Colossians 3






The apostle, having delivered his attack on the system of error inculcated at

Colossae, now passes from the controversial to the more practical purport

of his letter. There is no break, however, in the current of his thought; for

throughout this chapter he urges the pursuit of a practical Christian life in a

sense and in a manner silently opposed to the tendencies of Gnosticizing

error. How much more congenial was the task to which he now addresses

himself we may judge, perhaps, from the ease and simplicity which mark

the language of this chapter, as compared with the abrupt and seemingly

embarrassed style of the last section. We may analyze the teaching section

of the Epistle (ch. 3:1- ch. 4:6) as follows:


  • ch. 3:1-4, urging the Colossians to maintain a lofty spiritual life;
  • vs. 5-8, to put off their old vices, impurity, malice, falsehood;
  • vs. 9-14, to put on the new Christian virtues, especially gentleness,

forgivingness, love;

  • vs. 15-17, to let the sovereign influence of Christ sway their whole

life — inward, social, secular;

  • v. 18 – ch. 4:1, enjoining the Christian discharge of their relative

duties, as wives and husbands, children and fathers, servants and

masters, under the sense of their allegiance to the Lord Christ;

  • ch. 4:2-4, exhorting to constant prayer, and especially for

the apostle himself at the present juncture; and

vs. 5-6, to wise conduct and edifying speech toward them that are



It will be seen how much more comprehensive and systematic is

the view thus presented of Christian duty than that furnished by earlier

Epistles; and how the ideas of the supremacy of Christ, the unity of the

Christian brotherhood, and the sacredness of the natural constitution of

human life, which were threatened by the rise of Gnosticism in Colossae,

underlie the apostle’s exposition of Christian ethics. Verses 1-17, we have

grouped together under the title given to this section;  vs. 18- ch. 4:1,

demands a separate treatment; and vs. 2-6 will finally be  bracketed together.


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.”   (ch. 2:11-13, 20; Romans

6:1-11; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 3:20; Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:13-40).

The apostle has already shown that when his readers, entering the gate of

baptism, became Christians through faith in Christ, they died with Him (ch.

2:20), were buried, then raised and made alive together with Him (Ibid. 11-13):

Compare Romans 6:1-11. So they were restored to peace and favor with God

(ch. 1:21-23; 2:13-14), severed from their old life of sin (Ibid. 2:11), and set in

the path of holiness (Ibid. 1:22). At the same time, they left behind all

childish, tentative forms and notions (“rudiments”) of religion, whether

Jewish or non-Jewish (ch.2:8, 11, 18, 20-23). They became dead both from

sin and from human modes of salvation. Both are included in “the things upon

the earth,” to which belong at once the grosser sensual forms of sin (v. 5) with

its “surfeiting of the flesh” (ch. 2:23), and that vaunted philosophy, which is

after all earth born and earthward tending (Ibid. vs.:8, 20), bringing the soul

again into bondage to material things. The apostle lifts his readers into a new,

heavenly sphere.  He bids them make “the things above,” i.e. “the things of

Christ,” the one object of their thought and endeavor. So they will master the

flesh by rising above it, instead of fighting it on its own ground by ceremonial

rite and ascetic regimen. “The things above” are no abstract, transcendental

conception, as in the theology of Paul’s opponents, for they are “where

Christ is.” The things “in the heavens” as well as those “upon the earth”

were created “in Him, through Him, unto Him” (ch. 1:16);  Romans 11:36)

there He is Lord, even as here (ch. 1:17; 2:10; Matthew 28:18).  His presence

gives distinctness and positiveness to the Christian’s view of heaven, and

concentrates his interests and affections there (compare Philippians 1:23; 3:20;

I Thessalonians 1:10; Ephesians 1:3; 2:6; Matthew 6:19-20; John 12:26; 14:3;

Acts 1:11; 7:56). “Seated” is placed with emphasis at the end of its clause,

indicating the completeness of the Saviour’s work and the dignity of His

position (compare Ephesians 1:20-22; Hebrews 1:3; 10:12-13; Revelation 3:21).

 For “the things above,” see vs. 3-4; also chps. 1:5 and 2:18 compared with

Philippians 3:11-14, 20-21; Romans 2:7; 8:17-23; I Corinthians 15:42-49;

II Corinthians 4:16-5:8; John 17:24.) To “seek” these things is to strive

that they may be ours in the future; to “mind” them is to occupy our

thoughts with them in the present. (For the word “mind” (frone>w phroneo

to think), compare Philippians 3:19 and Romans 8:5-7 (fro>nhmaphronema

thought; minding); in Romans 14:6 it is rendered by “regard.”)


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

(ch. 2:11-13, 20; Ephesians 4:22; Philippians 3:20; Romans 6:1-14; 7:1-6;

II Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20; I Corinthians 3:23; John 15:5;

12:26; Revelation 3:21).  In this hidden life of the Christian lies the

ground and the spring of the more outward life of thought and endeavor

of vs. 1-2. And this life comes through death, from that “dying with Christ”

out of which we “rose with Him” (v. 1; ch. 2:11-13, 20; Romans 6:3-4, 8).

“The aorist ajpeqa>nete apothanete - ye died - denotes the past act; the perfect

ke>kruptai kekruptai - - hath been and is hid -  the permanent effects”.

(On the nature of this death, see notes to ch. 2:11-13.) “Died

— and your life!” this paradox is explained in Romans 6:10-11, and

repeated in Galatians 2:20; II Corinthians 5:14-15. The Christian’s

life is lodged in the sphere of “the unseen and eternal.” It centers in Christ,

and as He is hidden — withdrawn from the world of sense, yet with us

always in His Spirit (John 14:16-20; 16:16-22) — so our life with Him.

And if “with Christ,” then “in God;” for “Christ is God’s” (I Corinthians

3:23); “lives to God” (Romans 6:10), and “is at God’s right hand” (v. 1),

being “the Son of his love” (ch. 1:13; John 1:18). The apostle says, in God”

(“in heaven,” Philippians 3:20), to emphasize the fact of the union of Christ

with God, or perhaps to deepen the reader’s sense of the sacredness of this life

in Christ (compare I Timothy 6:14-16). “Is hid” (ch.  1:26-27; 2:2-3), another

allusion to the fondness of the Colossian errorists for mysteries. In ch. 1:26

Paul spoke of the ancient mystery of a Christ for all the world; then of the new,

perpetual mystery of a Christ dwelling within believing hearts. But this

second mystery is equally that of our life in Christ as of Christ’s life in us,

 lifting us to heaven while it brings Him down to earth. This mutual indwelling

of the Head in heaven and the members upon earth is the most intimate and

inscrutable of all secrets (John 14:20; 15:1-7; 17:22-23, 26). The world knows

neither Christ nor Christians, and Christians do not even know themselves.

But as the old historic secret had its manifestation at last (ch. 1:26),

so will the new secret that lies enfolded within every Christian life ….


