A Death Sentence You Can Live With

Posted: June 2, 2008 in Colossians

Paul has a habit of dividing his letters into the doctrinal & the practical – and Colossians is no exception. In Ch 1-2, he described the preeminence of Christ Jesus as Redeemer – as Creator God – as Reconciler… We need nothing else BUT Him…in Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom & knowledge, so we don’t want to get cheated out of that by empty deceit/vain philosophy…nor legalism…nor false spirituality/ascetism. We cannot ADD to Christ; we are complete in Him!

Since we are complete, does that mean we do nothing? We just sit around & enjoy our salvation while indulging in all the temptations the world has to offer? After all, we can simply claim, “Once saved – always saved! I prayed a prayer, what more do you want?!” Perish the thought! Christ Jesus didn’t merely save us from death so that we could continue to engage in dead practices (the stuff that killed us); He saved us so that could live with & in Him!

This is what Paul is looking at today & it’s vitally important for the Colossian church (and us!). Remember the Colossians had been dealing with all sorts of heresy (Judaism & Gnosticism), and now that Paul has emphasized the need to keep their eyes on Christ, he now needs to make them aware of practices that could either help or hurt them in this.

Colossians 3:1-11 (NKJV)
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

A. If” = “since”… As a believer in Christ Jesus, you HAVE been raised with Christ Jesus. This is not a work you perform; it’s a work He does in you upon your salvation. Note the past tense (aorist in Gk)…this has already taken place. In Christ, you ARE a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) because spiritually you died & rose again with Christ… (“If” is still appropriate b/c the only reason it’s “if = since” is IF you are a believer!) How were we “raised with Christ”? Through baptism into Christ, represented by physical baptism…

B. So what? This is great theological truth; what do we do with it? Then “seek those things which are above… Don’t waste your time seeking after the things that are earthly; seek after the things that are in heaven. Too many Christians spend WAY too much time scurrying after stuff that’s going to burn… Matthew 6:19-20 (19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. []

a. ‘Ok, great. I’ve done that – I belong to Jesus.’ PTL! Then Paul would now tell us, “Good, then act like it. Realize that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him because He IS the treasure & we need to seek after Him.”

b. Keep in mind Paul is not talking about ascetism – he’s not instructing us to swear off careers & go move to a monestary somewhere. (He just got done calling that kind of stuff “false humility” – Col 2:23). This is a call to keep our priorities straight. The world offers all sorts of cheap substitutes for what the Lord intends…there’s nothing inherently wrong with jobs, pleasure, etc. – the problem arises when we substitute these things for God. We are risen with Christ! What will be our priorities in Heaven? Then why wait till then to seek after those things? Do it now…

2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

A. Welcome to the department of redundancy department. J Paul’s repeating himself for good reason – we have a tough time with this! It’s incredibly easy to get into a daily rut & stop seeking the Lord without realizing it… [lack of prayer; lack of the Bible] All of a sudden we find ourselves falling into sin because we’ve been seeking the things of the earth & not of heaven…

B. Don’t just do it once – keep on doing it! Greek implies continual action here. This is a complete mindset change…

a. So is this being (per DL Moody) “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good?” No. With respect to Moody, we cannot be any earthly good until we realize that our home is there; not here. When we have heaven before our eyes, we realize that not everyone is going there – thus we’re going to be motivated to do what God has called us to in the Great Commission.

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

A. Did you know you were dead? [] This is foundational to the gospel – discipleship 101 is: die. Luke 9:23-24 (23) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. [] People didn’t pick up their cross with the idea of taking it with them on a picnic…they took it knowing they were about to be killed on it! This is the life that Jesus has saved us for: that our ‘self’ would daily be crucified in order that He could live through us.

a. Note the past tense again (“died”). Positionally, this has already happened! Practically, it needs to keep happening day-by-day. IOW, our physical lives should daily reflect the spiritual reality of our being dead to the world & risen in Christ.

B. What occurred when we died? Our life is now “hidden with Christ in God Like a treasure that’s hidden away in a safebox, so are we hidden away with Christ in God. The devil can do a lot of things to us: tempt us – lie to us – try to kill us – but he cannot snatch us out of the hand of God! (John 10:28) He can snatch away the Word of God from a non-believer (Matt 13:19), but he cannot take us away from our Savior & Redeemer!

a. What does this say on the ongoing debate regarding eternal security? Contextually, not much. We have a tendency sometimes to read the Bible specifically to find prooftexts for the positions we like & against the positions we don’t…the problem is that we end up missing the meaning of the verse to begin with! (“A prooftext without a context is a pretext.”) Contextually, Paul’s saying we ARE with Christ, so we should set our minds to the things where He is because we’re there too!

