Colossians & Philemonby Mike Raiter
Like night and day, or black and white, in Colossians 3:5–7, Paul marks a stark contrast between a life set on the things above and one absorbed with the things of the world.
“Therefore” (v. 5), or in other words, since you have died and risen with Christ, here is the kind of life you must live. Firstly, Paul gives us the “Don’ts” (Colossians 3:5–11) and then the “Do’s” (Colossians 3:12–17). In this first section (Colossians 3:5–11), he addresses two enormous issues: our sexuality and our speaking. We are sexual beings and we are also talking beings.
Some people may say, “But I just can’t control myself!” Yet Paul replies, “Yes, you can.” You have the power to say “no” to destructive sexual desires. One does not need to be too precise as to the distinctions between impurity, lust, evil passions, and covetousness. Paul is just covering all the bases. In short, he is cataloguing any sexual behaviour that is conducted outside the one-man–one-woman, faithful, lifelong marriage union.
It goes without saying that our fallen human sexuality exercises an enormous pull on us. This “war within” rages in the minds and hearts of many Christians. Indeed, Paul would say that, apart from our empowering union with Christ, we would otherwise be largely impotent in this battle.
Because of Christ, we can say “no” to sinful behaviours. Paul does not ever give the churches a command without also telling them the spiritual resources to keep it. The Colossians themselves are a living testimony to that, as they “used to walk in these ways” (v. 7). But they do not any longer, because God has radically transformed them. This should be our testimony too.
We must say “no” to sin. “Because of these [sins], the wrath of God is coming” (v. 6). Therefore, we must quickly “put to death” (v. 5) whatever belongs to our earthly nature. When it comes to immorality there can be no compromise. We must not delude ourselves. We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13), so we cannot behave like we still live in darkness. We are strengthened with all power according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11), so that we can live God-honouring, countercultural lives of sexual purity.
What are some of the sexual struggles men and women face in your context? In the light of Paul’s words here, what counsel can you bring?
If people require the empowering presence of God to bring permanent life changes, how can we help those who are not Christians in their struggle against sexual addictions? How should we be speaking into those non-Christian societies that reject biblical notions of sex and marriage?