Category Archives: COLOSSIANS 3

COLOSSIANS 3

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Setting of the passage
Chapter 3 comes in that section of the epistle where the apostle is dealing with the way in which the Christian expresses the life he has in Christ.  So we have the following categories:

2:20-3:17 The expression of life in Christ, (personally).
3:18-4:1 The expression of life in Christ, (socially).
4:2-6 The expression of life in Christ, (generally).

Structure of the passage

3:1(a) A new position Risen with Christ
3:1(b), 2 A new preoccupation Christ in heaven.
3:3 A new principle Ye died.
3:4 A new prospect Coming with Christ in glory.
3:5-9 A new practice (a) mortify your members.
    (b) put off the old man.
3:10-17 A new practice (c) put on the new man.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 4:

3:1  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

3:2  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

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

3:4  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

 

3:1(a)    A new position: Risen with Christ.

3:1  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

If ye then be risen with Christ- the word “if” does not suggest that it is doubtful if believers are risen with Christ; rather, the idea is “if, as is the case, then certain things should follow”.  This is a sequel to the “if ye be dead with Christ” of 2:20.  The apostle has warned in chapter two of evil teaching which would make them earthbound, speaking of “the rudiments of the world”, in verse 8, and again in verse 20.  The false teachers could not speak of anything other than this world, not having any contact with heaven.  Because believers, by their baptism by immersion, have associated closely with the one who was buried and rose again, they are, as far as God is concerned, risen with Him, as 2:12 has already said.  See also Romans 6:4-11.  And just as Romans 6 speaks of walking in newness of life, and living with Him, (in His current resurrection position), so we should live lives that are not governed by natural principles, but by the principle of association and identification with Christ. There is a development in the doctrine of the New Testament with regard to the believer’s association with Christ.  In Galatians the emphasis is on the crucifixion of Christ, and the way in which the man who tried to keep the law is set aside by being “crucified with Christ”, 2:20, so that the law has lost its influence on him.  In Romans we are linked with Christ as the crucified, buried and risen man; but that epistle fits us to live a righteous life on the earth, so we are, so to speak, left standing beside an empty tomb.  In the Colossians we are standing on the earth seeking the things of heaven, because Christ is there.  In the Ephesian epistle we reach the highest point, for we are not only quickened together with Christ, and raised together, but also seated together with Him in the heavenly places.

3:1(b), 2    A new preoccupation:  Christ in heaven.

Seek those things which are above- when the ark of the covenant had been taken over the Jordan into the Promised Land, then the word to Israel was, “Go after it”, Joshua 3:3.  So we, who have “crossed the Jordan” at our baptism, as we associate with what happened to Christ at Calvary, should go in for the things of our Promised Heavenly Land.  The apostle Peter wanted to go to the cross with Christ, but was told he could not follow then, John 13:36.  He would follow afterwards, he was told.  So the nation of Israel had to keep a Sabbath’s day journey between them and the ark, and only after it had crossed the Jordan could it follow.  So there is a “Sabbath’s day’s journey” between the crucifixion and the resurrection, for Christ was in the grave during the Sabbath day.  Only after He was risen could Peter, and the rest of believers follow.  The uniqueness of His work at Calvary must be preserved; but once this has been done, association with Him is an imperative.  We cannot have links with Him without the death/burial/resurrection experience.  It was the Philistines who trod the Way of the Philistines, which did not involve the crossing either of the Red Sea or the Jordan.  That way was barred to Israel, Exodus 13:17.
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God- it is as Christ that He sits at God’s right hand, for as Peter declared to the Jews, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2;36.  The Jews were familiar with the idea of Christ reigning on the earth; now they learn that their Messiah has a heavenly kingdom too.  Both earth and heaven are to be “gathered together in one” in Him, Ephesians 1:10.  This is part of the “mystery of His will”, something not revealed before. Note that He is sitting, for His position is settled, with none having right to dispossess Him.  His position is not provisional, but secure, and so is the believer’s place in Him. He is at God’s right hand, the place of favour, for God has said to Him, in the language of the illustration the Lord used, “Go up higher”, and “Give this man place”, Luke 14:7-11.  The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of one who humbled Himself, and now is exalted, verse 11. He is also in the place of the firstborn, for it was the patriarch Jacob’s right hand that gave the privilege of being firstborn to his son; see Genesis 48:12-20.  The firstborn is the one who has the duty of administering for the father, and this Christ does as God’s firstborn.  He did it in relation to creation, as we have seen in Colossians 1:15-17, and now He does it as a man on the throne of God.  Just as the firstborn son of old time was given a double portion, so Christ administers regarding heavenly things and earthly, and is given the authority in heaven and earth to do so, Matthew 28:18. He is also on the throne of God as the future king.  Hebrews 1:3 declares Him to be on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and verse 8 of that chapter anticipates the day when He will sit upon Israel’s throne, which will then, in full reality, be “the throne of Jehovah”, 1 Chronicles 29:23.  No angel could fill either role, for they are simply servants; He is their Commander, 7,14.

3:2  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Set your affection on things above- note that affection is in the singular.  All our love for Him should go out to Him, as those whose mind, and therefore whose heart, is taken up with Him.  There should be no aspect of our love which is centred on something else.  Of course, natural relationships must be honoured, and the believer should love his wife and children if he has them, but in the context here of our attitude to Christ, all should be focussed on Him. One of the evil effects of strange doctrine is to draw the heart away from Christ by filling the mind with error.  Jude calls false teachers “wandering stars”, Jude 13.  The word he used is “planetos”, from which we derive the English word planet.  Woe be to an ancient seafarer who plotted his course by the planets, for they wandered through the sky.  The wise mariner will be guided by the “fixed” stars, and will have a safe journey.  The believer, likewise, should be guided by the fixed star of apostolic truth, and not be led astray by heretics. There is a close connection between heart and mind, for Scripture says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he”, Proverbs 23:7.  Sooner or later, what our mind is occupied with will affect our heart. There is plenty to occupy us as we meditate on the glories of Christ, His offices, and the inheritance of blessing that He has brought us into.
Not on things on the earth- God gives to us richly all things to enjoy, 1 Timothy 6:17, so the natural things of the earth may be minded, to His glory.  There is much that glorifies God in the creation around us, and in the institutions like marriage and family life that He has established, and we may freely think upon them and enjoy them.  The apostle is not thinking of this sort of thing, however, but rather things in the realm of doctrine, and the occupation with things that may be touched, tasted and handled, as he said in 2:20,21.  Anything that passes itself off as “Christian”, yet has to do with visible things like altars and vestments, is of the earth, and as such contrary to the true Christian position.

