Verse 1-4 dealt with positional truth. It is the truth of this doctrine that should cause us to reject religion and embrace the true nature of God’s plan for us. This doctrine should keep us from ever getting mixed up in the psychological approach to life which says you are a product of your environment. It should also protect us from all of the fallacies of life, and cause us to distinguish between Christianity and religion. Positional truth always emphasizes that Christianity is a relationship with God and not some system of human works, like religion. Religion comes in many forms as it did in Colossae and as it does today. Any system of human works as a means of pleasing God and gaining His approval or love is a false system. This is the reason Paul took the approach he did with the church at Colossae. It is interesting that we have the same form of religion today, which is a psychological approach to life replacing accurate Bible doctrine. Verses 5-17, deal with the objectives of experiential sanctification. These objectives are broken down into principles and mechanics in these verses.
“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
Therefore is used as a transitional conjunction to relate the challenge in verses 1-4 to the function in verses 5-17. In other words, Paul was challenging the believers in Colossae to make their spiritual lives align with who they really were, as Royal Family of God. The approach that Paul took was one he did commonly in his writings. He would often compare the former life under the control of the sin nature to the new life in Christ under the control of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what we have in verses 5-17.
Consider…as dead is one word in Greek, “nekroo” meaning to put to death or to make dead. It is used as a figure of speech to help us understand the doctrinal concept of controlling the sin nature. The list that follows is a partial list of things that we are to “consider as dead,” used to represent any overt or mental attitude sin. All sin is some form of idolatry. An idol is something that a person worships and that can be almost anything. Some people worship their immoral lifestyle, others worship their humanistic passions, while others worship their evil desires and deeds and still others worship materialistic greed. God desires all of our worship to be directed toward Him alone. (Exodus 20:4-6)
Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the power, the sovereignty, and the rulership of the sin nature has been broken, positionally. Since the sin nature is not eradicated at salvation, we need to learn how to break the control of it, experientially. The only reason the sin nature is able to rule in the life of a believer is that he exercises his free will in favor of it. However, the power of the Holy Spirit can replace the power of the sin nature as we allow Him to control our lives. When a believer is being controlled by the Holy Spirit, every area of his life is being influenced. The quality that a believer is filled with is the character of Jesus Christ. The filling is temporary, depending on the believer’s fellowship with God. Fellowship with God means that there is no unconfessed sin in the life. Fellowship with God is achieved by naming or admitting known sins directly to God. It is this control of the Holy Spirit that provides the power to execute the Christian Way of Life, which includes both your relationship with God (your spiritual life) and relationship with people (your Christian life).
“For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you once walked, when you were living in them.”
God is not only a God of love and compassion; He is also a God of “anger and wrath.” Of course, anger and wrath are anthropopathisms (assigning to God human feelings that He does not possess). They are simply used to explain in human terms the divine attitude toward reversionism and God’s divine discipline of believers.
Divine discipline is for believers because they are God’s children. Divine discipline is a family matter for the Royal Family of God. Divine discipline relates to personal sin. Maximum discipline for any member of the family of God is the sin unto death, which is caused by prolonged reversionism. But divine discipline does not entail the loss of salvation. (Galatians 3:26; Hebrews 12:6) Divine discipline is often removed by using the Rebound Technique. (I Corinthians 11:31) If the suffering continues after Rebound, the purpose is suffering for blessing. (Job 5:17-18)
In them you once walked, when you were living in them refers to reversionism. Paul used the Greek word “peripateo,” for walked. This Greek word means a way of life, a behavior pattern, or a thought pattern. “Peripateo” describes a pattern or function of life. It is generally ascribed favorably, sometimes unfavorably, as in our context. In walking you have to take one step at a time, just as the Christian life involves one step at a time. (Romans 14:5-6; Ephesians 5:16-18; James 4:13-15) The mechanics of walking connote balance. The reversionistic believer is off balance. Walking is sometimes used to depict the status of a reversionistic believer. (Philippians 3:18; Colossians 3:7)
Walking is also used to describe the function of the advancing believer. (Philippians 3:7; Colossians 2:6)
There are three favorable spheres of the believer’s walk: a) walk in the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16); b) walk in faith, (II Corinthians 5:7); c) walk in doctrine (III John 3). Walking therefore also depicts the spiritual life under the filling of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:2-4; Ephesians 5:2,18) Walking describes the believer who is taking in and applying doctrine. (Ephesians 5:15) Walking is used for the function of a believer building an edification complex in the soul. (I John 1:7; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:11; Colossians 1:10; Romans 13:13)
“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 aside 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 and Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
As a new creation in Christ, a believer is to “count as dead the old self” and “put on the new self.” A verse that is often quoted with regard to this doctrine of being a “new creation” (new self) in Christ, but one that is not very well understood, is II Corinthians 5:17-21. The content of II Corinthians 5 shows the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the placing of the believer into union with Christ. It is our union with Christ that gives us the potential for the execution of the Christian life. It is in light of this doctrinal truth that Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17 that we are new creations in Christ and that “old things” have passed away and all things have become new.
