Essay On Colossians 3

Colossians 3:20 Children, beobedient (2PPAM) to your parents in allthings, for this is well-pleasingtothe Lord. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Tatekna,hupakouete(2PPAM)toisgoneusinkatapanta,toutogareuarestonestin (3SPAI) enkurio

Amplified: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

KJV: Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

NLT: You children must always obey your parents, for this is what pleases the Lord. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: Children, be obeying your parents in all things, for this is commendable in the Lord. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: the children! obey the parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord;

CHILDREN BE OBEDIENT TO YOUR PARENTS IN ALL THINGS: Ta tekna, hupakouete (2PPAM) tois goneusin kata panta:

  • Genesis 28:7; Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 21:18, 19, 20, 21; 27:16; Proverbs 6:20; 20:20; Proverbs 30:11,17; Ezekiel 22:7; Malachi 1:6; Matthew 15:4, 5, 6; 19:19; Ephesians 6:1, 2, 3) (Ep 5:24; Titus 2:9-note


Remember that this command is in the context of Col 3:16, letting the Word of Christ richly indwell. As we discussed in that comment, being filled with God's Word is closely associated with being filled with God's Spirit. It is only the Spirit enabled believer who can truly keep these commands (wives submitting to husbands, husbands loving wives and here children obeying parents.) Given the close association of the Word and the Spirit, it behooves all parents to saturate their children's minds and hearts with God's Word, for they are much more likely to be able to obey these commands, although this of course is maximized if they are believers and are filled with His Spirit.

Eadie - The wife is generally to be submissive (a different verb - hupotasso), but children are to be obedient (hupakoe - see below), to listen and execute parental commands, and to exemplify a special form of submission for which the filial relation affords so many opportunities. [Ephesians 6:1-3.] The love of the child's heart naturally leads it to obedience (Ed: Yes, to a point, but I would qualify Eadie's comment with the reminder that the most complete loving obedience will be seen in the child who is a believer and who is filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit.). Only an unnatural child (Ed: Not sure what Eadie means - does he mean unbelieving child? Even the best can still be quite rebellious -- I had 4 so speak from experience.) can be a domestic rebel. Where the parents are Christians, and govern their children in a Christian spirit, obedience should be without exception. (Colossians 3:20 Commentary)

Children(5043)(teknon from tikto = bring forth, bear children, be born) is strictly a child produced, male or female, son or daughter. Teknon is thus a child as viewed in relation to his or her parents or family. In the plural, teknon is used generically of descendants, posterity or children.

See related resource - In depth notes on parallel passages in Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:2; Ephesians 6:3

Be obedient (5219) (hupakouo from from hupó = under + akoúo = hear) (Click for study of related word hupakoe) means literally to hear where the idea of "under" is consciously, volitionally (act of one's will) subordinating one’s self to the person or thing heard and hence “to obey” or to hearken (give respectful attention). It includes the idea of listening attentively, stillness, or attention.

The idea of hupakouo is that the one hearing is under the authority of another and thus conveys the meanings of calling for compliance (disposition to yield to another) with the demands or requests of another. Submitting to that which is heard involves a change of attitude, forsaking the tendency of the fallen nature to rebel against parental or Divine instructions and commands and seeking God's will, not self will.

The present imperative is a command calling for this attitude and action to be the child's lifestyle. As noted God's commandments necessitate reliance upon a supernatural enablement (especially given the clause "in all things"!), specifically the Spirit.

All things means no exceptions (as long of course as what the parents are asking is concordant with God's will and walking in a manner worthy of the Lord and is not sin. (see related sermon notes on Spirit filled families Ephesians 6:1-3)Eadie writes " The principle involved in his admonition (obedience expected from the children in absolutely "all things") is, that children are not the judges of what they should or should not obey in parental precepts."

Note that the parent-child relationship cannot be fully functional unless first the husband-wife relationship is right (see Col 3:18-19)!

In the ancient world children were very much under the domination of their parents. The supreme example was the Roman Patria Potestas, "the law of the father's power" which granted the parent the right to do anything he liked with his child - the parent could sell the child into slavery, could make him work like a laborer on his farm and even had the right to condemn his child to death and to carry out the execution! In short he was a legalistic dictator! Some modern dads do a excellent imitation of "Roman Patria Potestas!" Such is the perspective of the unbelieving depraved mind when the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not delivered a pagan father! In pagan society, all the privileges and rights belonged to the parent and all the duties to the child.

FOR THIS IS WELL-PLEASING TO THE LORD: touto gar euareston estin (3SPAI) en kurio: (Col 1:10-note; Php 4:18-note; Hebrews 13:21)


For (gar) - Don't overlook the little preposition "for" (there are over 7000 "for's" in Scripture) and if the context indicates (as it does in this passage) that the "for" is a term of explanation(read short discussion), pause and ask yourself what is the Spirit seeking to explain? Notice how pausing to ponder will always force you to examine the context. You can (and should) practice this simple discipline every time you encounter a for, and while not every instance is a term of explanation, a "for" at the beginning of a verse is almost always used in that grammatical sense. I guarantee that if you begin to "pause and ponder," you will radically rejuvenate your "Read Through the Bible in a Year" program! You might even consider keeping journal notes on what the Spirit illuminates and how this truth can be applied to your daily life. As you practice interrogating the text (for, therefore, but, so that, etc) with 5W/H questions (such as "What's the for explaining?"), you are in essence practicing the fruitful disciplines of (1) Reading the Bible inductively (See a simple power point overview) and of (2) Meditating(see alsoPrimer on Biblical Meditation) on the Scripture. Meditation or "chewing the cud" (cf Mt 4:4, Job 23:12-note, Jer 15:16) so to speak is a vanishing discipline in our fast paced, hi tech, low touch society, but a spiritual discipline which God promises to greatly bless (See Ps 1:1-note, Ps 1:2-note, Ps 1:3-note, Joshua 1:8-note, cf Ps 4:4, 19:14, 27:4, 49:4, 63:6, Ps 77:6, 77:12, Ps 104:34, Ps 119:15, 119:23, 119:27, Ps 119:48, 119:78, Ps 119:97, 119:99, Ps 119:148, 143:5, Ps 145:5) From the preceding passages which "organ" of our being is most often involved/engaged in meditation? What are the subjects or the focus of meditation? Remember that reading the Bible without meditating (pausing to ponder) on it is like eating without chewing and that's not good for our digestion (and assimilation), be it physical or spiritual!

So here is a simple question that derives from observing this use of "for" - What is Paul explaining? He is explaining why it is advantageous for children to obey their parents. It pleases God! Throughout the Old and New Testaments, this is the highest goal of a believer, to obey (Read 1Sa 15:22-23, cp Ps 51:16-17-note). If we say we love God and don't obey Him, we are lying because Jesus said "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (Jn 14:15).

And so we see obedience pleases our Lord Jesus, the One Who appointed to exercise absolute ownership and supreme authority in every believer's life (both Christian parents and children). The way children obey their parent's authority reflects their obedience to Jesus and ultimately represents submission/acceptance of God's design for familial order (the opposite of order is chaos and because of rebellion we see that in so many families in our modern, "liberated, evolved" society)

Well pleasing(2101) (euarestos from eu = well + arésko = please) (Click for in depth study of euarestos) means that which causes someone to be pleased. It is something which is well approved, eminently satisfactory, or extra-ordinarily pleasing. It is possible to obey externally, but not “from the heart” (Ep 6:6-note). It is possible obey grudgingly.

In Romans we can see a sense of what euarestos means where Paul writes that the will of God is

"good and acceptable (euarestos) and perfect." (Ro 12:2-note)

God's will is well-pleasing because you cannot add anything to the will of God and in any way improve it. You could not take anything away from it and make it better. God's will is totally acceptable. And this is the attitude and actions Paul is calling for in children as well as in every saint in Romans 12 where he exhorts us

"by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable (euarestos) to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Ro 12:1-note)

In using euarestos Paul borrows from Old Testament sacrificial language to describe the kind of holy living that God approves, a “living sacrifice” that is morally and spiritually spotless and without blemish, and which He finds well-pleasing.

Lord (master, owner)(2962)(kurios from kuros = might or power) means the supreme one, one who is sovereign and possesses absolute authority, absolute ownership and uncontested power. Thayer adds that kurios is "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, lord." Lord is not merely a name that composes a title, but signifies a call to action so that every saint should willingly, reverently bow down to Jesus Christ. If Christ is our Lord, we are to live under Him, consciously, continually submitting our wills to him as His loyal, loving bondservants ("love slaves"), always seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Mt 6:33-note). According to this practical working "definition" beloved we all need to ask ourselves "Is Jesus Christ my Lord?".

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, donotexasperate (2PPAM) your children, so that they will notloseheart (3PPAS) (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: Hoipateres,meerethizete ( 2PPAM )tateknahumon,hinameathumosin. (3PPAS)

GWT: Fathers, don't make your children resentful, or they will become discouraged.

ICB: Fathers, do not nag your children. If you are too hard to please, they may want to stop trying.

KJV: Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

NLT: Fathers, don't aggravate your children. If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Amplified: Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.] (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

NLT: Fathers, don't aggravate your children. If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: Fathers, stop irritating your children, lest they become disheartened. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: the fathers! vex not your children, lest they be discouraged.

