Colossians 3:5-11 – Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid side the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him — a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and in all.
Consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Rom. 6:11). It sounds so easy and it takes such few words to write. Yet this is our struggle in life. In Africa we have idolatry all around. Each year more than 1 million people gather (some say 2 million) in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia (Bishoftu) to celebrate a festival of Irachea. This is a time when new life is celebrated at Lake Hora and around a certain tree at the side of the lake. Such festivals and practices are a part of the ongoing celebration of culture but they are also idolatry. But then in America we have no shortage of greed and that too is idolatry. I doubt if there is more idolatry in Africa than America on this count.
And it is on account of these things (immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed) that the wrath of God will come. Rev. 21:8 reads: But for the cowardly, and unbelieving and abominable, and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. It makes me think again about how careful I am to tell the truth.
These things may have defined your past life but they must not define the present life of a Christian. “But now…” things are different. As Christians we no longer live a life allowing such things but rather we put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech. Again Paul says, “do not lie” since that is part of the old person who you no longer are. There is a clear difference made here between those things that characterized our former life and the new life according to the character of Christ. For those who have died to sin, there is a rebuilding project proceeding in their life. The old habits and practices are being replaced with new ways of living, thinking, acting and feeling.
The pattern, or blueprint, for this rebuilding project is given as the “image of the One who created us.” Gen. 1:26 says, “Let us make man (or humans) in Our image and after Our likeness.” The building project still continues. Adam was not yet in the image of God which we know because He sinned. There is no sin in God, has never been any sin in God nor will there ever be any sin in God. So Adam was not in God’s image yet. No, if we want to see a human in the image of God we must look to Jesus, the last Adam. He is man in the image of God, as we read in Colossians 1:15 of this series of studies. But when we consider ourselves dead to sin as Paul describes in V. 5 and 8, then the next step is to put on the new self that is being renewed according to the pattern of Christ. Paul uses the idea of “being renewed,” because the work is not being done by us, but by God. You cannot renew yourself, neither can you remake yourself, but God can do both (see Jeremiah 18). If we want to know what the finished product is intended to look like, we must look to Jesus.
As we turn to the last verse in this section it comes to mind that in the church today we find some who are in love with everything Jewish. They love Jewish music, use a Jewish head covering when the pray, blow the rams horn, use Jewish names for God in preference to “Jesus.” May God bless them in their love for the Jews. But there is no special culture more precious to God than other cultures just as there is no special language more precious to God than others. I know Spanish is really the language of heaven but I think other languages are there as well. Some say Chinese is the language of God because more people speak that language than any other. But on the day of Pentecost all heard the glory of God “in their own language,” because Christ and His gospel are fully translatable. If you look at pictures of Christ in European museums He looks European. In China he looks Chinese. In Africa He is black, and in Latin American He appears Latin. Why? He belongs to all of us but is owned by none. We might use the name of Yahweh, or Yah, or Jehovah, or Elohim, or any other biblical name, but I say, Christ is all and in all and His name is above all names in heaven or in earth and there is no other name by which we must be saved.