Colossians 3:5
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
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[5.Practical Exhortation, General.

(1) NEGATIVE.—To MORTIFY THE OLD MAN, by fleeing from—

(a)Uncleanness and lust (Colossians 3:5-7);

(b)Wrath and malice (Colossians 3:8);

(c)Falsehood (Colossians 3:9).

(2) POSITIVE.—To PUT ON THE NEW MAN, making Christ our “all in all.”

(a)In love and peace, as shown in mercy, humility, patience, and forgiveness (Colossians 3:10-15);

(b)In thanksgiving (Colossians 3:16);

(c)In living to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17);

(The whole of this section stands in close parallelism, frequently in verbal coincidence, with Ephesians 4:20 to Ephesians 6:9. There are, however, constantly emerging indications of independence of handling. Generally speaking, the Ephesian Epistle is fuller and deeper in treatment; and, moreover, it constantly brings out, in relation both to moral duty and to the observation of the relations of life, the great characteristic doctrine of the universal unity in Christ. This Epistle, on the other hand, is briefer and more incisive, and has only slight, though clear, indications of the idea so powerfully worked out in the other Epistle.)]

Colossians 3:5-9 contain the negative section of St. Paul’s practical appeal, drawing out the consequences of the “death with Christ,” in the mortification of all tendencies to impurity, malice, and falsehood. For these are the opposites to purity, love, and truth—the three great attributes of God, and therefore the three chief graces of man.

(5) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.—The expression is doubly unique. It is the only passage where “mortification”—the killing of anything in us—is enjoined; and it is also notable, as not explicitly distinguishing between the members themselves, and the evil of which they are made the instruments. The sense is, of course, clear enough. It corresponds to the “crucifying the flesh” of Galatians 5:24; and the idea of evil, mostly expressed plainly in the word “flesh,” is here hinted in the phrase “which are on the earth,” that is, which are busied with earth and bind us down to the earthly life. The particular word “members” is perhaps suggested by our Lord’s command to “cut off the right hand” and “pluck out the right eye” if they cause us to offend (Matthew 5:29-30). But, as a rule, Scripture more clearly marks the distinction between the members and “the law of sin in the members” (Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23); and we are usually bidden not to “kill our members,” but to turn them from “instruments of unrighteousness” to be “instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13). The fact is that this passage contains only half the truth, corresponding to the death with Christ, and not the whole truth, including also the resurrection to the new life. Accordingly, as the next verse shows, the members to be mortified are actually identified with the vices of the old man residing in them.

Fornication, uncleanness . . . covetousness, which is idolatry.—See Ephesians 5:3, and Note there.

Inordinate affection, evil concupiscence.—These words are not found in the parallel passage. The word rendered “inordinate affection” is the general word for “passion” (pathos). It is found united to “concupiscence” in 1Thessalonians 4:5, “the lust of concupiscence.” Both words here are general words, denoting the condition of soul, of which “fornication” and “covetousness” are both exemplifications. This is the condition of unrestrained passion and desire, the former word implying a passive receptiveness of impression from without, the other the positive energy of desire to seek gratification. Comp. Galatians 5:24, “the affections” (passions) and “lusts.” Of such a temper Article IX. of the Church of England declares with singular accuracy, not that it is sin, but that it has in itself rationem peccati, that is, the initial principle of sin.

Colossians 3:5-7. Mortify therefore — Put to death, slay with a continued stroke; your members — The members of the old man, which together make up the body of sin; inclinations and dispositions which spread themselves through all the members of the body, and draw even them into a compliance with themselves; which are upon the earth — Where they find their nourishment, or which are earthly, inclining to earthly things, and wholly engaged about them. Uncleanness — In act, word, or thought; inordinate affection — Every passion which does not flow from, and lead to, the love of God; evil concupiscence — Or desire, namely, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. Covetousness — The desire of having more, as the word signifies, or of any thing independent of God; which is idolatry — Properly and directly, for it is giving the heart to a creature, putting that trust in a creature which ought to be placed in the Creator, and seeking that happiness in a creature which can only be found in God, and ought therefore only to be sought in him. For which things’ sake — Though the carnal and sensual regard them lightly; the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience — Even on the heathen themselves, who bid the most open defiance even to the first principles of all true religion. The apostle speaks in this severe manner against the vices mentioned, because they were commonly practised by the heathen, and had been practised by the Colossians. In the which ye also walked — Had your conversation, partaking with your neighbours in all their enormities; when ye lived in, or among, them — Kept company with the children of disobedience. By their walking in these things, the apostle seems to have meant their committing the vices, mentioned Colossians 3:5, habitually, and with pleasure. For Colosse being a city of Phrygia, where the rites of Bacchus and those of Cybele, consisting of all sorts of lewdness in speech and action, were practised with a frantic kind of madness, the Colossians, no doubt, had been much addicted to these gross impurities in their heathen state.

