Kill Yourself (Colossians 3:5)
If you have received Christ, you already have killed yourself spiritually. You gave up your life for His sake (Matt 10:39). You were crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). Paul makes that point a little later here in 3:9, when he says that the Colossian believers had already put off the old man. When we become new creatures (2 Cor 5:17) the old man is passed away. We are not the old man any more. The idea that we are sort of two people fighting against each other isn’t true. Before we were saved we were one wicked person and then once we were converted, we become one righteous person. We didn’t add a nature at the moment we became a Christian that could battle against another nature that stayed on.
However, we still do live in these bodies, and our body parts, our members, are still unredeemed. This is the flesh. Paul wrote in Romans 7:18 that in his flesh, dwelt “no good thing.” Because of that, there will be a struggle for a Christian. As v. 1 says, we are risen with Christ, and then v. 3, our life is hid with Christ in God, but we still have the flesh. The nature of our new selves is that we can and we will struggle against the flesh. We are dead to sin (Rom 6:2) positionally, but we still must reign in the ambitions and desires of our flesh. We will either yield to our righteous nature or to the flesh.
To experience the reality of our position, we must cooperate with our new natures. To do that we must act upon our flesh. “Kill” is the word Paul uses to describe it. In 1 Corinthians 15:31, he said that he died daily. The flesh pulls the opposite of what God wants, and if we obey our body parts, we commit idolatry, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. All sin is a kind of idolatry, which is why Paul ends by placing all of the sinful activity of v. 5 under that heading.
To partake in the benefits of the heavenlies in which we exist as believers, Paul says we must kill our body parts, and then he lists activities. We kill the flesh by prohibiting it what it wants. Paul goes from a specific action to a general attitude, informing us of how sin works. We won’t fornicate if we don’t covet, or any sin between. We stop the action by eliminating the attitude. Our fulfillment in Christ is fulfillment in Christ. We won’t experience that fulfillment out of fleshly deeds or attitudes, but by keeping on thinking about things above, where Christ is.
Why does v. 5 start with fornication and why this limited list of sins, which seems to target sexual immorality? There are many more sins than these, but these are those that Paul used as samples for the type of killing that needed to occur. Nothing needed put to death more than these kinds of activities that might be the most prevalent wickedness in society. Of course, it traces these all back to idolatry and then covetousness, two larger categories. The infidelity represented by this list also smacks of an unfaithfulness that should not characterize a believer.
Of help should be the progression seen in v. 5. We can trace fornication back to idolatry through covetousness. The path to fornication could be stopped by mortification of the flesh somewhere on the way down. In many cases in our culture, it seems, the goal at best is to avoid fornication, with everything up to fornication as acceptable. No one would get to fornication if he ended at uncleanness or inordinate affection. However, those are all sins that lead up to fornication from covetousness. They are still wrong, even if they don’t arrive at fornication.
All of the activities up to and even including fornication are encouraged by dating. God didn’t design men to handle the regular close proximity and intimacy found in a relationship outside of marriage called dating. Young people often burn with desires initiated by this practice. Often this feeling is as well then confused with love. Young people that have developed feelings for one another can’t distinguish between infatuation, love, or lust. I think that most of them don’t want to sin, but they haven’t been shown a method that can succeed at not sending them down a forbidden path. Dating is not in the Bible, and it is easy to see why, especially with the list of prohibitions. By tolerating the dating method of obtaining a life’s partner, I believe we forfeit the responsibility of killing the sins that lead to fornication.