Put To Death Your Members Here On The Earth (series: Lessons on Colossians)
by John Lowe
“Our first need in life is to learn about sin.
Lesson: VB1 - Put To Death Your Members Here On The Earth (Col. 3:5-7)
Scripture: Colossians 3:5-7 (NIV)
(5) Put to death You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (6) Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (7) You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
In his book God’s Words, J.I. Packer writes, “Our first need in life is to learn about sin . . . . If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself or your fellow men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible.” He is right. Understanding sin is crucial in starting the Christian life and in continuing the Christian life.
God describes sin with words like disobedience, lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness, trespass, transgression, and rebellion. The truth about sin is not only repulsive, but it is also personal. Sin is not other people’s problem. It is ours. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). The problem is that people typically use their bodies to serve sin (Rom 6:19). We think, “It’s my body, and I’ll do as I want to.” It is an earthly man-centered mindset, rather than an eternal, God-centered one. So, let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say about sin in the three verses of this passage.
(3:5) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
In this verse, Paul points out certain sins which were prevalent in the heathendom, and which the Colossians had practiced during their sinful days; but now, since they are made alive in Christ, these sins must be abandoned entirely.
The first phrase in this verse is “put to death” This refers to a constant effort to slay the remaining sin in our flesh. (See Zech. 4:6; Eph. 5:18, 6:17; 1 John 2:14)..What Paul is saying is, “Put to death every part of yourself which is against God and keeps you from fulfilling His will.” Let’s put this in more modern language, as C. F. D. Moule expresses it. The Christian must kill self-centeredness and regard as dead all private desires and ambitions. There must be in his life a radical transformation of his will. Everything which would keep him from fully obeying God and fully surrendering to Christ must be surgically excised.
Then the word “therefore” follows, which points back to verses 1 through 4. In other words, Paul is saying, “Because you are raised with Christ, because you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God, and because, when Christ who is our God does appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory,” all former sinful practices must be abandoned.
It stands to reason that if you have died with Christ . . . if the heart the seat of life is dead, all the members once kept alive by the heart and moved in lustful living should die also. They should die, killed by a lack of nourishment and exercise. Born again ones must not exercise these members in former practices of life. They must be rendered useless and paralyzed by refusing to feed and exercise them.
Paul would not be a popular minister today, because he believed in naming sin; and in this verse he names several forms of sensuality: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry also called covetousness. You will find practically the same words in Ephesians 5:3, 2 Corinthians 12:21, and Galatians 5:19.
Notice that the Apostle lists a group of five sensual vices, ending the list, oddly enough is “covetousness,” which he defines as “idolatry.” It can be called idolatry because the self-seeker makes riches his god also prestige, power or fame, and this is just as much idolatry as bowing down before sticks and stones. The Greek word here means “ruthless and aggressive self-seeking,” literally the passion to “have more.” If Paul puts the sins of the flesh in the forefront as he does here, we must always remember that he was addressing people who had come straight out of a life where sins of the flesh were rampant. Such sins, he adds (3:6) incur God’s wrath His constant invariable reaction against sin.. See Romans 1:18-32, where Paul describes, very powerfully, the divine retribution which has come upon the pagan world for its sins. Nowadays many people take offense at the very suggestion that God shows wrath. Yet it is basic to Paul’s theology, and, in fact, to any theology which conceives of God as holy love. It represents a holy God’s inevitable reaction to evil in every shape and form. It is not, as anger so often is with us, the emotional reaction of an irritated self-concern. We conceive it best if we imagine the horror a good man feels in the presence of stark evil and then multiply by infinity.
Lewdness and lust were and sometimes still are used in worship. Such a practice constitutes pagan worship, regardless of whether it is carried on in remote jungle areas or in the big cities of America. There is an abundance of the practice of lust in the name of religion, and the original language in this Scripture suggests the state of mind that urges or excites one to practice lewdness and impurity.
What Paul is saying to the believers is simply this: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
Verse 5 closes with “. . . and greed, which is idolatry.” We do not need to travel to the jungles of South America or Africa to find idolatry⸻there is much of it right here in America. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The desire on the part of an individual to have more and more is idolatry. What one craves, he worships; and to such a god there is given the first thought of the morning, the last wish of the evening, and the action of every waking hour. When one’s mind is completely occupied in gaining “things,” that person is guilty of gross idolatry. The admonition of Jesus to His child is, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). My friend, if we let things crowd Him out of our thinking, and out of our living, then our God is whatever occupies our mind and claims our utmost attention. If you spend your hours desiring, scheming, planning and working to acquire more and more material possessions, if your appetite for things is never satisfied, then dear friend, according to the Word of God, you are practicing idolatry . . . you are worshipping an idol.
(3:6) Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
This is a definite warning that those who practice such sins as are named in the preceding verse can expect the wrath of God poured out upon them. Study carefully Romans 1:18 and the following. They who practice such vice and sin not only disobey the divine commandments of God⸻they also violate the laws of health and the natural laws of the body, thereby bringing upon themselves disease, physical handicaps, and finally⸻death. Those who sow to the flesh reap corruption; but those who sow to the Spirit reap life everlasting.
“The wages of sin is death.” When lust has conceived it brings forth sin and when sin is full-grown it brings forth death. Sin has always paid significant wages, and always will. No man has ever gotten away with disobeying the laws of God and practicing the lust of the flesh. Such habits of life bring the wrath of God upon anyone who indulges in those sinful things named in verse 5⸻ sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. On all such things, the wrath of God must fall. The wrath of God is simply the rule of the universe that a man will sow what he reaps and that no one ever escapes the consequences of his sin. The wrath of God and the moral order of the universe are one and the same thing.
(3:7) You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
Before the Colossians was created new in Christ Jesus, before they were raised with Christ, they walked in these same lusts⸻but Paul reminds them that that period is now over. The old life was buried with Christ, a new life has dawned, and their walk is now in a new sphere⸻one in which, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, they are to copy the walk of the Lord Jesus and seek to please Him in their daily life. They once followed the lust of the flesh and lived in these sins, but now these things are behind them. They live a new life because they have been created new in Christ Jesus.
As unbelievers they enjoyed such indulgences; they received gratification by practicing lusts of the flesh. They were addicted to such habits and because of the satisfaction of the flesh they believed that these things bring life and happiness. But now they are no longer in the flesh but in the spirit because of the miracle of being raised with Christ (Romans 8:9; Col 3:1).
Some church members cannot live right, and cannot stay right, because they have never been created right. They have never had a change of heart; they have never been born again. There is a vast difference between joining a church or undergoing the rite of baptism, and being born of the Spirit. When one is born of the Spirit, the Spirit leads him into paths of righteousness for Christ’s sake.