Commentary on Colossians, 3:11-15 (Marked by the Love of Christ)

Colossians 3:11-15

“9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its deeds,”
10 and have put on the new self, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

“Greek”

Life Application Bible Commentary:

“The spread of the Greek culture and civilization meant that a Greek person (regardless of his or her country of origin) could feel pride in a privileged position and would look down on the Jews and their persistent clinging to an ancient culture. The Jews, meanwhile, would look down on Greeks as heathen, immoral, and outside of God’s grace for the chosen nation.”

Sometimes used as an equivalent to Gentiles.

“barbarian”

Barnes:

Barbarians – All who were not included under the general name of Greeks. Thus, Ammonius says that “all who were not Greeks were barbarians.” This term “barbarian,” Βάρβαρος Barbarosproperly denotes one who speaks a foreign language, a foreigner, and the Greeks applied it to all who did not use their tongue; compare 1 Corinthians 14:11, “I shall be unto him that speaketh, a barbarian, etc. that is, I shall speak a language which he cannot understand. The word did not, therefore, of necessity denote any rusticity of manners, or any lack of refinement.”

“Scythian”

Barnes:

Scythian – This word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The name Scythian is applied in ancient geography to the people who lived on the north and northeast of the Black and Caspian seas, a region stretchings indefinitely into the unknown countries of Asia. They occupied the lands now peopled by the Monguls and Tartars. The name was almost synonymous with barbarian, for they were regarded as a wild and savage race. The meaning here is, that even such a ferocious and uncivilized people were not excluded from the gospel, but they were as welcome as any other, and were entitled to the same privileges as others. No one was excluded because he belonged to the most rude and uncivilized portion of mankind.”

Vincent:

Barbarian, Scythian: See on 1 Corinthians 14:11. The distinction is from the Greek and Roman point of view, where the line is drawn by culture, as between the Jew and the Greek it was drawn by religious privilege. From the former stand-point the Jew ranked as a barbarian. Scythian. “More barbarous than the barbarians” (Bengel). Hippocrates describes them as widely different from the rest of mankind, and like to nothing but themselves, and gives an absurd description of their physical peculiarities. Herodotus describes them as living in wagons, offering human sacrifices, scalping and sometimes flaying slain enemies, drinking their blood, and using their skulls for drinking-cups. When a king dies, one of his concubines is strangled and buried with him, and, at the close of a year, fifty of his attendants are strangled, disemboweled, mounted on dead horses, and left in a circle round his tomb. The Scythians passed through Palestine on their road to Egypt, b.c. 600, and a trace of their invasion is supposed to have existed in the name Scythopolis, by which Beth Shean was known in Christ’s time. Ezekiel apparently refers to them (38,39) under the name Gog, which reappears in Revelation. See on Revelation 20:8.”

“Here there is neither….but Christ is all and in all.”

What Paul is saying in this verse, is that in Christ, there is no distinction or barriers between people or people groups. Regardless of our background, social standing, or education, we are all one by way of our common faith in Christ. We all have the same Lord and Savior and King. We all have the same Father. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We all have the same Holy Spirit indwelling us. We are all new creations in Christ. We all have the same eternal kingdom to look forward to. Christ is central, and is in all of us. Together, we all make up the Church. Together, we are all the people of God. 

Paul explains this to the Colossian Christians because he doesn’t want there to be any divisions among them. He wants them to treat each and every person with the same equality of love. That’s the way it’s to be among Christians. We’re all a part of the same family. Therefore, there should never be any prejudices against any one person, or any race, or people group.

With this understanding, in the next few verses Paul goes into detail about how we’re to treat one another:

“12 Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience;
13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as the Lord forgave you, you also do the same.
14 And above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

“as God’s elect”

Corporately, we as the people of God, are God’s elect. We as the Church, are God’s elect. The elect are not specific individuals that God selected for salvation, but rather, that God chose to save anyone who would come to Him through faith in His Son. Those who do, are God’s elect. Those who try to come to God via any other way, God rejects, and are thus, the non-elect. We are the elect in the sense that God has chosen a people out of this world for Himself. We join this elect people via faith in His Son, the one plan of salvation through which God has chosen to save mankind.

For further reading regarding Corporate Election, click on the link below:

Abraham, A Key to Understanding Election

“holy and beloved”

In Christ we are forgiven of our sins; we are purified and made holy. That’s our position in Christ. We are also dearly loved. God loves everyone, but He has a special love for His children. Not everyone is a child of God, but only those who embrace His Son, and are born into His family….via the new birth. We are His sheep, and as a faithful Shepherd, He loves us and takes care of us. He leads us and guides us. He feeds us, and provides for us. God looks upon us as equal to one another. He doesn’t see the distinctions among us, but only the fact that we are His children and His sheep. Thus we’re to view each other in the same way. 