Contrary to popular belief, “all things becoming new,” is not a reference to a change in a person’s lifestyle or giving up “bad habits.” We know this from the original language and from many other passages of Scripture. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, their lifestyle does not automatically change. If there needs to be change, then the only legitimate change must come from spiritual growth based on learning and applying the Word of God, not on some religious taboo. As a matter of fact, this passage refers to what God does for us, not what we do for God. Becoming a new creation is a matter of God’s grace. Therefore, all human effort is eliminated. The reason a person becomes a new creation is they are in union with Christ. This union means that a believer shares Christ’s destiny and inheritance. (Romans 12:1-2)
The first word of II Corinthians 5:17 is therefore. In Greek the word for therefore is “hoste” and can be better translated “conclusion.” Paul looks back at the context of the passage and draws a conclusion based on previous doctrinal information. The conclusion is if (first class condition meaning if and it is true) any person is in Christ (baptism of the Holy Spirit) that person is a new creation. Creature is the Greek word “ktisis” and refers primarily to the creative act in process. It is the believer who is being acted upon by God. This act of creation is when God, at salvation, creates a human spirit in the believer. In order to better understand what Paul is teaching we will use the term “a new spiritual classification” since this describes more precisely what occurs at salvation. This creative act by God creates something in a believer that previously did not exist. It is “new” and it is “spiritual” in nature and the believer becomes a different “classification” (Royal Family of God). (I Corinthians 2:9-14; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19)
Prior to salvation a person is merely God’s creation, but not a part of God’s family. Becoming a part of God’s family is a matter of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. This act of faith places a person into union with Christ and they instantaneously become a child of God. No longer is this person merely a creation of God, they are now a “new” creation of God, which is a different classification, spiritually. Before salvation a person is spiritually dead (separated from God); after salvation a person is spiritually alive (reconciled to God). (John 1:12)
Old things is actually one word in Greek. It is the word “archaios.” “Archaios” literally means, “that which existed in the beginning.” It is a reference to something that is ancient (really old), something in the past. It does not, therefore, refer to the believer’s bad habits or lifestyle. It refers to something that is thousands of years old.
What passes away at salvation that would fit into the meaning of the Greek word? The context makes the meaning very clear. It is a reference to an old condition – spiritual death. Thousands of years ago our original parents, Adam and Eve, sinned and the result was spiritual death. Spiritual death passed to every member of the human race as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. It is spiritual death that Paul has in view when he uses the word “archaios.”
Passed away in Greek is “parerchomai” and means to go, to pass, to come to an end, to disappear or to neutralize. In our passage it means that spiritual death has gone, passed away or come to an end. At salvation, spiritual death comes to an abrupt end. Once you are placed into union with Christ, spiritual death disappears from you forever. Never again will you be spiritually dead. You can reject the Christian Way of Life and turn your back on God and His Word, but you can never be spiritually dead again.This is grace! (Romans 6:23) Once again, let’s go to the original language to get a precise meaning. For example, “all things” is not in the original Greek. The truth is that at salvation all things do not become new for the believer. After years of spiritual growth and application of Bible doctrine some things become new, but certainly not at salvation.
Again, we get the proper meaning when we get a proper translation. “Behold, they have become new” is the proper translation. “They” refers to those who are “in Christ.” Even the word new in Greek gives us further insight on this phrase.
There are two words in Greek for new. The first is “neos” and means new in time, young or that which is recent. The second word is “kainos” and means new in form, new in quality or different in nature. It is this second word, “kainos,” that Paul uses to describe the new creation. The believer receives a new nature (a human spirit). This nature is from God and is spiritual. Receiving this nature is not a matter of reformation of a particular lifestyle or behavior. Receiving this nature is strictly a matter of God’s grace provision. The transforming power of God the Holy Spirit places you into union with Christ and sets you apart to God for all eternity, upon faith in Christ.
In case there is any doubt about the true meaning of this passage, II Corinthians 5:18 clarifies it: “All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” The all things are from God, not man, and it is God Who reconciles mankind to Himself by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. This eliminates any thought of religious “tabooism” or asceticism. You do not give up anything to become a new creation in Christ nor do you start doing something. You are a new creation because you are “in Christ” and for no other reason. Salvation is a matter of faith alone in Christ alone and has absolutely nothing to do with good works or human merit. Jesus Christ has already done all the work on behalf of us all. His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross paid the penalty for sin and set up the potential of everlasting life for every member of the human race.
No distinction in Colossians 3:11, means that God does not show partiality. In Galatians 3:27-28 Paul makes it very clear that there is equality within the body of Christ. There is no racial distinction, no social distinction and no gender distinction; we are all one in Christ. We all have equal privilege and equal opportunity to fulfill God’s plan, purpose and will.