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Colossians 2:20-3:17 – Living in the Identity of Christ’s Death and Resurrection


Having declared Christ himself to be the content of God's mystery, the Letter to the Colossians now explains that the revealed mystery in Christ is expressed in the reality of human relationships.


This passage complements Colossians 1:21-2:5, which proclaims that God's mystery "has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints" (1:26). This mystery has now been made known: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27).

These verses describe how the mystery of Christ, centered in his death and resurrection, serves as the pattern for our life and identity in him. This pattern is carried out in a twofold way. First, this identity is expressed in the opening words of 2:20 and 3:1: "If with Christ you have died to the elemental spirits of the universe" (and you have), and "if you have been raised with Christ" (and you have). Both sections assume and proclaim the reality of life identified in Christ's death and resurrection. Second, the pattern of Christ's identity is followed by exhortations to live in the identity of Christ's death, introduced by the opening words of 3:5-11: "Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly." Then come exhortations to live in the identity of Christ's resurrection, introduced by the opening words of 3:12-17: "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves.…" Christ's death and resurrection are the paradigm of our lives. Since we have died and been raised with Christ, we are called to die to self and be clothed in the identity that is ours in Christ's death and resurrection.

Once again Colossians manifests the literary artistry and magnificent theological ways in which the proclamation of Christ is lived out, both in the reality of our identity in him and in the pattern of this identity lived out in the world. The mystery of Christ's death and resurrection is the paradigm of Christian life in community and for the world.

Colossians 2:20-3:17

Warnings against False Teachers

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe,* why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’? 22All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.*

The New Life in Christ

3So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your* life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.* 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.* 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive* language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal* there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord* has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ* dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.* 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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