1. Therefore if you rose together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
2. Mind the things that are above, not those on earth.
3. For you died, and your Hfe is hidden with Christ in God.
4. When Christ shall appear, your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory.
Chapter 3. In this chapter the Apostle exhorts the Colossian Christians to mortify the desires of the body, and put on the new life and character of the religion they have embraced; and adds special injunctions for wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters.
In chapter 2:12, Saint Paul said that in Baptism we died with Christ, and rose again. And in verse 20 he said, if you died with Christ, why, as if still living in the world, do you regulate your lives by the principles of a mundane philosophy? Here he adds, since with Christ you rose to a life spiritual and divine, seek not the pleasures and advantages of earth, but the eternal joy of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand. Christ as God is the equal of the Father in majesty; as man, he is second to him. And the Scripture, using human language in condescension to our ideas, expresses this by saying, that he sits at God’s right hand. The phrase is of very frequent occurrence, being used by Saint Paul Rom 8:34, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 12:2, by Saint Mark, 16:19, by Saint Peter, Act 2:33, 1 Pet 3:22, and by Saint Stephen, Act 7:56. It signifies the highest place of honour, grace, and glory. Mind therefore, sapife, things that are above, love, hope for, meditate on, set your affections on, the things above. Sursum corda, love heaven, not earth. For you died, not you are dead. Christ died, but is not dead; on the contrary, his life is hidden in God. But he died to earth, and the life he lives, the life you live in him now by grace, and the life you shall live with him in glory in eternity, is hidden from the eyes of men. Hidden in the heart of God, its birthplace and its home. The holy angels know and honour it, but men despise it; the world knoweth us not, 1 Joh 3:1. Yet one day it shall be revealed in the sight of all men, when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, and then you also shall appear with him in glory. For we know. Saint John says, that when he appears, we shall he like him (1 Joh 3:3). Like him in the glory in which he sits at God’s right hand; like him in mind, through an express image of God, or by the word of the mind, which is like God, and exactly represents him; like him in quality, holy, blessed, immortal, impassible, glorious, the body of our humility being made like the body of the splendour of Christ. Then we shall know the nobility, grandeur, and felicity of the sons of God.
5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and avarice, which is the service of images.
6. For which the anger of God is coming upon the sons of incredulity.
7. In which you also at one time walked, when you lived in them.
Saint Paul here uses the word membra in a figurative sense. In the Christian there are two men, one of earth, that is Adam, from whom he inherits a nature subject to concupiscence; the other from heaven, Christ our Lord, through whom he is regenerate, into whom he is grafted, and who lives in him by grace. The members of the earthly man are vices and evil desires; Christian graces are members of the heavenly. For the growth to maturity of the heavenly man, the earthly man must perish; the death of the one is the life of the other. In Baptism the earthly man began to die; by mortification his death is daily carried out. In Baptism he died to sin, and sin was for the past remitted, for the future renounced, but concupiscence, the root of sin, remained, and this must be eradicated by mortification. The members of the earthly man are the various sins which Saint Paul proceeds to classify, simple fornication, defilement of the body, degradingpassions of the soul, generally all desire of evil things, and avarice, by which last term Saint Jerome understands an insatiable desire of carnal pleasure. This the Apostle says is idol-worship, either because the idolatry of those days fostered it, or because wicked desires become like idol-deities, to the service of which the soul is enthralled. On account of these things, he adds, the wrath of God is coming upon sons of unbelief. The same statement occurs in Eph 5:6, and it may possibly be a prediction of the earthquake by which the cities of Colossae and Laodicea, and others in the neighbourhood, were shortly afterwards overthrown, as observed in the preface. It is evident that what the Apostle
here denounces is not any occasional fall from holiness on the part of believers in Christ, but the shocking ethical system of the heretics, which inculcated and counselled systematic rebellion against the commands of the Creator of the world, whom they denounced as an evil demon. In these things, the Apostle says, you at one time walked, while you were pagans, before your conversion to the Christian faith. He says this, St. Chrysostom remarks, to put them to shame, but in order to soften the severity of his words immediately adds, while you lived in them, which you do not now, having changed your manner of life.
8. But now do you lay aside also all: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy language from your mouth.
9. Do not lie one to another, stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds.
10. And putting on the new, him who is renewed to knowledge, according to the image of him who created him.
11. Where is not Gentile and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian and Scythian, slave and free, but all and in all Christ.
12. Put you on, therefore, as elect of God holy and beloved bowels of mercy, kindness, humility, modesty, patience;
13. Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any against any has complaint; as the Lord forgave you, so also do you.
14. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection,
15. And let the peace of Christ exult in your hearts, in which also you were called in one body: and be grateful.
16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, in grace singing in your hearts to God.
17. All you do in word or work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to the God and Father through him.
Not only those graver sins in which you no longer live, are to be laid aside, but also minor faults against God and your neighbour, anger, malice, and violent and unseemly language. See the note on Eph 4:31, and that on Eph 4:22, 24, as to the distinction drawn by the Apostle between the old and the new man. The Greek has, now that you have put off the old man, and put on the new, that is, in your Christian profession. For as the faults and vices of the pagan life are the result and outcome of the influence of the evil spirit which dwells within the heart, so the graces of the Christian life will, if
encouraged, grow from the presence of Christ within the soul. But, as the reading of the Vulgate would imply, the old tendencies, having still their root in human nature, and possibly in habit, will still have to be repressed, and the Christian life daily renewed and carefully cultivated. The new man is renewed, according to the Syriac, through knowledge, according to the likeness of Him who made him. By learning more and more of the character of God, through communion with Him, the Christian grows into his likeness. The Greek and the Vulgate read renewed into knowledge, advances continually in the knowledge of God, and consequently in his likeness. This likeness of God is the perfection of man’s nature, not following any special or particular type, or nationality, or class; its model or pattern is not Gentile or Jew, Greek or barbarian, civilised or savage, slave or free; but wholly Christ, and Christ in all. The mention of Scythians suggests the possibility that, as it is known that these people had formerly invaded Western Asia, there may have been traces or traditions of a colony of them in Phrygia. Your real nationality, whatever it was originally, and your real state and condition, whatever it may be by the provisions of human law, is now the elect people of God, holy, and beloved of God, of angels, and of saints. Therefore put on, or exhibit in your life and conversation, the characteristics of this condition, mercy and kindliness, humility and patience, bearing with and forgiving the faults and imperfections of one another, since you have so many of your own. Forgive, as the Lord (the Greek has, Christ) forgave you. Above all, have charity. The Greek has no verb, supplying put on from the previous sentence. Above all, because it is the highest grace. Charity is the love of God, and of man for God’s sake, and this is the highest motive for affection, for kindness, and well doing. The bond of perfection is a Hebraism for the most perfect bond, that which binds the souls of men together by the noblest and truest bond, the relation they bear to their Creator. And let the peace of Christ exult in your hearts. The Greek verb βραβεύω (brabeuo)̄ might either mean, as the Vulgate understands it, carry off the prize of victory, be victorious over anger, or dissension, or cupidity, or pride. Or it may mean, adjudge the prize of victory, that is, preside, moderate, and rule. And if between you there arise controversy or difference, let the peace of Christ, not anger, or pride, or passorr, determine it. In this sense the word is understood by Saint Chrysostom and Theodoret, and this is the sense of the Syriac: Let the peace of Christ govern your hearts. For you all form one body, and the portions of one and the same body do not fight one with another. In peace, therefore, you are called. And he grateful, in the Syriac, give thanks to God. Saint Jerome, however, as quoted by Erasmus, understands it gracious, amiable, kind and easy, for this contributes to peace. Let the word of Christ, that is the teaching of Christ, which you have received from Epaphras and other instructors, dwell in your minds and hearts liabitually and abundantly so as to make you rich in all wisdom, often speaking of it to one another. The words with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs may perhaps be more fitly taken with the participle cantantes which follows them. For the distinction between these see on Eph 5:19, 20. Singing in grace, that is, in thanksgiving, or otherwise, with sweetness, care, and correctness, so as to give pleasure to yourselves and those who hear you. In your hearts, that is, with your hearts, heartily, sincerely, not with the voice only, and the heart not in harmony with what you sing. In all you say or do, in word or work, invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not the names of angels, like the followers of Simon ; and through him, and not through angels, give thanks to God the Father. So Theodoret and Saint Chrysostom understand it. Saint Tlipmas says that the precept is also to be taken in a directly affirmative sense, but that to fulfil it, it is not necessary that everything should be formally and in act referred to God, but in the habit of the mind, and is satisfied when our words and deeds are such as to promote God’s glory. Whoever acts or speaks against the glory or the commands of God, acts in opposition to this precept of the Apostle. The perfection of charity is when all things are actually, or at least effectually, referred to God’s glory in the name and power of Christ. For then all we do will be Gods praise, and pious and meritorious in his sight. Do all through Christ, as your mediator and pontiff; with Christ, as your head; in Christ, in his spirit, motive, and intention.