3:5-11 It is our duty to mortify our members which incline to the things of the world. Mortify them, kill them, suppress them, as weeds or vermin which spread and destroy all about them. Continual opposition must be made to all corrupt workings, and no provision made for carnal indulgences. Occasions of sin must be avoided: the lusts of the flesh, and the love of the world; and covetousness, which is idolatry; love of present good, and of outward enjoyments. It is necessary to mortify sins, because if we do not kill them, they will kill us. The gospel changes the higher as well as the lower powers of the soul, and supports the rule of right reason and conscience, over appetite and passion. There is now no difference from country, or conditions and circumstances of life. It is the duty of every one to be holy, because Christ is a Christian's All, his only Lord and Saviour, and all his hope and happiness.Mortify therefore your members - Since you are dead to sin and the world, and are to appear with Christ in the glories of his kingdom, subdue every carnal and evil propensity of your nature. The word mortify means to put to death (Romans 8:13, note; Galatians 5:24, note), and the meaning here is that they were entirely to subdue their evil propensities, so that they would have no remains of life; that is, they were not at all to indulge them. The word "members" here, refers to the different members of the body - as the seat of evil desires and passions; compare the notes at Romans 6:13. They were wholly to extirpate those evil passions which he specifies as having their seat in the various members of the earthly body.

Fornication - Notes, Romans 1:2.

Uncleanness - Notes, Romans 1:24.

Inordinate affection - πάθος pathos. Rendered in Romans 1:26, "vile affections;" see the notes at that verse. In 1 Thessalonians 4:5, the word is rendered "lust" - which is its meaning here.

Evil concupiscence - Evil desires; licentious passions; Romans 1:24. Greek.

And covetousness, which is idolatry - It is remarkable that the apostle always ranks covetousness with these base and detestable passions. The meaning here is:

(1) that it is a low and debasing passion, like those which he had specified; and,

(2) that it secures the affections which properly belong to God, and is, therefore, idolatry. Of all base passions, this is the one that most dethrones God from the soul. See this whole passage more fully explained in the notes at Ephesians 5:3-5.

5. Mortify—Greek, "make a corpse of"; "make dead"; "put to death."

therefore—(See on [2420]Col 3:3). Follow out to its necessary consequence the fact of your having once for all died with Christ spiritually at your regeneration, by daily "deadening your members," of which united "the body of the sins of the flesh" consists (compare Col 2:11). "The members" to be mortified are the fleshly instruments of lust, in so far as the members of the body are abused to such purposes. Habitually repress and do violence to corrupt desires of which the members are the instruments (compare Ro 6:19; 8:13; Ga 5:24, 25).

upon the earth—where they find their support [Bengel] (Compare Col 3:2, "things on earth"). See Eph 5:3, 4.

inordinate affection—"lustful passion."

evil concupiscence—more general than the last [Alford], the disorder of the external senses; "lustful passion," lust within [Bengel].

covetousness—marked off by the Greek article as forming a whole genus by itself, distinct from the genus containing the various species just enumerated. It implies a self-idolizing, grasping spirit; far worse than another Greek term translated "the love of money" (1Ti 6:10).

which is—that is, inasmuch as it is "idolatry." Compare Note, see on [2421]Eph 4:19, on its connection with sins of impurity. Self and mammon are deified in the heart instead of God (Mt 6:24; see on [2422]Eph 5:5).

That they might not think he, who had given check to superstitious abstinences, was for the indulging of any carnal affections, he infers here, how the exercise of truly Christian mortification was incumbent on those who were dead to sin and had their life hid in Christ. Neither is it any incongruity, that they who are in a sort already dead should be exhorted to mortification, if we do but distinctly consider of mortification, and what they are to mortify, or endeavour to make dead.