3:3        A new principle:  ye died.

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

For ye are dead- the moral state of the true believer is that of being dead to his former state of sin.  God foresaw our faith, and associated us with His Son in His death.  So the apostle can say, (and the statement is not unique to him, but shared by all believers of this age), “I am crucified with Christ”, Galatians 2:20.  It is not possible, logically speaking, for a dead person to have an association with the things on the earth, for he was cut off from them when he died. The word used for to die is a strengthened form, and means to die out.  Animals are dying all the time, but occasionally one dies out, never to be seen again; such is the position of the believer.  In fact, the word for death is said to come from the word to disappear, because that is what happens to us when we die, for men no longer see us.  Abraham spoke of burying Sarah out of his sight, Genesis 23:4. Just as Christ was not seen by sinful men after He was put in the tomb, so believers are out of sight morally, as far as this world is concerned.  The burden of the apostle is that we should work out that moral position in practice.  When we were in Adam we worked out that moral position in practice by having to do with this world and its sin; now that we are in Christ, we are to do the better thing.
And your life is hid with Christ in God- the believer’s real life is a hidden life, hidden from the world because it is lived the further side of death, and concerns itself with heavenly things.  It is also hidden with Christ, because He is hidden, not just from the world negatively, but in heaven positively.  He is like Joash the boy king, hidden in the sanctuary until the time of his manifestation, 2 Chronicles 22:11,12.  The hiding away of Christ in heaven is the indication of where our true occupation should be. But this life is hid with God.  Now in 2:26 the apostle spoke of a mystery that was hidden, and in Ephesians 3:9 said that that mystery was hid in God.  May it not be that the apostle alludes here to the fact that the place that believers have has been part of His counsels for eternity, and He hid in His heart the plan to associate them with His Son in His heavenly position?  Thus our life is hidden in two senses.  In the first sense, hidden in the same way as Christ is hidden, and in the same place as He is.  In the second sense, it is hidden in that Christ’s position, and ours in association with Him, is hid in God, as part of His eternal counsels.  These counsels are still a secret as far as unbelievers are concerned, since they do not accept God’s word, so to them they are still “hid…in God”; but that will change in the future, as the apostle now shows.

3:4    A new prospect:  coming with Christ in glory.

3:4  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

When Christ, who is our life- the apostle assumes that we are so taken up with Christ, and the heavenly things associated with Him, that he can be said to be our life.  Life, (like death), is a condition of existence.  The believer’s life is conditioned by the fact that Christ is everything to him.  Life, for the believer, has no meaning apart from Christ.  He is not only the source of spiritual life, but is the subject of it too.  As Paul will write in verse 11, “Christ is all”.  The apostle was in the good of this when he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ”, Philippians 1:21.  His life could be summed up in that one word “Christ”.
Shall appear- the idea behind the word “appear” is that of being made manifest in one’s true character.  When we see people for the first time, we are not always able to decide what they are really like.  But this particular word assures us that when Christ appears, it will be to manifest Himself in His true character.  He did this when He came the first time as Saviour.  It will be “this same Jesus” that comes again, though, as the angel assured the apostles who watched Him go, Acts 1:11.  During His absence from the world men have had all sorts of ideas about Him.  Some have been misunderstandings, (although there is no excuse for this since the Scriptures are available to tell us the truth), and some have been malicious slanders.  Jude speaks of “ungodly speeches” that men will have to give account for when Christ comes, Jude 15.
Then shall ye also appear with Him in glory- so He who is the life and truth personified, John 14:6, will appear again to men, this time accompanied by those who did receive Him by faith, and who sought to live out His life before men.  He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe, as 2 Thessalonians 1:10 puts it.  Men shall see then that the people they did not understand, because they lived an other-worldly life, were simply representing Christ while He was hidden from the world in heaven. “In glory” does not mean “in heaven”, for the manifestation is to the world.  Christ was manifest the first time in grace, (although His glory shone forth); when He comes again to the earth it will be in glory, (although His grace will be manifest to Israel at that time).  He Himself spoke of coming “in His glory”, Matthew 25:31; and “in the glory of His Father”, Mark 8:38.  So the glory is Divine glory, not that of ourselves.  In the light of this the apostle can make a very valid application, and exhort us to live in conformity with that glory even now.  If we are to be associated with glory then, we should be associated with it now.  The same word for manifest is used of Christ and us.  We shall be revealed in our true light then, and that which was not understood by an unbelieving world will be apparent.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 5 TO 9:

3:5  Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

3:6  For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

3:7  In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

3:8  But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

3:9  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

3:5-9    A new practice:  (a) mortify your members and put off the old man.

