1. If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above:
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
1. Ergo si consurrexistis cum Christo, quae sursum sunt quaerite,
ubi Christus est in dextera Dei sedens:
2. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
2. Quae sursum sunt cogitate, non quae super terram.
3. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
3. Mortui enim estis, et vita nostra abscondita est cum Christo
4. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also
appear with him in glory.
4. Ubi autem Christus apparuerit, vita vestra, tunc etiam vos cum
ipso apparebitis in gloria.
To those fruitless exercises which the false apostles urged, as though
perfection consisted in them, he opposes those true exercises in which
it becomes Christians to employ themselves; and this has no, slight bearing
upon the point in hand; for when we see what God would have us do, we afterwards
easily despise the inventions of men. When we perceive, too, that what
God recommends to us is much more lofty and excellent than what men inculcate,
our alacrity of mind increases for following God, so as to disregard men.
Paul here exhorts the Colossians to meditation upon the heavenly life.
And what as to his opponents? They were desirous to retain their childish
rudiments. This doctrine, therefore, makes the ceremonies be the more lightly
esteemed. Hence it is manifest that Paul, in this passage, exhorts in such
a manner as to confirm the foregoing doctrine; for, in describing solid
piety and holiness of life, his aim is, that those vain shows of human
traditions may vanish. At the same time, he anticipates an objection
with which the false apostles might assail him. What then? “Wouldst thou
rather have men be idle than addict themselves to such exercises, of whatever
sort they may be?” When, therefore, he bids Christians apply themselves
to exercises of a greatly superior kind, he cuts off the handle for this
calumny; nay more, he loads them with no small odium, on the ground that
they impede the right course of the pious by worthless amusements.
1. If ye are risen with Christ. Ascension follows resurrection:
hence, if we are the members of Christ we must ascend into heaven, because
he, on being raised up from the dead, was received up into heaven, (Mark
16:19,) that he might draw us up with him. Now, we seek those things which
are above, when in our minds F1 we are truly sojourners in this world,
and are not bound to it. The word rendered think upon expresses rather
assiduity and intensity of aim: “Let your whole meditation be as to this:
to this apply your intellect — to this your mind.” But if we ought to think
of nothing but of what is heavenly, because Christ is in heaven, how much
less becoming were it to seek Christ upon the earth. Let us therefore bear
in mind that that is a true and holy thinking as to Christ, which forthwith
bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds
may dwell with him.
As to the right hand of God, it is not confined to heaven, but fills
the whole world. Paul has made mention of it here to intimate that Christ
encompasses us by his power, that we may not think that distance of place
is a cause of separation between us and him, and that at the same time
his majesty may excite us wholly to reverence him.
2. Not the things that are on earth. He does not mean, as he does a
little afterwards, depraved appetites, which reign in earthly men, nor
even riches, or fields, or houses, nor any other things of the present
life, which we must
use, as though we did not use them,
(1 Corinthians 7:30, 31,) F1
but is still following out his discussion as to ceremonies, which he
represents as resembling entanglements which constrain us to creep upon
the ground. “Christ,” says he, “calls us upwards to himself, while these
draw us downwards.” For this is the winding-up and exposition of what he
had lately touched upon as to the abolition of ceremonies through the death
of Christ. “The ceremonies are dead to you through the death of Christ,
and you to them, in order that, being raised up to heaven with Christ,
you may think only of those things that are above. Leave off therefore
earthly things.” I shall not contend against others who are of a different
mind; but certainly the Apostle appears to me to go on step by step, so
that, in the first instance, he places traditions as to trivial matters
in contrast with meditation on the heavenly life, and afterwards, as we
shall see, goes a step farther.
3. For ye are dead. No one can rise again with Christ, if he
has not first died with him. Hence he draws an argument from rising again
to dying, as from a consequent to an antecedent, F1 meaning that we must
be dead to the world that we may live to Christ. Why has he taught, that
we must seek those things that are above? It is because the life of the
pious is above. Why does he now teach, that the things which are on earth
are to be left off? Because they are dead to the world. “Death goes before
that resurrection, of which I have spoken. Hence both of them must be seen
It is worthy of observation, that our life is said to be hid, that we
may not murmur or complain if our life, being buried under the ignominy
of the cross, and under various distresses, differs nothing from death,
but may patiently wait for the day of revelation. And in order that our
waiting may not be painful, let us observe those expressions, in God, and
with Christ, which intimate that our life is out of danger, although it
does not appear. For, in the first place, God is faithful, and therefore
will not deny what has been committed to him, (2 Timothy 1:12,) nor deceive
in the guardianship which he has undertaken; and, secondly, the fellowship
of Christ brings still greater security. For what is to be more desired
by us than this — that our life remain with the very fountain of life.