1. As to mortification; which may be considered either as to its inchoation, when, upon effectually calling, a mortal wound is by the Spirit of God given to the old man, or to the habit of sin, which will in the end or consummation be a total privation of its life, though as yet it be but partial. It is not in regard of this inchoative mortification, which was begun upon their effectual calling, that the apostle exhorts the saints at Colosse in this verse to mortify. But mortification may be considered as to its continuation, and the carrying on the life of grace, in the making dead all that is contrary to it; even the renewed person should be continually solicitous to have the old man killed outright without any reprieve. This is it that the apostle put the believing Colossians upon, not to spare any remaining ill dispositions or depraved habits of the old man; but by the assistance of the Spirit, (for it is not a natural, but spiritual work), Romans 8:13 Galatians 5:24, continually to resist to the killing of it, or putting it to death: never to desist in this war.

2. As to the earthly members of it. The apostle expresseth the object of mortification, or what they are to mortify, by their members upon the earth; not as if he designed to put them upon a dismembering of their bodies, or a deadening of those bodily natural parts whereby the sex is distinguished, Romans 6:13, (though, agreeably to his own practice, he would have the body kept under and brought into subjection, 1 Corinthians 9:27), but upon subduing inordinate motions and carnal concupiscences, as is evident from the particular vices following, which, taken as collected and heaped up together, may well pass under the notion of a body. He had before in this Epistle mentioned the body of the sins of the flesh, Colossians 2:11; this he might say not only metonymically, by reason such lusts do reside in the natural body and members of it, Romans 6:6,12,19; but (and that chiefly) metaphorically, the mass of corrupt nature dwelling in us is compared to a person, the old man, or old Adam, or body of sin, Colossians 3:9 Romans 6:6 7:24 Ephesians 4:22; and, continuing the metaphor, the parts of this corrupt body are called members, and our members, the whole body of the old man being made up of them, which are said to be upon the earth, as being inclined to earthly things and employed about them, taking occasion from sensual objects here below to get strength, unless we be continually upon our watch to abolish all that contributes to the life of the old man in the particular members; viz. fornication: see the parallel place, Ephesians 5:3, with 1 Corinthians 6:9, where he begins with this, as most turbulent, understanding by it not only the outward act, but the inward affection, which the heathens were apt to reckon no fault, though the Spirit of God in the Scripture do greatly condemn it, Matthew 5:28 Romans 1:29 1 Corinthians 5:1 6:18 7:2 10:8 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Uncleanness: see Ephesians 5:3: impurity which is more unnatural, whereby they dishonour their own bodies, Romans 1:24,27 Ga 5:19 1 Thessalonians 4:7 Revelation 17:4.

Inordinate affection; that passion which some render softness, or easiness to receive any impression to lust, i.e. the filthy disposition of a voluptuous, effeminate heart, delighted with lascivious objects, Psalm 32:9 Romans 1:26,27 1 Corinthians 6:9, with 1 Thessalonians 4:3,5.

Evil concupiscence; that concupiscence which in nature and measure is excessive, being an irregular appetite, and an undue motion against reason, especially against the Spirit, Galatians 5:17.

And covetousness; and an immoderate desire after and cleaving to the things of this world, either in progging for them, or possessing of them to the feeding of other lusts, and so estranging the heart from God, Ecclesiastes 5:10 Luke 12:18; trusting in riches rather than in the living God, Job 31:24 Matthew 6:24 1 Timothy 6:17.

Which is idolatry; upon which account it may pass under the title of idolatry, as the covetous person is an idolater; see Ephesians 5:5: and further he might reckon covetousness to be idolatry, because nothing was more execrable in the judgment of the Jews than idolatry was, it being ordinary with the Hebrews to note sins by the names of those most detested; as rebellion against God by witchcraft, 1 Samuel 15:23, not that it is so formally, but that the Spirit of God may show how odious an incorrigible obstinacy of mind against God is unto him. Hence, considering the odiousness of these vices, the apostle would have us not to content ourselves to cut off some branches of them, but to grub them up by the roots.