3:5  Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth- when the apostle teaches that our life is hid with Christ, he is not asserting that in some mystical way we are not on earth in actual fact.  We live our lives out in the same world that unbelievers live their lives.  The Lord Jesus did not ask His Father to take His people out of the world, but rather to keep them from the evil that is in the world, John 17:15. To mortify means to put to death.  It is the application of the principle set out in Romans 6:10-12.  The Lord Jesus has died in relation to the matter of sin, having dealt with the sin-principle effectively by His death.  But He now lives to God.  If to die to sin means to so deal with it that the matter never needs to be dealt with again, then to live to God, by contrast, (for God and sin are diametrically opposed), is to exclusively deal with the things of God.  And this He does.  And this we should do, as exhorted by the apostle in verse 12, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”.  We, of course, are not dead to sin in the sense that we dealt with it ourselves; rather, we are dead to sin by association with the one who did deal with it. Note that we are not required to die to sin, for that has already happened when we believed, so that Romans 6:2 reads, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  What we are required to do is reckon ourselves to be dead to sin.  In other words, incorporate the truth that we are dead with Christ into our thinking, and allow it to regulate our acting. The Lord Jesus anticipated this teaching when He said, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off…if thy foot offend thee, cut it off…if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out”, Mark 9:43,45,47.  Of course He was not speaking literally.  Our hand, foot and eye do not offend us by being attached to our body, therefore they will not stop offending us by being detached from our body.  They can offend us, or trap us into sinning, by the things they are able to do.  If we find ourselves being lured into sinning by what we do, (hand), where we go, (foot), or what we see, (eye), then we should metaphorically cut off those members.  Or in the language of Romans 6:11, “reckon yourselves to be dead”. So our members are upon the earth, in the place of danger, where temptation lurks, and therefore we should be specially alert.  It is interesting that in Mark 9:49 the Lord Jesus quoted from Leviticus chapter 2.  In that chapter, which has to do with the meal offering, there is detailed for us an offering which depicts the holy manhood of the Lord Jesus.  His life is the perfect example for His people to imitate, and we can only do it if we resolve to let not sin reign in our mortal bodies, so that we do not obey it in the lusts thereof, Romans 6:12. The apostle now lists some sins that our members are able to commit.  So closely is sin and our body linked, that it is called “the body of sin” in Romans 6:6.  By the application of the truth of that passage, however, our bodies as the headquarters of sin may progressively be made of no effect, which is what “destroyed” means in that context.  It is clear that the apostle anticipates progress in this matter- it is not automatic, as the use of the Subjunctive Mood indicates; it is a possibility that may be realised, to a greater or lesser degree.  We know from experience that our body is still able to sin, so we should put to death the members of that body, writing death over them, so to speak, so that we serve God and not sin.
Fornication- this is a term that covers all sorts of acts of immorality, whether it be adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, or bestiality.  It is a wide term, and is not synonymous with adultery, which involves immoral acts between a male and a female, one or both of whom being married already.  See, for instance, the careful distinguishing of the two in the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19:9. We should not let the prevailing atmosphere of tolerance of, or even encouragement of, such sins, to influence our thinking.  As the next verse will tell us, the wrath of God is coming on these sins.  We do men a disservice if we condone these sins, for it prevents them repenting of them, and so avoiding the wrath of God.  Far better to be like Abraham, standing apart from Sodom ,yet interceding for it, that to be like Lot, prominent in the city, but with no effective testimony; see Genesis chapters 18 and 19.
Uncleanness- everything that is impure in the moral realm, whether thoughts or deeds.  The apostle wrote, “Finally, my brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”, Philippians 4:8.  We should make a conscious effort to guard our minds and hearts from unclean things, by concentrating on the clean and wholesome things of God.
Inordinate affection- this is depraved passion.  Men often criticise God for ordering the destruction of the Canaanites.  The truth is, that such were the abominations that they committed, they were not fit to live.  After all, what shall we say of people who sacrificed tiny babies to their god by plunging them into a furnace of fire?  It is no surprise to learn that they were marked by other detestable abominations. All that is out of harmony with love to Christ should be shunned.
Evil concupiscence- this is wicked craving after sinful things.  The believer should find all his satisfaction in Christ.
Covetousness, which is idolatry- after a sad list of immoral practices we might be surprised to find the apostle including covetousness.  Yet the sin of covetousness must be serious, for it is said here to be idolatry.  The other sins in the list often accompanied idolatry, but this sin is idolatry.  To allow anything to come between the soul and God is idolatry.  The Devil sought to place himself between Christ and His Father, but he was met by the instant rebuke “Get thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve'”, Luke 4:8.  In Matthew’s account the Lord said, “Get thee hence, Satan”, Matthew 4:10, reminding us that if we resist the Devil he will flee from us, James 4:7. God made it clear to Israel that He is a Jealous God, Exodus 20:5.  That is why He condemns idolatry of all sorts, for God is the only Being that can claim glory, and idolatry deprives Him of glory, for men direct their attention to an idol rather than to God.  He is also jealous of the glory of His Son, who is the “Image of the invisible God”, and this is added reason why idolatry is abomination to Him. The Lord Jesus taught “ye cannot serve God and mammon”, which is an Aramaic word for riches.  It is possible to be an employee of two persons, but not a slave, for a slave’s master is his owner and governor, dominating the slave’s every move.  Such is the position of those who set up riches as their god.

3:6  For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh- the Lord Jesus is to be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God.  He is the one charged with the task of executing judgement, for He is Son of Man, John 5:27.  As such, He has been on the earth so that men might see and hear Him, and react in faith to Him.  Those who do not find that as Son of Man He has authority over all men, and will be their judge when He comes. The sense of “cometh” is that it is already on its way, so certain is it.  When the apostles speak of things about to happen, they mean that is so certain that they are almost in sight.
On the children of disobedience- the implication of these words is that if we are to come with Him and are associated with His judgement of the sins listed in verse 5, then we should not be guilty of them ourselves.  And if the wrath of God comes on children of disobedience, then the approval of God must rest on the children of obedience, namely those who believe.  Does not the apostle speak of “the obedience of faith”, in Romans 1:5 and 16:26, thus bracketing the gospel epistle with this thought. By nature man follows Adam is his disobedience to God’s commands, and is therefore a son of Adam, taking character from him. By new birth believers are enabled to follow the example of the Last Adam, who was marked by full obedience to His Father’s will.

