6. Exhortations for Christian living. 3:5-4:6

ii] Put on new life in Christ


As is typical of Paul's letters, he concludes with a section on practical Christianity, applied ethics. He presents this ethical teaching in the terms of abandoning the evils of the past and of adopting the new life-style of a believer. The believer must "put off" the old cloths of their past life of sin, 3:5-11, and "put on" the new garment of a follower of Christ, 3:12-17.


i] Context: See 3:5-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: This passage, putting on new life in Christ, presents as follows:

Put on


kindness / humility,

gentleness / patience, v12.

Forbearing and forgiving .... v13.

Add love, v14.

Let peace control your thoughts, v15a.

Be thankful, v15b.

Let Christ's word indwell you

teaching and admonishing

singing, v16.

Do all in the name of the Lord, v17.


As in v5-11, the structure of this passage is dictated by a series of imperative verbs and participles, here as positive ethical instruction, resting on the standing a believer possesses in Christ - a be what you are formula; "given that you are God's chosen people ..........":


iv] Interpretation:

Of particular interest in the passage before us is the stress Paul places on Christian relationships. Paul will often speak of a believer's personal walk with Jesus, at other times he will speak of outreach to the world, yet his stress is always on the Christian fellowship, it is always on the church. Paul's focus is on "body-life."

So, in this passage Paul details behavior which builds body-life. In v12b he lists five qualities that enhance personal relationships: "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Then in v13 he encourages us to carry each other's load and to forgive when necessary. The "each other" he speaks of here is clearly our brothers and sisters in the Christian fellowship. The letter itself is addressed to a church and Paul is into the business of building the church through caring relationships. In v14 he underlines the key to caring relationships, namely, love, and then in v15 he encourages peace. In v17 he concludes with a rule-of-thumb ethic, namely that our actions bring honour to Christ rather than dishonor. All these ethical qualities, when applied in the Christian fellowship, will build up body-life; they are the tools which shape community.

In v16 Paul focuses on the business-end of Christian community. The Christian fellowship doesn't just exist for introverted fellowship; it's not a "back-slap" club, or a mutual niceness association. The development of body-life is not an end in itself. The church comes together to face the living Christ, and the one whom we face has promised to be present when two or three meet in his name. The essential function of the Christian community is worship - to recognize the presence of Christ, to hear him, thank him, praise him, confess him, pray to him. Fellowship, unity, community, grows out of worship. Body-life must express our union with Christ.

So, in v16a Paul tells us to let the word of Christ take root in our lives as we give heed to and apply the teaching ministry of the Christian fellowship. In simple terms, he tells us to hear Christ. There could be no clearer statement of what we should be about when we meet together as a church. Preaching for edification is central to the life of a Christian community.

Then, in v16b, Paul focuses on praise and thanksgiving directed "to God", of which music is an effective vehicle. Certainly in the Western tradition we use music as the vehicle of praise and thanksgiving. Mind you, we have lost much of our dynamic in this department both through the introduction of chorus singing (more sensual than spiritual) and the preservation of "Victorian" hymns (more "sentimental" than praise). None-the-less, Paul underlines the business end of church as a gathering of God's people to confront the living God present with us in his Word.


Ethics - be what you are: This passage is typical of most of the apostle's teaching on the Christian life. Having established theological principles, Paul generally moves into the practicalities of Christian living. In fact, he bases his ethics on theology. Paul makes a substantial point in v12, namely, that our right-standing in the sight of God prompts right living.

As a gift of God's free grace, appropriated through the instrument of faith, we now stand in the presence of God as "holy and dearly loved" children. We are his chosen ones, and this simply by trusting Jesus. We often don't feel holy, nor do we display holiness in our day to day living, but holy we are, for we stand with Christ the only holy child of God. Since we are his children, it is only natural for us to seek to live in a way which expresses the new "holy" person we are in Christ. It is on this basis that Paul encourages his readers in the Christian life. He encourages us to be what we are.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Christian life in the world.

