for then our sanctification is easier. On this account we should learn the fear of God from our youth.]

Col 3:8. A single word, slipping from the mouth of the Christian can pollute the whole God-sanctified new man.—[Col 3:9. It is long before a tongue, hitherto unaccustomed to lie, becomes accustomed to the truth; this is the work of the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of truth.

Col 3:11. God regards in us only His Son and His image, as He hates only the old man and his corruption.—R.]


Col 3:7. No argument will prevail more with a Christian to follow on the work of mortification closely for the time to come, than the remembrance of his long continuance in sin. in time past.

Col 3:9. Lying makes a man like the devil, who was a liar as well as a murderer from the beginning.

Col 3:11. O blessed Jesus! Art thou thus all to me? I will labor to be all to thee; to give thee all that I am.—R.]


Col 3:5. It is very observable, that among all the other instances of sin which good men are recorded in the Scripture to have fallen into; (and there is scarcely any but some or other in one or other part of their life, have fallen into;) there is no instance in all the Scripture of any good man charged with covetousness.

Col 3:9. Lying makes us like the devil (who is the father of lies), and is a prime part of the devil’s image upon our souls.

Col 3:10. The-new man is said to be renewed in knowledge; because an ignorant soul cannot be a good soul. Light is the first thing in the new creation, as it was in the first.—R,]


Col 3:5. If the heart is dead let all the organs which it once vivified and moved die too—nay, put them to death. Let them be killed from want of nutriment and exercise.—This desire of having more, and yet more, is idolatry. What it craves it worships, what it Worships it makes its portion.

Col 3:11. 1. Such distinctions do not prevent the on-putting of the new man. 2. In the church, prior and external distinctions do not modify the possession of spiritual privilege and blessing.—WORDSWORTH:

Col 3:5. You must be dead to earth, in order to life in heaven. While we mortify our members upon the earth, we quicken our members in heaven.—R.]


[4]Col 3:5.—Ὑμῶν is wanting in א. A. B. and others. [It is omitted by Tischendorf (ed. 2, not 7), Alford, and by Braune; retained however by Rec. Lachmann. Meyer, De Wette, Wordsworth. Ellicott; the latter remarks: “The great preponderance of MSS. and the accordant testimony of so many versions seem to render this otherwise not improbable omission here very doubtful.”—R.]

[5]Col 3:5.—[Alford and Ellicott thus render πάθος; not merely “just,” but the disposition toward it.—R.]

[6]Col 3:5.—[“Evil concupiscence” is correct, but “shameful desire” would be more generally understood.—R.]

[7]Col 3:6.—Διʼ ἅ on the authority of א. B. C. and others, is better supported than διʼ ὅ. [The former reading is adopted by Lachmann. Tischendorf, Ellicott: the latter by Meyer and Alford.—R.]

[8]Col 3:6.—The clause ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας, “on the children of disobedience,” is wanting in B.; apparently taken from Eph. 5:6, where it is supported by all. [Rejected by Tischendorf and Alford. The uncial authority, א. A. C. D. E. K. L., in support of it is so preponderant, that it cannot safely be omitted. The two Epistles might well contain expressions exactly alike. Meyer retains it.—R.]

[9]Col 3:7.—[Ἐνοἷς refers to “the children of disobedience,” if that clause be retained. If it be rejected, the E. V. is correct, but is incorrect as it now stands. (Braune, Ellicott.)—R.]

[10]Col 3:8.—[“Evil-speaking” or “calumny” is evidently the meaning of βλασφημίαν here, as in Eph. 4:31, where the E. V. reads: “evil-speaking.”—R.]

[11]Col 3:8.—[“Abusive,” perhaps “foul-mouthed communication,” is better than “filthy;” the idea of obscenity is not necessarily included in αἰσχρολογίαν.—R.]

[12]Col 3:10.—[The present participle here denotes a process going on. See EXEG. NOTES.—R.]

[13]Col 3:11.—Before ἐλεύθερος, A. and others read καί, a few also before Σκύθης, but both weakly supported. [“Nor” is unnecessarily supplied in the E. V.—R.]

[14][ALFORD, reading διʼ ὅ, refers it to “idolatry” alone, and hence in his exegesis, make it “the all-comprehending and crowing sin.” MEYER, adopting the same reading, refers it to the whole immoral character just named.—R.]

[15][The E. V. places the negation in the conjunctions. A more literal rendering would be: “There is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision,” etc.—R.]

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
b) Exhortation to Christian love one toward another, and to glorifying the name of Christ in word and work

CHAPTER 3:12–17

12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy [or saints]16 and beloved, bowels of mercies [mercy], kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering: 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another [each other],17 if any man have a quarrel [or complaint, μομφήν] against any: even as Christ18 forgave you, so also do ye [doing 14yourselves].19 And above [But over]20 all these things put on charity [love], which21 is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God [Christ]22 rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are [were] called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly [; ] in all wisdom; [omit semi-colon ] teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and [omit and]23 hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with grace [in grace24 singing] in your hearts to the Lord 17[God].25 And [everything] whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,26 giving thanks to God and the Father [God the Father]27 by him.


The virtues of the new man in intercourse with the brethren (Col 3:12–14).

Col 3:12. Put on therefore.—To the “have put on the new man” (Col 3:10) there is joined, as a consequence (“therefore”), the positive precept, which finds a motive, as a continuing and valid requirement, in the “being renewed;” although they have put on the new man, they have yet to take up anew the single parts. [ELLICOTT, following HOFFMANN, thinks οὔν has here more of its reflexive force, taking up what has been said and continuing it: “as you have put on the new man, put on all its characteristic qualities.” But even this paraphrase implies a “moral consequence.” “For although the putting on of the new man as a fact, has historically occurred through the conversion to Christ, yet it has, according to the nature of the new man, its continued acts, which should occur, viz., through the appropriation of those virtues, which the new man as such must possess” (MEYER).—R.]

As the elect of God, [holy or] saints and beloved, conditions the justice of the precept and the indispensableness of complying with it. “As” gives prominence to the actual condition, relation, in which they stand.—“Elect of God” is used substantively as Matth. 24:31; Mark 13:27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Tit. 1:1: “saints” (ἄγιοι) as Rom. 1:7; 15:25, 26, 31; 16:2, 15; 1 Cor. 1:2, etc. “Αγιος τοῦ θεοῦ (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; Jno. 6:69) is a description of the Christian; ἄ γιοι αὐτοῦ (“His saints”) also occurs (2 Thess. 1:10). The position of the genitive (τοῦ θεοῦ) however requires it to be joined with the first term (“elect”). “Beloved” is also used substantively as Eph. 1:6. The climax here is unmistakable: as to the ground, they are without desert “elect of God,” as to their condition they are “saints,” as to their relation to God, they are, as the perfect denotes, the continued objects of His love (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). BENGEL: “the order of words corresponds exquisitely with the order of things: eternal election precedes sanctification in time, the sanctified feel love, and then imitate it.” The last, firmly founded on the preceding, has the stress laid on it. All three are correlatives of “putting on the new man,” which pre-supposes the “election of God” (Col 3:10, 11). Hence neither are the last two substantives and the first an adjective (BLEEK), nor the first subject and the two others predicates (MEYER, BENGEL). [So also EADIE, ALFORD and ELLICOTT. Either view is admissible on grammatical grounds. ELLICOTT urges that the force of the exhortation rests on their character as “elect,” while ALFORD insists that as ἐκλεκτοί is a word, which must find its ground independently of us in the absolute will of God, it cannot be an adjunctive attribute of the other two. On the whole the view of MEYER, followed by the commentators just mentioned, and implied in the E. V., is preferable. For it seems better accordant with Paul’s method of stating the truth of Divine grace, and with the position of the Words to lay the emphasis upon the phrase “elect of God,” and hot to regard the three phrases as co-ordinate. “The consciousness of this extraordinary privilege, of being the elect of God, who as such are holy and beloved of God—how it must have affected the conscience of the readers and aroused them to the very virtues, corresponding with so high a position, which Paul here enjoins!” MEYER.—R.]

Bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.—“Bowels of mercy” stands foremost; viscera with the quality of mercy, of which they are the seat. Phil. 2:1, we find “bowels and mercies.” The first word denotes what is inmost, most individual (Phil. 1:8; Philem. 12; 2 Cor. 6:12; 1 Jno. 3:17). Luke 1:78, “tender mercy of God” lit., “bowels of mercy of God” is similar. So Eph. 4:32, “tender-hearted,” “heart of mercy” (εὔσπλαγχνοι). The manifestations of mercy then follow, forming a climax; “kindness” which as the opposite of “severity” (Rom. 11:22) helps outward need, “humbleness of mind” (ταπεινοφροσύνην) which recognizes our own unworthiness and the superiority or talent of a brother, “meekness,” which as the opposite of “fierceness” (ἀγριότης), is mild toward faults which are blameworthy, and “long-suffering” which restrains itself so as to quietly bear reprehensible injuries in the hope of a better mind and consequent improvement on the part of the offender. See on Eph. 4:2, 32, TITTMANN, Synon. I. 140–142. [Comp. TRENCH; Syn. New Testament, sub vocibus. He makes “meekness” to be at first in crespect to God, then toward men as growing out of this. But in this case it is primarily toward man, though implying the other as its ground (ALFORD, ELLICOTT, while EADIE excludes the reference to God).—R.]

Col 3:13. Forbearing one another and forgiving each other.—These participles define the modality of the exhibition of the virtues just mentioned; they must be appropriated by practice which makes the master. The present tense indicates permanence. On “forbearing,” see Eph. 4:2, on “forgiving,” Eph. 4:32. “One another” (ἀλλήλων) marks the purely reciprocal, mutual enduring, forbearing; “each other” (ἐαυτοῖς) indicates at the same time also, that they have experienced such forgiveness from without, from Him who is their Example. That which is difficult to bear and forgive in others, is not simply what one does against us, but also what he does in general, what is displeasing, unpleasant, or offensive in his manner, whatever in his relations to us may give occasion for blame (μομφήν), so that the participles refer to all the preceding virtues, not to the last one only. BENGEL arbitrarily distinguishes: forbearing in present offences, forgiving past offences.

If any man have a complaint against any.—[Μομφή, only here in N. T., but classical: “ground of blame,” “just cause of complaint.”—R.] TITTMANN, Syn. I. 29, distinguishes ἄμεμπτος and ἄμωμος—each is free from blame, the former because it is perfect and absolute in its members, the latter because it is free from vice; in the former nothing more can be desired, in the latter there is nothing to be reprehended. On this account, as well as because πρός not κατά is here used, a more general relation than that of hostility is indicated; this must be regarded as referring in general to an experience occurring every where, yet mildly described hypothetically, that one can easily find something to blame in another, as is indicated above. [The Greek conditional protasis here used always implies that the hypothesis is correct.—R.]

Even as Christ forgave you, so also doing yourselves.—Χαριζόμενοι is to be supplied in thought (WINER’S Gram. p. 526). Hence there is no parenthesis here, nor a disrupted sentence, as though an imperative were to be supplied. [The E. V. gives the imperative, which is objectionable; ELLICOTT preserves the construction by rendering as above—R.] This expression is explained, 2:13; Eph. 4:32. Here we have “Christ,” in Eph. 1:1: “God in Christ;” this variation will explain 2:13. BENGEL is excellent: christus, cui maxima fuerat nobiscum querendi causa. Accordingly “the grace (χάρις) of the Lord Jesus Christ” is often spoken of. “As” denotes the mode of forgiveness, as Luke 7:37–47; 23:34, not the accomplishment of reconciliation with God by His death.

Col 3:14. But over all these things put on love.—“Love,” as in 1:4, 8; Eph. 4:2, is to be taken as “brotherly love,” which must come over all those virtues, upon them (ἐνδύσασθε, Col 3:12), [So E. V. supplies “put on,” though “above” may or may not have the local or semi-local (ELLICOTT) force, which ἐπί here conveys. EADIE renders “in addition to,” weakening the force of the passage. WORDSWORTH quotes Clement, who apparently refers “love” to “love to God.”—R.] In reference to this “love,” the Apostle adds: which is the bond of perfectness.—By the neuter [, not ἤτις—R.] the putting on of love as an act, is denoted. [The article is wanting—hence Braune renders “a bond.” ELLICOTT says the omission may be due to the verb substantive.—R.] Σὐνδεσμος, the encircling band, reminds us of a girdle, put over the clothes to hold them together. The genitive therefore adds those virtues included under the category of “perfectness,” as Acts 8:23: “the bond of iniquity;” Eph. 4:3: “bond of peace.” It is parallel with “in love” (Eph. 4:2). Comp. Rom. 13:10: “love is the fulfilling of the law.” The Pythagoreans called friendship “the bond of all the virtues.” Hence is not to be rejected and ἤτις substituted (BLEEK), nor ἀγάπη to be regarded as neuter (MEYER); 2:19 is not a parallel case, since there the masculine is used, and the construction is according to the sense, as Christ is conceived of under κεφαλή. Nor is love to be regarded as the upper garment (MEYER), nor “bond” as “sum total” (INSBEGRIFF, OLSHAUSEN), nor as the efficient cause of “perfectness” (SCHENKEL); nor yet is the genitive to be taken attributively as that of quality (GROTIUS). [To refer “which” to the putting on of love is a doubtful interpretation. It does not agree so well with the figurative representation of the Apostle, who has already been speaking (Col 3:12) of what they were to pat on, and seems to be mentioning here the last garment required to complete the attire. To make the act of putting on the “bond of perfectness” would be an unnecessary obscuring of the metaphor; especially as we may readily take ἀγάπη absolutely. There is the same objection perhaps to MEYER’S view, that love is here represented as an upper garment, but a close-fitting upper garment might well be, at the same time, the bond which enclosed and held together all the others. Adopting this view, we may not only say, that love itself is “that bond which unites all the graces into completeness and symmetry” (EADIE), but “without love there is no perfectness; this has its conditio sine qua non in the including of all its other parts in love” (MEYER). Love is the principal of all the other virtues, but is here named last, as if supplementary, because of the figure. Braune’s view of the genitive, which is that of MEYER, is to be preferred to that of ELLICOTT, who regards it as a genitive of the subject: “love is the bond which belongs to, is the distinctive feature of perfection.” Alford well remarks: “Those who find here justification by works, must be very hard put to discover support for that doctrine.”—R.]

The frame of mind in which Christian love is to be exercised. Col 3:15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.—This is not a command, but only a wish, the fulfilment of which is of importance, The subject, which in Phil. 4:7 is “the peace of God,” is that peace wrought by God through Christ in the Holy Ghost, which, according to Jno. 14:27 (“my peace I give unto you”), can be accurately termed; of Christ.” (See WINER’S Gram. p. 175.) It is the calm of the soul resting on the consciousness of having a reconciled God and Father, in Christ the Saviour.—[ELLICOTT says, the idea in Phil. 4:7 “is substantially the same, except that perhaps peace is there contemplated as in its antithesis to anxious worldliness, while here it is rather to the hard, unloving and unquiet spirit that mars the union of the one body.” It must not be limited to, though it certainly includes, mutual concord.—R.]—The verb βραβεύω “to be an umpire,” and as such to award the prize as well as regulate the contest, marks the administrative activity in distinction from the legislative found in βασιλεύειν. [The idea of presiding, ordering, ruling, is to be retained; the reference to bestowing (WORDSWORTH), or even winning a prize, which some commentators find here, is forbidden by the phrase which follows.—R.]—The phrase “in your hearts,” ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, is not=“in you,” ἐν ὑμῖν (Col 3:16); it refers to the inner, most individual relations, where the peace of Christ is to rule; it is not therefore to be referred to the unity of believers among themselves (Greek Fathers, CALVIN, GROTIUS, MEYER).