3:7  In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

In the which ye also walked some time- the sins of verse 5 were commonplace in the lives of the Colossians before they were saved, such was the atmosphere in which they lived their unsaved lives.  It is always good for believers to remember that they were no different to the unsaved before conversion.  We can begin to think ourselves superior, and think that we in some way deserved God’s salvation.  But it is not so.  God warned Israel not to think they deserved to be in the land of promise; it was all of God’s goodness and grace, and His faithfulness to His promise to Abraham, Deuteronomy 9:4-6.
When ye lived in them- note that the apostle assumes that they have made a clear-cut break with the sins of the past.  They no longer live in those things in principle, because their life is bound up with Christ; they should not live in them in practice.  That it is still possible for believers to commit at least some of the sins of verse 5 is seen in the fact that we are to mortify our members so we do not commit them.

3:8  But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

But now ye also put off all these- the word “ye” is emphatic, for even some sinners shun the kind of sins the apostle lists in verse 5, but the standard for believers is much higher.  The word for “put off” is the same as in Acts 7:58, where those who stoned Stephen took off their clothes and discarded them, for they were not suitable for the task in hand.  So we should put off the characteristics of the old man, for they are not suitable for the task we have to perform, namely, manifest Christ’s character.  Men wanted to obliterate the Christ-likeness they saw in Stephen; we should want to duplicate it.
Anger- this is a condition of mind.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, for the Lord Jesus was angry at times, Mark 3:5, for He was grieved at the hardness of the heart of the people.  He taught, however, that “he that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement”, Matthew 5:22.  This is unrighteous anger, the sort that is condemned here.
Wrath- this is an outburst of strong indignation.  The apostle allowed the Ephesians to be angry, but warned them against allowing the sun to go down on their wrath, Ephesians 4:26. Righteous anger must not degenerate into spite and prolonged brooding about a matter.
Malice- this is the root cause of the previous two sins.  1 Corinthians 5:8 speaks of “the leaven of malice and wickedness”.  The wickedness was on the part of the sinful man dealt with in that chapter; the warning against malice is for those who dealt with the matter, lest they do it in the wrong spirit and for the wrong motives.
Blasphemy- this is evil-speaking against God or man.  The same word is used for both since man is made in the similitude of God, James 3:9, and therefore should not be spoken of or to with vindictiveness and slander. Filthy communication out of your mouth- having spoken of slanderous speaking, the apostle warns against uncleanness of speech, for this will lead to the sins of verse 5.

3:9  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

Lie not one to another- the Devil is a “liar, and the father of it”, John 8:44.  He lied to Eve by saying, “Thou shalt not surely die”, when God had said “Thou shalt surely die”, Genesis 3:4; 2:17.  He was in direct confrontation with the God of truth.  He not only lied himself, however, but was the father of lies in others, instigating them to continue his wicked practice.  So it is that the Lord told the Jews that because He told them the truth, they did not believe Him, for they were conditioned to accept lies and deny truth, John 8:45.  The natural mind is attracted to error, and resists truth. In the corresponding place in Ephesians, the apostle quotes from Zechariah with the words, “Let every man speak truth with his neighbour”.  Then he adds, “for we are members one of another”, Ephesians 4:25.  The words of the prophet need to be heeded by us for a stronger reason even than the one given by Zechariah.  There, it was because of neighbourliness; with believers today it is because of common membership of the body of Christ.  Because our links with fellow-believers are so much more intimate than being neighbours, then the need for truth and transparency to mark our dealings with one another is all the more pressing.
Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds- when a person repents, they renounce the things of Adam that marked them.  Then they find that God dealt with what they were at Calvary, and our old man was crucified with Him there.  So the nature and practice of the old man has been put off.  But the fact that the apostle urges them to not lie, shows that they have the capacity to do the deeds of the old man still.  This is because when a person is converted to God, they are not given a new body, for that awaits the resurrection.  Their body is still the body that sinned, even though the sins have been forgiven.  Romans 6:6 calls it “the body of sin”, meaning the body that is capable of sinning because it is the head-quarters of the sin-principle.  That verse reads, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin”.  The word “destroy” has the idea of “making of no effect”, or “cancelling the power of”.  Notice the “might be” and the “should not”.  They are phrases that tell of potential.  As far as God is concerned, the power of our old man is cancelled at Calvary, when God passed judicial sentence upon it and crucified it with Christ.  The fact remains, however, that putting this into practice is an ongoing process for the believer, and in the measure in which he reckons himself to be dead to sin and alive to God, then the old man is destroyed. So the apostle is saying in effect, “Lie not one to another, for lying is a manifestation of your old self, and God condemned that at Calvary, and you renounced it at conversion, when you repented”.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 10 TO 17:

3:10  And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:

3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

3:12  Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

3:14  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

3:17  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.

 

3:10-17    A new practice: (b) put on the new man.

3:10  And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:

And have put on the new man- not only did we renounce the old man in repentance, but we embraced the new man in faith.  The word for “new” here means youthful, vigorous, dynamic.  The word for new in the parallel passage in Ephesians 4:24 means fresh, different.  Here the apostle is emphasising the great change that comes about when a person is converted.  Instead of living as Adam lived after he sinned, he begins to live like Christ did, who did no sin. Which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him- there is a constant renewing, for the word is a present participle, and this is perhaps why the apostle used the word for new which means youthful and vigorous.  The new man will never grow old, for it has an in-built youthfulness.  This is because it is likeness to Christ, and He never decays or deteriorates. God made Adam in His own image and after His likeness, Genesis 1:26.  He fell from his lofty position, however, and begat a son in his own likeness, Genesis 5:3.  And thus it has been ever since, except in the case of Christ, who was virgin-born.  He has now become the example for God’s people, and since He is the image of God, (whether as a man or beforehand, in eternity), to imitate Him is to grow after the image of God.  So the more we know of Christ, and the more we put that knowledge into practice in Christ-like deeds and attitudes, the more we shall be like God as to His virtue and goodness.