Mortify therefore your members,.... Not your bodies, as the Ethiopic version reads, nor the members of the natural body, but of the body of sin, indwelling sin; which as a body consists of various members, which are parts of it, rise out of it, and are used by it, as the members are by the body; and intend the sins of the flesh, or sinful actions, which are generally performed by the members of the natural body, in which the law of sin is, and by which it operates; so that the mortification the saints are here exhorted to, in consideration of having a spiritual life in them, and a hope of eternal life in Christ, from whence the apostle argues, is not a mortification or destruction of the body of sin itself, or of the being and principle of it in the soul, where it is, and lives, and dwells, and will as long as the saints are in this tabernacle, but of the deeds of the body, or of sinful actions, as to the life and conversation; and signifies a denial of them, an abstinence from them, and a non-performance of them; See Gill on Romans 8:13. These members, or deeds of the body, or acts of sin, are called "your": for as the old man is ours, the vitiosity of nature is what we bring into the world with us, and is rooted and incorporated into us; so the actions that flow from it, and are done by it, are not to be ascribed to God, nor even to Satan, but they are our own actions, and which are performed by the members of our mortal body, or by the faculties of our souls: and are,

which are on earth: or earthly; are concerned about earthly things, the things of the world, worldly lusts and pleasures, which rise out of earthly mindedness, and incline unto it, and are only what are done here on earth, and will have no place in heaven. The particulars of which follow:

fornication; the sin of uncleanness committed by single persons, or out of the state of marriage, and which the Gentiles did not account sinful: hence so much notice is taken of it, with a censure, and so often, by the apostle, in almost all his epistles, and dehorted from, as a sin against the body, as what disqualified for church communion, and was not to be named among the saints, who should be dead to that, and that to them, as to the commission of it.

Uncleanness; of every sort, all other impure actions, as adultery, incest, sodomy, and every other unnatural lust; all which should be abstained from, and never committed by those who profess to be alive unto God.

Inordinate affection; which may intend the passions, or first motions of sin, stirred up by the law, and which work in, and operate by the members of the body, and bring forth fruit unto death, and therefore to be opposed by such as have a life in Christ; and also those vile affections, which some in a judicial way are given up unto, and prevail with those who are effeminate, and abusers of themselves with mankind, and which are to be abhorred and denied by all who are heirs of the grace of life, and expectants of an heavenly one.

Evil concupiscence; so called to distinguish it from that natural concupiscence, or desire after things lawful and necessary, and which is implanted in nature by God himself; and from that spiritual concupiscence or desire after spiritual things, and that lusting against the flesh and carnal things, which is formed in the heart of a regenerate man by the Spirit of God. It is the same with , "the evil imagination", or corruption of nature so much spoken of by the Jews. This here is what is forbidden by that law, "thou shalt not covet", Exodus 20:17; and includes every fleshly lust and inordinate desire, or every desire after that which is not lawful, or does not belong to a man; as what is another's property, his wife, or goods, or anything that is his; and so very naturally follows,

covetousness; an immoderate love of money, the root of all evil, an insatiable desire of having more, and of having more than a man's own; and is enlarged as hell, and as death is not satisfied, but still craves more, without making any good use of what is possessed:

which is idolatry. The covetous man, and the idolater, worship the same for matter and substance, even gold and silver; the covetous man lays up his money, makes no use of it, as if it was something sacred; he looks at it, and adores it, and puts his trust and confidence in it, and his heart is so much set upon it, that he neglects the worship of the true God; and indeed no man can serve God and mammon. Some think, that by this rendered "covetousness", is meant, that greedy desire after the commission of all uncleanness, and impure actions, which were perpetrated by the followers of Simon Magus in their religious assemblies, and under the notion of worship, and as acceptable to God, and therefore called idolatry; and which ought not to be once named, much less practised, among the living members of Christ. Moreover, such filthy actions were performed by the Gentiles in the worship of their deities.

{6} Mortify therefore your {c} members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

(6) Let not your dead nature be effectual in you any more, but let your living nature be effectual. Now the strength of nature is known by the desires. Therefore let the affections of the world die in you, and let the contrary desires which are spiritual, live. And he reckons up a great long list of vices, and their contrary virtues.

(c) The desires and lusts that are in us, are in this passage very properly called members, because the reason and will of man is corrupted, and uses them as the body uses its members.