To the which also ye were called in one body.—[“To the which,” almost=for into it (ELLICOTT).—R.] This peace is the immediate end of the calling; this calling is marked by “also” (καί), which joins it to “rule,” as that to which the rule of peace has to correspond. The result of the consummation of the calling on the part of God, and of its acceptance on the part of men, is described by “in one body” This refers to the Church as the body of Christ (Eph. 4:4; 2:16); which is the sphere and place, in which this calling is consummated and the called are to move. Therefore it is not=εἰς ε͂ν σῶμα (GROTIUS), nor is the Church as an organism the object of the Divine calling (SCHENKEL), which is addressed to individual persons. The calling in itself and the implanting in the Church constitute a benefit, important on account of the peace joined with it, and obligating to friendliness toward the brother, who has become partaker of the same; hence Paul adds: and be ye thankful [sc. to God.—R.]—Comp. 2:7; 4:2; Eph. 5:4. Knowledge of the benefit of the calling and the peace, together with gratitude therefor, must increase. The adjective (εὐχάριστοι) does not occur elsewhere in N. T. Incorrectly rendered “amiable,” “friendly,” by JEROME, ERASMUS, BAEHR, [CALVIN].

Helps to the exercise of Christian love. Col 3:16, 17.

Col 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.—“The word of Christ” is the word which He has spoken and caused to be proclaimed (1 Thess. 1:8; 4:15; 2 Thess. 3:1), and which communicates the inward peace, directing and leading to right conduct toward the brethren: “the word through which ye were called” (BENGEL); elsewhere called “the word of God” (1:25; 1 Cor. 14:36; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2) from its highest cause, “of truth” (Eph. 1:5, 13) from its purport, “of life” (Phil. 2:16) from its effect.But it must have a permanent locality, “as in a temple” (BENGEL): let it dwell “among you,” as the context demands. It is not=“in your hearts.” (Col 3:15) “in you” (THEODORET, BEZA and others). [EADIE: “within you;” MEYER, ALFORD : in you as a church, which seems to be Braune’s view. Preferable on the whole, and suggestive of the truth, that want of general diffusion of the word of Christ among the people “richly,” much prevents their obeying the following precept.—R.] “Richly” relates to substance, hence, not used in a stunted, abbreviated eclectic fashion. [“Not with a scanty foothold, but with a large and liberal occupancy” (EADIE).—R.] It does not refer to frequency of use, or to the members of the Church=among many (SCHENKEL).

In all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.—[“In all wisdom” is joined with what follows. The construction is thus rendered more harmonious; the preceding clause has its emphatic adverb last, and the two qualifying participial clauses each begin with an adverbial phrase of manner. EADIE, following the pointing of TISCHENDORF, joins “psalms,” etc., with the second clause, but this destroys the correspondence, while the objection he urges, in regard to psalms and hymns as the material of instruction, is not in keeping with his own quotation from Basil’s encomium on the Psalms—R.] The participles, which are to be joined with “you” in the nominative, just as in Eph. 4:1–3 (WINER’S Gram. p. 532), refer to the application and use of the word present among them, describe the manner in which the word dwells among them. This explains “speaking to yourselves” (Eph. 5:19). The first verb indicates the intellectual, the other the moral reference. To both belong the definition of manner “in all wisdom” (comp. 1:28), which is placed first emphatically, and the asyndetic datives which define the means to be used [or “the vehicle in which" the teaching and admonishing was communicated (MEYER).—R.]. These means act the more instructively and effectively, the more familiar one is with them, for the hymn grows out of the word of God and of Christ, and these grow into such songs, as the Bible, the Psalter and Church history attest. TERTULLIAN : Post aquam mannalem et lumina, ut quisque de scripturis sacris vel proprio ingenio potest, provocatur in medium canere. Comp. Eph. 5:19. The reference is to public worship, to the use of the word of Christ and singing at the agapæ and in the family circle; it should not be limited to the latter (MEYER).

In grace singing in your hearts to God.—[Braune adopts the reading ἐν χάριτι, and therefore renders “in gratitude” [Dankbarkeit), but with LACHMANN, TISCHENDORF, MEYER, ALFORD, ELLICOTT, WORDSWORTH, it is better to retain the well supported article: τῇ χάριτι then refers to Divine grace, the element to which the singing was to be circumscribed,—that which should accompany it.—R.] The clause corresponds in its structure with the foregoing; “in all wisdom,”—“in grace,” the participles, then the closer definition; they are coördinate therefore. It is altogether improper to join both with “be ye thankful,” making “let the word. richly” parenthetical, or to connect “in psalms,” etc., with this clause (SCHENKEL), on the ground that singing instruction is inconceivable, or to join ἐν χάριτι with πνευματικαῖς (LUTHER: spiritual, lovely songs). Since “singing” on account of “in your hearts” (see Col 3:15) must be referred to something internal, and “to God” indicates its direction, “in grace” must be a closer definition of the singing; “in gratitude,” as 1 Cor. 10:30. The meaning of χάρις is like gratia. It cannot mean “in gracefulness” (4:6; Eph. 4:29; ERASMUS, SCHENKEL), nor in grace, nor with the article: in the grace impelling thereto (CHRYSOSTOM, MEYER). [If the article be retained, this is undoubtedly the meaning; not only because usus loquendi favors such a view, but because the other meaning: “thankfully” would be a flat and unmeaning anticipation of “giving thanks” below (ALFORD).—R.] The opinion that the phrase “in your hearts” refers to the existing abuse of singing with the mouth (THEOFHYLACT) is not justified, since the reading is not τῇκαρδιᾴ, and the tone which accompanied instruction is here noted. [Yet the former clause seems to refer to singing with the mouth, and this to that “in the silence of the heart” (MEYER).—R.]

Col 3:17. And everything whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.—It is evident that “do” must be supplied with “all” (πάντα), and that “all in the name of the Lord Jesus” corresponds with “everything whatsoever” [πᾶνὄτι—the absolute nominative.—R.]; “everything whatsoever” referring to individual things, and “all” taking up the same collectively. On this account it is incorrect to explain it: “in every thing which ye do, do all in the name,” etc. (MEYER), or that out of the doing in general the doing in particular proceeds (SCHENKEL). [EADIE makes the plural “individualing” also.—R.] The repetition as well as the position of πάν, together with the giving of a category (“in word or deed”), and the marking of the individual acts (ὄ τι) as well as the conditional form (ἐὰν ποιῆτε) require that it be understood of the entire action (BENGEL : facitis lato sensu ponitur, ut etiam to loqui incendat) and this should be “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This is joined by “and” to “the word of Christ” (Col 3:16). In addition to His word, His Name, His Person should be availing to us; the former in us, and we in the latter, as in the life-sphere dearest to us, out of which we never go, the element which we cannot lack. See Eph. 5:20; Phil. 2:10. The variation from “Christ” (Col 3:16) and “Jesus” here makes us think of the model of the Incarnate One in the form of a servant. “In the name” is not “with invocation of” (CHRYSOSTOM and others). BENGEL extends it too far : ut perinde sit, ac si Christus faciat, Col 3:11, vel certi ut Christo omnia probetis.

