Colossians chapter 3 is the last chapter we will discuss in this paper. Part 7 starts with Col. 3:1.
COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3.
"Therefore if [The NIV has "since" instead of "if," which is reasonable in that this is a class 1 conditional sentence in the Greek, which means that the "if" clause is considered to be true.] you have been raised up with Christ [We were made alive with Christ and raised up Him (cf. Eph. 2:5, 6) in/by the Holy Spirit, through faith, at the time we became born-again Christians (see Col. 2:12, 13).], keep seeking the things above [["Seeking the things above" (which includes making God and the things of God top priority, with a strong emphasis here on things like righteousness, holiness, and the fruit of the Spirit), is something we must do on a continuous basis as we appropriate and cooperate with God's grace by faith (in accordance with the requirement of the gospel). This isn't something that takes place automatically while we are passive. Faith is active. We must know and understand what God requires of us and think and walk that way (by His grace, and for His glory).]], where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God [cf. Psalm 110:1; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55, 56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; and 1 Pet. 3:22 (I had a footnote: It seems to me that these verses, by themselves, should suffice to show that the oneness view of God is wrong.)]. (2) Set your mind on [["Set your minds on" NKJV; NIV; "Be intent on" NASB margin; "set your affection on" KJV. The Greek verb used here (phroneo) could be translated "think on," which would be quite acceptable as long as we understand that Paul was speaking (for the most part) of the thinking (including our priorities, attitudes, and motives) that we do in our hearts. I have discovered over the years that most Christians wrongly think that the words "think" and "mind" (as they are used in the Bible) are limited to what we do with our heads. Most of our important thinking takes place in our hearts (spirits/souls/inner man). Our hearts, including the thinking we do in our hearts, must be fixed on God and the things of God so that His will may be accomplished in our lives. We live on the earth, but our primary citizenship (even now) is in heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20).]] the things above, not on the things that are on earth [cf., e.g., Matt. 16:23; Phil. 3:19]. (3) For you have died [We have died (through union with Christ) to sin, to the flesh/the old man, and to this world, whose god is the devil (see Col. 2:11, 12, 20; 2 Cor. 4:4).] and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life [cf. John 11:25; 14:6; and 1 John 5:12], is revealed [manifested], then you also will be revealed [manifested] with Him in glory. [[Compare, for example, Rom. 8:17-25; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; Eph. 2:5-7; Phil. 3:20; 21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Pet. 1:13; and 1 John 2:28; 3:2. The Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven, but we are united with Him now (and through Him with God the Father) through the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9-14). What Paul means by "your life is hidden" is that it has not (for the most part) been revealed/manifested yet. Most of the glory of our salvation, in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, is reserved for the (near) future. The glory of that eternal life will be revealed/manifested when the Lord Jesus Christ is manifested at the time of His second coming. At that time we will be glorified and raptured into the heavenly dimension to begin to reign with Him.
Even though most of the glory is reserved for the (near) future, everything we need for this present life has been provided through new-covenant salvation in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Especially relevant in this context is the fact that God has provided everything we need to live in/by/after the Holy Spirit in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, doing the will of God.]] (5) Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead [[In the margin the NASB has, "Lit. put to death the members which are on the earth." The NKJV has, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication...." The NIV has, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality...." I believe the translation "put to death" is better. Paul is exhorting his readers to make sure that they are living as those who have truly died to sin, to the old man/the flesh, and to Satan and his kingdom. Anything that remains of sin must be put to death now with top priority (cf., e.g., Col. 3:6-9; Rom. 6:6, 12-14; 8:12-14; Eph. 4:22-32; James 1:21-23; and 1 Pet. 2:1).
Paul was undoubtedly making some reference to the members of our physical "bodies" with his use of the word "members" here (as with his use of the word "body" in Rom. 6:6; 7:24; and 8:13), but it was a rather loose reference (as it was in the verses just cited from Romans): Sometimes the apostle used the word "body" in the same non-literal sense that he often used the word "flesh," speaking of the old man, and not at all limited to the physical body. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote a paragraph from what J. B. Lightfoot says regarding "the members" here in verse 5, "Each person has a two fold moral personality. There is in him the 'old man,' and there is in him also 'the new' (verses 9, 10). The old man with all his members must be pitilessly slain. It is plain that [the members] here is used, like [man] in ver. 9, not physically, but morally. Our actual limbs may be either [of the earth] or [of heaven], according as they are made instruments for the world or for Christ: just as we - our whole being - may identify ourselves with the [old man] or with the [new man] of our two fold potentiality. For this use of the physical, as a symbol of the moral of which it is the potential instrument, compare Matt. 5:29 ["If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you...."]" ("Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon" [Zondervan, 1974 reprint], page 211).)) We live on the earth in physical bodies, bodies that enable us to function on the earth. The members of the body are very often involved when sins are committed (cf. Rom. 6:13). It must be understood, however, that sin originates in the heart, not in the physical body.
