“Because,” not “In Order To”
Paul says, “Mortify therefore…” So, Paul is concluding the thoughts contained in the preceding verses. We can’t help but notice how Paul builds his case, proposition upon proposition, to lead to each succeeding conclusion. At the beginning of chapter three, Paul says “If ye then be risen with Christ…” He has already proved that the Colossians are in fact risen with Christ (2:12-13). “Seek” in the first verse is imperative, “Set your affection” in the second verse is also imperative. Since they are risen with Christ, they must seek and regard those things which are above. And they must do this because they are dead, and their life is hid with Christ in God. The command is the result of the condition. Whereas the verbs in the first two verses were imperative, in verse 3 we find that “are dead” and “is hid” are both indicative, showing the reality of the action.
Now consider the statements of the third and fourth verses: you are dead, your life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. Since this is the case, Paul concludes in verse five, you must “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” Notice again the logical order. He says “therefore.” The false teachers and their step-children (Finney included) want you to believe that we mortify our members which are upon the earth “in order” to hide our life in Christ. They want us to believe that “in order to” be fully sanctified, in order to obtain “the victorious Christian life” we must mortify our members which are upon the earth. Not so. Paul says, “therefore.” “Because.” Not “in order to.” Because you are dead, because your life is hid with Christ in God, because Christ is our life, because you will appear with him in glory, therefore you must mortify your members which are upon the earth.
This is another way of saying, “live up to your calling.” God has already hid your life in Christ. In the third verse of Colossians 3, the phrase “is hid” is a perfect passive. The action is completed in the past and continues on indefinitely. It is a “perfectly” completed action. The voice is passive, so the action was completed by a third party — God has hidden your life in Christ. And since He has done this, you must live like it, mortifying your members that are upon the earth. And I would add that it is only natural that one whose life is hid with Christ in God would mortify their members which are upon the earth.
Scofield puts a header between the fourth and fifth verses of Colossians 3: “Christian living, the fruit of union with Christ.” I find this very helpful. Mortifying our members is fruit — the result of a life that is hid with Christ in God. Christ is the vine, we are the branches, and the fruit that is naturally produced as a result of this union with Christ includes self-mortification.
The difference between “because” and “in order to” is vast and vital. We can picture the difference by simply considering our own children. On the one hand, a child feels that he must conform to rules in order to maintain his good position in the family, that any stumble puts him on the outs, and possibly defrocks him. That child feels a constant pressure to perform, so that his performance is nothing more than eyeservice. This sort of thing might be necessary and acceptable for a toddler. Should it continue into the teen years, however, there will begin to be a resentment, a genuine chafing at the slavery. At some point, parents must begin to develop in their children a sense of belonging, and a resultant sense of responsibility. “Son, you are expected to behave this way, not so that you can be a part of the family. You are already a part of the family. You don’t need to worry about whether I am going to let you sleep in the house tonight or not. Instead, you need to behave this way because you are a part of this family, and this is what we expect from members of our household.”
Is there a difference between the two? Absolutely. And the difference will be seen most vividly in the resultant attitude demonstrated by the children. If the transition between “in order to” and “because” is never made, those children, when they become older, will begin to resent and chafe. On the other hand, if the transition is made, those children will delight in doing what is right.
We must make this difference very clear, lest we lead people back into bondage again. The Christian who mortifies his members “in order to” obtain complete sanctification becomes a slave to every new measure for brokenness that can be invented. The Christian who, finding his life hid with Christ in God, mortifies his members because of this relationship, that Christian is free indeed (John 8:36). There is joy in serving Christ when we remember that we have nothing to earn, nothing to keep. We are free, for the Son has made us free! We are honored to bear His colors, to wave His banner, to bear His cross, to carry His name, to be His people. And as a result, we want to walk and live and talk in a manner fitting for children of the king.