This week we’re looking at the passage found in Colossians 3:1-17 which deals with Christians living a carnal life:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
What Does it Mean?
The passage opens with a conditional statement: “If you were raised with Christ”. Another translation of the Greek word translated here as “if” is “since”. Either way Paul is addressing those who were “raised with Christ”. Do not pull out these few verses and wag your finger at the world for being carnal. Paul is not admonishing them, he is admonishing us – for being carnal. Carnal does not refer only to sexual sins. Verse 5-8 list a variety of vices, including covetousness, which can mean being jealous of your neighbors new car as much as desiring his wife. Read that list again carefully. Even lying is considered being carnal.
“Raised with Christ” refers to the act of water baptism, where new believers dedicate their lives to Christ by being symbolically “buried” and “raised” in a public act. Baptism does not save, for it is possible to submit to the act as a show without having the proper attitude and commitment in your heart, but it is a point of obedience.
If or since we were raised with Christ we are to “put to death your members which are on the earth:” This does NOT mean we are to execute church members for carnal behavior, it means we are to quash your own earthly desires for fornication (sex outside of marriage), uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness (idolatry). He goes on to say we are to “put off” (cast aside) anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, and lies, “since you have put off the old man (human nature) … and put on the new man (modeled after Jesus Christ) who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him“.
He ends the paragraph with a statement saying that in Christ there is no nationality, no race, no social status but “Christ is all and in all”, meaning that we live to serve Christ (is all) and because He is “in all” there are no divisions among us.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to push aside the attitudes listed above and because of the struggle found yourself wondering why it is so hard to do? Have you thought: “If I am saved, these thoughts should not be coming against me”? Being saved does not drain off all these carnal desires, we will continue to deal with those temptations. But now we have a greater source of strength than our strength alone. For if we depend on our strength alone, we will most often fail.
Dr. David Jeremiah makes and excellent point in his book The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book, where he says:
The question then is, “How can I be righteous? Can I try harder?” Apparently, the apostle Paul attempted that approach. He decided to try harder, but he failed when he tried to be righteous in his own strength (Romans 7:15, 19). Someone might say, “Well, then should I just give it up to God?” But how does that work? How can we become righteous by just passively waiting for it to happen to us?
The answer does not lie in either of these strategies. Instead of trying to live better, we need to learn how to love better. We need to fall more deeply in love with God because that relationship will dictate our conduct. When we learn how to love the Lord through His Word and through prayer and fellowship and worship … when we practice the art of holiness … when we take time to be holy and love God with all our hearts … it will change our lives.
I know this works, because I’ve lived it. Long ago I met a young lady to whom I was very much attracted. At the time I had a heavy smoking habit. On our first real date we went out to dinner. After the meal I pulled out my pack of cigarettes and lit one up. The young lady wrinkled her nose and said, “Eww, you smoke?”
I stubbed out the cigarette and said, “Not any more.” and that was the last time I smoked. I’m not saying it was just that easy. It was, in fact, a terrible struggle but because I was in love with the young lady, that was more important to me than my body’s craving for the nicotine. I went through a LOT of carrot sticks, but I beat the habit because she was more important to me.
If I can have that kind of dedication for a mortal woman, shouldn’t I have even greater for Jesus?
Character of the New Man
Returning to our passage, Paul goes on to say, “Therefore (because we put off all those evil desires), as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies …” and he goes into that long list of desirable behaviors.
Stepping aside again for a moment, the word “holy” does not mean “super-religious” like some think. It means, “set apart for a specific purpose”. Acting religious does not make you holy. Being holy means you have separated yourself from worldly attitudes and are focusing on “things above”.
To conclude our lesson, Paul says, “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This is the key to the whole problem of living righteously. Fill your mind with the Word of God (Christ), absorb its wisdom, sing hymns of worship, and remember that we belong to Christ because of what God did for us through Him. The more we remind ourselves why we love Jesus the easier it will be to live a life dedicated to Jesus.