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DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS

The Christ Life in an Alienated World

Holiness of Tongue and Temper – Sins Seldom Faced

Colossians 3:8-11

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Without breaking stride Paul addresses a new set of sins and just as strongly condemns them as not becoming the new creature in Christ. Paul has definitively defined the new identity of the believer.  He concludes his treatise on law and grace with these words: "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but new creation" (Galatians 6:14.15).

Paul returns time and again to the reality of God's sovereign work of grace that forever frees the believer from being a victim of his old nature. He never tires of returning to the Cross-work. "For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge [past/aorist participle] thus: that if ONE died for all, then all DIED; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died  for them and rose again . . .  Therefore [the ultimate conclusion],  from now on,  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:14,15,17). Paul bases his appeals on this eternal point of departure that covers the breadth of the sins of the old man.

It is true that I return often to the same vantage point, our death to the power of sin in His death (Romans 6:6). I do it to reinforce the fact that we obey God's commands because our new nature thus expresses itself in us. It is not our effort or duty that motivates us.

We can quite readily accept God's verdict on fornication, uncleanness as unbecoming to the follower of Christ, but Paul sees no difference between these gross sins of the past and the prevalent sins of tongue and temperament. 

We all have a tendency to grade or evaluate sins from the worst: fornication, uncleanness, passion, et al (Colossians 3: 5-7) to the least or most commonly tolerated: anger, wrath malice, et al. (vv. 8, 9). "But now you must put off also all of these" a direct reference to the sins seldom faced by the believer. Paul emphasizes strongly. "But now" in sharp contrast with, "in which you also once walked when you lived in them" (v.7).  There is to be a 180 degree about face, nothing less will do.

The imperative mood, "put off" is an aorist reflexive verb indicating a definite once for all decision. As old rags, worn out clothes are readily discarded so the believer must face in the same spirit a new set of "lesser" sins. You must strip off the old rags of speech. 

To appear at the wedding of your oldest daughter dressed in dirty old work clothes would be scandalous to say the least. Such attire would be totally out of place. Paul is saying that the sins of the tongue and temperament would equal such a cultural outrage.

Paul will now be specific. Anger is the inveterate reaction to a supposed hurt or offense. It is a knee-jerk reaction that reveals the rule of the old nature.  It has been described often as the slow burn long remembered and justified. Wrath, related to anger in essence, may be the sudden outburst of rage that approaches a demonic presence. Scriptures do not always sharply distinguish between the anger and wrath.

Ephesians puts anger in a rare perspective: "Be angry, and do not sin". Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4: 26, 27). On two occasions Jesus' righteous indignation was seen in the cleansing of His Father's house, at the beginning and conclusion of His ministry.  If we ever qualify for righteous indignation, it can only have a 12 hour brief span; I find the following verse an ominous warning: anger opens us to the devil's seduction.

Paul follows up with: malice-revenge and secretly guarded ill will, blasphemy - abusive and slanderous speech against others, filthy language – foul and obscene language. All of these must be as decisively disposed of as filthy rags.

To these sins of the tongue, we must add any hurtful language, cutting and degrading references to others, gossip, slander, self defense, gestures of the same. My Irish mother often spoke of a "joke with a jag."  Little wonder that James says: " . . . and the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity . . . and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell itself . . . With it (tongue) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men . . . Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:6,9,10).

Truth becomes the norm. To lie to one another is treachery itself, since salvation was the putting off of the "old man with his deeds" –"duds" - (same thought as Rom. 6:6, "knowing this that our old man was crucified with Christ"). Here is Paul's reference to the dynamic of the Cross, our union with Christ in death and resurrection where and when the old life was ended and the new life began. 

These injunctions to put off (v.8) [in the imperative mood involving our will] and put on (v.10) [now not a command but a result, a past participle of what has become the state of heart], the latter not ultimately our doing, but what He did there at the Cross. We now consent to this truth cordially and fully. We say a heartfelt Amen. We take our stand in faith on that release from the old captivity.

To this stand by faith, Paul adds the on going renewing of the new man (v.10). The new man is both new in time, being born again in regeneration and new in quality of life, the risen life of Christ. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).

Paul uses the flexibility of Greek to use both words that mean new, thus doubling the impact of newness: new in the sense of youth and agility (neos) and the freshness of origin and quality (kainos)[1].  This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit that produces in us the holiness of tongue and temperament, evidence of the Christ life. This is the metamorphosis that Paul defines in 2 Corinthians. 3:18: "But we all with open face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

In this very union with Christ with which Paul began the chapter Colossians 3:1-4, we live transformed lives in a deluded world; old relationships were annulled and new ones are introduced. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; Old thing have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The believer now lives in a new world without distinctions. "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (v.11).

Paul now specifies at length the fixed and static divisions of his world. They no longer obtain for the believer in Christ; all is new and doubly so. To the Roman world view, the Jew was of no cultural account, incircumcision was a nonstarter, a sharp departure for the Jew. Barbarian, anyone who did not speak the accepted language. The Scythian was the extremity of the pagan world, a tribe that devastated Palestine in the eight century AD, well remembered by the Jew and finally slave or free. No economic or social distinctions.   Paul has scoured his world to expose its fissures, fully accepted as legitimate but now none exists for the new creature in Christ.

We have seen there is zero tolerance for the basest sins and equally zero tolerance for the seldom faced sins of tongue and temperament.  But all of this is grounded, not in our best efforts, however weak and doomed to failure as they are, but in an abiding reality that we died to the old and the New is operating now on the basis of the Cross and the Holy Spirit.

Church of God, belov'd and chosen, Church of God for whom Christ died,

Claim thy gifts and praise the Giver!" Ye are washed and sanctified!"

Sanctified by God the Father, And by Jesus Christ, His Son,

 And by God, the Holy Spirit, Holy, holy, Three in One.

By His will He sanctifieth, By His Spirit's power within:

By the loving hand that chast'neth. Fruits of righteousness to win;

By His truth, and by His promise, By His Word, His gift unpriced,

By His blood and by our union With the risen life of Christ

   Holiness by faith in Jesus. Not by effort of thine own,

Sin's dominion crushed and broken, By the power of grace divine;

God's own holiness within thee, His own beauty on thy brow,

This shall be thy pilgrim's brightness, This thy blessed portion now.

Frances R. Havergal

Marks of Christ-likeness

The tongue is but a thermometer of your heart. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23.7). 

Are you at peace with your thoughts when all alone?    What constantly recurs?

What is the greatest source of input into your thoughts?  TV, entertainment, reading. Past regrets, present fears?

To what extent does the Internet, and social media govern your interest and time consumption?

If your inner thoughts were revealed, would you be ashamed?

Has God radically changed your vocabulary?



[1] A. T.Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville, TN-Boardman Press) vol. 1V. p. 502.