Colossians 3:5.[142] Οὖν] draws the inference from Colossians 3:3-4, in order now to lead to that which must be done with a view to the carrying out of the μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τ. γῆς. The inference itself is: “Since, according to Colossians 3:3-4, ye are dead, but have your life hidden with Christ in God and are destined to be glorified with Christ, it would be in contradiction of all this, according to which ye belong no longer to the earth but to the heavenly state of life, to permit your earthly members still to live; no, ye are to put them to death, to make them die” (Romans 4:19; Hebrews 11:12; Plut. Mor. p. 954 D)!

νεκρώσατε] prefixed with emphasis as the point of the inference; the term is selected in significant reference to ἀπεθάνετε and ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν, Colossians 3:3-4.

τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν] means nothing else, and is not to be explained otherwise than: your members (hand, foot, eye, etc.). That these were not to be put to death in the physical sense, but in an ethical respect (comp. Colossians 2:11)—seeing, namely, that they, as the seat and organs of sinful lusts (Romans 7:23), which they still are even in the case of the regenerate (Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:24), are to lose their vigour of life and activity through the Christian moral will governed by the Holy Spirit, and in so far to experience ethical deadening (comp. Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23; Romans 8:13, and the analogous representation by Jesus as to plucking out the eye, etc., Matthew 5:29 f., Matthew 18:8 f.; comp. also Matthew 19:12)—was self-evident to the reader, as it was, moreover, placed beyond doubt by the following appositions πορνείαν κ.τ.λ. Hence there was neither ground nor warrant in the context to assume already here (see Colossians 3:9) the conception of the old man, whose desires are regarded as members (Beza, Flacius, Calvin, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, Calovius, and others, including Böhmer, Olshausen, and Bleek), although the required putting to death presupposes that the old man is still partially alive. Nor is sin itself, according to its totality, to be thought of as body and its individual parts as members (Hilary, Grotius, Bengel, Bähr, and others; comp. also Julius Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 461, ed. 5, and Flatt),—a conception which does not obtain even in Colossians 2:11 and Romans 6:6, and which is inadmissible here on account of ὑμῶν. The view of Steiger, finally, is erroneous (comp. Baumgarten-Crusius), that the entire human existence is conceived as σῶμα. We may add that the νέκρωσις of the members, etc., is not inconsistent with the death (ἀπεθάνετε, Colossians 3:3) already accomplished through conversion to Christ, but is required by the latter as the necessary, ever new act of the corresponding morality, with which faith lives and works.[143] And in view of the ideal character of this obligation the command νεκρώσατε κ.τ.λ.—this requirement, which is ever repeating itself, of the ethical mortificatio—is never superfluous.

τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς] which are upon the earth, corresponds to the τὰ ἐπὶ τ. γ. in Colossians 3:2; in contrast, not to the glorified human nature of Christ (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, I. p. 560), but to the life hidden with Christ in God. In this antithetical addition is involved an element which justifies the requirement νεκρώσατε τ. μ. ὑμ., not expressing the activity of the μέλη for what is sinful (de Wette, comp. Flatt and others, in connection with which Grotius would even supply τὰ φρονοῦντα from Colossians 3:2), which the simple words do not affirm, but: that the μέλη, as existing upon earth, have nothing in common with the life which exists in heaven, that their life is of another kind and must not be spared to the prejudice of that heavenly ζωή! Comp. also Hofmann’s present view. The context does not even yield a contrast of heavenly members (Huther), i.e. of a life of activity for what is heavenly pervading the members, or of the members of the new man (Julius Müller), since the ζωή is not to be understood in the sense of the spiritual, ethical life.

πορνείαν κ.τ.λ.] Since Paul would not have the members slain as such absolutely and unreservedly, but only as regards their ethical side, namely, the sinful nature which dwells and works in them (Romans 7:23), he now subjoins detailed instances of this sinful nature, and that with a bold but not readily misunderstood directness of expression appositionally, so that they appear as the forms of immorality cleaving to the members, with respect to which the very members are to be put to death. In these forms of immorality, which constitute no such heterogeneous apposition to τὰ μέλη ὑμ. as Holtzmann thinks, the life of the μέλη, which is to be put to death, is represented by its parts. Paul might have said: λέγω δὲ πορνείαν; but by annexing it directly, he gave to his expression the form of a distributive apposition (see Kühner, II. 1, p. 247), more terse and more compact after the σχῆμα καθʼ ὅλον καὶ μέρος. It is neither a sudden leap of thought nor a metonymy.