4   “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear

with Him in glory.”  (Jude 1:14; Romans 8:18-23; Philippians 3:21; I Corinthians

1:7; 4:5; I Thessalonians 1:10; I Timothy 6:15; II Timothy 2:10-12; 4:8; Titus 2:13;

I John 3:2; 2:28). Our future destiny, with our present redemption (ch. 1:14),

is  wrapped up in Christ. Our life is not only “with Him” (v. 3); it is “Himself”

(Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:4; 6:50-57; 14:6; I John 5:12); He is its

source and ground, way and rule, means and end — its all (v. 11: compare

1:20; 2:6-10; Ephesians 1:3, 23; 3:17-19; 4:13; Philippians 3:10; 4:19).  From the

hour of His ascension He has been hidden (Acts 1:9; 3:21; I Peter. 1:8); and His

manifestation is as much a part of the Christian creed as His death and resurrection

(Acts 17:31; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16; II Thessalonians 1:10; 2:8; I Corinthians

15:23; Philippians 3:20; II Timothy 4:1; John 14:3; I John 3:2-3; Revelation 22:12, 20).

Then the Christian will have his manifestation also with Him, in the “revelation

of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19); who will receive their second “adoption,

to wit, the redemption of their body” (Ibid. 8:23). “Seeing Him as He is” in His

glory, “we shall be like him” (I John 3:2) in glory. At last the spiritual life of the

soul will have its due organic expression, in a body perfect and heavenly as itself

(I Corinthians 15:35-49; II Corinthians 5:1-5; Job 19:25-27).  This is already the

case with our human nature in Christ (Philippians 3:21); and the change will proceed

from the Head to the members (I Corinthians 15:23), who will be conformed to His

body of glory,” as now they are being conformed to His spiritual image (Romans

8:9-11, 29-30; 12:2; II Corinthians 3:18; John 17:22-26; I John 4:17).  Observe that

“Christ” is repeated four times in the last four verses.


5   Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth;”(ch. 2:11; 3:9;

Ephesians 4:21-22; Philippians 3:19; Romans 6:6; 8:13; 13:14). “Your” is omitted by

most textual critics, but English idiom requires it in translation. In its absence a stronger

emphasis falls on the defining clause, “that are upon the earth.” As these things may

no longer be pursued or studied (vs. 1-2), the organs devoted to them must be put

 to death. These members are indeed those of the actual body (Romans 6:13, 19; 7:5,

23; 8:13); but these in so far as ruled hitherto by sinful impulse and habit,

constituting the body of “the old man” (v. 9; Ephesians 4:22; Romans 6:6), “of the

flesh” (ch. 2:11), “of sin,” and “of death” (Romans 6:6; 7:24), with “sinful

passions working in its members, bearing fruit unto death” (Romans 7:5): compare,

note, ch. 2:11. That body is “made dead” by destruction of the evil passions that

animated it. The body of “the new man” is physically identical with it, but different

in moral habit and diathesis — a difference that manifests itself even in bodily

expression and manner (II Corinthians 5:17) - nekro>w nekrooto make dead;

mortify - occurs besides in the New Testament only in Romans 4:19 and Hebrews

11:12 (in Romans 8:13, a still stronger word is used of “the practices” of the

body): as the aged Abraham had been made dead in respect of the natural

possibility of fatherhood, so the body of the Christian is to be dead for purposes of

sin. If there were any doubt as to the writer’s meaning, the next clause removes it.

His language has approached that of the philosophical ascetics (see ch. 2:23, note

and quotations); hence the abrupt explanatory apposition that follows: “fornication,

uncleanness, inordinate affection (sensual passion), evil concupiscence (evil

desire), and covetousness, which is idolatry:” -  (Ephesians 5:3-5; Philippians

3:19; I Corinthians 6:9-11; 5:11; Romans 1:29; I Timothy 6:17; Matthew 6:24,

31-32; Luke 12:21; Psalm 49:6; 52:7). To these vices the Colossian Gentiles

(some of them at least) had been to such a degree devoted that their members

 had become virtually identified therewith. The first two sins are related as particular

and general. The second pair, pa>qov – pathos – affection of the mind; a

passionate desire; and ejpiqumi>a epithumiaa desire, longing, craving,

mostly of evil desires; sometimes translated lust; are combined in I Thessalonians

4:4 in contrast to “(bodily) sanctification and honour” (compare ch. 2:23, and

“passions of dishonour,” Romans 1:26). The former denotes a morbid,

inflamed condition of the sensual appetite; the latter, craving for some

particular gratification of it. Neither of these words is etymologically, or invariably,

evil in sense. The degradation of such terms in all languages is a sad evidence of the

corruption of our nature - pleonexi>a pleonexiacovetousness -  is both

wider and more intense in meaning than our covetousness. It denotes radically the

disposition to “have more,” “grasping greed,” “selfishness grown to a

passion.” Hence it applies to sins of impurity, greediness for sensual pleasure

(I Thessalonians 4:6; Ephesians 4:19); but by the emphatic use of the article (“the

covetousness”), and by the words that follow, it is marked out as a distinct

type of sin; so in Ephesians 5:3, 5, where “uncleanness” and “greed”

are stigmatized as vile forms of sin. This word, often used by St. Paul, is

peculiar to him in the New Testament. (h[tivhaetis - “The which” -  compare

a{tina –- hatinach.2:23) gives a reason while it states a fact (“inasmuch as

 it is idolatry”). For the thought, compare Ephesians 5:5 and I Timothy 6:17,

also Matthew 6:24; it is a commonplace of religion, and appears in Philo and

Jewish rabbis.


6   “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of

disobedience:” - Ephesians 2:2-3; 5:6; Galatians 5:21; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9; 5:9;

I Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; II Thessalonians 1:5-10; John 3:36; Revelation 6:17;

Malachi 3:2). “The anger of God is coming” is a sentence complete in itself

(compare Romans 1:18). God’s “anger”- ojrgh> - orge - is His settled punitive

indignation against sin, of which His “wrath” - qumo>v thumos - is the terrible

outflaming (Revelation 16:1; 14:10);  “Cometh” implies a continuing fact or

fixed principle; or rather, perhaps, signifies that this “anger” is in course of

manifestation, is “on the way:” compare I Thessalonians 1:10, “the anger that

 is coming,” not “to come,” also the use of e]rcomai erchomaiI am coming

 in John 14:3, 18; Hebrews 10:37. The objects of this anger “children of wrath,”

Ephesians 2:2-3) are “the sons of disobedience.”  The expressive Hebraism by

which a man is said to be s child or son of the dominant quality or influence of his life

is frequent in the New Testament.


7   “In the which ye also walked some time (once), when ye lived in them.”