FATHERS DO NOT EXASPERATE YOUR CHILDREN: hoi pateres, me erethizete (2PPAM) ta tekna humon:

  • Psalms 103:13; Proverbs 3:12; 4:1, 2, 3, 4; Ephesians 6:4; 1Th 2:11; Hebrews 12:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
  • stop irritating your kids to the point that it produces resentment
  • do not cause your children to become resentful
  • do not provoke your children
  • Young's Literal - "The fathers! Vex not your children, lest they be discouraged."


Spurgeon - The duties are mutual. Scripture maintains an equilibrium. It does not lay down commands for one class, and then leave the other to exercise whatever tyrannical oppression it may please. The child is to obey, but the father must not provoke.

Fathers First in the Greek for emphatic effect! This should get every father's attention! Eadie says "Fathers are spoken to since training is their duty, and because this peculiar sin which the apostle condemns is one to which they, and not mothers, are peculiarly liable. The paternal government must be one of kindness, without caprice; and of equity, without favoritism." (Colossians 3:21 Commentary)

Related resource - See in depth notes on the parallel passage in Ep 6:4-note

Exasperate (2042) (erethizo from erétho = stir to anger) means "to cause someone to react in a way that suggests acceptance of a challenge, arouse, provoke mostly in bad sense and so to irritate, or embitter." (BDAG) "To arouse, excite, kindle; in a bad sense make resentful, irritate, rouse to anger (Col 3:21); in a good sense incite, stimulate (2Cor 9:2)." (Friberg). Note that Col 3:21 and 2Cor 9:2 are the only 2 NT uses of erethizo.

As noted in the only other NT use of erethizo, erethizo is used in a positive sense meaning to encourage or motivate (provoke positively stimulating a change in motivation or attitude. ).

For I know your readiness (eagerness), of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up (erethizo) most of them. (2Cor 9:2)

There are 5 uses of erethizo in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Dt 21:20 (describes "rebellious"); Pr 19:7 ("pursues them with words" - Lxx = "provoking words"); Pr 25:23; Dan 11:10, 25. To be quarrelsome or perverse

In context Paul commands fathers to stop provoking (present imperative with a negative = stop an action that may already be in process) your children to the point that they become bitter and resentful.

Our English word exasperate (from Latin exasperare = 'to make rough,' 'to irritate to anger’) means to make resentful, to cause annoyance, to irritate to a high degree, to provoke to anger, to rouse to rage, to inflame to an extreme degree, to irritate intensely, to infuriate. To cause (an unpleasant feeling or condition) to worsen or be aggravated. Exasperate suggests galling annoyance and the arousing of extreme impatience. Exasperate is used as an adjective in botany to describe something having a rough prickly surface because of the presence of hard projecting points. Interesting! Sounds like a few teenagers I've met in my lifetime!

In secular writings we find the sentence "a spark kindled (erethizo) by the bellows" which which gives us an accurate picture of the potential effect of a father inappropriately disciplining his children! In other words, this secular use helps understand the potential effect insensitive (flesh enabled, rather than Spirit empowered) punishment can have on a child, inciting them to at least resentment but even to bitterness and/or anger! Beware dads! This warning is one we must assiduously heed as we discipline our children in a Spirit enabled, God honoring manner.

Other secular Greek uses include "to provoke to curiosity", in the passive "to be provoked or excited".

Remember that the context is important to keep in mind lest we not discipline in our own strength. Going back to Colossians 3:16-note (or go back to the beginning of the chapter for who we now are in Christ = Col 3:1, 2-note) which in turn is based on the truths in the first two chapters) the ideal father should "let the word of Christ richly dwell within...with all wisdom teaching and admonishing..." and so filled with the Word and the Spirit, training up his child in a godly way.

One can exasperate by...

(1) Overprotection--never allowing them any liberty, strict rules about everything. They do not trust their kids and the child despairs and can lead to rebellion. Parents must communicate that they trust.

(2) By showing favoritism, often unwittingly.

(3) By depreciating their worth. Many children are convinced that what they do and feel is not important. One way to decrease worth is by not LISTENING. These children may give up trying to communicate and become discouraged, shy, and withdrawn.

(4) By setting unrealistic goals--by never rewarding them. Nothing is enough so they never get full approval. Are you trying to make them into a person they are NOT? Some kids become so frustrated that they commit suicide.

(5) By failing to show affection (verbally & physically).

(6) By not providing for their legitimate needs.

(7) By lack of standards (the opposite of overprotection). These children are left to their own. They cannot handle that freedom and begin to feel insecure & unloved.

(8) By destructive criticism. "A child learns what he lives. If he lives with criticism he does not learn responsibility. He learns to condemn himself and to find fault with others. He learns to doubt his own judgment, to disparage his own ability, and to distrust the intentions of others. And above all, he learns to live with continual expectation of impending doom." Parents should seek to create in the home a positive, constructive environment.

(9) By neglect. David was indifferent to Absalom (and he failed to discipline Adonijah see 1Ki 1:6 who was put to death by his younger brother Solomon for probable treason).

(10) By excessive discipline. Never discipline in anger. (Abridged from MacArthur, J. Colossians. Chicago: Moody Press)

THAT THEY MAY NOT LOSE HEART: hina me athumosin (3PPAS):

That (2443) (hina) is a common conjunction (663 hits in 620 verses) means so that, in order that, for the purpose of, to the end that, these senses being associated with a verb in the subjunctive (mood of possibility). Hina is also used with indicative mood verbs marking the end or purpose. Like "for" discussed above, it behooves the diligent student of the Word, to pause and ponder when "that" (so that) is encountered. Learn to ask simple questions, like "What is the purpose?" which will force you to examine the preceding context to determine what had to occur in order to bring about the purpose. In this verse the preceding text commands fathers not to exasperate their children and Paul now gives the purpose we should assiduously avoid this approach--the children might lose heart. Now, this may seem "simplistic" to you and you say "I knew that without pausing and pondering." That may be the case, but what you have been forced to do is slow down and more actively engage the living and active Word, rather that rapidly and rather passively reading it. As you slow down, you are giving your Teacher, the Spirit, greater opportunity to speak to your mind and your heart. For example, as you paused, He may have brought some forgotten instance from the past week in which you thought you were simply disciplining your children correctly, when in fact you may have crossed the line into exasperating them? Does this make sense? I can assure you, it is not a waste of time but to the contrary, an investment in time which can yield wonderful dividends as this practice becomes more natural and habitual.

Friberg says hina is "used to introduce clauses that show a purpose or goal that, in order that, so that; (a) predominately with the present or aorist subjunctive." (As in our present passage).

Zodhiates adds that hina is "Also used to indicate the cause for, or on account of which anything is done. Can be translated, “to the end that,” “in order that it might [or may] be.” It may also be used simply to indicate a happening, event or result of anything, or that in which the action terminates. Hína can be translated “so that it was [is, or will be].”"

Lose heart (120) (athumeo from a = without + thumos = passions, desire, spirit) means to become disheartened to the point of losing motivation, to be dispirited or to be broken in spirit. To feel like giving up. To become discouraged or despondent (this latter word means to feel or show extreme discouragement or dejection, because of loss of nearly all hope! "Despondent implies a deep dejection arising from a conviction of the uselessness of further effort" - Webster) To dishearten means to weaken or destroy one's hope, courage, enthusiasm, determination, confidence, etc. Dishearten means to demoralize, to depress one's spirits, to cause one to lose spirit or morale, to cause one to be cast down.

In this context, athumeo means that the child feels that he can never do anything right and so gives up trying. When children find that they can do nothing right because of constant faultfinding with them, they are apt to become despondent.

This is the only NT use of athumeo. Here are the 7 uses of athumeo in the Septuagint (LXX) (Deut. 28:65; 1Sam. 1:6f; 15:11; 2Sa 6:8; 1Chr. 13:11; Isa. 25:4 )

The duty of the parent is discipline, but it is also encouragement. Paul's point is that children who grow up with parents who continually (present tense) provoke them will often become disheartened.

Paul wrote to his "spiritual children" reminding them "how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children." (1Th 2:11-note).

Proverbs 19:18 encourages parents to ""Discipline your son while there is hope & do not desire his death."

Proverbs 18:14 is a direct parallel to Paul's command in Colossians, instructing the wise father that "the spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear?"

Eadie - The composition of the verb shows its strong signification. Children teazed and irritated lose heart, renounce every endeavor to please, or render at best but a soulless obedience. The verb occurs only here in the New Testament, but is found in the Septuagint, 1 Kings 1:16, etc., and in several of the classical authors. What the apostle guards against has been often witnessed, with its deplorable consequences. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, he speaks more fully, and enjoins the positive mode of tuition—“but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The young spirit is to be carefully and tenderly developed, and not crushed by harsh and ungenerous treatment. Too much is neither to be demanded nor expected. The twig is to be bent with caution, not broken in the efforts of a rude and hasty zeal. Approbation is as necessary to the child as counsel, and promise as indispensable as warning and reproof. Gisborne on this place well says—“To train up children as servants of God, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, for a future existence in preference to the present life; to instruct and habituate them, in conformity with their baptismal vow, to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to live not unto themselves but to that Redeemer who died for them; this is universally the grand duty of a parent. This well-known duty the apostle, though he does not name it, presupposes as acknowledged and felt by the Colossians. In the discharge of this duty, and in every step of their proceedings, he directs them to beware, as parents, of provoking their children to anger; that is to say, as the original term evidently implies, of exercising their own authority with irritating unkindness, with needless and vexatious severity; of harassing their children by capricious commands and restrictions; of showing groundless dissatisfaction, and scattering unmerited reproof. To act thus, the apostle declares, would be so far from advancing the religious improvement of children, that it would discourage them. It would not only deaden their affections towards their parents, but would dispirit their exertions, and check their desires after holiness.” (Colossians 3:21 Commentary)

William Barclay writes this cautionary note...

