A Study of Colossians 3:5–11
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5–11)
Since we who believe and are saved are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death. This is a fact that is stated as something that is true. We do not need to “die to sin” to make it true; we are dead to sin. Our entire history in Adam has died with Christ. We are to live in light of what is true of us.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin…(Romans 6:11a)
Since we are dead to sin, the only proper thing to do is to bury that rotting corpse. We do not want to keep that thing around. So what is this corpse that we are to put off?
- Fornication—this is the sins that are against our own body, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 6: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). The thought of “its my body, so I can do what I want with it” is gone from this. Your body belongs to God. He bought it. Remember the price. Yes we are under grace, but remember the price.
- Uncleanness—this refers to impurity, whether of lifestyle, motives, etc. The point is having a quality of things that do not belong. Think of pure water compared to dirty water. What is the difference? The difference is each of the components of the dirty water that are not water, and all of them combined. The uncleanness here in a person or in a corporate body are the things that do not belong.
- Inordinate affection—these are affections set where they do not belong. They should be on things above, not on the things of the earth, as we are told in verse 2. While these are not the exact opposing Greek words, the sense here is passion about the wrong things.
- Evil concupiscence—this would be an intense desire or craving for the wrong things, especially things that are not allowed since it is “evil concupiscence”.
- Covetousness, which is idolatry—this desire to have more, where the more takes the place of an idol. It is interesting to note that covetousness and idolatry “bookend” the 10 commandments. Ask yourself if God was telling us something by ordering them this way.
These are the “members” that the Lord commands us to put to death. These seem to be the root of many other evils that follow. These are intrinsic qualities of the “old man” and should not be kept around in the life of the body of Christ. The old man is dead and his members should die with him.
Notice next that Paul says that because of these things the wrath of God comes and is coming upon the children (sons—υἱός “huios”, this is really those who have taken their place and prove their parentage by their deeds. See here from Vines: Vine’s Definition: Son) of disobedience. The “sons of disobedience” are also referred to in Ephesians 2:2, where Paul speaks of the prince of the power of the air working in the “children of disobedience”, also “huios“. This can be compared and contrasted with Ephesians 2:3 where he states that we were by nature the “children of wrath”. In this verse it is τέκνον—“teknon”—which has the sense of a person born into the family.
In my mind, this takes me back to chapter 1:
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight… (Colossians 1:21-22)
We should remember when discussing these things that these are the things of the “old man”, and they are things that should not be named among the people of God. These are the sins that God will judge the world for. He is not at this time judging the world for sin (2 Corinthians 5:19), but do not think that He will not. That is the opinion of the scoffers. They will learn the truth.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. … But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:3-4, 7)
We should also, however, consider that getting the unsaved to turn away from these things will not save them. They need to be reconciled to God by the blood of our Lord Jesus just as we were. But saints:
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, LET IT NOT BE ONCE NAMED AMONG YOU AS BECOMETH SAINTS; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:3-6)
It should not surprise us when the unsaved act unsaved. But the saved, “Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Up next we have another list. These are the works of the flesh. Since the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, let’s look at what the Lord again says through the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32)
Grace living is certainly wonderful! Grace turns a liar into a truth-teller and it gives us a time to give ourselves freedom to let go of our anger. It is freeing when we know that we do not have to hang onto our anger.
Grace turns the thief into a worker who works for the good of others, and it turns the one who uses words to tear others down into one that speaks words to build others up.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
Do you see how we have put off the old man and put on the new? Now look at the end of this passage. In Christ, we have the perfect answer for “race relations”. In Christ there is “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Outside of Christ, there is no answer. It is always the way of the world to pit “man against man”. But look at how Paul writes when describing his ministry, why he does what he does:
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)
In Christ our relationships with each other should be like the relationship between the fingers and the hand, the legs and the arms. It is a body, and we should relate to each other like we are. We will look more in the next passage at more of what that looks like. Until then, walk in love, and in grace toward one another.