3:1 εἰ συνηγέρθητε τῷ Χριστῷ , τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, οὗ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος·
Paul continues with the language he had used in 2:11-13 (συνηγέρθητε), resuming his argument expressed in the conditional statement/rhetorical question in 2:20 (εἰ ἀπεθάνετε σὺν Χριστῷ). This is a first class condition, assuming the reality of what is considered. Here, however, he emphasizes the new resurrected life these believers now experience in the Messiah. The particle οὖν is continuative, but adds a new element in the discussion which is a closely connected development of what has just preceded. The apodosis has a present imperative verb (ζητεῖτε), directing these believers to a specific course of action. They should not seek deceptive religious ideas or practices, but τὰ ἄνω – the above things. Perhaps this contrasts with ὅ κόσμος used in 2:20? The adverbial clause defining place or location (initiated by οὗ, a genitive of ὅς but functioning as an adverb of place = where) follows. The location of the participle at the end of clause probably indicates it is functioning as a predicate adjective and probably is not a periphrastic construction with ἐστιν. So the translation would be “where the Messiah is at the right hand of God, seated.” The phrase ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ could be a predicate modifier equivalent to “he is at home.” This would mean that two statements are being made – the Messiah is at the right hand of God and the Messiah is seated there. Or the phrase may modify the participle, i.e. “seated at the right hand of God,” creating a single descriptor for the subject. Regardless, Paul has affirmed the death of the Messiah on the cross, his resurrection and now his ascension and session at God’s right hand, the place of authority (cf. 2 Tim. 2:11; Phil. 2:5-11) and privilege. Consider Jesus’ admission to the High Priest (Mark 14:62), where he quotes from Psalm 110(109):1 (as well Stephen’s vision in Acts 7:55-56; Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:33-34; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3,13;8:1; 10:12; 12:2). “Seating” indicates assumption of powers granted.
- 2 τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖτε, μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.
Paul follows with a second present active command. Not only are these believers to “seek”, they are to “think about” τὰ ἄνω. Our desires and our thought life find their centre in “the above things” in which the Messiah is central and the purposes of God paramount. The contrast is with τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, indicated by the negative μὴ which implies that the initial imperative is repeated, i.e. “do not think/stop thinking….” Presumably Paul includes the “fleshly realm” and the authorities that govern it in the “earthly things.”
- 3 ἀπεθάνετε γὰρ καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν κέκρυπται σὺν τῷ Χριστῷ ἐν τῷ θεῷ·
The rational for this transformation in desire and thought life rests in the reality of our death. The aorist indicative ἀπεθάνετε points to a past, completed action. The particle γάρ signals that a reason or explanation for what precedes is being provided. The first verb is joined to a second which is a perfect passive indicative (κέκρυπται), indicating a current condition or status. We know what the verb means (to hide), but it less than clear what it means for the Colossians’ life to be “hidden with the Messiah in God.” The second person plural pronoun applies specifically to the Colossian believers – Jews and Gentiles. The conjunctive καί may indicate a following consequence of the previous action (you died). Paul has used words describing hiddenness in 1:26; 2:3 with respect to the hidden mystery of the Messiah which now has been revealed, i.e. God’s reality. So perhaps in 3:3 Paul means to say that the Colossians’ lives, i.e. the real persons, are now linked with the mystery of the Messiah, even though this may not be apparent to onlookers. Our life in this age is resourced by our complete identity with the Messiah.
- 4 ὅταν ὁ Χριστὸς φανεφωθῇ, ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν, τότε καὶ ὑμεῖς σὺν αὐτῷ φανερωθήσεσθε ἐν δόξῃ.
An apocalyptic element is defined in this verse. It is asyndetic. It begins with an indefinite temporal clause (ὅταν + subjunctive – whenever), which modifies a following main clause introduced with the correlative adverb of time τότε (then). In the subordinate clause ὁ Χριστὸς is the subject. The verb is an aorist passive subjunctive with the sense “has been made plain/public/visible.” This presumably refers to a future event when the Messiah appears once more. Paul places ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν (“your life”) in apposition to the subject. The Messiah = your life. Note that the textual evidence is quite mixed as to whether the pronoun is first or second person plural. Christ is the source and centre of one’s life as a believer. Καὶ ὑμεὶς probably means “you also” or “even you” with καί being adverbial. The phrase σὺν αὐτῷ is in the focal spot of the main clause and refers to the Messiah. The verb is future passive, second pers. plural (you shall be plain/public/visible) and what becomes visible is the glory that believers receive in the Messiah.
