John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17, Part 8
by Karl Kemp

We continue the discussion under Col. 3:6 here in Part 8.

will come upon the sons of disobedience [[EPHESIANS 5:1-8 will help us understand what the apostle says here. I'll quote those verses, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; (2) and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (3) But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints [Paul is saying that these things ("immorality, mpurity, etc.") must not exist among the people of God. Sin is incompatible with being "saints/holy people." The NIV has, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."] (4) and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (5) For this you know with certainty, that no immoral man or impure person or covetous man [The "immoral man" here corresponds with "immorality" in verse 3 (Eph. 5:3); the "impure person" here corresponds with "impurity" in verse 3; and the "covetous man" here corresponds with "greed" in verse 3.], who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (6) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [There are many today trying to convince God's people that all they need is forgiveness, or forgiveness and correct doctrine, or forgiveness and correct doctrine and some religious rituals, etc., but the apostle Paul consistently insisted that we are enabled and required to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. We must make this a top priority.] (7) Therefore do not be partakers with them; (8) for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light."

Ephesians 5:5-7 explain what Paul means here in Col. 3:6. Those who are living in sin (who are characterized by sin), who are "sons of disobedience" (Paul used these words in Col. 3:6 and Eph. 5:6), will not have "an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph. 5:5). They will inherit the "wrath of God" instead (the "wrath of God" is mentioned in Col. 3:6 and Eph. 5:6). The point of Eph. 5:7 is "do not be partakers with them" of the wrath of God that is coming at the end of this age when He pours out His wrath on the sons of disobedience. All true Christians must make sure that they are not classified with the "sons of disobedience" through living in "disobedience." True Christians don't live in sin; they aren't characterized by sin.

The apostle Paul sounds the same powerful warning to his Christian readers in GALATIANS 5:19-21. After listing many sins (works of the flesh/old man), he says, "I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." And he sounds the same powerful warning to Christians in 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11 (in that context Paul was warning "Christians" who had been sinning, even sinning against other Christians), "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, not the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 6:8-11 are discussed on pages 173, 174 and Gal. 5:16-25 on pages 195-200 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ.")

In Rom. 1:18-32 the apostle speaks of the wrath of God that is manifested from heaven NOW (during this present age) against those rejecting the truth and pressing on in unrighteousness, but here in Col. 3:6 (as in Eph. 5:5-7; Gal. 5:19-21; and 1 Cor. 6:9-11) he is speaking of the wrath to come AT THE END OF THIS AGE, as he did, for example, in 1 Thess. 1:10, "and to wait for His Son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."

Paul didn't teach here (or anywhere else) that if a sincere Christian slips into sin he immediately loses his salvation or has become a son of disobedience (a person characterized by disobedience), but he certainly required genuine repentance and he required each Christian to make it a top priority (by grace through faith) to walk in a state of righteousness and holiness with the victory over all sin. As far as Paul was concerned any sin is too much sin. The gospel that God revealed to Paul included the good news that His sanctifying grace is sufficient. God wants to transform/sanctify us, not to condemn us. We must make it a top priority to appropriate and cooperate with His sufficient grace (for His glory and our good)!

Some Greek manuscripts do not include the words "upon the sons of disobedience" here in Col. 3:6, and it is quite possible that these words were not part of the original epistle (letter) that Paul sent to the Colossians. Quite a few scholars believe these words were borrowed from Eph. 5:6 and found their way into Col. 3:6 at a later date. The United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament" (fourth revised edition, 1983) includes these words in brackets "in order to indicate a measure of doubt as to their genuineness in Colossians" (Bruce M. Metzger, "Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament," 2nd edit., "A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament," Fourth Revised Edition (United Bible Societies, 1994), page 557).]], (7) and in them ["in which things," referring back to the sinful "things" of verse 6.] you also [you, like the other sinners] once walked, when you were living in them [["living in these things." That is, back before Paul's readers became Christians. I'll quote Eph. 2:1, 2, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."]]. (8) But now ["So now," now that you are Christians, and in light of the fact that the day of wrath is coming against those who continue in disobedience] you also [you, along with the rest of the Christians], put them all aside [[or, "put off." ((I had a footnote: The KJV; NKJV have "put off." The Greek behind "put aside [put off]" is an aorist imperative of the verb "apotithemi." An aorist participle of a different verb (apekduomai) is used in verse 9 for laying aside the old man, but the meaning of the two verbs is essentially the same here. The Greek aorist imperative fits the idea of putting aside/putting off everything sinful once for all and completely and the aorist participle fits the idea of having laid aside the old man with its evil practices once for all and completely. The Greek participle at the beginning of verse 10, "having put on" (or the equivalent) is an aorist too; it fits the idea of having put on the new man once for all and completely.)) The Greek (ta panta) behind "them all" literally means "the all things."

