Putting to Death the Dead

October 9th, 2019

Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. When you lived among them, you also used to walk in these ways. But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (Colossians 3:5-8 BSB)

Once the principle of the crucified and risen life has been accepted, that we identify with Christ in His death on Calvary and with His resurrection, we must then apply it in our lives. We must take the bits and pieces of our fallen nature, and one by one, put them to death. 

The Principle of the Christ Life

A “principle” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as a “proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief.” The Principle of the Christ Life in the believer is that we died with Christ on Calvary and that we are risen with Him in a new life. This is taught in several places in scripture, none clearer than in Romans:

“We therefore were buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection” (Rom. 6:4-5).

But a principle must have legs to walk and hands to touch, and it must be empowered by a will to act. 

For example, we may teach the principle of the chemical reaction between different kinds of soaps and dirty things, how the soap bonds with the particles of dirt in the process of washing. We may explain these things in the utmost chemical detail, and even draft concrete plans on the best way to wash any and every thing. Yet nothing will get clean until someone uses his hands and soap and water and begins to wash it. 

Putting the Principle to Work

So Paul in these verses quoted above turns now to the instructions of how to put the Principle of the Christ Life to work in our lives. And, like washing, it can be tedious and filled with many details. There are specific sins, weaknesses of the flesh, bad habits, wrong attitudes, that must be dealt with. One cannot wash dishes in principle only. He has to get his hands wet and get involved in scrubbing and rinsing and drying and putting them away. And one cannot live the Christ Life in principle only. He must deal with individual and specific problems.

To die to sin cannot be merely done in principle. You must choose to put to death “the components of your earthly nature.” The words “put to death” or “mortify” (KJV), mean to consider dead, to “cut off” or “sever” this thing from all that energizes it. It carries a similar power to the word of Christ: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matt. 5:29).  The application means to inventory our souls, our thoughts, our habits, and to deprive the works of the flesh of any help that sustains them. 

A point worth mentioning is how Paul links them all together as “components of your earthly nature” and that they invite the “wrath of God.” The various sins he mentioned are: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5) and “anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (3:8) and lying (3:9). There are, of course, more sins than only these, and it seems logical to assume that these were the more known sins among the Colossians. And it is clear that these sins, wherever they are found on earth, tend to “hang together,” being evidenced in the same fallen lives. 

No matter what sins exist, they may all be traced back to the fallen nature of mankind. Sin by its nature is a perversion of good. Sin and evil must feed off of good. One can have good without evil, but evil cannot exist without good. 

Going to work on your life

We cannot die to sin in the abstract. We cannot mortify the components of our earthly natures in theory only. We must take the sins and the problems and the sinful tendencies and habits that we have — that I have and that you have — and deal with these. We can confess our “sins” to God and in this context “sins” means the individual wrongful acts that we do and the unholy thoughts that we think. 1 John 1:9 promises us that “if we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” 

Sin as a principle or sin in the singular, refers to the sinful nature, to sin in us, with which we were born with as descendants of Adam, “through one man sin entered the world” (Romans 5:12). Jesus said that everyone who commits sin “is a slave to sin” (John 8:34, see Rom. 6:20).  In Romans Paul wrote that “Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin” (Rom. 3:9). And when I (or you) commit sin, “it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom. 7:17).   

The forgiveness we receive in Christ is for our “sins” (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 13:38). “Christ died for our sins, according to scripture” (1 Cor. 15:3). And the lost are judged not for their sin but “each one was judged according to his deeds” (Rev. 20:13), or according to his sins. We commit sins because of the presence of sin in our lives. Christ’s work on Calvary was not only to pay for our sins but to also demonstrate a principle whereby sin may be defeated in our lives. He has put sin to death in the cross, and sin in us has has been cut off from its source of power. 

In the working out of this principle we must apply this to each sinful weakness. We must take these individual weaknesses and sinful tendencies and “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). If you have an anger problem, then anger in your heart and in your habits of speech and action must be put to death. If you have a sexual lust problem, then sexual lust must be put to death. If you have a gossip problem, or a problem with greed, or with lying, you must put that to death. The “life” of all sin (which is actually a principle of death) has been cut off in your life, Christian, in your salvation. But the habits remain, and the old sinful nature is still there within you. Now you must bury what is already dead.

Living in the Spirit

The Christian life is much more than dying to sin. It is also and especially living in the Spirit. As Paul will go on to explain in Colossians, the act of receiving must follow the act of dying to sin and self. Christ died and rose again. We now are to live in the Spirit. 

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:5-7) 

We will speak more about this in the days ahead, but we cannot effectively enjoy the new life in Christ until we have confessed our sins, and put them to death. 

Questions:

  1. Of these sins mentioned in Colossians 3:5-9, which do you have the bigger problems with. Rank them according to what is your weakest areas if your life.
  2. What can you do to avoid getting caught in those sins? What actions can you take to bring freedom to your own heart?
  3. What other sinful weaknesses do you have in your life that are not mentioned here? 
  4. When did you first learn about these sins? The bad examples of your parents? Or the bad influence of other relatives or friends? 
  5. Renouncing sinful ways is an important step for a Christian. Paul wrote: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not practice deceit, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by open proclamation of the truth, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). Have you renounced sinful ways? 

