Sufficiency of Christ and Christian Living (3:1-4:6)
B. Our Christian Apparel (3:5-11)
I once heard a speaker say we as believers are to take off our grave clothes. That comes from Paul. By using the word therefore, Paul is making a connection between theology and practice. Good theology makes for good Christian living (cf. John 13:17). This paragraph can be divided into three parts each according the imperatives (3:5, 8, 9). The first two are generally looked upon as negative, with the last be positive. However, it seems to me that even the negative language of the text is positive. Getting rid of the old clothes is a positive change, enforced by putting on the new. Lopez reminds us of three things about this appeal in Colossians:
- The vices originate from the old fallen nature.
- They are especially evident among nonbelievers.
- They are unnatural for believers, but nevertheless possible (and in many cases a reality) in the life of believers.
The first imperative: “consider the members of your earthly body as dead.” (1:5-7).
In the Greek text the sentence begins with the imperative (or command): “Mortify or Put to death;” the Greek word nekroo means to kill, put to death, destroy, or to be rendered impotent (cf. Rom. 4:19; 6:6-7, 11-12; Heb. 11:12). Dunn says the word is somewhat rare and is derived from the medical field in reference to the atrophy of part of a body that by sickness or old age becomes inoperative. We have already died with Christ positionally, now we are to put to death in our old self our old sinful practice. Our heavenly position and our earthly practice are to be in harmony. To do so, it must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13). In His power we must put to death the deeds of the flesh. Vice list are common in Paul (cf. Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5). These lists have these features:
- There is a variety of vices, and nowhere is there a complete list by Paul. This is clear at the end of the Galatians list which states: “and the like” (Gal. 5:21).
- The list is significant or exemplary of something in the immediate context. They are always negative. Paul uses them as a “list of vices characteristic of unbelievers as a way of exhorting believers not to emulate them.”
- They normally are set within the framework of God’s judgment (Col. 3:6).
- They are not to be considered a new law or way to achieve merit.
- They are given to aid transformation (Col. 3:10). The aim is for the reader to look anew at his life in relationship to his position in Christ.
There are certain deeds of the flesh we are to render dead or impotent in our new position. Paul also calls them the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12). Colossians lists five sins in this connection. This lists is only examples and by no means complete (cf. Gal. 3:19-23). They are:
- Fornication or immorality (porneian), a word used of illicit sexual relationship; married or unmarried (3:5). Barclay says the word means prostitution, and porne is a prostitute and is connected with the verb pnumi meaning to sell. It may well be the most common sin in the world.s This word is sometimes translated immoral (cf. Eph. 5:3). The word is general and indicates all types of unlawful sexual relations. In the days of Paul shame was absent from every society. This is evident for three reasons: there was not a strong stand or writing against it; Sexual matters were open and a well-established custom and practice in society; Sexual practices were strongly connected with religion, as seen in the many temples and their prostitutes. This easily spilled over to those in the church who were raised during that time.
- Impurity (akatharsia) meaning uncleanness or lewdness. It has its root physical dirt. It has been used of a clean house but more commonly in regard to ritual ceremony which cleanses one from ritual defilement. Impurity denotes moral and ceremonial impurity that keeps us out of the will of God. Purity makes it possible to come into the presence of God. In the Jewish religion impurity keeps one out of the temple and incurs the wrath of God (Lev. 22:23). It indicates moral depravity and is often connected with fornication (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3). It is a work of the flesh, not the spirit.
- Passion (inordinate affection—KJV). It is the Greek word pathos, affection or passion, especially sexual. It could be translated lust. Some feel it is issued in connection to homosexual sin (cf. Rom. 1:26). It is used three times in the NT and every time it is used “in conjunction with evil, i.e., to be absorbed in an evil passion or desire (cf. Rom. 1:26, Tit. 2:12).”
- Evil desire (evil concupiscence—KJV), in the Greek it is two words (kokos epithesis) does not mean simply evil Kokos means evil mischief, bad in quality or disposition, corrupt, or wicked. The word epithesis means an earnest desire or lust, and speaks of the object of evil. The two words should be translated together—evil desire. Evil is not a general object here, but is an expression of the type of desire.
- Covetousness, which is idolatry. Covetousness (pleonexia) is the inordinate desire for riches, greed, or a consuming ambition for something (Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3). It points to motivation rather than action. It is modified by the words, “which is idolatry.” It is idolatry because the item of covetousness takes the place over God. It is an item that projects itself and is lifted to the place of worship and praise, not necessarily by an overt act, but by one’s attitude concerning the object.
After listing these works of the flesh, Paul brings out two vital truths:
First, is judgment (3:6).
“For because” is accusative and denotes the reason or cause to why we are to leave these actions or attitudes of the flesh. It is the judgment of God. These things bring God’s wrath. The words concerning the wrath which “will come” of “cometh” (KJV), reads as a future in most English translations. However, in the Greek it is a present tense—is coming. It has the sense of that which has begun and is continuing; denoting certainty and immediacy. It is the strongest possible affirmation of God’s wrath. God’s wrath raises these vices to a new level of seriousness. Men brings wrath upon themselves. God’s wrath, “is tied directly to the holiness of God and depicts the necessary reaction of a personal God to any violation of his character or will. As a gnomic present, it is voicing a principle of universal and permanent validity of God’s wrath. It indicates both immediate and a long-range condition. The object is “upon the sons of disobedience.” (While some translations omit the phrase, such action is highly suspect). In this text the preposition (epi) means on, upon, over, or above. The understanding is thereby that the sons of disobedience have the wrath of God on them or hanging over them. God’s wrath is not simply a future event (cf, Rom. 2:5; 5:9); but is active in our present time (cf. Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 2:16).
Second, is our past (3:7).
The second is connected to the first by a relative pronoun (hos). Its translation depends on its antecedent. In this case it is not clear. It can be neuter, referring the list of vices, in which case it would be among these; or it can be masculine, referring to the sons of disobedience, thereby translated among whom. It is debated which way it should be taken. Both are possible. Most scholars and translations translate it as neuter. Gromacki on the other hand sees it a masculine, referring to people. The answer is unclear, but such a list is often taken to describe a way of life. I prefer the neuter use. The two halves of the verse seem to form a chiastic structure. Pao shows this clearly, dividing it as follows
you were living
Both the phrases you walked and you were living emphasize behavior, of which the antecedent would be the vices. The contrast here is on a way of life. They at one time lived in accordance or under these vices; but they are no longer to live in them. This is in accord to the call to put the old to death (2:1). This contrast uses the same language and contrast in Ephesians 2:2-3. Both speak of a past condition in contrast to our new position in Christ. Our new status offers us deliverance (1 Thess. 1:10) from the wrath of God and forgiveness (1:14; cf. Eph. 1:7).
To be continued…
 Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 131
 Rene A Lopez, “A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice List,” BIBOTHECRA SACRA, July 2011, 309-310.
 Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 212.
 O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 180. Also see Rene A Lopez, a series on “Paul’s Vice Lists” in BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011 to April 2012. A six-part study.
 Rene A. Lopez, “Views on Paul’s Vice Lists and Inheriting the Kingdom,” Part 1: BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011, 81.
 William Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 1981], 24.
 Ibid, 28.
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 220, fn 51
 Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 131
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 220.
 Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 133.
 Moo, PTNC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 260.
 Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 128.
 Terry, GREEK VARIENTS, points out the phrase is missing from two good manuscripts. While possible the phrase was borrowed from Eph. 5:6, in all likelihood, since they are missing from so few manuscripts, they are original.
 Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 133. Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 129.
 Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 134,
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 222.