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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
In the previous chapter, the apostle had showed what a true Christian ought not to follow after. He had warned the Colossians against the dangers of false philosophy, and the doctrines of erroneous teachers. In this chapter, he teaches them what they ought to pursue and to seek. He therefore enjoins various duties in the different relations of life, which they ought to perform in such a way as to show that true religion had a controlling influence over their hearts. He specifies the following:
(1) The duty of setting the affections on things above; Colossians 3:1-4. They were risen with Christ Colossians 2:12, they were dead to sin Colossians 3:3; they were soon to he like Christ Colossians 3:4, and they should, therefore, fix their affections on heavenly things.
(2) the duty of mortifying their corrupt passions and carnal propensities; Colossians 3:5-8.
(3) the duty of speaking the truth, since they had put off the old man with his deeds; Colossians 3:9-11.
(4) the duty of kindness, gentleness, charity, and the spirit of peace; Colossians 3:12-15.
(5) the duty of edifying one another by psalms and songs of praise; Colossians 3:16-17,
(6) The duty of wives, Colossians 3:18;
(7) of husbands, Colossians 3:19;
(8) of children, Colossians 3:20;
(9) of fathers, Colossians 3:21;
(10) of servants, Colossians 3:22-25.
There is a very striking similarity between this chapter and Ephesians 5; 6, and a full exposition of the principal subjects adverted to here may be found in the notes there.
1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
If ye then be risen with Christ - The apostle in this place evidently founds the argument on what he had said in Colossians 2:12; see the notes at that passage. The argument is, that there was such an union between Christ and his people, that in virtue of his death they become dead to sin; that in virtue of his resurrection they rise to spiritual life, and that, therefore, as Christ now lives in heaven, they should live for heaven, and fix their affections there.
Seek those things which are above - That is, seek them as the objects of pursuit and affection; strive to secure them.
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God - Notes, Mark 16:19. The argument here is, that since Christ is there, and since he is the object of our supreme attachment, we should fix our affections on heavenly things, and seek to be prepared to dwell with him.
2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Set your affection - Margin, "or mind." Greek" think of" - φρονεῖτε phroneite. The thoughts should be occupied about the things where Christ now dwells, where our final home is to be, where our great interests are. Since we are raised from the death of sin, and are made to live anew, the great object of our contemplation should be the heavenly world.
Not on things on the earth - Wealth, honor, pleasure. Our affections should not be fixed on houses and lands; on scenes of fashion and gaiety; on low and debasing enjoyments.
3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
For ye are dead - Dead to the world; dead to sin; dead to earthly pleasures. On the meaning of the word "dead," see the Romans 6:2 note; Ephesians 2:1 note. The idea of the apostle is, that as Christ became literally dead in the tomb, so we, in virtue of our connection with him, have become dead to sin, to worldly influences, pleasures, and ambition. Or, in other words, we are to be to them as if we were dead, and they had no more influence over us than the things of earth had over him in the grave; Notes, Romans 6:2.
And your life - There is still life. Though dead to one class of objects, you are alive to others. See the sentiment here expressed, explained at large in the notes at Galatians 2:20.
Is hid with Christ in God - The language here is taken probably from treasure which is "hid" or concealed in a place of security; and the idea is, that eternal life is an invaluable jewel or treasure, which is laid up with Christ in heaven where God is. There it is safely deposited. It has this security, that it is with the Redeemer, and that he is in the presence of God; and thus nothing can reach it or take it away. It is not left with us, or intrusted to our keeping - for then it might be lost as we might lose an invaluable jewel; or it might be wrested from us; or we might be defrauded of it; but it is now laid up far out of our sight, and far from the reach of all our enemies, and with one who can "keep that which we have committed to him against that day;" 2 Timothy 1:12. Our eternal life, therefore, is as secure as it could possibly be made. The true condition of the Christian is, that he is "dead" to this world, but that he has immortal life in prospect, and that is secure, being in the holy keeping of his Redeemer, now in the presence of God. From this it follows that he should regard himself as living for heaven.
4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
When Christ, who is our life - Notes, John 1:4; John 11:25, note.
Shall appear - In the day when he shall come to judge the world.
