In the previous post, I said that we will be studying Paul’s comments about laundry for a few weeks. This week is part one, Colossians 3:5-11, all about taking off our dirty clothes. Next week will be part two, Colossians 3:12-17, all about putting on clean clothes. In today’s post, we start studying part one. But before Paul gets to talking about clothes, you might be surprised to read that he talks about killing. Killing? Yes. Take a look for yourself.
In verse 5, Paul says that we are to put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature. When he writes, “put to death,” in the ancient Greek he originally wrote this letter, Paul is using the imperative tense, and that is important for us to know. The imperative tense is the command tense. That means this isn’t a suggestion. Christians will do this, Paul is saying, insinuating that it is wrong in God’s eyes if we don’t do it. That might seem harsh, because we are not used to being commanded to kill. We Christians are supposed to be peaceful, and we are not to commit murder, except in this area. So what is Paul doing talking about killing? He says we are, “to put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”
What is the earthly nature? Paul is using figurative language here. If you’re looking at the language he wrote it, he literally says, “Put to death the members which are upon the earth.” What members is he talking about? He describes the members that we, as people who are desiring to look more and more like Jesus and to have our hearts in line with his heart, are commanded to put to death. They are actions of the earthly nature, actions of the sinful nature. They are actions or attitudes that are not in line with the heart and character of God. Therefore we put them to death! How do we kill them? We stop doing them! Cease them completely. Essentially Paul is saying, “Christians, you people who have been risen with Christ so that you are no longer enslaved by your sinful earthly nature, stop sinning!”
Look at the list of the things that we are to stop doing. It’s pretty specific. “Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Paul says those actions are members of the earthly sinful nature. Put them all to death. Cease them completely.
Notice these sins, these actions and attitudes of the earthly nature that Paul tells us to put to death, all are self-focused. Consider how different they are from the way of Jesus, which is very “other” focused. He shifted his life and sacrificed heaven for others, for us. He washed the feet of the disciples, asking them to follow his example in being other focused. Jesus tells us one of the greatest things we can do is to love our neighbor.
So when Paul says “put these things to death,” he is grounding his teaching in the selflessness of Jesus, who once taught, “If you want to be my disciples, you must die to your self.” That’s how serious Paul says Christians are to consider this command to stop doing these sinful things. Let’s look at each of the actions on the list.
First, he describes three actions or attitudes related to sexuality. Paul is not leaving any room for confusion. No loopholes. He is talking about sinful sexual thoughts, sinful sexual actions, and the general sinful state of sexual sin. Christians should stop participating in sexual immorality. Again, considering God’s heart, Paul is responding to an area, sexuality, that is often rooted in deep selfishness, in actions of not loving another selflessly, which is what Jesus did on earth and what he calls us to.
When Paul lists sexual immorality, he is saying that God’s way, the Kingdom way, is to not involve ourselves in sexuality immorality of any kind. God’s design is for sexual expression to take place only in marriage between one man and one woman in a loving, committed relationship. That is not me talking, and that is not a political statement. That is God’s design and desire, for our good, and for the flourishing of society. So when Paul says that Christians must cease any immoral sexual activity or thought, Paul is communicating that God-given desire.
Now at this point some of you might be thinking, “That is so antiquated and wrong. How can you maintain those repressive fundamentalistic teachings?” I’d be glad to talk further about that. Feel free to comment below. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m simply trying to present the message Paul wrote as it is because I believe it is God’s best for all people.
I suspect, however, that a majority of my readers might be thinking,“Yes! I agree! Our society is so sexually immoral, and we need to clearly proclaim this! Preach it, brother!”
Fair warning. You might not be so happy when we take a look at what is next on Paul’s list. Check back in tomorrow to find out!