    

Colossians

Living in the New Reality

October 7th, 2019

Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for 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 now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 BSB)

Paul explained the Christian life in three tenses: the past, the present, and the future. Though life can only be lived in the present, it is lived with an awareness of yesterday and of tomorrow.

Who Jesus of Nazareth Is

An important part of biblical theology is often ignored, or not considered at all by some today as truly important. But if we will be biblical, and logical, then we will realize that this is an essential matter to understand and to keep in mind in all things related to our salvation, and that is who Jesus is. 

Both Paul and the author of Hebrews (whom many suspect was Apollos, Acts 18:24-28), first laid the foundation of the divinity of Jesus Christ, of His credentials to be the Savior of the world, before they dealt with the effect of His sacrifice. Jesus was not just a man who decided on his own to die for the sins of the world. No mere man can do that for others and, thereby, his act would be considered as effective for us to believe in for our salvation. God Himself must send the Redeemer.

In Hebrews the credentials of Christ are dealt with in chapter 7. He stated that Jesus was different from all the priests who came before Him.

Now there have been many other priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office. But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:23-26)

This is an essential factor to understand, that Jesus was sent by God into the world to die for our sins. And because He is eternal, His death has eternal results, “since He always lives to intercede.”

Yesterday we died with Christ

Because of who Jesus was and is, His death on the cross was not just another event in history. It was the unique work of God to deal with sin. One of the most central messages that is repeatedly demonstrated and taught in Scripture is that only through the shedding of blood is sin dealt with (Heb. 9:22). In the earliest days of recorded human worship, the offering of a slain animal for forgiveness was central. And in the Mosaic Covenant, the sacrificing of animals declared clean was commanded with clarity. 

John the Baptist called Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He was referring to Isaiah’s prophecy who wrote that the coming Messiah would be the sacrificial lamb sent by God to die for our sins.   

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 5:5-6)

The use of the past tense by Isaiah, though he prophesied hundreds of years before Jesus died, was used to show the certainty of the prophecy’s fulfilment.   

The author of Hebrews explained that Jesus’ death was the real sacrifice of God for our sins, and that all the others that had been previously given were merely symbolic of His.  “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).

You and I, believer, died with Christ, our old life that is. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Something happened in the past that has an impact on our today, that in the death of Christ for our sins, and through our faith in Him, we died with Him. There was an end to our old self, to the sinful life, to the life filled with selfish ambition and jealousies, to the life of pride and anger, but also to the life of shame and moral defeat, of discouragement and hopelessness. All of those things associated with the old sinful self died with Christ.

Today we live in Christ

The body of Christ did not remain in the ground, but “death could not hold Him” (Acts 2:24), and He rose from the grave. Christ died for us but He never claimed to be “death” itself. Instead He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). We “have been raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1), and we have a new life in Him, in the reality of His life. 

We will get to the future in just a second, but we can see at this point a faulty thinking of many weak Christians. They only think that Christ came so we can go to heaven when we die. While that was one of the aspects of His coming and of our salvation, it is not the main thing that the Bible speaks of. Christ came “to destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Christ came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10b). Christ came to save us from our sins — and that means not just to rescue us from a fallen world and deliver us into a perfect heaven, but it means to deliver our souls and our spirits from spiritual death, and to make us alive inwardly. 

Christ is our life!

The same power that brought Jesus out of the tomb, that brought life and immortality to His body, is at work in our lives today. Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3), and now it can be said, “Christ, who is your life” (Col. 3:4). “”Hidden” is a strong word that describes a mysterious union with God in Christ. I believe the word is meant to convey three thoughts: a new spiritual reality, eternal security, and a spiritual mystery. 

There is something parental on the part of God in these words, and we like children who do not understand all of the  realities of what it means to belong to a family, can simply accept the truth and live out its reality in our lives. We see childlike faith leading to childlike assurance and a childlike sense of family identity and loyalty. Because I am part of God’s family, then I should be comforted, assured, and live as the Father would have me live. But there is more than an “ought to” here — there is also simple identity. This is who I am!

The future with Christ

For the Christian, life just keeps getting better, or it should. For the believer, the best is always yet to come. Sometimes when life is hard, we wistfully think of heaven — there it will be good, peaceful, and perfect. All of this is appropriate, for the Lord gives us many such examples in scripture of death bringing peace to the believer.

But we do have the privilege of experiencing a taste of heaven today. We know the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. We have Him living in us, and we can say, as Paul did, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). To think of heaven is not an exercise in escapism, but rather it is the anticipation of all that God has promised us in our redemption. There our inner transformation will be completed (1 Thes. 5:24), and we shall see Christ as He truly is (1John 3:2).

Questions:

  1. What aspects of your old nature seem to try and exert themselves in your daily life? Pride? Lust? Guilt? Shame?
  2. Selfish ambition and envy are a deadly duo in our lives (James 3:16). Do these show up in your heart? 
  3. “Hidden with Christ in God” — what do these words mean to you? How does this thought give you hope and assurance today?
  4. “Christ, who is your life” — is Christ your life today? Can you say truthfully, “For to me to live is Christ”? 
  5. Are you more likely to think of heaven as a perfect place, where you see old earthly loved ones, or as the home of God, where you will see your Redeemer, and where you will be fully transformed into His image?

  

Colossians