Then shall ye also appear with him in glory - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Christians shall then be raised from the dead, and ascend with the Redeemer to heaven.
5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Mortify therefore your members - Since you are dead to sin and the world, and are to appear with Christ in the glories of his kingdom, subdue every carnal and evil propensity of your nature. The word mortify means to put to death (Romans 8:13, note; Galatians 5:24, note), and the meaning here is that they were entirely to subdue their evil propensities, so that they would have no remains of life; that is, they were not at all to indulge them. The word "members" here, refers to the different members of the body - as the seat of evil desires and passions; compare the notes at Romans 6:13. They were wholly to extirpate those evil passions which he specifies as having their seat in the various members of the earthly body.
Fornication - Notes, Romans 1:2.
Uncleanness - Notes, Romans 1:24.
Inordinate affection - πάθος pathos. Rendered in Romans 1:26, "vile affections;" see the notes at that verse. In 1 Thessalonians 4:5, the word is rendered "lust" - which is its meaning here.
Evil concupiscence - Evil desires; licentious passions; Romans 1:24. Greek.
And covetousness, which is idolatry - It is remarkable that the apostle always ranks covetousness with these base and detestable passions. The meaning here is:
(1) that it is a low and debasing passion, like those which he had specified; and,
(2) that it secures the affections which properly belong to God, and is, therefore, idolatry. Of all base passions, this is the one that most dethrones God from the soul. See this whole passage more fully explained in the notes at Ephesians 5:3-5.
6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
For which things' sake ... - See the notes at Ephesians 5:6, where the same expression occurs.
7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
In the which - In all which evil passions.
Ye also walked sometime - You formerly lived. These were the common vices of the pagan; Ephesians 5:8, note; 1 Corinthians 6:10-11, notes; compare Romans 1:24-32, notes.
8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
But now ye also put off all these - All these which follow, as being also inconsistent with the Christian calling.
Anger, wrath - Notes, Ephesians 4:26.
Malice - Notes, Ephesians 4:31.
Blasphemy - Notes, Matthew 9:3. The word here seems to mean all injurious and calumnious speaking - whether against God or man.
Filthy communication out of your mouth - Lewd, indecent, and immodest discourse; Notes, Ephesians 4:29. The conversation of the pagan everywhere abounds with this. A pure method of conversation among men is the fruit of Christianity.
9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Lie not one to another - Notes, Ephesians 4:25.
Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds - Your former corrupt and evil nature; Notes, Ephesians 4:22. The reason for putting away lying, stated in Ephesians 4:25, is, that we "are members one of another" - or are brethren. The reason assigned here is, that we have put off the old man with his deeds. The sense is, that lying is one of the fruits of sin. It is that which the corrupt nature of man naturally produces; and when that is put off, then all that that nature produces should be also put off with it. The vice of lying is a universal fruit of sin, and seems to exist everywhere where the gospel does not prevail; compare the notes at Titus 1:12. There is, perhaps, no single form of sin that reigns so universally in the pagan world.
10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Which is renewed in knowledge - In Ephesians 4:24, it is said that the new man is "created after God in righteousness and true holiness." In this place it is added that to the renewed soul knowledge is imparted, and it is made in that respect as man was when he was first created. This passage, in connection with Ephesians 4:24, proves that before man fell he was endowed with "righteousness, true holiness, and knowledge." The knowledge here referred to, is not the knowledge of everything, but the knowledge of God. Man was acquainted with his Creator. He resembled him in his capacity for knowledge. He was an intelligent being, and he had an acquaintance with the divine existence and perfections; compare the notes at Romans 5:12. But especially had he that knowledge which is the fear of the Lord; that knowledge of God which is the result of love. Piety, in the Scriptures, is often represented as the "knowledge" of God; see the notes at John 17:3; compare the notes at Ephesians 3:19.
After the image of him that created him - So as to resemble God. In knowledge he was made in the likeness of his Maker.%%
11Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew - See this fully explained in the notes at Galatians 3:28. The meaning here is, that all are on a level; that there is no distinction of nation in the church; that all are to be regarded and treated as brethren, and that therefore no one should be false to another, or lie to another.
Circumcision nor uncircumcision - No one is admitted into that blessed society because he is circumcised; no one is excluded because he is uncircumcised. That distinction is unknown, and all are on a level.