ἀκαθαρσ.] in reference to lustful uncleanness; comp. on Romans 1:24; Galatians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:3. Paul gives, namely, from πορν. to κακήν, four forms of the first Gentile fundamental vice, unchastity, beginning with the special (πορνείαν), and becoming more and more general as he proceeds. Hence follows: πάθος, passion (the ἡττᾶσθαι ὑπὸ τῆς ἡδονῆς, Plat. Prot. p. 352 A; Dem. 805. 14; Arist. Eth. ii. 4), heat; Romans 1:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:5; and Lünemann in loc. Comp. also Plat. Phaed. p. 265 B: τὸ ἐρωτικὸν πάθος, Phaedr. p. 252 C. And finally: ἐπιθυμ. κακήν (Plat. Legg. ix. p. 854 A), evil desire, referring to unchaste longing. Comp. Matthew 5:28; Breitenbach, ad Xen. Hier. 6. 2. Unnatural unchastity (Romans 1:26 f.; 1 Corinthians 6:9) is included in ἀκαθ., παθ., and ἐπιθ. κακ., but is not expressly denoted (Erasmus, Calovius, Heinrichs, Flatt, Böhmer) by πάθος (comp pathici, Catullus, xvi. 2; παθικεύεσθαι, Nicarch. in Anth. xi. 73), a meaning which neither admits of linguistic proof, nor is, considering the general character of the adjoining terms (ἀκαθαρσ. ἐπιθ. κακ.), in keeping with the context. ἐπιθ. κακ. is to be distinguished from πάθος as the more general conception; the πάθος is always also ἐπιθυμία and relatively ἐπιθ. κακή, but not the converse, since a ἡγεῖσθαι or κρατεῖν τῆς ἐπιθυμίας may also take place.

κ. τὴν πλεονεξίαν] After the vice of uncleanness comes now the second chief vice of the Gentiles (comp. on Ephesians 4:19): covetousness. Hence the connection here by means of καί, which is not even, but (in opposition to Hofmann) the simple and, and the article, which introduces the new category with the description of its disgraceful character,[144] associating this descriptive character as a special stigma with the vice of πλεονεξία. In opposition to the erroneous interpretations: insatiable lust (Estius, Michaelis), or: the gains of prostitution (Storr, Flatt, Bähr), see on Eph. l.c., and Huther. The πλεονεξία is not separated by the article from the appositional definitions of the μέλη, and co-ordinated with τὰ μέλη, so that the latter would only be “the members which minister to unchaste lust” (Huther); for ΤᾺ ΜΈΛΗ ὙΜ. can only denote the members generally, the collective members; and ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΜΈΛΕΣΙΝ (Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23) understood generically, and not as referring to particular individual members, sin is operating with all its lusts, as, in accordance with this ethical mode of viewing the matter, the collective members form the σῶμα τῆς σαρκός of Colossians 2:11. Bengel remarks aptly that the article indicates totum genus vitii a genere commemoratarum modo specierum diversum.

ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρ.] quippe quae est, etc., further supports the νεκρώσατε specially in reference to this vice, which, as the idolatry of money and possessions, is κατʼ ἐξοχήν of a heathen nature. It has been well said by Theodoret: ἐπειδὴ τὸ μαμωνᾶ κύριον ὁ σωτὴρ προσηγόρενσε, διδάσκων, ὡς ὁ τῷ πάθει τῆς πλεονεξίας δουλεύων ὡς Θεὸν τὸν πλοῦτον τιμᾶ. In 1 Corinthians 5:11, the ΕἸΔΩΛΟΛΑΤΡ. is to be taken differently (in opposition to Holtzmann). Moreover, see on Ephesians 5:5. Observe, further, that the addition of the ΠΛΕΟΝΕΞΊΑ to unchastity (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:11) can afford no ground for supposing that the author of the Ephesians borrowed this combination from 1 Thessalonians 2:3, and that it was taken into our present Epistle from that to the Ephesians (Holtzmann). Comp. also 1 Corinthians 6:9 f.