(Ephesians 2:3; 5:8; Romans 6:19-21; I Corinthians 6:11; 12:2;  Titus 3:3;

I Peter 4:3).  These sins are visited with the Divine anger, and moreover are the

very sins in which the Colossians aforetime had lived; observe the same

connection in Ephesians 5:6-8; I Corinthians 6:10-11 – “ye lived” stands opposed

to “mortify” or make dead of v. 5, and to “ye are dead” (v. 3: compare ch. 2:20;

Galatians 2:20); it marks the time when “the old man” (v. 9), with his “earthly

 members’’ (v. 5) was alive and active (compare Romans 7:5, 9, “sin came

 to life”).   When ye lived “in these things”  - tou>toiv toutois -  points to

the things enumerated in v. 6, with a mental gesture of contempt.


8   “But now ye also put off all these (things);” -  (v. 9; ch. 2:11; Ephesians

4:22, 25; Romans 13:12; I Peter 2:1). The thought of the death of the old life

gives place to that of the divesting of the old habit; the new life wears a new

dress, Mark the triumphant emphasis in “but now!” (opposed to the “once” of

v. 7), characteristic of the writer (compare ch. 1:21, 26; Romans 3:21; 6:22).

Ta< pa>nta (“all these things,” “the whole” of them) summarizes the vices

specified in v. 5, and forms the starting point of another series, in which malice

 predominates, as impurity in the previous list; anger, wrath, malice, evil

speaking, foul speech from your mouth (Ephesians 4:26-31; 5:4; Romans 1:29-31;

I Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:20-21; Titus 3:3). There is a similar order and

division between these two chief classes of sin in the parallel passages. In

Ephesians 4:31-32 and 5:3-5 the order is reversed. “Anger” (ojrgh>) is

ascribed to God in v. 6 (compare Ephesians 4:26; Hebrews 10:30). (On “anger”

and “wrath” (or “rage”), see v. 6.) The latter is once ascribed to God by Paul

(Romans 2:8), more frequently in the Apocalypse. In man it is universally

condemned. (For kaki>a -kakiamalice, malignity, badness of disposition,

 compare Romans 1:29; I Corinthians 14:20;  Titus 3:3) - blasfhmi>an –-

blashphemian blasphemy - in its original sense, includes injurious speech of any

kind, either against man or God (see Romans 3:8; 14:16;  I Corinthians 10:30;

Titus 3:2) -  aijscrologi>an – aischrologianfilthy communication -  (only here

in the New Testament) denotes, like the English “foul,” either “scurrilous” or “filthy.”

The former kind of speech is suggested by the foregoing blasphemia; but especially

in such an atmosphere as that of Greek city life (USA - ??? – CY – 2011),

scurrility commonly runs into filthiness. In Ephesians 5:4, where a slightly

different word occurs, the latter idea is prominent. The two last vices, being sins

of speech, must be put away “out of your mouth.” “Your” bears the emphasis

in the Greek; such utterance is quite unfit for a Christian mouth (compare

Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; James 3:10; and the prohibition of lying in the next verse).


9   Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his

deeds;” - (Ephesians 4:14-15; 20-25; I Timothy 1:6; Revelation 21:8; ch. 2:11;

Romans 6:6; 8:12-13;  Galatians 5:16, 24). The imperatives of vs. 5 and 8 were

aorists, enjoining a single, decisive act; this is present, as in vs. 1-2, 15, 18, etc.,

giving a rule of life. Only in Colossians and Ephesians do we find the apostle give

a general warning against lying. What reason there was for this we cannot tell;

unless it lay in the deceit of the heretical teachers (ch. 2:8: compare Ephesians

4:14-15; Acts 20:30; II Corinthians 11:13;  I Timothy 4:2; II Peter 2:1; I  John

4:1; Revelation 2:2; 3:9). The lying in question is uttered within the Church

(“to one another”), and is fatal to its unity (v. 11;  Ephesians 4:25; Acts 20:28-30).

The following aorist participles, “having stripped off” and “having put on” (v. 10),

may, grammatically, be part of the command “put off,” and “lie not” — as e.g.

 in I Thessalonians 5:8;  Hebrews 12:1; or may state the fact on which that command

is based. The latter view is preferable for the participles describe a change already

realized — a change of principle, which has, however, still to be more fully carried

out in practice (ch.2:11-13, 20;  here: v.1, 3,7,11; Ephesians 4:20-24; Galatians

3:27-28):  in v. 12 the imperative mood is resumed with an emphatic “therefore,”

implying a previous reference to fact. (On the double compound ajpekdusa>menoi

apekdusamenoi -  having stripped off (and put) away,” see notes, ch. 2:11, 15.)

The “Old man”; is the former self, the “I no longer living” (Galatians 2:20)

of the Colossian believer, to whom “the members that are upon the earth”

(v. 5) belonged — the entire sinful personality of “him who is in the flesh”

(Romans 8:8). His pra>xesin praxesin - “deeds” (“practices,” “habits of doing,”

 Romans 8:13) are the pursuits of which vs. 5, 8, 9 supply examples.


10   And have put on the new man,  which is renewed in knowledge, after

the image of Him that created him:” - (Ephesians 2:15; 4:23-24;; Romans 6:4; 7:6;

8:1-4; 13:12-14; II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; ch.1:9; 2:2-3; Genesis 1:26-28;

Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 12:10;  I Peter 1:16; Romans 8:29). New (ne>on – neon -  

“young,” “that which is recent” (compare the “once,” “but now” of vs. 7-8;

also ch. 1:5-8; I Peter 2:1-2). whose birth was well remembered, and which

presented  so vivid a contrast to the “old man with his deeds.” - (ajnakainou>menon

 anakainvoumenon - “being  renewed” derived from the adjective kaino>v

kainos - new) sets forth the other side of this newness, its novelty of quality and

condition (compare “newness of life,” Romans 6:4). And this participle is in the

present tense (continuous), while the former is in the aorist (historical). So

the notions are combined of a new birth taking place once for all, and a

new character in course of formation. In Ephesians 4:23-24 these

ideas are in the same order. “Full knowledge” was one purpose of this renewal,

the purpose most necessary to be set before the Colossians. The nature and

objects of this knowledge have been already specified (ch. 1:6, 9, 27-28; 2:2-3, 9-10:

compare Ephesians 1:18-19; 3:18-19; Philippians 3:8-14; I Corinthians 1:18-31; and

on ejpi>gnwsiv epignoskoknowledge - see note, (ch.1:6).  After (the) image”

is clearly an allusion to Genesis 1:26-28; so in Ephesians 4:24 (“after God).  It is

adverbial to “renewed,” not to “knowledge.” Man’s renewal in Christ makes

him  what the Creator at first designed him to be, namely, His own image

 (compare note on “reconcile,”  - ch.1:20). Some take “Christ” as “Him that

created,” in view of 1:15-16; but then it is said that all things “were created in…

through… for Christ,” not absolutely that Christ created them. But “the image

of God after which” man was created and is now recreated, is seen in Christ

(Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18; 4:4; John 1:18).


11  “Where there is neither Greek and Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,

Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free:” - (Galatians 3:28; 6:15; Ephesians 2:14-18;

4:25; I Corinthians 12:13; Romans 15:5-12; Philemon 15-16; John 13:12-17;

17:20-23; Luke 22:24-27;). “In Christ” these distinctions are non-existent.

