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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Colossians 3



Verse 1

If then ye were raised together with Christ (ει ουν συνηγερτητε τωι Χριστωιei oun sunēgerthēte tōi Christōi). Condition of the first class, assumed as true, like that in Colossians 2:20 and the other half of the picture of baptism in Colossians 2:12 and using the same form συνηγερτητεsunēgerthēte as then which see for the verb συνεγειρωsunegeirō Associative instrumental case of ΧριστωιChristōi

The things that are above (τα ανωta anō). “The upward things” (cf. Philemon 3:14), the treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20). Paul gives this ideal and goal in place of merely ascetic rules.

Seated on the right hand of God (εν δεχιαι του τεου κατημενοςen dexiāi tou theou kathēmenos). Not periphrastic verb, but additional statement. Christ is up there and at God‘s right hand. Cf. Colossians 2:3.

Verse 2

Set your mind on (προνειτεphroneite). “Keep on thinking about.” It does matter what we think and we are responsible for our thoughts.

Not on the things that are upon the earth (μη τα επι της γηςmē ta epi tēs gēs). Paul does not mean that we should never think the things upon the earth, but that these should not be our aim, our goal, our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so help to make earth like heaven.

Verse 3

For ye died (απετανετε γαρapethanete gar). Definite event, aorist active indicative, died to sin (Romans 6:2).

Is hid (κεκρυπταιkekruptai). Perfect passive indicative of κρυπτωkruptō old verb, to hide, remains concealed, locked “together with” (συνsun) Christ, “in” (ενen) God. No hellish burglar can break that combination.

Verse 4

When Christ shall be manifested (οταν ο Χριστος πανερωτηιhotan ho Christos phanerōthēi). Indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and the first aorist passive subjunctive of πανεροωphaneroō “whenever Christ is manifested,” a reference to the second coming of Christ as looked for and longed for, but wholly uncertain as to time. See this same verb used of the second coming in 1 John 3:2.

Ye also together with him (και υμεις συν αυτωιkai humeis sun autōi). That is the joy of this blessed hope. He repeats the verb about us πανερωτησεστεphanerōthēsesthe (future passive indicative) and adds εν δοχηιen doxēi (in glory). Not to respond to this high appeal is to be like Bunyan‘s man with the muck-rake.

Verse 5

Mortify (νεκρωσατεnekrōsate). First aorist active imperative of νεκροωnekroō late verb, to put to death, to treat as dead. Latin Vulgate mortifico, but “mortify” is coming with us to mean putrify. Paul boldly applies the metaphor of death (Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3) pictured in baptism (Colossians 2:12) to the actual life of the Christian. He is not to go to the other Gnostic extreme of license on the plea that the soul is not affected by the deeds of the body. Paul‘s idea is that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). He mentions some of these “members upon the earth” like fornication (πορνειανporneian), uncleanness (ακαταρσιανakatharsian), passion (πατοςpathos), evil desire (επιτυμιαν κακηνepithumian kakēn), covetousness (πλεονεχιανpleonexian) “the which is idolatry” (ητις εστιν ειδωλολατριαhētis estin eidōlolatria). See the longer list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, though covetousness is not there named, but it is in Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:5.

Verse 6

Cometh the wrath of God (ερχεται η οργη του τεουerchetai hē orgē tou theou). Paul does not regard these sins of the flesh as matters of indifference, far otherwise. Many old MSS. do not have “upon the sons of disobedience,” genuine words in Ephesians 5:6.


Verse 7

Walked aforetime (περιεπατησατε ποτεperiepatēsate pote). First aorist (constative) indicative referring to their previous pagan state.

When ye lived (οτε εζητεhote ezēte). Imperfect active indicative of ζαωzaō to live, “ye used to live” (customary action). Sharp distinction in the tenses.

Verse 8

But now (νυνι δεnuni de). Emphatic form of νυνnun in decided contrast (to ποτεpote in Colossians 3:7) in the resurrection life of Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1.

Put ye also away (αποτεστε και υμειςapothesthe kai humeis). Second aorist middle imperative of old verb αποτιτημιapotithēmi to put away, lay aside like old clothes. This metaphor of clothing Paul now uses with several verbs (αποτεστεapothesthe here, απεκδυσαμενοιapekdusamenoi in Colossians 3:9, ενδυσαμενοιendusamenoi in Colossians 3:10, ενδυσαστεendusasthe in Colossians 3:12).