3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew- just as in Adam we displayed his likeness, so in Christ we are to display likeness to Christ, who is Himself the image of God.  In that position the divisions of earth lose their relevance, for they are the way man in Adam is distinguished.  Such distinctions are left behind in Christ.  By “Greek” the apostle means Gentile persons, for the Greek language was that which united the Roman world.  The word Gentile is first found in Genesis 10:5.  God chose Abraham out from the world of the Gentiles, and promised to make of him a great nation, Genesis 12:1,2.  So it was that the earth became divided into “the nations”, (the meaning of the word Gentile), and “The Nation”; so there were “the peoples”, (Gentiles) and “The People”, (Israel).  These distinctions are no longer valid, for God has set aside man in Adam of whatever nation, (even of The Nation), and only man in Christ is relevant.  So it is that the apostle Paul had to become a Jew to reach the Jews with the gospel, for he had left his Jewishness behind, 1 Corinthians 9:20.  There are those today who wish to be known as Christians, yet also call themselves Messianic Jews, but  this is a contradiction in terms.
Circumcision nor uncircumcision- just as God divided between Jew and Gentile by calling Abraham out from Ur of the Chaldees, He also divided between circumcision and uncircumcision by covenanting with him only, for He made the rite of circumcision the distinguishing mark of the Jew.  But this was only a physical operation, and it did not mean that the circumcised person was a believer.  Indeed it could not, for it was done at the age of eight days old.  See Romans 2:17-29 for the way the apostle deals with this question.  Whether a person is circumcised or not is irrelevant as far as the gospel is concerned.
Barbarian, Scythian- we are not presented with contrasts now, but with those whose behaviour as nations was far off from what God desired.  They were lacking in the refinements and education of the Greeks and Romans, and were rough and uncultured.  This does not matter to God either, for in Christ the rough becomes refined, and the uncultured becomes educated in the school of Him who said, “Learn of Me”, Matthew 11:29.
Bond nor free- to be a bond-slave was to be deprived of many of the privileges and advantages that the free person took for granted.  This, too, is irrelevant for the believer, for he is the Lord’s freeman, whatever his employment status, 1 Corinthians 7:21-23.  Those who are freemen should remember that they are in bonds to Christ.
But Christ is all- such is the glory of His person, and such is His relevance to all men, not just Jews, that what He is over-rides what everyone else is in Adam.  He surpasses and excludes all the varied sorts of men, and stations Himself as supreme and alone as the believer’s standard.
And in all- by the indwelling Spirit Christ is in the believer, ready to work out His image through us.  In Romans 8:9 we read, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His”.  Then in the next verse the apostle writes, “And if Christ be in you…”  So to have the Spirit within is to have Christ within.  This is how the distinctions of earth become irrelevant, for the over-riding consideration is, “Has this person Christ within?”  If so, then he is no longer part of the earthly scheme of things, but involved in the heavenly, which is how the apostle began the chapter.  There, the reason was being risen with Christ, removed out of the world’s domain.  Here, it is having Christ within.

It might be helpful to set out the doctrine concerning the old man, and the flesh:
The old man:  What God recognises a person to be before conversion, with links to Adam the sinner.  That person has been judicially condemned by God, and the sentence executed by being crucified in company with Christ, as far as God is concerned.  In practice, the old man is put off in repentance at conversion, and this is expressed in baptism by immersion.

The new man:  What God recognises a person to be after conversion, with links to Jesus Christ the righteous.

The flesh:  The sinful self with its potential still to live as a sinner, because our body is the seat of the sin-principle.  We are not “in the flesh”, but we can “walk after the flesh”, if we allow sin to dominate us.  The characteristic position of the believer is that he is “in the Spirit”, and therefore he should “walk in the Spirit”.  See Romans 8:5-10.

3:12  Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

Put on therefore- the fact that believers have to be exhorted to put on features of the new man shows that those features are not automatically manifested.  They are present in principle from conversion, for if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17.  As to their manifestation, however, there needs to be exercise of heart.  Having put on the new man in principle at conversion, its characteristics should mark us.  This is especially desirable, since “Christ is all”, so there is no real room left for the manifestation of Adam-features in our lives.  To put on is to display the character, just as when we put on a particular set of clothes we manifest ourselves in a particular way.  Those who are saved and baptised have put on Christ, just as a Greek boy put on the toga of manhood when he was adopted as a son, Galatians 3:27.  The characteristics seen in Christ when He was on earth, are to be displayed by the believer.
As the elect of God- Christ is God’s Elect One, Isaiah 42:1, and He in every way justified that title.  He was upheld by the Father, and gave delight to the Father.  We may count on our Father’s support, and we should seek to delight His heart, too.  We shall do this if we put on the features of Christ.
Holy and beloved- those who are holy willingly put off old things and put on the new things of Christ, for they have a right attitude to the Adam-world from which they have been delivered.  As God’s beloved children, (and remember Christ is called beloved in Isaiah 42:1), they should be responsive in gratitude to the one who has given them new life.
Bowels of mercies- the Hebrews believed that the inward parts of the body were the seat of the emotions,  hence the bowels are linked with mercy.  Our inward parts have been designed by our Creator to function without any effort of our will.  So mercies should be displayed instinctively.  The plural suggests there are many ways in which this mercy may be expressed.
Kindness- this is the opposite of malice, and reflects to others what has been shown to us, for the kindness and love of God our Saviour has appeared, Titus 3:4.  Kindness is love in action.
Humbleness of mind, meekness- Christ could say “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart”, Matthew 11:29.  Those who took the place of the disciples of a rabbi were said to take his yoke.  This is what is in view here, but in a deeper way, because whilst a rabbi might encourage his pupils to learn from him, he could not honestly ask them to imitate him in all things.  Christ can do this, however, being the perfect example. Meekness is that attitude of heart which accepts the Father’s will in all circumstances.  This is seen in Matthew 11:25,26 when the Lord Jesus accepts that it is His Father’s will that truth is hidden from the wise and revealed to babes.  The world equates meekness with weakness, for it puts a premium on standing up for its (supposed or real) rights.  The believer is content to let his Father decide what is best.
Longsuffering- not hasty in attitude to others, but ready to hold back.  Paul had known this, 1 Timothy 1:16, and so have all believers; it should mould their character therefore.