Barbarian - No one is excluded because he is a barbarian, or because he lives among those who are uncivilized, and is unpolished in his manners; see the word "barbarian" explained in the notes at Romans 1:14.
Scythian - This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The name Scythian is applied in ancient geography to the people who lived on the north and northeast of the Black and Caspian seas, a region stretchings indefinitely into the unknown countries of Asia. They occupied the lands now peopled by the Monguls and Tartars. The name was almost synonymous with barbarian, for they were regarded as a wild and savage race. The meaning here is, that even such a ferocious and uncivilized people were not excluded from the gospel, but they were as welcome as any other, and were entitled to the same privileges as others. No one was excluded because he belonged to the most rude and uncivilized portion of mankind.
Bond nor free - See the notes at Galatians 3:28.
But Christ is all, and in all - The great thing that constitutes the uniqueness of the church is, that Christ is its Saviour, and that all are his friends and followers. Its members lay aside all other distinctions, and are known only as his friends. They are not known as Jews and Gentiles; as of this nation or that; as slaves or freemen, but they are known as Christians; distinguished from all the rest of mankind as the united friends of the Redeemer; compare the notes at Galatians 3:28.
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Put on, therefore, as the elect of God - The fact that you thus belong to one and the same church; that you have been redeemed by the sameblood, and chosen by the same grace, and that you are all brethren, should lead you to manifest a spirit of kindness, gentleness, and love.
Bowels of mercies - Notes, Philippians 2:1.
Kindness ... - See the notes at Ephesians 4:32. The language here is a little different from what it is there, but the sentiment is the same.
13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Forbearing one another - Notes, Ephesians 4:2.
And forgiving one another - Notes, Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14.
If any man have a quarrel against any - Margin, "or complaint." The word used here - μομφή momphē - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, "fault found, blame, censure;" and here denotes occasion of complaint. The idea is, that if another one has given us just occasion of complaint, we are to forgive him; that is, we are:
(1) to harbor no malice against him;
(2) we are to be ready to do him good as if he had not given us occasion of complaint;
(3) we are to be willing to declare that we forgive him when be asks it; and,
(4) we are always afterward to treat him as kindly as if he had not injured us - as God treats us when he forgives us; see the notes at Matthew 18:21.
Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye - Learn here that Christ has power to forgive sin; compare the Matthew 9:6 note; Acts 5:31 note. Christ forgave us:
(1) freely - he did not hesitate or delay when we asked him;
(2) entirely - he pardoned all our offences;
(3) forever - he did it so as to remember our sins no more, and to treat us ever onward as if we had not sinned.
So we should forgive an offending brother.
14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And above all these things - Over, or upon all these things; compare the notes at Ephesians 6:16.
Charity - Love. Notes, 1 Corinthians 13:1.
Which is the bond of perfectness - The bond of all perfection; the thing which will unite all other things, and make them complete; compare the parallel place in Ephesians 4:3. The idea seems to be that love will bind all the other graces fast together, and render the whole system complete. Without love, though there might be other graces and virtues, there would be a want of harmony and compactness in our Christian graces, and this was necessary to unite and complete the whole. There is great beauty in the expression, and it contains most important truth. If it were possible to conceive that the other graces could exist among a Christian people, yet there would be a sad incompleteness, a painful want of harmony and union, if love were not the reigning principle. Nor faith, nor zeal, nor prophecy, nor the power of speaking with the tongue of angels, would answer the purpose. See this sentiment expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and the effect of love more fully explained in the notes at that chapter.
15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
And let the peace of God - The peace which God gives; Notes, Philippians 4:7.
Rule in your hearts - Preside in your hearts; sit as umpire there (Doddridge); govern and control you. The word rendered here "rule" - βραβεύετω brabeuetō - is commonly used in reference to the Olympic and other games. It means, to be a director, or arbiter of the public games; to preside over them and preserve order, and to distribute the prizes to the victors. The meaning here is, that the peace which God gives to the soul is to be to us what the brabeutes, or governor at the games was to those who contended there. It is to preside over and govern the mind; to preserve every thing in its place; and to save it from tumult, disorder, and irregularity. The thought is a very beautiful one. The soul is liable to the agitations of passion and excitement - like an assembled multitude of men. It needs something to preside over it, and keep its various faculties in place and order; and nothing is so well fitted to do this as the calm peace which religion gives, a deep sense of the presence of God, the desire and the evidence of his friendship, the hope of his favor, and the belief that he has forgiven all our sins. The "peace of God" will thus calm down every agitated element of the soul; subdue the tumult of passion, and preserve the mind in healthful action and order - as a ruler sways and controls the passions of assembled multitudes of people.
