A. Put off the old man.
1. (Colossians 3:1-4) The basis for Paul’s practical instruction.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ WHO IS OUR LIFE appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
a. If ye then be risen with Christ: Paul here begins a section where he focuses on practical Christian living, with the clear understanding that practical Christian living is built on the foundation of theological truth. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things above.
1. The idea of being raised with Christ was introduced back in Colossians 2:12, where Paul used baptism to illustrate this Spiritual Reality. Now, seeing that we are raised with Christ, certain behavior is appropriate to us.
• “The opening verses of chapter 3 sustain the closest connection with the closing verses of chapter 2. There, the Apostle reminds the Colossians that strict self-discipline is of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the Believers’ experience of UNION with Christ.” (Vaughan)
• Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was RESURRECTED:
1. After His Resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we — we don’t live there anymore.
2. After His Resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His Disciples. So should we — live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
3. After His Resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we — with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
4. After His Resurrection, Jesus looked forward to Heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we — recognizing that our Citizenship is in Heaven.
To emphasize it even more, Paul added the phrase, sitting at the Right Hand of God: “This phrase, particularly in its allusion to Psalm 110, focuses attention on the Sovereign Rule which Christ now exercises. The command to aspire to the things of Heaven is a command to meditate and dwell upon Christ’s sort of life, and on the fact that he is now enthroned as the Lord of the world.” (Wright)
b. Set your mind on things above: The best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on Heaven. They realize that their lives are now hidden with Christ in God, and since Jesus is enthroned in Heaven, their thoughts and hearts are connected to Heaven also.
1. “The Believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion… In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” (Morgan)
2. “Love Heavenly things; Study them; let your hearts be entirely Engrossed by them. Now, that you are converted to God, act in reference to Heavenly things as ye did formerly in reference to those of earth.” (Clarke)
3. “‘All earthly things’ are not evil, but some of them are. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” (Vaughan)
c. When Christ who is our glory appears, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. The promise of the return of Jesus is not only that we will see His Glory, but so that we also will appear with Him in Glory. This is the revealing of the Sons of God mentioned in Romans 8:19, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
d. Christ who is our life: In another place, Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”). Here he shows that this idea was not just for special Apostles, but for all Believers — Christ who is our life. Sometimes we say, “Music is his life” or “Sports is his life” or “He lives for his work.” Of the Christian it should be said, “Jesus Christ is his life.”
In that day, all will see the Saints of God for what they really are: not as they merely appear to this world. “Paul, the prisoner, an eccentric Jew to the Romans and a worse-than-Gentile traitor to the Jews, will be seen as Paul the Apostle, the Servant of the King. The Colossians, insignificant ex-pagans from a third-rate country town, will be seen in a Glory which, if it were now to appear, one might be tempted worship.” (Wright)
2. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” – Colossians 3:5-7. Put to Death the things that are against God and part of this world.
a. Therefore put to death your members: Therefore points back to our identification with the risen and enthroned Lord Jesus mentioned in Colossians 3:1-4. It is because we understand this fact that we can put to death the things in our life that are contrary to our identity with Jesus.
b. “The verb Necrosate, meaning literally ‘to make dead,’ is very strong. It suggests that we are not simply to suppress or control evil acts and attitudes. We are to wipe them out, completely exterminate the old way of life.” (Vaughan)
c. We put to death in the sense of denying these things and considering them dead to us and us dead to them. To “gratify” any sensual appetite is to give it the very food and nourishment by which it lives, thrives, and is active.” (Clarke)
d. There is importance in listing and in naming these sins as Paul does in this section. “It is far easier to drift into a sin which one does not know by name than consciously to choose one whose very title should be repugnant to a Christian.” (Wright)
3. Fornication, uncleanness, passion, and evil desire: Each of these terms refers to sexual sins. Covetousness is simple, but greed and nothing less than idolatry. There is no way that Jesus would walk in any of these sins, so if we identify with Him, we won’t walk in them either.
a. Fornication: “The word here translated sexual immorality refers to any intercourse outside marriage; in the ancient world, as in the modern, intercourse with a prostitute would be a specific, and in a pagan culture a frequent, instance of this.” (Wright)
b. Uncleanness: “A wider range of meaning than fornication. It includes the misuse of sex but is applicable to various forms of moral evil.” (Bruce)
Morgan lists three ways that covetousness is terribly destructive:
1. “First, it is idolatry, in that it only obtains when man thinks of life consisting in things possessed, rather than in Righteous Relationship to God.”
2. Secondly, “It is also a sin against others, for to satisfy the desire, others are wronged.
3. “Finally, it is self-destructive, for these wrong conceptions and activities always react upon the Soul to its own undoing.
Morgan added: “And yet, what ecclesiastical court ever yet arraigned a Church-member for covetousness?”
“Every godly man seeks his happiness in God; the covetous man seeks that in his money which God alone can give; therefore his covetousness is properly “idolatry”. (Clarke)
“Because of these things”: The sins mentioned previously are part of the way the world lives and not the way Jesus lives. Every Christian is faced with a question: “Who will I identify with, the world or with Jesus?”
c. The wrath of God is coming upon the children of disobedience: These sins invite the wrath of God. Because the world loves this kind of sinful lifestyle, they don’t come in humility to Jesus. As they continue in these sins, it adds to their condemnation. One sin is enough to send anyone to hell (James 2:10), but there are greater levels of condemnation: (Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” Matthew 23:14).
In part, the wrath of God comes as God allows men to continue in sinful — and therefore self-destructive — behavior (as in Romans 1:24-32, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves:25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
d. In which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them: These sins may mark a world in rebellion against God, but they are in the past tense for the Christian.
Simply put, the Christian should not live like the sons of disobedience. A true Christian cannot be comfortable in habitual sin.