The more conscientious a parent is, the more he is likely always to be correcting and rebuking the child. Simply because he wishes the child to do well, he is always on his top.

We remember, for instance, the tragic question of Mary Lamb, whose mind was ultimately unhinged:

“Why is it that I never seem to be able to do anything to please my mother?”

We remember the poignant statement of John Newton:

“I know that my father loved me—but he did not seem to wish me to see it.”

There is a certain kind of constant criticism which is the product of misguided love.

The danger of all this is that the child may become discouraged. Bengel speaks of

“the plague of youth, a broken spirit (Fractus animus pestis iuventutis).”

It is one of the tragic facts of religious history that Luther’s father was so stern to him that Luther all his days found it difficult to pray: “Our Father.” The word father in his mind stood for nothing but severity. The duty of the parent is discipline, but it is also encouragement. Luther himself said,

“Spare the rod and spoil the child. It is true. But beside the rod keep an apple to give him when he does well.”

Sir Arnold Lunn, in Memory to Memory, quotes an incident about Field-Marshal Montgomery from a book by M. E. Clifton James. Montgomery was famous as a disciplinarian—but there was another side to him. Clifton James was his official “double” and was studying him during a rehearsal for D-Day.

“Within a few yards of where I was standing, a very young soldier, still looking sea-sick from his voyage, came struggling along gamely trying to keep up with his comrades in front. I could imagine that, feeling as he did, his rifle and equipment must have been like a ton weight. His heavy boots dragged in the sand, but I could see that he was fighting hard to conceal his distress. Just when he got level with us he tripped up and fell flat on his face. Half sobbing, he heaved himself up and began to march off dazedly in the wrong direction. Monty went straight up to him and with a quick, friendly smile turned him round. ‘This way, sonny. You’re doing well—very well. But don’t lose touch with the chap in front of you.’ When the youngster realized who it was that had given him friendly help, his expression of dumb adoration was a study.”

It was just because Montgomery combined discipline and encouragement that a private in the Eighth Army felt himself as good as a colonel in any other army. The better a parent is the more he must avoid the danger of discouraging his child, for he must give discipline and encouragement in equal parts. (Barclay, W: The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, in allthingsobey (2PPAM) those who are your masters on earth,notwith externalservice, as those who merely pleasemen,butwithsincerity of heart, fearing (PPPMPN) theLord.

Greek: hoidouloi,hupakouete( 2PPAM )katapantatoiskatasarka (those according to flesh) kuriois,meen ophthalmodoulia (eye slavery) os anthropareskoi, (men pleasers) all'enhaplotetikardiasphoboumenoi (PPPMPN) tonkurion.

Amplified: Servants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not only when their eyes are on you as pleasers of men, but in simplicity of purpose [with all your heart] because of your reverence for the Lord and as a sincere expression of your devotion to Him. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

KJV: Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

NLT: You slaves must obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Obey them willingly because of your reverent fear of the Lord. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: Slaves, be constantly obedient in all things to your human masters, not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but with an undivided heart, fearing the Lord. (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: The servants! obey in all things those who are masters according to the flesh, not in eye-service as men-pleasers, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God;

SLAVES IN ALL THINGS OBEY THOSE WHO ARE YOUR MASTERS ON EARTH: hoi douloi, hupakouete (2PPAM) kata panta tois kata sarka kuriois:

  • Col 3:20; Psalms 123:2; Malachi 1:6; Matthew 8:9; Luke 6:46; 7:8; Ep 6:5, 6,7-note; 1Timothy 6:1,2; Titus 2:9,10-note; Philemon 1:16; 1Pe 2:18, 19-note

Ephesians has a parallel discussion on slaves and masters...

  • Ephesians 6:5-note Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear ( phobos ) and trembling ( tromos) , in the sincerity (haplotes) of your heart, as to Christ
  • Eph 6:6-note not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
  • Eph 6:7-note With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
  • Eph 6:8-note knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

Eadie - The master of the slave is only so (according to the flesh), the relationship is but corporeal and external, the contrast being-the real master is the Lord Christ....The principle of the obedience is all things (kata panta), as in Colossians 3:20. Refractoriness on the part of the slave would at once have embittered his life, and brought discredit on the new religion which he professed, but active and cheerful discharge of all duty would both benefit himself, promote his comfort, and recommend Christianity. (Ref)

Slaves (1401) (doulos) is the Greek word which describes one who is bound to another in servitude. In the Greek culture doulos usually referred to the involuntary, permanent service of a slave. By Roman times, slavery was so extensive that in the early Christian period one out of every two people was a slave! From at least 3000BC captives in war were the primary source of slaves. These were Christian slaves working for the most part for pagan masters.

Slaves - Although we do not have slaves per se in our modern culture (some of you would argue this point I'm sure!), the master-slave relationship clearly parallels the employer-employee relationship in our day. As in the relationships between husbands and wives and children and fathers, the principle Paul is emphasizing is that of authority and submission as a manifestation of one who is filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Barclay has a note (although it is difficult to substantiate) that in the Romans Empire there were upwards to sixty million slaves, largely because the Roman citizen considered it beneath his dignity to work. Vincent adds that "in many of the cities of Asia Minor slaves outnumbered freemen". Thus practically all work was done by slaves. This was so pervasive that even doctors, teachers and secretaries of the Roman emperors were slaves! Although some masters were kind to their slaves, that appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

John Eadie - Christianity did not rudely assault the forms of social life, or seek to force even a justifiable revolution by external appliances. Such an enterprise would have quenched the infant religion in blood. The gospel achieved a nobler feat. It did not stand by in disdain, and refuse to speak to the slave till he gained his freedom, and the shackles fell from his arms, and he stood erect in his native independence. No; but it went down into his degradation, took him by the hand, uttered words of kindness in his ear, and gave him a liberty which fetters could not abridge and tyranny could not suppress. Aristotle had already described him as being simply a tool with a soul in it; and the Roman law had sternly told him he ha d no rights because he was not a person. He may have been placed on the “the auction block,” and sold like a chattel to the highest bidder; the brand—stigma, of his owner might be burned into his forehead, and he might bear the indelible scars of judicial torture—that basanos without which a slave's evidence was never received; but the gospel introduced him into the sympathies of a new brotherhood, elevated him to the consciousness of an immortal nature, and to the hope of eternal liberty and glory. Formerly he was taught to look for final liberation only in that world which never gave back a fugitive, and he might anticipate a melancholy release only in the grave, for “there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest; there the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor; the small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master.” Now, not only was he to look beyond the sepulchre to a region of pure and noble enjoyments; but as he could even in his present servitude realize the dignity of a spiritual freeman in Christ, the friction of his chain was unfelt, and he possessed within him springs of exalted cheerfulness and contentment. Yes, as George Herbert sings—“Man is God's image, but a poor man is Christ's stamp to boot.” At the same time, Christianity lays down great principles by the operation of which slavery would be effectually abolished, and in fact, even in the Roman empire, it was suppressed in the course of three centuries. (A commentary on the Greek text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians)

Be obedient (5219) (hupakouo from from hupó = under + akoúo = hear) (Click for study of related word hupakoe) means literally to hear where the idea of "under" is consciously, volitionally (act of one's will) subordinating one’s self to the person or thing heard and hence “to obey” or to hearken (give respectful attention). It includes the idea of listening attentively, stillness, or attention.

Note that Paul uses the same verb for children and slaves.

The idea of hupakouo is that the one hearing is under the authority of another and thus conveys the meanings of calling for compliance (disposition to yield to another) with the demands or requests of another. Submitting to that which is heard involves a change of attitude, forsaking the tendency of the fallen nature to rebel against parental or Divine instructions and commands and seeking God's will, not self will.

The present imperative is a command calling for this attitude and action to be the slave's lifestyle. It is important to keep in mind that God's commandments always include His enablements and so these commandments to slaves can only be fulfilled supernaturally by Spirit-filled slaves, who have cast off the filthy garment of the Old Man they were in Adam and put on the new garment of righteousness in Christ. Although at the moment of salvation every believer put aside the Old Man and put on the New Man positionally (justification, past tense salvation Col 3:10), for the rest of his and her earthly life there will be a daily (even moment by moment) need to cast aside the filthy garment of the old man and put on the garment of the new man (present tense salvation, progressive sanctification - Col 3:10 says "being renewed" = present tense = continually). If any man or woman thinks he stands, let them take heed lest they fall (1Cor 10:12).

