Letter to the Colossians 3:1-25

3  If, however, you were raised up with the Christ,+ go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God.+  Keep your minds fixed on the things above,+ not on the things on the earth.+  For you died, and your life has been hidden with the Christ in union with God.  When the Christ, our life,+ is made manifest, then you also will be made manifest with him in glory.+  Deaden, therefore, your body members+ that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion,+ hurtful desire, and greediness, which is idolatry.  On account of those things the wrath of God is coming.+  That is how you too used to conduct yourselves* in your former way of life.*+  But now you must put them all away from you: wrath, anger, badness,+ abusive speech,+ and obscene talk+ out of your mouth.  Do not lie to one another.+ Strip off the old personality+ with its practices, 10  and clothe yourselves with the new personality,+ which through* accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it,+ 11  where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythʹi·an, slave, or freeman; but Christ is all things and in all.+ 12  Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones,+ holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion,+ kindness, humility,+ mildness,+ and patience.+ 13  Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely+ even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.+ Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same.+ 14  But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love,+ for it is a perfect bond of union.+ 15  Also, let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts,+ for you were called to that peace in one body. And show yourselves thankful. 16  Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms,+ praises to God, spiritual songs sung with gratitude,* singing in your hearts to Jehovah.+ 17  Whatever it is that you do in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.+ 18  You wives, be in subjection to your husbands,+ as it is becoming in the Lord. 19  You husbands, keep on loving your wives+ and do not be bitterly angry* with them.+ 20  You children, be obedient to your parents in everything,+ for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21  You fathers, do not be exasperating your children,+ so that they do not become downhearted. 22  You slaves, be obedient in everything to those who are your human masters,+ not only when they are watching, just to please men, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah. 23  Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as for Jehovah,+ and not for men, 24  for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the inheritance as a reward.+ Slave for the Master, Christ. 25  Certainly the one who does wrong will be repaid for the wrong he has done,+ and there is no partiality.+


Or “used to walk.”
Or “when you lived that way.”
Or “in.”
Or “graciousness.”
Or “be harsh.”

Study Notes

on the things above: Paul urges anointed Christians in Colossae to focus their minds on their hope. In his letter to the Philippians, he also points to “the prize of the upward call,” the prospect of reigning in heaven with Christ. (Php 3:14; Col 1:4, 5) Paul phrases the command, keep your minds fixed, in the present tense, suggesting ongoing or continuous action. If they kept this focus, they would avoid letting the things on the earth, such as worldly philosophies or empty traditions, distract and weaken them, costing them their precious hope.​—Col 2:8.

Deaden: Paul uses vivid figurative language to highlight that strong measures are needed in order to eliminate wrong fleshly desires. (Ga 5:24) The Greek word rendered “deaden” literally means to “put to death,” “kill,” or “do away with.”​—Compare Mt 5:29, 30; 18:8, 9; Mr 9:43, 45, 47.

sexual immorality: As used in the Bible, the Greek word por·neiʹa is a general term for certain sexual activities forbidden by God, including adultery, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexual acts, and other serious sexual sins.​—See Glossary and study note on Ga 5:19.

uncleanness: Or “filthiness; depravity; lewdness.” In its figurative meaning, “uncleanness” (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa) embraces impurity of any kind​—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships. (Compare 1Co 7:14; 2Co 6:17; 1Th 2:3.) “Uncleanness” can therefore refer to various types of wrongdoing and may include various degrees of seriousness. The word stresses the morally repugnant nature of the wrong conduct or condition.​—See Glossary, “Unclean,” and study notes on Ga 5:19; Eph 4:19.

uncontrolled sexual passion: See study note on Ro 1:26; compare Ge 39:7-12; 2Sa 13:10-14.

greediness, which is idolatry: The Greek word ple·o·ne·xiʹa, here rendered “greediness,” denotes an insatiable desire to have more. (See study note on Ro 1:29.) Paul explains that greediness is actually idolatry because a greedy person makes the thing desired his god, putting it above the worship of Jehovah. The greedy person makes the satisfying of his desires his chief aim in life.​—See study note on Eph 5:5.

