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The New Refusal to Put Off the Old Man (Colossians 3:6-10)

February 23, 2010

Read this First Part even though It Is Exegesis

Christ is our life—physical, spiritual, and eternal.  At some point in the future, we will appear with Him in heaven.  We have the heavenly citizenship now, but then we will appear with Him, so we should live like that, and not like who we once were, children of disobedience, objects of God’s wrath, who lived according to their own desires and ambitions.  While we are on earth, we need to die to the things that will not be in heaven.

Before we became in Christ by grace through faith, we lived earthly lives heading toward our natural destination.  But now we have put off the old man, the one walking his own direction to his own drumbeat.  We’re no longer motivated by idolatry and covetousness nor by anger and wrath.  We’ve put off that lifestyle and we’re no longer that person, and we will live like it, so we should live like it.

Our minds have stopped suppressing the truth and believing the lie.  They are renewed in the knowledge after the image of God to what we’ve been restored at our conversion.  We’re not natural men thinking natural thoughts, but spiritual men with the tendency to think spiritual thoughts.  We will and can live like what God created us for.

For everything that we now are, and for the position in which we now live in Christ, we put off those things incompatible with our appearance with Him in glory.  V. 5 has a sample list of some of those and v. 8 presents another sampling.   We will not and cannot continue in anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy (slander), filthy communication, and lying as a lifestyle.

Now For the Interesting, Controversial Application (Don’t Just Skip to This)

I want to take several moments to focus on one of these:  filthy communication.  What is “filthy communication?”  To apply Scripture to present-day situations, we must know something about present-day situations.  Even believing in the sufficiency of Scripture, we do not believe that every scriptural answer is explicitly found on the pages of Scripture.  To apply Scripture, Scripture assumes we have some extra-scriptural knowledge, that there are truths that we can with certainty discern in the real world.  The Bible itself is meaningless unless it is applicable to human questions and needs.  Applying the Word of God requires a scriptural perspective on human experience.

Colossians 3:8 assumes we can know what “filthy communication” is.  And yet there is no “chapter and verse” for filthy communication.  None.  So any four letter word is acceptable, correct?  And if I make an application, I’m a Pharisee, right?  Isn’t it true that I’m just adding to Scripture?  So I’m a legalist that is attempting to be overly restrictive, by making the commandments of men to be equal with the Bible, right?  If evangelicals and now even fundamentalists are going to be consistent, they’re going to have to say this, aren’t they?  We are not told what the bad words are.

Or are we to assume that we can apply Scripture with certainty?  Do we believe that we can get guidance from the Holy Spirit on applying what the Bible says?  In this case, it is putting off filthy communication.  The one Greek word translated into the English “filthy communication” is aischrologia.  That Greek word is found only here in the New Testament.   Friberg says it is “dirty talk, filthy or obscene language or speech.”  BDAG says it is “speech of a kind that is generally considered in poor taste, obscene speech, dirty talk.”  Liddell and Scott say, “foul language.”  Thayer writes, “foul speaking. . . low and obscene speech.”

OK, can we know what obscene, foul, dirty, tastless speech is?  I believe that Scripture assumes that we can.  And Paul commands the Colossian church to put off this kind of speech.  The saved person’s mouth shouldn’t be saying it.  Let’s go one step further.  It especially shouldn’t be said during preaching, as a part of an even more sacred kind of speech, a sermon from God’s Word.

The world likes to use filthy talk and this is one way that we Christians are different than the world.  But let me speak as a fool for a moment to make a point.  A way that professing believers can fit into the world is to use the salty speech that unbelievers use.  Some might even say it is “contextual” or “missiological,” if we do.  Unbelievers might be able to relate to us Christians better if we talked like they did.   We wouldn’t seem perhaps so sanctimonious to them.  They wouldn’t have to feel so cramped and that would spur some relationship that could work out in evangelism some down the road.  And if we used it in preaching, we could attract unbelievers.  They would really be able to identify with us and feel more close and then maybe get saved.  In that sense, we are kind of being all things to all men.  You get my drift, don’t you?

Of course, all of this violates Colossians 3:5-10.  It’s not scriptural. It offends God.  It manifests a kind of Christianity that isn’t even Christian, so it couldn’t be Christianity.

