What are the attitudes and behaviors fit for the children of God? In this summary of Colossians 3, we will explore what it means to be hidden in Christ and how we can practically seek the things that are above. 

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Why Was Colossians 3 Written?

Colossians chapter 3 must be read and interpreted within the context that was just laid out in chapters 1 and 2. Paul had just discussed the lordship of Christ and the redemption we have through faith in Him. 

He also warned his readers against following false teachings and living according to the elementary principles of the world. We have been made complete in Christ and he is our primary source of wisdom and knowledge.

Now, in chapter 3, Paul begins to lay out all the implications of Christ’s lordship. He discusses how those who have been made complete in Christ are meant to live.

Summary of Colossians 3

This chapter is divided into two main sections. In Colossians 3:1-17, Paul outlines the idea of putting off the old self and putting on the new self which is according to the image of our Lord. The second section, Colossians 3:18-25 is where Paul begins to discuss the different family relations.

Since there is so much to unpack within both of these sections, we are going to break them down a bit more and look at Colossians 3 verse by verse.

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Summary of Colossians 3:1-4

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Paul begins this chapter by reminding the Colossians what he said back in chapter 2:12-14. They had died with Christ through baptism and were raised with Him through faith. It is for this reason that he gives the commands to ‘seek’ and to ‘set’.

Here are a couple of other scriptures that give us some more insight into what it means that our lives are hidden with Christ.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for the one who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. – Romans 6:4-9

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. – Galatians 2:20

We have been given a new life in Christ. The way we live should look different than those who live according to the world. The object of our affection and thoughts should be directed towards the source of our new life; which is Christ Himself. We must set our gaze upon Him.

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Colossians 3:5-11

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

In verses 1-5 Paul gave the command to seek and think about heavenly things. Now, in this section he gives some practical ways that we do this. We must put to death the ways of our old nature. The term ‘put off’ or ‘put them aside’ pictures a Pauline metaphor that means a change in clothing. It represents a change in behavior – that which is fitting for a child of God.

What we must put off:

  • Immorality
  • Impurity
  • Passion
  • Evil desire
  • Greed
  • Anger
  • Wrath
  • Malice
  • Slander 
  • Abusive speech
  • Lying

He goes on to say that we must “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him”. This new self is to replace the old self, but it is also a renewal that continues until we are conformed into the image of Christ. We continue in this renewal process as we grow in our knowledge of Christ.

This was a great reminder to me of the importance of staying close to God through His Word. We must allow the scriptures to continually transform us so that we will not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). This goes back to what we learned in chapter 2, that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. We must search them out.

Colossians 3:12-17

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Now, in this section, Paul tells them what to ‘put on’:

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Forbearance
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Gratitude

These are the attitudes and behaviors that are fitted for those who are chosen of God, holy and beloved.

We also see the importance of forgiving one another. Our forgiveness is to flow out of what Christ has done for us. We forgive because we are forgiven.

Then, in verses 14-17 we see a glimpse of how the gospel should be bearing fruit within the body as a whole. These passages remind me of the picture of the early church in Acts 2.

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all the believers were together and had all things in common; 45 and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:43-47

When each believer walks according to their new life in Christ, the whole body is able to function as it should. The glory of those who have been raised with Christ is on display for the world to see.

Colossians 3:18-25

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. 22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

Paul shifts in focus in this section from discussing how believers are to conduct themselves and behave in general, as individuals, and together as a body, and now begins discussing how they are to relate to each other within different family relationships.

Again, these behaviors and attitudes are in response to the lordship of Christ and fitting to our new life in Him.

I want to focus on the command to wives. 

Unfortunately, our culture has taken the word ‘submission’ and turned it into something God never intended it to be.

In the original language ‘submission’ means: to arrange under, to subject one’s self

Let’s contrast this with the command to children to “be obedient” to their parents. 

Obey: to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority

Do you see the difference? I’ve talked to many women who have mistaken the definition of submission for obedience. Obedience is much different. Submission is willingly placing yourself under another. God has designed the social structure of the family and has a purpose for designating the authority within it. When we willingly place ourselves under the authority that God has given to our husbands, we are actually placing ourselves under the authority of Christ. 

This is a good place to be… and it is what “is fitting” for women who seek to please the Lord. 

It also aligns with what Paul goes on to say in verses 23-25. We do not submit, or work, or conduct ourselves in any way for the sake of pleasing men. We must do all things for the sake of pleasing God. It is from God that we have been given our hope for eternity and it is from God that we will be rewarded.

Summary of Colossians 3

Colossians 3 Final Thoughts

In this Colossians 3 summary, we saw what it means that our lives are hidden with Christ. We have been made new and our choices and behaviors need to reflect the new nature we have been given in Christ. This new way of living will, undoubtedly, contradict the ways the world would have us live. We must be diligent to seek the things that are in accordance with the knowledge and wisdom of Christ, and we must keep our thoughts and affections on Him.

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