Baptismal Imagery in Colossians 3:8-12

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There are two key words in Colossians 3 that are inextricably connected but quite easy to miss. If you are reading the NIV (which is the version I use the most) you will most likely miss it where they translated a key phrase as “rid yourselves” rather than “put off”. Paul tells them to “take off” evil behavior in 3:8 and to “clothe yourselves” with righteous and pure behaviors in 3:12,

“8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.


This is baptismal language in the first century where they would often be baptized naked (gender segregated baptisms, in case you are wondering about how that works). They would put off their old clothes, be baptized and then put on new garments. Thankfully, we don’t do that any more and yet in a symbolic sense it is still powerful language for us today as it was for them in the first century. Paul uses this exact same combination of words (take off and put on/clothe) in Ephesians 4:22, 25 where he wrote,

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.


Every morning when we get ourselves ready to step out the door we must realize that we are doing more than changing our physical clothing. We are clothed with so much more than that and that how we live, behave and carry ourselves in this world really matters. Realize that when we choose falsehood, selfishness and deceit that we are soiling our spiritual garments. They can be washed clean again (1 Cor 6:11 & Rev 7:14) but we still must realize that even that comes at a cost. So let us be grateful for the new clothes Christ has given us and let us keep ourselves in line with the Spirit rather than the desires of corruptible flesh.

One Response

  1. Matt, you said, “…our spiritual garments..can be washed clean again (1 Cor 6:11 & Rev 7:14) but we still must realize that even that comes at a cost.” True, there are consequences, some that last for a lifetime. However, one of the miracles of life is that we can experience resurrection and cleansing in the blink of an eye from which even the consequences take on a new light and wisdom.

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