1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry.
6 Because of these, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience,
7 in which ye also once walked, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Do not lie one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds,
10 and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him,
Because of our identification with Christ (cmp. 3:1-4;”Risen w/ Christ” … “Ye are dead” … “Life is hid w/ Christ in God” … “When Christ, who is our life,”) Paul leverages a “therefore” in vs. 5 and so exhorts the Colossian believers to live in light of the fact that they are living in the Established New Creation (cmp. 1:13f). They are to be distinct from those who are not living in the new Creation. The labor of Col. 3:5 – 4:6 is to tease out that contrast.
In Col. 3:9-10 St. Paul uses the phraseology of “put on the new man.” The imagery here is of having put on a different set of clothing. The allusion of putting on new clothing may hearken back to Genesis 3:7. There we find that Adam and Eve sought to clothe themselves apart from God, perhaps to hide from God and from each other. What happens though is that God clothes them with clothing He provides thus suggesting that a Restoration of Adam and Eve has begun (Gen. 3:21). What we have here then is that their old clothes were taken off and they put on the new clothes provided by God. Hence, should we see that there is a relationship between who they were as constituted by the fall and as seen by their autonomous clothing they self provided and their restoration to God begun as signified by God’s clothing of them we may see in Col. 3:10 with it’s “put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man” language a reference back to God’s restoration after the fall.
G. K. Beale puts it this way,
“The clear implication is that their first suit of clothes was taken off and replaced by divinely made clothing, indicating that the self made clothing was associated with their alienated condition and sinful shame (Gen. 3:7 – 11) and was an insufficient covering for those who have begun to be reconciled to God.”
So … this putting off … putting on language is indicative that we are no longer related to Adam (who is the consummate old man) and are now related to Christ (who is the consummate new man). It is important to note this Federal – Covenantal language. It is not that we have gone from one subjective state to another subjective state, as if we were once nasty people but now we are nice people. Rather, it is language that is speaking about covenantal realities. This language is talking about covenantal positioning. Once in Adam … now in Christ. In this putting on of Christ (the new man) we are now restored and will go from restoration unto restoration until the fullness of the present NOW will be Consummated in Christ.
Here we find the anti-thesis introduced again by St. Paul, for one is either part of the Dead humanity that is identified with Adam or one is united to the living community that is found in union with Christ Jesus.
Early Christian tradition took this quite seriously for in their Baptism services their would be a clear change of clothing given to the baptized after their baptism.
Now, as those who have been returned to the image of God (see vs. 10) we are now what Adam and Eve were intended to be in the Garden (cmp. Gen. 1:26-28). We are the re-creation of humanity, created, to rule, subdue, and to be fruitful and multiply. In Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, and in Col. 3:9-10 we, the brethren of Christ are, because of being united to Him, the image of God. We are called to do then, what Adam failed to do. The idea that we are to be a ruling people is hinted at in 3:1.
Because we are now these renewed image bearers who are identified with Christ, and so are part of the New Creational existence, where we rule, subdue, and have dominion under King Christ, our High Priest mediator, our calling is to disassociate from who were were in Adam, and reflect who we are in Christ.
Now a word about St. Paul’s phrase, “renewed unto the knowledge of Him.” Adam and Eve failed at this Godly knowledge in as much as they failed to remember God’s word. Being renewed unto a knowledge of the image of God will guarantee that the Colossian believers won’t make the mistake of the 1st Adam who was “deluded with persuasive argument,” (2:4) and “taken captive through … empty deceit” (Col. 2:8).