3:13  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Forbearing one another- we now have a two-fold description of those who display the features of verse 12.  They will be forbearing, for they have longsuffering, meekness, humbleness of mind, kindness and mercy. And forgiving one another- if forbearance and the display of Christian graces does not prevent differences arising, then we should be ready to forgive.  Forbearance and forgiveness prevent fighting.
If any man have a quarrel against any- the word quarrel has become connected with fighting, but originally simply meant a just complaint.  Where this is the situation, a forbearing and forgiving spirit will result in a satisfactory and charitable outcome.
Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye- we should remember that forgiveness should not be at the expense of righteousness.  Christ did not forgive us without regard for righteousness, so that His word was, “if he repent, forgive him”, Luke 17:3.  When Peter asked how often he was to forgive his brother, and suggested seven times, the Lord answered, “I say not unto thee  ‘Until seven times:” but, ‘Unto seventy times seven'”, Matthew 18:22.  By this the Lord probable meant, not forty-nine times, but rather, seven to the power of seventy, or in other words, as good as to an infinite extent.  If we are tempted to think that this is too severe, then we have only to ask ourselves what it cost the Lord to forgive us one sin.  We shall soon realise that we have been forgiven so much.  The least we can do is show this attitude to fellow-believers.

3:14  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

And above all these things put on charity- God is love, this is His essence, and those who have been born of Him are partakers of His nature.  They should find it easy to express this to others.  Charity is to be put on “above all these things”, meaning the things of verses 12 and 13.  Since love is the essence of God, it gives meaning to every other Christian virtue.
Which is the bond of perfectness- charity ties together all Christian virtues into one harmonious and complete whole.  The apostle warned and taught so that every man might become perfect in Christ Jesus, 1:28, and this is part of what he strove for.

3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts- let peace and harmony amongst believers be the deciding factor when contemplating any response to fellow-believers.
To the which also ye are called in one body- the logical extension of the call of the gospel is a call from God to gather together in a local assembly with others of like mind.  In 1 Corinthians 1:9 Paul describes the believers as “called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  This sort of company is said by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 12 to be similar in character to the human body.  God as Creator “hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another”, verse 26.  What is true of the human body by Divine design should be true of the local assembly by Divine grace.
And be ye thankful- the Lord Jesus was ever thankful, and He is the believer’s example.  This is illustrated by His three actions in the Upper Room when He took the bread, gave thanks for it, and gave it to His disciples.  The loaf was to represent His body, and He had taken a body in incarnation.  In His life in the body He was ever thankful, and then He gave His life so that it might become available to those who believe. The world is an unthankful and unholy place, and the attitude of the believer, (who has been delivered from Adam’s world), is to be radically different.  That we are not always is seen in the fact that the apostle has to exhort us to thankfulness.

3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom- as the Scriptures describe Christ to us, whether in the Old Testament or the New, we should allow the truth about Him to settle down in our hearts so that it is at home there.  When we have this treasure in our hearts, we should use Divinely-given wisdom to apply it to everyday living.
Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs- occupation with Christ will bring great joy.  The apostle John indicated that to look upon and handle (have fellowship with) the things of Christ was to have full joy, 1 John 1:4. The three things listed here are not necessarily separate.  It is possible for a song to be spiritual, be addressed reverently to God as a hymn, and ascribe praise to Him as a psalm. Christian joy is to be expressed intelligently, with the song in our heart being informed by the word of Christ which is also in our heart.  We should ensure that the songs we sing have spiritual content, and are not the repetition of meaningless catch-phrases.  We need to make sure also that we are not singing to the God of Truth words containing error.  We are to teach and admonish with song, so there must be Scriptural content in order to do this. The parallel passage in Ephesians 5:19 speaks of making melody, so the tune is important, and should fit in with the nature of the song being sung.  It is not spiritual to sing a solemn song accompanied by a jolly tune.  We need to sing with our spirit and with our understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:15. Notice that we teach and admonish one another, so the song should be an expression of truth, which will confirm that truth in the hearts of those who are singing, and it should admonish also, as, for instance, when the song contrasts the person of Christ with the men of the world. There is no room in this matter for Christian choirs, for the singing is a two-way activity, “one another”.  Each believer is teaching every other believer, not listening to a group of people offering entertainment.  The days when a choir was ordained of God in the Temple to worship on behalf of the nation are over.  Such practices, even though established by God, have been replaced by the things of Christ, as Hebrews 10:9 makes clear.  Every true believer in Christ is a priest, and does not need someone else to worship or sing for him. The exhortation that all should teach one another in song also does away with the possibility of using a musical instrument to accompany the singing, since the one playing will not be able to concentrate wholly on singing, if at all.  This means that the accompanist is prevented from singing to the Lord, as the end of the verse enjoins should be done. The word psalm means “praise”, and has to do with recognition of what God has done.  (Worship, on the other hand, has to do with God’s worth).  This does not mean that Christians should sing from the Book of Psalms, for many of them are not suitable for believers of this age to sing.  Those which call down vengeance upon men, (the Imprecatory Psalms), or which are only appropriate on the lips of the Lord Jesus, (Psalm 22 for instance), are not fitting for today.  The inspired psalms were penned during the law age, and are coloured by that fact. The word hymn emphasises that it is sung to God, and as such should be dignified and reverent.  Sadly, we live in a flippant age, and many modern so-called hymns are lacking in dignity and in spiritual content.  If believers shunned them, they might not be produced in the first place. The third description is spiritual songs, emphasising that the activity is essentially spiritual, and as such should be strictly in accord with the Spirit of God.  After all He is the Sustainer of the worship of God’s people today, just as Christ is the Subject of worship, and the Father is the Seeker of worship, as John 4:23 makes clear.
Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord- as those conscious of the way Divine grace has intervened in our lives, we should be full of heartfelt praise to the Lord.

