Colossians 3 Part 2
New King James Version 8. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
The Resultant Version 8. But now you also put off all these: anger, fury, malice, slander, obscenity out of your mouth.
Though these believers might have walked in these things at one time, now they are to put them off. God lists for us these things that are to be put off. First is anger. This is a very interesting prohibition. It is found both here and in Ephesians 4. There, we read:
31. Let all bitterness and fury and anger and clamor and slanderous speech be taken away from you with all malice; 32. And become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously with one another, even as God also in Christ deals graciously with you.
In verse 31, we are also told to put away anger, and in verse 32 we are told why. It is because we are to be kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously with one another, even as God also in Christ deals graciously with us. In other words, it is in the light of the fact that we are living in the dispensation of the grace of God when God only deals graciously with us, not in wrath, that we are to put off anger. This command to put off anger is only given in these books of Ephesians and Colossians. In the Acts period books, there is no command against anger. The closest we get is James 1:19, which commands:
19. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
The word “wrath” here is the same word for “anger” in the Greek, orge. James urges the believers of the Acts period to be slow to get angry, but only in this dispensation when God only deals graciously with His people does He ever urge us not to get angry at all! This is an appropriate thing to do when God is also not getting angry, but only dealing graciously with people. The day of His anger will come, but it is not today, and we should put off anger today as well, just as He does. If we must be angry, then we should do so according to Ephesians 4:26, “If you are angry, beware of sinning.” The word for “angry” is orgizo, the verb of orge. The critical thing for us is, if we do become angry, that we not sin. Yet it is best for us to put off anger altogether.
Next is listed wrath or fury. This is spoken against in Ephesians 4:31 as well, and it is spoken of as being a bad thing between believers in II Corinthians 12:20. It is also included in the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. The Greek word is thumos, and has to do with passion or heat. The Resultant Version renders it “fury,” which seems to capture the idea of the Greek.
The word for “malice” is the Greek word kakia. Unlike anger and fury, God is never said to have kakia. The word means ill-will or desire to injure. It can also speak of calamity or injury. It is included in the list in Ephesians 4:31, as it is here.
Next comes “blasphemy” or “slander.” The Greek word is indeed blasphemia, but the problem is that we have specialized this word to mean only blasphemy against God, when in fact the word could just as easily mean blasphemy against another individual other than God. Thus The Resultant Version has translated it “slander,” since this makes much clearer that the meaning is speaking harmful, wrong, and damaging things against each other, not against God, in this context. We should put away from us all slanderous talk. “Blasphemy” or “slanderous speech” is also included in the list in Ephesians 4:31.
Next comes “filthy language” or “obscenity.” The Greek word is aischrologia, meaning filthy or dishonorable speech or expression. There are plenty who talk this way, in what we call “swearing,” in dirty expressions or exclamations, and in perverse joking or jesting. The believer in Christ should strive for purity in speech. Some try to speak cleanly in the presence of children, but use very foul speech when among adults. Yet how is speech that is unfit for children fitting for adults, or even for ourselves? We should speak with honorable speech always, for our Lord is always present to hear.
Notice here the phrase “all these,” a phrase shared by both the New King James Version and The Resultant Version. This phrase is the Greek ta panta, a phrase that literally means “the all,” and that is often in the New King James Version translated “all things,” as well as in many other versions. We saw it translated in this way back in Colossians 1:16, 17, and 20. Yet in this passage, the New King James translators were forced to translate it as “all these,” for it must be clear to any honest observer that Paul was not urging these people to put off all things without exception, for then they must have put off God as well! So here it is almost always translated as “all these,” recognizing that “the all” is used as an idiom here. This is good, but I believe that this phrase is always an idiom that means “all this” or “all these” in every passage in which it occurs, referring to some thing or things in the context. This passage shows us this meaning, and it is a meaning that will bring great clarity to many passages that otherwise remain obscure.
New King James Version 9. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
The Resultant Version 9. Do not lie to one another, since you have stripped off the old man with his deeds;
God next urges us not to lie to one another. We are people of truth, and truth should be very important to us. Since we have come to know Jesus Christ through our faith in the true message God gave us of His Son, our faith rests on the foundation of truth. Since God has told the truth to us, it is right for us to tell the truth to one another
It is true that many do lie, but that is because lying is a part of the old man, the old humanity, and its practices. This old humanity we should strip off. The illustration is like a person who strips off a set of dirty clothes and puts on clean ones. Yet what we are to strip off here is not clothing, but rather is the humanity we once had. The person we once were before we were in Christ and our old way of living are pictured here like a dirty set of clothes. We are to strip these off, and to put them away from us. As believers in Christ, it is no longer right for us to wear this old humanity. We must strip it off from us.