"The all things" include all the sinful things that his readers had been doing before they became Christians and all the sinful things that they could potentially do now. The apostle goes on to give a partial list of such sinful things. He has already given a partial list of sinful things that must be put to death (which is the equivalent of putting them aside/putting them off) in verse 5. It was understood that everything that was sinful (by God's definition), everything that was part of the old man (cf., e.g. Col. 3:3, 9), was to be put off/put to death once for all and completely. In Col. 3:9, the following verse, Paul adds "lying" to the list; lying is part of the old man that must be put to death/put off/put aside/laid aside once for all and completely (cf. Eph. 4:25). I believe it is obvious that the apostle was exhorting his readers to stop lying, not to begin to gradually taper off lying. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote what J. B. Lightfoot says under "ta panta" here, " 'not only those vices which have been specially named before (ver. 5), but all of whatever kind.' [Quite a few other commentators agree with this meaning for "ta panta" here.] The Apostle accordingly goes on to specify sins of a wholly different type from those already mentioned, sins of uncharitableness, such as anger, detraction, malice, and the like" ("Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon" [Zondervan, 1974 reprint], page 214).))

I'll quote Eph. 4:22, which uses the same Greek verb translated "put aside/put off" here in verse 8, "that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside ["put off"] the old self [old man], which is being corrupted [I would translate "which is corrupt" with the KJV, or the equivalent.] in accordance with the lusts of deceit." Ephesians 4:17-32 are important verses on the topic of holiness and victory over sin. (Those verses are discussed in some detail in my paper on Ephesians chapter 4 on my internet site and on this Christian article site.)]]: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (9) Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside [or "having laid aside"] the old self [the old man] with its evil practices [See under verse 8.], (10) and have put on [or, "having put on"] the new self [the new man] who is being renewed [[I would translate "new man which is renewed" with the KJV or "new man who is renewed" with the NKJV. I don't believe the apostle included any idea of a lifelong renewal/growth process here. ((I had a two paragraph footnote: It is true, however, that the Spirit of God continuously nourishes the new man and keeps it new. And it is also true that the kingdom of God is always growing and advancing, and that we, as we are faithful to God, will be growing (we will become more like God all the time as we are changed from glory to glory - see under Col. 2:19). But the apostle was not dealing with such growth/renewal here in Col. 3:1-11. His emphasis here was all on our being dead to the old man, which includes putting off any and all sin now once for all and completely that hasn't already been put off (in the ideal case all sin would have already been put off - we would be dead to sin and the old man), and on our putting on the new man once for all and completely.

We should not think in terms of a process of gradually growing out of sin, and especially not of a lifelong process of gradually growing out of sin - but always continuing to sin as long as we live in this world - or of a lifelong process of gradually putting on the new man. That viewpoint, which is very widespread among Christians in our day, doesn't square with the gospel the apostle Paul (or the other writers of the New Testament) proclaimed. With that viewpoint we could never have faith to stop sinning this side of heaven. All we could have faith for is to gradually reduce the amount of sin that we commit.)) Paul was speaking here, I believe, as he very often did, of putting off the old man once for all and completely and putting on the new man once for all and completely, and then living on a continuous basis in a state of righteousness and holiness (by grace through faith). I have discussed this very important topic in some detail in my previous writings. For a start, see above under Col. 1:21-23, 28; 2:7, 11-15, 23; and 3:1-9. This topic is also discussed throughout my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," especially in the last three chapters of that book, and in several of my papers.

The primary question we must consider is, Does the New Testament really teach that Christians are enabled and required to live/walk in a state of righteousness and holiness with the victory over sin? If it does (and it seems clear to me that it does), we must change our thinking (to the extent required) and begin to cooperate with and to appropriate God's sufficient sanctifying grace (that has been offered to us at a very high cost to the triune God) through faith. This is good news, very good news! If we continue to look at our weaknesses and failures, we will continue to say that we can never stop sinning as long as we live in this world.