- 5-7 νεκρώσατε οὖν τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, πορνείαν ἀκαρθαρσίαν πάθος ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν, καὶ τὴν πλεονεξίαν, ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία,  δι’ ἃ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ [ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας]. ἐν οἷς καὶ ὑμεῖς περιεπατήσατέ ποτε, ὅτε ἐζῆτε ἐν τούτοις·
A second οὖν follows the first in 3:1 with an aorist imperative as the main verb (νεκρώσατε). UBS segments this as a new paragraph, but probably it builds on the fact that one day when Messiah returns we will share his glory. The immediate response to this as followers of Jesus is to “treat/deaden your members/limbs on the earth like a corpse.” Paul follows by defining appositionally specific actions that these “members/limbs” do, which things detract from God’s glory. There are five elements mentioned, as in v. 8. The first four relate primarily to improper sexual lusts and activities. Lists of nouns often occur in asyndeton and lacking the article, because they are generic. However, the last item has emphatic καί (even) and the noun is articulated. This may imply that this “greed” is a particular issue within the Colosse congregation. Further, using a relative clause (introduced by ἥτις, a relative pronoun indicating the idea “which is some sort of…”), Paul equates greed with idolatry.
Two relative clauses provide reasons for the command in v.5. The first is given in v.6. The initial δι’ ἃ means “because of which things (= evil desires and actions).” The subject of the verb is ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ and this “is coming” (ἔρχεται), the present tense may indicate an expectancy that it is on its way, or it may be indicating more of a general principle “the wrath of God comes….” The genitive may be a subjective genitive, i.e. God acts in wrath…. The prepositional phrase ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας probably occurs under the influence of the text Ephesians 5:6 within the transmission of the text of Colossians. Note that P46 B omit it. However, I would counter that Colossians and Ephesians often have parallel expressions, so the presence of this phrase would not be unusual. Widely distributed manuscripts possess it. There is also the possibility of haplography due to homoioteleuton θεοῦ…-θειας. It is unclear whether Paul views God’s wrath as already active in this age or is saying that it comes when the Messiah appears. If v.7 builds off this relative clause, then we need to locate a referent for ἐν οἷς and the closest candidate would be τοὺς υἱοὺς.
The second relative clause of explanation begins with a prepositional phrase locating the subject with a certain group. The subject is the emphasized pronoun καὶ ὑμεῖς. The verb περιεπατήσατέ refers to association and similar unethical activity. However, Paul locates this temporally in the past, using ποτε…ὅτε (at one time, when). The imperfect ἐζῆτε implies an extended experience in the past. Some argue that ἐν οἷς…ἐν τούτοις should be treated as neuter plurals referring to the list of sins in v. 5. This must be the case if the phrase “on the sons of disobedience” in v. 6 is not original. However, if this phrase is original, then it would be the natural antecedent for the pronouns in v.7. This would suggest that the majority of believers in Colosse were non-Jews, pursuing idolatry. What kind of “living” was this?
- 8 νυνὶ δὲ ἀπόθεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς τὰ πάντα, ὀργήν, θυμόν, κακίαν, βλασφημίαν, αἰσχρολογίαν ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν·
The initial δὲ with emphatic form of νυνὶ implies a contrast in time, picking up the previous ποτε…ὅτε. Again the subject is the emphasized καὶ ὑμεῖς (cf. v.7). Another aorist imperative ἀπόθεσθε (put off, get rid of) indicates an action to divest oneself of something. The object τὰ πάντα “all things” is then defined by the five appositional nouns that follow. The focus in these five nouns is angry, vengeful, scurrilous and foul language which erupts in slanderous outbursts of rage. Βλασφημίαν may be directed towards God or to other humans. Paul also marks “obscene speech” as inappropriate for followers of the Messiah. Why is this list different from the list in v.5? Are these things marking relationships within the Colossian church? What is the practical difference ethically and spiritually between the two imperatives νεκρώσατε…ἀπόθεσθε?
