Colossians 3:5-11 (Week 8)
“Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all.“
In this section, Paul is continuing to call us to action in our spiritual growth. This paragraph is focused on three main commands: Put to death, Put away, and Do not lie. All of this is a further articulation of what it means to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (from 1:10) and comes from the fact that we have died and been raised with Jesus (2:20; 3:3).
Additionally, we need to notice that this is a continuation of the realized eschatology that we discussed previously (already and not yet). Plus, we need to step back and look at the irony at work. We died, so now we need to put things to death… what exactly does that mean? If our old, earthly self is dead, why do we need to put it to death? This is all coming from the tension that we are now heavenly people living on earth. At one time, we were characterized by a lot of different earthly actions and attitudes, but now we need to be identified as Christians. If we can draw our identity from that, we can walk in those truths more easily.
WHAT IS THE TEXT SAYING?
PUT TO DEATH
This is a command. We are commanded to put to death those things that are earthly in us. Again, we have already died, but we are still living in a fallen, sinful flesh in the middle of a fallen, sinful world. The battle has already been won. The victory is assured. We are on the winning team. However, now we are still commanded to fight so that our actual living reality mirrors what is true about us.
The best part about this is that we are equipped for this fight. Not only have we died with Christ, but we have also been raised with Christ. We are now unified with Jesus. This is why Paul began this section with our fourth “therefore.” Because we have died and been raised spiritually, we need to put these things to death practically.
THE EARTHLY THINGS
The word he uses here is unique and usually means members, parts, or limbs. These are a legit part of our lives and need to be eradicated. He then lists five things: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed/covetousness.
These are all pretty straightforward, and most of them are involving sexual sin. The first word, translated as sexual immorality, is the word from which we get pornography but carries with it a host of sexual sin. Simply stated, all sexual activity is reserved for marriage. This is a very serious (and often unpopular and unheeded) teaching. More often than not, when young, single, Christians start asking questions like, “How far is too far?”, they are looking to justify something they already think is wrong but want to keep on doing. Instead, ask yourself if the activity is sexual. If the answer is yes, then the answer is no…get it?
From there, he mentions impurity or uncleanness. Follow that train of thought, “Is what you are talking about representing purity?” if the answer is no, then it has no place in the life of a Christian because we are united with Jesus.
Next, he mentions passion and evil desires. These are similar to each other and are most likely referring to sexual desires or lust. The first two seem to be referring more to actions, and the second three are more closely affecting our hearts. As Christians, our sinful flesh has been defeated, and we still need to submit its desires to the Lord. We need to put them to death.
The last sin he mentions here is a logical step from the other four, which touches the core of our heart’s desires and exposes our intentions. We need to put all greed and covetousness to death. We need to kill our desires to want more than is our lot, especially when we are longing for something that belongs to another. To explain the seriousness of this, he tells us that this is idolatry. What?! How?! Think about it. When we have a longing desire for something else that is this strong, we are valuing it so much higher than it deserves. We are making it into our source of joy and belonging. We are making it into our functional savior–a false god that will never satisfy.
THE WRATH OF GOD IS COMING
This makes sense in light of how seriously God takes the sins of our hearts. God’s wrath is going to be justly executed on His enemies, so we need to make sure that we are not allying ourselves with them. These enemies are identified as the “sons of disobedience,” but what is interesting is that this could easily have been translated as the “sons of disbelief.” We need to always keep in mind the close connection that the biblical writers have between true belief and obedience.
YOU FORMERLY WALKED IN THEM WHEN YOU WERE LIVING IN THEM
This is super encouraging. Do you have sin in your past? Of course. Do not be held captive to that. All of these sinful actions and attitudes used to have a place in your life because you were once only worldly and living your life among the sons of disobedience. But no longer is that the case. You have been made new. You have died and have been raised. Christ is now your life. So put those things to death.
See how he is using the term “walking” here. As a non-Christian, you walked like a non-Christian. Now, as a Christian, you need to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. This involves our entire lives.
