Colossians 3


The apostle exhorts the Colossians to heavenly-mindedness after

the example of Christ, that they may be prepared to appear with

him in glory, 1-4.

Exhorts them also to mortify their members, and calls to their

remembrance their former state, 5-7.

Shows how completely they were changed from that state, and

gives them various directions relative to truth, compassion,

meekness, long-suffering, forgiveness, charity, 8-14.

Shows that they are called to unity and holiness; and commands

them to have the doctrine of Christ dwelling richly in them;

and how they should teach and admonish each other, and do every

thing, in the name of the Lord Jesus, 15-17.

The relative duties of wives, 18.

Of husbands, 19.

Of children, 20.

Of fathers, 21.

Of servants, 22.

He concludes by showing that he that does wrong shall be treated

accordingly, for God is no respecter of persons, 23-25.


Verse 1. If ye then] ειουν. Seeing then that ye are risen

with Christ; this refers to what he had said, Col 2:12:

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him.

As, therefore, ye have most cordially received the doctrine of

Christ; and profess to be partakers of a spiritual religion, that

promises spiritual and eternal things; seek those things, and look

to be prepared for the enjoyment of them.

Verse 2. Set your affection on things above] τααςωφρονειτε.

Love heavenly things; study them; let your hearts be entirely

engrossed by them. Now, that ye are converted to God, act in

reference to heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to

those of earth; and vice versa. This is a very good general rule:

"Be as much in earnest for heavenly and eternal things, as ye

formerly were for those that are earthly and perishing."

Verse 3. For ye are dead] To all hopes of happiness from the

present world; and, according to your profession, should feel no

more appetite for the things of this life, than he does whose soul

is departed into the invisible state.

Your life is hid with Christ in God.] Christ is your treasure;

and where your treasure is, there is your heart. Christ lives in

the bosom of the Father; as your heart is in him, ye also sit in

heavenly places with Christ Jesus. Christ is the life of your

souls; and as he is hidden in the bosom of the Father, so are ye,

who live through and in him.

Verse 4. When Christ, who is our life] When Christ comes to

judge the world, ye shall appear with him in his glory, and in an

eternal state of blessedness.

Verse 5. Mortify, therefore, you members] νεκρωσατε. Put them

to death: the verb is used metaphorically to signify, to deprive a

thing of its power, to destroy its strength. Use no member of

your body to sin against God; keep all under dominion; and never

permit the beast to run away with the man. To gratify any

sensual appetite is to give it the very food and nourishment by

which it lives, thrives, and is active. However the body may

suffer by excessive sensual indulgences, the appetite increases

with the indulgence. Deny yourselves, and let reason rule; and

the animal will not get the ascendency over the rational man.

See Clarke on Ro 6:11, &c.

Inordinate affection] παθος. Unnatural and degrading

passion; bestial lusts. See Ro 1:26, 27; and the notes there.

Evil concupiscence] επιθυμιανκακην. As επιθυμια signifies

strong and vehement desire of any kind, it is here joined with

κακη, evil, to show the sense more particularly in which the

apostle uses it.

Covetousness, which is idolatry] For the covetous man makes his

money his god. Now, it is the prerogative of God to confer

happiness; every godly man seeks his happiness in God; the

covetous man seeks that in his money which God alone can give;

therefore his covetousness is properly idolatry. It is true his

idol is of gold and silver, but his idolatry is not the less

criminal on that account.

Verse 6. The wrath of God cometh] God is angry with such

persons, and he inflicts on them the punishment which they


Verse 7. In the which ye also walked sometime] When ye were

in your unconverted state, ye served divers lusts and pleasures.

See Clarke on Ro 7:5, and "Eph 2:2".

Verse 8. But now ye also put on all these]

See Clarke on Eph 4:22.

Being now converted, sin had no more dominion over them.

Anger, wrath, &c.] They had not only lived in the evils

mentioned Col 3:5, but also in those enumerated here; and they

had not only laid aside the former, but they had laid aside the

latter also. They retained no bosom, no easily besetting, sin.