- 9-11 μὴ ψεύδεσθε εἰς ἀλλήλους, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον σὺν ταῖς πράξεσιν αὐτοῦ  καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν νέον τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν κατ’ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν,  ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος, περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία, βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλὰ [τὰ] πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός.
Paul offers another prohibition with μή + present imperative, which may have the sense of “stop being deceitful to one another.” Why Paul feels it important to stress this is unclear, unless he regards the false teaching as a form of deceit. The aorist middle participle ἀπεκδυσάμενοι functions adverbially indicating perhaps that this is a causal participle, i.e. “because you have put off.” The image is that of removing a garment (cf. 2:15) which Paul used to describe how God removed the power of principalities and powers through the death of the Messiah. Perhaps Paul desires this believers to consider their conversion a point in time when they have “shed the old person” together with its negative influences and so deceit no longer is appropriate. The concept of “old person” and “new person” seems to mark for Paul the transition from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. Some suggest this language relates to first Adam and second Adam analogies that Paul employed in Romans 5. Σύν + dative generally defines accompaniment.
Conversely, the compound aorist middle participle καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι continues the clothing analogy (cf. Galatians 3:26-29 where this language is linked with baptism). The object τὸν νέον is defined by the adjectival present passive participle τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον which indicates a contemporaneous action with this putting on of the new person. Who is the agent implied by this passive participle? It is “being renewed.” Note how the substantive adjective νέος is linked semantically with the similar lexeme καινός in the verb’s root. The prepositional phrase εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν picks up prior usages of this noun in 1:9 where Paul claims that these believers are being filled with the perceptive knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Presumably this consistent renewing leads to the same result. Further, this renewal which results in this perceptive knowledge is κατἀ εἰκόνα “in accord with the image/pattern/shape” which in turn is modified by the genitive aorist active participle τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν – “of the one who created it = the new person.” The image or pattern is that of the Messiah, I presume. Does this participle refer to God or to Jesus as creator? The subject of this verb in Paul’s writings invariably is God (cf. 1:15). However, in Colossians 1 Paul has stated that God’s agent in creation is the Messiah. God enables humans to live in entirely new moral ways, thus reflecting their transformation into the Messiah’s image.
The adverbial relative ὅπου designates place where and in this context refers to the new humanity or perhaps to this new creation. Paul denies any ethnic, religious, or social distinctions. The first, second and fourth pairs are opposites, but the third pair are synonyms – βάρβαρος =Σκύθης. The ἀλλά conjunction introduces contrast. Instead of there being these divisions, “Messiah is all and in all.” The Messiah is the most important element in this new humanity and he invigorates all of this new humanity (cf. 1:17, 18; Eph. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:58), being its “head.”
- 12-14 ἐνδύσασθε οὖν, ὡς ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιοι καὶ ἡγαπημένοι, σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ χρηστότητα ταπεινοφροςύνην πραΰτητα μακροθυμίαν,  ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων καὶ χαριχόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς ἐὰν τις πρό τινα ἔχῃ μομφήν· καθὼς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐχαρίσατο ὑμῖν, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς·  ἐπὶ πᾶσιν δὲ τούτοις τὴν ἀγάπην, ὅ ἐστιν σύνδεσμος τῆς τελεότητος.
Paul continues with additional ethical instructions focused presumably upon life within the community of faith. These instructions build upon but also advance the prior discussion in vv. 9-11 as noted by the particle οὖν. The ethical nature of this statement is signaled by the aorist imperative form of the primary verb ἐνδύσασθε (clothe yourselves). The verb form is middle given the semantic content of the word. Paul has used the same verb in v.10 to signal the transformation that has occurred in conversion. There the mandate arises from the restoration of “the image of the creator.” Here the mandate arises because of God’s choice (ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ), the only occurrence of this adjective in Colossians (cf. Eph. 1:4 where the cognate verb occurs). Paul places this adjective in a comparison introduced by ὡς (as). The genitive θεοῦ presumably identifies the one making the choice. Paul includes two other adjective forms in an appositional relationship “ἅγιοι καὶ ἠγαπημένοι.” The first he has used frequently to describe these believers (1:2, 4, 12, 22, 26). The second is a perfect passive participle from ἀγαπᾶν to love (cf. 3:19; cognate noun used in 1:4, 8, 13; 2:2; 3:14). Why does Paul stop to make these declarations about the Colossian believers at this point? Is there something in what follows that requires him to clarify their status? Without doubt Paul wants to make absolutely clear that these non-Jewish believers now enjoy all of the privileges of the people of God because these are the classic epithets that Yahweh applied to Israel (cf. Deut. 7:6-7) and the Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 42:1).