Text - 3:12

Living as a follower of Christ, v12-17: i] The foundation of Christian ethics - right-standing prompts right-living, v12a; ii] Enhance personal relationships, v12b. Through faith in Christ a believer gets to stand before the living God as one of his "chosen people." God's intention is to gather to himself "a people for his own possession out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth". This chosen, called, elect, people of God, now takes shape around the one faithful child of God, namely Jesus. In Christ they stand before God as his "holy" (perfectly pure) and dearly loved" "chosen" people; they stand by grace through faith. Paul's encouragement to God's chosen people is that they shape and exhibit, in their lives, the holiness they possess in Christ - that they "clothe" themselves with Christ's holiness, qualities such as compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and long-suffering.

The opening Greek sentence consists of v12-14 and is controlled by the main imperative verb "put on", v12, two attendant participles in v13, "forbearing" and "forgiving", with the main verb "put on" supplied in v14.

oun "therefore" - so, therefore, so then, Here introducing the conclusion of an argument, the argument having been outlined in the previous chapters, although here summarized in "as the elect of God." This conjunction was also used in 3:1, "so, if you have been raised in Christ .....", and 3:5, "therefore, put to death .....

wJV "as" - as. Here probably causal rather than comparative; "insomuch as."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's" - of God. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / verbal, subjective.

eklektoi adj. "chosen" - elect. The adjective serves as a substantive. The sense of "elect" is possibly "picked", as Phillips, but is more likely a designation for God's set-apart people, the membership of which is by grace through faith.

hgaphmenoi (agapaw) perf. part. "dearly loved" - beloved. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "chosen people."

endusasqe (enduw) aor. imp. "clothe yourselves with" - put. Main verb, emphatic by position.

oiktirmou (oV) gen. "compassion" - [bowls] of compassion. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bowls". God is the "Father of mercies" and his children should try to exhibit this quality. "Be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind", Phillips.

crhstothta (hV) "kindness" - God is "kind to the ungrateful and ungenerous" and a disciple should show similar kindness.

tapeinofrosunhn (h) "humility" - humility, lowliness in spirit.

trauthta (hV) "gentleness" - Jesus was "gentle and lowly in heart".

makroqumian (a) "patience" - long-suffering. God is patient in that he forgives his people and delays the day of judgement. His friends should show similar patience, one toward another, Eph.4:2, 1Thess.5:14.


iii] Forgive, v13. Mutual tolerance and forgiveness are essential qualities in the life of the Christian community. In the same way that God in Christ has forgiven us, so we should strive to forgive one another.

anecomenoi (anecw) pres. part. + gen. "bear with" - forbearing, enduring, being patient with. As with "forgiving", this participle is attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "put on / clothe yourselves" and therefore functions as an imperative, expressing a command, so NIV and most translations. The present tense indicating ongoing action. "Put up with each other", CEV.

allhlwn gen. pro. "one another" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "to forbear."

carizomenoi (carizomai) pres. part. "forgive" - show favor toward. Note how Paul links the forgiveness of God with our forgiving others. Our forgiveness of others is prompted and empowered by Christ's forgiveness of us. We stand in God's presence forgiven and approved, and it is natural for us to respond in forgiveness, having been washed ourselves by God's mercy. Jesus often reversed this order to teach a different point, namely, that if only a forgiving person can be forgiven by God, then we are in dread need of a savior who can save us from the consequences of our unforgiving heart.

eJautoiV dat. pro. "one another" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to forgive."

ean + subj. "-" - if [may have]. 3rd class conditional clause where the condition is viewed as a possibility, "if, as may be the case, ..... then .." That is, it is quite possible that disputes will arise in the Christian fellowship. "If, as is likely, some cause for complaint emerges within the fellowship, then ......."

proV + acc. "against [someone]" - Here expressing opposition, as NIV.

"Forgive" - The imperative "forgive" is implied; "if .... then, as also the Lord forgave you, so also must you forgive."

ouJtwV kai ..... ou{twV kai "as" - as also [the Lord forgave you] so also [should you forgive]. Comparative causal construction with an adjunctive kai. The construction is unlikely to imply "forgive to be forgiven", but certainly moves toward, "forgive because you are forgiven." None-the-less, comparison is best; "forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you", Phillips.

uJmin dat. pro. "[forgave] you" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to forgive."


iv] Love, v14. The greatest of all qualities we are to "put on" (as one puts on a piece of clothing) is that of love. "God is love" and so love is a natural fruit for those who have found their new standing before God, by grace through faith, Gal.5:6, 22. Love has the power to unite God's people.

