v. 5. Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry;
v. 6. for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience;
v. 7. in the which ye also walked some time when ye lived in them.
v. 8. But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
v. 9. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds,
v. 10. and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him;
v. 11. where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all.
The apostle here shows how the life of the believers in and with Christ should be manifested: Put to death, therefore, your members that are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. The apostle here speaks of the members of the body in its unregenerate state as servants and instruments of sin, bidding the Christians to put them to death in that capacity, by a single decisive act to terminate their functions in this respect. See Rom_6:13. Among the sins that are performed by the members of the body the apostle mentions especially such as were prevalent among the heathen in those days, sexual vices: fornication, when people that are not husband and wife cohabit as husband and wife; uncleanness, impurity, the being addicted to erotic thoughts and acts in one's own mind and body; lustfulness, to desire the gratification of sexual desire outside of holy wedlock; evil lust, out of which all the other sins against the Sixth Commandment flow. With these sins was often associated that of covetousness, of devising ways and means for indulging in lustful passions. Monsters of covetousness have usually been also monsters of lust. But covetousness, which kills brotherly love and hardens the heart against the gentle working of God's Holy Spirit, is, as St. Paul specifically states, idolatry, a gross transgression of the First Commandment, Mat_6:24. Faith cannot live in a heart which is devoted to Mammon, 1Ti_6:9-10. And the end is: On account of which things comes the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. All these things, all the sins which the apostle has mentioned, are under God's judgment of condemnation; His righteousness and holiness demands the punishment of the transgressor by death, eternal death. There is, therefore, an alternative held before the Colossians: Either put to death the members that perform such deeds, or suffer eternal punishment on account of your transgressions. All the children of disobedience that refuse to heed the gentle call, the warning admonition of the Lord, are under the wrath of God, which will eventually overtake and condemn them.
The apostle now places the Colossian Christians in direct contrast to the children of unbelief and disobedience: in which also you formerly led your lives when you lived in these. The moral conduct of all men by nature is subject to the censure and condemnation of God. The Colossian Christians also, before their conversion, had been habitual transgressors with reference to the one or the other, or to all the vices named above. They had been living in these vices; they represented the sphere of their conduct, the state in which any one could find them. See Rom_7:5; Eph_2:2.
The contrast between the converted and unconverted state is stressed still more: But now do you also put away all of them: anger, rage, malignity, slander, abusive speech out of your mouth. The life of heathendom, of disobedience and unbelief, lies behind the Colossian Christians, and yet the apostle addresses this urgent admonition to them, since by reason of the Christian's evil nature the tendency, the proclivity, toward all these sins is found also in their hearts. A Christian's entire life is a battle against the efforts of the old Adam to regain supremacy in his heart. Only a few of the most flagrant offenses are named: anger, the settled, continued condition of extreme displeasure against one's neighbor, which is so apt to culminate in hatred; indignation or rage, the sudden and passionate outburst which, in a way, is worse than is low anger, since the enraged person loses all control over himself; malignity, the feeling which causes a person to make a habit of injuring his neighbor; slander, by which the neighbor's good name is dragged into the mire; abusive talk and language which reveal the malice of the heart. Even as the finest garden will be ruined quickly if the weeds are permitted to gain a foothold, so the Christian community life, in home and congregation, will soon be utterly spoiled if these sins gain a foothold. And one more sin the apostle adds to the transgressions of the mouth which he has enumerated: Lie not to one another. For Christians to belie one another, deliberately to pervert the truth in order to work harm to their neighbor, is the very opposite of their calling, it cannot be reconciled with the life in and with Christ of which they have become partakers. To lie is characteristic of the devil's domain, Joh_8:44.
The apostle now brings the motive for proper Christian conduct from another point of view: Seeing you have put off the old man with his practices, and have put on the new man that is being renewed toward knowledge, according to the image of Him that created him. When they were converted, the Christians put off the old man, the old sinful nature, like an old, filthy garment. This putting off, this laying aside, included also that of the evil deeds and practices in which the old evil nature of man delights, the denying of the flesh with all its affections and lusts. See Rom_8:13; Gal_5:24. This was a single process, it took place in regeneration; but it is also a continued process, for the evil thoughts and desires in the heart, murders, adulteries, fornications, false witness, blasphemies, are always seeking to overcome the resistance of the Christian and to plunge him again into the filth of the children of disobedience. The believer, therefore, will at the same time put on the new man, the nature which is created by God, a product of His grace, consisting in righteousness and holiness in truth, Eph_4:24. This new man, this new, spiritual nature of the Christian, is continually being renewed. So long as we live in the flesh, so long must this process go on without ceasing; we must be renewed in knowledge and unto knowledge. We must grow in the knowledge of God's Word and will, after the image of God, who wrought the new nature in us in conversion. We are not only to be restored to the image of God which Adam possessed, but we shall eventually know and see our heavenly Father face to face, in everlasting glory and majesty. The more we Christians, by daily, prayerful study, penetrate into the wonderful Gospel-message, the more we understand the wonderful depth of love which was revealed in Jesus Christ, the more the image of God is impressed upon our soul, until finally, in the light of the eternal glory, we shall know Him even as we are known, 1Co_13:12.
In this respect, so far as this renewal unto the perfect knowledge is concerned, the fact stands out: Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, but all and in all Christ. See Gal_3:28. Wherever there are Christians, wherever the new man is created, all these distinctions vanish. Whether a person be a Greek, a person versed in all the wisdom of this present world, a member of the most advanced and enlightened nation of the world, or a Jew, priding himself upon his descent from Abraham and upon certain outward advantages which his nation enjoyed; whether a person is circumcised or uncircumcised: whether a person is a barbarian or even a Scythian, the most extreme example of lack of civilization and culture; whether a person is a slave and subject to an earthly master, or free and his own master before the earthly law,—all these factors have no influence with reference to the power of God in the Gospel and with regard to the standing of the individual Christians before God. There is no difference: all are sinners before the righteous and holy God, all are in need of redemption, for them all Christ died on the cross, for them all He obtained a perfect reconciliation, and so all Christians are in a state of absolute equality before God. And Christ is all and in all. The fullness of all blessings is found in Him, and this fullness He transmits, He gives to His members, to the believers, Eph_1:23. In the Church, as the vessel filled with the fullness of Christ's grace and mercy and with all the gifts which they include, the great union is brought about, by virtue of which all man-made distinctions are abrogated and perfect love and harmony in Him results. "Christ is the aggregation of all things, distinctions, prerogatives, blessings, and, moreover, is in all, dwelling in all, and SO uniting all in the common element of Himself."