Paul gives a long list of attitudes, character traits, and/or Christian values that he urges these believers to express in their relationships. He begins with a genitive structure σπλάγχνα οἰκτιρμοῦ, guts of mercy. For a Greek speaker to say that person has “guts” is to admire their compassion, their capacity to empathize. This is followed by χρηστότητα (kindness), ταπεινοφροσύνην (humble attitude/service), πρα
ΰτητα (meekness), and μακροθυμίαν (patience), some of which are also defined as “fruit of the Spirit” in Gal. 5:22-23. He continues his list in v.13 using two present middle participles. The first ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων (cf. Eph. 4:2; Mk. 9:19). The sense seems to be “keep putting up with one another,” i.e. an appeal for toleration. The second is χαριζόμενοι ἑαυτοῖς (dative indicates “forgiveness is the sense) which means “forgiving one another.” The reflexive pronoun probably is synonymous with the previous ἀλλήλων (BDF §287. Cf. Luke 23:12; compare 1 Thess. 5:13 and Mk. 9:50). Paul adds an adverbial clause that qualifies this action “if someone should have a cause for blame (complaint, grievance, μομφήν) against someone,” third class conditional. What is the relationship of these two participles to what precedes? Perhaps “attendant circumstances” defining how they are acting as they clothe themselves with these traits. Some interpret them as quasi imperatives. However, I do not think that is necessary. Participles placed after the main verb tend to elaborate its meaning.
Paul ends v.13 with an independent sentence adding further comment to this practice of forbearance and forgiveness, using the Lord Jesus as a paradigm. The καθὼς…οὕτως coordinate conjunction/adverb means “according as…so.” The καὶ is emphatic modifying ὁ κύριος, presumably a reference to Jesus Messiah. Many manuscripts read Χριστός. Paul repeats the verb ἐχαρίσατο (aorist middle)+ dative with the sense “has forgiven you (pl).” The main clause following assumes this same verb, probably in imperative form, and repeats the emphatic καὶ with ὑμεῖς. This sentence perhaps is to be taken parenthetically given the sentence fragment that begins v.14. These principles were expressed several times in Jesus’ teaching (cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:23-25).
The particle δὲ perhaps signals an additional new item that in some way brings the list to completion. It is not clear which verb we should supply. Perhaps the initial verb ἐνδύσασθε is the most appropriate contextual option. The preposition ἐπί + dative probably means “in addition to” but may also suggest a climactic element, i.e. “above all.” So having defined his list, incomplete as it is, Paul affirms that the primary trait or attitude is ἀγάπη, expressed by those who are “beloved” (v.12). This focus on ἀγάπη reflects other passages in Paul such as 1 Cor. 13. It seems that ἀγάπην is then defined, with the additional information signaled by ὅ ἐστιν (that is), although the relative pronoun does not agree in gender with the formal antecedent. An anarthrous σύνδεσμος functions as predicate nominative. This noun was used in 2:19 in a technical sense to describe bodily sinews. It describes something that brings unity from diversity. It is a fastening that brings disparate parts together to form a whole. It can refer to the laws that create unity in a city (cf. Plato, Leges 921e). The genitive that follows τελειότητος probably is epexegetical, i.e. the bond that is maturity, completeness (cf. Heb. 6:1; Eph. 4:13; Wisd. 6:15 φρονήσεως τελειότης complete understanding). RSV rendered as “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It may have some resonance with usage in some Greek philosophical discussions.
- 15-17 καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, εἰς ἣν καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι· καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε.  ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐνοικείτω ἐν ὑμῖν πλουςίως, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ διδίσκοντεςς καὶ νουθετοῦντες ἑαυτούς, ψαλμοῖς ὕμνοις ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς ἐν [τῇ] χάριτι ᾄδοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν τῷ θεῷ·  καὶ πᾶν ὅ τι ἐὰν ποιῆτε ἐν λόγῳ ἢ ἐν ἔργῳ, πάντα ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ δι’ αὐτοῦ.