There is no place for them. These and the following words indicate the sphere, as

unto knowledgethe end, and “after the image” the ideal or norm, of the

progressive renewal to be effected in the Colossian believer. It can be carried on

only where and so far as these distinctions are set aside. The “new man” knows

nothing of them. The enmity between Greek and Jew being removed, the malice

and falsehood that grew out of it will disappear (vs. 8-9: compare Romans 15:7;

Ephesians 4:25). In Galatians 3:28 “Jew” stands first, and the distinction of sex is

added. The distinctions here enumerated appear as looked at from the Greek side.

Only here in the New Testament does “Greek” precede “Jew” (compare Romans

1:16; I Corinthians 12:13). “Barbarian” (Romans 1:14) and “Scythian” (only here

in the New Testament) are together opposed to “Greek,” and imply want of

culture rather than alien nationality, the Scythian being the rudest of barbarians.

Such terms of contempt would, in Asia Minor, be commonly applied by Greeks to

the native population. The party who affected philosophic culture (ch. 2:8, 23) may,

perhaps, have applied them to simple, uneducated Christians (see note on ch.1:28).

(On “circumcision,” see 2:11; and for the connection with v. 9, compare Galatians

6:15.) For “bond” and “free,” a division then pervading society universally,

compare Galatian list. Onesimus and Philemon are doubtless in the apostle’s mind.

On this relationship he enlarges in the next section (vs. 22-4:1). The four pairs of

opposed terms represent distinctions:


  • of race,
  • of religious privilege,
  • of culture,
  • of social rank.


“but Christ is all, and in all.”  (ch.1:15-20; 2:9-10; 3:4, 17; Ephesians 1:3,10,

22-23; 2:13-22; 3:8, 19; Philippians 1:21; 3:7-14; 4:19; Galatians 2:20; 5:2, 4;

Romans 5:10; 8:32, 39). “Christ” stands at the end of the sentence, with

accumulated emphasis. The Church regards and values each man in his

relation to Christ, and bids every other consideration bow to this. He is “all things”

- our common center, our standard of reference, and fount of honor, the sum of all

we acknowledge and desire; and He is “in all” — the common life and soul of

His people, the substance of all we experience and possess as Christians. The

second “all” is masculine, referring more specially to the classes just enumerated.

Similarly, in Ephesians 4:6: compare ch.1:27; Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 1:15; 2:20;

4:19. (While He is “in all,” it is equally true that all are “in Him:” compare

John 15:4; 17:23, 26.) Just as in the spiritual sphere, and in the relations between

God and man, Christ is shown to be all, so that “principalities and powers” are

comparatively insignificant (ch.1:16; 2:9-10, 15); so in the moral sphere, and in the

relations between man and man. All human distinctions, like all angelic offices,

 must pay homage to His supremacy, and submit to the reconciling unity of

His kingdom (Ephesians 1:10).


12  “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved,” - (vs. 9,14;

Ephesians 1:3-5; 4:24; Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14; I Thessalonians 1:4; 5:8;

II Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:1; Romans 8:28-39; I Peter 1:1-2; I John 3:1). The

terms “elect,” “holy” (same as “saints,”  ch. 1:2; see note), “beloved,”

apply alike and separately to those addressed. Colossian believers are “elect” in

virtue of an antecedent choice of them to salvation on the part of God, as those who

would believe on His Son (I Thessalonians 1:4; II Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:4-5;

2:8; Romans 8:28-30; II Peter 1:1-2). Their whole Christian standing springs from and

witnesses to God’s eternal (Ephesians 1:4) election of them — an election which,

however, presumes faith on their part from beginning to end (ch.1:22-23; Romans

9:30-33; 11:5-10,17-24). “Elect” and “called,” with Paul, are coextensive terms:

compare Romans 1:7 (R.V.) with this passage, also I Corinthians 1:26-27. To address

the Colossian Christians as elect is to remind them of all that they owe to God’s grace.

“Elect” as chosen by God, they are “holy” as devoted to God. By the latter

title they were first addressed (ch.1:2); holiness is the essence of Christian character.

That they should gain this character and appear in it at the last judgment was the

purpose of Christ’s atoning death (ch.1:21-22), as it was the purpose of God’s eternal

election of believers (Ephesians 1:4; II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter. 2:9). (hjgaphme>noi

- agapemenoibeloved -  is the perfect participle passive; it describes the position

of those who, carrying out by their present holiness the purpose of their past

 election, are the objects of God’s abiding love (I Thessalonians 1:4). This love

dictated their election and set at work the means by which it should be secured

(Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4; Romans 8:28-30, 39; I John 3:1; 4:9-10). As its purposes

are increasingly fulfilled in them, it rests on them with an abiding complacency and

satisfaction (Ephesians 5:1; John 14:21-23). Christ is “the beloved One”

(Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17), and those who are “in him” in their measure share

the same title (John 17:23-26). But their choice by God and devotion to God, who

is all love to them (I John 4:16), must in turn beget a loving heart in them (I John

4:11) – “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long

suffering;” - (Ephesians 4:1-2, 32-5:2; Philippians 2:1-4; Galatians 5:22;

I Corinthians 13:4; I Peter 3:8-9; Matthew 5:5, 7; 11:29; Luke 6:35-36). “The

spla>gcna splagchna - are properly the nobler viscera, always in the plural,

and properly denotes the physical organs of the intestines rather than the bowels.

The use of this figure, found three times in Philemon, is Hebraistic (compare Luke

1:78; II Corinthians 6:12; Philemon 7, 12, 20; James 5:11; I John 3:17), though

similar expressions occur in Greek poets.“Pity (or, “compassion”) is an attribute

of God in Romans 12:1; II Corinthians 1:3: compare Luke 6:36 (“pitiful”) 

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear

Him.” (Psalm 103:13)  On kindness, or kindliness, see Galatians 5:22;

I Corinthians 13:4; II Corinthians 6:6 — in each case following “long suffering;”

Romans 11:22, where it is opposed to “severity” in God (compare Romans 2:4);

Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4, where it is ascribed to God in His dealing with men in

Christ; also Matthew 11:30.) It is synonymous with“goodness(Galatians 5:22;

Ephesians 5:9; Matthew 7:11; 12:35); but “goodness” looks chiefly to benefit

intended or conferred,“kindnessto the spirit and manner of bestowal. The

objects of “pity” are the suffering and miserable; of “kindness,” the needy and

dependent. The “lowliness of mind” of ch. 2:18, 23 was something specious

and to be guarded against; here it is the central and essential element of the true

Christian temper (Acts 20:19; Philippians 2:3; I Peter 5:5; Luke 14:11; 18:14), its

self-regarding element (Romans 12:3). It is linked with meekness, as in Ephesians 4:2

and Matthew 11:29. “Pity” and “kindness,” preceding “humility,” relate to the

claims of others upon us; “meekness” and “long suffering,” to our bearing towards

them. “Meekness,” the opposite of rudeness and self assertion (I Corinthians 13:5),

is a delicate consideration for the rights and feelings of others, especially necessary

in administering rebuke or discipline (Galatians 6:1; II Timothy 2:25;

I Corinthians 4:21; Titus 3:2), and conspicuous in Christ (Matthew 11:29; 21:5;

II Corinthians 10:1). Peter marks it as a womanly virtue (I Peter 3:4). “Long

 suffering” is called forth by the conduct of “the evil and unthankful” (see

ch.1:11, and note). Paul claims this quality for himself (II Corinthians 6:6;

II Timothy 3:10). Throughout Scripture it is ascribed to God (Exodus

34:6; Romans 2:4; 9:22; I Timothy 1:16; II Peter 3:9,15).