4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

A. Jesus Christ IS OUR LIFE. Don’t miss this! Paul just got done telling us we are dead – but we’re not left dead. Jesus wasn’t left in the tomb to rot there; neither are we left dead to decompose in our sins pining away until Jesus comes back; we live in Him – He is our life.

a. He’s not “part” of our life or “in” our life; Jesus IS our life. (Gk = “the life of us”) This is radically different than what we sometimes are led to believe. [compartmentalize our lives – Jesus over in the corner] Christianity simply doesn’t work that way. You were completely DEAD in your sins – you died with Christ – He gave you new life by redeeming you from the grave – you’ve been bought with a price & are not your own…we simply don’t have any existence without Him!

b. Are you living like Christ is “in” your life, or are you living like Christ IS your life?

B. What do we know about Jesus’ basic activities? He lived, He died, He rose, He ascended…and He’s coming back! …. [] When HE appears, we’ll appear too (the rapture).

a. Put it all together so far. Our life is hidden with Christ & Christ is in heaven. He’ll appear, and we’ll appear with Him in the sky. He IS our life & He lives at the right hand of God. Since this is the case, why would we ever value anything that’s here on EARTH? Our whole life, being, and future is in Heaven! THAT’s where we should set our minds…(vs. 1-2)

b. How do we do this? See vs. 5…

5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

A. How can we put something to death if we’ve already died? Paul’s talking about two separate things here. WE died with Christ & rose again with Him (demonstrated through baptism); but although we are spiritually born-again new creations, we still live in this fallen body with its sinful habits & weaknesses. The remaining stuff is what we put to death. Romans 6:11-12 (11) Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. []

a. “reckon” = accounting term. We have to intentionally do this in our mind. If we simply wade into temptation headlong & blind, what do you think is going to happen? We need to count ourselves as dead to sin & alive in Christ…

B. What do we put to death? These various members (NOT talking about church membership rolls!) J …referring to different sins that take place in the various members of our body – they act like an extension of our body. To the Gnostics, it didn’t matter what you did with your body (it was evil anyway), so as long as your mind was specially prepared, you were ok to engage in whatever lusts you wanted. Paul says, “Uh-uh! What you do with your body has a direct impact on your mind & your relationship with Christ! So kill off those evil desires of the flesh.”

a. Fornication: πορνεία (pornography, etc) – talking about sexual sin of any kind. God lovingly limits sex to husband & wife – and ANY sexual act outside of that falls into the category of “fornication.” This ranges from homosexuality to someone “sowing their oats”…

b. Uncleanness: Talking about sexual impurity. People often try to make excuses saying “I didn’t actually go to bed with anyone” – but sin isn’t limited to a motel bed.

c. Passion: Not talking about good passions (husbands SHOULD be passionate for their wives) – the word is specifically used of depraved passions & lustfulness.

d. Evil desire: A general longing to be around or engage in lustful living.

e. Covetousness: Most of us understand what covetousness is…relates to the 10th Commandment. Contextually, Paul’s referring to sexual covetousness (which the 10th Commandment specifically outlines as well)… [] Paul takes things a step further, however, and shows us that covetousness is really the same thing as idolatry…

f. Note that Paul’s list is progressive. Idolatry/Covetousness leads to evil desires…leads to lustful passions…leads to physical uncleanness…leads to actual sexual fornication…

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.

A. ‘But these are just little sins…it’s no big deal. It’s not like we’re talking about murder or something like that.’ Wrong. This IS a big deal…so much so that this is the reason the “wrath of God is coming.”….

a. It HAS come (on the cross) and IS coming (as discipline), and WILL come (tribulation & judgment)…

b. Is this stuff worth the wrath of God? Yes! Our bodies were created in the image of God, thus we are to honor Him with our bodies. He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Ps 139) – we have no right to trash what He put together! [trashed hot rod]

B. How bad is it? These are distinguishing marks of the unsaved (“the sons of disobedience”). Ever hear from your parents, “I didn’t raise you to act that way!” [Olivia] – our Heavenly Father could say the same thing. He didn’t save us so we could act that way!