Undesirable as slavery was, the NT does not promote or sanction revolt of slaves (1Co 7:20-24). Had it done so, many would doubtless have flocked to the antislavery cause and not to Christ.

Under Roman law the slave was a thing in the eyes of the law. There was no such thing as a code of working conditions. When the slave was past his work, he could be thrown out to die. He had not even the right to marry, and if he cohabited and there was a child, the child belonged to the master, just as the lambs of the flock belonged to the shepherd. All the rights belonged to the master and all the duties to the slave. And he could not inherit anything making Paul's statement in (v24) all the more powerful.

The apostle, somewhat surprisingly at first glance, uses more space for servants and masters than for the other relationships. The presence of Onesimus must have accounted for this. The relations of the slave to his master are identical with that of the child to the parents according to the apostle’s terminology (cf. Gal 4:1). The present tense of the verb hupakouo„ (AV, “obey”) in both cases stress the constant obedience expected. The use of the words kata sarka (AV, “according to the flesh”) with masters shows that in other realms the master and slave were on equality. In spiritual things the master and slave were brothers in the family of God.

NOT WITH EXTERNAL SERVICE AS THOSE WHO PLEASE MEN BUT WITH SINCERITY OF HEART FEARING THE LORD: me en ophthalmodoulia os anthropareskoi all en haploteti kardias phoboumenoi (PPPMPN) ton kurion:

  • Galatians 1:10-note; 1Thes 2:4-note
  • Mt 6:22-note; Acts 2:46; Ep 6:5-note
  • Ge 42:18; Neh 5:9,15; Eccl 5:7; 8:12; 12:13; 2Co 7:1-note

Don't obey them only while you're being watched, as if you merely wanted to please people (GWT)


Spurgeon comments on men pleasers - "How much there is of that! How quickly the hands go when the master’s eye looks on! But the Christian servant remembers God’s eye, and is diligent always. “Not with eyeservice as men pleasers.”

Eadie - Slaves have usually but the one motive, and that is, to avoid punishment, and therefore they only labour to please the master when his eye is on them. They are disposed to trifle when he is absent, in the hope that their indolence may not be detected. But Christian slaves were to work on principle, were to do their duty at all times, and from a higher motive, conscious that another eye was upon them, and that their service was really rendered to another Master. (Ref)

This admonishment refers to working only when the master is watching, rather than recognizing the Lord is always watching, and how our work concerns Him (Col 3:23, 24).

External service (3787)(ophthalmodouleia from ophthalmos = eye + douleia = service) is literally "eye slavery" (!) which practically means working when the master is watching and loafing when he is gone. It is service rendered only for appearance sake, service rendered only when one is being scrutinized! Slaves were under more temptation in this respect than paid laborers, since they had nothing to gain materially from diligence. This is service that is performed only to make an impression in the owner’s presence. It describes work done without dedication or a sense of inner obligation but primarily to impress and to attract attention. Our English idiom "brown nosers" is appropriate epithet for those who perform their tasks in this manner only to curry favor or for appearances sake. Spirit filled believers steer clear of this subtle selfish attitude.

Paul is saying that Spirit filled slaves serve Christ on the job with a Coram Deo ("before the face of God" ~ fearing the Lord) attitude, fully aware that He is always watching us (cf Pr 15:3, 2Chr 16:9, Pr 5:21, Job 34:21, 22)! Work must not be done well and not with one eye on the clock or only when the overseer’s eye is on us but must be done in the awareness that God’s eye is on us. Paul is saying believing slaves must avoid eyeservice and pursue a deeper motive for "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1Samuel 16:7)

Expositor's Greek Testament - It is the service that is done only when one is under the master’s eye—an obedience to save appearances and gain undeserved favor, which is not rendered when the master is absent as it is when his scrutiny is on us.” (Ephesians 6 Commentary)

Barclay - Every single piece of work the Christian produces must be good enough to show to God.

Men-pleasers (441)(anthropareskos from anthropos = man + arésko = to please) pertains to causing people to be pleased with the implication of being in contrast to God or at the sacrifice of some principle. This describes one who tries to make an impression on others. He acts merely to please men. He sacrifices principle to please someone of superior authority. In short, he's a people-pleaser. We are not to "butter up" the boss.

Confidential surveys reveal that one out four workers compromise their beliefs to get ahead on the job. A higher percentage justify unethical actions on the job for personal advantage. This is decades of moral relativism instruction coming home to roost.

The eye is to be upon the Lord in singleness of heart. A Christian servant owed complete obedience to his master as a ministry to the Lord. If a Christian servant had a believing master, that servant was not to take advantage of his master because they were brothers in the Lord. If anything, the servant strived to do a better job because he was a Christian. He showed singleness of heart and gave his full devotion to his master. His work was done heartily, not grudgingly, and as to the Lord and not to men.

Single and sincere hearts are necessary for Christian servants to please God and serve their masters acceptably. These instructions emphasized the positive side of obedience. Servants were to obey to please God, not just to avoid punishment. Even if the master did not commend them, they would have their reward from the Lord. In the same manner, if they disobeyed, the Lord would deal with them even if their master did not. God is no respecter of persons (Ac 10:34; Ro 2:11; Ep 6:9; Jas 2:1, 9). In our society we do not have slaves but these principles apply to any kind of honest employment. A Christian worker ought to be the best worker on the job. He ought to obey orders and not argue. He ought to serve Christ and not the boss only, and he ought to work whether anybody is watching or not. If he follows these principles, he will receive his reward from Christ even if his earthly master (his boss) does not recognize him or reward him. Pursue excellence in the way you work.

Sincerity(572)(haplotes from a = negation + pleko = twine, braid, weave, knit) means singleness, simplicity, uprightness, mental honesty; the virtue of one who is free from pretence and dissimulation. Haplotes pertains to being motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and aboveboard, without guile, and without a hidden agenda. The idea of haplotes is that of personal integrity expressed in word or action.

In the present verse haplotes means to obey with a heart fixed on pleasing Christ and not on worldly gain. What does haplotes heart look like in context? Paul tells us that their heart is sincere because they are not obeying as an outward show that would conceal an inner improper motivation. In other words, when the Spirit filled (and Word filled - Col 3:16-note) slave obeys, it is not feigned obedience but genuine obedience, obedience that comes from a transformed, grace energized new heart (Ezekiel 36:27-note). In other words haplotes means "what you see is what you get" (it is not hypocritical). Without pretense or ulterior motive. Not half-hearted.

Eadie - Singleness of heart (1Chronicles 29:17) is that sincerity which the heathen slave could scarcely possess, for he would often seem to work, and yet contrive to enjoy his ease under the semblance of activity. Duplicity (contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action; especially : the belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action) is the vice which the slave uses as his shield. He professes anxiety when he feels none, and he exhibits a show of industry without the reality. For this singleness of heart could only be secured by such a motive as the Gospel presents—“fearing the Lord”-standing in awe of His authority over them (Ed Comment: And also the fact that the "Gospel is the power of God for salvation," not only the first moment we believed and were justified or declared righteous before God, but daily, moment by moment as we seek to walk by faith, not by sight, in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit). They would not be men-pleasers if they bowed to Christ's authority, for then their aim would be to please Him (cf 2Cor 5:9); nor would there be eye-service, if they wrought in singleness of heart, for such a feeling would lead them to conclude the task in hand, irrespectively of every minor and personal consideration ("as for the Lord rather than for men" Col 3:23). (Ref)

Expositor's Greek Testament on sincerity of heart - states the spirit in which the obedience was to be rendered,—not in formality, pretence, or hypocrisy, but in inward reality and sincerity, and with an undivided heart” (Ephesians 6 Commentary)

J Vernon McGee on sincerity of heart - (This phrase) means there should not be any taint of duplicity. There should be no two-facedness. There should not be the licking of the boots of the employer when he is around and then stabbing him in the back when he is away. Such action should never be in the life of a Christian. (Ephesians 6:5-9 Mp3 - Thru the Bible)

Heart(2588)(kardia) does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. No outward obedience is of the slightest value unless the heart turns to God.

Hughes (comment on Romans) - The heart is the wellspring of man’s spiritual life, and that is where the Roman Christians’ obedience was rooted. It was not just a formal obedience—it came from the center of their being. This is the example of slavery Paul holds up for us all: a heartfelt obedience to Christ and his Word. It is an obedience which brings liberation. (Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word)

Spurgeon has wise words for all slaves of Christ - A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour. Neither are we sure of enough life to justify us in procrastinating for a moment. If we were wise in heart we should see this, but mere head wisdom will not guide us aright."

Fear the Lord - Fear is in the present tense which signifies this is to be their lifestyle! Fear of the Lord is not a quaking, shaking fear (unless we are overtly, willfully rebellious) but a reverential awe, a sense of fear of displeasing Him mixed with a sense of the reality that we will one day stand before and give an account (Ro 14:12-Romans 14:12, 2Cor 5:10-2Cor 5:10 , cf 1Pe 1:17-1 Peter 1:17, 2Cor 7:1-2Cor 7:1). Holy fear is fear which motivates a holy walk!

