6. Exhortations for Christian living, 3:5-4:6

i] Put to death the old life


Having been raised with Christ, believers should adopt a life-style which reflects the values of heaven where Christ reigns.


i] Context: In 3:5-4:6 Paul presents a series of exhortations toward Christian living. In these exhortations the apostle explains how the spiritual reality of dying and rising with Christ plays out in the practical business of Christian living, of living by grace through faith rather than by works of the law. First, the business of putting to death the old life, of discarding sinful vices, 3:5-11. Next, the business of putting on the new life in Christ, of developing virtues worthy of Christ, 3:12-17. Continuing his instruction on Christian ethics, Paul has a word to say on household regulations, 3:18-4:1, and then concludes with some general pointers of ministry, 4:2-6.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: This passage, on the subject of putting to death the old life, is shaped around three imperatives. It presents as follows:

Eliminate completely, v5;

sexual immorality / impurity

lust / evil desires


Such prompt divine judgment, v6;

and represent a pre-Christian lifestyle, v7.

Put off, v8;

anger / temper rages

malice / slander

foul talk

Do not lie, v9;

because the old character has gone

and the new has come, v10a.

a character being constantly renewed, v10b

and breaking down relational barriers, v11.


iv] Interpretation:

In this passage Paul introduces us to the image of the "old man" and the "new man." The old man is the old Adam and this old man is to be put off like the putting off of old clothing, v5-11. The image is of the putting off of moral evils. The new man is the new Adam, the renewed man of the new creation. This new man is to be put on like the putting on new clothing, putting on moral good. Paul first lists five evils to be put off, "put to death", v5-7. Then he lists a further five that should be "put away", v8. He then adds that believers should not lie to one another, v9a. The basis for this exhortation (possibly all the exhortations???) is "because" (taking the participle apekdusamenoi as adverbial, causal) "you have stripped off ....... and put on .....", ie. this behavior does not image our new relationship in Christ, v9b-10. Where there is a new relationship with Christ, there is a new relationship between God's people, v11.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:5

As one puts off old clothing, put off old habits, v5-11.In 2:12 Paul had described being immersed in Christ as a dying and rising with Christ. Now Paul tells his readers what this dying and rising with Christ means in terms of morals. Given that we are identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, we should abhor evil and pursue good. The new life of a believer entails casting off the old man and putting on the new, casting off all that is evil and putting on all that is good. First, in v5-11, the casting off of evil vices. We have died to sin, therefore we should not set our minds on earthly things. In v5-7 Paul lists five sexual evils, evils which serve as the most destructive in human relationships. "Greed" is better understood as "covetousness", which in this context, concerns coveting another's wife or husband.

i] Sexual evils, v5-7. Paul lists five sexual evils, which evils serve as the most destructive in human relationships. "Greed" is better understood as "covetousness", which in this context, concerns coveting another's wife or husband.

nekrwsate (nekrow) aor. imp. "put to death" - you destroy, do away with completely. "You" = you believers in the Christian fellowship at Colossia."Eliminate completely from yourselves", TH; possibly "reckon as dead", Bruce.

oun "therefore" - Inferential, expressing a logical development from the teaching contained in v1-4.

ta melh (oV) "-" - the members, organs, parts, limbs. On face value these "members" refer to the parts of the body driven by evil impulses and used for evil purposes; "you must put an end to the use of any part of your body for worldly and immoral purposes", Barclay.

ta "whatever [belongs to your earthly nature]" - the things [upon the earth]. Serving as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "upon the earth" into a relative clause, attributive, limiting "members"; "members which are upon the earth" = "your limbs as put to earthly purposes", Moule. "Don't be controlled by your body", CEV, or better, "don't be controlled by your earthly nature."

porneian (a) "sexual immorality" - The list of accusative evils stand in apposition to melh, "members", the accusative object of the verb "to put to death." Referring to all sexual activity outside marriage.