13   “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have

a quarrel against any:” - (Ephesians 4:1-2, 32; 5:1; I Thessalonians 5:14;

I Corinthians 6:7-8; II Corinthians 2:10; Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Mark 11:25;

Luke 17:3-4). (On “bearing with” or “forbearing,” see I Corinthians 4:12;

II Corinthians 11:19-20; Matthew 17:17.) It is ascribed to God, with “long-

suffering,” especially as shown in His dealing with the sins of men before the coming

of Christ (Romans 2:4; 3:26: compare Acts 17:30). Long suffering may be shown

towards all who do us injury; forbearance especially towards those from whom

regard or obedience is due. It falls short of forgiveness, which can only ensue on

repentance (Luke 17:3-4: compare Romans 3:25-26; Acts 17:30). The change of

pronoun in the two participial clauses appears also in Ephesians 4:2 and 32: the first

is reciprocal, but the second is reflexive, implying the oneness of the forgiving and the

forgiven party. Forgiving a Christian brother, it is as though a man were forgiving

himself (compare vs. 14-15; Galatians 6:1; Romans 12:5; 15:5-7; and the same

variation in I Peter 4:8-10). “Forgive” is literally “to grant grace,” used of

Divine forgiveness in ch. 2:13 (see note).  The words, “if any have any complaint,”

would certainly apply to Philemon as against Onesimus (Philemon 18-19: compare

II Corinthians 2:5-11; Mark 11:25) – “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

(ch.. 2:13; Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; Romans 3:24-26; II Corinthians 5:19; Acts 5:31;

13:38;  I John 1:9; Matthew 9:1-8; 18:27; Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 103:3). This

argument is latent in the appeal to the “elect” and “beloved” of v. 12. The evidence

for the alternative readings, “Lord” and “Christ,” is nearly equal in weight. In any

case, the “Lord” is “Christ” in this passage (ch. 2:6; 3:17, 24): and that He forgave

(compare 1:20, note) is quite consistent with the assertion that God forgave (2:13),

for God forgave “in Christ” ( Ephesians 4:32).  So “God in Christ reconciled”

(II Corinthians 5:19); and yet “Christ reconciled us” (ch. 1:20-21; Ephesians 2:16).

“Forgiving,” supplied in thought from previous context, completes the sense of

“so also ye.”  V. 14 shows that the leading imperative, “put on,” of v. 12 is still

in the writer’s mind. For the reciprocal double kai> (“even.., also”), compare ch.1:6

or Romans 1:13; is characteristic of the writer.


14   “And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.”

(ch. 2:2; Ephesians 4:2-3; 5:1; Philippians 2:2; I Corinthians 13.;  Galatians 5:13-15,

22; Romans 13:8-10; II Peter 1:7; I John 4:7-21; John 13:34-35). In I Corinthians 13

“love” is the substance or substratum of the Christian virtues; in Galatians 5:22

it is their head and beginning; here it is that which embraces and completes them.

They imply love, but it is more than them all together. They lie within its circumference;

wanting it, they fall to pieces and are nothing. For sundesmo>v sundesmos - bond

or  band - compare ch. 2:19.  In Ephesians 4:3 we have the “bond of peace” (see

next verse below). Love is the bond in the active sense, as that wherewith the

constituents of a Christian character or the members of a Church are bound together: 

peace, in a  passive sense, as that wherein the union consists (compare I Corinthians

1:10; II Corinthians 13:11).  “Love” (compare “covetousness,” v. 5) is made

conspicuous by the Greek definite article — being that eminent, essential grace of

Christian love (ch. 1:4, 8; 2:2; I Corinthians 13.; I John 4:16).  “Perfectness” is

genitive of object, not of quality: love unifies the elements of Christian goodness

and gives them in itself their “perfectness” - (Romans 13:10). (For “perfectness,”

see note on “perfect,” ch.1:28; and compare ch. 4:12.) Against Galatian teachers of

circumcision, and Corinthian exalters of knowledge, the apostle had magnified the

supremacy of love (Galatians 5:6; I Corinthians 8:1-3); and so against the

Colossian mysticism and asceticism he sets it forth as the crown of spiritual

perfection, the goal of human excellence (compare Ephesians 4:15-16).


15   “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” - (ch.1:14, 20-22; 2:18;

Ephesians 2:13-18; Romans 5:1,10; II Corinthians 5:18-21; Acts 10:36;

Hebrews 13:20; Philippians 3:14). “Of God,” the reading of the Received Text, is

borrowed from Philippians 4:7, where, however, “in Christ Jesus” follows

(compare v.13b, and Ephesians 4:32). “The peace of Christ” is that which He

effects in reconciling men to God, and to Himself as their Lord (v.13b; ch.1:20,

see note; Romans 5:1). Here is the source of inner tranquility and health

of soul (see note on “peace,”-  ch 1:2; Romans 8:6-9; John 16:33); and of the

outward union and harmony of the Church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:16;

4:2-3; Romans 14:15-19; 15:7). In John 14:27, on the other hand, Christ’s peace,

His “legacy,” is that which He possessed and exemplified — an idea foreign

to this context. This “peace” is to  “rule” or “act as umpire” in the Christian’s

heart. The compound katabrabeu>w (“act as umpire against you”) has already

been used in ch. 2:18 (see note; also Philippians 3:14, cognate brabei~on

brabeionprize) of the  false teacher who, in condemning the faith of the

Colossian Christians as insufficient for the attaining of “perfectness” (v. 14)

without angel worship, etc., virtually took away their prize and judged them

“unworthy of eternal life.” The Greek commentators seem to be right in

retaining the primary sense of the verb instead of generalizing it into “rule”

or the like. It stands in precise antithesis, both of sense and sound, to

ch. 2:18: “Let not the deceivers decide against you, but let the

peace of Christ decide in your hearts.”  The peace of Christ” dwelling

within the heart is to be the security of the Colossian believer against the threats

of false teachers: “They seek to rob you of your prize; let this assure you of it.”

Present, conscious peace with God is a warrant of the Christian’s hope of

everlasting life (Romans 5:1-11; 8:31-39; 15:13; Ephesians 1:13-14;

I Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 3:7). This assurance is identical with “the witness of

 the Spirit” - (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6-7; Ephesians 1:13-14). The

apostle argued in ch.1:4-5 from the present faith and love of his readers to

“the hope laid up for them in heaven;” here he bids them find in the peace

which Christ has brought to their souls the earnest of their future bliss.