To put to death the members which are on the earth means the same thing as putting to death the old man/the flesh and the works of the old man/the flesh. The NIV has, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature." The bottom line of what the apostle Paul says here, as he so often says it, is that Christians are supposed to be dead to all sin (in the sense they stop sinning, not that they cannot be tempted to sin, and not that they cannot sin), and if they still are sinning in any way, they must make it top priority to stop all sin now. Continuing in sin is not an option; see verse 6.]] to immorality ["Lit fornication" (margin of NASB)]], impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed [or, "covetousness"; the KJV; NKJV have "covetousness"], which amounts to idolatry [Compare Eph. 5:5. Greed/covetousness amounts to idolatry in that it amounts to bowing down before/worshipping money and the things money can buy]. (6) For it is because of these things that [on account of which things] the wrath of God [[I had a nineteen paragraph footnote here: Many Christians in our day speak only of the love of God; they have very little (if any) conception of His "wrath." I'll quote several sentences from David E. Garland on this topic ("Colossians and Philemon" [Zondervan, 1998], page 216). "A survey of faith maturity in Christians [apparently not at all limited to evangelical Christians] discovered that most believe that God is forgiving (97%) and loving (96%), but far fewer believe that God is judging (37%) or punishes those who do wrong (19%). [(footnote) Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, "The Teaching Church..." (...Abingdon, 1993), 44.] These Christians probably doubt that a God of such inclusive love could judge with such inflexible wrath. ... The best-selling book 'Conversations With God,' by Neale Donald Walsch [G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1996], represents the current opinion on God's wrath. It portrays a chummy God who patronizes sin, since there is no objective right and wrong. According to Walsch, God smiles on all that we do and only asks that we do our best. Paul's mention of the 'wrath of God' presents an opportunity to help people recognize the reality of God's wrath and to disabuse them of common misunderstandings of it."
I discussed the love of God and the wrath of God in some detail, aiming for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches, as part of my study of Ephesians chapter 1 that is available on my internet site. I'll include extensive excerpts from that study here. "There's a lot of teaching around the body of Christ about God's unconditional love. I believe much of this teaching is simply wrong, and it can be dangerous. It goes beyond the balanced teaching of the Bible to tell people that God will always continue to love them just the same no matter what believe or what they do. This out-of-balance teaching is one reason there's so little fear of God and so little repentance and motivation for righteousness and holiness in so many Christians.
Let's not see how far we can push the love and grace of God. It's not that we can in ourselves be worthy of, or earn, God's love, but if we continue to reject and disdain His love and grace [including His sanctifying grace], we will ultimately be confronted with His eternal wrath. Compare, for example, Rom. 2:4-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7-9; Eph. 2:3 ('children of wrath,' on the path that culminates in God's wrath in the day of His wrath); 5:1-7; and Col. 3:5-11. The Old Testament verses that spoke of God's never-ending love for Israel, by the way, did not cover those individuals who willfully (and without repentance) forsook their covenant with God. Sincere Christians who love God and are living for Him in truth and righteousness are not in danger of facing God's eternal wrath, but they can block the full flow of His experiential love through failing to live in the center of His will. Let's not settle for less than God's will for us - for His full glory, and for our sakes.
It's true, of course, that we must emphasize God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. (The devil and his hosts spend a lot of time attacking God's people, telling them that God doesn't love them, when He does; telling them they have committed the unpardonable sin, when they haven't; telling them they never can stop sinning, that God's grace isn't sufficient; etc.) But it's not acceptable to put all the emphasis here. It won't work! We need the full gospel (which includes the balanced gospel)! God knows our hearts; He knows if we are making Him and His Word top priority in our hearts. If we're not, we're going to have to make it top priority to change by His sufficient grace in Christ through faith" (page 8).