They were risen with Christ, and they sought the things which were


Blasphemy] The word seems here to mean injurious and calumnious


Verse 9. Lie not one to another] Do not deceive each other;

speak the truth in all your dealings; do not say, "My goods are so

and so," when you know them to be otherwise; do not undervalue the

goods of your neighbour, when your conscience tells you that you

are not speaking the truth. It is naught, it is naught, saith the

buyer; but afterwards he boasteth; i.e. he underrates his

neighbour's property till he gets him persuaded to part with it

for less than its worth; and when he has thus got it, he boasts

what a good bargain he has made. Such a knave speaks not truth

with his neighbour.

Ye have put off the old man] See Clarke on Ro 6:6;

and particularly on Ro 13:11-14. Ye have received a religion widely

different from that ye had before; act according to its


Verse 10. And have put on the new man] See on Ro 12:1, 2.

Is renewed in knowledge] IGNORANCE was the grand characteristic

of the heathen state; KNOWLEDGE, of the Christian. The utmost to

which heathenism could pretend was a certain knowledge of nature.

How far this went, and how much it fell short of the truth, may be

seen in the writings of Aristotle and Pliny. Christianity reveals

God himself, the author of nature; or, rather, God has revealed

himself, in the Christian system with which he has blessed

mankind. Christianity teaches a man the true knowledge both of

himself and of God; but it is impossible to know one's self but in

the light of God; the famous γνωθισεαυτον, know thyself, was

practicable only under the Christian religion.

After the image of him that created him] We have already seen

that God made man in his own image; and we have seen in what that

image consisted. See Clarke on Ge 1:26,

and on Eph 4:23,24.

Does not the apostle refer here to the case of an artist, who

wishes to make a perfect resemblance of some exquisite form or

person? God in this case is the artist, man is the copy, and God

himself the original from which this copy is to be taken. Thus,

then, man is made by his Creator, not according to the image or

likeness of any other being, but according to his own; the image

τουκτισαντος, of the Creator. And as the Divine nature cannot

exist in forms or fashions, moral qualities alone are those which

must be produced. Hence the apostle, interpreting the words of

Moses, says that the image in which man was made, and in which he

must be remade, ανακαινουμενον, made anew, consists in

knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.

Verse 11. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew] In which new

creation no inquiry is made what nation the persons belonged to,

or from what ancestry they had sprung, whether in Judea or


Circumcision nor uncircumcision] Nor is their peculiar form of

religion of any consideration, whether circumcised like the Jews,

or uncircumcised like the heathens.

Barbarian, Scythtian] Nor whether of the more or less tractable

of the nations of the world; for although knowledge, and the most

refined and sublime knowledge, is the object to be attained, yet,

under the teaching and influence of the blessed Spirit, the most

dull and least informed are perfectly capable of comprehending

this Divine science, and becoming wise unto salvation.

Bond nor free] Nor does the particular state or

circumstances in which a man may be found, either help him to or

exclude him from the benefit of this religion; the slave having as

good a title to salvation by grace as the freeman.

But Christ is all, and in all.] All mankind are his creatures,

all conditions are disposed and regulated by his providence, and

all human beings are equally purchased by his blood. He alone is

the source whence all have proceeded, and to him alone all must

return. He is the Maker, Preserver, Saviour, and Judge of all


Verse 12. Put on-as the elect of God] As the principal design

of the apostle was to show that God had chosen the Gentiles, and

called them to the same privileges as the Jews, and intended to

make them as truly his people as the Jews ever were, he calls them

the elect or chosen of God; and as the Jews, who were formerly the

elect, were still beloved, and called to be holy, so he calls the

Colossians beloved, and shows them that they are called with the

same holy calling.

Bowels of mercies, &c.] Be merciful, not in act merely, but in

spirit and affection. In all cases of this kind let your heart

dictate to your hand; be clothed with bowels of mercy-let your

tenderest feelings come in contact with the miseries of the

distressed as soon as ever they present themselves. Though I know

that to put on, and to be clothed with, are figurative

expressions, and mean to assume such and such characters and

qualities; yet there may be a higher meaning here. The apostle

would have them to feel the slightest touch of another's misery;

and, as their clothes are put over their body, so their tenderest

feeling should be always within the reach of the miserable. Let

your feelings be at hand, and feel and commiserate as soon as

touched. See Clarke on Eph 4:2.

