Colossians 3 Study Notes


3:1-17 In 2:23, Paul criticized the asceticism of the false teachers by stating that such practices offered no help in curbing sinful fleshly desires. In these verses he offered positive advice on true spiritual living that effectively remedies sinful cravings of the flesh.

3:1-2 So if resumes the implications of believers’ identification with Christ begun in 2:20. It signals a shift in the epistle from doctrinal instruction (chaps. 1-2) to practical application (3:1-4:6). The objects of believers’ efforts and thoughts are Christ and things above rather than earthly things. These commands contrast true spiritual living with the false spirituality promoted by earthly “philosophy.”

3:3 The basis for the commands (vv. 1-2) lies in believers’ union with Christ. Hidden connotes that God fully completed the action in the past with permanent results.

3:4 At present Christ dwells at God’s right hand in heaven and is hidden from the view of those living on earth. At some future point he will appear in the fullness of his glory. When this occurs, believers will also appear with Christ in glory.

3:5 The command to put to death (2:20; Mt 5:29-30; Rm 8:13) refers to the practical outworking of seeking and thinking about heavenly things. Paul offered a fivefold catalog of vices explaining what he meant by what belongs to your earthly nature. These vices are listed moving from specific outward behaviors to general inward inclinations and thoughts.

3:6 God’s wrath indicates the severe consequences for these sins.

3:7 Once walked emphasizes the discontinuity between believers’ new and former ways of life.

3:8 Put away literally means to “take off” or “remove” something and may evoke the familiar Pauline metaphor of changing clothes (Rm 13:12; Eph 4:22). All the vices listed relate to behaviors that disrupt interpersonal relationships.

3:9-10 The metaphor of changing clothes pertains to an actual observable change of behavior. The new self replaces the old but is also continuously being renewed to reflect the image of God. The reference to the new self applies to individuals but also carries corporate connotations relating to the body of Christ (1:15-20).

3:11 The old order was characterized by ethnic and social division, but the new order obliterates those distinctions in the body of Christ (see Gl 3:27-28). The phrase Christ is all and in all refers to his supremacy (1:17) and indwelling presence in believers (1:27).

3:12 After commanding believers to “put away” worldly behaviors, Paul offered a series of positive commands to put on or to “clothe yourselves” (Rm 13:14) with behavior fitted for God’s people. The adjectives chosen (Is 43:20; 65:9; Rm 8:33; 2Tm 2:10; Ti 1:1; 1Pt 1:1; 2:4,6,9), holy (Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34; Jn 6:69; 1Pt 2:9), and loved (Mt 3:17; Eph 1:6; 1Th 1:4; 2Th 2:13) were all applied to Israel, Jesus, and the church. The five virtues are just the opposite of the vices listed in vv. 5 and 8.

3:13 The words bearing with (cp. Rm 15:7; Eph 4:2) and forgiving (cp. Eph 4:32) express the habitual manner in which believers exhibit the stated virtues. Both verbs pertain to interpersonal relationships in the body of Christ. Just as the Lord has forgiven echoes Jesus’s injunction to forgive because believers are forgiven (Mt 6:12,14-15; 18:23-35; Lk 7:42).

3:14 The imagery here suggests that the final and most important new article of clothing for God’s people is love, the perfect bond of unity that binds believers together in complete oneness (Eph 4:3).

3:15 The peace brought by Christ should control believers’ hearts (Rm 8:6; 15:13; 2Co 13:11; Gl 5:22; Eph 2:14; Php 4:7; 2Th 3:16). Be thankful harks back to 1:3,12; 2:7 (cp. 3:17; 4:2).

3:16 The words teaching and admonishing express the means of how the gospel is to dwell among believers. Singing and gratitude characterize the manner of this teaching and admonishing.

3:17 This verse is similar to 1Co 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus means doing it in obedience to him.

3:18-4:1 Paul in this section showed how doing everything in the name of the Lord applies to every member of a household. Early Christians adopted and modified this format for describing appropriate behavior of members in a Christian household (Eph 5:21-6:9; Ti 2:2-10; 1Pt 2:18-3:7).

3:18 Paul exhorted wives to submit themselves to their husbands (Eph 5:21-24). Paul always used this verb in the context of authority relationships (Rm 8:7; 10:3; 13:1,5; 1Co 14:34; 15:27-28; 16:16; Php 3:21; Ti 2:5,9; 3:1). This submission is not subservience but voluntary subordination. This disposition is based on the wife’s relationship with Christ and her role within the family (as is fitting in the Lord) rather than on a false notion of inferiority (1Co 11:3,7-9; see note at Eph 5:22-24).

3:19 Coupled with his exhortation for wives, Paul admonished husbands to love your wives, with the additional warning not to become bitter toward them. “Love” refers to selfless sacrificial concern and care for the welfare of another person (Eph 5:25-33). “Bitterness” pertains to harsh treatment and could be translated as “to cause bitter feelings.” Husbands must always care for their wives and never deal harshly with them (1Pt 3:7).

3:20 The word obey lacks the voluntary sense found in the command to be submissive. Children must be obedient to their parents (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; Eph 6:1-3); this is how they please the Lord. This obedience does not include immoral or idolatrous demands from a parent, because this is not behavior pleasing to the Lord.


Greek pronunciation [klay rah nah MEE ah]
CSB translation inheritance
Uses in Colossians 1
Uses in the NT 14
Focus passage Colossians 3:24

KlÄ“ronomia (inheritance) occasionally refers to promised possessions (Ac 7:5) or to the inheritance legally due an heir (Lk 12:13). More frequently, however, NT authors employ the term inheritance in a religious, spiritual sense to refer to the future, heavenly, imperishable, eternal salvation of which the saints will one day partake in the kingdom of God (Col 3:24; Eph 1:14; Heb 9:15; 1Pt 1:4). Jesus, in his “Parable of the Vineyard Owner” (Mt 21:38 = Mk 12:7 = Lk 20:14), loads the term with this deeper, spiritual referent, interpreting the inheritance as the kingdom of God (Mt 21:43). Paul speaks of inheritance only in this religious sense. Christians, as heirs of God through faith (Gl 3:26), have sole rights to this future inheritance (Eph 5:5). The sealing of the Holy Spirit upon believers is the Father’s guarantee that he will grant his children their promised inheritance (Eph 1:13-14,18).

3:21 Although the term fathers could include both parents (Heb 11:23), fathers in particular are warned to not exasperate their children (Eph 6:4). “Exasperate” means to cause or provoke someone to harbor feelings of resentment. The reason for this injunction is so that children do not become discouraged or disheartened. Fathers must avoid dealing harshly with them.

3:22-25 Some interpreters believe slaves in the ancient world might not have been hard workers since they did not profit personally from their labor. Paul offered an extensive rationale for exhorting Christian slaves to obey their earthly masters in everything: (1) slaves are to work even when unsupervised, because they are ultimately serving the Lord rather than a human master; (2) their service to the Lord will be gloriously rewarded in eternity; and (3) God does not discriminate when it comes to punishing bad behavior. These instructions are paralleled in Eph 6:5-8.