All these (τα πανταta panta). The whole bunch of filthy rags (anger οργηνorgēn wrath τυμονthumon malice κακιανkakian railing βλασπημιανblasphēmian shameful speaking αισχρολογιανaischrologian). See somewhat similar lists of vices in Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:29-31. These words have all been discussed except αισχρολογιανaischrologian an old word for low and obscene speech which occurs here only in the N.T. It is made from αισχρολογοςaischrologos (αισχροςaischros as in 1 Corinthians 11:6 and that from αισχοςaischos disgrace). Note also the addition of “out of your mouth” (εκ του στοματος υμωνek tou stomatos humōn). The word was used for both abusive and filthy talk and Lightfoot combines both ideas as often happens. Such language should never come out of the mouth of a Christian living the new life in Christ.

Verse 9

Lie not to another (μη πσευδεστε εις αλληλουςmē pseudesthe eis allēlous). Lying (πσευδοςpseudos) could have been included in the preceding list where it belongs in reality. But it is put more pointedly thus in the prohibition (μηmē and the present middle imperative). It means either “stop lying” or “do not have the habit of lying.”

Seeing that ye have put off (απεκδυσαμενοιapekdusamenoi). First aorist middle participle (causal sense of the circumstantial participle) of the double compound verb απεκδυομαιapekduomai for which see note on Colossians 2:15. The αποapo has the perfective sense (wholly), “having stripped clean off.” The same metaphor as αποτεστεapothesthe in Colossians 3:8.

The old man (τον παλαιον αντρωπονton palaion anthrōpon). Here Paul brings in another metaphor (mixes his metaphors as he often does), that of the old life of sin regarded as “the ancient man” of sin already crucified (Romans 6:6) and dropped now once and for all as a mode of life (aorist tense). See same figure in Ephesians 4:22. ΠαλαιοςPalaios is ancient in contrast with νεοςneos (young, new) as in Matthew 9:17 or καινοςkainos (fresh, unused) as in Matthew 13:52.

With his doings (συν ταις πραχεσιν αυτουsun tais praxesin autou). Practice must square with profession.

Verse 10

And have put on (και ενδυσαμενοιkai endusamenoi). First aorist middle participle (in causal sense as before) of ενδυνωendunō old and common verb (Latin induo, English endue) for putting on a garment. Used of putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14).

The new man (τον νεονton neon). “The new (young as opposed to old παλαιονpalaion) man” (though αντρωπονanthrōpon is not here expressed, but understood from the preceding phrase). In Ephesians 4:24 Paul has ενδυσασται τον καινονendusasthai ton kainon (fresh as opposed to worn out) αντρωπονanthrōpon

Which is being renewed (τον ανακαινουμενονton anakainoumenon). Present passive articular participle of ανακαινοωanakainoō Paul apparently coined this word on the analogy of ανανεομαιananeomai ΑνακαινιζωAnakainizō already existed (Hebrews 6:6). Paul also uses ανακαινωσιςanakainōsis (Romans 12:2; Titus 3:5) found nowhere before him. By this word Paul adds the meaning of καινοςkainos to that of νεοςneos just before. It is a continual refreshment (καινοςkainos) of the new (νεοςneos young) man in Christ Jesus.

Unto knowledge (εις επιγνωσινeis epignōsin). “Unto full (additional) knowledge,” one of the keywords in this Epistle.

After the image (κατ εικοναkat' eikona). An allusion to Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:28. The restoration of the image of God in us is gradual and progressive (2 Corinthians 3:18), but will be complete in the final result (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2).

Verse 11

Where (οπουhopou). In this “new man” in Christ. Cf. Galatians 3:28.

There cannot be (ουκ ενιouk eni). ΕνιEni is the long (original) form of ενen and εστινestin is to be understood. “There does not exist.” This is the ideal which is still a long way ahead of modern Christians as the Great War proved. Race distinctions (Greek ελληνHellēn and Jew ΙουδαιοςIoudaios) disappear in Christ and in the new man in Christ. The Jews looked on all others as Greeks (Gentiles). Circumcision (περιτομηperitomē) and uncircumcision (ακροβυστιαakrobustia) put the Jewish picture with the cleavage made plainer (cf. Ephesians 2). The Greeks and Romans regarded all others as barbarians (βαρβαροιbarbaroi Romans 1:14), users of outlandish jargon or gibberish, onomatopoetic repetition (βαρβαρbaṙbar).