Paul continues his series of commands, some of which are third person and some are second person. He moves to the theme of ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ — a peace sourced in the Messiah. This is the subject of the clause and Paul anticipates that each believer will let this peace βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, i.e. exercise control, rule, act as judge at the centre of their being and decision-making (note the prior use of the compound verb καταβραβευέτω in 2:18). In BDAG it is expressed as “let the peace of Messiah “be the decisive factor.” This is the only occurrence of this verb in the NT. Its location tends to be in athletic contexts where it means “award a prize” or “arbitrate” (cf. Rom. 14:19). Paul encourages these believers to practice peace-making because of the Messiah’s actions (cf. Eph. 2:15,17) at the cross, the ultimate peace-making mission of God. If Paul is addressing relations between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians then the Ephesians’ parallel may be particularly relevant.
Paul adds a relative clause that provides further definition to this notion of εἰρήνη. In Col. 1:2 Paul had prayed that these believers would continue to experience “grace and peace from God our father.” Now he reminds them that “they have been called (ἐκλήθητε aorist passive indicative) into peace” and presumably the agent is God himself (cf. 1:12). Perhaps this picks up the prior discussion regarding reconciliation (1:21-23). The inserted καὶ adds emphasis to the verb. This peace finds immediate demonstration “in one body” (ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι), a theme Paul frequently employs. Despite human variation and diversity, often divinely intended, God expects his followers to exhibit peace in the faith community. This again applies specifically to relations between Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Colosse.
Another imperative urges “thankfulness” (εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε). The verb form is present middle/passive imperative. It may suggest a continuing aspect, as the use of the cognate verb earlier in the letter suggests (1:3,12). The adjective only occurs here in the NT, but the verb is frequent, as v. 17 attests to.
Paul, having considered “the peace of the Messiah” now urges the Colossian believers to embrace “the message of the Messiah” (ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χριστοῦ). I do not think Paul is echoing any kind of “Logos Christology” at this point. Rather the Colossian believers’ engagement with wrong ideas and forms of worship seems to the primary concern and Paul here urges them to follow “the message of the Messiah” in all such matters. Previously λόγος has referenced the gospel (1:5,25) and Paul has said “you have received the Messiah Jesus, the Lord, in whom you walk” (2:6-7). Presumably then Paul means that they have received the gospel and now he urges them to “let it settle down in full residence” with them. The use of the compound verb form ἐνοικείτω, present active imperative, suggests a continuing “at home” experience with the gospel. We talk about “inhabiting” which conveys the same idea. The location is made clear by ἐν ὑμῖν and the quality of the residential experience is defined by the adverb πλουσίως (cf. 1:27; 2:2), i.e. in every way in which it might enrich your worship. It also suggests that there is an inexhaustible resource present.
Paul proceeds to articulate how the Messiah’s word expresses its presence and the diverse richness of its presentation. It is not clear whether the phrase ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ modifies the preceding adverb πλουσίως or the verb ἐνοικείτω or the following participles διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες. Given the complex of modifiers attached to the previous verb, Paul probably intends it to define the following participles. Paul used these same two verbs in participial form in 1:28 to define the scope of his ministry. Now he extends it to the entire congregation, but offered within the context of love, forgiveness, thankfulness and peace. The teaching offered must demonstrate the wisdom of God and the truth offered for correction again must reflect divine counsel. Paul did not restrict the teaching office of the church to one person or a small group of “elders,” but expected all believers to take responsibility for this because they are made competent to perform this function by virtue of the Holy Spirit and God’s powerful working within and among them. This is one means by which “the word of the Messiah” resides actively among them. Note again how Paul places these adverbial participles after the main verb, giving further definition to the meaning of that main verb.