Giving thanks to God the Father by him.—The participle refers to the mood which should ever attend their “doing” (see 2:7; Eph. 5:20), and which expresses itself in hymn and song. The repetition (Col 3:15–17) marks the importance of “giving thanks.” On “God the Father,” see Eph. 1:3; 5:20; 6:23; Col. 1:2 As “Father” is without any closer definition, it means of course, “of Jesus.” [ALFORD, however, justly remarks: “the words must be taken as approximating in sense to that more technical meaning which they now bear, without exclusive reference to either our Lord or ourselves.”—R.]—δι’ αὐτοῦ “through him,” is, according to Eph. 5:20,=“in the name of the Lord,” marking more strongly the mediation of the thanksgiving, the Christian sentiment (Rom. 1:8; 7:25). There is nothing here to indicate opposition to angel-worship (THEODORET, BAEHR). [ALFORD : “ ‘through Him,’ as the one channel of all communication between God and ourselves, whether of grace coming to us, or of thanks coming from us. ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me’ (δι’ ἐηοῦ), Jno. 14:6.” MEYER: “For Jesus, as the personal, historical Mediator of the Messianic Salvation through His atoning work, is therefore for the Christian consciousness the Mediator of thanksgiving; He it is, through whose favor the Christian can and does give thanks.”—R.]


1. Conduct determined by condition.28 The Christian is “elect,” “holy,” “beloved.” In the first there is a negative reference to the mass and world, out of which he is taken, in the second a positive reference to the same, asserting that he is consecrated to God, while the third declares, positively also, that he is an object of the love of God; the first denotes simply the occurred fact, the third gives prominence to the continued effect, while the second sets forth the status. The relation is constantly defined as passive; the Christian has experienced something, without previous merit or meritorious assistance. This conditions and promotes his conduct, with thankful zeal, in order to show in response what he has experienced, viz., love. [The Apostle here as always (comp. Rom.8; Eph. 1) treats of “election” as a fact, which is made known to us, in order to awaken love in us. It is doubtless necessary that it be at times handled polemically and dogmatically, but he uses it most like Paul, who speaks of it as a fact, revealed by God, evidenced as true of persons by corresponding facts, viz., Divine acts of grace which make men “holy and beloved,” and in itself an act of Divine grace, which the Christian can so apprehend as to derive from it a constant motive to such Christian graces as the Apostle here enumerates. So far from being made thereby harsh, proud and unforgiving, they “therefore” put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, etc.—R.]

2. The new Christian condition or relation is first of all a relation toward God, yet it at the same time influences essentially the relation between those concerned and transferred by it. It is precisely by this that it must prove itself, the religious by the social. First of all this relation of man to God brings a discord into the individual himself, because it divides him into the receding old man, and the advancing new man. The principle of the old man, selfishness, is made by this relation, to yield or become yielding to the principle of the new man, viz., self-denying and world-denying love and the social virtues: mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, appear as necessary manifestations of the reality of the relations towards God. These virtues must show themselves toward the sins, faults and offences of a brother, just as God’s love has shown and still shows itself toward us.

3. Christian love is active. In the social Christian virtues there is no weakness, effeminacy, indifference. It is not indifferent indolence but active love, energetically breaking out in these as its forms. The Apology for the Augsburg Confession, 3: § 110, rightly repels the assertion of the Romanists, that love justifies, since it does not establish the relation to God, only proves that it has been established, in and by the conduct toward the brethren.

4. Christ, in whom God’s love has become and still becomes our portion, remains the only model, the exclusive norm.

5. His peace in the heart, His word in the Church, are the attendants of Christian love, the former as its tone, the latter as the means of promoting it; without the first, rest, confidence and joy were wanting, without the other, certainty, correctness and strength.

6. The Christian Song, deriving its contents and its growth from the word of God, promoted culture and progress in the Christian life; it is in itself a sermon from the Divine word, and has its value in the fact that it is such. The Christian entrusted with it, should use it in the wider and narrower circle of his associates. Produced by spiritual, natural endowments from the use of God’s word and experience in life and heart, it is an excellent means of edification and growth for the new man. [The question of Psalmody and public praise, is to be settled by (Col 3:16) and similar passages. The word of Christ is to be its substance; all that is not of the word of Christ is to be excluded, all that is, may be included. Hence the Psalter in the main source, but not the only one. “In all wisdom” is its mode, hence mere rhymes of a pious turn are not included. Its end is mutual edification, not entertainment, hence the hymn must be adapted to this end, and the singing of it “to edification.” Those who cannot sing to edification may sing in their hearts, but the text implies that “this teaching and admonishing” is not the privilege of a few, but of Christians as a body.—R.]

7. The walk in fellowship with Christ, the practice of Christian virtues, advances us from the rudiments of a pupil to the perfection of a master. Not for merit, but for growth, Christian walk and Christian virtue are indispensable.

8. Gratitude, corresponding with the status into which we have been brought, with the glory of our relation to God, is most important and constant in Christian conduct. [Hence the excellence of those symbols, which treat of Christian morality under the head of the gratitude of God for redemption. See Heidelberg Catechism. This view guards alike against the extremes of antinomianism and legalism.—R.]


The Christian’s station, ornament, strength, tone and weapon.—All morality takes its rise in religion, which is essentially love, given of God, who gave Himself and accepted us, or peace, in which all the antagonisms within the personality of the man himself in his conscience and will, or between himself and the world or his neighbor, or the nearest of all, i. e., God the Lord Himself, was and is taken away.—Love is not a garment, that can be thrown over other virtues, but the soul of all to hold them together, their germ and impulse, their strength and beauty.—Ought the word of God to do well in you, then live in it, and let it live into you.—It is rudeness of mind to have no taste for the sacred poetry of the Church, the flowering of the Divine word in a gifted human soul, and a misfortune to have no benefit of it in the joy and sorrow of life.—A stamp you must have, lo, nothing is current in his eyes but His own Image.

STARKE:—Nothing gives the devil so much room to come into the heart as hatred and anger; God’s children drive out both by meekness and spit on the embers, so that they may not break out into a fire.—He who bids us put up the sword, allows us still a shield for our protection; He who has commanded us to be as doves, has desired that we be “wise as serpents.”—A little child, that falls so often and so easily, is lifted up and carried; so gently and tenderly must weak Christians be dealt with. The world sets itself to righting and fighting, if attacked even by a cross word; but a Christian overcomes all by forgiving and yielding; he yields his own right [not the right, however,] and does not think of revenging himself.—That the wolf devours the lamb is nothing uncommon, but that one lamb eats another is deplorable and unnatural; we who are Christ’s sheep will cherish love toward one another.—Behold the necessity of household devotion. All others have their assemblies, merchants, mechanics, etc., yes even the Godless, that they may mock at God and His word, should not believers then establish their holy assemblies ?—We must thank God not only for His benefits, but also for His fatherly chastisements. “Both in His gifts and in His chastisements, praise Him, who either wins thee by giving, that thou mayest not want, or punishes thee when wandering, that thou mayest not perish” (AUGUSTINE).

SCHLEIERMACHER:—Christian social life : 1) what the deeds peculiar to the new man are; 2) what is distributed to each by virtue of these peculiarities of the new man; 3) the common rule for every one.—Controversy does not divide love and is not against the Christian spirit, if it only proceeds from a desire after nothing save what is true and right.—Love “the bond of perfectness:” 1) by which all imperfections are balanced; 2) by which all that bears in itself only the appearance of the new man, not its true spirit, is overcome; 3) by which we become helpful to others.