"...many Christians have accepted worldly ideas about what love means (the world of our day loves words like love, tolerance, and peace), ideas that substantially miss, and often directly contradict, dominant themes of the Bible. The primary problem that I am concerned with - and it is a very serious problem - is the idea that since God is love, He cannot have great wrath, eternal wrath, and He certainly cannot cast people into hell. This idea contradicts the Bible; it is also one of the main reasons that there is so little repentance and fear of God among so many Christians in our day. Why take the warnings of the Bible seriously?" (page 19)
"Let's briefly consider John 3:16. This is a significant verse, but many read way too much into it and do not balance out what is said here with the rest of the verses in the passage (and the rest of the Bible). John 3:16, 18, for example, show that those that willfully reject the gospel are condemned already (that is, they are condemned from the time that they willfully reject the gospel, unless they later repent) and that the wrath of God (not the love of God) abides on them. In a very real sense, they have already had their final judgment. [I had a footnote, "John 5:24 shows that it is also true, and it is a glorious truth indeed, that those who do submit in faith have already had their final judgment. This does not mean that they could not later reverse this judgment if they are foolish enough to turn away from their commitment to Christ and His salvation."] When God sent His Son, He knew what was in the hearts of all people. He knew that many were committed to evil and that they would not receive Christ or submit to the gospel in faith. He knew that Christ's coming would force such people to manifest what was in their hearts - Christ's coming to such people, or the gospel's coming to them, greatly increases their sinful status before God (see, e.g. John 3:19-21; 15:18-25)" (pages 20, 21).
"For God to love mankind UNCONDITIONALLY would mean that His love would NOT BE CONDITIONED BY (that is, it would have nothing to do with) what the people did, or did not do (including repentance and faith in Christ). As I mentioned, in most ways this view is simply wrong. God's blessing all people with the sun and rain (Matt. 5:43) and, more importantly, His desire that all people repent and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) are areas where it is appropriate to speak of His UNCONDITIONAL love" (page 21).
"In this discussion about the love of God, I am not dealing with God's emotions. I am dealing almost entirely with His final (eternal) judgment of all people. Are we going to experience His eternal love, enjoying an eternal love relationship with Him, living in His presence in His eternal kingdom that is literally full of glory and abiding in all the blessings that He has prepared for those who love Him (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9)? Or, are we going to be totally separated from Him in the eternal lake of fire experiencing His eternal wrath? Even if He did continue to have feelings of love for the people He cast into hell, it would not affect their eternal destinies; according to the Bible, they will experience His eternal wrath, not His eternal love. There is an emotional component of love, but love is a lot more than emotions - love is an action word. If we want to experience the eternal, abiding love of God, we must live the way He requires us to live (by the sanctifying grace of God in Christ through faith); we will be judged according to our works (cf., e.g., Rom. 2:2-13; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:7-9; Eph. 5:3-7; and Rev. 22:11, 12) [Our works demonstrate whether our faith is genuine, or not.]" (page 21).
I'll quote the brief remarks I made regarding the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). "This parable warns that although there were ten virgins at the beginning (they were all born-again Christians, who initially had oil in their lamps, which lamps were burning [Matt. 25:8]), only five of the virgins were ready when the bridegroom returned. Christ gave this teaching to exhort all Christians of the need to make it top priority to get ready and stay ready for His return. The bridegroom says to the five foolish virgins, who were not ready for His return, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Those are not the kind of words we want to hear from Christ at the end. (We will not hear such words if we make God, His truth, His Spirit, His righteousness, and His kingdom top priority. In other words, we will not hear such words from Christ if we meet His conditions for salvation.) Those words spoken to the five foolish virgins hardly fit the idea of God's unconditional, never-ending love. ... To face the wrath of God on judgment day will be quite the opposite of experiencing His love" (pages 21, 22).
"God's judgments never are arbitrary; He is a good God, and His judgments are always righteous. He is a God of great mercy, but there are, as there must be, definite limits to His mercy. His righteousness and His love for His people require that He eventually remove those who persist in sin and never will repent; they cause chaos in His kingdom; they destroy divine order; they attack His people; etc." (page 23).
"James 4:4 speaks of people making themselves enemies of God by becoming friends of the world; James 4:6 speaks of God's being opposed to the proud. Neither of these expressions goes with abiding in the love of God" (page 23).
"Luke chapter 15, with its three parables (including the parable of the prodigal son), strongly emphasizes the point that heaven rejoices when sinners repent. This chapter was dealing, for the most part, with the repentance of backslidden children of God, but I believe it has much application for the repentance of all mankind. The parable of the prodigal son deals with a prodigal son who repents; it powerfully illustrates the point that God greatly loved this son and strongly desired his repentance. What about those prodigal sons who never do repent? ... It seems clear that those who do not repent will not be able to experience the Father's love, and especially not after the age of grace is over and the final judgment has taken place.