To the which ye are also called - To which peace.
In one body - To be one body; or to be united as one; notes, Ephesians 4:4-6.
And be ye thankful - For all mercies, and especially for your privileges and hopes as Christians. A spirit of thankfulness, also, would tend much to promote harmony and peace. An ungrateful people is commonly a tumultuous, agitated, restless, and dissatisfied people. Nothing better tends to promote peace and order than gratitude to God for his mercies.
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Let the word of Christ - The doctrine of Christ.
Dwell in you richly in all wisdom - Abundantly, producing the spirit of true wisdom. That doctrine is adapted to make you wise. The meaning is, that they were to lay up the doctrines of the gospel in their hearts, to meditate upon them; to allow them to be their guide, and to endearor wisely to improve them to the best purpose.
Teaching and admonishing ... - See this explained in the notes at Ephesians 5:19-20. The only additional thought here is, that their psalms and hymns were to be regarded as a method of "teaching" and "admonishing;" that is, they were to be imbued with truth, and to be such as to elevate the mind, and withdraw it from error and sin. Dr. Johnson once said, that if he were allowed to make the ballads of a nation, he cared not who made the laws. It is true in a more important sense that he who is permitted to make the hymns of a church, need care little who preaches, or who makes the creed. He will more effectually mould the sentiments of a church than they who preach or make creeds and confessions. Hence, it is indispensable, in order to the preservation of the truth, that the sacred songs of a church should be imbued with sound evangelical sentiment.
17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed - Whatever ye say or do - whether relating to temporal affairs or to religion. The command here extends to all that we do.
Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus - Do it all because he requires and commands it, and with a desire to honor him. His authority should be the warrant; his glory the aim of all our actions and words. See the general sentiment here expressed, fully illustrated in the notes at 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Giving thanks to God and the Father by him - Through him; or in his name. All our actions are to be accompanied with thanksgiving; Notes, Philippians 4:6. We are to engage in every duty, not only in the name of Christ, but with thankfulness for strength and reason; for the privilege of acting so that we may honor him; and with a grateful remembrance of the mercy of God that gave us such a Saviour to be an example and guide. He is most likely to do his duty well who goes to it with a heart overflowing with gratitude to God for his mercies, and he who is likely to perform his duties with the most cheerful fidelity, is he who has the deepest sense of the divine goodness in providing a Saviour for his lost and ruined soul; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.
18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Wives, submit yourselves ... - Notes on the parallel passage in Ephesians 5:21-24.
19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Husbands, love your wives ... - Notes, Ephesians 4:25-29.
20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Children, obey your parents ... - Notes, Ephesians 6:1-4.
21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Fathers, provoke not ... - Notes, Ephesians 6:4.
Lest they be discouraged - Lest, by your continually finding fault with them, they should lose all courage, and despair of ever pleasing you. There is much sound sense and practical wisdom in this observation of the apostle. Children should not be flattered, but they should be encouraged. They should not be so praised as to make them vain and proud, but they should be commended when they do well. The desire of praise should not be the principle from which they should be taught to act, but they should feel that the approbation of parents is a desirable thing, and when they act so as to deserve that approbation, no injury is done them by their understanding it. He who always finds fault with a child; who is never satisfied with what he does; who scolds and frets and complains, let him do as he will, breaks his spirit, and soon destroys in the delicate texture of his soul all desire of doing well. The child in despair soon gives over every effort to please. He becomes sullen, morose, stupid, and indifferent to all the motives that can be presented to him, and becomes to a great extent indifferent as to what he does - since all that he does meets with the same reception from the parent.
22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
Servants, obey in all things ... - ; see the notes at Ephesians 6:5-8.
23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.