Colossians 3 – No Gentile or Jew

  • Read Colossians 3:1-12 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (14 November) you can listen to it here.
  • You follow the sermon slides here.

In Colossians 3 we encounter the moral consequences of the Divine vision outlined in chapters 1 and 2.  As a culmination of accepting the Gospel and committing our lives to Christ’s service our values and lifestyles will change.  Paul’s use of imagery back in chapter 2 gets a bit confusing at times as he switches between death/resurrection, and un/circumcision.  So here’s my attempt to untangle it:


  • 2:11 Gentiles receive spiritual circumcision in Christ.  That is, they become part of God’s covenant people.
  • 2:11 During the spiritual circumcision, the sinful nature (flesh) was “cut off”.
  • 2:12 This happened when buried with Christ in baptism (and raised with him).
  • 2:13 One’s pre-Christian days are described as “uncircumcision”.


  • 2:12 In baptism Gentiles are buried with and raised with Christ (this is a result of our “faith in the working of God” not just an unthinking action with no spiritual motive), it’s also at this time that they receive their spiritual circumcision making them part of God’s covenant people.
  • 2:13 Before being “buried with Christ” we were already “dead in our sins”, after baptism God makes us “alive with Christ” by forgiving our sins.
  • 2:20 Dying with Christ means we no long belong to the world.
  • 3:1 Taking a positive perspective, being “raised with Christ” results in us setting our hearts and minds on “things above”.
  • 3:3 Restates 3:1, In baptism we died, and we now live with Christ in God.
  • 3:5 Since “we died” we should also “put to death” worldly behaviours such as: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust… anger rage malice”


  • This seems like an image that combines both metaphors.
  • 3:9 We have “taken off our old self with its practices” Behaviour change is a given!
  • 3:10 We have “put on a new self” This new self is a process, a work in progress.  Not at instant transformation.

Going all the way back to 2:27 Paul explains how God is now revealing the mystery of the Gospel to Gentiles.  It’s not surprising then that in 3:11 he returns to the point that in Christ there are no “favorites”.  Everyone, regardless of racial or social background can receive the Gospel and experience God’s renewal.

Colossians 3:11 is not a statement about roles within the church.  Don’t confuse this text with Galatians 3:28.  (The Galatians verse is often used in debates about the roles of women in the church because that list includes “male or female” instead of “barbarian, Scythian”.)  However, These two almost identical verses make the same point.  The Gospel message is for all.  It doesn’t discriminate.  This also means that God’s moral expectations apply to all cultures.  Of course God’s not seeking a monocultural world, but He does desire a world with a uniform moral code, His.

When I read statements like that I made above, “The Gospel message is for all,” it seems so simple, yet we often manage to complicate it.

  • Who are people we might un/consciously exclude from accessing the Gospel?
  • What do churches or individuals need to change to connect with these people?

The Church of Christ has traditionally emphasised the role of baptism in responding to the Gospel.  Paul also emphasises it as I believe my outline above demonstrates. However, baptism gets one verse (2:12) while the implications of that event occupy most of the remainder of the letter.

  • Should the Gospel message always be accompanied by a list of new moral behaviours?
  • How can Christians teach the need for new moral standards and behaviour without sounding like we’re promoting “works based” salvation?



One comment

  1. eirenetheou

    Disciples of Jesus are not “saved” by their good works, but they are saved for good works. This is the word of that close relative of the letter to the Colossians — that is, the Letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Great Theologian lays out the case concisely.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    Good works do not save us, and could not, but good works are a part of our thanksgiving to God for salvation, just as the Letter to the Colossians teaches us.

    “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).

    “Walk” in both Ephesians and Colossians — easily obscured in the tendentious paraphrases that pass for popular translations — is the rabbinic “halacha.” This is what Jesus teaches in the so-called Sermon on the Mount: what it means to “walk” daily as a disciple.

    God’s Peace to you.


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