Repentance is not optional, and if we put off repenting while clinging to some out-of-balance understanding of God's (supposedly unconditional) love, we are making a big mistake. The time will come when it is too late to repent. ..." (page 24).
"I winced as I read parts of what Clark Pinnock, a contemporary evangelical scholar, said in his article written to advocate annihilationism and to reject the traditional view that God will literally send people to eternal torment. This is an important topic in its own right, but the primary reason that I wanted to quote from the article here is that Pinnock bases his rejection of the traditional view of hell to a significant extent (as the quotations will show) on the mistaken idea that such a view is incompatible with God's love, goodness, and justice. Something must be wrong with our ideas about God's love, goodness, and justice if our ideas force us to reject what the Bible says about His wrath, vengeance, and hell. We cannot afford to challenge God by saying that if the traditional view of hell is true, then God is not a God of love, goodness, and justice. '...what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing His wrath on us? ... Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?' (Rom. 3:5, 6).
His view, Pinnock says, unlike the traditional view, 'does not portray God as being a vindictive and sadistic punisher.... ... Let us begin with the moral problems surrounding the traditional view, which depicts God acting in a way that contradicts his goodness and offends our moral sense. According to Christian theology the nature of God is revealed in Jesus Christ and shown to be boundlessly merciful. God loves the whole world. His heart is to invite sinners to a festive meal (Matt. 8:11).' But what about those who spurn His mercy, who reject Him as God, who fight against His righteousness and divine order, and who join the devil in his never-ending hatred of God and rebellion against Him? ... I am sure that many Christians do not have an adequate understanding of the seriousness of sin. Perhaps none of us adequately understand its seriousness. It is a very serious matter when a high-level being like Satan rebels against God and is followed by a third of the angels, by the demons, and then (to a significant extent at least) by mankind. Consider the infinite price that God paid in the incarnation and atoning death of His unique Son, the Lamb of God, to dethrone sin and Satan and all who follow him and to save those who will submit to His plan of salvation. I am totally convinced that when God's final judgment is over, after the great-white-throne judgment, our hearts will be full of praise and thanksgiving - with no complaints or suggestions on how He could have done things better. ..." (pages 24, 25).
"Many Christians have accepted worldly, far-from-the-Biblical-balance ideas of God's love. I am afraid that many who call themselves Christians are not interested in the God of the Bible; some are only interested in a caricature of God derived from what man (sometimes with the 'help' of the devil, even as the devil 'helped' Eve see the 'truth' in the garden) thinks God must be like to be acceptable to man, or to be worthy of the worship of man.
There are many things that we do not know or fully understand (at least not yet); the Bible has not revealed them to us, but I feel confident that when the devil, evil angels, demons, and many people are cast into the eternal lake of fire it will not be because God has a hard time forgiving, far from it. I believe the dominant factor will be that those persons never will repent, and it would be impossible for them to have a place in God's eternal kingdom without causing perpetual havoc. They would not love God, or His truth, righteousness, holiness, people, etc. They would not want to have a place in God's eternal kingdom on His terms, not that they will want the alternative.
We very often hear that there must not be a God, or even if there is a God, He must not be a good, loving God, because of all the problems in the world, problems like hunger, warfare, strife, natural disasters, plagues, and sicknesses of the inner man and the body. Some think that God should make everything go smooth on the earth while mankind, for the most part, continues to reject Him, His Son, His truth (His Word), and His righteousness. And that is only half of the problem, not only do men reject God and substitute things like secular humanism, evolution, and the god of science in His place, but they typically, whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, submit to and fellowship with Satan and his hosts through things like false religions, the occult, psychic powers, and demon worship, things which are forbidden in the Bible. People cannot be neutral; if we do not pursue God with all our hearts, based on His Word, we will be influenced by the devil to one degree or another. He is the 'god of this world.'
The Bible promises that God will come and make things right on the earth; the day of judgment is coming. Our top priority must be to get ready for that day. Then we will be able to judge God and straighten Him out - No! It doesn't work like that! We will be the ones who are judged. Every time we take a stand against God and His truth and righteousness, we hurt ourselves" (page 26).]] will come upon the sons of disobedience
We will continue the discussion under Col. 3:6 in Part 8.