Put It Off

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:8-9)

In the previous verses Paul wrote to Christians about the kind of sins they should give up and consider themselves dead to. Paul wrote about sins we normally consider notorious—sexual sins and greed. Here we see that Paul thought we should be concerned with more than notorious sins; we should be concerned with all sins, even what we might think of as “lesser” sins.

That’s why Paul wrote, now you yourselves are to put off all these. The sins Paul here listed (anger, wrath, and so forth) are regarded by many as “little” sins that Christians may overlook with little danger. God challenges us to put off the old man in every area of our lives.

The phrase put off is exactly that which would be used for taking of a suit of clothes. It’s as if Paul meant, “Now that you belong to Jesus, even these sins don’t fit you any more. Take them off like you would an old, dirty, bad-fitting suit of clothes.”

Take a good look at the sins listed here: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language and speaking the lie. Each of these sins are primarily committed by what we say. When Paul called the believer to a deeper obedience, he told us to bridle our tongue, as did James in James 1:26 and 3:1-9.

The other thing to notice about this list is it has to do with sins we commit as we relate to each other. We get angry with others, we harbor malice towards others, and we lie to each other. So as Paul listed sins in Colossians 3:5-9, he showed two high priorities in Christian living: sexual morality connected with a right attitude towards material things, and simply getting along in love with one another.

It is easy for a Christian community to compromise one for the other, but Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) insisted that they both have a high place in the Christian life.

You have put off the old man with his deeds means that in Jesus Christ, the saints of God are different people. Therefore, when we feel tempted to immorality or anger, we should regard it as an unwelcome intruder that has no right to stay. The real you is the new man; the old man is put off.

Past and Present

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. (Colossians 3:5-7)

In Colossians 3:1-4 Paul told us that for the Christian, Jesus Christ is now their life and we are identified with the risen and enthroned Jesus. In light of that, he told believers that we must put to death the things in our life that are contrary to our identity with Jesus.

We put these things to death in the sense of denying them, and considering them dead to us and us dead to them. When we gratify a sensual appetite we give that appetite the food and nourishment that makes it thrive. When treat ungodly, sensual desires as if they were dead, we deny them strength to influence our life.

Paul then listed many specific sins that we are to die to. It was important to list and name these sins as Paul did. We need to specifically and individually deal with such areas of habit and temptation.

Paul began by describing sexual sins: Fornication, uncleanness, passion and evil desire. Sex is a wonderful gift from God, but is easily and often corrupted and perverted. Christians need to recognize Jesus as Lord over all their life, including their sexuality.

Yet, it isn’t that the only sins Christian are concerned with have to do with sex. Paul went on to also name covetousness. That desire for more and more is simple, but it is nothing less than idolatry.

G. Campbell Morgan listed three ways that covetousness is terribly destructive:

– “First, it is idolatry, in that it only obtains when man thinks of life consisting in things possessed, rather than in righteous relationship to God.”

– “It is also a sin against others, for to satisfy the desire, others are wronged.”

– “Finally, it is self-destructive, for these wrong conceptions and activities always react upon the soul to its own undoing.”

The sins mentioned previously are part of the way the world lives and not the way Jesus lived. Every Christian is faced with a question: “Who will I identify with, the world or with Jesus?” Remember: We are identified with Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:4). Since there is no way that Jesus would walk in any of these sins, we won’t walk in them either.

Paul recognized that these sins used to characterize us all: in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. These sins may mark a world in rebellion against God and destined for His wrath, but they are in the past tense for the Christian.

Paul says that Christians once walked in these sins. It is possible – though tragic – that these sins should occasionally mark a Christian’s life, but they must not be a Christian’s walk, their manner of living. Simply put, the Christian should not live like the sons of disobedience. A true Christian can not be comfortable in habitual sin.

Believe it today: As a disciple of Jesus, these sins are your past, and your present is life in Jesus Christ.

 

Christ Our Life

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:2-4)

Paul spoke to every Christian, telling us all to set your mind on things above. You can set your mind on things below or on things above. Always remember that the best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. They realize that their lives are now hidden with Christ in God, and since Jesus is enthroned in heaven, their thoughts and hearts are connected to heaven also.