3:17  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed- the apostle has been exhorting us to Christian activity since verse 5, and now he sums it all up with the words, “whatsoever ye do in word or deed”.
Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus- as we put off the old man features and put on the new, we should do so in recognition of the character of the Lord Jesus.  For the name tells of character, summarising, so to speak, the whole person.  He is the perfect example of those new man features, and is in direct contrast to the Adam-features we should discard.
Giving thanks to God and the Father by Him- we are to give thanks for the deliverance from the old man that God has wrought for us in the cross of Christ, and also for the new position we have been brought into through Him and His resurrection.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 18 TO 25:

3:18  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

3:19  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

3:20  Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

3:21  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

3:22  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;

3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

3:24  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

3:25  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

3:18-4:1    The expression of life in Christ, (socially).

Introduction
Spiritual relationships do not cancel out natural ones.  If they are regulated by the spiritual principles set out in this and other passages, they will not hinder but help.  After all, God gave Adam a wife to help him, and Christian wives are for the same purpose.  Children can be brought up under Christian influences, so that they may have the opportunity of believing.  Employees may so labour for their employer that the gospel is commended. When Israel were about to enter the land of promise, two and a half tribes requested to remain the wilderness side of the Jordan.  With certain conditions, Moses allowed their request.  His words, as quoted by Joshua, were, “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan”, Joshua 1:14.  So it was wives, family and business that caused them to prefer the wilderness side of things.  Every true believer is positionally the other side of the Jordan, that is, is risen with Christ.  Every true believer in Christ has all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3.  But not every believer is in the full enjoyment of these things, and this is the case with some because of the things that hindered the two and a half tribes.  Since there was a half tribe of Manasseh that went in, and a half tribe that stopped away, it was not environment or upbringing, but the act of the will which determined what they did. One of the sins of the last days is that of being “without natural affection”, 2Timothy 3:3.  There is something wrong when Christian couples behave in an unloving way to one another, especially as many unbelievers, by contrast, are marked by love and affection. We should not confuse the truth that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Galatians 3:28, with the equally Scriptural truth that there is a difference between the male and female functionally in the assembly gatherings.  Failure to see this point is bound to lead to confusion.  The Christian assembly is the sphere where spiritual relationships are worked out, whether those participating have earthly relationships with one another or not.  Where there are many family connections, special effort will have to be made, so that these do not affect attitudes and decisions.

3:18  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands- when sin came in through the woman, part of God’s judgement on her was that “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”, Genesis 3:16.  Part of Eve’s mistake was to not consult Adam when the Tempter approached her.  The command about the tree of knowledge of good and evil was given to Adam before Eve was made, and must have been passed on to her, or else she could not have recited a garbled version of it to the serpent.  As a consequence of her part in the fall of man, a greater degree of control over the woman by her husband than was perhaps the norm at the beginning is ordained. All believers are to submit to one another, Ephesians 5:21, but the wife’s submission has a special character, for as Ephesians 5:24 makes clear, it is to be of the same sort as that shown, ideally, by the church which is Christ’s body.  This is willing submission to one who has her best interests at heart, for the passage referred to details seven things that Christ does for the church, and they should have their counterpart in the conduct of the husband.  If they do, it will be an easy thing for the wife to submit.  But she is still required to do this, even if it difficult.  If a professed believer makes the life of his wife unbearable, he runs the risk of exposing himself as, in fact, an unbeliever.
As it is fit in the Lord- the conduct of the believing wife should come up to the standard we know the Lord expects.  His lordship is the governing factor in the relationship.  Submission to the husband is not a substitute for submission to the Lord.

3:19  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

Husbands, love your wives- the foregoing instruction to the wife to submit does not mean that a husband may become a tyrant, for the parallel passage places heavy obligations on him in the marriage relationship, Ephesians 5:25,28, and in fact more is required of him than the wife in that passage.  Christ Himself is his example, so a very high demand is made of the husband.. The word for love used here is the word used when John says, “God is love”.  The standard is the love that God shows, and every believing husband experiences that love, and should duplicate it in his attitude to his wife.  In Ephesians 5:25 the standard is that shown when Christ gave Himself at Calvary.  It goes without saying that this is an extremely high level of love; it is nonetheless the standard for the husband.  Christ is easy to submit to, and so should husbands be.
And be not bitter against them- a harsh and irritable attitude is not Christ-like.  Husbands should not take out their frustrations on their wives; rather, they should see in their wives God’s provision to help them in their frustrations by giving sound and wise advice.  After all, marriage is a continual merging of two persons into one.  The preposition that denotes that a goal is being striven for was used by the Lord Jesus when He quoted from Genesis 2:24.  His words were, literally translated, “And they twain shall become unto one flesh”, Matthew 19:5.  Christian husbands and wives should gradually merge as they partake of the grace of life together.