This very point is what often separates professing Christianity today.  Evangelicals and even some fundamentalists today speak as though as they are on some higher spiritual plane because they don’t expect people to live what Scripture does not say.  And it does not say what filthy communication is.  Most of them apply this selectively, even as they will not apply this with regards to standards of modesty, designed distinctions in dress, separateness in music and dress, and appropriate entertainment.  And then if there’s any question beyond that, they say, “Hey, yer majoring on minors!”

For instance, right now John MacArthur and the guys in his evangelical camp are against the Mark Driscoll people for using filthy communication even in the pulpit.  They are very specific about this.   Based on their own standard of application of scripture, they are being ascetic, overly restrictive, and Pharisaical themselves.   That’s what the Mark Driscoll side thinks.  And then the MacArthur group isn’t happy about the Pipers and the Carsons and those evangelicals.  They haven’t come out strong enough against Driscoll—they still rub shoulders with him.  And to them MacArthur is way too sure of himself.  Way too certain.  Driscoll is part of the quasi-emergent variety that is more nuanced in these things.  He would say, let’s just love Jesus.  C’mon guys.  Of course, that’s how the John MacArthur guys would treat any of us that would apply this consistently all the way through.  And the John MacArthur people call someone like me and others, “fire-breathing fundamentalists.”  Hmmmm.  Good point.

In other words, we can know what fleshly lusts are, what worldly lusts are, what the garment that pertains to the man is, what the attire of a harlot is, what an uncertain sound is, and more.  We also can apply filthy communication to filthy television and movies.  Evangelicals and now fundamentalists treat that like it’s off base.  They have a different standard there now.  And I mean now.  Because Christians have historically taken a stand in these areas.  This truly is a new kind of Christianity that can’t apply the Bible any more to the actual areas of our life, so that we really are different than the world.  You can hardly tell the difference between a Christian and an unsaved person.  They listen to the same kind of music, use similar speech, dress about the same, and have about the same kind of entertainment.  It’s really an interesting deal for Christians.  They are forgiven and in Christ and all that, plus just like the world.  God isn’t glorified, but it really isn’t about God, is it?  Somehow they’ve made what is about us to be about Him, but He isn’t fooled by that at all.

For instance, John Piper is Desiring God.  Is he?  Maybe John Piper himself does.  I’ve read that he doesn’t have a TV.  He has said a few things about a certain kind of questioning about whether rock music can represent God.  He wants people to know that they can have their greatest pleasure in God.  That’s all true, but it still shouldn’t be about our pleasure.  It’s about God’s pleasure.  And if we do desire God, we desire the God of the Bible and He hates filthy communication, filthy music, filthy dress, all of that.  So if you desire that God, you also will hate what He hates.  And the Piper people don’t seem like they do hate those things, so I question whether they do Desire God.  They make a good point with their Desiring God.  David panted after God like a hart after the waterbrooks (Ps 42:1).  But it doesn’t do any good at all if the God you are desiring is the god of Hedonism.

Now there’s a kind of club that is self-authenticating that says this is all Christianity.  They point at each other and say, “Yer right.”  So they must be right.  And so many people couldn’t be wrong.  And look how it’s all working.  It’s being so missiological and so many are being brought into the church.  This is producing a great lack of discernment.  God’s Word is being disobeyed.  God is being dishonored.

I’m saying that this is a new refusal to put off the old man.  Is there an acronym there?  NRPOOM.  Maybe not.  It isn’t Christianity.  That’s what Paul says in Colossians.

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  1. February 23, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Are you saying I can’t use foul communication even if it has good lyrics?!

  2. February 24, 2010 at 10:31 am

    You caught that, Jeff. 🙂 I didn’t park on that because I wanted people to catch the general point. But yes, I believe that music can be obscene, yes, and there is especially no way that should be used for worship, let alone having Christians be fans, which they are all over evangelicalism and now fundamentalism. I think the breakdown of this escalated quickly with the mainstreaming of Charismaticism into evangelicalism and then the Jesus movement being interpreted as a revival.

  3. February 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Raising some controversy (purely in the self-interest of spiking our numbers again), let me ask a question in the opposite direction. Considering that occassionally the prophets of old used some fairly hair-raising terms and somewhat coarse language in addressing the sins of their people, is it lawful for us to do the same, so long as it is in a manner consistent with their use of blunt speech?

  4. February 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    When you mentioned Christian Hedonism-would you interpret the verse “Delight thyself also in the LORD and he will give thee the desires of thine heart” as delight youself in God and he will give you the right desires by santification/santified desires?