We need to grow in our love of heavenly things. Think of what things belong to heaven:

– God in His triune nature – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
– Faith, hope, and love
– God’s eternal word
– The people of God

Christian, put your attention on these things. You used to give all your attention to things on the earth. Now, don’t ignore earthly things; we should never think that all things of this earth are evil – they are not. Still, do not set your mind on them. God created you and redeemed you for more than earth, but ultimately also for heaven.

When Jesus came into your life, God regarded it as if you died with Jesus on the cross. Now your life is hidden with Christ in God. It is hidden, so it isn’t always obvious to us or to others. It is hidden, so it is safe and secure in Jesus.

This is all real for those of whom it can be said, “Christ who is our life.” Notice that Paul wrote “our” – that means it is for all of us. Not just for apostles or super Christians, but for all believers. Sometimes we say, “Music is his life” or “Sports is his life” or “He lives for his work.” Of the Christian it should be said, “Jesus Christ is his life.”

The wonderful promise is that when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Thin about it: the promise of the return of Jesus is not only that we will see His glory, but so that we also will appear with Him in glory. This is the revealing of the sons of God mentioned in Romans 8:19.

On that day, all will see the saints of God for what they really are, not as they merely appear to this world. The world never saw Paul for who he really was. The Christians in ancient Colosse may not have seen or understood who they really were in Jesus, but it would one day be revealed. The same is true for you as a believer in Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus will reveal who you are in all glory.

Raised With Jesus

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

If you are familiar with the letters of the Apostle Paul, you will recognize a familiar transition that happens at Colossians 3:1. In chapters 1 and 2 Paul wrote about all that Jesus has done for us. Only after establishing that foundation, Paul will now begin to write about how we should practically live the Christian life.

So as Paul began to focus on practical Christian living, he did it with the clear understanding that practical Christian living is built on the foundation of theological truth. That idea is strong in Colossians 3:1, telling us that because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above.

The idea of being raised with Christ was introduced back in Colossians 2:12, where Paul used baptism to illustrate this spiritual reality. Now, seeing that we are raised with Christ, certain behavior is appropriate to us. In the last few verses of Colossians 2 Paul reminded us that legalism doesn’t really help us to live right before God. Now Paul points us to what does help us to live right: walking in our identity with the risen Jesus.

Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.

After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live in the tomb of our old life any longer.

After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – we live our lives to be with and to serve one another.

After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – we live with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – we always recognize that our citizenship is in heaven.

To emphasize it even more, Paul added the phrase, sitting at the right hand of God. That’s a place of victory and peace. Believer, that is your place in Jesus Christ. You are raised with Jesus; you are seated with Him in heavenly places. Now live that out!

 

Do Not, Do Not, Do Not

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

Before Paul put his trust in Jesus Christ, he lived a life almost completely focused on pleasing God by keeping the law. Before he was a Christian, Paul knew and lived the essence of legalism through and through.

So, we should not be surprised that Paul knew how to perfectly describe legalistic religion: do not . . . do not . . . do not. Legalistic religion is always defined more by what we don’t do than by what we do.

Make no mistake about it: Christianity is a moral religion. Our Christians faith has clear moral boundaries. Yet at its foundation, Christianity is a religion of positive action.

Paul also knew the key to living above legalism. It is to remember that you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world. Our identification with Jesus in both His death and resurrection (as mentioned before in Colossians 2:12) becomes the foundation for our Christian life, instead of our law-keeping.

A life of law-keeping centers on things which perish with the using. We touch them or eat them; they are temporary things that pass away. These things are not the things that matter most, the ultimate realities. The truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross is greater than any rule about what we should eat, or any other aspect of legalism.

Legalism is all arranged according to the commandments and doctrines of men. Human rules and claimed truths are emphasized above the law and truth of God. What Paul wrote about these things is true; these things indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. We might regard this as the greatest indictment against legalism in the Bible. At the bottom line, legalism’s rules have no value in restraining the indulgence of the flesh.