A Scythian (ΣκυτηςSkuthēs) was simply the climax of barbarity, bar-baris barbariores (Bengel), used for any rough person like our “Goths and Vandals.”

Bondman (δουλοςdoulos from δεωdeō to bind), freeman (ελευτεροςeleutheros from ερχομαιerchomai to go). Class distinctions vanish in Christ. In the Christian churches were found slaves, freedmen, freemen, masters. Perhaps Paul has Philemon and Onesimus in mind. But labour and capital still furnish a problem for modern Christianity.

But Christ is all (αλλα παντα Χριστοςalla panta Christos). Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural πανταpanta is more inclusive than the singular πανpān would be.

And in all (και εν πασινkai en pāsin). Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word αδελποςadelphos (brother).

Verse 12

Put on therefore (ενδυσαστε ουνendusasthe oun). First aorist middle imperative of ενδυνωendunō (Colossians 3:10). He explains and applies (ουνoun therefore) the figure of “the new man” as “the new garment.”

As God‘s elect (ως εκλεκτοι του τεουhōs eklektoi tou theou). Same phrase in Romans 8:33; Titus 1:1. In the Gospels a distinction exists between κλητοςklētos and εκλεκτοςeklektos (Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31), but no distinction appears in Paul‘s writings. Here further described as “holy and beloved” (αγιοι και ηγαπημενοιhagioi kai ēgapēmenoi). The items in the new clothing for the new man in Christ Paul now gives in contrast with what was put off (Colossians 3:8). The garments include a heart of compassion (σπλαγχνα οικτιρμουsplagchna oiktirmou the nobler viscera as the seat of emotion as in Luke 1:78; Philemon 1:8), kindness (χρηστοτηταchrēstotēta as in Galatians 5:22), humility (ταπεινοπροσυνηνtapeinophrosunēn in the good sense as in Philemon 2:3), meekness (πραυτηταprautēta in Galatians 5:23 and in Ephesians 4:2 also with ταπεινοπροσυνηtapeinophrosunē), long-suffering (μακροτυμιανmakrothumian in Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:11; James 5:10).

Verse 13

Forbearing one another (ανεχομενοι αλληλωνanechomenoi allēlōn). Present middle (direct) participle of ανεχωanechō with the ablative case (αλληλωνallēlōn), “holding yourselves back from one another.”

Forgiving each other (χαριζομενοι εαυτοιςcharizomenoi heautois). Present middle participle also of χαριζομαιcharizomai with the dative case of the reflexive pronoun (εαυτοιςheautois) instead of the reciprocal just before (αλληλωνallēlōn).

If any man have (εαν τις εχηιean tis echēi). Third class condition (εανean and present active subjunctive of εχωechō).

Complaint (μομπηνmomphēn). Old word from μεμπομαιmemphomai to blame. Only here in N.T. Note προςpros here with τιναtina in the sense of against for comparison with προςpros in Philemon 2:30.

Even as the Lord (κατως και ο Κυριοςkathōs kai ho Kurios). Some MSS. read ΧριστοςChristos for ΚυριοςKurios But Christ‘s forgiveness of us is here made the reason for our forgiveness of others. See note on Matthew 6:12 and Matthew 6:14. where our forgiveness of others is made by Jesus a prerequisite to our obtaining forgiveness from God.

Verse 14

And above all these things (επι πασιν δε τουτοιςepi pāsin de toutois). “And upon all these things.”

Put on love (την αγαπηνtēn agapēn). See Luke 3:20. The verb has to be supplied (ενδυσαστεendusasthe) from Colossians 3:12 as the accusative case αγαπηνagapēn shows.

Which is (ο εστινho estin). Neuter singular of the relative and not feminine like αγαπηagapē (the antecedent) nor masculine like συνδεσμοςsundesmos in the predicate. However, there are similar examples of ο εστινho estin in the sense of quod est (id est), “that is,” in Mark 14:42; Mark 15:42, without agreement in gender and number. So also Ephesians 5:5 where ο εστινho estin = “which thing.”

The bond of perfectness (συνδεσμος της τελειοτητοςsundesmos tēs teleiotētos). See note on Colossians 2:19 for συνδεσμοςsundesmos Here it is apparently the girdle that holds the various garments together. The genitive (τελειοτητοςteleiotētos) is probably that of apposition with the girdle of love. In a succinct way Paul has here put the idea about love set forth so wonderfully in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

Verse 15

The peace of Christ (η ειρηνη του Χριστουhē eirēnē tou Christou). The peace that Christ gives (John 14:27).