Hence there is no reason why we should be alarmed if, on looking around
on every side, we nowhere see life. For we are
saved by hope. But those things which are already seen with our eyes
are not hoped for. (Romans 8:24.)
Nor does he teach that our life is hid merely in the opinion of the
world, but even as to our own view, because this is the true and necessary
trial of our hope, that being encompassed, as it were, with death, we may
seek life somewhere else than in the world.
4. But when Christ, our life, shall appear. Here we have a choice
consolation — that the coming of Christ will be the manifestation of our
life. And, at the same time, he admonishes us how unreasonable were the
disposition of the man, who should refuse to bear up F1 until that day.
For if our life is shut up in Christ, it must be hid, until he shall appear.
5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication,
uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness,
which is idolatry:
5. Mortificate igitur membra vestra, quae sunt super terram, scortationem,
immunditiem, mollitiem, concupiscentiam malam, et avaritiam, quae est idololatria.
6. For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children
6. Propter quae venit ira Dei in filios inobedientiae;
7. In the which ye also walked sometime, when ye lived in them.
7. In quibus vos quoque ambulabatis aliquando, quum viveretis in
8. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy,
filthy communication out of our mouth.
8. Nunc autem deponite et vos omnia, iram, indignationem, malitiam,
maledicentiam, turpiloquentiam ex ore vestro.
5. Mortify therefore. Hitherto he has been speaking of contempt
of the world. He now proceeds further, and enters upon a higher philosophy,
as to the mortification of the flesh. That this may be the better understood,
let us take notice that there is a twofold mortification. The former relates
to those things that are around us. Of this he has hitherto treated. The
other is inward — that of the understanding and will, and of the whole
of our corrupt nature. He makes mention of certain vices which he calls,
not with strict accuracy, but at the same time elegantly, members. For
he conceives of our nature as being, as it were, a mass made up of different
vices. They are, therefore, our members, inasmuch as they in a manner stick
close to us. He calls them also earthly, alluding to what he had said —
not the things that are on earth, (Colossians 3:2,) but in a different
sense. “I have admonished you, that earthly things are to be disregarded:
you must, however, make it your aim to mortify those vices which detain
you on the earth.” He intimates, however, that we are earthly, so long
as the vices of our flesh are vigorous in us, and that we are made heavenly
by the renewing of the Spirit.
After fortification he adds uncleanness, by which term he expresses
all kinds of wantonness, by which lascivious persons pollute themselves.
To these is added, pa>qov that is, lust, which includes all the allurements
of unhallowed desire. This term, it is true, denotes mental perturbations
of other kinds, and disorderly motions contrary to reason; but lust is
not an unsuitable rendering of this passage. As to the reason why covetousness
is here spoken of as a worshipping of images, F1 consult the Epistle to
the Ephesians, that I may not say the same thing twice.
6. On account of which things the wrath of God cometh. I do not
find fault with the rendering of Erasmus — solet venire — (is wont to come,)
but as the present tense is often taken in Scripture instead of the future,
according to the idiom of the Hebrew language, I have preferred to leave
the rendering undecided, so that it might be accommodated to either meaning.
He warns the Colossians, then, either of the ordinary judgments of God,
which are seen daily, or of the vengeance which he has once denounced upon
the wicked, and which impends over them, but will not be manifested until
the last day. I willingly, however, admit the former meaning — that God,
who is the perpetual Judge of the world, is accustomed to punish the crimes
He says, however, expressly, that the wrath of God will come, or is
wont to come, upon the unbelieving or disobedient, instead of threatening
them with anything of this nature. F1 For God would rather that we should
see his wrath upon the reprobate, than feel it in ourselves. It is true,
that when the promises of grace are set before us, every one of the pious
ought to embrace them equally as though they were designed for himself
particularly; but, on the other hand, let us dread the threatenings of
wrath and destruction in such a manner, that those things which are suitable
for the reprobate, may serve as a lesson to us. God, it is true, is often
said to be angry even with his children, and sometimes chastens their sins
with severity. Paul speaks here, however, of eternal destruction, of which
a mirror is to be seen only in the reprobate. In short, whenever God threatens,
he shews, as it were, indirectly the punishment, that, beholding it in
the reprobate, we may be deterred from sinning.