Lord (master, owner)(2962)(kurios from kuros = might or power) means the supreme one, one who is sovereign and possesses absolute authority, absolute ownership and uncontested power. Thayer adds that kurios is "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, lord." Lord is not merely a name that composes a title, but signifies a call to action so that every saint should willingly, reverently bow down to Jesus Christ. If Christ is our Lord, we are to live under Him, consciously, continually submitting our wills to him as His loyal, loving bondservants ("love slaves"), always seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Mt 6:33-note). According to this practical working "definition" beloved we all need to ask ourselves "Is Jesus Christ my Lord?".

Warren Wiersbe - "I have a friend who, years ago, was fired from his job for working too hard. He was earning money to go to college, and he wanted to give the employer a good day’s work each day. The trouble was, his zeal was showing up the laziness of some of the other employees—and they started fighting back. One of them falsely accused my friend of something, and he was fired. He lost his job but he kept his character, and the Lord rewarded him." (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

We should be industrious! Confidential surveys reveal that the average American worker goofs off 7 hrs per week--a de facto 4-day week. The same survey reveals that one-half of all American workers admit to chronic malingering (calling in sick when they're not), and that only one out of four give their best effort at work. Since we work for the Lord (IF we are followers of Christ), we should attack our work with zeal instead of dawdling over it and figuring out how little we can do and still get by--which is theft. We should cultivate being prompt and hard-working, whether the boss is watching or not. we should pursue quality in our work. Since we work ultimately for the Lord, our work should be the best we can offer rather than a crippled goat (Malachi 1:8,13). Dear believer, do you have a reputation for being conscientious and thorough in your work? Finally, it means that our ethical conduct should be high. Confidential surveys reveal that one out four workers compromise their beliefs to get ahead on the job. A higher percentage justify unethical actions on the job for personal advantage. This is decades of moral relativism instruction coming home to roost. Do we think we can teach children that ethics are relative to the individual and situation, and not experience this on the job?

Related Resource: Integrity - A Few Thoughts

Lying, theft, back-stabbing, sexual innuendo, etc. may be commonplace in the secular workplace, but they are incompatible with serving and representing Christ. What an opportunity to let our light shine (Mt 5:16-note). Sometimes this results in mistreatment from other workers, because it exposes their poor behavior. Sometimes this involves the vulnerability to apologize when you compromise your ethical standards. Do you have a reputation for having both integrity and humility? If you have these qualities, you can virtually write your own ticket in today's job-market. But more importantly, you can allow God to work through your job to build this kind of character that attracts others to him (cp the little servant girl and Naaman in 2Ki 5:1, 2, 3, 4,5ff, Da 1:8, 9, 10ff, Neh 2:1, 2,3, 4ff, Joseph, etc)

"When you get bogged down on a frustrating assignment, do you give up or do you see it as a chance to grow in perseverance? When tempted by an unethical practice, do you yield to it or do you see it as a chance to grow in honesty? When you hear a friend being slandered, do you give silent assent, or do you stand up for your friend and practice loyalty? When you become irritated by a coworker's idiosyncrasies, do you criticize and belittle him, or do you commit yourself to learning greater tolerance? When you're asked to stretch in an area of weakness, do you let fear stop you, or do you decide to muster courage and proceed?"

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On Being a Good Employee -

1. Be loyal. Bosses will forgive carelessness, stupidity, tardiness and the occasional temper tantrum. These can be corrected, but disloyalty is a true character flaw. You cannot—and will not—be trusted.

2. Keep the boss informed. The boss should be informed about what you are doing, where you are, whom you are talking to and why. If you must err, err on the side of overkill. Bombard the boss with bulletins, memos, and FYI’s until he or she says, “Stop.” No one had ever lost a job because they told the boss too much.

3. Embrace change, even if you do not understand it. Any boss must, as part of his or her job, instigate change. It is not your job to resist.

4. Respect the boss’s time. If you need thirty minutes with him, don’t take sixty. Better yet, take twenty.

5. Don’t tread on his turf. At least, don’t do it without permission.

6. Follow up quickly. Bosses don’t pull out a stopwatch when they give a command. But their internal clock is ticking. (Bits & Pieces, May 27, 1993, pp. 2-3 quoted in 10000 Sermon Illustrations. Dallas: Biblical Studies Press)

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No Vacancy- Fred, a clerk in a retail store, was rude to the customers and lazy. On several occasions his boss was about to fire him. But he didn't follow through because of his concern for Fred's wife and children, who would suffer from his dismissal.

One day a regular customer stopped in and noticed that Fred wasn't there. He asked the manager about him and was told that he had taken another job. The customer asked, "Are you planning to replace him?" The manager replied, "No, it isn't necessary. Fred didn't leave a vacancy."

Fred's work was of such poor quality that the business was better off without him. That should never be true of any employee, especially a Christian.

The apostle Paul told servants to be obedient to their masters "with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Ephesians 6:7).

God expected Christian servants in Paul's day to work diligently for their masters, and we too should give our employers an honest day's work. It's the right thing to do, and it strengthens our witness for Christ.

One good way to test the value of your work is to ask yourself this question: If I left my job, would it create a vacancy? —Richard De Haan

Some people stop looking for work
when they get a job.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever* you do (2PPAS) , doyourwork (2PPMM) heartily, as for the Lordratherthan* for men,

Greek: oeanpoiete, (2PPAS) ekpsuches (out of soul) ergazesthe, ( 2PPMM )ostokuriokaioukanthropois

Amplified: Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

KJV: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

NLT: Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Wuest: Whatever you are doing, from your soul do it diligently as to the Lord and not to men, (Eerdmans)

Young's Literal: and all, whatever ye may do--out of soul work--as to the Lord, and not to men,

WHATEVER YOU DO, DO YOUR WORK HEARTILY: ho ean poiete (2PPAS) ek psuches ergazesthe (2PPMM) os to kurio:

  • Col 3:17; 2Chr 31:21; Psalms 47:6,7; 103:1; 119:10,34,145; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Jeremiah 3:10; 1Pe 1:22-note


Eadie - They were, in any task that might be assigned them, to labour at it, to work it out, and that without grumbling or reluctance, not only doing it honestly but cheerfully

Lightfoot - “do it diligently.” By its use Paul gains a little more stress on the idea of whole-hearted service.

Do your work (2038) (ergazomai from érgon = work) means to work out, engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort. It was used to describe one toiling energetically and diligently in the vineyard. The present imperative is a command calling for this as one's lifestyle or habitual practice, a commandment that can only be fully carried out by one full of the Spirit.

Ergazomai - 41x in 39v - Matt 7:23; 21:28; 25:16; 26:10; Mark 14:6; Luke 13:14; John 3:21; 5:17; 6:27f, 30; 9:4; Acts 10:35; 13:41; 18:3; Rom 2:10; 4:4f; 13:10; 1 Cor 4:12; 9:6, 13; 16:10; 2 Cor 7:10; Gal 6:10; Eph 4:28; Col 3:23; 1 Thess 2:9; 4:11; 2 Thess 3:8, 10ff; Heb 11:33; Jas 1:20; 2:9; 2 John 1:8; 3 John 1:5; Rev 18:17. NAS = accomplish, 1; accomplished, 1; accomplishing, 1; achieve, 1; committing, 1; do, 1; do ... work, 1; does, 3; doing, 1; doing ... work, 1; done, 2; make ... living, 1; perform, 4; performed, 1; performing, 1; practice, 1; produces, 1; traded, 1; work, 9; work be done, 1; work do ... perform, 1; working, 7; works, 1; wrought, 1;

All Christian endeavor ought to be characterized by an enthusiasm, confidence, and diligence not found in the attitude of the unsaved. Too often it seems as if it is the other way around.

H. A. Ironside, the late beloved pastor of the historic Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, used to tell his students of the maid who was asked how she knew she had really become a Christian. She replied, “I know I’m a Christian because I sweep under the rugs now!”

The new aspect (Col 3:9, 10) about the Christian ethic and personal relationships is that all relationships are in the Lord. The whole of the Christian life is lived in Christ. In any home the tone of personal relationships must be dictated by the awareness that Jesus Christ is an unseen but ever-present guest. In any parent-child relationship the dominating thought must be the Fatherhood of God; and we must try to treat our children as God treats his sons and daughters. The thing which settles any master and servant relationship is that both are servants of the one Master, Jesus Christ.

Not with mere eye service. Whatever we do should be done with all your might (Eccl 9:10), "in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col 3:17), "to the glory of God" (1Co 10:31).

The servant’s work shall also be done heartily, as if done for the Lord Himself. The added exhortation in this twenty-third verse seems designed to prevent any possibility of a mechanical perfunctory obedience.

AS FOR THE LORD RATHER THAN FOR MEN: os to kurio kai ouk anthropois:

Eadie - The heathen slave might do everything with a grudge, for he had no interest in his labour, but the believing slave was to act with cordiality, plying his toil with alacrity, for he was serving in all this industry no human master, but the Lord, who had bought him with His precious blood. Let this be the feeling, and there would be no temptation to fall into eye-service, men-pleasing, and duplicity of heart or conduct. The apostle says without reservation—“as to the Lord, and not to men.”...The service, whatever its nature, or its relation to man, was ever to be felt and viewed as an act of obedience done to Christ. See under Colossians 3:17. In doing it to others, they did it to Him; and to Him, with such claims upon their love and fealty (as with the the fidelity of a vassal or feudal tenant to his lord), they could not but give suit and service heartily. (Ref)

It is said that Lord Melbourne once remarked in Parliament, after divine principles were injected into the midst of a lively debate, “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion has to affect our daily lives.” I fear that this absurd attitude is more prevalent in the genuine Christian community than we realize or care to admit. We are quite often pious and reverent on the Lord’s Day, but what a different person we become on Monday morning—especially behind the wheel of our automobiles when we are just a little late for work and the traffic is heavy and slow-moving!

