Colossians 3:1-5

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Text: Colossians 3:1-5




As the result of the work accomplished by Christ on their behalf, the Colossian believers are to be seeking those things which are above (3:1-4). As part of their seeking the things which are above, they are to put off things characteristic of their old sin natures (3:5-11) and to put on things characteristic of their new sinless, Christlike natures (3:12-17). Their new conduct should manifest itself in their relationships with others in their own households (3:18 - 4:1), whether it is husbands and wives, parents and children, or slaves and masters. Paul concludes this section with various exhortations for the Colossian believers (4:2-6).


Inasmuch as believers have been raised together with Christ (2:12-13), they should be seeking the spiritual or heavenly things (3:1), things which they had not sought prior to their salvation. One is reminded that according to II Corinthians 5:17 , believers receive new, sinless natures at the time of their salvation. They ought to be living lives which are consistent with their new natures.

II Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Believers' affections should be set on heavenly things rather than on earthly things (3:2) because they have died and their lives have been hidden with God in Christ (3:3) and because they will someday appear with Christ in glory (3:4).

Colossians 3:1-4 - 1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Rather than do things which are intended to gratify the flesh, the believers are urged in chapter 3 to take their lives in a different direction.

If ye then be risen with Christ is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true; and it is actually true of all believers. It is not true for any unbelievers, however.

Be risen together with Christ indicates an action which occurred in the past. Believers were raised up together with Christ in the past, and they are now risen with Him in the present. Believers have been united with Christ in His resurrection.

Seek those things which are above forms the conclusion of this conditional sentence.

Seek means be (i.e. continue or keep on) devoting serious effort to realize your desire (or your objective), be (i.e. continue or keep on) striving for, aiming (at), or trying to obtain.

Those things which are above, literally the things above and is speaking of spiritual things or of heavenly things.

Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God - Sitteth is is sitting. It is an emphatic way of indicating that Jesus is presently in heaven and is seated rather than standing and continuing to make sacrifice for sin. His work has been completed. He is no longer making sacrifice for sin.

He is sitting on the right hand of God, which means that He is reigning together (or co-reigning) with God the Father.

Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Set your affection on means be (i.e. continue or keep on) setting your mind on (or being intent on).

Things above is identical in the Greek text to the phrase translated those things which are above in verse 1, i.e. spiritual things or heavenly things.

Not on things on the earth indicates where the believer is not to be setting his mind or those things on which he is not to be intent.

It refers to things that are characteristic of earth, things that are temporary in nature, and things which may be subject to corruption.

By contrast, those things which are above in verse 1 refers to things that are eternal in nature, heavenly things, or things which are not in any way subject to corruption.

Colossians 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Verse 3 explains why believers should be setting their minds on things above rather than on things on the earth.

Ye are dead is literally you died; but since believers died in the past, they are now dead in the present. At the same time, believers look like they are very much alive; but they died as far as sin is concerned; and they are now to be living for the Lord.

Your life refers to their eternal life.

Is hid suggests has been hidden. Inasmuch as their individual lives were hidden in the past, they remain hidden in the present as well. It is understood in the sense of your life is in a state of having been hidden, your life is in a state of having been concealed, or your life is in a state of having been covered. It means that your life has been hidden in a safe place.

This safe place is with Christ in God, i.e. in God the Father. What safer place could there be!

Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

When is whenever, and it implies uncertainty regarding its time but not regarding its reality. It is going to happen, but it is not clear when.

Christ is referred to as our life, meaning that He is not only the One Who provides life for the believer, but that He is life itself for the believer.

Similarly, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 , For to me to live is Christ. . . .

Shall appear, which means is revealed, is made known, is shown, shows Himself, reveals Himself, or appears, refers to Christ's return for believers at the rapture.

Then means at that time, i.e. at the time Christ appears. Ye is you (plural) and is used for emphasis. It refers to the believers in Colosse as well as to all believers everywhere.

Shall ye also appear means you shall also be revealed, be made known, be shown, show yourselves, reveal yourselves, or shall appear.

With him means with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In glory modifies shall appear and may mean in splendor, in magnificence, or in radiance and speak of the glorified bodies which believers will receive and refer to the glorification of believers, which will complete their salvation.

It may instead speak of heaven and be understood as in heaven.

A third possibility is that it may indicate the manner of their appearance and be understood in the sense of, You will gloriously appear with Him.


In verses 5-11 believers are ordered to put to death things which they have formerly done. Sins such as these are no longer to be part of their lives. It is because of things such as these that God's wrath is coming upon unbelievers (3:6). Although these things used to characterize the believers (3:7), they are to characterize them no longer. They are to put them off as if they were putting off old, worn out clothing (3:8-9) because their old sin natures no longer reign supreme in their lives and because they now have new, Christlike natures (3:10); and the only thing which matters any longer is the Lord Jesus Christ (3:11).

Colossians 3:5-11 - 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Mortify is a command or imperative which means to deaden or put to death. Its tense indicates that this is to be done once and for all, immediately and without delay. Believers are not to be putting these things to death repeatedly, but once and for all time are to regard them as dead. They are no longer to be a part of believers' lives or practices. This is reminiscent of Romans 6:11-14 - (11) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(12) Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

(13) Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

(14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace (emphasis added).

By your members, where your is plural and refers to the Colossian believers and, by extension, to all believers everywhere, Paul means your parts. These are members or parts which characterized believers' lives prior to their salvation but are no longer to characterize them.

Which are upon the earth further describes these characteristics. It is reminiscent of verse 2 where the believer is instructed not to be setting his affection on things on the earth. These members or parts of the Colossian believers are the sins which are enumerated in the phrases which follow and are characteristic of the earthly existence of an ungodly lifestyle rather than of a godly lifestyle.

Paul specifies fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness as the members which are upon the earth which the Colossian believes are to mortify.

Fornication is a general term for sexual immorality and is used of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse. It includes such things as prostitution, unchastity, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and adultery.

Uncleanness is another term used especially of sexual sins and literally means uncleanness and is used of impurity, dirt, or refuse. Here, it is used figuratively of a state of moral corruption in the sense of immorality or vileness, especially of sexual sins.

Inordinate affection is strong desire or passion, especially of a sexual nature.

Concupiscence literally means desire; but when used in a bad sense as here, it means lust or craving. By evil Paul means bad, worthless, or inferior. When combined with concupiscence, the word evil describes it very well.

And adds covetousness, which refers to the state of desiring to have more than one's due, i.e. to greediness, insatiableness, or avarice. It is a desire to get something to which one is not entitled but still wants to have it.

Which is idolatry is which to be sure (or which sort of thing) is idolatry (or image worship). Which refers to covetousness. It is interesting that wherever one finds idolatry, he also finds immorality. In this context, the idolatry is the covetousness, the falling down at the shrine of things one desires to have but which are not his. As he worships these things and attempts to gain them for himself, he will find that immorality will be there as well.