Monday, September 19, 2016

Studies in Colossians #29

OUR CHRISTIAN APPAREL (3:5-11) continued

The third imperative: “do not lie.” (3:9-11).

The third imperative ends a section and begins one as well. It is transitional in nature. Do not lie is the clear command. Paul takes this third imperative to end on a positive note. The imperatives are incentives to lay aside the old, and to “put on the new self” (3:20). Both putting off and putting on are aorist participles, indicating completed actions in the past. Gromacki reminds us that we “did not put the new over the old. A believer has only one position before God, although he as two natures: the old sin nature and the new nature centered in the indwelling life of God. The new position guarantees heaven, and submission to the new nature brings spiritual victory (Gal. 5:16).”[1] Paul uses the term new in three senses:

  • Of being new creations in Christ (Gal. 6:15). Positionally the old man is crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). We have a new position in Christ.
  • In reference to the church, the body of Christ as the new man or mankind (Ephesians 2:15-16). It speaks of the joint-body of Jew and Gentile as one in Christ. It is in contrast to the old where Israel had the priority. 
  • As a new nature in contrast with the old, as in this present passage. The believer has two natures, otherwise the injunction to take off the old would be irrelevant (Eph. 4:22; 25; Rom 13:12). Moo calls the old and new “competing schemes of the Christian life.[2] This last point speaks of our sanctification. Between the two (old and new) there is an already—not yet tension. The new man is not simply new in time (neon), but is to be new (kainon) in quality or character.

How do we put off the old and put on the new? It is by the renewal of the mind and having the mind of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 2:5). This is indicated by the phrase, “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). The phrase modifies the new man. The Greek text could be translated “the one which is being renewed.” The structure can be diagramed as:

                Put on the new man

                                                | which is being renewed

                                                                | to true knowledge

                                                | according to the image of the One

It is clear that what is being renewed is the new man. The word renewed modifies the new which indicate continual by daily involvement of believers (cf. 2 Cor. 4:12). The new man is aorist indicating the past which is being renewed,  a present tense. Dunn observes that the aorist speaks of “the conversion-initiation past is qualified by an ongoing present: the new self is in process of being renewed.”[3] It denotes a tension between God’s work and man’s responsibility. It speaks of transformation through the work of Christ. The renewal is often spoken of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Titus 3:5, cf. Eph. 3:16). This process of renewal speaks of the mind as indicated by the reference to knowledge (Rom 12;1-2). The Greek proposition is eis, denoting motion unto an object, to the extent of, or with respect to an object. Harris lists possible understandings here:[4]

(1)    Expressing direction toward

(2)    Equivalent to a locative, in knowledge

(3)    Telic, for full knowledge

(4)    Consecutive, leading to

(5)    Temporal, until it obtains or reaches it goal.

While I think #1 is the best, it matters little because all of these have in common the idea of motion toward a goal. The idea of motion is vital to the understanding of being renewed to knowledge. The word renewed has the force in this context is that of becoming (as in 2 Cor. 4:16). Our new position in Christ is to separate us from the practices of our old way of life. This is the heart of progressive sanctification. It is becoming more like the image that God created us to be (cf. Gen. 1:26-28).[5] It speaks of the transforming power of God into Christ-likeness (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18; 4:16; Titus 3:5).

We are becoming more knowledgeable. The word knowledge indicates a personal and experiential knowledge. It is not to know about a person, but knowledge that come from a relationship. The knowledge also suggests the importance of the mind in the Christian life.

