Put to Death, Put Away, Put On
Series on Colossians #6
We continue to be in a series of messages on the New Testament Book of Colossians.
So far, we have considered chapter 1, in which Paul complimented the Christians in the city of Colossae. Paul was pleased, for instance, that they had and were displaying faith, love, and hope.
Also in chapter 1, Paul described Jesus, including, for instance, that Jesus is the one who created the universe and holds it together and that He is the head of the church.
We have also considered chapter 2, in which Paul reminded the Colossian Christians he worked hard in his ministry so they would be encouraged to be rooted, built up, and established in Jesus. Also in chapter 2 that they would rely on Jesus and Jesus alone.
And we have considered the first part of chapter 3, in which Paul challenged the Christians in Colossae to seek the things that are above - the things of God - and to set their minds on such things. The reward being that those who do those two things will one day appear with Him in Heaven.
That brings us in this message to verses 5 through 17 of chapter 3 of Colossians. It is a passage that has three parts - a list of things opposite of things above that we are to put to death or put away, a list of things that are of God that we are to put on, and then some suggestions about how to put to death and put away the bad and put on the good.
First, the list of bad things, which begins with verse 5. Put to death. Not just turn away from. Put to death - treat these things so strongly that they can never again affect you - put to death what is earthly in you.
Fornication and Impurity
Fornication is any physical relationship beyond the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman. And it goes beyond just the actions of people. It extends to even the thoughts people have.
As we know, fornication is a prevalent thing in our culture, all the way from movies and TV to songs and magazine covers promoting it, all of which can make fornication seem normal. But it is wrong. It is so wrong it is to be put to death. That is what Paul wrote.
Impurity is what fornication is. Impurity also refers, not only to what we do, but what we think. Impurity is also to be put to death.
And listen to this. According to verse 7, fornication, impurity, and all the rest of the list of things to be put to death, the Colossian Christians once did, just as we might have done any of these things, at least in our minds.
But these are to be things of the past. They are not to have any part in our lives now because now, as Christians, we are to live lives worthy of Jesus.
Put to death fornication and impurity. Also put to death two more things.
Passion and Evil Desire
In the context of today’s passage, passion refers to emotion over reason. As in not thinking about what is done before doing it. Including not considering the costs of actions or the effects actions can have on relationships. It leads to the demand for what I want, even if it is harmful to you or even myself, which can, of course, lead to desiring what is evil rather than what is helpful, personally and to others.
That is the desire to have more and more of whatever is wanted, including a desire to have what belongs to others. It refers to an unquenchable desire for more and more.
Interestingly, one of the problems of covetousness is that the desire never seems to be able to be fulfilled. I have read it described this way. Covetousness is no easier to satisfy than it is to fill with water a bowl that has a hole in it.
There are other problems. If it is money that is coveted, the desire can lead to theft. If it is power or prestige that is coveted, it can lead to slandering others, which is another thing on the bad list. We will get to it in a moment. If the coveting is centered on another person, the passion can lead to evil desire and impurity and fornication.
In verse 6 is a warning. On account of these - the things that are to be put to death - the wrath of God is coming. What a warning that is, even for us, to make sure we, too, are putting each one of these bad things to death.
As already mentioned, in verse 7 is the reminder the Christians in Colossae were at one time guilty of any or all of those things. No doubt each one of us might have been guilty of at least some of these things as well . But the past is not nearly as important as the present. It is now we are to put the things of the world to death. The past is not as important as the future, which is it be lived in ways pleasing to Jesus, our one and only and all-sufficient Savior.
Since we are Christians, we are to put to death fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness.
We are put away some other bad things of the world.
Anger and Wrath
Wrath is a quick rage. So quick it can lead a person to say something without thinking. Something that can be hurtful and never taken back, therefore dangerous.
Anger is a long-lasting, slow-burning feeling. A feeling that refuses to be pacified and can therefore work into a grudge.
Malice and Slander
Malice is ill will. Ill will to the extent of desiring, and if possible, the intention of doing, harm to someone. It is the hope that the worst things will happen to someone.
Slander is talk that insults someone, the main purpose being to hurt the other person personally or socially or economically.
Anger, wrath, malice, and slander are all very negative things. Hurtful things. Things of the world that are to be put away by those of us who are Christians.
Foul Talk and Lieing
Foul talk is using obscenities. That, like many of the other things discussed so far in this message, is prevalent in our society. We can hear foul talk in movies and on TV. It seems that each TV season there is a little more testing of what swear words or immoral words the producers and actors can get by with on the networks. That is not even thinking of cable channels that seem to have fewer restrictions.
Lieing. We know what that is. It is any form of not telling the truth.
By the way, is it easy to put to death or put away the things of the world? No. However, it needs to be done. It can be done with the power of the Lord. We need to let the Lord work in us so we can eliminate the things of this world that threaten to hurt our witness for the Lord.
But then this. It is not enough to just get rid of the bad things of this world. We are then to fill the void by putting on things that are above. Things that are pleasing to the Lord. Things on a list that begins with verse 12.
Paul precedes the list with another compliment. He reminded the Colossian Christians they were holy and beloved. Proof of that is they were chosen by God to be followers of Jesus.