pleonexian (a) "covetousness" - greediness, a desire to have more than others. Covetousness is associated with idolatry in Eph.5:5. It is interesting how it is included in a list of sexual sins which possibly indicates that sexual desire is on Paul's mind, a uniting desire for the human form which easily replaces a desire for union with the divine.

h{tiV rel. pro. "which [is idolatry]" - Formed by o{V + tiV, "such a thing which [is idolatry]." Zerwick thinks it is causal here; "which, because of its very nature, is idolatry." "Greed is a form of idolatry because it projects acquisitiveness and personal satisfaction as objective go(o)ds to be praised and served", Dunn.


di aJ "Because of these" - because of which things. Causal; "on account of these very sins", Weymouth.

hJ orgh (h) "the wrath" - wrath, anger. Dodd and others are unwilling to accept the notion of God's anger and so move to: eg. "disaster from God", Moule; "divine retribution", REB; "God's dreadful judgment", NEB. Obviously Paul is not speaking of God's "irritation" or "bad temper" etc., but rather that God is seriously affected by human sin, an affect which prompts the punishment of sin with death. If reliance on Christ prompts God's good pleasure, it is not unreasonable to hold that the denial of Christ would prompt his holy anger.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be classified as ablative, source/origin, "judgment from God", or adjectival, possessive, "God's wrath", Weymouth.

ercetai (ercomai) pres. "is coming" - The NIV, NRSV etc. understand the present tense as futuristic, ie. a certain future event, namely the judgment of God in the last day, "will certainly come." Yet, it is more likely a gnomic present indicating a permanent and universal principle, "God's wrath always comes", these sins always "bring down God's anger", Moffatt; "God is furious when he looks upon sin."

epi touV uiJouV thV apeiqeiaV "-" - on the sons of disobedience. A textual variant that may have slipped in to Colossians from Eph.5:6. Included by NRSV, "those who are disobedient", ie. the idolaters who have made sex their God. The preposition epi is spacial, "upon / on", or end-view / goal, "to". The genitive apeiqeiV, "of disobedience", is adjectival, attributive, "disobedient sons."


uJmeiV "you" - you. Emphatic by use; either, "you yourselves", or "you and others (ie. other Gentiles).

kai "-" - and. Adjunctive; "you also."

pote "[you] used" - once. Temporal; "previously", "at a former time"...

periepathsate (peripatew) aor. "you [used] to walk" - walked about. "To take part in", BAGD, in the sense of conducting one's life in a particular way.

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing sphere. "within the sphere of these ways", or modal, expressing manner, "in this manner."

oiJV "these ways" - which. The pronoun can be read as masculine and if the longer reading of v6 is adopted, then the translation would be "among whom", ie. the readers once lived as sons of disobedience among the sons of disobedience.

en + dat. "in [the life]" - [when you were living] in [these things]. Here probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "when you were living in this manner", but see en above.

oJte "[you] once [lived]]" - when. Introducing a temporal clause; "when you were living in them", ESV. The clause probably serves to repeat and emphasize the point already made. The readers were once dominated by "these ways", or by those "among whom" they once lived. Some translations combine both clauses, eg. "this is the way you once lived", REB.


ii] Lesser evils, v8. Paul then goes on to list five evils which destroy trust in relationships, particularly within the Christian fellowship.

de "but" - but, and. Not really adversative, but rather as a transitional connective indicating the next step in the argument.

nuni de "now" - Temporal; contrasting the previous "once lived" of v7.

apoqesqe (apotiqhmi) aor. imp. "[you] must rid yourselves of all" - [you also] put away. Take off, put off, remove, discard repulsive habits as if removing clothing. Simply put, "stop doing"; "put all these things behind you", Phillips.

orghn (h) "anger" - a settled feeling of hatred. The list of accusative evils stand in apposition to the accusative direct object, ta panta, "all these things", of the verb "to put away."