It is remarkable how often the Word of God stresses the fact that there should be daily exercise in spiritual things on the part of the Christian. For instance, it is expected that he follow the example of the noble Bereans and “daily” search the Scripture (cf. Acts 17:10, 11, 12-note). The psalmist has spoken of daily prayer, too, for he wrote, “I cry unto thee daily” (Ps 86:3; cf. 1Th 5:17-note). The Lord Jesus Himself stressed the necessity of continuous discipleship, when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The Christian’s week, in a sense, ought to be a week of Sundays, because all of the days are His days. This is the necessary correlative of the resurrection and His glorious promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt 28:20).

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GLORY IN THE GRIND - The life of slaves in the Roman Empire was not easy. They were regarded as "things," and they had no rights. Some had good masters and challenging work, but most were given menial tasks to perform. They worked long hours with little rest.

Christians, however, could catch a glimpse of glory in the grind. Whether slaves or masters, they could do their work with dignity. They were Christ's servants, and they represented Him in the marketplace or the home. Each worked for his Master, Jesus Christ, and labored for a commendation that would ultimately come from Him.

Someone captured the heart of this truth when he observed, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that the hosts of heaven will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

Your work may be tedious. You may have an employer who doesn't appreciate you or pay you what you're worth. You may want to quit. But you are working for Christ. Do your daily work so that your Master in heaven can one day say to you, "Good job. Well done." --H W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

To do our work as to the Lord
Gives us the motivation
To always do our best because
We want His commendation. --Sper

All Christians have the same employer--
they just have different tasks.

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TOMORROW TRAP - Sue Shellenbarger, "Work & Family" columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has encountered hundreds of people who, she says, "essentially live for the future, taking refuge in visions of a relaxed, rewarding personal and family life somewhere down the road." She calls this "the 'tomorrow trap'—a kind of mirage that people chase while in reality they are burying themselves in work and other pursuits."

Many of us who say our families are important don't live as if they are. Perhaps without realizing it, we have devalued today in favor of an imagined tomorrow that may never come.

As you read Colossians 3:12-25, try including the word today with each verse. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts" today (Col 3:15). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" today (Col 3:16). Along with the specific instructions given to wives, husbands, children, and fathers (Col 3:18, 19, 20, 21), include the word today. The Word of God comes to us with a sense of urgency and immediacy, calling us to obey now, rather than somewhere down the road of life.

The only way to escape the "tomorrow trap" is to begin following God's guidelines in our work and in our family relationships—today! —D C McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Today Christ calls, "Come, follow Me!"
Do not look back to yesterday;
Fresh grace He'll give to do His will,
His joy you'll find as you obey. —D. De Haan

God is looking for obedience,
not just good intentions.

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"KEEP THE WORKDAY HOLY" - If you're into bumper-sticker philosophy, you've probably seen the axiom, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go." For a vast portion of the workforce, that's the best reason they can muster for going to the job each day.

According to one poll, only 43 percent of American office workers are satisfied with their jobs. In Japan, the figure dips to 17 percent.

In the first century, Christian slaves had even less reason to be enthusiastic about their work. But Paul gave them a way to grasp a glimpse of glory amid the grind. He wanted them to "adorn the doctrine of God," that is, to show the beauty of their faith in Christby how they work (Titus2:10).

A significant and often overlooked way that we serve God is in our everyday tasks. Martin Luther understood this when he wrote, "The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays - not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship."

Today in the USA we honor labor. As Christians, whatever we do, let's remember the workday, to keep it holy.- Haddon W. Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

They who tread the path of labor
Follow where Thy feet have trod;
They who work without complaining
Do they holy will of God. - van Dyke

Do good works for God
by doing good work for your employer.

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6. Guidelines for Holy Living (Colossians 3:1-17)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (43:24)


The classic example of a loving lifestyle is caring for those who are in need. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), "The Good Samaritan" (1890, after Delacroix), oil on canvas, Kr�ller-M�ller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands.

Much like Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, the first half of Colossians lays the theological basis, while the second half provides practical instructions for Christian living. If you see this as New Covenant Law, then you're missing the point. Paul isn't giving us regulations, but guidelines that allow the Spirit to work in us and through us.

Set Your Mind on Things Above (3:1-2)

It all begins with an attitude of heart and mind.

"1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."  (3:1-2)

"Since then" (NIV) or "so if" (NRSV) refers back to Paul's teaching on baptism and being raised with Christ in 2:12-13. Paul grounds his ethical instructions in the regenerative work of God's Spirit in us -- "you have been raised with Christ."

Verses 1 and 2 call us to make conscious decisions about the way we think -- "set your hearts/minds" (NIV, NRSV), "set your affections" (KJV). The verb is phroneō, "to give careful consideration to something, set one's mind on, be intent." 1 Consider these uses of the same verb in the NRSV, which is fairly consistent in translating the word:

 "[Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.'" (Mark 8:33)

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 2:5)

"... Their minds are set on earthly things."  (Philippians 3:19)

"Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law�indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."  (Romans 8:5-8)

Part of discipleship, Paul tells the Colossians, is deciding where our minds will go and where they won't. We must make this conscious decision perhaps several times a day as temptations come up.

What are we to think about? "Things above," which is symbolic of heaven and God's way. If you have frequent thought temptations, in order to retrain your mind you might decide in advance what you'll chose to think about when that lustful or hateful or proud thought flashes into your mind.

Q1. (Colossians 3:1-2) What does it mean to "set your heart/mind" on the things above? Does this mean that we're "too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good"? If not, what does it mean? What happens when we don't take control and direct our thinking and meditating?




You Have Died (3:3-4)

Why should we control our thoughts and keep them focused in godly channels? Paul's answer is that we have changed. The "location" of our life is now different.

"3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  (3:3-4)

"You died"2 refers to our new birth in Christ, symbolized by our baptism (2:12), when we were buried with Christ and raised with Christ. This is not just figurative language. Paul is speaking of actual spiritual changes that took place in us when we repented of our sins and received Christ into our lives. This concept of death with Christ occurs several times in Paul's letters:

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules."  (2:20)

 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  (Galatians 2:20)

Paul develops these thoughts most thoroughly in Romans 6:1-11.3

Your Life Is Hid (3:3-4)

Why should you set your mind on the things of God? Because your old life is dead, and your new life is now found only in Christ. He is your present and your future!

"3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  (3:3-4)

"Hidden/hid" is kryptō (from which we get our words "crypt" and "cryptography"), "to keep from being seen, hide." 4 It may not appear to others that your life is in Christ. It is hidden. But it is still true! We are in a different realm -- with Christ, in God. The sooner we grasp this and begin to act accordingly, the easier the Christian life will become.

This hiddenness will finally be revealed when Christ returns in Glory. Hidden is just the opposite of "appear" or  "revealed"5 in verse 4. The following verses also speak of the final revealing of our true state:

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 3:20)

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."  (1 John 3:2)

Put to Death Your Old Practices (3:5-8)

Because our true identity is now in Christ and not in our old life, it makes sense that we begin to roll this truth into our whole lives. When a large chain of stores comes under new ownership, it may take a few months or even years to change over the signage and policies and culture to that of the new corporation, but eventually, it must take place for the new store to claim its rightful brand.

"5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immoral�ity, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."  (3:5-8)

Paul uses two verbs to describe the brand-changing process: "put to death" and "rid yourselves."

  • "Put to death" (NIV, NRSV), "mortify" (KJV) in verse 5 is nekroō, from nekros, "dead" (which shows up in several English words that begin with "necro-"). The verb means literally, "to make something dead." 6 Similar ideas are found in Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24; Titus 2:12; and 2 Corinthians 7:1.
  • "Rid yourselves of" (NIV), "get rid of" (NRSV), "put off" (KJV) in verse 8 is apotithēmi, "take off," literally to take off one's clothes. Then figuratively, to "lay aside, rid oneself." 7 Similar language is used in Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:22, 25; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21; and 1 Peter 2:1.

The words are essentially used synonymously; Paul varies the verbs for the sake of variety. These words present a very active idea -- something we must initiate and carry out, aided, of course, by the Holy Spirit.

Sinful Behaviors (3:5-8)

We shouldn't feel insulted if Paul's instructions about sin seem pretty basic. Paul was writing to a primarily Gentile church in a culture that didn't have much concept of sin at all. Let's consider these sins one at a time:

Put to Death Sexual Sins (3:5-6)

"Sexual immorality" (NIV), "fornication" (NRSV, KJV) is porneia, from which we get our word "pornography". It means, "unlawful sexual intercourse, prostitution, unchastity, fornication." 8 A pornē was a prostitute or harlot. The KJV tends to translate porneia as "fornication," but this is too narrow. "Fornication" is defined in English as "consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other." 9Porneia, on the other hand, includes not only fornication, but adultery, homosexuality, and any other kind of imaginable sexual perversion.

