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


Colossians 2:20-3:17


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.