qumon (oV) "rage" - passionate outbursts, temper rages.

kakian (a) "malice" - a general nastiness, possibly abusive language.

blasfhmian (a) "slander" - irreverence, blasphemy. Possibly just "insults", TEV.

aiscrologian (a) "filthy language" - filthy speech, foul talk.

ek + gen. "from [your lips]" - Expressing source/origin. Possibly referring to all of the above; "these must no longer stain your lips", Barclay.


iii] A number of extra evils are added to the list, namely, dishonest dealings with one another. Such behavior in the Christian fellowship does not sit easily with our new relationship in Christ, v9-10

mh yeudesqe (yeudomai) pres. imp. "do not lie" - The aspect of this imperative is often taken to forbid the continuation of the lying, but it is probably used to express a general command; "stop lying to one another", NEB.

apekdusamenoi (apekduomai) aor. part. "since you have taken off" - having put off. Lightfoot suggests that the participle is imperatival, therefore an instruction to "put off." Most translations see it as adverbial, forming a causal (pos. purpose) clause, "for you have finished with the old man", Phillips. Another example of "be what your are." The old self has died with Christ, so why would we return to live out a life that no longer represents our new life in Christ.

ton palaion anqrwpon "your old self" - the old man. Accusative direct object of the participle "having put off." "The old human nature", CEV.

sun + dat. "with" - Expressing association / accompaniment; "with".

autou gen. "its [practices]" - [the practices] of it. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but often classified as verbal, subjective. Referring to behavior that characterizes the old man.

praxesin (iV ewV) "practices" - deeds, actions. Here the evil behavior of the old man, "habits", TEV.


endusamenoi (enduw) aor. part. "have put on" - having put on. Following on from "since you have taken off", this participle is adverbial, again forming a causal clause; "don't lie since we 'have begun life as the new man'", Phillips.

ton anakainoumenon (anakainow) pres. pas. part. "which is being renewed" - the one being renewed. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the new self", as NIV. The present tense indicates "constantly renewed", "you are becoming more and more like your creator", CEV. We are becoming what we are. Note how the TEV gets tangled up in this verse.

eiV epignwsin "in knowledge" - to knowledge. The preposition eiV probably indicates the result of our "being renewed", so CEV, "and you will understand him better and better" (TEV, purpose / end-view / goal, "in order to bring you"). The content of the knowledge is undefined. The knowledge of God himself is assumed by most, but given the context, a knowledge of the will of God is a distinct possibility, "to learn what he aught to be, according to the plan of God", Phillips.

kat (kata) + acc. "in [the image]" - in conformity with, after the pattern of. Expressing a standard. Introducing a prepositional phrase modifying "being renewed" rather than "in knowledge." Handled nicely by the CEV as noted above. The restoration process has as its goal the shaping of a creature in the divine image.

tou ktisantoV (ktizw) gen. aor. part. "of [its] Creator" - of the one having created [him/it]. The participle serves as a substantive, with the genitive being possessive. Obviously auton, "its / him/it", refers to "the new man / the new self."


iv] Where there is a new relationship with Christ, there is a new relationship between God's people; we are all one, v11.

oJpou "here" - where. This conjunction carries the sense "in this situation" and therefore takes a resultant sense, "as a consequence of what God is doing in us, there is no ........"

alla "but" - Adversative, as NIV; "but on the contrary ...."

panta (paV) adj. "[Christ is] all" - Predicate nominative. Christ is everything, he is all that matters.

kai "and" - Here coordinative, so indicating the presence of two conjoined ideas expressed nicely by NAB; "Christ is everything in all of you."

en pasin "in all" - The preposition en may express space / sphere, Christ indwells "all", or possibly association, "all with all. The "all" may be "all things", or "all people", but more likely "all believers", so "all of you", NAB. "Christ permeates and indwells all members of the new man, regardless of race, class or background", O'Brien.


Colossians Introduction



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