Of course, they each had to make the decision - individually and personally - to accept Jesus, but it was God’s idea to give them the opportunity to be Christians. It was God who made them holy because of their acceptance. It was God who had a special love for them because of their acceptance of Jesus.
Here is the good list.
At the time of Paul, conditions were very bad for those who had problems. Many who were sick or crippled were left to die. Those who had mental problems were often ignored or banished. There was no provision for care for the elderly.
Jesus taught that none of those reactions is right. Here Paul teaches the same thing with his challenge that Christians have compassion. A heart of pity, pity meaning not only feeling sorry for someone, but doing things to help.
The root word for kindness has had many uses. For instance, it is used to describe the Old Testament Isaac, who, as recorded in Genesis 26, gave away wells he had dug. He preferred to give them away than fight for them. It is used to describe wine that has grown mellow with age. Wine that has lost its harshness.
With those two examples, being kind is being generous, peaceful, and mellow.
Another word for lowliness is humility. Not false humilityM but a true realization that we are not God. And this is also important. Humility is an acceptance that since we were all created by God, there is no room for arrogance. The idea being that even if you are smarter or richer or stronger or more popular than others, those things should be used to help others.
This is often considered a negative trait. However, speaking spiritually, it is a very positive characteristic. It translates to be angry at the right times, such as when someone else or God is being mistreated, but not wanting revenge when we are hurt personally.
Remember it was said it is not easy to put to death or put away the things of the world? Guess what. Neither is it easy to put on the things in this list. Things that are above. But it can be done with the power of the Lord. We need to let the Lord work in us so we can have and use the things of God which will help our witness for the Lord.
Talk about being difficult. This means to not lose patience with other people, including those who are negative or insulting or seem to have no interest in spiritual things. We are to be patient with all.
Forbearance and Forgiveness
Forbearance is related to patience. It is putting up with others for the purpose of helping them become and stay spiritually sound.
Forgiveness is overlooking problems that are caused. Forgetting them, not as in not remembering them, but not allowing the problems to affect our relationship with that person or our hope for their future.
And above all these, put on Love. Love defined as wanting only what is best for the person loved. What is best physically, emotionally, socially, and, most especially, spiritually.
Why is love so important? As Paul wrote, it is love that binds everything together in perfect harmony.
In a moment, the third of the three parts of today’s passage. The part with suggestions about how to put to death and put away the bad things of the world and put on the good things that are above. But first, a couple stories.
Tommy Bolt was a professional golfer who won 15 tournaments on the American PGA tour, including the U.S. Open. However, for a long time, he was most famous for his quick temper. I fact, Bolt had some nicknames. Oe was Terrible Tommy. Another was Thunder Bolt.
Unfortunately, Tommy Bolt became aware of the drawing power of his temper. He learned how to exploit it. An example came in one tournament when his caddie handed him the wrong club when Tommy had to play out of thick rough. It was not only the wrong club. It was the only club he had left in his bag after Tommy had broken all his other clubs that round. He did that, at least partially, to please the crowd.
Later, Bolt joined the Senior PGA Tour. There, he continued to allow his temper to rage, this time complaining about how the Senior Tour took care of the younger seniors, but not the older guys like him.
Tommy’s temper continued until one day, he came to his senses. That day he felt sorry that he had satisfied those who, over the years, had watched him, not for his skill, but to see his temper He was sorry about the grief he had caused the Senior Tour officials.
Guess what. In 2002, Tommy Bolt was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His response? “It’s funny. For years I let my temper control me, but not long ago I stopped complaining, now I get elected to the Hall of Fame. It goes to show. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Tommy Bolt did one of the things Paul taught in Colossians 3. He put away anger. The result for him was good. The guarantee of the Bible is that we, too, will be rewarded when we put to death and put away the bad things of the world.
Putting on what is good? Here is a story for that.
A popular clothing retailer requires its sales clerks to dress in its clothes. The practice is referred to as guarding their brand. The idea is that shoppers will be more likely to purchase clothes they see being worn. The idea is that if the clothes are liked by the clerks, the customers will be more likely to wear them as well.
The point of bringing up that story is this. We are told how to dress spiritually. As discussed in this message, we are to put on - we are to wear - compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love.
Do you suppose that when we are dressed like that - when other people see how good we look dressed that way - when they see our spiritual clothes being worn - they will be more likely to want to dress the same way, thereby leading them to join us in accepting Jesus as Savior?
Let’s put to death and put away the things of the world. Let’s put on the things that are above. Things that are pleasing to the Lord.
Let’s do that individually, as is stated in verse 15 and the first part of verse 16. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Let’s also help each other to do the putting to death, putting away, and putting on, which we are challenged to do in the rest of verse 16. Teach and admonish one another, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, being thankful all the while.
Psalms are songs that come from or are directly related to the Psalms in the Old Testament. Hymns are songs of praise to God. Spiritual songs teach us or remind us about Jesus.
There is one more verse in today’s passage. It will be our benediction. Let’s say it together.
Whatever I do - whatever we do - in word and in deed, may it be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
May that be our goal now and always as we put to death and put away the things of the world and put on all that is pleasing to the Lord. Help us, Lord. Amen.