Christ’s Preeminence Displayed in Personal Purity: Col. 3:1-11

Starting in Chapter 3, Paul’s letter to the Colossians shifts from the theological to the practical.  Having conclusively argued for the preeminence of Jesus in all things, Paul turns to address how Christ’s preeminence should impact our lives.  In the first eleven verses of this chapter, Paul argues that if Christ is truly preeminent in our lives, then His preeminence will be on display in our personal purity.

In all candor, I have to admit that this chapter has been one of my favorites to study and teach for a number of years.  But if I am being completely honest, I also have to admit that I greatly misunderstood this passage.  For years, I looked at these verses as a spiritual “punch-list”, a to-do list to make me a good Christian.  Such a view of this passage had a couple of negative consequences.  First, it fostered in me a sense of legalistic self-righteousness.  I was constantly comparing myself and others against this list of sins and judging others and their spirituality based on my perception of how they were doing at putting away these sins.  Second, this understanding fostered in me an intense shame and spiritual frustration as I was constantly failing. If I could just try harder, if I could just do better, then I could keep the list.  I was trapped on that treadmill of religious legalism we discussed in Weeks 1 and 5, and it was exhausting.

Once I finally grasped the impact of Christ’s triumph over sin as we discussed in Week 5, this passage took on a whole different meaning for me.  No longer did I see the punch-list of do’s and don’ts.  No longer did I see all the areas where I (or someone else) was failing Christ.  Instead of a list of legalistic demands, this list became a spiritual thermometer, measuring my abiding in Christ.  It’s a matter of focus: when I view the list in this passage as a legalistic punch-list, my focus is on the sin and my proficiency at eliminating it from my life; however, when I view this list as a spiritual thermometer, my focus is on Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform me to His image.  The former focuses on me and what I’m doing for God (pride).  The latter focuses on Christ and what He’s doing in me (love).

When Christ is preeminent in our lives, our focus is on abiding in Him.  The more we abide in Him, the more our focus is above, where Christ is, and our lives will display that focus.  To be sure, our lives will honor God with our purity, but that purity will be the result of our focus on Christ, not our focus on ourselves and our behavior.  The more we grow in the knowledge and love of our Creator and Redeemer, the more the old self passes away and the new self shines through.


  1. How have you viewed this passage of Scripture in the past, as a punch-list or a thermometer? What’s the key difference between the two?
  2. Why is our purity important to God (and we’re not just talking about sexual purity here)? How is His preeminence on display in our purity?
  3. Review verse 11. In light of the issues our country is facing now, how can the Church be a beacon of hope and peace?  What is the difference between the solutions proposed by the world and what the Church is supposed to display?