Instead of οικτιρμον mercies, in the plural, almost every MS. of

importance, with many of the fathers, read οικτιρμου, bowels of

mercy, in the singular. This various reading makes scarcely any

alteration in the sense.

Verse 13. Forbearing one another] Avoid all occasions of

irritating or provoking each other.

Forgiving one another] If ye receive offence, be instantly

ready to forgive on the first acknowledgment of the fault.

Even as Christ forgave you] Who required no satisfaction, and

sought for nothing in you but the broken, contrite heart, and

freely forgave you as soon as you returned to Him. No man should

for a moment harbour ill will in his heart to any; but the

offended party is not called actually to forgive, till the

offender, with sorrow, acknowledges his fault. He should be ready

to forgive, and while he is so, he can neither feel hatred nor

malice towards the offender; but, as Christ does not forgive us

till with penitent hearts we return unto him, acknowledging our

offences, so those who have trespassed against their neighbour are

not to expect any act of forgiveness from the person they have

injured, till they acknowledge the offence. Forgive, says the

apostle, καθωςκαιοχριστος even as Christ forgave you-show the

same disposition and the same readiness to forgive your offending

brethren, as Christ showed towards you.

Verse 14. And above all these things] επιπασιδετουτοις.

Upon all, over all; as the outer garment envelopes all the

clothing, so let charity or love invest and encompass all the

rest. Even bowels of mercy are to be set in motion by love; from

love they derive all their feeling, and all their power and

promptitude to action. Let this, therefore, be as the

upper garment; the surtout that invests the whole man.

Which is the bond of perfectness.] Love to God and man is not

only to cover all, but also to unite and consolidate the whole.

It is therefore represented here under the notion of a girdle, by

which all the rest of the clothing is bound close about the body.

To love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and

one's neighbour as one's self, is the perfection which the new

covenant requires, and which the grace and Spirit of Christ work

in every sincerely obedient, humble believer; and that very love,

which is the fulfilling of the law and the perfection itself which

the Gospel requires, is also the bond of that perfection. It is

by love to God and man that love is to be preserved. Love begets

love; and the more a man loves God and his neighbour, the more he

is enabled to do so. Love, while properly exercised, is ever

increasing and reproducing itself.

Instead of τελειοτητος, perfection, several reputable MSS., with

the Itala, read ενοτητος, unity; but the former is doubtless the

genuine reading.

Verse 15. And let the peace of God] Instead of θεου, God,

ξριστου, Christ, is the reading of ABC*D*FG, several others,

both the Syriac, the Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, AEthopic, Armenian,

Vulgate, and Itala, with several of the fathers; on this evidence

Griesbach has inserted it in the text.

Rule in your hearts] βραβευετω. Let the peace of Christ judge,

decide, and govern in your hearts, as the brabeus, or judge, does

in the Olympic contests. No heart is right with God where the

peace of Christ does not rule; and the continual prevalence of the

peace of Christ is the decisive proof that the heart is right with

God. When a man loses his peace, it is an awful proof that he has

lost something else; that he has given way to evil, and grieved

the Spirit of God. While peace rules, all is safe.

In one body] Ye cannot have peace with God, in yourselves, nor

among each other, unless ye continue in unity; and, as one body,

continue in connection and dependence on him who is your only

head: to this ye are called; it is a glorious state of salvation,

and ye should be for ever thankful that ye are thus privileged.

Verse 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly] I

believe the apostle means that the Colossians should be well

instructed in the doctrine of Christ; that it should be their

constant study; that it should be frequently preached, explained,

and enforced among them; and that all the wisdom comprised in it

should be well understood. Thus the doctrine of God would dwell

richly, that is, abundantly, among them. But there appears to be

here an allusion to the Shechinah, or symbol of the Divine

presence, which dwelt in the tabernacle and first temple; and to

an opinion common among the Jews, which is thus expressed in

Melchita, fol. 38, 4: ; In whatever

place the LAW is, there the SHECHINAH is present with it. Nor is

this a vain supposition; wherever God's word is seriously read,

heard, or preached, there is God himself; and in that Church or

religious society where the truth of God is proclaimed and

conscientiously believed, there is the constant dwelling of God.

