Concluding Exhortations – 4:2-6


2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Paul’s concluding exhortations center around two themes: prayer and witness. These exhortations are personal, not general, and Paul includes an appeal that they would pray for him as he witnesses wherever he goes. This section provides a fine complement to the sweeping gospel-vision he proclaimed in 1:6: “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.” And how does it bear fruit? Through the proclamation of Spirit-empowered people like Paul, Timothy, and Epaphras.

His first command is to be devoted to prayer. One of the core values of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, the denomination of which I am a part, is “prayer is the primary work of God’s people.” Prayer is the first course of action for the believer, and nothing of kingdom value is accomplished without it. Our devotion to prayer must be greater than our commitment to plan and strategize, for it is only through prayer that the plans of God’s people succeed. When our first impulse in any situation is to pray, then worry and anxiety will be unable to take root in our hearts.


Prayer requires follow through.
Within prayer, believers are to be both watchful and thankful. The object of our watchfulness is uncertain. Perhaps we are watching for the Lord’s return. Perhaps we are watching out for the works of the evil one. Could it be that we are to be watching for answers to our prayers? Whatever Paul had in mind, all three of these forms of watchfulness are beneficial for the Christian. But his point is well made: prayer requires follow through. Prayer does not exist in isolation from the rest of our lives. Rather, when we pray, we must watch for God’s activity, and be thankful when we see him move.

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Household Code – 3:18-4:1


18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

In these verses, Paul supplies the Colossian church with a Christian version of a Roman household code. A household code is a set of rules meant to govern the affairs of the home. In Rome, the household codes followed the teaching of Aristotle, who instructed men to rule over their wives and children, particularly noting that the inequality of the sexes is permanent. The man ought to be the pater familias, governing the home with absolute authority. But is this what we find in Christian teaching?

Though not explicitly stated in this epistle, Paul’s words in 3:11 echo what he triumphantly declared in Galatians 3:28: In Christ, there is neither male nor female. This does not mean that there is no gender differentiation in Christianity. Rather, it forces us to examine the ways that we consider ourselves better than others. In Christ, men are not more important than women, just as masters are not more important than slaves or Jews more important than Gentiles. The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.


The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.
Therefore, when Paul opens his household code by commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is not operating from a belief that women are of less worth than men. On the contrary, the biblical teaching of the submission of wives assumes the equality of the sexes in the eyes of God. God does not, in Christ, elevate women from their culturally lowly estate to a position just below that of men. In fact, God assumes the equality of the sexes because that is how he created humanity (Genesis 1:27), and it is this equality (and not merely of the sexes, but between all people everywhere) that is a part of the restoration project begun in the resurrection of Jesus. In commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is inviting women to participate in the faithful obedience and humility of Christ. Biblical submission assumes equality because it is a volitional act of humility in letting another lead. Like love, submission can never be forced upon or demanded of. Submission is a gift freely given to another in humility, not the humiliation extracted by force from a weaker person. (For more on this topic, please see my post on Biblical Submission.)

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The New Self – 3:12-17


12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Now that the old self has been discarded like filthy clothes, it is time to put on the new clothes of God’s kingdom. But before Paul unveils this wardrobe, he reminds the Colossians of three great truths. First, they are God’s chosen people. This is a title given to Israel in the Old Testament. Paul, a Jew through and through, recognizes that, in Christ, the doors of God’s choice have been thrown open. Now all may enter, whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free. All are welcome through faith in Christ.

Second, they are holy. They have been set apart for God’s purposes. As Paul explains in Galatians, Gentiles have been welcomed into God’s family as the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Similarly, they are welcomed in so that that promise – that all the nations of the world will be blessed – will continue to be fulfilled in every tribe and tongue throughout all generations.


God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable.
Third, they are dearly loved. God dearly and deeply loves the world, so much that he would give his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for everybody’s sins. God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable. There is nothing, Paul declares in Romans, that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

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The Old Self – 3:5-11


5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

At last we arrive at the practical portion of the letter. Paul commands the Colossians to put to death anything that belongs to their earthly nature. However, he interjects a “therefore” into the middle of this sentence, so we must ask the question: What is that therefore there for? It is there because we are to put to death everything that has not been risen to new life with Christ. As always, practical application is derived from theological truth.


We are to put to death everything that has not been risen to new life with Christ.
The language here is strong: Be an executioner of your sinful nature. The Christian cannot be merciful to the old self. In fact, the old self has already been crucified with Christ. All the more reason for the believer to execute it! Whenever it rears its ugly head, chop it off!

Paul lists eleven things that belong to the earthly nature. (Similar lists can be found in Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and elsewhere.) The first group is a list of five sins, four of which are sexual in nature. The first, sexual immorality (Greek porneia), is a sort of catch-all term for sexual misconduct. This is the term that Jesus used in Matthew 15:19 (a list of sins similar to what is found here), and that the apostles used at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. For faithful Jews like Jesus and the apostles, porneia would have been the summary word of the Jewish sexual code found in Leviticus 18. Whatever is listed there would have been considered porneia, or sexual immorality.

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Things Above – 3:1-4


1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul is making a transition in this short section. For the first two chapters he was laying the foundation of his theology – the centrality and supremacy of Christ. From here through the rest of the letter he will be working out the practical implications of that doctrine. The revelation of the mystery of God – which is Christ himself – effects sweeping change in the lives of those who believe. One cannot simply hear the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus and go on as if nothing has happened. The whole world has been turned upside-down! The appropriate response to the Gospel is repentance – to turn around and follow the way of Jesus.

The resurrection is both the beginning and the direction of the way of Jesus. For Paul, the resurrection is an event in which all true believers participate. While Christ has been raised from physical death, Christians are raised from spiritual death when they confess and are baptized. Baptism is the physical symbol of the spiritual reality that the Christian has been brought from death to life.


The resurrection is both the beginning and the direction of the way of Jesus.
Believers participate in the full story of the Gospel. We have died with Christ (2:20), and now we have been raised with Christ. The way of Jesus is participatory. It is not enough to say that Jesus has died for us; the true story of the Gospel is that, by faith, we have died with him. We have died to the old way of life, which, according to Colossians 2 comprises all the pointless toiling of Christless religion, and which, according to Colossians 3, is steeped in sinful desire and behavior. The new way of life – the way of living that we experience when we are raised with Christ – is centered around Christ and abounds in virtue, freedom, and hope.

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