PASSAVANT:—Forbearance may be difficult in certain cases; forgiveness is harder still.—However necessary this gift (God’s word) from above is, it will be learned from daily experience, that the Christians here and there are a very sensitive folk, not permitting themselves to be easily admonished or exhorted, hence the so frequent halts and retreats.—The first Christians from among the Jews soon found in their Psalms from earlier ages, thoughts and words for the later inward experiences, for the thanksgiving, praise and adoration of their new life; and those who came out of heathenism, listened with wonder, when these words of the sacred singers were transferred into their own language, and learned thence the quiet joys and devotions of God’s children in Israel. But soon too under their beautiful sky new Psalms and hymns in their own Greek tongue were born out of the deep inspiration and the holy and happy feelings of their redeemed souls. This glorious gift of spiritual song contributed greatly to the spread of the pure gospel in the age of the Reformation. The great Reformer of the Germans with his friends soon became their choristers, and it is a precious privilege to follow them and so many God-inspired men of after days in singing these beautiful Psalms and sweet hymns.

GENZKEN :—The choice communion garment of the children of God: 1) who gives it to them (Col 3:15); 2) how it is woven (Col 3:12–15); 3) ho w we should put it on.—HARLESS :—The proper self-education for the maintenance of divine love and divine peace : 1) constant practice in obedience to God’s word; 2) sanctification of all our doings in the name of the Lord Jesus; 3) unceasing thanksgiving for God’s unmerited grace in Christ.—SCHNUR :—Spiritual songs: 1) Eagles of Christianity; 2) missionaries of Protestantism; 3) heart-preachers of our nation; 4) mouth of our worship; 5) the Apostles in our houses; 6) the crown of our congregations.—WOLF :—The comfort and joy of the Christian in spiritual songs. They serve: 1) as witnesses of the truth from all stations for the strengthening of our faith; 2) as confessions from the inner life of experienced Christians for the soothing of our spirits; 3) as awakening voices of the Spirit to enliven our own meditation.—KÖHLER:—The new man, as St. Paul depicts him, outshines all the lustre of the world! 1) His richly-colored garment; 2) his golden girdle; 3) his heart’s peace; 4) the weapons of his hand.—PRÖHLE :—Bible and hymn book, two precious household treasures; 1) their worth; 2) their use.—Love in all human unions, the most perfect bond : 1) the noblest; 2) the gentlest; 3) the firmest.—Exhortation to Christian families to engage in family worship; it is 1) a venerable custom inherited from our fathers, though unfortunately disappearing from many houses; 2) deeply grounded in the character of Christianity, as well as in the nature of the family circle; 3) of the most blessed influence upon the home life itself.


Col 3:17. Doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus. 1) What is meant by “the name of the Lord Jesus.” a. Lord of all, b. Jesus, Saviour, c. Lord Jesus by the Incarnation. d. Mighty works in His name. 2) And we ought to do all, etc., a. only what God commands or allows, b. in a firm faith in His Holy name. c. for His glory. 3) Instances of things thus done in God’s word. Religious assemblies, Sacraments, Thanksgiving, Censures of the church, Resisting the devil, even giving a cup of cold water. All that a Christian may do, can be done in His name.—R.]


Col 3:12. Humility is a certain evidence of our holiness, because it is a great part of our holiness.

Col 3:13. He must have no friends, that will have a friend with no faults, consequently Christians stand in need of forgiveness from each other.

Col 3:14. 1) The upper garment is larger and broader than the rest; so ought charity to extend itself to all persons and upon all occasions. 2) The upper garment is usually fairer than the rest; so doth charity shine brightest amongst all the graces. 3) The upper garment distinguishes the general orders and degrees of men; thus Christians are known by love, as by a livery; it is the bond that Christ’s sincere disciples wear.

Col 3:16. If the heart and affections be not stirred in this duty of singing, the outward grace, though never so graceful availeth nothing.—R.]


Col 3:12. They who owe so much to mercy, ought to be merciful to all who are proper objects of mercy.—There must not only be an humble carriage but an humble mind.

Col 3:13. We need the same good turn from others which we are obliged to show them.

Col 3:15. The work of thanksgiving to God is such a sweet and pleasant work, that it will help to make us sweet and pleasant towards all men.

Col 3:16. The gospel is the word of Christ, which is come to us; but that is not enough, it must dwell in us, or keep house, as a master, who has a right to prescribe and direct to all under his roof.

Col 3:17. They who do all things in Christ’s name, will never want matter of thanksgiving to God the Father.—R.]


Col 3:14. “Love the bond of perfectness.” Bound up in this zone, every Christian. excellence fills its own place, and keeps it, and the whole character is sound, does not distort itself by excess, nor enfeeble itself by defect.

Col 3:15. A peace, which is not the peace of Christ, is often rudely disturbed, for it is but a dream and a slumber in the midst of volcanic power, which are employing the time in gathering up their energies for a more awful conflict.

Col 3:16. Such ought to be the habitual respect to Christ’s authority, such the constant and practical influence of His word within us, that even without reference to Him, or express consultation of Him, all we say or do should be said and done in His Spirit.—Art, science, literature, politics and business, should be all baptized into the spirit of Christ.—R.]


Col 3:16. He who is permitted to make the hymns of a church need care little who preaches, or who makes the creed.

Col 3:17. We are to engage in every duty, not only in the name of Christ, but with thankfulness for the privilege of acting so that we may honor Him.—SCHENKEL :—The victory of peace in the heart: 1) It comes from Christ; 2) it is accomplished in the church; 3) it is constantly attended by thanksgiving.—The proper Christian congregational singing: 1) The choice of hymns; 2) the kind of singing; 3) the source from which it should spring; 4) the end, which it should aim at.—The nature of Christian gratitude as shown: 1) In that, for which the Christian is thankful; 2) In whom he thanks; 3) In whose name he gives thanks.—R.]


[16]Col 3:12.—[Ἅγιοι, “saints,” if used substantively as Braune holds. See EXEG. NOTES. There are several quite unimportant various readings in this verse; οι̇κτιρμοῦ and πραΰτητα are preferable to οι̇κτιρμῶν and πραότητα of the Rec.—R.]

[17]Col 3:13.—[Ἀλλήλωνὲαυτοῖς; there is nothing in the E. V. to indicate that different words follow the two participles.—R.]

[18]Col 3:13.—Instead of ὁ Χριστός, C. [K. L., most versions, Tischendorf, Meyer, Ellicott, Wordsworth, Rec.], A. B. and others [Lachmann, Alford] read ὁ κυρίος. א. ὁ θεός. Besides, θεὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, deus in christo, occur.

[19]Col 3:13.—[To supply an imperative, with E. V., breaks the construction unnecessarily. If anything be supplied in English it should be the auxiliary participle as above.—R.]

[20]Col 3:14.—[Ἐπὶ πᾶσιν δὲ τούτοις. “But over all these;”—“above all” is ambiguous.—R.]

[21]Col 3:14.—A.B.C.F.G. and others read ö; ὅς in א. is a correction, as well as the later ἥτις; [Rec., grammatical emendatiou (Meyer, Alford).—R.]

[22]Col 3:15.—[Τοῦ Χριστοῦ on the authority of א. A. B. C. and most versions, modern editors generally, instead of ποῦ θεοῦ, Rec, followed by E. V.—R.]

[23]Col 3:16.—Καί before ὕμνοις and ᾠδαῖς added from Eph. 5:19.

[24]Col 3:16.—[Braune omits the article before χάριτι and renders “in thanksgiving.” But it is retained by most modern editors on the authority of B. and others. See EXEG. NOTES—R.]

[25]Col 3:16.—[Τῷθεῷ is the reading of the mass of MSS., adopted by most modern editors; κυριῷ, Rec. Lachmann, probably taken from Eph. 5:19.—R.]

[26]Col 3:17.—B reads κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, א. inserts Χριστοῦ, others omit κυρίου. [Lachmann, Ellicott, Wordsworth follow the last reading; Tischendorf, Alford, Rec. that of B.—R].

[27]Col 3:17.—[Καί, probably from Eph. 5:20, is omitted in א. A. B. C., by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth.—R.]