de "and" - but, and. Here serving as a transitional connective indicating a step in the argument.

epi + dat. "over" - above, over, on, to. Spacial. The sense is either i] "above all you must be loving", Moffatt; ii] as NIV, "over all" in the sense of "on top of all the previous virtues mentioned"; iii] "to", in the sense of "in added to", "and to all these qualities add love", TEV. O'Brien opts for [iii].

toutoiV thn "these virtues" - these things.

oJ estin "which" - which is [a bond]. Possibly explanatory, "that is", but more likely referring to the antecedent, namely, the putting on of love; "by loving one another, you bind yourself together as though you are one and this is just as it should be", TH.

thV teleisthtoV (hV htoV) gen. "in perfect [unity]" - of perfection. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting the noun "bond". O'Brien suggests "the bond that produces perfection", "a bond that expresses itself in perfection." "You must clothe yourselves in love, which holds all the other qualities together and completes them", Barclay.


v] Let there be peace, v15. Through Christ the believer has peace with God - we are no longer rebels before him, but rather friends. This reality should be exhibited in the Christian community. Paul adds to this, "be thankful." Let us recognize the one who is the source of all our blessings, both spiritual and physical.

This Greek sentence, v15, is controlled by the imperative verb "let rule" and its subject "the peace of Christ".

brabeuetw (brabeuw) pres. imp. "let [the peace of Christ] rule" - let arbitrate / administer, control, rule. The imperfective aspect implies a general command. Lightfoot suggests the idea of "arbitrate", so, "let the peace that Christ can give keep on acting as umpire in your hearts", Williams. Most commentators opt for "rule". "Let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts", CEV.

hJ eirhnh (h) "the peace" - Note Barclay's interesting paraphrase of "peace" in the terms of Christ's "unifying power"; "Only Christ can enable people to live in a right relationship with each other. It is this unifying power of his which must dictate your every decision", Barclay.

tou Cristou (oV) "of Christ" - The genitive is possibly adjectival, attributive, a Christ-like peacefulness, but it may be ablative, source/origin, identifying "the peace that comes from Christ", CEV.

en taiV kardiaiV (a) "in [your] hearts" - in the hearts [of you]. Local, expressing space / sphere. The heart being the center of rational thought, so "in your decisions", REB.

eiV "to peace" - to, into, for [which peace you were also called in one body]. Probably expressing purpose / aim / goal; "toward / for which peace you were also called."

en + dat. "as members [of one]" - in, with, by, to [one]. Possibly local, expressing space/sphere, "called together in one body", RJB, but more likely expressing an attendant circumstance, as NIV; "the peace to which you were called as members of a single body", REB.

swmati (a atoV) "body" - The presence of "one" probably indicates that Paul has in mind the universal church, even now gathered in the presence of Christ, consisting of believers, past, present and future. Yet, the local congregation is a valid representation of the eternal congregation, such that both are rightly the "one body" of Christ. "For you were meant to be one body", Barclay.


vi] Grow in knowledge, v16. In this verse Paul encourages two activities of Christian fellowship, first "teaching and admonishing (instructing)", and second "singing". The first admonition may apply to the personal study of God's word, although it seems more likely that the readers are to give the greatest opportunity for the instruction of Christian teaching in their gatherings. Such teaching must be based on the "word of Christ", ie. it must be based on the teachings of Jesus. The congregation is to let that word "dwell in you richly"; they are to hear it, give heed to it, accept its authority and apply it in their daily life. As for singing, the link with teaching may be that the songs should teach scriptural truth.

The final Greek sentence, v16-17, which stands in parallel to v15, is controlled by the imperative verb "let dwell" which is modified by the three adverbial participles "teaching", "admonishing" and "singing", related to the substantive phrase "the word of Christ", further qualified by the supplied imperative verb "do", v17, "whatever you are doing ..... do all in the name of the Lord."

tou Cristou gen. "[the word / message] of Christ" - The genitive may be any of the following: verbal, objective, "the message about Christ", CEV, "the message that centers on Christ", O'Brien; subjective, "the message that Christ proclaims", Lightfoot; adjectival, possessive, "Christ's message"; ablative, source/origin, "the message from Christ.".

enoikeitw (enoikew) pres. imp. "let .... dwell" - let dwell, live in, indwell.

