3:10 and have been clothed with the new man 1 that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave 2 or free, but Christ is all and in all.
1 sn Put off all such things. The commands in vv. 8-9 are based on two reasons given in vv. 9-10 – reasons which are expressed in terms of a metaphor about clothing oneself. Paul says that they have put off the old man and have put on the new man. Two things need to be discussed in reference to Paul’s statement. (1) What is the meaning of the clothing imagery (i.e., the “have put off” and “have been clothed”)? (2) What is the meaning of the old man and the new man? Though some commentators understand the participles “have put off” (v. 9) and “have been clothed” (v. 10) as imperatives (i.e., “put off!” and “put on!”), this use of participles is extremely rare in the NT and thus unlikely here. It is better to take them as having the semantic force of indicatives, and thus they give an explanation of what had happened to the Colossians at the time of their conversion – they had taken off the old man and put on the new when they trusted in Christ (cf. 1:4). While it is difficult to say for certain what the background to Paul’s “clothing” metaphor might be (whether it is primarily Jewish and comes from the OT, or primarily Gentile and comes from some facet of the Greco-Roman religious milieu), it is nonetheless clear, on the basis of Paul’s usage of the expression, that the old man refers to man as he is in Adam and dominated by sin (cf. Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22), while the new man refers to the Christian whose new sphere of existence is in Christ. Though the metaphor of clothing oneself primarily reflects outward actions, there is a distinct inward aspect to it, as the rest of v. 10 indicates: being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. Paul’s point, then, is that Christians should take off their dirty clothing (inappropriate behavior) and put on clean clothing (behavior consistent with knowing Christ) because this has already been accomplished in a positional sense at the time of their conversion (cf. Gal 3:27 with Rom 13:14).