“and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
In today’s age of mass produced apparel manufacturers, it may be difficult to appreciate the clothing challenges faced by the populations of the ancient world. Since every garment in the Biblical era was essentially hand-crafted, wardrobes of that period were often limited for all but the most affluent. This meant that basic clothing often represented a valuable commodity.
For example, the gospels of Matthew and John tell us that the Roman soldiers who were stationed near Jesus during His crucifixion gambled for His clothing prior to His death. While it’s unlikely that a modern-day soldier would have much interest in the garments of a condemned prisoner, John 19:23-24 offers the following account…
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, ‘Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.’ This fulfilled the Scripture that says, ‘They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.’ So that is what they did” (John 19:23-24 NLT).
We have a further example in one of Paul the Apostle’s Biblical letters. In the epistle we know today as the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians, Paul told the church at Corinth, “…often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11:27 TLB). These examples indicate that it could be difficult to acquire something as basic as sufficient clothing in the days of the first century.
Since laundering capabilities were limited and the garments of the ancient world often had to double as sleeping blankets, a modest supply of clothing might quickly become dirty and worn. Paul made use of this imagery to illustrate the sin nature here in the book of Colossians. Just as we might strip off a filthy and deteriorated set of clothes, Paul encouraged his readers to put off the behaviors of the old nature and put on the fresh, clean behaviors associated with a God-honoring life.
One source illustrates this idea with the following observation…
“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).” (1)
(1) NET Bible Notes. Scripture and/or notes quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved. http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Col&chapter=3&verse=10&tab=commentaries