en uJmin "in you / among you" - Local, although the sense is unclear, so possibly "within /in your hearts", so Lightfoot, or better, in a corporate sense, "among", so Dunn. "Dwell among you", REB.

plousiwV adv. "richly" - "Abundantly", Lohse.

didaskonteV kai nouqetounteV "as you teach and admonish" - teaching and admonishing. The participles are probably adverbial, temporal, "as/while you teach and admonish", possibly attendant circumstance, so imperatival, "teach and train one another", Moffatt, or modal, expressing manner, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another", ESV, even instrumental, expressing means, "by teaching and admonishing.".

en + dat. "with [all wisdom]" - in, with, by, to. Probably here adverbial, modal, manner / attendant circumstance, "with", as NIV, although Lightfoot links the phrase with the preceding clause, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom", AV.

adonteV (adw) pres. part. "and as you sing" - singing. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, or temporal.

yalmoiV uJmnoiV wJdaiV pneumatikaiV dat. "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs / through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit" - in psalms, hymns, songs spiritual. The datives may be locative, "in", but are most likely instrumental, "by means of", O'Brien. We know Wesley and others used Christian hymns to teach doctrine and this may be what Paul is getting at here. Singing can have an edifying quality. We know that in AD 112 Pliny reported to the emperor Trajan that the Christians "recited an antiphonal hymn to Christ as God". Eighty years later Tertullian described a Christian service and said that "each is invited to sing to God in the presence of others from what he knows of the holy scriptures, or from his heart." Both these references sit well with Paul's statement. First, the believers are to sing to God with gratitude in their hearts. The songs are directed to God and are expressions of praise and thanksgiving. Second, they are edifying in that they state scriptural truths. As for the three types of songs. The "psalms" may well be the Old Testament Psalter. The "hymns" are possibly Christian canticles like those recorded in Luke's gospel. Both these forms would most likely be sung antiphonally - the cantor sings the first half of the verse with the congregation singing the second half. The "spiritual songs" may be free compositions. None-the-less, we should not draw clear defining lines between the three song types.

en + dat. "with [gratitude]" - in, with, by, [grace]. Here probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "singing gratefully/thankfully", O'Brien.

en + dat. "in [your hearts]" - Here possibly locative, as NIV, "a worship rooted in the depth of our personal experience", Dunn, although an instrumental sense is also possible. Given that the heart is the center of one's rational being, worship should employ the whole of our mental faculties (including the aesthetic?).

tw/ qew (oV) dat. "to God" - Dative of indirect object / interest.


vii] Honor Christ, v17. It is unclear whether Paul's words in this verse serve to provide a summary piece of ethical advice (so the sample sermon), or whether they refer particularly to Christian worship; "whatever you are doing in Christian worship, whether in words or actions, ...." The Greek seems to imply the latter.

pan o{ ti ean "whatever [you do]" - the certain all which [you may do]. A nominative pendens, where an independent substantive, here the adjective pan, "all, every", in the nominative case is linked to the rest of the sentence by a pronoun which takes its case independently of the nominative subject, here the nominative relative pronoun o{, "which". The indefinite particle ean + subj. then serves to form an indefinite clause; "whatever you are doing", Harris.

en + dat. "in [word or deed]" - in, with, by, for. Possibly here reference / respect, "whatever you do with respect to your words or actions", or attendant circumstance, "whether it is a matter of words or actions", Moule IB. Word and deed constitutes the indefinite "all" and encapsulates the totality of our behavior, although, given the context, it is quite possible that the action in mind is that of worship.

"do [it all]" - all things. The verb is supplied. As noted above, the action may refer to congregational worship.

en onomati (a atoV) "in the name [of the Lord Jesus]" - Local, expressing sphere; the phrase is usually taken to mean "in / under / within the authority of the Lord Jesus."

eucaristounteV (erucaristw) pres. part. "giving thanks" - The participle is again possibly attendant circumstance, so imperatival, "give thanks to God", NAB, although it more likely either modal, expressing manner, or temporal, "while at the same time you give thanks." The "giving thanks" would then further explain the nature of the "whatever you do [in worship]."

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - Dative of direct object after the participle "giving thanks."

di + gen. "through [him]" - through, by means of. Instrumental, expressing means; Christ is the mediator of our worship.


Colossians Introduction



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