I once had a couple in my church who became fond of each other and then became engaged to be married. Both of them loved the Lord. Both were children of the '60s. The man had grown up in the California surfer culture and sex between two people who loved one another seemed right to him. She wasn't so sure. I patiently explained what the scripture taught from Old Testament to New, but he couldn't see it. His culture had blinded him. However, he said, "Pastor, though I don't see anything in the Bible against sex before marriage, I'll abstain because you say so. His bride looked relieved. And eventually they were married, and enjoy, I am sure, the joys of marriage together.

Paul is even more specific in 1 Thessalonians as he instructs a pagan culture in ways of holiness:

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

This runs directly against our culture, which says that sex between consenting adults is okay. We don't have to condemn and put down all those around us who live loosely, but we need to hold high standards for ourselves, and see that our churches hold high standards for members.

"Impurity" (NIV, NRSV), "uncleanness" (KJV) is akatharsia, literally, "any substance that is filthy or dirty, refuse," figuratively, "a state of moral corruption, immorality, vileness," especially used of sexual sins.10

"Lust" (NIV), "passion" (NRSV), "inordinate affection" (KJV) is pathos, "experience of strong desire, passion." 11 The word doesn't have to refer to sexual sin, but does here and in its two other New Testament occurrences (Romans 1:26 and 1 Thessalonians 4:5).

"Evil desires" (NIV, NRSV), "evil concupiscence" (KJV) is epithymia. The word can be used for positive desire, but here it is, "a desire for something forbidden or simply inordinate, craving, lust." 12 In the context, these words probably have a sexual connotation.

"Greed" (NIV, NRSV), "covetousness" (KJV) is pleonexia, "the inappropriate desire for more." 13 In some contexts, this refers to the desire for more money, but in this context it could also refer to the insatiable desire for sexual pleasure, or greed for one more sexual conquest. Whenever we put sex (or wealth or anything else) on the pedestal of our greatest goal, it becomes a false god to us, and makes us guilty of idolatry.

In our world it is common to try to rationalize sexual sins as merely normal human desires. It is quite true that the desire for sex is a strong, innate drive. And surely God created this drive, for it fuels his command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28).

But to suppose that God is neutral about how we exercise our sexuality runs directly in the face of Scripture. He has given us an arena in which we can exercise our sexuality freely -- the bonds of marriage. Outside of the bounds of marriage, sex can become destructive -- to children and families, for example. Sexual sins outside of marriage, both of the body and of the mind, can become compulsive and dangerous. So we are to put to death in us the permission to exercise our sexuality outside of the bounds of marriage.

Then, lest we rationalize our behaviors in order to permit ourselves these things, Paul reminds us:

"6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived."  (2:6-7)

These sins belong to your former life, not your new life.

Put Off the Sins of Anger and the Tongue (3:8)

The next list of sins relates to unrestrained anger and the damage it causes through our tongues.

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."  (2:8)

 Let's consider the words

"Anger" in verse 8 is orgē, the "state of relatively strong displeasure, with focus on the emotional aspect, anger." 14 Anger is a God-given emotion that moves us to action when we are treated unjustly. Without it we might be passive to great evil. There is "righteous anger," a correct response to injustice -- though often our anger is based more on selfish reactions that put us at a disadvantage, rather than based on a reaction to sin. It is also possible to experience the emotion of anger without sin. Paul writes to the Ephesian church (quoting Psalm 4:4):

"'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold."  (Ephesians 4:26-27)

So anger, in and of itself, is not sin. But anger has a way of loosening our inhibitions, making it much more likely that we will do something or say something that we will regret later. Paul warns us of unrestrained anger.

Anger can also dwell in us for long periods of time if we allow it to. Victims of sexual abuse or returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, can have their lives destroyed by anger. Sometimes we need help in how to let go of our anger so it doesn't poison our relationships and ruin our lives.

"Rage" (NIV), "wrath" (NRSV, KJV) in verse 8 is thymos, "a state of intense displeasure, anger, wrath, rage, indignation." 15 Vincent states the shade of difference between orgē and thymos in this way: " or gē denotes a deeper and more permanent sentiment; a settled habit of mind; while thymos is a more turbulent, but temporary agitation." 16 Perhaps rage or wrath describe us when our anger flares up and becomes loud and perhaps violent. "Rid yourselves" of this, Paul says. The Holy Spirit can help you tame your anger, but you must humbly allow him to work.

"Malice" in verse 8 is kakia, "wickedness," here, "a mean-spirited or vicious attitude or disposition, malice, ill-will, malignity." 17 You've seen this terrible motivation in others' behavior. Has it afflicted you -- especially in relation to certain people in your life?

"Slander" (NIV, NRSV), "blasphemy" (KJV) is blasphēmia, "speech that denigrates or defames, reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander." 18 We get our word "blaspheme" from this Greek word. This could refer to using God's or Jesus' name in a curse. But more likely here it means the kind of terrible things we say about people when we are angry at them. In English we have three words which describe such behavior:

  • Slander -- "the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another's reputation."
  • Libel -- "a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression."
  • Gossip -- "a rumor or report of an intimate nature." 19

I've caught myself relaying information that puts someone in an unfavorable light, when I should have kept my mouth shut. But anger and unforgiveness often feed talk that defames and hurts. We are to rid ourselves of this destructive habit!

"Filthy language" (NIV), "abusive language" (NRSV), "filthy communication" (KJV) is aischrologia, "speech of a kind that is generally considered in poor taste, obscene speech, dirty talk," perhaps "scurrilous talk," especially since blasphēmia immediately precedes.20 This compound word is derived from aischros, "base, dishonorable, shameful"+ logos, "speech." This word covers all sorts of speech that is punctuated by sexual terms and bathroom language. This is the way the world talks, not we followers of Jesus Christ the Lord.

We must rid ourselves of this kind of language. When we slip into our old vocabulary, we stop, ask forgiveness of God and any who may have heard us, and then substitute a more appropriate expression. After a dozen or several dozen repetitions of this process, our vocabulary gets much cleaner. Oh, we may slip occasionally, but it will no longer be our normal manner of expression.

We can't isolate ourselves from people who talk this way, as if we are too holy to hear such words. Nor should we be constantly putting them down for their crude speech, as if we are the language police for our sector of the world -- in your home maybe, but not in the marketplace where you don't have the authority to set the rules. We live in this world, but are not of it. What's more, the people who talk this way need our Savior desperately. But our vocabulary needs to be cleansed so that it reflects well on our Master. They will notice.

Don't Lie (3:9)

Next, Paul touches a problem that afflicts us Christians far too often. Lying.

"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices."  (3:9)

"Lie" is pseudomai, "to tell a falsehood, lie." 21 What makes lying wrong? Satan is known as "the father of lies" (John 8:44). Our God, on the other hand, is a God of truth. Our faith in God is based on us trusting him completely. Lying is utterly contrary to God's nature. And we have "taken off" our old self with its evil practices and are being renewed in God's image.

We know that trust builds community, builds marriages, builds relationships. Lying, by its very nature, undermines and explodes marriages and relationships. It destroys communities. Yes, there may be special circumstances in times of war -- or admiring a woman's ugly dress. But Paul is not speaking of the exceptions, but of the practice of truthful speech in contrast to angry, slanderous, abusive speech.

The New Self, Being Renewed (3:9-10)

Let's explore this idea of renewal further:

"9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."  (3:9-10)

Paul's analogy in verses 9 and 10 is taking off22 and putting on23 clothing. In Christ we have changed clothes. But the change is not just external, but internal, in our spirit and in our character. No, it is not instantaneous. We are "being renewed," that is, literally, "made new again." 24 Praise God! This is the process of sanctification. We see several other uses of the word in Paul's letters:

 "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."  (2 Corinthians 4:16b)

"He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."  (Titus 3:5b)

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  (Romans 12:2b)

We are obviously to cooperate in the process of renewal, rather than thwart it by our obstinate rebelliousness. But ultimately it is God's work in us, the fruit of the Holy Spirit of God. The renewal involves our mind, as we take hold of and internalize God's truths (knowledge25 ). But the goal is far beyond ourselves; it is to restore God's image26 in us that has been marred and fallen through sin. God wants to renew us all the way back to his original creation:

"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them."  (Genesis 1:27)

In a number of passages in the Bible, we see our final destiny to be found as restored to our original perfect state in the Garden of God (Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:4, where "Paradise" means "garden"; Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19).

What are you doing that enables the process of renewal in your heart? What are you doing that hinders that process of renewal?

One in Christ (3:11)

We no longer lie to each other, says Paul, because we are one in Christ. People lie to protect themselves from those who are different from them, who might threaten them. But you are one, says Paul:

"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."  (3:11)

Greeks worshipped many gods, Jews worshipped one God. But now they are one in Christ. Jews took great pride in circumcision as a symbol of their distinctiveness as people of the Covenant. It separated them from all others. But now we are one in Christ.

