Gordon E. Johnson



Panoramic View


Paul's Prayer

Walk but Beware

Life in Union with a Risen Christ

Freedom In Christ

Victory: Real or Counterfeit

The Christ Life in an Alienated World

Holiness in the Home

Holiness in Our World at Large

Paul's Greetings to Fellow Workers


The Christ-Life in an Alienated World

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Colossians 3:5-7

Bishop H.C.G. Moule calls Colossians 3:1-4 one of the "golden paragraphs of the whole Bible. To countless hearts it is one of their peculiar treasures."[1] There is no question but what the four verses (Colossians 3:1-4) lift us up into the "heavenlies" and gives us our marching orders in a most sinful world:  "Seek those things which are above . . . Set your mind on things above . . . for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." These are rapid-fire commands and promises well within the believer's ability to respond in obedient faith.

Ours is a hidden life in the sense of not being understood nor appreciated by the world around us. It is also a hidden life in the security and sanctity of our eternal relationship with the Trine God. John states it well: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3: 2). What new vistas are now open to us!

These commands and promises express divine reality which we must take at their full value, For Paul this is the Christian's true identity and point of departure. We grasp it by that faith which issues invariably in a heart obedience, being always undergirded by the faithful Holy Spirit. 

All that follows in prohibitions (vv.5-11) and exhortations and commendations (vv. 12-17) are a consequence of the "Cross work of Christ." Nothing can be added, nor can anything be subtracted from its sufficiency.  May we allow the Holy Spirit to bring us to that point of spiritual bankruptcy so these riches become ours by faith in His Word.

An Alien and Hostile World and a Potential Traitor Within    

Paul launches the stark reality of our Godless and worldly environment. Without taking anything away from our position in Christ, he warns us against the latent influence of our inherited sin nature. That sin nature could be compared to peeling an onion, one layer after another with tears to follow. Paul condemns it outright and so sets up prohibitions against it. He may surprise us with such categorical denunciations, naming specifically some of the heinous sins of the flesh.

The Apostle John categorically defines our hostile world: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1John 2:15,16)

"Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth (v.3). Take special note of the word "therefore." However, our response to that nature is not our task to face alone and "do it to death."  Our new identity and our position in union with Christ are our resources always fully available. 

But the believer must confront the treachery of his old nature. God "did it to death" [the literal meaning of the verb] at the Cross; now the believer must not yield to the seductions from within to compromise with the alien world. Paul concludes the Galatian epistle with what is the believer's affirmation "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" (Galatians 6:14).

God's Remedy--the Cross Where God Confronted the Enemy

Paul re-states almost verbatim this injunction in Romans 6:11-13, the classic biblical response. "Reckon, [count] yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present [be presenting] your members as instruments [weapons] of unrighteousness to sin . . . "  

The command to "do to death" is a present tense aorist command, meaning in effect, a decisive position to be taken once for all--no exceptions, no temporizing, no rationalizations. It is now the believer's privilege and duty to do what God did at the Cross and follow through in the breaking process of active faith.

Paul echoes his final injunction:"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die [not an option for the believer]; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:12,13). Take special note of the order: first the work of the Holy Spirit, but not without our full consent and faith acceptance

This is the beginning of a new holiness norm, not a new legalism; our best efforts to deal with our sinful desires must fail; at best they are a futile attempt compared with God's remedy at the Cross. Such a conflict is beyond the powers of our best efforts. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak though the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3). 

Paul Enumerates the Grossest Sins of the Flesh    Colossians 3: 5

What does the believer face and "do to death"?  Don't be surprised by Paul's specificity, "fornication" (a root meaning from which we get pornography), God alone and the devil know the damage wreaked by this billion dollar business. One of my pastor friends with a Doctorate in Theology lost his ministry to this secret sin. God help the younger generation being raised in a world saturated by pornography and promoted insidiously by modern technology.

In the strongest of terms God hates fornication/adultery. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Hebrews 13:4).  God's ultimate definition of marriage--one man and one women (Matthew 19:1-9) is openly flouted by both public and legal consent. To state publicly the biblical truth that governs marriage brings scorn and charges of "hate" language.

Now Paul names uncleanness which refers to all types of moral perversity. Nowadays with public opinion being the only criterion for many, all barriers are down. The devil has an active agenda that will bar no opposition to his designs. What used to be genuine public entertainment now crosses the line with one celebrity outdoing the other in baseness. It is time for the Christian to re-evaluate his/her movie and TV entertainment.  One cannot feed on the "husks" of the world and grow in grace.

Paul includes "passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry." John calls them the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes negating any love of the Father ( 1John 2:15.16). The call goes out to the believer to put them to death. Such a call means that each of us must confront this battle within his/her own heart. All too often the Christian landscape is strewn with casualties in these very areas. "Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

To the Corinthians Paul had said; "Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom f God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

The Gospel meets head on the vilest sins of the past. God knows that that genuine encounter with Christ is the covering for any past sin. Victory will not be by trying or by painful degrees but by a purging and a cleansing by the Holy Spirit. No sin of the past is beyond His cleansing.

Paul reminds the Colossians and us that "the wrath of God is coming (approaching) upon the sons of disobedience, in which you also once walked when you lived in them" (vv.6, 7). There is an urgency to this warning. Paul is saying:  "This was your life." You must put it to death. But again His command is based on your new identity and vital position in Christ, dead to sin and alive to God.

God's Remedy   the Cross Is Always at Hand

Little wonder that Paul characterizes the believer as "those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:24, 25). The true mark of the believer is that he has accepted by faith that representative death and continues to maintain its dynamic through walking in the Spirit.  Zero tolerance must be given to the sins of the flesh, the old nature.

The believer, be he or she, old or young, mature or immature, must take these warnings to heart. Paul views this judgment of our alien world as the ABC of Christian victory. He will move on to the positive and present relationships of those in Christ.  The best is yet to come (Colossians 3: 8-4:1).  But there can be no victory without the mastering of the ABC of new life in Christ in an alien world.

Cautions to Keep

Review God's analysis of the Adamic nature in its unrighteousness. Three times Paul asserts: "God gave them up to , , ," (Romans 1:24,26,28).

Re-examine the even more subtle self-righteousness and hypocrisy to which Paul dedicates  (Romans. 2:1-2:29).

The sinful nature is capable--even potentially in the believer--of every sin and uncleanness. Thanks to God our more than adequate defense is the imparted life of Christ in true regeneration (John 3:16).

Christ's last counsel to His own disciples before His betrayal: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

[1] H.C. G. Moule, Colossian and Philemon Studies, lessons in Faith and Holiness, (London: Pickering &Inglis Ltd..), p, 189.