New King James Version 10. and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
The Resultant Version 10. And you put on the new humanity, which is being renewed in realization in accord with the Image of the One Who creates it.
In place of the old humanity which we are to strip off, we are to put on the new humanity. Again, like putting on a new set of clothes, we are to put on a new person, a new lifestyle, an entirely new way of living. This results in a life renewed. God does not want us, once we believe and He has placed us in Christ, to continue to live as if no change had taken place. No, He wants us to live the new lifestyle that He would have for us in Christ.
How does one develop a new lifestyle? How does one go about learning a new way of living? Paul tells us that the new humanity is renewed in knowledge or in realization. The context makes it clear that this knowledge or realization is regarding our Lord Jesus Christ. As we get to know Him, the One Who loved us and died for us, and as we start to love Him more and more, this knowledge and realization of all He is starts to renew us in accord with His Image. He is the One Who is ultimately creating this new humanity in us, and it is modeled after Him that it is created. As we learn to live this new lifestyle, we start to become in our actions and attitudes more and more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a blessed thing this is!
New King James Version 11. where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
The Resultant Version 11. In the new humanity there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, no Barbarian nor Scythian, no slave nor free, but Christ is all this to everyone.
Within the bounds of this new humanity, old distinctions that make a difference between men in this world are done away with. When one believes in Christ, this new humanity begins to be developed in him by God, regardless of what kind of person he may have been before. He may have lived the Greek lifestyle popular in the Roman Empire, or he may have lived the Jewish lifestyle that was based on God’s law. He may have been a circumcised Jew who keeps the law in the land, or one whom those in the land called “akrobustia,” a Jew who cannot keep the law properly even if he tries because he lives outside the land. One may have been a “barbarian,” living outside the Roman Empire altogether and living neither the Greek nor the Jewish lifestyle. One may have been a Scythian, one of that fierce and warlike tribe that was thought of as the wildest of savages in that day. One may have been a slave, or one may have been freeborn. Yet all these distinctions do not matter when it comes to developing the new lifestyle in Christ Jesus.
This new lifestyle crosses all national and cultural boundaries. It does not depend on any social or economic status. It does not care whether one is highborn or lowborn, rich or poor, powerful or weak, educated or uneducated. One can be of any tribe, nation, or bloodline, and yet this new humanity can still be developed in him. The distinctions of this world are erased in this new man, for here Christ is all this to everyone. He is the culture, the law, the education, the master, and the emancipator to all who are in Him. All people now can come to Him on an equal basis, even as the mystery or sacred secret of Ephesians 3:6 proclaims. He will accept all, redeem all, and form His new humanity in all. He will become everything to all those who trust in Him. This is the glorious truth of God’s present administration to those of us who are “in Christ” through faith.
New King James Version 12. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
The Resultant Version 12. Put on then, as the chosen ones of God, holy and beloved, tender compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience;
In light of the fact that we are in Christ and we all partake of the new humanity in Him, Paul now urges us to put on the behaviors that are fitting for this new humanity. This is a common way that God presents His will to us in the books of Paul: first, He tells us what He has made true of us in Christ; then, He tells us what we should do in the light of these things. This is important, because we are not to put these behaviors on in order to please God or in order to be placed in Christ. No, we already are in Christ through faith. In Him, we already stripped off our old humanity with his deeds and put on the new humanity in Christ. All that remains is for our actions to match with this truth. We are now new people in Christ Jesus. What God desires us to do is to act like it. To act like anything else is a lie, for we no longer are the people we once were without Christ. To live in the truth, we must live like what we now truly are in Christ. That is what the Lord is commanding and urging us to do here.
Notice that even here Paul reminds us that we are now the chosen ones of God. The word for “chosen ones” is eklektos, the word that is often translated “elect,” but which really comes from the verb meaning “to choose.” There are many who try to make out that this choice was made long before we believed and even before the earth was created. Yet there is no evidence in Scripture for this, once It is properly translated and understood. Those who are spoken of as being “chosen” are always those who are already in Christ. They are not chosen for salvation from sin and death, but for the blessings God has for them in His glorious future kingdom. In Him, we are the chosen ones. Anyone who is not in Him is not chosen, at least, not yet, though he may believe and become one of the chosen ones later. Yet Paul’s point here is not to teach what being a chosen one is all about, but rather to admonish us as to how we should behave as chosen ones.