3:20  Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

Children, obey your parents in all things- since the epistle is addressed to the assembly at Colosse, the children here mentioned would be believers not yet married, and therefore still under the headship of their father, and still responsible to obey both parents.  Of course, even unbelieving children of believing parents would do well to heed this advice, for it has been shown that if children submit to the authority of their parents, they are more likely, (all other things being equal, and not setting aside the sovereign workings of the Spirit of God), to submit to the authority of God in the gospel. The commandment to love one’s father and mother is the fifth of the ten commandments.  Assuming there were five commandments on each of the two tables of stone, then this command was on the first table, which emphasised relations with God.  We learn, then, that the authority of God is vested in parents, and to disobey them is to disobey God.  Perhaps this is one reason why this is the first commandment with a promise attached to it, for God would encourage the children with an incentive, so important is it for them to obey.  If the rising generation is rebellious, then it bodes evil in days to come when they themselves are parents. That the children are to obey in all things has a lesson for the parents, for they are hereby cautioned against requiring their children to do anything that is contrary to the word of God.  Only when all their commands are in accordance with Scripture can all those commands be complied with with good conscience.
For this is well pleasing unto the Lord- we should not forget that the Lord Jesus was a child once, and He was subject to His parents, Luke 2:51.  This is all the more telling because it comes after the incident in the temple when the Lord needed to gently chide Mary for not realising that His Father’s business was His main concern.  That statement was not in any way a rebellion against the authority of Joseph and Mary over Him, but it does show that His priorities were perfectly adjusted.  And all this comes as the Lord embarks on His “teenage years”, when many children begin to assert themselves in wrong ways, and seek to overthrow the will of their parents.  There was absolutely nothing of this with Christ, and He is our childhood example.  At the end of His life in obscurity this word well-pleasing was used of Him, Luke 3:22, and it is well for Christian children if the same thing can be said of them at the end of their growing-up period.

3:21  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Fathers, provoke not your children to anger- fathers should not take advantage of the requirement that children obey them, by making unreasonable demands on their children.  They should show a combination of firmness and kindness; always remembering that firmness is kindness, being in the best interests of the child in the long run.
Lest they be discouraged- there are plenty of things in the world which are calculated by the Devil to make Christian children lose heart.  Parents should do all in their power to counteract these influences, and should certainly not act so as to discourage their children.  Unreasonable demands, beyond the capability of the child to attain to, should not be insisted on.  Parents should not try to make children what they are not fitted to be, nor treat them as mere replicas of themselves, or even replicas of what they aspired to be when they were children.  The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:4 speaks of “the nurture and admonition of the Lord”, meaning that the way the Lord dealt and deals with the parents should be the way they deal with their children. Parents, on the other hand, should not reproach themselves if, after all their best efforts to bring up their children for the Lord, they act in self-will and rebellion as unbelievers.  Each individual is judged for his own sins, not another’s, as Ezekiel made clear in his ministry.  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him”, Ezekiel 18:20.  Remember it is the Lord Himself who said, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me”, Isaiah 1:2.

3:22  Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh- the system of slavery was widespread in Bible times, and the apostles realised that the best way to deal with this was not to start a social revolution, but to preach the gospel so that the hearts of men were revolutionised.  Christianity does not major on social reform, (although Christians should not be against the efforts of those who seek to adjust society in accordance with the truth), but it does condemn all injustice.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit’s presence in the world is a condemnation of the lack of righteousness in the world now that Christ has gone back to heaven, John 16:10.  Not all slaves were consigned to the menial tasks, for some were tutors and governors, as Galatians 4:2 would indicate. Slaves would be considered part of the household, so the conduct of Christian slaves was an important way of commending the gospel in unsaved households.  As Peter points out when he is regulating the behaviour of believing slaves, Christ was a servant too, and He has “left us an example that we should follow His steps, who did not sin, neither was any guile found in His mouth”, 1 Peter 2:18-23. Servants who have masters in the flesh should obey them, then, in all things.  Of course, there are some things a believer must not do, as again Peter says, “We ought to obey God rather than men”, Acts 5:29, and “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”, 1 Peter 2:13.  Some ordinances cannot be submitted to for the Lord’s sake, so that is where we are to draw the line.
Not with eye-service, as menpleasers- eye-service is service only when the master’s eye is upon you.  Those who serve like this have forgotten that God sees all, as Hagar said, “Thou God seest me”, Genesis 16:13.  All we do should be able to stand the test of the Lord’s all-seeing gaze.
But in singleness of heart, fearing God- a reverent fear of God will ensure that we are not double-minded, serving a master well sometimes, and not at other times.  This is not how God deals with us, so should not be the way we deal with others.

3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord- whatever servants are given to do they should carry out with enthusiasm, as if they were doing it for the Lord; which, in fact, they are.  We mistake Christianity if we think it is confined to meetings.  It affects the whole of our life.  A saint is a person who transforms the ordinary into the service of God.
And not unto men- the work is done for men, but with the goal of glorifying the Lord.  For man, unto the Lord.

3:24  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance- the servant is to remember that the master’s verdict will often be immediate, but the Lord’s verdict waits for the judgement seat of Christ.  To be a slave and to be an heir were mutually exclusive terms in the social world of the time.  But the Christian slave, who has nothing, has the prospect of receiving a reward from the Lord for serving his earthly master well.  God saw to it that the Israelites were recompensed for their slave-labours over many years, for He ensured that the Egyptians loaded them with treasures as they left Egypt, Exodus 12:36.  Here, however, the recompense is an increased appreciation of the inheritance that is common to all believers, as Ephesians 1:3-8 details it.  The slave will find that his enjoyment of the heavenly rest is enhanced by the way he served down here.
For ye serve the Lord Christ- this answers the possible question, “Why does the Lord in heaven reward me for work done to an earthly master?”  The answer is that the work was not only done to the earthly master, but to the Heavenly Lord too.  The earthly master is very unlikely to reward a slave, but the Heavenly One certainly will.

3:25  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done- this is the fixed principle, so slaves should not be guilty of doing wrong, even if their masters are unreasonable and over-demanding.  They should not vent their frustration by harming their master’s interests.  Just as they will be recompensed for good done, so also for harm inflicted.
And there is no respect of persons- a Christian slave should not think that he is not subject to the normal code of Christian conduct just because he has no rights and is treated badly.  Nor should he think that he can act with impunity just because he is a believer.  Both slave and master are answerable to the same Lord in heaven.