put them all away: Paul here uses a Greek verb that means “to rid oneself of something” or “to lay aside something,” such as old clothes. Paul thus introduces a metaphor that recurs in verses 9, 10, 12, and 14, that of removing undesirable clothing and putting on appropriate clothing. Paul wants the Colossian Christians to view the five items he lists next as if they were dirty and repulsive garments that a Christian should be eager to shed. (See following study notes on this verse.) In many ways, this passage (Col 3:8-10, 12, 13) parallels Eph 4:20-25, 31, 32. Such similarities support the conclusion that Paul wrote both letters about the same time.​—Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-9.

wrath, anger: The two words Paul employs here are very close in meaning. Some scholars suggest that the first, or·geʹ, originally focused on an inner feeling of wrath, while the second, thy·mosʹ, had more to do with the outburst expressing that feeling. By the time of Paul’s writing, such distinctions may have become blurred. In using both words, Paul is warning against the tendency to allow wrath to fester in the heart as well as the outbursts of anger that may result.​—Eph 4:31; see study notes on Eph 4:26.

badness: The Greek word ka·kiʹa, here rendered “badness,” may include the idea of malice, spite, and the inclination to harm others. In a similar list at Eph 4:31, Paul uses the same Greek word in the phrase “everything injurious.” (See also Ro 1:29; 1Co 14:20.) One reference work describes badness as used in this context as “an evil force that destroys fellowship.”

abusive speech: Paul here uses the Greek word bla·sphe·miʹa, which is often rendered “blasphemy” when it refers to speech that is disrespectful to God. (Re 13:6) Originally, however, its meaning was not restricted to insults directed at God. The term can also denote evil or slanderous speech against fellow humans, and the context suggests that Paul uses it in that sense here. (See also Eph 4:31.) Other translations of this verse use such expressions as “slander,” “defamation,” and “insults.” One reference work says of this word: “It indicates the attempt to belittle and cause someone to fall into disrepute or to receive a bad reputation.”

obscene talk: This phrase translates a Greek word that is used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It refers to speech that is filthy, vulgar, and at times abusive. Obscene speech was common in plays and comedies that depicted immorality, and some considered that kind of talk to be humorous. Such speech could also be expressed in anger, which Paul also warned against. (See study note on wrath, anger in this verse.) No doubt Paul gave this warning to help Christians avoid the bad influence of the people around them. (See study note on Eph 5:3.) In the similar passage at Eph 4:29 (see study note), Paul urges Christians: “Let a rotten word not come out of your mouth.”

Strip off the old personality: Paul continues his word picture involving the removing and the putting on of clothing. (See study note on Col 3:8.) The word here rendered “personality” literally means “man; person.” As one reference work notes, Paul uses the term “man” figuratively: “The ‘old man’ here, as in Romans 6:6 and Ephesians 4:22, designates the whole personality of man when he is ruled by sin.” (See study notes on Ro 6:6.) Paul’s words suggest that with the help of God’s spirit, Christians can “strip off” even deeply entrenched traits and sinful practices.

the new personality: Paul here refers to the figurative clothing that would replace “the old personality.” (See study notes on Eph 4:24; Col 3:9.) This “new personality” is made up of fine godly qualities. It is an image, or likeness, of the personality of Jehovah God. Paul uses the same Greek word for “image” that is found at Ge 1:26 in the Septuagint. Paul thus reminded the Colossian Christians that even imperfect humans can strive to reflect the lofty qualities of God.​—See study note on Eph 5:1.

is being made new: Paul uses a Greek word not found in ancient Greek literature that precedes his writings. The verb form here suggests, not a one-time act of renewal, but a continuous, ongoing process. If a Christian stops putting forth diligent effort to cultivate the new personality, the old one is likely to resurface. (Ge 8:21; Ro 7:21-25) Paul thus emphasizes to Christians their need to continue applying the accurate knowledge they acquire regarding the Christian personality. They must work hard to develop such qualities as those he lists in verses 12-15.​—See study note on 2Co 4:16.

foreigner: Lit., “barbarian.”​—See study note on Ro 1:14.