All such legalistic rules may have an appearance of wisdom, but they have no real value. Legalism doesn’t restrain the flesh; it feeds the flesh in a subtle, powerful way. That is why sometimes the most supposedly religious people can be filled with the most unbearable pride. The devil doesn’t mind you having lots of religion as long as he can make you legalistic and proud.

We need to reject all self-imposed religion, which is man reaching to God, trying to justify himself by keeping a list of rules. Christianity is God reaching down to man in love through Christ. Receive His love and renounce your pride today.

 

Shadows and Substance

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Sometimes little words mean a lot, and the first word of Colossians 2:16 is just that. The opening “so” is important. It connects this thought with the previous thought in Colossians 2:13-15. Because Jesus won such a glorious victory on the cross, we are to let no one judge you in food or in drink or in other matters related to legalism. A life that is centered on Jesus and what He did on the cross has no place for legalism.

The core of legalism is the idea that our standing with God is based on what we do. When we are good, He loves us more and when we are bad He loves us less. Under legalism, if I eat and drink the right things, God loves me more. If I observe the right days and rituals, God loves me more.

Jesus established the New Covenant, based on grace and not on law. Under grace our standing with God is based on what Jesus did. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we look at the Old Testament laws about food and drink and days in a different way.

The Old Testament law had certain provisions that are done away with in Jesus, regarding such things as food and sabbaths. It isn’t that those laws were bad, simply that they were a shadow of things to come. Once the substance – Jesus Christ – has come, we don’t need the shadow any more.

The point is clear: days and foods, as observed under the Mosaic Law, are not binding upon New Covenant people. The shadow has passed, the reality has come. So for the Christian, all foods are pure (1 Timothy 4:4-5) and all days belong to God.

Christians are therefore free to keep a kosher diet or to observe the sabbath if they please. There is nothing wrong with those things. However, they cannot think that eating kosher or sabbath observance makes them any closer to God, and they cannot judge another brother or sister who does not observe such laws.

Don’t look to what you eat or drink or days you observe to make you right with God. Jesus did it all at the cross. Rest in Him and live in the freedom to do or not do those things, knowing your standing with Him is based on what Jesus did, not what you do.

Disarmed

Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15)

In this part of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul described the many different aspects of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. There was a handwriting of the accusations and debts against us, and at the cross Jesus wiped it out. Then He took that erased page out of the way, and then Jesus and nailed it to the cross.

Next in verse 15, Paul described something that Jesus did at the cross that maybe you never thought of. At the cross, Jesus disarmed principalities and powers. The words principalities and powers describe ranks of hostile angelic beings (Romans 8:38, Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 6:12). Because of what Jesus did at the cross, they don’t have the same weapons to use against Christians that they have against those who are not in Jesus.

 

The greatest powers of the earth at that time – Rome, the greatest governmental power and Judaism, the greatest religious power – conspired together to put the Son of God on the cross. Here Paul shows us again the paradox of the cross: that the victorious Jesus took the spiritual powers behind these earthly powers and stripped them, held them up to contempt, and publicly triumphed over them.

We can only imagine how Satan and every dark gleeful demon attacked Jesus as He hung on the cross on our behalf, as if He were a guilty sinner. They thought they had won against the Son of God. They didn’t win; they lost whatever armor and weapons they had against the Son of God and His people.

Paul wrote in another place that if the rulers of this age – by which he meant both the spiritual powers of darkness and their earthly representatives – had known what would happen on the cross, they would have never crucified Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:8). They were defeating themselves and they didn’t even know it.

Against the believer, what weapons do demonic spirits therefore now have? They are disarmed, except for their ability to deceive and to create fear. These are effective “weapons” that are not tangible weapons at all. Demonic spirits only have power towards us that we grant them by believing their lies. The weapons are in our hands, not theirs. We will one-day see how afraid they were of us.

Perhaps Satan, for a moment, thought that he had won at the cross. But Hell’s imagined victory was turned into a defeat that disarmed every spiritual enemy who fights against those living under the light and power of the cross. The public spectacle of defeated demonic spirits makes their defeat all the more humiliating.

Christian, this is your joy. This is your confidence. This is your triumph. Walk in this truth today: at the cross, Jesus disarmed principalities and powers, and triumphed over them.