A second means is through congregational worship of praise (ᾄδοντες) presuming that this is an adverbial participle either of attendant circumstance (as you praise) or giving purpose (so that you may praise). The participle is modified by two adverbial ἐν phrases nuancing this praise as finding source in gratitude and expressed “in your hearts.” Should we paraphrase as “praising gratefully and heartily to God” or “in gratitude praising in your hearts to God?” Paul is probably not so much emphasizing silent worship, as he is urging sincere worship. This communal praise incorporates three different types of worship songs, but we cannot easily distinguish their exact character today. What is the meaning of πνευματικαῖς when linked with ᾠδαῖς? Presumably it is a Spirit-inspired song-making. I am not sure we need to see this as ecstatic expression. It may be the praise that results from the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. The final dative noun τῷ θεῷ is one reading, but many mss. also read τῷ κυρίῳ. However, the combined weight of p46 א A B probably tips the hat to θεῷ as Paul’s original text.
Verse 17 has various repetitions which emphasize that this attitude of worship extends to all of life. The repeated πᾶν…πάντα, the generic relative clause ὅ τι ἐὰν ποιῆτε, and the inclusive ἐν λόγῳ ἢ ἐν ἔργῳ together present this focus. The verb ποιῆτε is a present active subjunctive form. The switch from the singular πᾶν to the plural πάντα shifts the focus from each statement or deed to all of them regardless of their context. In all cases these communications and deeds must reflect the power and authority of the Lord Jesus (ἐν ὀνόματι). In the OT we often find the phrase בשׁם יהוה “in the name of Yahweh.” For example David comes to Goliath “in the name of the Lord” (1 S 17:45); Elijah builds an altar “in the name of the Lord” (1 K. 18:32); in the Psalter enemies are crushed “in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 44:5; 118:10-12). It is often associated with oaths (Dr. 6:13), blessing (Dt. 10:8), and prayer (Gen. 4:26). People are commissioned by Yahweh and sent “in his name.” All of this activity is εὐχαριστοῦντες, “expressing thanksgiving to God the Father through him (i.e. the Lord Jesus).” Jesus becomes the mediator of such gratitude to the Father (cf. 2:6-7). I would construe this participle as adverbial to the implied main verb “do.”
- 18-19 αἰ γυναῖκες, ὑποτάσσεσθε τοῖς ἀνδρασιν ὡς ἀνῆκεν ἐν κυρίῳ.  οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας καὶ πικραίνεσθε πρὸς αὐτάς.
Paul moves into these verses without any connecting particle. The series of commands continues, but now directed to selected groups within the congregation. There are three pairs to whom Paul explains reciprocal responsibilities and attitudes. The imperatives flow one after the other with no connecting particles. The first imperative in each pair is a verb compounded with the preposition ὑπό. Motivations are provided and in each case are related to the Lord Jesus. This kind of material commonly is termed a “household code” and similar compositions can be paralleled in non-Christian Hellenistic writings from this era, particularly in Aristotle and Roman writers such as Seneca. We even find some of this material in the writings of Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish commentator on the Pentateuch. Ephesians has a similar section, as does some of 1 Peter 2-3,5. Obviously these social relationships were very important contexts in which believers were expected to live out their Christian values and commitments. Paul seems to place such actions and attitudes within the context of worship. Some suggest that this concern for such relationships on the part of the early Christian community reflects a concern to demonstrate that believers are not a threat to the socio-political order, rather their values serve to sustain it.
The first pair is “wives (αἰ γυκαῖκες)…husbands (οἱ ἄνδρες). Paul affirms that wives are to understand their ordering with respect to their husbands and are commanded to rank themselves appropriately under the care of their husbands. The command ὑποτάσσεσθε is a present middle formation and suggests this is a voluntary action which is continuous. This reflects the legal status of married women in the Roman jurisdiction, under the authority of the paterfamilias. In this period throughout the Mediterranean world the household was a patriarchal structure. Consider how this command is situated in relationship to the general command in Eph. 5:21 that the entire congregation is to be subject to one another, i.e. ensure that they are ordering their social relationships appropriately to Christian values.
This command is modified by the comparative clause that follows ὡς ἀνῆκεν ἐν κυρίῳ “as is fitting in the Lord.” The verb is imperfect in tense and has the sense “it is fitting or appropriate.” Blass-Debrunner note that in classical Greek the imperfect without ἄν in contexts that relate to obligation or duty may denote “something which is or was actually necessary, etc., but which does not or did not actually take place” (BDF 358.2). If this applies in this context, then perhaps Paul is pressing the idea that the “degree of subjection” has to be moderated contextually “in the Lord.”