[28][I have thus attempted to retain the neatness of Braune’s sentence: “Das Verhalten ist durch das Verhältniss bestimmt,” with indifferent success.—R.]

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
3. Specific exhortations

CHAPTER 3:18–4:1

a) To wives and husbands

(COL 3:18, 19)

18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own [omit own]29 husbands, as it is fit [or as it 19should be]30 Husbands, love your31 wives, and be not bitter [or embittered] against them.


Col 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands.—See on Eph. 5:22. Αἰ γυςαῖκες is found there also, while instead of ὑποτάσσεσθε, ὑποτασσόμενοι must there be supplied from the verse preceding. Τοῖς ἀνδράσιν does not refer to men as a category but the given, proper men [i. e., “husbands,” as in E. V.—R.].

As it should be in the Lord.—The imperfect denotes this pre-supposition: that what was exhorted, was not as yet attended to (as Eph. 5:4. WINER’S Gram. p. 254); hence it means: “as it should be,” corresponding with the fellowship which has in Christ its life-sphere. This is applied somewhat differently in Eph. 5:22: “as unto the Lord.” There the dignity of the man is made more prominent, by comparing the husband to Christ and the wife to the Church. It is incorrect to join “in the Lord” to “submit” (CHRYSOSTOM and others), or to take ἀνῆκεν as a perfect with a present signification (HUTHER, BLEEK also).

Husbands, love your wives.—See Eph. 5:25.—And be not bitter against them.—[ELLICOTT renders μὴκικραίνεσθε, “be not embittered”—referring it to a state of mind, rather than to specific acts.—R.] This special warning concerns a foul blot in married life, when the husband, as head of the house, not as head of the wife, not in love to her, but ruled by the old man, either shows bitterness in word or deed, or in tone, to the wife, should she be wanting in humility and submission, or have violated or disregarded the household right of the husband; or treats her with indifference, neglect or harshness, without any fault of hers, from the cares and weariness of business, or the changing moods of the flesh, or mere habit. The preposition πρός “against,” denotes the direction only; it does not necessarily imply hostility towards the wife; she need only learn from his conduct, that in his false self-love he does not love her as himself, but as one unregenerate might do. BENGEL: πικρία odium amori mixtum; multi, quiforis erga omnes humani sunt, tamen domi in uxorem ac liberos, quos videlicet non tement, occulta facile acerbitate utuntur, quæ ubi vincelur, specimen est magnæ mansuetudinis.

[STEIGER would account for this special exhortation here and in Eph. by the supposition that the doctrine of the false teachers had developed a dangerous licentiousness. But had there been a polemic reference, the Apostle would have entered into the subject more fully, and not been content with these simple exhortations (MEYER). The social morality of these Asiatic cities was undoubtedly debased, but this was the case throughout the whole Roman empire. From this briefer form of the exhortation, ELLICOTT infers that our Epistle was written before that to the Ephesians.—R.]


Compare notes on Eph. 5:22, 23.


STARKE :—That there are so few wedlocks which are properly regulated and rightly enjoyed on both sides, arises usually from the fact of the wife’s avoiding submission, or of the husband’s not knowing how to govern properly.—The male sex has usually more fire than the female, so that it can easily happen that a man in his power goes too far and deals too hardly with his wife.

RIEGER:—Most of the mistakes of married life are consequences of the sins of youth, especially of those seductive blandishments under which the marriages were formed.—Even that which is polluted, should any one in a time of ignorance be betrayed into a dubious union, may be washed away, cleansed and sanctified.—He who knows and considers his loveless heart, as God’s word discloses to men their natural evil disposition, and by these two words especially: hard-heartedness and anger, will dig deeply and lay well the foundation in his love.—Negligence in affection is itself the first rupture of the marriage tie. But in love we have a fortress that can stand many an assault.

PASSAVANT:—It is exceedingly painful and saddening, to be forced by the reports of missionaries, to see at what a low grade of intelligence and in what a sorrowful condition in general, woman is kept among heathen nations—the Birmese perhaps and the Karens excepted—with what neglect and contempt and abuse she is treated.—Over the grave of many a great man, of many a sleeping saint, often too of one snatched as a brand from the burning, stands in lines, that angels read: he had a pious mother!—The man is the head; a high vocation, a higher power and strength, and a great responsibility! It pre-supposes quiet wisdom, earnest character, rational sway with benevolence—bearing, forbearing, patience, with mildness and friendliness;—and this cannot exist with a firm, faithful, ever equal love, without holy love toward the wife’s soul, before the Lord.—This exhortation of the Apostle pre-supposes also, that there will be many an opportunity of becoming embittered, and that the wife’s nature will be the occasion of it. Yet the husband should not allow himself to be overcome by the weaker vessel; but here there must be humility and bowing of heart before God every day.

HEUBNER:—Bitterness steals upon us at the very first in the closest unions, as we discover the weaknesses of another, or where there are many hastinesses. The husband can be easily led into this, if the wife does not-gratify his wish.

[SCHENKEL :—Why Christian morality requires the submission of the wife in the household.—The dangers of bitterness in married life: 1) Its extent; 2) Its causes; 3) Its results.

SCHLEIERMACHER:—The regulation of household life. It should be so regulated, that 1) all that is done, is done in the name of Jesus; 2) that thanks are in every way given to God, through the conduct of our household life.—R.]


[29]Col 3:18.—Some MSS. have inserted, probably from the parallel passage [Eph. 5:22], τοῦς ἰδίοις, omitted in א. A. B. C. and others.

[30]Col 3:18.—[Ἀνῆκεν, imperfect, Ellicott renders as above.—R.]

[31]Col 3:19.—א. A. B. and others omit ὑμῶν after γυναῖκας. [Retained by Lachmann, Meyer and others. In any case, “your” is required by our English idiom.—R.]

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
b) To children and parents

(COL 3:20, 21)

20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto [in]32 the Lord. 21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger [omit to anger],33 lest they be discouraged [disheartened].34


Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things.—See Eph. 6:1. “In all things,” κατὰ πάντα, here definitely expresses what is indicated in the parallel passage by the phrase, “in the Lord:” it is not to be limited (OEOUMENIUS). It sets forth the principle, the rule, exceptions being left out of view (MEYER). [EADIE suggests, that as the reference is to Christian parents, who were to govern in a Christian spirit, the Apostle takes heed of an exception. On the exceptions see BISH. TAYLOR, Duct. Dub. III. 5. ELLICOTT remarks that ὑπακούειν includes not merely submission to authority, but obedience to a command. TITT. Syn. I. p. 193.—R.]

For this is well-pleasing in the Lord.—(Eph. 6:1, “right”.) Hence the reference here is to judgment and complacency, there to precept and authority. “In the Lord,” before Him, as He looks at the matter. We need not supply τῷ θεῷ (Rom. 12:2) in thought (DE WETTE), nor take ἐν κυρίῳ as the Christian qualification (MEYER) [ALFORD]; the former is not warranted by the context, the latter is contrary to usage and indistinct in itself. [ELLICOTT is more exact: the preposition defines the sphere in which the τὸ εὐάρεστον was especially felt and evinced to be so.—R.]

Col 3:21. Fathers, provoke not your children.—(See Eph. 6:4 : παροργίζετε). The verb is used, 2 Cor. 9:2, in a good sense, here in a bad sense; what is forbidden occurs’ through severe, unjust, capricious treatment. [We might render: “do not irritate your children.”—R.] The motive for the warning is found in the result, which is marked as fixed and certain: lest they be disheartened.—BENGEL: “A broken spirit, the bane of youth." There is a lack of affection and confidence, pleasure and power for good and against evil.


Comp. on Eph. 4:1–4.