It is but a generalizing of the same idea when he speaks in Philippians 4:7 of “the

peace of God” as “garrisoning the heart and thoughts” against fear and doubt.

“to the which also ye are called, in one body;” -  (ch. 1:12, 18; 2:2;

Ephesians 4: 1-6, 14-18; Philippians 1:27-28; I Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-13;

Romans 12:5). So this “peace” is to be at once their inward safeguard, and the

ground of their outward union. They are to stand together in its defense

(Philippians 1:27-28). Error, which blights the Church’s hope, destroys

her unity.  So the maintenance of that “one hope of our calling,” assured by

a Divine peace within the soul, unites all Christian hearts in a common cause

(compare the connection of vs. 18 and 19 in ch. 2.). With Paul, the peace of

God’s children with Him and with each other is so essentially one that he speaks

almost indistinguishably of both (Ephesians 2:15-16; II Corinthians 13:11;

II Thessalonians 3:16). He adds, “and be ye thankful.” -  (ch.1:3-5, 12; 2:7; 3:17;

4:2; Ephesians 5:20); viz. “for this assurance of your future blessedness afforded by

the peace of Christ within your hearts, with its outward evidence in your Christian

unity.” The apostle gave thanks for them on like grounds (ch.1:3-5: compare

ch.1:12-14).  The command to give thanks prevails in this Epistle, as that to rejoice

in Philippians. “Be” is the Greek gi>nomai ginomai - become; so in Ephesians

4:32; 5:1,17. It implies “striving after an aim as not yet realized” - compare John 15:8 –

rather, therefore, “to be in act,” “to prove” or “show one’s self thankful”

(compare Romans 3:4; Luke 10:36).


16   “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom;” - (ch.1:5,9,27-28;

2:2-3; 4:5-6; Ephesians 1:17-18; 3:8-9; I Corinthians 1:5-6; II Timothy 3:15). The

“word of Christ” is the Christian doctrine, the gospel in the widest sense of the term

(ch.1:5), as proceeding from Christ (Galatians 1:11-12; Hebrews 2:3; Matthew 28:20;

II Corinthians 13:3). This precise phrase occurs only here, where the name of Christ

is emphasized in so many ways (compare I Thessalonians 1:8; II Thessalonians 3:1).

The apostle, it may be, alludes primarily to the personal teaching of Christ Himself

(compare Acts 20:35; I Corinthians 7:10). “You” is understood collectively by

some interpreters and others (“amongst you”); but the verb“dwell in”

 (Romans 8:11; II Timothy 1:5, 14) requires the stronger sense, suggested also

by the “in your hearts” of v. 15 (compare note on “in you,” ch. 1:27). As

“the word” is rich in the Divine wealth stored in it (Ibid.; Ephesians 1:7, 18;

2:4,7; 3:8; Titus 3:6), so it is to dwell “richly” in those who possess it. “In all

wisdom” God’s grace abounded (Ephesians 1:8), and Paul himself taught

(ch.1:28); so with the richly indwelling word in the minds of the Colossians,

especially as they were beset by intellectual forms of error (ch.1:9; 2:2-4, 8, 23:

compare ch.4:5; Ephesians 5:15) - “teaching and admonishing one another” –

[or, yourselves: compare v. 13, note] (ch.1:28; Romans 15:14; Hebrews 5:12;

10:24-25; Ephesians 4:15-16). (For this absolute participial nominative, so

marked a feature of Paul’s style, compare 1:10; 2:2; Ephesians 1:18; 4:2;

Philippians 1:30; 3:10; II Corinthians 7:5) What he is doing in his own ministry

and by writing this letter, he bids the Colossians do for each other. “Teaching”

precedes, being suggested by “wisdom”  - “in psalms and hymns and spiritual

songs,” - (Ephesians 5:19; I Corinthians 14:26). These are to be a chief means of

mutual edification. The repeated “and,” also the singular “heart,” and “Lord” in

place of “God” in the sequel of the verse, are borrowed by the Received Text from

Ephesians 5:19. The Greeks, the Asiatic Greeks in particular, were devoted to the

arts of music. Song and jest, stimulated by the wine cup, were the entertainment

 of their social hours (Ephesians 5:4,18-19). Their Christian intercourse is still to be

enlivened by the varied use of song, and by the play of wholesome wit (ch. 4:6;

Ephesians 4:29); but both song and speech are to be “in grace,” stamped with a

spiritual character and governed by a serious Christian purpose. A ya>lmoiv

psalmoi - psalm - (from  to play an instrument) is “a song set to music;” but this

name was already in the LXX appropriated to its present use. Whether its

application here is restricted to the psalms of the Old Testament is doubtful

(compare I Corinthians 14:15,26).  (u[mnoiv  -humnois -  hymn) denotes a

solemn, religions composition, or song of Divine praise. The word, dh  - ode –

song -  is wider in sense; hence is qualified by “spiritual,” equivalent to “with

[or, ‘in’] the Spirit” - (Ephesians 5:18) — “songs of a spiritual nature, inspired

by the Holy Ghost” (compare “spiritual wisdom,”-ch.1:9). Such songs would

echo the varied sentiments and experiences of the Christian life. In Ephesians 5:14

and II Timothy 2:11-13, very possibly, we have fragments of an early Christian song.

Paul’s own language, in more exalted moods, tends to assume a rhythmic and lyrical

strain (ch.1:15-20) – “singing with grace in your hearts to God.”  qew –- theo

not kuriw kurio Lord - (ch.4:5; Ephesians 5:19; I Corinthians 14:2,15,28;

Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23; I Samuel 16:7; I Chronicles 28:9). The correct reading

is ejn th~| ca>riti (in the grace);”  The tendency to omit the article in prepositional

phrases should be taken into account in its favor here. And the article helps the sense

by giving “grace” a definite Christian meaning (so “the love,” v. 14). Otherwise,

ejn ca>riti may mean no more than “gracefully,” “pleasantly;” compare ch.4:6.

“The (Divine) grace” is the pervasive element and subject matter of Christian song.

Its constant refrain will be, “to the praise of the glory of His grace!” (Ephesians

1:6, 12,14: compare Romans 1:5-6). “In your hearts” (v. 15) — the inner region

of the soul — there is the counterpart, audible “to God,” of the song that vibrates

on the lips. In Ephesians 5:19 we read, “with your hearts” — the instrument

(here the region) of the song. (For the connection of “in your hearts” and

“to God,” compare vs. 22-23; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Romans 8:27;

I Thessalonians 2:4; I John 3:19.)


17  “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the

Lord Jesus,” -  (I Corinthians 5:4; 10:31; Ephesians 5:20; II Thessalonians 2:17).