"Barbarian" referred to a non-Greek, a foreigner.27 A Scythian lived in the region of the Black Sea and was viewed as the epitome of unrefinement or savagery.28 But Christ unites both! Slave and free were common divisions in the world of Paul's day. In fact, many Christians were slaves. But in Christ we are one! There are no divisions, nor may we allow divisions to arise.29

Cloth Yourselves with Virtue (3:12)

No longer divided by race, religion, geographical origin, social status, or gender, the church is special:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  (3:12)

See how we are described:

  • Chosen, "the elect of God" (KJV), is eklektos, "pertaining to being selected, chosen." 30
  • Holy, hagios, means "dedicated to God, holy, sacred, that is, reserved for God and God's service." 31
  • Beloved, agapaō, "loved." Think of the immense status there is in being greatly loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe and the Savior of Mankind!

Because we are God's people, we are to clothe ourselves with the character of Christ. We are to take off the old clothes and to put on the new clothes, the Christian virtues that bring honor to our Savior.

"Compassion" (NIV, NRSV), "bowels of mercies" (KJV) is actually two words in Greek: splanchnon, "inward parts, entrails," thought of in the ancient world as the seat of the emotions," 32 and oiktirmos, "display of concern over another's misfortune, pity, mercy, compassion." The two words together might be translated "heartfelt compassion." 33 We are to be a people marked by a sincere and ready compassion.

"Kindness" is chrēstotēs, "the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity." 34 This is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

"Humility" (NIV, NRSV), "humbleness of mind" (KJV) is tapeinophrosynē, "humility, modesty," 35"the having a humble opinion of oneself; a deep sense of one's (moral) littleness; modesty, humility, lowliness of mind." 36 We aren't to feign humility of the surface, self-deprecating Uriah Heep sort. Rather, we are to live in the knowledge that what we have received is a gift, not a reward for our greatness. Thankfulness is present in a humble person.

"Gentleness" (NIV), "meekness" (NRSV, KJV) is a related idea. The Greek word is prautēs, "the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self-importance, gentleness, humility, courtesy, considerateness, meekness" in the older favorable sense.37 This is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). This doesn't mean a poor self-image. Rather it is the characteristic of a person who doesn't feel the need to impress others and force oneself on others.

"Patience" (NIV, NRSV), "longsuffering" (KJV) is makrothymia, from makros, "long"+ thumos, "passion." It means, the "state of being able to bear up under provocation, forbearance, patience toward others." 38 This is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

What a beautiful set of characteristics that adorn a person with the beauty of Christ!

Forgive Each Other (3:13)

Now Paul mentions two character qualities that are necessary for a healthy Christian community -- whether it be a church or a family: forbearance and forgiveness.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances39 you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  (3:13)

"Bear with" (NIV, NIV), "forbearing" (KJV) is anechō, "to regard with tolerance, endure, bear with, put up with." 40 We see a similar exhortation in Ephesians:

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."  (Ephesians 4:2)

Forbearance doesn't require forgiveness. It requires tolerance, patience, and love. We're all different. We have quirks and idiosyncrasies that can drive each other crazy. And so often we're blind to them ourselves. Forbearance is the willingness to put up with each others' differences.

"Forgive/forgiving,"  is used twice in this verse. It is the ability to forgive not just differences, but sins against us. The verb is charizomai, which we saw in 2:13, "to show oneself gracious by forgiving wrongdoing, forgive, pardon." 41 So long as we are constantly clamoring to be "right," we will destroy community. In our quest to be vindicated, we can easily destroy. Often, to preserve the community, the marriage, the family, we must forgive sins and refuse to hold them against the person any longer. God will bring justice in the end. It's not our job.

Love (3:14)

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."  (3:14)

Verse 14 begins "upon all these things." Paul seems to be continuing his metaphor of putting on garments from verse 12 -- "clothe yourselves with...." So love42 would be the outer cloak or overcoat put on "over" (epi) all the others that unifies them. The phrase "binds together in perfect unity/harmony" (NIV, NRSV), or "bond of perfectness" (KJV) is two words, syndesmos ("bond")43 and teleiotēs ("perfection").44

Peace and Thankfulness (3:15)

The result of the Christian virtues capped by love is peace.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."  (3:15)

"Peace" is used twice in the verse, as if to emphasize it. "Rule" is brabeuō, not the usual word for "rule." Originally it referred to the referee or umpire who would "award prizes in contests." Here it means by extension, "be in control of someone's activity by making a decision, be judge, decide, control, rule." 45 Peace is to "call the shots." It is the standard of keeping unity within the body. We are different members of the body, but we are members of the same body, so we should not war with ourselves. God calls us to peace. In Ephesians, Paul put it another way:

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  (Ephesians 4:3)

The final virtue he mentions -- almost as an afterthought -- is thankfulness: "And be thankful." "Thankful" is eucharistos, an adjective "pertaining to being grateful, thankful." 46 We get our word "Eucharist" from this word, because the word was used in giving thanks or blessing God for the bread and cup in the Lord's Supper (Mark 14:22-23; Luke 22:17, 19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

Teaching, Exhorting, and Singing (3:16)

 How are we to live? Not in legalism or in the flesh. Rather the Christian believers are to set their minds on the things of God, to live out and embody the Christian virtues, with peace in their community. Paul has given two exhortations for the community:

  1. " Let the peace of God rule ..."  (3:15) and
  2. " Let the word of Christ dwell in you...."  (3:16)

 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."  (3:16)

 "Dwell in" is enoikeō, "live, dwell (in)." 47 "Richly" is plousiōs, "richly, abundantly," 48 from ploutos, "wealth, abundance." Christ's words are to fill our mouths and be the center of our community.

"Teach and admonish" is a pair of words we saw earlier:

"We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."  (1:28)

"Teach" refers to the positive expression, "admonish" to the negative expression. "Admonish," noutheteō, means "to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct, admonish, warn, instruct." 49 Positive Thinking, championed by Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993) and later by Robert Schuller (1926- ), has downgraded the idea of warning and admonishing from the pulpit. This is probably in reaction to the harsh haranguing that sometimes characterized preachers of another era. But warning and admonishing -- as well as exhorting or urging or encouraging -- were certainly the practice of the early church in forming disciples. This was not only Paul's practice of training disciples (1:28). He also encourages it as part of their regular meetings together in conjunction with their singing.

Songs, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (3:16b)

"... As you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."  (3:16)

This trio of terms for songs is also found in Ephesians 5:19:

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Ephesians 5:19-20)

  1. Psalms were singing the Psalter, the book of Psalms, which was written to be sung, and was sung by the Jews in Paul's day. Though these also could have been Christian odes patterned on the Psalter.
  2. Hymns "probably had a religious and cultic significance ... as a technical term for festive psalms of praise, and for liturgical calls and recitations." 50 Group members were encouraged to each bring a hymn or some other contribution from the Spirit when the believers gathered, in order to build up one another (1 Corinthians 14:16). These may have been longer compositions.
  3. Spiritual songs may have been more spontaneous, perhaps like Paul's "singing in the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:15), though the lines between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not firmly drawn. Martin says, "The terms are probably used loosely to cover the various forms of musical composition." 51

Do Everything in the Name of Jesus (3:17)

Paul sums it all up with a final statement, one that has served as a guiding verse for me in the earlier years of my ministry:

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  (3:17)

In our culture, "name" refers primarily to what a person is called. But in Hebrew thought that underlies Paul's usage, "name" can imply "something real, a piece of the very nature of the personality whom it designates, expressing the person's qualities and powers." 52 For an Old Testament prophet to speak "in the name of the Lord" implies that he speaks on a commission from Yahweh himself. In the New Testament, words and actions "in the name of the Lord" infer that the person is acting or speaking "in the sphere of power of" or  "in the presence of." 53

So when Paul says "do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus," he is saying that we should speak and act in full consciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. If what we are planning to do or say can't stand the test of Jesus' presence and approval without our being ashamed, then it isn't appropriate. Like Jesus' Golden Rule, this verse helps us evaluate our words and actions to see if they stand the test.

The second part of this verse asks us in all our words and deeds to act in a way that we are "giving thanks to God the Father through him." Does this deed represent thanks to God? Is this word spoken in thankfulness? If so, let it be done. If so, let it be spoken.

A book of the compiled lessons is available in both e-book and paperback formats.

Is this a new Christian Law? No, Paul is presenting guidelines for living as a Christian. Paul lays out the principles:

  1. Set your heart on things above (3:2).
  2. Live like those who have died to the old life and look forward to the new one to be revealed (3:3-4).
  3. Put to death sexual sins and sins of the tongue, which aren't appropriate to your new state (3:5-10).
  4. Rather clothe yourselves with Christian virtues, especially love, and live at peace with one another (3:12-15).
  5. Let your conversation and worship be full of Christ's words (3:16).
  6. And let your actions and words be said and done under the view of and with the pleasure of the Lord Jesus (3:17).


Father, thank you for the new life we have in Christ. Thank you that we can live in the light, with peace and love and harmony. Thank you for the joy we have in this new life, and the integrity to which you call us in Christ Jesus. In his mighty name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."  (Colossians 3:2-3, NIV)

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  (Colossians 3:17, NIV)



Copyright © 2018, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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