Through bad pointing this verse is not very intelligible; the

several members of it should be distinguished thus: Let the

doctrine of Christ dwell richly among you; teaching and

admonishing each other in all wisdom; singing with grace in your

hearts unto the Lord, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This

arrangement the original will not only bear, but it absolutely

requires it, and is not sense without it.

See Clarke on Eph 5:19.

The singing which is here recommended is widely different from

what is commonly used in most Christian congregations; a

congeries of unmeaning sounds, associated to bundles of

nonsensical, and often ridiculous, repetitions, which at once both

deprave and disgrace the Church of Christ. Melody, which is

allowed to be the most proper for devotional music, is now

sacrificed to an exuberant harmony, which requires, not only many

different kinds of voices, but different musical instruments to

support it. And by these preposterous means the simplicity of the

Christian worship is destroyed, and all edification totally

prevented. And this kind of singing is amply proved to be very

injurious to the personal piety of those employed in it; even of

those who enter with a considerable share of humility and

Christian meekness, how few continue to sing with GRACE in their

hearts unto the Lord?

Verse 17. Whatsoever ye do in word or deed] Let your words be

right, and your actions upright.

Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus] Begin with him, and end

with him; invoke his name, and pray for his direction and support,

in all that ye do; and thus every work will be crowned with all

requisite success. Doing every thing in the name of God, and

referring every thing to his glory, is as rational as it is pious.

Could it be ever supposed that any person would begin a bad work

in God's name? However, it is so. No people in the universe more

strictly adhere to the letter of this advice than the Mohammedans;

for they never undertake a work, eat meat, nor write a book,

without prefacing all with:-


Bismillahi, Arrahmani, Arraheemi;

"In the name of the most merciful and compassionate God."

Not only books of devotion, but books on all arts and sciences,

books of tales and romances, books of poetry, and those on the

elements of reading, &c., begin thus; nay, it is prefixed to the

[Arabic] Lizit un Nissa, one of the most abominable productions

that ever came from the pen of man, and is precisely the same

among the Mohammedans, as the infamous work of Nicholas Chorier,

called Elegantiae Latini Sermonis, falsely attributed to John

Meursius, has been among some called Christians. Of both, with a

trifling hyberbole, it may be said: "Surely these books were

written in hell, and the author of them must certainly be the


Giving thanks to God] Even praises, as well as prayers, must

ascend to God through this Mediator. We have no authority to say

that God will accept even our thanksgiving, unless it ascend to

him through Christ Jesus.

Verse 18. Wives, submit yourselves] Having done with general

directions, the apostle comes to particular duties, which are

commonly called relative; because they only belong to persons in

certain situations; and are not incumbent on all. No woman has

the duty of a wife to perform but she who is one, and no man has

the duty of a husband to perform but he who is married.

The directions here to wives, husbands, children, parents,

servants, and masters, are so exactly the same in substance with

those in Eph 5:22-33; 6:1-9, that there is no need to repeat what

has been said on those passages; and to the notes there the reader

is requested to refer.

As it is fit in the Lord.] God commands it; and it is both

proper and decent.

Verse 19. Be not bitter against them.] Wherever bitterness is,

there love is wanting. And where love is wanting in the married

life, there is hell upon earth.

Verse 20. Children, obey-in all things] That is, in the

Lord-in every thing that your parents command you, which is not

contrary to the will or word of God.

Verse 21. Fathers, provoke not]

See Clarke on Eph 6:4.

Verse 22. Servants, obey] See on Eph 6:5-8.

Verse 24. The reward of the inheritance] Here, ye have neither

lands nor property; ye are servants or slaves; be not

discouraged, ye have an inheritance in store; be faithful unto God

and to your employers, and Christ will give you a heavenly


Verse 25. But he that doeth wrong] It is possible for an

unfaithful servant to wrong and defraud his master in a great

variety of ways without being detected; but let all such remember

what is here said: He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong

which he has done; God sees him, and will punish him for his

breach of honesty and trust. Wasting, or not taking proper care

of the goods of your master, is such a wrong as God will resent.

He that is unfaithful in that which is little, will be unfaithful

in much, if he have opportunity; and God alone is the defence

against an unfaithful servant.

There is no respect] God neither esteems nor despises any man

because of his outward condition and circumstances; for there is

no respect of persons with him. Every man is, in the eye of God,

what he is in his soul: if holy, loved; if wicked, despised and


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