Scythian: In Paul’s day, the word “Scythian” conveyed the idea of a fierce and uncivilized people. The Scythians were mainly a nomadic people that ancient writers generally associated with the regions N and E of the Black Sea. Evidence suggests that they may have roamed as far as western Siberia near the border of Mongolia. In the Greco-Roman world, the term “Scythian” became synonymous with fearsomeness. Paul here lists different groups​—pairing Greeks with Jews, circumcised with uncircumcised, foreigners with Scythians, slaves with freemen. By saying that none of these designations matter, Paul makes the point that Christians who clothe themselves with the new personality should be free of any ethnic, religious, cultural, or social divisions.

clothe yourselves: Paul here continues his word picture involving clothing, which he introduced at Col 3:8. (See study note.) He now discusses specific qualities of “the new personality,” which all of Christ’s followers need to put on as they would clothing. (Col 3:10) Such Christlike qualities are cultivated in the heart, but they are like clothing in that they should readily be visible. Various Bible reference works note that Paul phrases the command “clothe yourselves” in a way that could suggest urgency as well as permanence. This may suggest that he wants the Colossians to act promptly on this counsel and to acquire these qualities as permanent Christian traits, never to be removed.

humility: Or “lowliness of mind.”​—See study note on Ac 20:19.

Continue putting up with one another: Paul here urges the Christians in Colossae to be patient, tolerating other people’s shortcomings and traits that they find irritating. At 1Co 4:12, the same Greek verb has been rendered “patiently endure.” Because all Christians are imperfect and make mistakes (Jas 3:2), there is a need to be reasonable about what to expect of others (Php 4:5).

even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another: Paul acknowledges that some of the Colossians may at times have given their fellow Christians a legitimate “cause for complaint.” Perhaps they occasionally failed to show some Christian quality or caused hurt feelings over real or supposed wrongs. Even in those situations, Christians try to imitate Jehovah and forgive freely.​—Mt 5:23, 24; 18:21-35; Eph 4:32; 1Pe 4:8.

Just as Jehovah freely forgave you: The Bible often mentions that Jehovah God forgives the sins of humans. (Nu 14:19, 20; 2Sa 12:13; Ps 130:4; Da 9:9) He is even described as being “ready to forgive” (Ne 9:17; Ps 86:5) and as one who “will forgive in a large way [or, “freely,” ftn.]” (Isa 55:7). The Greek verb for “freely forgave” that Paul uses here is not the usual word rendered “forgive,” as found at Mt 6:12, 14 or Ro 4:7 (see study note). Rather, it is a verb that is related to the Greek word khaʹris, often rendered “undeserved kindness” or “favor.” When used in the sense of forgiving, this verb conveys the idea of doing so freely, generously, as when someone gives a gift to another. Paul uses the same term at Col 2:13, saying that “God . . . kindly forgave us all our trespasses.”​—Eph 4:32; for the use of the divine name here, see App. C3 introduction; Col 3:13.

clothe yourselves with love: See study note on Col 3:12.

perfect bond of union: Lit., “joint bond of the perfection.” Paul’s letter to the Ephesians stresses the power of peace to unite the congregation. (See study note on Eph 4:3.) Here Paul focuses on the superlative quality of love and its power to create unity. The greatest example of love’s power to unite is the bond of union between Jehovah and his only-begotten Son; that is the strongest bond that love has ever forged. (Joh 3:35) On the eve of his death, Jesus begged his Father to create such unity among his followers.​—Joh 17:11, 22; see study note on Joh 17:23.

the peace of the Christ: That is, a tranquility, or calmness, that a person gains on becoming a disciple of the Son of God. It results from God’s servants’ knowing that they are loved and approved by Jehovah God and by his Son.​—Ps 149:4; Joh 14:27; Ro 5:3, 4.

the Christ: Some ancient manuscripts read “God.” Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8 in App. C4) use the divine name here. However, there is strong manuscript support for the reading “the Christ.”

rule in your hearts: Or “control your hearts.” Paul urges Christians to allow the peace of the Christ to become the controlling influence in their hearts. The Greek term rendered “rule” is related to the word for an umpire, or judge, who controlled the activities in the ancient athletic contests and awarded the prize. When this peace figuratively acts as an umpire, or a ruling principle, in the hearts of Christians, they make decisions by considering which action will best preserve unity and peace with fellow believers.

the word of the Christ: This expression, which occurs nowhere else in the Christian Greek Scriptures, refers to the message from and about Jesus Christ. This “word” includes the example Jesus set in his life and ministry. Paul told Christians that they should let the entire body of teaching as given by Christ reside in them, that is, become a part of them. They could do that by meditating on the message of Christian truth and being fully absorbed in it. Regarding Paul’s statement, one reference work says: “The Christian message must be an integral and permanent living force in them, not just an outward performance or routine activities.”