The Lord also calls us holy ones. This is hagioi in Greek, the word which is often translated as “holy.” In English, we think of a holy person as being righteous or sinless, but this is not the meaning of the word in the Bible. Rather, that which is holy is that which is set apart to God or separated to God. This is the truth of what we are. From the moment we believed the salvation-bringing message of God, we were set apart to Him from all other people as specially His Own. Moreover, we are beloved. The word for “beloved” is the verb form of agape, the highest form of self-sacrificing love of which the Bible speaks. In other words, we are being told that in Christ God chose us, set up apart for Himself, and loved us with a self-sacrificing love. This is high privilege indeed! But it should also be great motivation to us to live as God desires us to live. How can we do anything else, considering all He has done for us?
Now the attitudes and behaviors we are to put on are listed. First is tender compassion, which is the Greek phrase splagchna oiktirmon. This literally means “bowels of compassion.” We think of the seat of emotions as being the heart, but the Greeks thought of the seat of emotions as the bowels. We can see how we got the idea of the heart, since often it will beat fast or hard when we are very emotional. Yet in some ways the bowels make even more sense, for who has not experienced an upset stomach from emotions, or tightness in the digestive system, or other signs in the bowels when one is experiencing great emotion? So we can see how they got the idea of attaching the emotions to the bowels, as strange as it might seem to us. Yet since the figure is incomprehensible to us without explanation, it is probably just as well to interpret it rather than to strictly translate it here.
As for oiktirmon, this means compassion, tenderness, or mercy. Certainly, our Lord has shown us tenderness, compassion, and mercy when He died for us and offered us His great salvation in Christ, so it is appropriate that we should display this attitude towards one another. It is easy to be callous, unfeeling, or harsh, yet this is not God’s way with us, and it should not be our way with each other. God has always treated us with tender compassion, and we should put on this kind of behavior ourselves as we deal with each other.
Then He speaks of kindness. This is the Greek word chrestotes, which can have to do with goodness or kindness. Kindness is perhaps the more likely meaning in the context here, but really both are appropriate for the believer of today. If it is good for us to be compassionate, it is certainly also good for us to be kind. And just plain goodness is something that the good God strongly desires of His children.
Next is humility. The word is tapeinophrosune, which has to do with being lowly of mind or not rising up high in your mind or estimation of yourself. Truly the reality of being in Christ should lead to an attitude of humility, for when we realize that all we are and all we ever will be in God’s sight in based not on our own good behavior but rather on Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we realize that we have nothing to boast in but in our Lord Jesus Christ. Religion leads men to pride, convincing them that they can come to God with their heads held high because they are better than others. Yet being in Christ leads to lowliness and humbleness. Of ourselves, we would be no better than other people. In our own strength, all we could ever earn from God would be His wrath and punishment resulting in death. All that we have we have in Him, and this leads to real humility.
Next we have meekness. The Greek word is praotes, and has to do with gentleness, mildness, and meekness. It is good for the child of God to be gentle, mild, and meek with others. The idea is not that we cannot be firm but must be pushovers. Rather, the idea is not being harsh, unkind, or unfeeling. It is good for the one in Christ to be meek, even as God is meek with us, not forcing His will and ways upon us, but gently leading us to what is true and right.
Finally, we have patience. The Greek word here is makrothumia. It has to do with patient endurance when dealing with other people. The opposite would be lashing out at others or seeking revenge. The believer in Christ should not be this way, but should be patient toward others no matter how frustrating they might be or the wrong they might have done us.
Notice that all these characteristics we are to put on in this passage have to do with dealing with other human beings. This was mostly true of the ungodly behaviors we were to put off in the previous verses as well. Clearly, much of the difficulty we have living for Christ once we become believers are related to our relationships with each other. May God help us to put on these Godly behaviors in our relationships with those around us!
13. bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
13. Bearing with one another, dealing graciously among yourselves, if anyone should be having a complaint against any; according also as the Lord deals graciously with you, thus also do you.