V. 16 speaks of “word” only; to it is added the “deed,” which stands for all the

practical activities of life. Both meet in the following “all.” “The name of the

Lord Jesus” is the expression of His authority as “Lord” (ch.1:13, 15, 18;

2:6; Philippians 2:9-11; Ephesians 1:21-23; I Corinthians 12:3; Romans 14:9;

Acts 10:36), and of His personal character and relation to us as “Jesus”

(Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12; 16:31, Revised Text) - “giving thanks to God and

the Father by Him.” (v. 15; ch.1:12-14; 2:7; 4:2). Again thanksgiving is urged

on the Colossians. It is to be the accompaniment of daily talk and work

to be offered to God in His character as “Father”- (see notes on ch.1:2-3, 12),

and “through the Lord Jesus” - (Romans 1:8; 7:25), by whom we have access

to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; 3:12; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-22)

and receive from Him all the benefits of redemption (ch.1:14; Ephesians 2:5-10;

Romans 3:24-26; Titus 3:4-7).  (Mighty powerful words indeed! – CY – 2011)





We note that in each of the three family relations here dealt with, the subordinate

party is first addressed, and the duty of submission is primarily insisted upon

(vs.18, 20, 22: compare I Peter 2:13,18; 3:1-6). So in Ephesians 5:21-24; 6:1-3,

5-8.   There may have been some special reason for this in the state of the Asiatic

Churches or of Greek society in that region. But other indications show

(I Corinthians 7:24; 11:3-16; 14:34-35; Galatians 5:13; I Thessalonians 4:11;

II Thessalonians 3:11-12; I Timothy 2:11-12; 6:1-2; Titus 2:5, 9-10; 3:1) that the

apostle perceived and sought to check the danger of unsettlement in the natural

order of family and social life which often attends great spiritual revolutions,

especially when they are in the direction of religious liberty. As in the case

of Luther, the apostle’s later teaching is largely directed against the antinomianism

which resulted, by way of perversion and abuse, from the preaching of salvation

by grace and of the sanctity of the individual believer (compare introductory

note to this chapter). Observe how the Lord and His authority are made to

furnish a higher sanction for each of these natural duties.


18  “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as is fit in the

Lord.” -  (Ephesians 5:22-24; I Timothy 2:11-15; Titus 2:5; I Corinthians 11:3;

14:34-35; I Peter 3:1-6; Genesis 3:16).  On this duty the apostle dilates in the

Ephesian letter, in illustration of its teaching respecting “Christ and the Church”

(compare the very different treatment of it in I Peter 3:1-7), The use of the article

(aiJ gu>naikevhai gunaikeswives) in the nominative of address is frequent

in New Testament, though not in classical Greek. Anhken anakenproper;

literally - it was fit; -  stands in the imperfect tense, denoting a normal propriety

(compare Ephesians 5:4, for the general expression, see I Corinthians 11:13-14;

Philemon 1:8; Ephesians 5:3; I Timothy 2:10; Philippians 4:8; Romans 1:29). Like

all men of a sound moral nature, Paul has a strong sense of natural propriety. The

adjunct “in the Lord” belongs to “was fit,” not “be subject” (compare v. 20).

The constitution of nature, as we have learnt in ch.1:15-18, is grounded

“in the Lord.” In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul shows that this inherent propriety

has a deep spiritual significance; and he makes the subjection of the Church

to her heavenly Lord a new reason for wifely submission.


19  “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Ephesians

5:25-31; I Peter 3:7). “Love” is ajgapa>te -  agapate -  the word which expresses

the highest spiritual affection — “even as Christ loved the Church” (Ephesians

5:25).  Here, first and most of all, the“new commandment” of John 13:34 applies.

Paul only uses the verb pikrai>nesqe  - pikrainesthe  - to make bitter - here, but

he has the noun pikri>a pikriabitterness -  in a wider application in

Ephesians 4:31. It denotes “exasperation,” prompting to hasty severity, a type of

hatred infused into love???


20   “Children, obey your parents in all things:  for this is well pleasing unto

the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:1-2; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Leviticus 19:3;

Proverbs 23:22; Luke 2:51-52). In Ephesians 6:1-2 - (kata< pa>nta - kata panta -

in regard to all things) is wanting; and not the extent, but the intrinsic rightness of the

command as it is found in the Decalogue is insisted on. But here, where “Christ is

 all and in all” (v. 11), it is “in the Lord” (Revised Text) that the child’s obedience

is declared to be “well pleasing.” There is something especially pleasing in the

behavior of a lovingly obedient child, that wins “favor” both “with God and man”

(Luke 2:52). The law of filial obedience has its creative ground “in Him” (ch.1:16),

and is an essential part of the Christian order of life, which is the natural order

restored and perfected. “Well pleasing” is a favorite word of Paul’s - (compare

ch.1:10; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:8; Romans 14:18; Titus 2:9;  used also in



21  “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

 (Ephesians 6:4).  Ereqi>zete erethizeteprovoke or irritate) Paul uses once

besides (II Corinthians 9:2), in a good sense. It implies a use of parental authority

which, by continual exactions and complaints, teaches the child to look on the

father as his enemy rather than his friend. The synonymous parorgi>zete

 parorgizete of Ephesians 6:4, found here in many copies, is, more definitely

“to rouse to anger.” Aqumwsin athumosin -  (only here in the New Testament)

means “to lose heart,” “to be spiritless” -  to have the confidence and high

spirit of youth broken. In place of this treatment, “the discipline and admonition

 of the Lord” are recommended in Ephesians 6:4.


22  “Servants (literally, bondmen), obey in all things your masters according to

the flesh;” - (Ephesians 6:5-9; I Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10; I Corinthians 7:21-24;

Romans 13:1, 5; I Peter 2:18-25). The duties of servants and masters are prominent

here (v. 22- ch.4:1), in view of the emphasis thrown upon the lordship of Christ; and

partly, no doubt, with reference to the case of the runaway slave Onesimus (ch.4:9;

Epistle to Philemon).  “Servant” is dou~lovdoulos - bondman, is common in

Paul’s writings. In I Peter. 2:18 we have the milder oijketai oiketaia house

servant; domestic. The vast majority of servants of all kinds at this time in the Greek

and Roman world were slaves. In most districts the slaves were much more numerous

than the free population. And they were undoubtedly numerous in the early Church.

The gospel has always been welcome to the poor and oppressed. The attitude of Paul

and of Christianity towards slavery claims consideration under the Epistle to Philemon.

Here and in Ephesians 6:5 (compare vs. 7-8) the apostle calls the master ku>riov

kurios  - lord) in reference to “the Lord Christ” (vs. 22b, 24); elsewhere in the New

Testament, as in common Greek, the opposite of dou~lov is despoth>v despotes

one who has absolute ownership and uncontrolled power - (I Timothy 6:1-2;

II Timothy 2:21), “According to the flesh,” that is, “in outward, earthly relationship”

(compare Romans 4:1): Christ is the Lord in the absolute and abiding sense of the

word (similarly, “in the flesh” and “in the Lord,” - Philemon 16) – “not with

eyeservice (literally, not in eye services), as man pleasers; but in singleness

of heart, fearing God.” - (Ephesians 6:6; 5:21; I Thessalonians 2:4; Galatians 1:10;

Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34; James 1:5-8; Psalm 123:2; Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 2:23).