Keep on teaching and encouraging one another: Here Paul urges Christians to teach, encourage, and admonish one another by singing songs with lyrics based on the inspired Scriptures. Some of the songs used in worship by the first-century Christians were psalms taken from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the psalms contained admonition to praise God, give thanks to him, and rejoice in him.​—Ps 32:11; 106:1; 107:1; see study note on Mt 26:30.

encouraging: Or “admonishing.” The Greek word (nou·the·teʹo) used here is a compound word composed of the word for “mind” (nous) and the word for “to put” (tiʹthe·mi) and could literally be rendered “to put mind in.” In this context, the encouragement could include reminding one another of comforting thoughts and counsel from the Scriptures. The related noun is used at Eph 6:4 (see study note) and is rendered “admonition.”

psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs: See study note on Eph 5:19.

singing . . . to Jehovah: See study note on Eph 5:19; see also App. C3 introduction; Col 3:16.

in your hearts: See study note on Eph 5:19.

in the name of the Lord Jesus: In the Bible, the term “name” at times stands for the person who bears the name, his reputation, and all that he represents. “The name of the Lord Jesus” has to do with his authority as the one who provided the ransom to redeem mankind from sin and with his position as King of God’s Kingdom. (Mt 28:18; Ac 4:12; 1Co 7:22, 23; Heb 1:3, 4; see study note on Php 2:9.) In all matters of life, Christians should speak and act “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” that is, as representing him.

be in subjection: Paul here speaks of the Christian wife’s voluntary submission to her husband’s God-given authority. The Christian husband, in turn, is to follow Christ’s example in exercising headship; he also willingly subjects himself to Christ’s authority.​—1Co 11:3; Eph 5:22, 23; see study note on Eph 5:21.

as it is becoming in the Lord: Paul here uses an expression for “becoming” that may also be rendered “proper” or “fitting.” Paul adds in the Lord, reminding the Christian wife that by fulfilling her Scriptural role, she is pleasing her Lord, Jesus Christ, who set a perfect example of humble subjection to his Father.​—Eph 5:22; see study note on Php 2:6.

be obedient: The Greek expression comes from a verb that has the basic meaning “listen.” Here it is used in the sense of hearing parental direction and complying with it in everything. Naturally, “everything” would include obedience in all things that are in harmony with God’s will; Paul did not mean to include matters that involved disobedience to God. Paul’s audience would have understood that such misplaced obedience would not be “well-pleasing to the Lord.”​—Compare Lu 2:51 and study note; Ac 5:28, 29; Eph 6:1, 2.

do not be exasperating: The Greek word for “exasperating” may also be rendered “provoking” or “irritating.” Paul does not refer to the effects of discipline given by a loving parent. (Compare Pr 13:24.) Rather, he has in mind the damage caused by unreasonable or harsh treatment of children by parents. Such abuse would fail to reflect the Scriptural record of Jehovah’s balanced dealings with his people (Ps 103:13; Jas 5:11) or of the encouraging way that Jehovah dealt with his own Son (Mt 3:17; 17:5).

downhearted: Paul uses a word that occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, one that might also be rendered “discouraged.” It suggests a loss of heart, a kind of discouragement that can become entrenched and prove dangerous to a child’s well-being. As the context indicates, such discouragement may be the result of parental mistreatment. Regarding the use of this word here, reference works note that the “exasperating” treatment that Paul mentions may convince a child that it is impossible to please the parent. Such conviction, in turn, may cause a child to become disheartened or even lead him to despair.​—See study note on do not be exasperating in this verse.