7. In which ye walked. Erasmus mistakingly refers this to men,
rendering it, “inter quos,” (“among whom,”) for there can be no doubt that
Paul had in view the vices, in which he, says that the Colossians had walked,
during the time that they lived in them. For living and walking differ
from each other, as power does from action. Living holds the first place:
walking comes afterwards, as in Galatians 5:25,
If ye live in the SPIRIT, WALK also in the Spirit.
By these words he intimates, that it were an unseemly thing that they
should addict themselves any more to the vices, to which they had died
through Christ. See the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It
is an argument from a withdrawment of the cause to a withdrawment of the
8. But now — that is, after having ceased to live in the flesh.
For the power and nature of mortification are such, that all corrupt affections
are extinguished in us, lest sin should afterwards produce in us its wonted
fruits. What I have rendered indignationem, (indignation,) is in the Greek
qumo>v — a term, which denotes a more impetuous passionateness than ojrgh<,
(anger.) Here, however, he enumerates, as may easily be perceived, forms
of vice that were different from those previously mentioned.
9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man
with his deeds;
9. Ne mentiamini alii diversus alios, postquam exuistis veterem
hominem cum actionibus suis:
10. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after
the image of him that created him:
10. Et induistis novum, qui renovatur in agnitionem, secundum imaginem
eius, qui creavit eum:
11. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircum-cision,
Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
11. Ubi non est Graecus nec Judaeus, circumcisio nec praeputium,
barbarus, Scytha, servus, liber: sed omnia et in omnibus Christus.
9. Lie not. When he forbids lying, he condemns every sort of
cunning, and all base artifices of deception. For I do not understand the
term as referring merely to calumnies, but I view it as contrasted in a
general way with sincerity. Hence it might be allowable to render it more
briefly, and I am not sure but that it might also be a better rendering,
thus o Lie not one to another. He follows out, however, his argument as
to the fellowship, which believers have in the death and resurrection of
Christ, but employs other forms of expression.
The old man denotes — whatever we bring from our mother’s womb, and
whatever we are by nature. F1 It is put off by all that are renewed by
Christ. The new man, on the other hand, is that which is renewed by the
Spirit of Christ to the obedience of righteousness, or it is nature restored
to its true integrity by the same Spirit. The old man, however, comes first
in order, because we are first born from Adam, and afterwards are born
again through Christ. And as what we have from Adam becomes old, F1 and
tends towards ruin, so what we obtain through Christ remains for ever,
and is not frail; but, on the contrary, tends towards immortality. This
passage is worthy of notice, inasmuch as a definition of regeneration may
be gathered from it. For it contains two parts — the putting off of the
old man, and the putting on of the new, and of these Paul here makes mention.
It is also to be noticed, that the old man is distinguished by his works,
as a tree is by its fruits. Hence it follows, that the depravity that is
innate in us is denoted by the term old man.
10. Which is renewed in knowledge. He shews in the first place,
that newness of life consists in knowledge — not as though a simple and
bare knowledge were sufficient, but he speaks of the illumination of the
Holy Spirit, which is lively and effectual, so as not merely to enlighten
the mind by kindling it up with the light of truth, but transforming the
whole man. And this is what he immediately adds, that we are renewed after
the image of God. Now, the image of God resides in the whole of the soul,
inasmuch as it is not the reason merely that is rectified, but also the
will. Hence, too, we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration,
that is, that we may be made like God, and that his glory may shine forth
in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God, of which mention
is made by Moses in Genesis 9:6, F1 the rectitude and integrity of the
whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness,
and goodness of God. He speaks somewhat differently in the Epistle to the
Ephesians, but the meaning is the same. See the passage — Ephesians 4:24.
Paul, at the same time, teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at
which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection
and blessedness to bear the image of God.
11. Where there is neither Jew. He has added this intentionally,
that he may again draw away the Colossians from ceremonies. For the meaning
of the statement is this, that Christian perfection does not stand in need
of those outward observances, nay, that they are things that are altogether
at variance with it. For under the distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision,
of Jew and Greek, he includes, by synecdoche, F17 all outward things. The
terms that follow, barbarian, Scythian, F17 bond, free, are added by way
Christ is all, and in all, that is, Christ alone holds, as they say,
the prow and the stern — the beginning and the end. Farther, by Christ,
he means the spiritual righteousness of Christ, which puts an end to ceremonies,
as we have formerly seen. They are, therefore, superfluous in a state of
true perfection, nay more, they ought to have no place, inasmuch as injustice
would otherwise be done to Christ, as though it were necessary to call
in those helps for making up his deficiencies.