This knowledge is of what or whom? It is of Christ. This is reinforced by the phrase: “according to the image of the One who created him” (3:10). It is the taking on of Christ that is important. This is a reference to Christ, the image of God (cf. 1:15, Eph. 4:24). We are being made into His image, both individually (Rom 8:29) and together as a body (Eph 4:7-16). Johnson observes that this gives a summary of the teaching of Paul in this epistle. He writes:

There are three realms, relevant to the Colossians, in which He is all. He is everything in salvation, there is no place for angelic mediation in God’s redemptive work (cf. 1:18-22; 2:18). He is everything in sanctification; hence legality and asceticism are out of place in the Christian life (cf. 2:16-23). He is our life (3:3-4).  Finally, He is everything necessary for human satisfaction, here there is no need for philosophy, or the deeds of the old man (1:26-28; 2:3, 9-10).[6]

The new man is one of a new environment without distinctions: “[a renewal] in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythians, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and all” (3:11). The NASB adds the words that are in brackets; the KJV omits them as they should be. They really do not clarify the text and are unsupported by the Greek text. The Greek Majority text reads: “in which there is no Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarians, Scythian, slave, free person, but Christ is all things and in all things” (Author’s translation). As the image of Christ there are no distinctions either religious, social, national, economical, or racial. Notice that these distinctions run in contrasting terms:

Greek (gentile)/Jews



Slave/free person

Eadie points to two connotations of these distinctions:[7]

  • Such distinctions do not avert the putting-on the new man.
  • Having had the old does not alter the possession of the privilege and blessing found in the new man.

These contrast are consistent with Paul’s theology of universal inclusiveness. Some identify the new man with the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-23).[8] Others take is more broadly as simply positional—being in Christ (Gal. 3:27-29).[9] However, the context suggests some kind of corporate unit or unity. This is supported by Paul in his sister epistle—Eph 2:15. He is speaking of a new humanity. O’Brien notes: “The renewal refers not simply to an individual change of character but also to a corporate re-creation of humanity in the Creator’s image.[10]  Therefore, the new man is seen both in ethical and ecclesiastical terms.

The climax of the new man is that “Christ is all, and in all.” (3:11).  There is significance to the double reference to all. There are two distinct ideas of the word all as seen by the word and (kai). It is therefore a mistake to translate this phrase as “Christ is all in all,” as some do.[11] It seems to me that the first “all” speaks of the goal of the new man (relating back to 1:18), and the last all speaks of Christ as “in all” of the new man. The new man is the object of the redemptive and sanctifying work of Christ. He is working in us and Christ is all to us. To the believer Christ matters; He indwells all in His body. “The Christ who lives in each of his people is the Christ who binds them together in one.”[12]

To be continued…

[1]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 137.
[3]  Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 221. Also see Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 137.
[5]  Constable, NOTES ON COLOSSIANS, 38.
[6] S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “Christian Apparel,” BIBLOTHECA SACRA, January 1964, 28.
[7]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 237-239
[10]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 191.
[11] William Barclay, THE NEW TESTAMENT: A NEW TRANSLATION [LONDON; Collins, 1969]

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Studies in Colossians #28

Our Christian Apparel (3:5-11)


The second imperative:put them all aside” (3:8-9).

Paul in this second imperative moves from the past (3:7) to the present.  This is clearly indicated by the words, “but now” (3:8). This “introduces temporal contrast, pointing to the fact that the Christian life must contrast with the person's former life (cf. l:21-22).[1] It sets up the phrase: “put them all aside.” The object of the image is metaphorical for taking off clothes and is a Greek rather than a Hebrew metaphor.[2] However, it has a long biblical use, especially by Paul. Paul may well have been thinking about the stoning of Stephen, whose clothes were laid at his feet. The word used in Acts 7:58 is the same Greek word (apotithemi) rendered “put off” in Colossians 3.[3]  It is an aorist middle imperative indicating a call for decisive and immediate action on our part. It denotes responsibility. The phrase does not refer so much back to the vices Paul already gave, but is an introduction to a new list. The word all points forward. If one compares the two lists, one can observe the first list refers to actions, but this new list refers to the attitudes of the mind, which is expressed through our speech. Jesus reminds us that out of the mouth comes the expression of the heart (or mind; attitude), Matthew 15:18. The list is then given. This list is similar to Ephesians 4:31. Most who view the list say there are five. I disagree. I see six attitudes of the natural mind:

·         Anger (orge) which speaks of one’s mental bent; thus has the meaning of anger, wrath, impulse, rage, vengeance, or temper. It is the same word used for wrath of God in 3:6. It speaks of chronic anger, one that is nursed and grows. 

