Thursday, August 21, 2008

Colossians 3:5-8

5Put to death, 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. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices...

Paul issues a challenging command in v5: Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature. The Puritan, Richard Baxter, said, “Kill sin before it kills you.” Don’t be passive in your Christian life. The idea for Paul in transitioning from v1-4 to v5-11 is that the hope of Christ’s return, and the revealing of fullness of new life in glory, leads believers to put to death earthliness (the world and the flesh). Paul explains what that looks like. He lists 5 vices in v5, four dealing with sexual sin and one with coveting. The four sexual sins listed touch every aspect of our humanity – our behavior (sexual immorality), our mind (impurity), and our will (lust and evil desires). And greed, or covetousness, is idolatry, because covetousness is worshiping your own will. We should “want” or “covet” God Himself and His kingdom. John Piper’s ministry is called “Desiring God” for this very reason. “Wanting” or “coveting” or “begin greedy for” anything else proves our idolatry. Paul categorizes these vices as immorality and idolatry, and it is because of these things that the wrath of God is coming and has come (v6). Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness (idolatry) and wickedness (immorality) of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” We looked closely at that passage when we studied Romans.

Consider how you used to live. Compare v7 to Ephesians 2:2, 4:22 and Romans 6:17-19. Vincent Cheung says, “It is necessary to acknowledge the extreme filth and baseness of a non-Christian’s condition in order to honor the greatness of God’s grace in saving us from it. To beautify the non-Christian’s condition is also to insult God’s grace and devalue Christ’s sacrifice. Because of the evil qualities and actions of non-Christians, ‘the wrath of God is coming’ (v6).” Really, if we consider this chapter as a whole, we’ll find that Paul gives instructions on the Christian’s relationship with God in v1-8, with other believers in v9-17, with our family in v18-21, and with those in our work environment in v22-4:1.

In v8, Paul lists 5 more vices, all easily categorized as anger meted out in abusive speech. He doesn’t just say, “Rid yourselves of sin,” but he gets specific. Anger refers to a burning hatred for other people. Rage in this context refers to those outbursts of passion, that ungodly wrath that we have for others. Malice refers to ill-will towards one’s neighbor. Slander refers to railing or defaming another’s character, and abusive speech refers to those destructive words that we use to tear people down. Paul says people who are captured by sin are people who are internally conflicted. A person characterized by ungodliness and by the grip of Satan on them is filled with anger, bitter inside, and it exits their heart through the mouth, in their speech, in general and in abusive speech toward others. Paul says that we used to be that way, but now, as new creations, we are to rid ourselves of that behavior, including lying (v9) (deception in general). So to conclude v5-9, we could say that contentment and right speech are important signs of a spiritual maturing believer in Christ.

Comparing this message of Paul to the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus, we find that they teach the same way. In Matthew 5:21-32, Jesus’ primary concerns are sins of anger, including verbal abuse, and sexual immorality. Thus we see that Paul and Jesus are united in their understanding of man’s greatest problems. And their solutions are the same: we do not tackle the disobedience, as it is a mere symptom of the problem, which, of course, is the condition of the interior of mankind. The heart and mind must be changed. Once godly character is established, the behavior flows out of that. A good tree produces good fruit; a bad tree produces bad fruit; out of a man’s heart wicked things come (Matthew 12:33; Mark 7:20-22; Luke 6:45).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this Chip. I found it through Google and I was blessed by it.