I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:
The beginning of the study
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 4
Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life
In the previous passage, Paul exhorted the Colossians to put off their old way of life. (Colossians 3:5-11) (Remember, that passage and the following are part of a longer teaching / paraenesis section in Colossians 2:6-4:6.) However, it is not enough to simply stop doing the things of the earth. Instead, Paul says the Colossians should now live in a completely new and different way – in the way of Christ.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)
Paul reminds them that they are God’s chosen people, they are holy (separate), and they are loved. Because of this, he says that should “put on” certain characteristics (using the metaphor of getting dressed – in fact, it could even be translated “Clothe yourselves with…”). (Colossians 3:12) Again, we should not take these characteristics (“compassion, kindness, humility…”) as exhaustive. Instead, they are representative of the kind of life that a person lives in Christ. Paul pauses momentarily on the importance of forgiveness and patience when dealing with one another. (Colossians 3:13) Of course, the impetus for forgiving one another is the fact that they have all been forgiven in Christ. (Colossians 3:14)
But, as much emphasis as Paul puts on forgiveness, he emphasizes love even more. (Colossians 3:15) He says that above everything else, they should be clothed in love. Love, Paul says, binds everything together in perfect unity. Without love, the other characteristics fall apart. This is similar to what he tells the Corinthians about spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 13)
But, living this new way of life – living life in Christ – does not just affect personal characteristics. A person’s relationships with others is also changed. The first exhortation appears to be personal also: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” (Colossians 3:15) But, Paul says they were called into “one body” for this very peace. So, the peace of Christ affects them individually, but it also affects them as a community, and leads to thankfulness.
Similarly, Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell (live) among your richly (abundantly).” (Colossians 3:16) Previously, I noted that Paul says the “word” is Christ himself. So, this may better be translated as “Let the word – which is Christ…” or “Let the message about Christ…” What happens with Christ (or the gospel) lives among them? They teach and admonish one another, and they sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in their hearts to the Lord (Jesus). Remember that “teaching and admonishing” was part of Paul’s on ministry of the gospel on behalf of the church. (Colossians 1:28) So, Paul is saying that when Christ dwells among the Colossians, they will teach and admonish one another, just as Paul teaches and admonishes others.
Paul wraps up this section with a general exhortation (Colossians 3:17): Speak every word and do every deed in the name (authority and character and presence) of Jesus Christ. And, in everything, be thankful to God. Of course, this command covers both putting to death the things of the earth and the worldly lifestyle as well as dressing in the things of Christ.
What would you add to my study of this passage in Colossians?