The Epistle to the Colossians – Part 10

The significance of being raised with Christ, 3. 1-4 – ‘ye have been raised with the Christ’ JND. Continued.

‘Seek those things which are above’, v. 1, ‘where’; practical, external

The fact of our being raised is assumed by the apostle; ‘ye were raised together with Christ’ RV; when Christ died, we died; when Christ was raised, we were raised, cp. 2. 12, ‘through faith in the working of God’ RV; no longer finding power for living from the earth but from the ‘glory’, supplied from Him and through Him.1 Our baptism severs from the old order and links with the new. But this has implications and Paul applies the lesson ‘seek [constantly] those things which are above’. Our life is the life of Christ and we should therefore seek His interests. We should have heart occupation with Christ.

The reason our focus of attention should be ‘above’ is quite simple; that is ‘where Christ sitteth’. His absolute and abiding authority is thus affirmed and we are there with Him; we should therefore focus our attention on Him – He is Lord and sovereign, cp. Dan. 7. 13, 14; Ps. 2. 6-9. The place of supreme honour and highest dignity are His ‘on the right hand of God’.2

‘Set your affection [mind RV] on things above’, vv. 2-4, ‘For’; intellectual, internal

The importance of the mind is emphasized in verse 2. The phrase ‘set your affection on’ is only one word in the original and only here is it translated as ‘affection’. The RV translates with ‘set your mind on’. It is an inward impulse and disposition, a use of the intellect. Lightfoot puts it well, ‘you must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven’ (his emphasis).3 Our mind is very important in the New Testament: we are to have a prophetic mind, Phil. 3. 19, 20; a renewed mind, Rom. 12. 1, 2; one mind, a lowly mind and the mind of Christ, Phil. 2. 1-11 (see verses 2, 3 and 5).

The locations of our interest are further emphasized in the balance of verse 2, both positively and negatively; look up, not around or down. The first location is ‘things above’, where Christ sitteth and where you are too, ‘far above the world below’, the highest plane possible, higher than principalities and powers (of the air), Eph. 1. 20, 21; 2. 2. The negative is equally emphasized, ‘not on things on the earth’ – not as earth dwellers with horizontal vision, earth bound. The believer has to see things from a new perspective, 2 Cor. 5. 16.

The fundamental basis for the appeal made in verses 1 and 2 is given in verses 3 and 4. You’re dead! This is repeated for emphasis from chapter 2 verse 20, and dead people cannot respond to things ‘on the earth’. But further, ‘your life is hid with Christ in God’. Christ is our life and He has His being ‘in God’, cp. Eph. 3. 9. Our life and wellbeing depend on His in a lovely double security, ‘with Christ’, ‘in God’, but totally incomprehensible to man. Colleagues, friends, neighbours simply cannot fathom the kind of lives believers live. Lightfoot explains, ‘when you sank under the baptismal water, you disappeared for ever to the world. You rose again, it is true, but you rose only to God. The world henceforth knows nothing of your new life, and, as a consequence, your new life must know nothing of the world’.4

The grand prospect for the believer is introduced in verse 4, ‘When … then’, life leads to hope. The basis of the prospect is clear; it is not enough to say that our life is shared ‘with’ Christ; ‘Christ is our life’, John 1. 4; 14. 6; 1 John 5. 11, 12; we are intimately linked with Him, cp. Phil. 1. 21, members of His body; all power and energy for living comes through Him as the Head, 2. 19, and as ‘the Christ’, 1 Cor. 12. 12 JND.

The outworking of the hope is absolutely certain, ‘Christ … shall appear’.5 The wonder of it, however, is that He will not ‘appear’ (be manifestly declared) alone; we shall ‘appear with him in glory’. This will be realized in the parousia,6 is anticipated now, Rom. 8. 17, 29, 30, and will be shared with the whole of creation.7 It does, of course, necessitate a change, 1 John 3. 2; Phil. 3. 20, 21.

The fundamental lesson from verses 1 to 4 is clear: the need for heart occupation with an ascended Christ in glory. The readers of Hebrews were directed to a high priest in heaven, Heb. 1. 3. It was a vision of the glory of God given to Saul on the Damascus road which transformed his life, Acts 9. 3-6; Phil. 3. 10. Occupation with an ascended Christ in glory is not only an excellent definition of true worship but a practical call for its outworking in our lives.

The transformed Christian life – put off/put on, vv. 5-17

Having established the significance of baptism from a doctrinal perspective, 2. 20 – 3. 4, the apostle now shows its outworking in the life of the believer. He does this from two viewpoints: the negative and the positive – putting off, vv. 5-11, and putting on, vv. 12-17 – using two imperatives, in verses 8 and 12. These are commands to be obeyed; we are to complete the action on ourselves – we are responsible!

The sense of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ in verses 9 and 10 is different. There the apostle is saying in verse 9, ‘having put off [“having stripped clean off”] the old man’, and, in verse 10, ‘having put on the new’ JND. These two references are used by the apostle as the lever for the commands in verses 8 and 12. Thus, the four references are all in the aorist tense and each has the idea of clothing either being put off or being put on.