Next the Lord urges us to bear with one another. This has to do with sustaining, bearing, or enduring. We surely realize that we all have our faults, and require bearing with at times. It is God’s desire for us that we do this, and deal graciously among ourselves. The word here in Greek is charizomai, which comes from charis, meaning “grace.” It does not mean forgiveness, though sometimes to be gracious to someone is indeed to forgive. Yet dealing graciously has to do with showing love and favor to people without them deserving it, and this goes beyond mere forgiveness. We should be treating each other this way, even if we have a complaint against another believer. We may have a complaint, and it may be a legitimate one, yet this does not let us off the hook from dealing graciously. God would have a legitimate complaint against us, should He ever care to make it. Yet instead He deals graciously with us, and so we must follow His example by dealing graciously also.
This verse is very much parallel to Ephesians 4:32, which states:
The Resultant Version 32. And become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously with one another, even as God also in Christ deals graciously with you.
This verse too tells us that we should deal graciously with others because God has dealt graciously with us. Notice that it is the same new humanity we are to put on that Paul is talking about in Ephesians 4 as that he is talking about in Colossians 3. The things God is teaching in these two chapters are much the same. We realize the truth here: that we are to deal graciously as God has already dealt graciously. This is a very different basis for showing such grace than that which we have in Matthew 6:14-15.
14. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Here, the grace of forgiveness is given to the disciples only if they will forgive others. Yet today we do not have forgiveness based on our forgiveness of others, but rather we are to forgive others based on the fact that we are already forgiven. We can see the clear difference between the dispensation of grace and the kingdom of God in this. In Christ the privilege of God’s grace is already ours. Yet it also motivates us and teaches us how we should live. Praise God for His gracious dealings with us!
New King James Version 14. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
The Resultant Version 14. Over all this put on love, which is the uniting bond of maturity.
Over everything mentioned so far, the Lord urges us to put on love. The word in Greek is agape, that great, self-sacrificing love that comes from God. If we are willing to sacrifice for each other, then we will not allow the little faults and wrongs we do to each other to destroy our relationships. Instead, true agape love will act as the uniting bond of maturity. Indeed, if we had more agape love for each other, we would act much more like Jesus Christ. His agape love for us is shown in the kind and gracious way He treats us. We would tend to treat each other in this same way, if only we truly had as much agape love for each other as we should have.
New King James Version 15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
The Resultant Version 15. And let the peace of Christ settle all questionings in your hearts, for which you were positioned in one body; and be thankful.
Now the Lord urges us to let the peace of Christ settle all questionings in our hearts. The word for ruling or settling all questions is brabeuo, related to katabrabeuo, which we had back in Colossians 2:18, where we learned it means to act as an umpire or to arbitrate. That is just what a true union with Christ will do for us. It will arbitrate or settle all questions we may have in our hearts.
The reality is that we face many questions in our day which are not spoken of directly in Scripture. Many of the issues we face did not even exist at the time that the Bible was written. In our day, then, when there are no prophets and there is no direct revelation from God, how are we to know what God would have us to do in the sticky situations of modern-day life? How are we to allow God to arbitrate when He does not speak? The way we are to do this is by establishing a union with God, and allowing this union to settle our deepest questions for us. If we have an active relationship with God, if we through knowledge of Him in His word are allowing our thoughts to conform to His, then our union with Him will settle our questions. Sometimes we may have to just pray and then make the best decision we can. But when we are truly in union with Him, this will help us greatly to do this.
Next we learn that it was for peace, that is, a true union with God, that we were positioned in one body. We discussed in chapter 1 that a body is the reality, the essence, or the substance of a thing. We were positioned in the body or substance of Christ, and from His substance we partake of what He is to become in measure like Him. Here we learn what God’s goal was in doing this for us: that we would be unified with Christ. To know God is the greatest need we have as believers, and to be unified as much as we can with Him should be our constant ambition. This is the reason we are positioned in Christ as we are: so that we might have His peace. Let us indeed allow that peace to settle all our questions.
Next, he urges us to be thankful. It is clear from how often it is mentioned in Scripture that a spirit of thankfulness is something that God greatly desires from His children. God has done so much for us that we do not deserve. How good it is, then, to be thankful for it. And for what do we owe God thanks more than for the union with Christ that He has made available to us, and that those of us in Christ have entered into? This is the richest blessing we have. For such a great privilege, we indeed owe it to Him to be thankful.