Rule (βραβευετωbrabeuetō). Imperative active third singular of βραβευωbrabeuō to act as umpire (βραβευςbrabeus), old verb, here alone in N.T. See note on 1 Corinthians 7:15 for called in peace.

In one body (εν ενι σωματιen heni sōmati). With one Head (Christ) as in Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24.

Be ye thankful (ευχαριστοι γινεστεeucharistoi ginesthe). “Keep on becoming thankful.” Continuous obligation.

Verse 16

The word of Christ (ο λογος του Χριστουho logos tou Christou). This precise phrase only here, though “the word of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. Elsewhere “the word of God.” Paul is exalting Christ in this Epistle. ΧριστουChristou can be either the subjective genitive (the word delivered by Christ) or the objective genitive (the word about Christ). See note on 1 John 2:14.

Dwell (ενοικειτωenoikeitō). Present active imperative of ενοικεωenoikeō to make one‘s home, to be at home.

In you (εν υμινen humin). Not “among you.”

Richly (πλουσιωςplousiōs). Old adverb from πλουσιοςplousios (rich). See note on 1 Timothy 6:17. The following words explain πλουσιωςplousiōs

In all wisdom (εν πασηι σοπιαιen pasēi sophiāi). It is not clear whether this phrase goes with πλουσιωςplousiōs (richly) or with the participles following (διδασκοντες και νουτετουντεςdidaskontes kai nouthetountes see note on Colossians 1:28). Either punctuation makes good sense. The older Greek MSS. had no punctuation. There is an anacoluthon here. The participles may be used as imperatives as in Romans 12:11., Romans 12:16.

With psalms (πσαλμοιςpsalmois the Psalms in the Old Testament originally with musical accompaniment), hymns (υμνοιςhumnois praises to God composed by the Christians like 1 Timothy 3:16), spiritual songs (ωιδαις πνευματικαιςōidais pneumatikais general description of all whether with or without instrumental accompaniment). The same song can have all three words applied to it.

Singing with grace (εν χαριτι αιδοντεςen chariti āidontes). In God‘s grace (2 Corinthians 1:12). The phrase can be taken with the preceding words. The verb αιδωāidō is an old one (Ephesians 5:19) for lyrical emotion in a devout soul.

In your hearts (εν ταις καρδιαις υμωνen tais kardiais humōn). Without this there is no real worship “to God” (τωι τεωιtōi theōi). How can a Jew or Unitarian in the choir lead in the worship of Christ as Saviour? Whether with instrument or with voice or with both it is all for naught if the adoration is not in the heart.

Verse 17

Whatsoever ye do (παν οτι εαν ποιητεpān hoti ean poiēte). Indefinite relative (everything whatever) with εανean and the present active subjunctive, a common idiom in such clauses.

Do all (πανταpanta). The imperative ποιειτεpoieite has to be supplied from ποιητεpoiēte in the relative clause. ΠανταPanta is repeated from πανpān (singular), but in the plural (all things). ΠανPān is left as a nominative absolute as in Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:10. This is a sort of Golden Rule for Christians “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (εν ονοματι Κυριου Ιησουen onomati Kuriou Iēsou), in the spirit of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:20). What follows (directions to the various groups) is in this same vein. Sociological problems have always existed. Paul puts his finger on the sore spot in each group with unerring skill like a true diagnostician.

Verse 18

Wives (και γυναικεςkai gunaikes). The article here distinguishes class from class and with the vocative case can be best rendered “Ye wives.” So with each group.

Be in subjection to your husbands (υποτασσεστε τοις ανδρασινhupotassesthe tois andrasin). “Own” (ιδιοιςidiois) is genuine in Ephesians 5:22, but not here. The verb υποτασσομαιhupotassomai has a military air, common in the Koiné{[28928]}š for such obedience. Obedience in government is essential as the same word shows in Romans 13:1, Romans 13:5.

As is fitting in the Lord (ως ανηκεν εν Κυριωιhōs anēken en Kuriōi). This is an idiomatic use of the imperfect indicative with verbs of propriety in present time (Robertson, Grammar, p. 919). Wives have rights and privileges, but recognition of the husband‘s leadership is essential to a well-ordered home, only the assumption is that the husband has a head and a wise one.

Verse 19

Love your wives (αγαπατε τας γυναικαςagapāte tas gunaikas). Present active imperative, “keep on loving.” That is precisely the point.