One of the things that concerns me the most is that I don't see many Christians (and I am speaking mostly of those who claim to be evangelical/born again Christians) fearing God or making righteousness and holiness a top priority. It seems that the majority have accepted the idea that we cannot stop sinning, so let's just do the best we can; we'll make room for sin and do what we can to stifle the guilt feelings. Actually this doesn't surprise me when I see that the majority have been interpreting and teaching the Bible in ways that support this unacceptable (according to the Bible) state.]] to [or, "unto"] a true knowledge [[The KJV; NKJV; and NIV translate the Greek noun (epignosis) "knowledge" here instead of "true knowledge," which is quite acceptable. However we translate the noun, it is clear that Paul was speaking here of a "knowledge" that corresponds with the "truth." He was speaking of a "knowledge" that is in accordance with the very image of the God of truth. Paul probably intended some contrast between the "lying" mentioned in verse 9 ("lying" goes with the old man and sin and Satan) and the "knowledge" that corresponds with the "truth" of God mentioned here. I'll say more about this knowledge as we continue.]] according to ["in accordance with" (Greek preposition "kata" with the accusative case)] the image of the One who created him [[This verse is very similar to Eph. 4:24. (Ephesians chapter 4 is discussed verse-by-verse in a paper on my internet site.) I'll quote Eph. 4:24, "and put on the new man, which in the likeness of ["in accordance with" (Greek preposition "kata" with the accusative case)] God HAS BEEN CREATED [my emphasis] in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Note that the apostle Paul did not speak here (Eph. 4:24) of a new creation in process. In a very real sense God's new creation work has been completed in the incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His sending forth the gospel of salvation and His pouring forth the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul didn't speak here (in Eph. 4:24) of Christians putting on the new man and then gradually being recreated unto "the righteousness and holiness of the truth." He spoke of our once for all and completely putting on the new man and then living/walking in that righteous and holy state (by grace through faith). (Some super-important aspects of God's new creation work are still future, including our continued growth, our glorification, His end-time judgments that will remove all rebels, and His creation of the new heavens and new earth after the millennium.)

Ephesians 4:24 helps show that that these words of Col. 3:10 ("to [unto] a true knowledge [in accordance with] the image of the One who created him") emphasize the fact that the new man is characterized by the RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS OF GOD. This is not surprising, of course, in that the new man has been renewed to a true knowledge in accordance with the image of the One (the Righteous, Holy God) who created the new man.

((I had a footnote: The "new man" of the new covenant spoken of here, which has been created (recreated/renewed) unto the knowledge of the truth in accordance with the image of God, is a higher creative work of God than His initial creation of man, starting with Adam. Adam was created in the image of God, and he had a right, life-flowing relationship with God, but he did not have the glorious union with the Lord Jesus Christ (the God-man) that we have as born-again Christians through new-covenant salvation. Adam, in his initial creation, was formed of the dust of the earth with authority on the earth. We will inherit glorified bodies, bodies designed for life in heaven/the glorified dimension (bodies that are already bought and paid for, so to speak, through the atoning death of the Lamb of God), and we will reign with Christ (and God the Father) forever. On the contrast between what man had initially in Adam (even before the fall) and what we have through new-covenant salvation in union with the Lord Jesus Christ (the last Adam), see 1 Cor. 15:45-55. 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is discussed verse-by-verse in a paper on my internet site, which is also available on this Christian article site.))

In the new covenant (new man) God imputes and imparts His righteousness and holiness to believers. But we must cooperate with Him through faith and fully put off (die to) the old man and then keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin, and we must fully put on the new man and then keep it on (we walk in the new man by walking in the gospel and in the Spirit through faith). God's righteousness and holiness are not imparted to us while we are passive. Faith is active.

We can say the same thing several different ways: We must walk on a continuous basis in accordance with the Word of God (especially the gospel) by grace through faith; we must walk in/by/after the Spirit on a continuous basis by grace through faith; we must walk in the righteousness and holiness of God on a continuous basis by grace through faith; etc.]] - (11) a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. [[The fact that there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, is relevant, for one thing, to address the false teaching that Paul dealt with in Colossians chapter 2. As the apostle said there, the One thing that we need is to be full recipients of new-covenant salvation in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, in accordance with the terms set out in the gospel. Whether a person is a Greek or a Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, etc. is totally irrelevant in the new covenant.]]

We will finish this verse-by-verse study in Part 9, starting with Col. 3:12.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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