The paired command addresses the husbands who are commanded ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας (cf. Eph. 5:25-33). Presumably the use of this verb is intentional and relates to the previous command in 3:14 where every believer is told to “put on love” as the most important value and attitude. Husbands who are believers have a particular responsibility to demonstrate this value in their spousal relationship. There are no qualifiers and the imperative is present active implying a general action in process. Paul also adds a prohibition (μή + present imperative) which perhaps implies “stop doing” a current activity. Thus Paul may be saying “stop feeling embittered towards them.” Alternatively, it may mean “do not start becoming embittered.” The passive suggests that the husbands are the embittered party. Perhaps if they do not think their wives are respecting them sufficiently it will generate a bitter attitude.
- 20-21 τὰ τέκνα, ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν κατὰ πάντα, τοῦτο γὰρ εὐάρεστόν ἐστιν ἐν κυρίῳ.  οἱ πατέρε, μὴ ἐρεθίζετε τὰ τέκνα ὑμὼν, ἵνα μὴ ἀθυμῶσιν.
The second pair includes τὰ τέκνα…οἱ πατέρες. The initial command requires ὑπακούετε “obey” and is a present active imperative. Both parents are the object (i.e. those who gave you birth) and the scope of the command is inclusive of everything κατὰ πάντα (“in every respect). Paul provides a rationale in the γάρ clause. Why children need to hear such a rationale is not explained. Presumably it is directed towards them and not the parents. The adjective εὐάρεστος occurs frequently in Paul with God or the Lord as the object (cf. Rom. 12:1,2; 14:18; 2 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:10; Phil. 4:18; Tit. 2:9; cf. Heb. 13:21). Here the phrase ἐν κυρίῳ suggests that well-pleasing actions are done “for the sake of the Lord” but the preposition would suggest more that such actions are befitting those who live in the sphere of the Lord’s authority and who have an obligation to please him. This injunction then may address particularly children (i.e. 1-18 years) who have responded to the Gospel. For the parents’ part, particularly the fathers who hold the authority in the household, they are not to “provoke your children.” In place of ἐρεθίζετε provoke, irritate, some mss. read παροργίζετε which is read in Eph. 6:4, but I think the earlier mss. read as UBS text does. Paul is concerned that such behaviour on the part of the fathers might “discourage” (ἀθυμῶσιν) the children and they become despondent or morose. I presume that the actions of the fathers relate to religious activities which in turn hinder their children from serving Jesus Messiah. If the provocation is of a religious nature, perhaps some of these Colossian Christian fathers were engaging in these deceptive religious ideas that Paul is opposing and this was causing their children to adopt a cynical or rebellious attitude to the Gospel itself.
- 22-4:1 οἱ δοῦλοι, ὑπακούετε κατὰ πάντα τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις, μὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλίᾳ ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδίας φοβούμενοι τοὸν κύριον.  ὃ ἐὰν ποιῆτε, ἐκ ψυχῆς ἐργάζεσθε ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις.  εἰδότες ὅτι ἀπὸ κυρίου ἀπολήμψεστθε τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν τῆς κληρονομίας. τῷ κυρίῳ Χριστῷ δουλεύετε·  ὁ γὰρ ἀδικῶν κομίσεται ὃ ἠδίκησιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολημψία.  οἱ κύριοι, τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα τοῖς δούλοις παρέχεσθε, εἰδότες ὅτι καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔχετε κύριον ἐν οὐρανῷ.
The last pair is οἱ δοῦλοι…οἱ κύριοι “slaves…masters.” For some reason Paul gives his largest attention to this pair. Perhaps it was in this relationship that the most significant issues were emerging for the congregation. If Philemon is part of this congregation, then perhaps Paul writes this section in awareness of the sensitive Onesimus question. The basic command to the slaves is exactly the same as the command to children in v. 20. The only change is that the adverbial phrase κατὰ πάντα is placed immediately after the verb, perhaps putting greater emphasis on their total obedience. Paul is careful to distinguish human masters (τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις) from the divine master, the Lord Jesus.
