The Mortification of the Flesh - Colossians 3:5-11

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In the first four verses of Colossians 3 Paul reminds us of who we are in Christ. If we have believed in Him through faith then we have died with Him and have been raised with Him to new life. And what Paul makes clear is that our new position (in Christ) should impact our lives in every way. 

In verses 1-4 we saw how life in Christ should impact our focus and our perspective. As we come to verse 5 Paul continues to emphasize how our position in Christ should impact the way we live, in particular it should lead us to kill any remnant of the old man that remains.

The Call to Mortify: Put to Death What is Earthly in You (3:5a)

  • The language that Paul uses is important: our call is not to avoid or walk away from sin; it’s a significant call action. If there are things in you that don’t please God, if there is sin that you are clinging to, the call is not to try and do better; the call is to put those things to death (Romans 6:1-4).
  • Jesus uses similar language when he describes the lengths we should go to in order to guard ourselves from sin – radical amputation (Matt. 5:29-30).

The Objects of Mortification: What Must Be Killed (3:5b, 8-9a)

  • There is no one who has completely killed sin and there is no sin that does not need killing. There is no sin so small that it can be allowed to remain; they must all be mortified. That being said, Paul does provide a two lists of particular sins that must be killed. These may be sins that he has recognized as particular problems for the church at Colossae.
  • List One – Sins of Desire (vv. 5b)
  • When God made us in His image He made us as sexual creatures. He gave us physical bodies and He created the sexual component within us. Sex and sexual desires are a gift from God, but we sin when we take His good gifts and misuse them. God gave us the capacity for desire, longing and passion but we twist them for our own evil uses. It’s the misuse of these gifts that must be put to death.
  • Sexual Immorality is the most specific item in the first list and it refers to any kind of sexual act outside of marriage. Impurity, passion and evil desire show that God is not only concerned with physical acts but with our hearts, minds and motives (Matthew 5:27-30).
  • While covetousness can manifest itself in many ways here Paul is describing how sexual lust and desire are forms of covetousness; we want something or someone that God has not given us. As we covet we tend to worship what we want, which is idolatry (Ephesians 5:3-11).
  • List Two – Sins of Division (vv. 8-9a)
  • Anger, Wrath and Maliceall work together to describe a heart that is filled with hatred and rage. Anger is that a deep, smoldering, resentful bitterness that we allow to build in our hearts. Wrath is a sudden outburst of anger (James 1:19–21; Ephesians 4:30–32).
  • Slander, Obscene Talk and Lies - When our hearts are ruled by anger, wrath and malice our words will generally be slanderous, obscene and full of lies (Luke 6:45). As those who are in Christ we must put to death all forms of sinful communication (Eph. 4:25-29).

The Reasons for Mortification: Why Sin Must Die (3:6-7, 9b-11)

  • Our Sin is the Reason for God’s Wrath (vs. 6)
  • In vs. 6 we are reminded of the seriousness of sin: God’s hates sin and it will not go unpunished. This is the storyline that runs throughout Scriptures: mankind has rebelled against a holy and just God who must punish sin (Romans 2:2–9).
  • God’s hates sin and He will pour out His wrath on sin. While those who believe are saved from His wrath through Christ we should desire to rid our lives of anything that even smells of the old man.
  • Our Sin is a Remnant of Our Former Way of Life (vv. 7, 9b-10) 
  • Our former way of life is described as the old man while the new life we have been given in Christ is described as the new man. The language Paul uses is that of taking off an old garment and putting on a new garment. We have taken off the old man and put on the new man.
  • When we continue to live in sin we are making light of the change God has made. As those who have been clothed in the new man we shouldn’t return to what has been put off (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Our Sin Ignores the Unity that Christ Died to Establish (vs. 11)
  • One of the beautiful things about the work of Christ is this: Not only does it bring us into right relationship with God, but it brings us into right relationship with one another (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 2:19-22).
  • In Christ we have been joined together, and yet we often sin against one another, ignoring and disrupting the unity that He died to establish.