Getting Rid of the Old Wardrobe
Study #19 Colossians 3:5-9
by Bob Burridge ©2022
We usually keep the clothes we regularly wear in our closets and drawers. When things no longer fit, wear out, or go out of style we might store them away in boxes, or just get rid of them.
Sometimes it’s hard to put away those well liked old clothes. But styles change over the years and often our bodies change too. The old favorite outfits might not fit anymore. Once those old clothes are set aside, there’s probably going to be a shopping trip for new clothes.
But there’s an even harder closet to clean out. It’s the one filled with our former thoughts, values, behaviors, and habits. As we mature in Christ some of those old ways don’t fit our life anymore. Often we still try to cling to them even when they ought to be emptied out the closet.
In Colossians 3:5 Paul tells us more about
the new life we ought to be living as Christians.
5. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
A very literal translation of the first part of the original Greek text would read, “Therefore make dead the parts of you which are upon the earth.”
Obviously Paul didn’t mean that we should kill off the physical parts of our bodies. Right away he lists the dangerous attitudes and behaviors he has in mind, ” … sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” We shouldn’t use our earthly members do these evil things any more. Remember the contrast in the context right before this where he said in verse 2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
It doesn’t mean that earthly things or physical things are evil in themselves. It’s that we should use them remembering their purpose which is to declare the glory of God who made them. This greater heavenly reality gives all created things their true meaning, purpose, and value. Only then can we find contentment and real satisfaction in the normal desires God created in us.
He uses what seems a very harsh word here. He tells us to put them to death! As we have learned from Scripture, death is the total separation of two things. Physical death is the separation of body and soul when the body can’t function anymore. Spiritual death is the separation of a person from God because of sin. This verse means we should be separated from our former wicked behaviors and attitudes.
There is both the fact of death to sin, and the work of dying to sin. Paul explained this in Romans 6:2, ” … How can we who died to sin still live in it?”, and in verse 11, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ we are already dead to sin’s dominion, but we still struggle with its influence. Our Savior bore our guilt and paid the penalty of sin for us removing the barrier that separated us from God. The life we have in restored union with our Creator includes our separation from the guilt and lordship of sin. But since in this life we are not yet freed from the habits of sin and its power, we must give our effort to overcome sin’s lingering effects. This we can do by the power of the victorious Christ who lives within us.
The superstitious pagans around Colossae had lists of things to avoid to please the god’s of Olympus. God’s word tells us there are things we should avoid too. But we don’t keep from these things to earn God’s favor. We avoid them to show our gratitude to the Lord who already loves us.
In verse 8 Paul tells the Colossians to put away certain things, to put them off. Similarly in Ephesians 4 he tell us to take off certain evil things as if they were clothing, and to put on the right behaviors and attitudes that are appropriate for us as believers.
So. what are those inappropriate articles of clothing we’re not to wear anymore? Paul begins listing them for us in Colossians 3:5.
First is immorality. The Greek word is “porneian” (πορνείαν) from which we get our word “porn”. Our word “Pornography” refers to sexually immoral writings or images.
Paul used this word because it has a very broad meaning. It includes all sexual sins. Rightly handling our natural human desires was a problem in the ancient world just as it is today.
Sensual pleasures are part of how God planned the growth of the human race. Those sharing this pleasure are to be married, one man and one woman, and the two shall be one. God instituted marriage as an illustration of our union with Christ. It’s the only right place where these sensual pleasures should be satisfied. They are not for our personal enjoyment outside that bond of marriage. We need to put off the garment of immorality. It’s not fitting attire for the child of God.
Then he mentions impurity. This more broad word includes all kinds of things offensive to God. The word literally means “unclean” or “not pure”.
One of the things the legalists were promoting in the churches in Paul’s time was that the purity laws God gave the Jews were still in effect. In the time of Moses the Jews were bound by many strict rules to live by to prefigure things Christ would accomplish. There were foods they couldn’t eat, fabrics they couldn’t wear, special days to be kept special. When that Messiah finally came, the elementary lesson had served their purpose. It was time to leave those elementary lessons behind and get to the truth they represented.
In 2:16 Paul warned them not to be drawn back into the old laws about food or drink; or festivals, new moons, or sabbath day festivals. In 2:21 Paul said the false teachers were saying, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
It’s no longer those old ceremonial rules that define holiness. There still are those moral impurities God forbids in his word. We shouldn’t steal, disobey rightful authority, disregard human life, lie, or covet. We’re to put off the garments of impurity. Put those behaviors to death. They’re not fitting clothes for a child of God.
Third he mentions passion. Obviously the Apostle isn’t saying we should be passionless or without emotions. Passion becomes our enemy when we focus on indulging our own pleasures rather than on what pleases God. We should be passionate about doing what God tells us to do. We should strongly desire to help our family, friends, and neighbors live God’s way too. We should deeply appreciate God’s handiwork displayed all around us in the glories of the things he made, and in his providence as he guides things along.
The passions of the believer are God’s blessings when he lives within our Creator’s moral law. We need to put off the garments of wrong passions which are just seeking self-pleasure.
