Question: "How can we make sure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God's glory (Colossians 3:17)?"
Answer: In the first section of Colossians 3 (1–17) Paul writes to encourage his readers in their general mindset and behavior. Concluding that section, Paul writes that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17). This is the overarching principle that should govern the life of the believer.
Paul provides specific descriptions of what doing all for God’s glory should look like in how we think (Colossians 3:1–4), how we handle the desires of the flesh (Colossians 3:11), and how we should care for and treat one another (Colossians 3:12–15). He then identifies the basis for empowering that kind of thought and conduct (Colossians 3:16). Paul concludes the section with the exhortation that we make sure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17). Following those general instructions, Paul offers specific ways believers can faithfully steward the various relationships God provides (Colossians 3:18—4:6).
Because of the work God has done to make us alive in Christ, we should be focused on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1–4). Because of the future return of Christ in glory and the associated glorification of believers, we should put on the new self—walking in the newness of life and avoiding the idolatry of focusing on things that serve the flesh (Colossians 3:5–11). An important aspect of walking in this newness of life is in how believers treat one another, and that should be characterized by love and its specific expressions like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12–14). Those expressions of love ought to be based on the peace that God has provided us through Christ, and that peace of Christ should be a controlling factor in how we think and act within the body—because we have been called to be part of that body with other believers. We ought also to be grateful for this (Colossians 3:15).
The key is to diligently allow the word of Christ to be at home in us—to dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16a). As His Word shapes us, we can be sure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory. The Word should change how we talk to each other, providing us avenues to build one another up and to teach each other—again, this is always to be accompanied by gratitude and thankfulness to God (Colossians 3:16b). After providing these directions, and before discussing the expectations of our conduct in specific relationships (Colossians 3:18—4:6), Paul covers overarching principles that help us make sure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17). In this also we are to express thankfulness.
We are given important tools that enable us to make sure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17). Those tools include a heavenly focused mindset (Colossians 3:2), considering the “old self” to be dead and putting on the new self (Colossians 3:5–10), putting on a heart that expresses love and its individual characteristics (Colossians 3:11–14), allowing His peace to govern our hearts (Colossians 3:15), immersing ourselves in the Bible, which is allowing His word to be at home in us (Colossians 3:16), and being constantly filled with and focused on gratitude and thanksgiving (Colossians 3:15, 16, 17). When we are putting these tools to use, we are more likely to ensure that whatever we do in word or deed is for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17).