This is the second command in this paragraph and carries with it the idea of taking off an item of particular clothing. You have been dressed up like a sinner, but now you’re a saint, take off those sinful articles of clothing. Put them away from you. This particular word is used nine times in the New Testament. Here are the most pertinent uses for our context:
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
1 Peter 2:1
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
Again he has a list of five things: anger, wrath, evil, blasphemy/slander, filthy talk (from your mouth). These are related to each other and deal with the more relational side of our sanctification. The first three are more focused on our attitudes and the last two with our speech. These five things characterize the children of disbelief, not children of faith.
DO NOT LIE
Finally, the last of the three commands in this section, which at first might seem a little out of place. Do not lie to one another. This is obviously a valid command, after all, it is one of the Top Ten, but why mention it now? We can understand this better in this context when we look at the fact that he grounds his command in two essential realities: you have put off the old man and have put on the new man.
You should not lie to one another because that is characteristic of the old man. If you are in Christ, then you have put off this “old man” and all of his practices. These have no place in the life of the believer. Remember, Christ is your life now, and Jesus would not lie.
Not only have you put off the old man, but you have put on the new. He will come right back to this idea in verse 12 but think about this as in putting on a piece of clothing. This is giving the picture that you have been clothed with Christ. How cool is that?! This means that when people look at you and the way that you act, they should see Jesus.
In case you were thinking that this is impossible, keep in mind that it is a process. We are still talking about the “already, not yet” tension. You have been declared holy by God. You have put on the “new man,” but now you are continually being “renewed”. But how does this happen? What is the secret sauce? You are made more like Jesus as you read and study His Word, letting the thoughts of God shape your thoughts. That is why he says that you are being renewed in knowledge after the image of your Creator.
According to the Christian worldview, we can view the world through the lenses of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. All of creation, including man, was created good. However, through the Fall, this has all been subjected to sin and futility. But in Christ, we are redeemed, and now are in the process of becoming like Him until we are with Him, eternally restored. Right now, we are in the middle of this, where we are being made into who we already are in Christ. We should let the knowledge of our union with Christ fuel us to be more like Him.
CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL
This flows from the last command not to lie. We don’t lie because we’ve put off the old man and put on the new man…which is Jesus. We need to understand that not only are we (individually) united to Christ, but we (corporately) have been united to Him. This means that in Christ, all the worldly distinctions have been put away, and we need to love each other rightly as the body of Christ. So there isn’t Jew, Greek, circumcised, uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian (nomadic folks), slaves, free, Buckeyes, Patriot fans, Cross-fitters, or vegans. If we are in Christ, the one thing that should characterize us is our union with Christ. This means that we need to treat each other like we are different body parts in the same body. All that matters is Christ and Christ is in all of us.
What Does that Mean for Me?
- 1. The idea of putting to death is violent and permanent. Are you taking your sin that seriously? Are you actively putting your sin to death? John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”(The Mortification of Sin in Believers) Which is it for you?
- How serious are you about sexual sin? Are you losing in a battle for your sexual purity in thought or action? Now is the time for accountability and drastic measures. We need to view sexual sin as seriously as God does.
- How seriously do you take the wrath of God? Do you realize that God is just to punish sin? How does that change your daily life?
- What about your emotions, are you submitting them to the Lord? Your emotions are the least stable thing about you and are just as much a part of your flesh as sexual temptation. You must submit them to the Lord?
- How do you see yourself? How much are you identifying as the “old man” and how much as the “new man”? We need to see ourselves as new people in Christ, this will help be the fuel for our sanctification.
- How much are you intentionally conforming yourself to Christ? Are you spending time reading and studying His Word, not just to check it off as done but to be changed by it?
- Does your speech reflect that of a Christian, or is your conversation filled with dirty language or lies? These are not to characterize us if we are in Christ.
- Are you showing partiality and distinction? If we are all one in Christ, this is hypocritical.
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