Paul provides negative and positive definition of what obedience means for Christian slaves. On the one hand it should not be ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλίᾳ (cf. Eph. 6:6). The term means “eye service” but it is unclear whether it means serving well only in publicly seen domains, serving well only when the master’s eyes are on you, or serving in order to catch the master’s eye and thus gain some special favour. All are proposed by different commentators. The comparison ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι suggests that the obedience is not sincere or consistent, but purely self-serving or designed to gain favour with human masters (but not their divine master?). Whose eyes are they concerned about – those of God or those of their human master’s? The negative μή probably assumes an implied ὑπακούετε, i.e. “do not obey” in this way. In contrast they are to serve “with an undivided heart that is loyal first to God and then as much as possible to their human master. ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδίας seems to imply “in singleness of heart,” i.e. undivided loyalty. This may be affirmed by the following adverbial present participle φοβούμενοι τὸν κύριον, linked with the subject (slaves) and requiring a service that is in essence religious. If Jesus is the referent of κύριον then Paul is applying to Jesus the standard OT expression “to fear Yahweh,” certainly a surprising statement.
Paul adds further commentary in vv. 23-24. He begins with a general relative clause (similar in wording to 17a) “whatever you do.” The presence of ἐάν and the subjunctive indicate its general nature. This clause functions as the object of the main verb ἐργάζεσθε “work”. The adverbial phrase ἐκ ψυχῆς suggests this work is done with all one’s vital energy (cf. Deut. 6:5). Some translate “put your whole heart into it.” The reason is that this work is being done as worship τῷ κυρίῳ and not ἀνθρώποις. This is an astounding statement regarding the nature and value of human work, even the drudgery of a slave. Pay day is coming, not from the human master, but from the Lord himself (v.24). The perfect participle εἰδότες probably is adverbial and causal – because you know, with the ὅτι clause describing the content of this knowledge. They will “receive the reward of the inheritance.” The noun ἀνταπόδοσιν sometimes can refer to punishment, but here a positive outcome is certainly intended, as the word “inheritance” emphasizes. This is the eschatological reward and ἀπὸ κυρίου is another reference to Jesus, as the following τῷ κυρίῳ Χριστῷ makes clear. The Lord Jesus is the final arbiter. The lack of an article with the first κυρίου may follow the OT pattern where normally this noun lacks the article, at least in Greek Exodus, when referring to the proper name Yahweh. Paul reminds them that they are slaves to the Lord Messiah (δουλεύετε) so their human enslavement must be seen within the larger context of divine enslavement and their divine master demands priority of service and loyalty. The verb may be indicative (you are serving) or imperative (serve).
The nature of the judgment which the Lord Messiah will give now becomes the object of discussion. V. 25 provides an explanatory rationale (γάρ).First, Paul assures these slaves that unjust human masters will not escape divine judgment (Jesus is head of principalities and powers, which include institutions). Paul perhaps used a proverbial statement here: “the one acting unjustly will get back for himself (κομίσεται future middle) the wrong he has done (ἠδίκησεν).” Note how the same word begins and ends the proverb. This sounds like the ius talionis. Second, Paul reminds them, as the OT often states, that the divine arbiter in the final judgment shows no favouritism προσωπολημψία (cf. Eph. 6:9). The one who acts unjustly will receive (κομίσεται) recompense for the wrong which he has committed (relative clause functioning as object of the prior verb or as an adverbial accusative of respect). Whether this applies to the slaves who act wrongfully or the master who mistreat the slaves is debated.
Finally, Paul addresses the masters/owners directly. He concludes by addressing the owners (οἱ κύριοι) in 4:1, using the vocative. The present middle imperative παρέχεσθε urges Christian slave-owners to “grant/furnish” their slaves (dative case) τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα – that which is fair (τὸ δίκαιον) and equitable (τὴν ἰσότητα). The imperative is again a present middle imperative. The following adverbial participle gives the cause for this injunction, namely “because they know.” The emphatic καὶ is important (even you) because it places them on the same level as their slaves when it comes to divine judgment. The masters get no special treatment from God. Their life in Christ provides them with this new understanding that they have “κύριος” in heaven. How do we translate κύριος here? Again note the absence of the article with κύριον. Probably there is a play on words, and so given the context perhaps “a Master” is the most adequate rendering.
 1:12 may refer to angelic beings.
 Note the textual variants that read θεου or κυρίου. The three major uncials all read in the original hand a different text. P46 coheres with B.