·         Wrath (thumos) is related to anger, but is not quit the same. It pertains to the mind, and indicates a strong passion; fury, anger and/or wrath. Barclay tells us; “It can describe a quality with which no good character can flourish; it can describe a quality which is the wrecker of personal relationships, and the destruction of fellowship within the community.[4] Although the two words somewhat overlap anger is a somewhat settled feeling, while wrath speaks more of rage and a tumultuous outburst of passion.[5] It speaks of an explosive temper. It is like a flash in a pan, which flares up, and quickly subsides. We are to put off this type of anger.

·         Malice (kakia) meaning malicious spite, malignity, wickedness, evil, or depravity (cf. Romans 1:29). It denotes ill will toward someone. This ill force destroys fellowship within the church. It accompanies the unsaved life which we all experienced, even us who are saved (cf. Titus 3:3).

·         Slander (blasphemeo) which means blaspheme, slander, malign, or to defame (cf. Eph. 4:31). It can be directed toward God or man. It indicates the defaming of someone’s character. Many times it is in the form of bringing up past events and holding them against the person, not accounting for, or disregarding transformation that has taken place. 

·         Abusive {KJV;filthy communication) is the Greek word aischrologia, meaning vile or obscene language. The phrase “from your mouth,” is not altogether as clear to what it describes. The is mainly two reviews: First, is that it modifies all 5 vices as a group. Campbell holds this view, saying; “Paul is literally telling them to stop their angry, wrathful, malicious, slanderous and foul speaking.[6] This is the popular understanding among scholars. Their arguments have some merit. The two main are (1) since the final phrase of the first list (which is idolatry) modifies the whole list, so does this one. (2) They see support for this in Ephesians 5:4. Second is the view that it refers to slander and filthy speaking. I agree with Moo who holds this view.[7] The reasons are: (1) the phrase denotes the function of speaking, the action of the mouth. (2) Not all the list fulfills this definition or function. For example, anger, wrath, and malice are attitudes of the heart, which may or may not be expressed in speech, but action. Moo comments: “Anger, rage, and malice will then refer to verbal expressions of these emotion rather than the emotions themselves. But giving this extended meaning to these words does not have good lexical support. More likely, then, from your lips should be attached to the end of the list as a way of reinforcing the last two sins.”[8] To this I agree. Anger, rage, and malice may give rise to the abusive speech, but are not necessarily actual speech. (3) The phrase leads to the next item, which is given in the voice of a command.

·         Do not lie to one another (3:9). While most do not see this as a continuation of the vice list, I believe it does. Thus, it is the sixth vice. It is a natural continuation and summation of the vice list.[9]  To lie is to deliberately tell an untruth. Like slander and abusive speech, it comes from the mouth. It is also direct disobedience to the law (Exod. 20:16; Lev. 19:11, 18; Deut. 5:20). The act of lying is much deeper than telling a falsehood, to lie to deny the Truth of God (Rom. 1:25, 2:8). This speaks directly to members of the church, the body of Christ. By doing this, believers are denying the reality of their redemption and are hypocritical of who they are in Christ. Their life is a lie.

This list ends with this imperative. It is also transitional in nature for it gives a conclusion to the vice list, and introduces the next list (3:9-17). This ends the negative list and begins a positive list as seen by the words put off and put on. (3:9-10). It clearly marks the reasons for believer’s abandonment of the old ways and live in the new.  The phrase, “since you laid aside the old self with its practices” (3:9). This indicates that the believer is to have already taken off the old life or way of living; for he has passed from death to life, from being in Adam to being in Christ. He however must appropriate who he is in Christ and put off the practices of the old way of life. Yet, in spite of all this, Paul finds it necessary to command them to put off such practices. Paul recognized the reality of sin in the believer’s life, and tells them to do away with such sinful practices. Campbell reminds us that the “instructions to put off the old man would be irrelevant if believers have only one nature (Eph. 4:22 cf. Rom 13:12; Eph. 4:25).[10] Believers are not sinless, but we are to sin less; living more and more in the new way of life instruction by Paul.

