What does Colossians 3:4 mean?
ESV: When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
NIV: When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
NASB: When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
CSB: When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
NLT: And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
KJV: When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Paul continues to highlight Christ as the source of true life for all Christian believers. This verse creates an interesting discussion regarding the original text. Some ancient manuscripts have "our life," others have "your life." The latter is considered more likely by textual critics, though the meaning is exactly the same. Paul, as a Christian, is just as much alive in Jesus as the Colossian Christians he is writing to (Colossians 3:1). Christ is not only the giver and sustainer of life (Colossians 1:16); Christ is our life.
Paul also previews the return, or "second coming," of Christ. This theme is important to Paul, but can be controversial among Bible interpreters. There is debate regarding whether there will be one or two future return events of Christ. This really boils down to whether or not a person believes there will be a rapture—a "taking away" of saved believers—separately from Christ's ultimate victorious return (Revelation 19:11). Those who interpret the Bible as speaking of the rapture and second coming as two separate events do so based on details in the account of the end times; these seem to imply two separate and distinct events.
In this specific context, Paul clearly anticipates Christ returning at any moment. This is a theme both consistent and clear through the New Testament. When Christ "appears," believers will be with Him in glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 John 3:2).
Colossians 3:1–11 encourages Christian believers to focus their attention on godly, spiritual things. Those who are spiritually free, thanks to their faith in Christ, should not live in the sins which used to be their habit. Paul specifically refers to certain sins such as sexual immorality, jealousy, slander, lying, and revenge. These are not simply to be avoided: Paul tells believers to ''put to death'' such behaviors in their own lives. All believers are united in Christ, so all believers should act as people committed to their Savior. The next passage will contrast these sins with the positive behaviors Christians are meant to undertake.
In this chapter, Paul gives clear instructions to Christians about living out faith in Christ. Since believers have been saved by Christ, they should not participate in the sins which trap unbelievers. Sexual immorality, jealousy, slander, and revenge are not to be part of the Christian's life. Instead, believers ought to demonstrate compassion, humility, patience, and forgiveness. Above all, followers of Christ should show love. Paul also gives specific instructions for those living in Christian homes, including husbands, wives, children, and servants.
Prior chapters in Colossians emphasized the supremacy of Jesus, and the inferiority of worldly teachings. Paul's explanation of Christ as the ultimate authority, and the only source of truth, is key to understanding the difference between godly wisdom and worldly deceptions. In this chapter, Paul will apply those earlier ideas using practical instructions. This application runs through the beginning of chapter 4, which will end with various news about fellow Christian ministers.
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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