  5. February 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Dave, I would think so, but this is not a gap to drive the proverbial mack truck of foul speech through, which it is in the case of Driscoll and others. Of course, my overall point is that we have to go outside the Bible to understand what filthy communication is, which is trouble for the “yer adding to Scripture” folks. I’m thinking that my comment might not help spike the numbers.

    Phil, I think that if you are desiring God, then the desires of your heart relate to Him. Good thought on thinking of that verse.

  6. February 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

    You’ve really put some thought into this. I appreciate your working to make Christians think. Sometimes I wonder if most Christians don’t just do what everyone else is doing because everyone else is doing it.
    Having said that, I would like to make you think even more.

    Colossians 3:8 assumes we can know what “filthy communication” is.

    This is probably a true statement, but I think it can be misleading. It sounds like you’re saying that Paul had a specific set of words in mind when he said “filthy communication” and that there is a specific set of words today that meet the same criteria which, in any context and any situation, would be in violation of the command and therefore sin. If this is really what you are saying, you might want to reconsider.
    Throughout history there have been battles fought over the lines that the Bible draws. Sometimes those lines are very sharp with black on one side and white on the other. However, other times, those lines can be very dull with a thick gray cloud meandering between the stark black and white areas. Many times, Believers seem to arbitrarily draw the line and hold everyone else to the standard that they have “discovered.” This is where Christianity begins to look more like the world. The unity of the body is destroyed because two people disagree on the lines that each has drawn. Obviously, I am not referring to passages like Eph. 5:18 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Passages like this make clear the command–do not allow alcohol to control you (drunkenness), rather let the Spirit control you. The line is sharp black. I am referring to passages like Colossians 3. Because there is no standard actually spelled out, how can anyone claim that they know the actual list of words that is now to be considered “filthy”? Maybe I have a different list than you. Maybe mine is more comprehensive than yours. Does that mean that if you don’t follow my list, you are sinning? Maybe. Maybe not. There are several passages that are similar to this in that they don’t actually spell out the specifics of the sin we are to abhor. The Bible has several passages that speak of unity among the brethren (the entire book of Philippians). It also speaks much of deference (1 Cor. 10). It also speaks of being convinced in your own mind (Romans 14 & 1 Cor. 10-14) what truly is sinful and what is not, that is, when the Bible doesn’t specifically spell it out for us.
    I’m not saying that we should cuss from the pulpit or anywhere for that matter. I’m simply saying that what may be sin for you, may not be sin for someone else. Be careful not to force your interpretation of a command that is not spelled out clearly onto every other Believer. That is pharisaic. For the unity of the brethren, defer to those with the higher standard. But do not force your standard onto someone who thinks “all meat is good for the taking.”

  7. February 26, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your comment. Very thoughtful.

    If you noticed, I didn’t produce a list, and I didn’t say anything about such list.

    Let me offer you something to consider in the realm of Pharisaism. The Pharisees not only added to God’s Word, but they also took away with their tradition. They made the Word of God of none effect. They rendered scripture meaningless by means of their verbal game playing. You see the same thing in Roman Catholicism that reduces spirituality to a few sacraments and that has practiced Jesuit casuistry to excuse lying. I call this left wing legalism. I see the same thing being done with the Word of God today, leaving it without authority in believers life because of a popular postmodern uncertainty. You are more loving, more curious, more nuanced, more broad, and more sophisticated, and, therefore, more spiritual, if you are more uncertain about what Scripture says. So your spirituality depends on your uncertainty about the application of Scripture. The more ambiguous the list the more spiritual the person.

    The unity of Philippians was the church at Philippi. Churches can determine what is foul language, what is acceptable and unacceptable. The church is bigger than any one person and one person does not have liberty to cause church disunity with what the whole church considers smutty speech. Priesthood is less a right than it is a privilege. The inmates shouldn’t be allowed to run the asylum.

    Thanks for coming by.

  8. Lori Baldwin
    February 27, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    It’s not that complicated. I think there is actually very little disagreement among people as to which words/phrases qualify as crude, obscene, dirty, irreverent, suggestive, etc., especially when heard in context. I can appreciate “nuance” but I’m convinced that what constitutes clean speech is a lot more clear-cut than many of us would like to admit.

  9. Lori Baldwin
    February 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    By the way, Kent, I was agreeing with you.

    “They rendered scripture meaningless by means of their verbal game playing.”

    Well said.

  10. March 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Thanks Lori.

  1. February 25, 2010 at 5:34 pm
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