Yesterday we talked about our need to humble ourselves. If you have come to faith in Christ, we are to set our minds on Him: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4)
When we keep our minds on the Lord and His Word, then we think less about ourselves, making it easier to let go of who we were before Christ. “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.” (Col 3:5-7)
Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9), yet believers are to also seek to live holy lives before Christ. Paul is instructing us not to let our body do whatever it wants. Rather, we are to live by Christ’s desires for our lives. In particular, Paul calls out five specific sins which Christians are to “put to death” in their physical bodies.
- Believers are to abstain from sexual immorality, which can include premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, or deviant sexuality such as bestiality.
- Paul speaks against impurity, or spiritual uncleanness. Again, this general sin can refer to many things, such as evil thoughts or actions.
- Paul mentions lust, which are inappropriate cravings which distract us from the things above, and lead us to commit the sins of immorality and impurity.
- Paul speaks against “evil desire”, which likely includes wanting things which are wrong, whether sexual desires or material things.
- Paul refers to “covetousness, which is idolatry”. Jealousy over what others have as a form of idol worship.
Believers are not to be known for living the same lifestyle as they did before believing in Christ. Salvation is by faith, yet the Christian life is a changed life. Complementing his five-part list in verse 5, Paul now adds five more areas of spiritual failure. “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” (Col 3:8)
- Paul speaks against outbursts of uncontrolled anger, which are not meant to be found in the life of a Christian. Anger (an emotion) in and of itself is not always wrong, but it can lead to much sin (Eph 4:26). Human anger tends to pop up over issues which are not worth that emotion.
- Next Paul addresses wrath, which is an action. In this context, wrath suggests the idea of revenge, and is sometimes translated as “rage.” In Romans 12:19, Paul taught that believers ought to leave wrath to God and not seek revenge on our own terms.
- Paul condemns malice, which includes the idea of desiring to harm another person. Paul has already condemned the emotion of unrighteous anger. He has done the same with wrath, which is the act of revenge. “Malice” is a broader term, referring to a general desire to see another person suffer or be harmed. We should not hope for harm to befall others.
- Paul speaks against slander, which Biblically is putting down other people or speaking evil against others. This can include insults, lies, harsh speech, or even gossip.
- Next Paul prohibits obscene talk. Speech which is vulgar, or intended to be offensive, is not to be associated with the life of a believer.
Paul now speaks in detail against Christians lying to one another. Rather than being petty or deceptive, believers are to treat one another well, speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Those who put a trusting faith in Christ are new people who have died to sin and have become alive in Christ. The goal is then to live a Christ-like life. Lying to one another is inconsistent with this new life. “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” (Col 3:9-10)
In contrast with the old self, the believer is a new creation and should therefore live differently. Paul adds that the new self is constantly refreshed through knowledge of the one who created it: Christ. Knowledge which comes from Christ is noted throughout Colossians as an important part of the Christian life (Col 1:9-10; Col 2:2-3). Just as Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), believers are being remade into the likeness of Jesus. The believer is a new person increasingly designed to grow more like Christ, the one who created us.
Next, Paul shows who we are in our new life Christ is creating in us. “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” (Col 3:12-13)
- The first positive practice Paul gives is a compassionate heart. This is a response to God, and to others, which is filled with love and concern rather than selfishness.
- Second, Paul mentions kindness. This Greek word is chrēstotēta, which can also be translated as “moral goodness or integrity.” The term refers to how a person treats others.
- Believers are to live in humility, a trait valued by God throughout Scripture (James 4:6). The gospel requires people to admit they are sinners in need of a Savior. As believers, we should recognize God’s supremacy in our lives and how limited we are in comparison. Humility is also important so that we don’t act arrogantly or unfairly towards other people.
- Next Paul mentions meekness, which is not an attitude of fear, or the suggestion that Christians ought to be timid. Rather, it refers to gentleness, instead of a hard-hearted response to others. A “meek” person is one who controls their strength and power, rather than abusing it.
- As believers we are to be patient with others. This and the other traits in this verse closely reflect the list describing the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22–23.
Those who accept Christ for salvation have been forgiven of their sins; as a result, we ought to be inclined to “bear with one another” and forgive other people (Matt 6:14-15; Eph 4:32). The Lord forgave all our sins. Believers are to likewise forgive one another without holding a grudge or bringing the matter up again in order to hurt the other person.
It’s not easy and I personally struggle with it daily. It takes a great deal of humility, and sometimes even distance from certain people as their responses can trigger old responses in us. Most importantly we are to pray without ceasing, never giving up hope. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)