Be not bitter (μη πικραινεστεmē pikrainesthe). Present middle imperative in prohibition: “Stop being bitter” or “do not have the habit of being bitter.” This is the sin of husbands. ΠικραινωPikrainō is an old verb from πικροςpikros (bitter). In N.T. only here and Revelation 8:11; Revelation 10:9. The bitter word rankles in the soul.

Verse 20

Obey your parents (υπακουετε τοις γονευσινhupakouete tois goneusin). Old verb to listen under (as looking up), to hearken, to heed, to obey.

In all things (κατα πανταkata panta). This is the hard part for the child, not occasional obedience, but continual. Surely a Christian father or mother will not make unreasonable or unjust demands of the child. Nowhere does modern civilization show more weakness than just here. Waves of lawlessness sweep over the world because the child was not taught to obey. Again Paul argues that this is “in the Lord” (εν Κυριωιen Kuriōi).

Verse 21

Provoke not (μη ερετιζετεmē erethizete). Present imperative of old verb from ερετωerethō to excite. Only twice in N.T., here in bad sense, in good sense in 2 Corinthians 9:2 (to stimulate). Here it means to nag and as a habit (present tense).

That they be not discouraged (ινα μη ατυμωσινhina mē athumōsin). Negative purpose (ινα μηhina mē) with the present subjunctive (continued discouragement) of ατυμεωathumeō old verb, but only here in N.T., from ατυμοςathumos (dispirited, αa privative, τυμοςthumos spirit or courage). One does not have to read Jane Eyre or Oliver Twist to know something of the sorrows of childhood as is witnessed by runaway children and even child suicides.

Verse 22

Your masters according to the flesh (τοις κατα σαρκα κυριοιςtois kata sarka kuriois). “Lords” really, but these Christian slaves (δουλοιdouloi) had Christ as lord, but even so they were to obey their lords in the flesh.

Not with eye-service (μη εν οπταλμοδουλιαιςmē en ophthalmodouliais). Another Pauline word (here only and Ephesians 6:6), elsewhere only in Christian writers after Paul, an easy and expressive compound, service while the master‘s eye was on the slave and no longer.

Men-pleasers (αντρωπαρεσκοιanthrōpareskoi). Late compound only in lxx and Paul (here and Ephesians 6:6).

In singleness of heart (εν απλοτητι καρδιαςen haplotēti kardias). So in Ephesians 6:5. Old and expressive word from απλουςhaplous (simple, without folds). See 2 Corinthians 11:3.

Fearing the Lord (ποβουμενοι τον Κυριονphoboumenoi ton Kurion). Rather than the lords according to the flesh.

Verse 23

Whatsoever ye do (ο εαν ποιητεho ean poiēte). See same idiom in Colossians 3:17 except οho instead of παν οτιpān hoti

Heartily (εκ πσυχηςek psuchēs). From the soul and not with mere eye service. In Ephesians 6:7 Paul adds μετ ευνοιαςmet' eunoias (with good will) in explanation of εκ πσυχηςek psuchēs

As unto the Lord (ως τωι Κυριωιhōs tōi Kuriōi). Even when unto men. This is the highest test of worthwhile service. If it were only always true!

Verse 24

Ye shall receive (απολημπσεστεapolēmpsesthe). Future middle indicative of απολαμβανωapolambanō old verb, to get back (αποapo), to recover.

The recompense (ανταποδοσινantapodosin). “The full recompense,” old word, in lxx, but only here in N.T., but ανταποδομαantapodoma twice (Luke 14:12; Romans 11:9). Given back (αποapo) in return (αντιanti).

Ye serve the Lord Christ (το Κυριωι Χριστωι δουλευετεto Kuriōi Christōi douleuete). As his slaves and gladly so. Perhaps better as imperatives, keep on serving.

Verse 25

Shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done (κομισεται ο ηδικησενkomisetai ho ēdikēsen). It is not clear whether ο αδικωνho adikōn (he that doeth wrong) is the master or the slave. It is true of either and Lightfoot interprets it of both, “shall receive back the wrong which he did.” This is a general law of life and of God and it is fair and square.

There is no respect of persons (ουκ εστιν προσωπολημπσιαouk estin prosōpolēmpsia). There is with men, but not with God. For this word patterned after the Hebrew see note on Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; James 2:1 The next verse should be in this chapter also.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Colossians 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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