human: Lit., “fleshly.”​—See study note on Eph 6:5.

masters: Or “lords.” Here the Greek word kyʹri·os (lord) refers to humans who have authority over others.

not only when they are watching, just to please men: Lit., “not with acts of eye-service, as men pleasers.”​—See study note on Eph 6:6.

with fear of Jehovah: This expression refers to a profound respect and reverence for God and a healthy fear of displeasing him. Such reverential fear is motivated by faith in God and love for him and results in a desire to worship and obey him. The concept of fearing God is often mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some examples are De 6:13; 10:12, 20; 13:4; Ps 19:9; Pr 1:7; 8:13; 22:4. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek verb for “to fear” is often used in the sense of reverential fear of God.​—Lu 1:50; Ac 10:2, 35; Re 14:7; see study note on Ac 9:31; for the use of the divine name here at Col 3:22, see App. C3 introduction; Col 3:22.

whole-souled: See study note on Eph 6:6.

as for Jehovah, and not for men: Paul here emphasizes that literal slaves should remember their relationship with Jehovah God in whatever work they were doing. This includes their being obedient to “human masters” and rendering service to them “with sincerity of heart,” which would prevent bringing reproach on “the name of God.” (Col 3:22; 1Ti 6:1) Paul gives slaves similar counsel in his letter to the Ephesians, written about the same time as the letter to the Colossians.​—Eph 6:6, 7; see “Introduction to Colossians”; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Col 3:23.

it is from Jehovah you will receive the inheritance as a reward: Throughout the Bible, Jehovah God is described as the one who rewards the good deeds of those who serve him faithfully. Some examples are found at Ru 2:12; Ps 24:1-5; and Jer 31:16. Jesus describes his Father in a similar way.​—Mt 6:4; Lu 6:35; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Col 3:24.

Slave for the Master, Christ: Paul here reminds Christians who were literal slaves to remember that Christ is their real Master. In the similar counsel given at Eph 6:5, 6, Paul reminded slaves that they should “be obedient to [their] human masters . . . as Christ’s slaves doing the will of God whole-souled.” Those who choose to become slaves of Christ find, not a burdensome life, but relief from their heavy loads.​—Mt 11:28-30; compare study note on Ro 1:1.

there is no partiality: This verse indicates that wrongdoers​—for example, masters who treat their slaves badly​—cannot escape judgment. Similar statements at Ro 2:11 and Eph 6:9 show that God is the one who judges such individuals without partiality or favoritism.​—For background information on the Greek expression for “partiality,” see study note on Ro 2:11.


Christians in Colossae Sing Praises to Jehovah
Christians in Colossae Sing Praises to Jehovah

Young and old in the Colossian congregation join their voices in songs of praise. When these Christians meet for worship, they likely do so in a modest private home rather than in an elaborate building. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul encouraged them to “keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms, praises to God, [and] spiritual songs.” (Col 3:16) So in addition to singing the inspired psalms from the Hebrew Scriptures, they may have sung new compositions based on Christian themes. (Mr 14:26) Paul knew firsthand that “praising God with song” can bring comfort and encouragement.​—Ac 16:25.

Common Duties of a Slave
Common Duties of a Slave

Slavery was part of everyday life in the Roman Empire. Roman law regulated certain aspects of the relationship between slaves and their masters. Slaves performed much of the work in the homes of wealthy families occupying the territories of the Roman Empire. Slaves cooked, cleaned, and cared for children. Other slaves worked in factories, in mines, or on farms. Those who were better educated served as doctors, teachers, or secretaries. In fact, slaves worked at every occupation except in the military. In some cases, slaves could be emancipated. (See Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”) First-century Christians did not take a stand against governmental authority in this matter, nor did they advocate that slaves revolt. (1Co 7:21) Christians respected the legal right of others, including fellow Christians, to own slaves. That is why the apostle Paul sent the slave Onesimus back to his master, Philemon. Because Onesimus had become a Christian, he willingly returned to his master, subjecting himself as a slave to a fellow Christian. (Phm 10-17) Paul encouraged slaves to work honestly and diligently.—Tit 2:9, 10.