The fourth thing he mentions is evil desires. Wanting things that offend God are obviously to be avoided in our lives. We need to want things that God says he’s pleased for us to have.
Finally he mentions covetousness. In our yet not fully sanctified hearts we’re tempted to focus on self-interest, self-gain, and self-promotion. God provides a person with a job, but he often lies and cheats to work less and get more. God provides food and drink for health, then some are tempted to irresponsibly overindulge in them. God may provide a partner in marriage, but it’s defiled by selfishness and unfaithfulness to their spouse.
Paul tells us that coveting what God hasn’t given us, is nothing less than a form of idolatry. It shows dissatisfaction with what God wisely provides.
The only way to find true pleasure is to focus on God’s glory in all we are and do. The ways of the old life need to go. We’re to consider ourselves dead to those old ways and attitudes. There should be no place for seeking satisfaction in ways God forbids. Put all those garment off. Get them out of the closet. They are not fitting attire for the child of God.
We dare not forget how
seriously evil these ways are.
Colossians 3:6, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”
Wrong attitudes and behaviors deeply offend the one who created us. Divine justice demands infinite suffering for forbidden behaviors and rebellious attitudes. It was for such things that our Savior died and paied that infinite price in our place. If we could only see ourselves through his holy eyes for a moment! How can we consider the awful suffering and disgrace of the cross, then continue as if these self-indulging and God offending ways were unimportant or tolerable?
Things ought to be different
when a person is a Christian
Colossians 3:7. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
8. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
9. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
Many of the new believers in Colossae were raised in a culture not firmly grounded in God’s word. They had lived in moral ignorance and rebellion against their Creator all their lives. It was time for a change. It was easy to continue with the old clothes without giving it a thought.
Paul gives another list of characteristics to help identify the inappropriate clothing. They are things still very common in the world around us today. They become accepted as part of expected human behavior. But they’re not the way God created us to live. We can overcome these things if we have the power of Christ at work in us.
We need to put off anger. Rage has always been a serious concern. On our roads drivers curse, intimidate, or even shoot other drivers. Angry children have taken guns to school to shoot other students or teachers. People laid off from their jobs have killed their managers for revenge.
Punishments for wrong doings belongs to parents, church officers, or our legal system. Only those with just authority have the right to inflict just punishments when people do wrong.
As believers we ought to avoid lashing out at others when we don’t get our way. How much more peaceful our homes, schools, roads, and places of work would be if we could avoid losing our tempers when we feel we’ve been wronged on a personal level.
We should not be wrathful in our attitudes. This item is closely related to anger. This word is often defined as a boiling agitation of angry feelings. The desire for personal vengeance is wrong.
We should not be a people of malice. Believers should not treat others with cruelty. We might take a bold stand against wrongs, but if we are mean to one another, we are wearing the wrong clothes. In Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” These are wrong ways do deal with wrongs in others.
We should never slander others. The word used here is the same Greek word from which we get blasphemy (blasphaemian “βλασφημίαν”). It means to curse or damn with angry words. There is a lot of that in ordinary speech. It should never be heard from the lips of God’s children. If that kind of speech has been our habit, we need to get over it! It’s not appropriate for Christians.
Then Paul condemns all obscene talk. No vile or shameful language should be spoken by us as children of the King. It’s hard to listen to a group of people out in the world today without hearing shameful words. It’s horribly common in music, television, social media, and movies today. But it should not be heard among us. We should stand out for our restrained speech.
Finally, Paul condemns the obvious. We should never lie. Lying is disregard for what’s true, for how God sees things. Deception has no place in our wardrobe. We should never promote untruth. As children of the God of Truth we should be known as the people of truth. Otherwise we appear in the same outfit as the children of the Father of lies.
We need to put all these wrong pieces of clothing off. Get them out of the closet. We need to put those things to death, be separated far from them. They are not fitting attire for the child of God.
We need to put off those old ways
as we grow in Christ.
God’s redeemed children need to appear in a wardrobe that’s honoring to their Savior.
If our hearts are restored to fellowship with God through Christ the former ways foreshadowing the work of our Savior aren’t needed anymore. We also need to take off the behaviors and attitudes that offend God. There should be no more anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene speech, and lying. Our duty is to consider ourselves to be dead toward these things, totally separated from them.
When we slip back into the ill-fitting behaviors of the lost world we rob ourselves of the richest of blessings. We damage the fellowship and peace of the church. We give others, specially our own children, a poor example to follow. We imply to the world that Christ doesn’t really change lives! But he does!
The victory is already won for his people. The power to be different is given! God promises that those who determine to live for him will discover themselves to be among the greatly blessed of his kingdom.
The former idols of self-interest, self-gain, and self-promotion offend God.
So wage war against these sins every step of the way. When we suffer a loss in our battle with sin we should sincerely beg God for forgiveness in Christ. He has paid for the guilt of his people. We should be deeply sorrowful for our sins, exercise faith in his payment for what we’ve done, and continue a sincere campaign to abandon these former ways. That’s how we show that we are among those people for whom our Savior died. It’s how we show our love to our heavenly Father for the grace by which he saved us.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.