“Eye service” is plural here, according to Revised Text; singular in Ephesians 6:6.

Here the word ojfqalmodoulei>a ophthalmodouliaeyeservicedenotes

service performed only under the master’s eye, diligently done when he is

 looking, but neglected in his absence.  It first occurs in Greek, like

ejqeloqrhskei>a ethelothreskeiawill worship – voluntarily adopted

worship, whether bidden or forbidden, not that which is imposed by

others, but one which affects what they think of you -  (ch. 2:23). It strikes

at the besetting sin of servants of all kinds.  Anqrwpa>reskov  - anthropareskos

man pleaser -  occurs in the LXX, Psalm 52:6 - (compare I Thessalonians 2:6;

Galatians 1:10). The servant whose aim it is to please his earthly master in what

will catch his eye, plays a double part, acting in one way when observed, in

another when left to himself; with this duplicity is contrasted “singleness of heart”

- (compare Romans 12:8; II Corinthians 11:3; ajplo>thv haplotessingleness –

implying liberality; bounty; generosity; sincerity -  in II Corinthians 8:2 and 9:11, 13 has

a different application). “Fearing the Lord” more than the eye of his earthly lord,

the Christian servant will always act in “singleness of heart;” for “the eyes of the

Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” – (Proverbs 15:3) –

In the same manner the apostle – a bondman of Christ Jesus - speaks of his own

relations to men and to the Lord Christ respectively (I Corinthians 4:3-5;

II Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 1:10; I Thessalonians 2:4-6; - compare John 5:37-44).


23   “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men.”

(v. 17; Ephesians 6:6-7; I Corinthians 7:21-23). (On the first clause, see v. 17.) In the

Revised Text, however, the turn of expression differs from that of ver. 17, pa~n – pan

- everything  -  being cancelled. The writer is thinking, not so much of the variety of

service possible, as of the spirit which should pervade it. “Do” is replaced in the –

second clause by the more energetic “work,” opposed to indolent or useless doing

(compare Ephesians 4:28; II Thessalonians 3:10; John 5:17; 9:4). “From [ejk -ek -

out of] the soul”  indicates the spring of their exertions — inward principle,

not outward compulsion; the servant must put his soul into his work. “Soul” -

yuch> - psycheheart, mind, soul -  implies, even more than “heart,”

the engagement of the man’s best individual powers (compare Philippians 1:27,

as well as Ephesians 6:6). The slaves’ daily task-work is to be done, not only in

sight and in fear of the Lord (v. 22b; Ephesians 5:21), but as actually “to the Lord.”

Him they are serving (v. 24b), who alone is “the Lord” (ch.2:6); every mean

and hard task is dignified and sweetened by the thought of being done for Him,

and the commonest work must be done with the zeal and thoroughness

that His service demands (compare Ephesians 6:7, “with good will doing

bond service”). The word “not” (ouj instead of mh<) implies that their

service is actually rendered to One other and higher than “men” (I Corinthians

7:22; Galatians 1:10).


24  “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance:”

-  (Ephesians 6:8; Romans 2:6-11; II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12; Psalm 62:12). 

(eijdo>tev eidotes -  knowing — that of which one is aware, not merely learning or

ginw>skw ginosko - getting to know -  see both words in Ephesians 5:5 and John

14:7, Revised Text; also Romans 6:6 and 9; I John 5:20.  The absence of the definite

article” before Kuri>ou kuriou Lord - is the more remarkable, because it is

studiously inserted in the context. Paul virtually says, “There is a Master who will

recompense you, if your earthly masters never do (compare ch.4:1). The ajnti<

- anti - in ajntapo>dosin antapodosinrecompence; renders it a just

recompense or reward - (a word common in LXX),  implying “equivalence”

or “correspondence” (compare  ajntanaplhrw~ - antanaplerooto fill up; -

in ch.1:24; also Romans 11:35; 12:19; I Thessalonians 3:9; II Thessalonians

1:6; Luke 6:38; 14:12,14) — a reward in the case of each individual, and in

each particular, answering to the service rendered to “the Lord” (compare

Matthew 25:14-30). The opposite truth is asserted in v. 25; Ephesians 6:8

combines them both. The recompense of the faithful Christian slave is nothing

less than “the inheritance” of God’s children (ch. 1:12; Ephesians 1:5,11,14; 3:6;

5:5; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; I Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Titus 3:7;

I Peter 1:4), which the apostle has so often under other terms assured to his readers

(ch.1:5, 23, 27; 2:18; 3:4, 15). For a slave to be heir was “a paradox”: see

Galatians 4:1,7; Romans 8:15-17. No form of praise could be more cheering and

ennobling to the despised slave than this. “In Christ,” Onesimus is “no longer

 as a slave, but a brother beloved” ( Philemon 1:16), and if a brother, then a

joint heir with his master Philemon in the heavenly inheritance (3:11) - “for ye

serve the Lord Christ.” -  (vs. 22, 25; ch.2:6; Ephesians 6:6; Romans 14:8-9;

I Corinthians 6:19-20; 7:22-23; John 13:13); that is, Christ is the Lord whose

 bondmen ye are. “For” is probably a correct gloss, though a corrupt reading.

Its insertion indicates that the sentence was read indicatively; not imperatively

“serve the Lord Christ.”. The verse amounts to this: “Work as for the Lord: He

will repay you; you are His servants.”



25  “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done:

and there is no respect of persons.”  (Ephesians 6:8-9; Philippians 1:28;

II Thessalonians 1:5-7; I Peter 1:17; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6). Here we have the

other side of the recompense promised in v. 24a, to which the explanatory “but” points

back. The impartial justice which avenges every wrong guarantees the reward of the

faithful servant of Christ. So the Old Testament saints rightly argued (Psalm 37:9-11;

58:10-11; 64:7-10) that the punishment of the evil doer affords hope to the righteous

man.  This warning is quite general in its terms, and applies alike to the unfaithful

servant and to the unjust master (compare Ephesians 6:8). At the judgment seat of

Christ there will be no favoritism: all ranks and orders of men will stand on precisely

the same footing (ch.3:11). The word ajdike>w adikonwrong; wrong doing;

 twice employed here, denotes a legal wrong or injury (I Corinthians 6:7-8); e.g.

the conduct of Onesimus towards Philemon (v. 18). The verb (komi>setai

komisetai - carry off, gain; to receive back again; - Ephesians 6:8;

II Corinthians 5:10; I Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:27) looks more to the receiver,

 whereas ajpolh>myesqe ajpo> (v. 24) points to the giver. Proswpolhmyi>a

- prosopolempsia - literally, accepting of the face- here translated respect

of persons”) is a pure Hebraism, found in St. James twice, and four times in Paul’s

writings. In the next chapter the apostle turns from the slave to address his master.




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