Put off, vv. 5-11; negative – two imperatives

  • ‘Mortify therefore your members’, vv. 5-7;
  • ‘Put off’ all these, vv. 8-11; the ‘filthy rags’ to be discarded.

Put on, vv. 12-17; positive

  • ‘Put on therefore’, vv. 12-14; an imperative – the lovely clothes to be embraced;
  • The Christ-patterned life which will empower to implement the above, vv. 15-17.

‘Mortify therefore your members’, vv. 5-7

The verb to mortify is in the aorist imperative and the command is therefore to do it, and do it now! The word ‘therefore’ indicates that there is a good basis for the appeal. The doctrine of chapter 2 verse 20 to chapter 3 verse 4 must lead to duty, precept to practice, belief to behaviour, cp. Rom. 12. 1; Eph. 4. 1.

The nature of the appeal is indicated, ‘Mortify your members’; put them to death. The CEV translates verse 5 as, ‘Don’t be controlled by your body. Kill every desire for the wrong kind of sex. Don’t be immoral or indecent or have evil thoughts. Don’t be greedy, which is the same as worshipping idols’.8 In the substance of the appeal, Bruce indicates that Paul ‘moves from improper acts to their inner springs’.9 These are enumerated as:

  1. ‘Fornication’; illicit sexual behaviour of all kinds – ‘Traffic with harlots’. When used with adultery, it has the specific meaning of pre-marital infidelity,10 but here it has its more general connotation, 1 Cor. 6. 18; 1 Thess. 4. 3.
  2. ‘Uncleanness’; moral impurity involving, for example, character assassination.
  3. ‘Inordinate affection’; indecent thought, vile passions, Rom 1. 26. This is in direct contrast to chapter 3 verse 2, where we are to ‘set [our] mind on things above’.
  4. ‘Evil concupiscence’; wicked desire, evil lust akin to ‘the Gentiles which know not God’, 1 Thess. 4. 5.
  5. ‘Covetousness, which is idolatry’; ‘greedy … worshipping of idols’; ‘unbridled desire’, Eph. 5. 5; Phil. 3. 19, 20.

The importance of the appeal is seen by the consequences of failing to implement it in verses 6 and 7, ‘For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children [sons] of disobedience’, cp. Eph. 5. 6. Behaviour of this nature must bring with it inevitable retribution – the ‘wrath of God’. The recipients of the wrath are wilfully disobedient, and that in spite of clear commandment, conscience and constitution. They defy the law of God. Peter shows a lovely contrast in 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 14, giving features of ‘obedient children’; children of obedience who do not fashion themselves ‘according to [their] former lusts in [their] ignorance’. Paul indicates here that this behaviour marked them in their past lives; they ‘walked … lived in them’ in their pre-conversion experience.11 Paul anticipated that the new powers available to them would bring a complete change.

‘Put off all these’, vv. 8-11 – the ‘filthy rags’ to be discarded

The features of the old man to be discarded, vv. 8, 9. This is another imperative with the ‘But now’ indicating an emphatic contrast. There is no possibility of continuing in the list of verse 5. The list to be discarded in verses 8 and 9, is described as having been ‘put off [as] the old man with his deeds’ in verse 9 – these are the filthy rags!12 The list is challenging:

  • ‘Anger’; described in Proverbs chapter 27 verse 4 as ‘outrageous’; that which ‘resteth in the bosom of fools’ – ‘a settled feeling of hatred’, Eccles. 7. 9.
  • ‘Wrath’; ‘quick temper’; ‘violent outbursts’.
  • ‘Malice’; ‘pure badness’; ‘wicked conduct towards another’.
  • ‘Blasphemy’; ‘slander’; strong intemperate language against another.
  • ‘Filthy communication out of your mouth’; foul, obscene, indecent speech, Eph. 5. 4.
  • Lying ‘one to another’; be(wo)men of your word; don’t distort the truth; don’t make false statements against another, cp. Ps. 120. 2-4.

The apostle then gives the reason why these ‘filthy rags’ can, and must, be abandoned. The old man has been put off with his deeds, i.e., what we were in Adam before our conversion, ‘our old man is crucified with Christ’, Rom. 6. 6. Hence, he is no longer operative and capable of responding to sin. We are to be practically what is true doctrinally, a ‘renunciation of the sinful nature in its entirety’, i.e., the ‘body of flesh’, 2. 11, 12.



F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Colossians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984.


Ps. 45. 9; 110. 1; Mark 12. 35-37; Eph. 1. 20.


J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon, Zondervan Publishing House, 1879.




Cp. Matt. 24. 30; 1 Pet. 5. 4; Titus 2. 13.


Col. 1. 27; 1 Thess. 3. 13; 4. 17.


Rom. 8. 21; Rev. 17. 14 (contrast verse 12).


Cp. Rom. 6. 19; 7. 23; 8. 13; 1 Cor. 6. 19.


F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Colossians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984.


E.g., Matt. 19. 9; 15. 19; Gal. 5. 19.


Cp. 1 Cor. 6. 9-11; Rom 6. 19-21; Titus 3. 3; 1 Pet. 4. 1-5.


Cp. Rom 13. 12; Eph. 4. 22, 25; Heb. 12. 1; Jas. 1. 21; 1 Pet. 2. 1.


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