To be continued…

[1]  H. Wayne House, “The Christian Life according to Colossians,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, December 1994, 450.
[3]  S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “Christian Apparel,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 1964, 26.
[4]  Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, 51.
[6]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 135. Also see O’Brien, 188; Pao, 223.
[7]  Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS, 262-264.
[8]  Ibid, 263.
[9]   Ibid, 264; O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 188
[10]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 136.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Studies on Colossians #27

Sufficiency of Christ and Christian Living (3:1-4:6)

B.     Our Christian Apparel (3:5-11)

I once heard a speaker say we as believers are to take off our grave clothes. That comes from Paul. By using the word therefore, Paul is making a connection between theology and practice. Good theology makes for good Christian living (cf. John 13:17). This paragraph can be divided into three parts each according the imperatives (3:5, 8, 9).[1] The first two are generally looked upon as negative, with the last be positive. However, it seems to me that even the negative language of the text is positive. Getting rid of the old clothes is a positive change, enforced by putting on the new. Lopez reminds us of three things about this appeal in Colossians:[2]

  • The vices originate from the old fallen nature.
  • They are especially evident among nonbelievers.
  • They are unnatural for believers, but nevertheless possible (and in many cases a reality) in the life of believers.

The first imperative: “consider the members of your earthly body as dead.” (1:5-7).

In the Greek text the sentence begins with the imperative (or command): “Mortify or Put to death;” the Greek word nekroo means to kill, put to death, destroy, or to be rendered impotent (cf. Rom. 4:19; 6:6-7, 11-12; Heb. 11:12). Dunn says the word is somewhat rare and is derived from the medical field in reference to the atrophy of part of a body that by sickness or old age becomes inoperative.[3] We have already died with Christ positionally, now we are to put to death in our old self our old sinful practice. Our heavenly position and our earthly practice are to be in harmony. To do so, it must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13). In His power we must put to death the deeds of the flesh. Vice list are common in Paul (cf. Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5). These lists have these features:[4]

  • There is a variety of vices, and nowhere is there a complete list by Paul. This is clear at the end of the Galatians list which states: “and the like” (Gal. 5:21).
  • The list is significant or exemplary of something in the immediate context. They are always negative. Paul uses them as a “list of vices characteristic of unbelievers as a way of exhorting believers not to emulate them.[5]
  • They normally are set within the framework of God’s judgment (Col. 3:6).
  • They are not to be considered a new law or way to achieve merit.
  • They are given to aid transformation (Col. 3:10). The aim is for the reader to look anew at his life in relationship to his position in Christ.

There are certain deeds of the flesh we are to render dead or impotent in our new position. Paul also calls them the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12). Colossians lists five sins in this connection. This lists is only examples and by no means complete (cf. Gal. 3:19-23). They are:

  • Fornication or immorality (porneian), a word used of illicit sexual relationship; married or unmarried (3:5). Barclay says the word means prostitution, and porne is a prostitute and is connected with the verb pnumi meaning to sell.[6] It may well be the most common sin in the world.s This word is sometimes translated immoral (cf. Eph. 5:3). The word is general and indicates all types of unlawful sexual relations. In the days of Paul shame was absent from every society. This is evident for three reasons: there was not a strong stand or writing against it; Sexual matters were open and a well-established custom and practice in society; Sexual practices were strongly connected with religion, as seen in the many temples and their prostitutes.[7] This easily spilled over to those in the church who were raised during that time.
  • Impurity (akatharsia) meaning uncleanness or lewdness. It has its root physical dirt. It has been used of a clean house but more commonly in regard to ritual ceremony which cleanses one from ritual defilement. Impurity denotes moral and ceremonial impurity that keeps us out of the will of God. Purity makes it possible to come into the presence of God. In the Jewish religion impurity keeps one out of the temple and incurs the wrath of God (Lev. 22:23). It indicates moral depravity and is often connected with fornication (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3). It is a work of the flesh, not the spirit.
  • Passion (inordinate affection—KJV). It is the Greek word pathos, affection or passion, especially sexual. It could be translated lust. Some feel it is issued in connection to homosexual sin (cf. Rom. 1:26).[8] It is used three times in the NT and every time it is used “in conjunction with evil, i.e., to be absorbed in an evil passion or desire (cf. Rom. 1:26, Tit. 2:12).[9]
  • Evil desire (evil concupiscence—KJV), in the Greek it is two words (kokos epithesis) does not mean simply evil Kokos means evil mischief, bad in quality or disposition, corrupt, or wicked.  The word epithesis means an earnest desire or lust, and speaks of the object of evil. The two words should be translated together—evil desire. Evil is not a general object here, but is an expression of the type of desire.
  • Covetousness, which is idolatry. Covetousness (pleonexia) is the inordinate desire for riches, greed, or a consuming ambition for something (Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3). It points to motivation rather than action.[10] It is modified by the words, “which is idolatry.” It is idolatry because the item of covetousness takes the place over God. It is an item that projects itself and is lifted to the place of worship and praise, not necessarily by an overt act, but by one’s attitude concerning the object.