“Put on….a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience;”

As the elect people of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re to “put on” these things, that is, we’re to clothe ourselves with these things. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, should be something that characterizes our lives. When someone views our lives, this is what they should see. When someone thinks of us, or describes us to someone else, these things should be so clearly seen, that these are among the first things that come to their minds. This is the kind of character that Jesus has, thus, when we walk in the same manner, we glorify Him. He’s not here physically anymore, so we’re here to represent Him. We are people’s only opportunity to see Jesus. There is no greater compliment, than for someone to say that they see Jesus in us. That glorifies Him, not us. 

When each of us live out these things in our lives, there will be peace in our local assemblies. When these things are absent, there can be nothing but division and issues among us, and very little will be accomplished by way advancing God’s Kingdom. To fulfill all that God has ordained for the local church, we must be individuals who are filled with the Spirit of God. We must be walking in the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

I encourage you to spend time meditating on these things, and be praying that God would instill these qualities within you. All of us should be continuously seeking the character of Christ, as we rely upon Him to live His life through us, conforming us to His image. 

“forbearing one another”

We all have different personalities, different educational levels, different backgrounds, different viewpoints, and so it can be difficult to be in harmony with others. However, we all have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and thus, His power to love each other and to get along, is always available. We must learn to see one another through the eyes of God, to treat each other with the love of Christ. Those who are able to love the unlovable, and to treat them with the same kind of love that comes more natural for others, are those who are in a very close relationship with the Lord. Loving those who are not easy to love, or to love others that are on a different social or educational level, can make such a wonderful difference in someone’s life. 

“Forbearing one another,” also involves being able to get along with someone who doesn’t do things the way we would do things. It involves accepting others for their shortcomings, realizing that we’re all a work in progress. It involves getting along with people that rub us the wrong way. Personality clashes are among the hardest things to deal with. But again, the enabling grace is always available, but it is a growing process. 

“and forgiving each other, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as the Lord forgave you, you also do the same.”

When someone wrongs us, forgiving them can be the hardest thing. But it’s easier to do when we consider all that we have been forgiven of ourselves. As the Lord has forgiven us, so are we to forgive others. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory. We all have character flaws. We all have issues. We are all imperfect. Therefore, we’re to forgive as those who are in the same boat. And we’re to do so whether a person confesses their offense and asks for forgiveness or not. 

Our relationship and walk with the God is more important than anything else in life, and so we don’t want anything in our lives that will hinder this wonderful relationship. Bitterness and unforgiveness of others will most certainly hurt our walk with Christ. Something in that relationship will die. We need to cling to what’s most important, and forgive others, and move on with our lives in sweet fellowship with our Savior.

“And above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

Here Paul says that love is “the bond of perfection.” I like the way the ESV words this:

“which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

We’ve already discussed the importance of having love between us, and here we learn more about that. The love of Christ is what brings everything together. It’s the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the bridge that brings people together. It’s the vehicle that helps us to overcome the differences that we have with others. It’s the grace that enables us to forgive when we’ve been wronged. It’s the one thing that keeps things moving along in harmony. As Paul said in 1 Cor 13:13:

“But now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Show me a church that is filled with people that have the love of Christ in their hearts, and I will show you a church where the Holy Spirit is moving among them in a powerful way. A church where the love of God reigns, is a church that is making a significant difference in people’s lives.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”

A lot of Christians use this verse as a principle for finding God’s will for their lives. The idea is, if we have peace about something, then it must be God’s will. However, within the context, this is not at all what Paul has in mind. Within the context, he’s talking about getting along with one another, and goes into detail about that. 

Therefore, I believe what he’s telling us here, is that if we are in a right relationship with Christ, then no matter what happens in our lives, no matter what anyone does or says to us, we will be at peace about it. In other words, we will have His peace reigning in our hearts, peace that comes from Him. Rather than getting bent out of shape about the shortcomings of others, or about how others treat us, we will be at peace, and we will be at peace because we have the joy of the Lord in our hearts; we will be at peace because we know that God has our life in His hands. If we have genuine love, joy, and peace in our hearts, then it will carry over into our dealings with others. It’s a powerful church that is filled with such Spirit-filled Christians as these.

If the “peace of Christ” rules our heart, then our heart will rule our attitude and actions in the midst of difficulties.

“to which also you were called in one body”

Peace and harmony is what we’ve been called to. Every local church assembly is to be marked by this. We are one body in Christ. Together we are the Church, and the Church is to be characterized by His peace. If there is a lack of peace in a local assembly, it’s not from God, for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33). A church cannot fulfill all that God has called them to, unless there is a genuine spirit of love and peace among them. And that goes the same for us as individual Christians as we go about our lives each day. 

“and be thankful”

We’re to be thankful for all that we have in Christ. We’re to be thankful for our salvation, and for the honor of serving Him. We’re to be thankful for all that we have to look forward to in eternity. And we’re to be thankful for one another. We’re to be thankful for the role and purpose that each of us have in the plan of God. All of us are valuable in the eyes of God. Thus we too need to be aware of the value that others have in the body of Christ. Furthermore, every person in our particular church, and every person in our lives outside of church, are there to help form our character. He uses them. We learn from each other, and grow as we interact with one another.