8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

A. put off”… Put off what? More sins…perhaps less evident than the earlier listing, but sin nonetheless. (Wiersbe) “We are so accustomed to anger, critical attitudes, lying, and coarse humor among believers that we are no longer upset or convicted about these sins. We would be shocked to see a church member commit some sensual sin, but we will watch him lose his temper in a business meeting and call it “righteous indignation.”” God still cares about these sins too! [] Keep in mind that God calls us to holiness because He is holy…

a. Anger: There can be righteous anger (re: Jesus in the temple) – but that’s not what Paul is referring to here. Seems to be describing a smoldering attitude of anger that people can live in…

b. Wrath: If “anger” is the lava in a rumbling volcano, “wrath” is when it bursts forth.

c. Malice: The intentional desire to do evil to someone. It should be unthinkable for Christians to engage in this, but it’s more common than we might realize… Word covers more than physical injury; we can injure someone’s character as well.

d. Blasphemy: More than taking the Lord’s name in vain; this seems to include all sorts of injurious speech (slander, insults, etc.).

i. But don’t forget the primary application of this word is blasphemy of the name of God – and Christians are still guilty of this!

e. Filthy Language: Personally speaking, my mouth took a while to get cleaned up after I came to Christ… [] Interesting to me that filthy language is placed right next to blasphemy. God created us to praise Him & give Him glory…when we use our mouths to speak forth obscenities it profanes the reason for our creation.

9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,

A. One more: put off lying. Why? Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6) – Christians have no business lying or bearing false witness against one another. (And yes, this includes to the gov’t as well. J)

i. Why does Paul set lying apart? Speculation… Perhaps because it was the 1st sin recorded for us in the Bible (Gen 3:1) – Satan is a liar & the father of all lies (John 8:44) – when we engage in lying, we’re engaging in something particularly demonic.

B. All that stuff is what the old man does. What’s the old man? Some scholars take this to be the unbeliever who died with Christ; others take it to be the temptations of the flesh that we continue to endure. I suggest Paul intends a bit of both here. Our old man has definitely died with Christ; yet we must continue to put to death our members which are on earth – whatever it is that is keeping us from truly following Christ, we need to (1) realize that we died to it, and (2) continue to put it off whenever it arises…

10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

A. What is the old man replaced with? What else – the new man! J Paul wrote the same thing to the Ephesians – Ephesians 4:22-24 (22) that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. []

B. What is the distinguishing mark about the new man? He/she is “renewed in knowledge”. “knowledge” = ἐπίγνωσις…sound familiar? “Gnostics” – Is Paul siding with the Gnostic heresy that special knowledge is needed for salvation? No, but he is stealing their terminology! J ἐπίγνωσις = “precise & correct knowledge” – we can’t just know just any formula or special initiation facts…we have to know SOMEONE. We have to know Jesus!

C. How so? according to the image of Him who created him” – i.e. Jesus! Now compare that with the list of sins Paul just went through…the old man is associated with the devil; the new man is according to the image of Christ. We want to look like Jesus!

a. Paul says something similar in Rom 12:2 “transformed by the renewing of your mind”…

11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

A. No differences nationally: We often think of “Jew” as a religious designation, but it’s really more of a national designation of citizenship. It’s ironic, but there are many atheistic Jews… [] Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter what nation your passport may have listed on it, if you’re in Christ you’ve got a new citizenship & all of us have the same one…”

B. No differences religiously: Someone could be born a Jew, but their family had to take a step of faith to have the boys circumcised. [] This isn’t universalism; this is unity in Christ. We may have started out as atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus – but when we repent & are born again, we’re simply Christian!

C. No differences culturally: To the Greeks, the barbarians included more than Conan. J Anyone who didn’t speak the Greek language was considered a barbarian…and the Scythians were the worst of them all (wild & savage). [] We may not encounter too much of that here (though probably more than we realize) – but we need to understand around the world, this is incredibly good news! To the Indian Dalit, Jesus Christ offers the same salvation as the ruling caste…

D. No differences economically: Doesn’t matter what side of the tracks we may have come from, we all have the same inheritance of glory in Christ Jesus!

E. Why no differences here? Because “Christ is all & in all” – He is our life – He is our being – He is everything to us! We had nothing without Him, but in Him we have everlasting life & an inheritance in glory. Despite how different we think we are, we’re all equally in need of a Savior – and Jesus (PTL!) is no respecter of persons & grants us the same salvation in Him.


Good news, Christian: you’re dead! J You died with Christ & He raised you up to life in Him in return. Since you are dead to the world already, then it behooves us to die to the old man as well…

One of the most common lies fed to us by Satan (and the world) is that we don’t have a choice not to sin. He tempts us & says, “You can’t resist, so just give in & give up.” That is a lie straight from the pit of Hell! If you are born-again, you are DEAD to those things. We don’t HAVE to give into temptation; we just do… [] You have been freed from that stuff – so instead of seeking sensual sins, social sins, or just the stuff of the world – seek after Christ!

Those are all glorious promises to the saved – but the unsaved has a different reality. You have not been raised with Christ, and (despite whether you know it) you are living enslaved to sin & awaiting the wages to come – which is death. ‘I’m not enslaved – what are you talking about?!’ Ever told a lie? Stolen something? Lusted? Blasphemed? You’re enslaved & you have to face God on Judgment Day. The question is: are you going to face God on your own or in Christ?

Recognize – Repent – Receive


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