Devotional # 158. 10/12/15. Colossians 3:5-7.
Intro. I seriously considered putting verse 5 into last week’s devotional because it fit so clearly in with what we studied. But then I decided that verses 1-4 should be their own thing and verses 5-7 would be really good to study as their own part. This week we see certain sins mentioned since: 1. we all deal with them, 2. it puts real, applicable meaning to God’s commands and 3. they illustrate the huge difference between living for Christ and living for sin.
v. 5. We start off with “therefore“, which shows what I was just saying, that this point is built off of what was said in verses 1-4. By way of reminder, if we died to our selves and our sins and have been resurrected in Jesus then why would we have anything to do with sin? That’s what Paul is building off of when he says “therefore”. Then he gives us a list of the things that are considered “earthly” or “sinful.” As we go through this list I challenge you to read it as it applies to you. Don’t worry about your friend or family member that you think exhibits these sins. Worry about yourself, let this be your litmus test.
“fornication” according to Merriam-Webster’s is “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other” (Source 1). It’s basically sex outside of marriage whether both people aren’t married at all or whether they are married and cheating on their spouse. Most people agree it’s wrong to cheat on your spouse (although popular culture has been eroding that for quite a while) but most people outside the church (and sadly many inside) think it’s a great idea for people to have sex before they get married. But I don’t care what anyone else says or how they try to change the meaning of the words – it’s wrong.
“uncleanness” is akatharsia (G#167) in the Greek and can mean physical or moral uncleanness. In this case I think Paul means it “in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living” (Source 2). It’s worth quoting John Stott about the “fornication” coupled with “uncleanness”: in Greek the words for fornication and uncleanness combined, cover every kind of sexual sin (Source 3).
“Passion” isn’t evil in the sense of having passion for your work or a hobby but it is when it consumes your heart negatively. It’s worth looking at the word in the original Greek which is pathos (G#3806) and could be used in a positive or negative way. However, in the New Testament when it’s used it’s always with a bad connotation. To the Greeks when it was used negatively it could mean “a calamity, mishap, evil or affliction” (Source 4). Another way this can be translated is “lust.”
For “evil desire” I think the obvious question is what’s the difference between this and something like “passion”, “lust” or the “covetousness” which is coming next. One commentator says that where “passion” deals with physical lust, “evil desire” deals more with mental lust (Source 6).
Lastly, we have “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Let’s look at Romans 7:7 because not only does Paul use “covetousness” as an example showing how the law points out sin but he actually shares with us that “covetousness” was something that he struggled with personally. Paul says, “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” So Paul, using this in a sweeping sense, is saying ‘I would not have known fleshly desires but as soon as I knew I couldn’t have them I wanted them’. Stifler says that when other commentators say Paul is referring to “irregular and illicit” desires they are absolutely wrong! He goes on to ask how Paul, who had “blameless legal righteousness (Phil. 3:6)” and a “good conscience (Acts 23:1)” could die to irregular desires? He had already done this as had many of the moral Pharisees, but “it was only when [Paul] came to see that it was desire itself that was forbidden, that the sin lay in the wish itself, not in the thing wished for…that he died under its power” (Source 5). I think of the love of money being the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10) or not being drunk with wine (Eph. 5:18) and how it is not the thing wished for that is necessarily the sin but the desire to have something that you selfishly want, too much of a good thing or even more importantly that God has not given you.
We saw a list similar to this in Ephesians 5:6-7, Devotional 107 (“fornication”, “all uncleanness”, “foolish talking” and “course jesting”, etc.). Remember, here in Colossians Paul just told us to put our mind on things above “not on things on the earth” (3:2). This isn’t just because we’re Christians but it also has to do with the coming judgment concerning all who practice these things and have no remorse for them.
vv. 6-7. The “wrath” that Paul is talking about here is noted throughout all of the Bible. Sometimes we think that the God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New Testament. As if He’s changed but God cannot change (Malachi 3:6). If you actually sit down and read the Bible cover to cover and you will see that the God of the Old Testament is merciful and loving and gives chance after chance to people and by the same token when you read the New Testament you’ll see that Jesus brings judgment and wrath and absolutely despises sin. God’s attributes all exist in perfect harmony with each other: His love, compassion, grace and mercy and at the same time wrath, judgment and justice. Let’s look at Revelation 11:14 as an example. The context here is that John has been explaining the “three woes” which are the last three trumpets (of seven). John notes that the third “woe” doesn’t happen immediately after the second, although it is “coming quickly”, there is a pause. This happens several times in Revelation and I believe that these pauses signify God’s patience and desire to see people come to Him. He gives a break from the judgment and wrath being poured out as if to say, ‘Will you now come to me?’ God is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8) and wishes that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and yet He is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6) and has an “awesome” and “strange work” of judgment (Isaiah 28:21).
We once walked in that sin when we lived with “the sons of disobedience.” We no longer live in those sins so we shouldn’t be walking in the same way non-Christians are. The word “lived” is important. If sin was your roommate and when you became a Christian you had to move out then why are you inviting it back in? Run away from that sin and never look back. Of course we have friends and family that are non-Christians and practice sin. But that doesn’t mean that you give them access to your life in such a way that they bring sin back in as a roommate. I like what Matthew Henry says, “it is necessary to [crush] sins…if we do not kill them, they will kill us” (Source 7).
Conclusion. I love that Paul can remind us that we’re saved and going to heaven (3:1-4) and just as easily remind us what we were saved from and why we shouldn’t be doing it any longer (3:5-7). Paul’s love for his “children” here in Colossae and for the generations to follow, including us, shows the truth of his words. He’s right – if I was raised with Christ then I shouldn’t be living the same way I used to.
Source 1: Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fornication .
Source 2: akatharsia (G#167), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G167&t=KJV .
Source 3: John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979, p. 192.
Source 4: pathos (G#3806), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3806&t=KJV .
Source 5: Stifler, Romans, p. 124
Source 6: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1837.
Source 7: Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, NT, p. 671.