After listing these works of the flesh, Paul brings out two vital truths:

First, is judgment (3:6).

For because” is accusative and denotes the reason or cause to why we are to leave these actions or attitudes of the flesh. It is the judgment of God. These things bring God’s wrath. The words concerning the wrath which “will come” of “cometh” (KJV), reads as a future in most English translations. However, in the Greek it is a present tense—is coming.[11] It has the sense of that which has begun and is continuing; denoting certainty and immediacy. It is the strongest possible affirmation of God’s wrath. God’s wrath raises these vices to a new level of seriousness. Men brings wrath upon themselves. God’s wrath, “is tied directly to the holiness of God and depicts the necessary reaction of a personal God to any violation of his character or will.[12] As a gnomic present, it is voicing a principle of universal and permanent validity of God’s wrath.[13] It indicates both immediate and a long-range condition. The object is “upon the sons of disobedience.” (While some translations omit the phrase, such action is highly suspect).[14] In this text the preposition (epi) means on, upon, over, or above. The understanding is thereby that the sons of disobedience have the wrath of God on them or hanging over them. God’s wrath is not simply a future event (cf, Rom. 2:5; 5:9); but is active in our present time (cf. Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 2:16).

Second, is our past (3:7).  

The second is connected to the first by a relative pronoun (hos). Its translation depends on its antecedent. In this case it is not clear. It can be neuter, referring the list of vices, in which case it would be among these; or it can be masculine, referring to the sons of disobedience, thereby translated among whom.[15] It is debated which way it should be taken. Both are possible. Most scholars and translations translate it as neuter. Gromacki on the other hand sees it a masculine, referring to people.[16] The answer is unclear, but such a list is often taken to describe a way of life. I prefer the neuter use. The two halves of the verse seem to form a chiastic structure. Pao shows this clearly, dividing it as follows[17]

In these

you walked



you were living

In them

Both the phrases you walked and you were living emphasize behavior, of which the antecedent would be the vices. The contrast here is on a way of life. They at one time lived in accordance or under these vices; but they are no longer to live in them. This is in accord to the call to put the old to death (2:1). This contrast uses the same language and contrast in Ephesians 2:2-3. Both speak of a past condition in contrast to our new position in Christ. Our new status offers us deliverance (1 Thess. 1:10) from the wrath of God and forgiveness (1:14; cf. Eph. 1:7).

To be continued

[1] Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 131
[2]  Rene A Lopez, “A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice List,” BIBOTHECRA SACRA, July 2011, 309-310.
[4]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 180. Also see Rene A Lopez, a series on “Paul’s Vice Lists” in BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011 to April 2012. A six-part study.
[5]  Rene A. Lopez, “Views on Paul’s Vice Lists and Inheriting the Kingdom,” Part 1: BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011, 81.
[6]  William Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 1981], 24.
[7]  Ibid, 28.
[9]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 131
[11]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 133.
[14]  Terry, GREEK VARIENTS, points out the phrase is missing from two good manuscripts. While possible the phrase was borrowed from Eph. 5:6, in all likelihood, since they are missing from so few manuscripts, they are original.
[16]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 134,