STARKE: Disobedient children offend not only their parents, but God Himself; therefore they have no prosperity.—Children are not given for the service of parents, but parents are ordained for the benefit of children.—Actual chastisement should never be resorted to, until the child has been convinced of its guilt and well merited punishment, and God been earnestly implored to bless the infliction. The additional advantage thus gained is that meanwhile one’s rising passion can be allayed and the punishment inflicted with proper moderation. The child, too, is thereby shown that the chastisement springs from love, and is more of an advantage than a punishment.—In the discipline of children, ignorance, weakness, hastiness, thoughtlessness and childish character must be distinguished from wanton wickedness.

RIEGER :—Our heavenly Father, the Father of our spirits, Himself carefully guards against our becoming disheartened under His chastisement, and nothing rejoices Him more than that we “cast not away our confidence;” and so also in the relations of parents and children, much depends upon our not being rendered morose by the faults, but taking courage in final triumph.

PASSAVANT :—In this obedience of children from the very cradle lies the foundation and beginning of all good discipline, of all welfare and blessing, external and internal, in the heart, in the family, in the state, in all phases and circles of social life.—Has many a yoke of early years been borne in the patience of faith, with what a peaceful gaze does one look back! Those who have grown old should again take it upon them, and as children kneel before their parents.

HEUBNER :—Christian nurture dare not intimidate, but should promote a noble frankness and openness.

[BURKITT:—God takes a mighty pleasure in the performance of relative duties; they are not only pleasing, but well-pleasing to Him; we are no more really than what we are relatively in the account of God; that which we call the power of godliness, consists in a conscientious performance of relative duties.—R.]


Col 3:21. Let not your authority over them be exercised with rigor and severity, but with kindness and gentleness; lest you raise their passions and discourage them in their duty, and by holding the reins too strait, make them fly out with the greater fierceness. It is by the tenderness of parents, and dutifulness of children, that God ordinarily furnishes His Church with a seed to serve Him, and propagates religion from age to age.—R.]

[EADIE :—The child should feel that the punishment is not the result of fretful anger.—Children teased and irritated lose heart, renounce every endeavor to please, or render at best but a soulless obedience.—The twig is to be bent with caution, not broken in the efforts of a rude and hasty zeal.—SCHENKEL:—The evil effects of too severe a training of children. 1) In what they consist. 2) Whence they arise.—R.]


[32]Col 3:20.—[“The reading of Rec., τῷ Κυρίῳ, has not the support of any uncial MS., and is rejected by all modern editors” (Ellicott). Tischendorf (eds. 2 and 7) reads ἐστιν εὐάρεστον, but the order of א. A. B. C. D. E. is εὐάρεστόνέστιν, followed by Lachmann, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott.—R.]

[33]Col 3:21.—Instead of ἐρεθίζετε (B. and others,) א. A. and others have παροργίζετε, undoubtedly taken from Eph. 6:4. [Lachmann and Scholz adopt the latter reading. The E. V. inserts “to anger”—now unnecessary, since “provoke” implies this in modern usage.—R.]

[34]Col 3:21.—[Ἀθυμῶσιν, “disheartened,” Eadie, Alford, Ellicott. Older versions render: “made feeble-hearted,” “of a desperate mind.”—R.]

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
c) To servants and masters

(COL 3:22–4:1.)

22Servants,35 obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service [eye services],36 as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God [the Lord].37 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily [whatever ye do, do it from the heart],38 as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive 25the reward of the inheritance: [.] for ye serve [Serve ye]39 the Lord Christ. But [For]40 he that doeth wrong shall receive41 for the wrong which he hath done42: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1     Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.


Col 3:22. Servants.—This point is treated in the most detailed manner, as though this were the state of the Church in the main: as Eph. 6:5–8; also Tit. 2:9, 10; 1 Pet. 2:18–25 (comp. 1:18–21). Comp. also 1 Cor. 1:20, and 1 Pet. 1:1, according to which Peter wrote to the Church at Colosse also. The view of SCHENKEL, : “it is possible, as METER supposes, that this (i. e., the minuteness) was occasioned by the flight and conversion of the slave Onesimus, a native of and fugitive from Colosse,” is groundless. [Braune’s opinion that δοῦλοι includes all servants, bond or free, seems correct (see Eph. 6:5), but the free servants were the exception then. “Nothing is Said for or against slavery in this passage,” whatever may be implied.—R.]

Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.—See Eph. 6:5. “In all things” (κατὰ πάντα), as in Col 3:20, is new. [WORDSWORTH remarks on this phrase in Col 3:20 and here: “An example of a precept proceeding on the charitable supposition that the other party will do its duty; for if Parents and Masters order any thing contrary to God’s law, then Children and Servants must ‘obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).”—R.] Contrasted with “masters according to the flesh” is One “according to the spirit,” “in heaven” (comp. Col 3:24; 4:1).

Not with eye services, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord,—“Not with eye services” marks by the use of the plural, the individual manifestations of eye service; found only here and in Eph. 4:6 (singular). [“Here the concrete acts, there the abstract spirit” (ALFORD).—R.] It is contrasted with “but in singleness of heart,” which is wanting in the dishonesty of “eyeservice” “as men-pleasers” is contrasted with “fearing the Lord.” [“The Lord,” κύριον, κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, κατὰ πνεῦμα; the turn of the thought in the correct reading is lost both in the E. V. and the rendering above. MEYER : “The obedience of the Christian slave becomes man-pleasing towards his master, and eye-service in appearance, if it be not subordinated to the fear of Christ, the higher Master, and accordingly conditioned by this.”—R.] The same words as in Eph. 6:5, 6, but more sharply conceived. [EADIE, referring this to slaves exclusively, remarks : “The Apostle does not speak vaguely, but hits upon those vices which slavery is so apt to engender—indolence, eye-service and reluctance in labor.”—R.]

Col 3:23. Whatever ye do.—Whatever ye do in servitude (BENGEL). The verse relates to individual and little things. See Eph. 6:8.—Do it from the heart, as to the Lord and not unto men.—Ἑκψυχῆς standing first for emphasis, and demanding glad, willing action, refers back to “in singleness of heart;” “as to the Lord,” demanding constant mindfulness of the present heavenly Master, to “fearing the Lord;” while the absolute negative “not (ούκ) unto men” refers to “men-pleasers.”[MEYER: “As to the Lord, the point of view of the doing; this should be regarded as taking place for Christ, as service rendered to Him. And the relation to the human master (ἀνθρώποις dative of the category) should not, in this method of regarding it, be taken into the account at all,—on the principle of not serving two masters,—hence οὐκ is not relatively, but absolutely negative.”—R.]

Col 3:24. Knowing.—[“Seeing ye know,” da Ihr wisset.—R.]—The motive for such conduct (Eph. 6:8).—That of the Lord ye shall receive the reward [or recompense] of the inheritance.—“That” sets forth the tenor of this Christian consciousness. “Of (ἀπό) the Lord” denotes that the Lord is the Possessor, Source and Origin, while παρά (Eph. 6:8) indicates the immediate communication through the Lord (WINER’S Gram. p. 343). “Ye shall receive” points to the future, its signification referring to a reception of that which is lacking. “The recompense” (ἀνταπόδοσιν only here; Rom. 11:9: ἀνταπόδομα) with the article denotes a recompense in prospect, while the preposition (ἀντι) indicates that it is one compensating for the present, privations by means of an inheritance, which is wanting to and yet wanted by the slave here; for “of the inheritance” (κληρονομίας) is an epexegetical genitive (WINER’S Gram. p. 494), as Jas. 1:12; Acts 2:10. This inheritance is the full salvation, heritage of heaven, “although in this world you do not have an inheritance, yet you have part of the inheritance passing from the Master to the free” (BENGEL).

Serve ye the Lord [Master] Christ.—The Apostle’s comprehensive conclusion. “Christ, who recompenses those serving Himself” (BENGEL). It is incorrect to join “of the inheritance” with “the Lord” (serve the Master of the inheritance), and also wrong to take the verb as indicative [as is done in the E. V., to which the incorrect reading γάρ has probably led.—R.]; neither find any reason or necessity in the context.

Col 3:25. In view of the importance of this matter, another reason is added : For he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done.—The meaning of this general proposition (locus communis) clearly is that every one reaps what he sows (WINER’S Gram. p. 576); sowing wrong, he reaps wrong, as he reaps good when he sows good (Gal. 6:8). This confirms the exhortation to serve Christ, for slaves and domestic servants alike; from it they should deduce the conclusion, to gladly obey. It is “contrary to the meaning,” not to apply it to the slaves (MEYER, who renders ἀδικεῖν to limiting it to the masters. SCHENKEL). Paul admonishes the slaves here, while he encourages them Eph. 6:8. [The reference is doubtful. ELLICOTT, ALFORD follow MEYER, and refer ἀδικεῖν to the master. The proposition is undoubtedly general, and has an application to both master and slave. The context seems to indicate the latter as the reference intended by the Apostle.—R.]—“Receive” refers to the judgment of the Lord, in which the “inheritance” is concerned, and “wrong which he hath done” (ο͂ ἠδίκησε) marks the connection of the Wrong on earth, and condemnation, destruction in eternity, where sin has transferred itself in its results and consequences.

And there is no respect of persons.—This means in this connection, that the low and insignificant as well as the high and distinguished are equal before God. The former often boast themselves of their poverty, as if on account of this they must he finally blessed and receive reward; “the insignificant often think, that they are to be spared on account of their insignificance” (BENGEL). This is not far-fetched (aus der Luft fegriffen, MEYER), but taken from the context. Eph. 6:9 refers to masters. [The idea is indeed common among men, that God respects not the person of a rich man, but that of a poor man.—R.]

4:1. Masters, οἱ κύριοι.—See Eph. 6:9.—Give unto your servants that which is just and equal.—Τὸ δίκαιον is what belongs to the slave of right—not historical, human right, but according to the regulations given within the domain of creation, and the rights thus set forth; hence what belongs to them as God’s creatures, as human beings. “And” something truer and higher; “that which is equal,” τὴν ἰσότητα denotes the equality ordained within the domain of Redemption, according to which the redeemed are brethren (Philem. 16); this parity they should show in their treatment of the slaves. It is incorrect to regard it as merely “equity” (STEIGER, BLEEK) [ALFORD, “fairness”—R.], or “impartial treatment” (ERASMUS and others). [ELLICOTT says of the view of MEYER as given above: “This is ingenious and plausible, but not satisfactory,” from its association with δίκαιον. There is this objection to it, that it limits the duty to Christian masters in their dealings with Christian slaves. See Eadie in loco. Notice the “dynamic” form of the middle παρέχεσθε: supply on your side, as far as you are concerned.—R.]

The motive is added: knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven, who is over you, and your Almighty, Omniscient, Just and Eternal Master. See on Eph. 6:9.


Compare Eph. 4:5–9.

[These precepts in force where there are no slaves. Through God’s merciful Providence, the application of these precepts to a state of slavery has become unnecessary among us. But the relations of master and servant, employer and employee still exist, and there is as much need for the application of the Apostle’s words to those who occupy these relative positions, as to servants and masters in the relation existing at Colosse. When we consider how much is said of the conflict between labor and capital, how large a part of the comfort and happiness of women in the household depends on the right conduct of these relations, we may be glad that Paul writes not merely for a state of slavery, but for all masters and servants, and at the same time regret that social science has so often attempted to settle troublesome questions of this kind, without the aid of Christianity. A large class are becoming not only unchristian but antichristian, because Christianity, which abolished slavery, has not yet been thoroughly applied to the relations of labor and capital.—Too many fancy that God is no respecter of the person of a capitalist, but takes the working man’s part, whether justice be on his side or not.—R.]


STARKE:—God in His wisdom has so classed men, that some are subjects and servants, while others command and should rule. This is not contrary to the equality of Christians, or to Christian brotherhood; they are still one in Christ. Therefore servants should not have so great a dislike to service, but serve with alacrity and with the heartier obedience, particularly as they are not slaves, but free.

RIEGER:—Him who fears God and honors God by keeping His commands, God honors in turn by giving him a suitable respect in the government of his own house. Men-pleasing and eye-service at first succeeds very well, but in the long run it becomes intolerable.

PASSAVANT:—A Christian may well tremble as he looks at his servant and asks himself: Why am I his master? Why is he my servant? The answer is: That I may take him just as he is, so bear and forbear with him as to sweeten his servile condition with all lenity and consideration, as to sanctify his calling to him, helping him out of his natural or habitual sins.

HEUBNER:—The character and doings of the Christian are soulful (ἐκ ψυχῆς). The doings of others are cold and dead.—Unrighteous servants will be punished too; God does not let Himself be led by weak sympathy into indulgence.

[SCHLEIERMACHER:—All improvements in the social relations of men must proceed, not from a disturbance of order and a violent throwing off of obedience, but from the greater power of love.—BURKITT:—Wink at some trivial miscarriages of servants. He must keep no servant that will have a servant with no faults.—R.]


Col 3:22. Refractoriness on the part of the slave would at once have embittered his life, and brought discredit on the new religion which he possessed; but active and cheerful discharge of all duty would both benefit himself, promote his comfort and recommend Christianity.—Duplicity is the vice which the slave uses as his shield.—

Col 4:1. Let the great Master’s treatment of you be your model of your treatment of them.—(Abridged) Three positions of the Apostle fatal to slavery: 1) He denies that slaves are an inferior caste (Homer, Aristotle); 2) certain duties to slaves spring from natural right; 3) in the Christian Church there is neither “bond nor free.” Master and slave were alike the free servants of a common Lord in heaven.—R.]


[35]Col 3:22.—[Modern English commentators render δοῦλοι, “slaves” or “bondmen.” As Braune makes it include (here and Eph. 1:1,) all servants, bond or free, the E. V. is sufficiently explicit.—R.]

[36]Col 3:22.—The reading, ὀφθαλμοδουλείαις, is well attested by א. C. K. L. It is lectio dijficilior, while the singular is probably taken from Eph 6:6. [Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott and others adopt the plural mainly on critical grounds; the singular is attested by A. B. D. F., adopted by Lachmann, Meyer, Eadie, Wordsworth.—On the different shade of meaning see EXEG. NOTES.—R.]

[37]Col 3:22.—א. A. B. C. and others have κύριον; θεόν is weakly supported.

[38]Col 3:23.—א. A. B. C. and others read ὅ εἄν; the other reading, καὶ πᾶν ὅ, τι εἄν, is not sufficiently supported. [Ἐκψυχῆς, “from the heart,” Rhem.—R.]

[39]Col 3:24.—[Rec. inserts γάρ on insufficient authority. The verb δουλεύετε is imperative; Meyer, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott, Vulgate, etc.—R.]

[40]Col 3:25.—א. A. B. C. and others read ὁγάρ. Others read δέ [followed by E. V. This and the reading above rejected (Col 3:24) stand or fall together, on exegetical as well as critical grounds.—R.]

[41]Col 3:25.—א. A. C. and others [Alford; Wordsworth; read κομιεῖται; B. and others [Tischendorf, Lachmann, Meyer, Ellicott], κομίσεται.

[42]Col 4:1.—Οὐρανῷ is established by א. A. B. C. and others, instead of οὐρανοῖς. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth, adopt the singular; the plural apparently taken from Eph. 6:9.—R.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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