[142] In the section vv. 5–17, in which Hönig, in relation to Ephesians 4:1-5Colossians 3:5. Partially parallel to Ephesians 5:3-5.—νεκρώσατε οὖν. “Put to death, therefore” (cf. Romans 8:13). The aorist implies a single decisive act. Perhaps νεκ. is chosen as a weaker word than θανατόω (Cremer, Haupt), implying the cessation of functions during life, οὖν is interesting. It seems strange that the assertions in the previous verses, of their death and resurrection with Christ and hidden life with Him in God, should be followed by the exhortation to put their members to death. Clearly these assertions are idealistic. The death and resurrection potentially theirs are to be realised in the putting to death of their members,—τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. The members are referred to in so far as they are the instruments of the σάρξ, and are included in the “things on the earth,” with which the Christian has no more concern (Colossians 3:2). Lightfoot places a stop at γῆς, and regards πορνείαν κ.τ.λ. as governed by ἀπόθεσθε (Colossians 3:8). He thinks Paul intended to make these accusatives directly dependent on ἀπ., but, owing to the intervening clauses, changed the form of the sentence. It is true that the apposition of μέλη and the list of sins that follows is strange, but not so strange as to make this very forced construction preferable. We should have expected ἀπ. at the beginning of the sentence.—καὶ τὴν πλεονεξίαν: “and covetousness,” not “impurity”. It comes fitly here, for gold provided the means for indulging these lustful passions. For the noun with the article at the end of a series without it, see Winer-Moulton,9 p. 145.—ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία: “inasmuch as it is idolatry”. ἥτις refers simply to πλ., not to the whole series of vices enumerated, nor to μέλη, by attraction for ἅτινα. The lust for wealth sets riches in the place of God (cf. Matthew 6:24).

5–12. Universal Holiness the necessary issue of the life of Union: the negative side

5. Mortify therefore] Observe the “therefore.” Because of the possession of a hidden life, and in its power, they were to put sin to death. Here is no mere assertion of duty, but an implied assurance of power, the power of life, life welcomed and developed. So, in nature, the rising sap of the tree makes the dead leaf fall.

Mortify:—the verb occurs elsewhere, in Biblical Greek, only Romans 4:19; Hebrews 11:12; in both cases of Abraham’s physical condition in old age. Its plain meaning is to reduce to a state of death, or like death; a state helpless, inoperative. The Christian, in the power of his hidden life in Christ, is thus to deal with his sins; entirely to renounce the thought of compromise or toleration, and to apply to them the mighty counter-agent of his union with his Head.

The verb is in the aorist tense; decisive and critical action is in view. The believer, reminded of his resources and of the will of God, is now, with full purpose, to “give to death” (Conybeare) all his sins, and to carry that purpose out with critical decision at each moment of temptation, in the power of his true life.

No assertions of an attained “sinless perfection” are warranted by such a word. The following context is enough to shew that St Paul views his converts as all along morally imperfect. But that side of truth is not in view here; the Christian is called here to an unreserved decision of will and to a full use of Christ’s power.

In the closely parallel words, Romans 8:13, the verb (another verb in the Greek) is in the present tense, indicating the need of continuous action after however critical a decision.

your members] Your limbs, as if of an invisible, non-material, body, viewed in its separate organs. A bold but intelligible transition of thought thus speaks of the organ rather than of its action; giving a more concrete effect to the mental picture. See below, the next note but one.

Lightfoot compares the phrases “old man, new man.”—See below however on Colossians 3:9-10.

upon the earth] Conversant, sympathetic, with “earth” as the scene of temptation, and not with heaven, where lies the Source of victory.—Cp. the language of Article xvii—“Such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their minds to high and heavenly things.”

fornication, &c.] Lightfoot places a colon before this word in the Greek, and goes on to the imperative verb “put off” (Colossians 3:8) for the (broken) grammatical government. The startling identification of “members” with sins is thus avoided. But the construction is extremely difficult and really unlikely. The R.V. constructs as the A.V.

Fornication:—a sin often in view in the Epistles; evidently an evil wofully rife, but not the less ruthlessly condemned. Cp. 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4. See our note on Ephesians 5:3. It is to be decisively “done to death” by the Christian.

uncleanness] A word of wider reference than “fornication,” and so conveying a still stronger appeal. Act, word, thought, unworthy of the member of the All-Pure Christ—all are to be put to death in the power of His life.

inordinate affection] Lit. and better, passion (R. V.). Cp. Romans 1:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:5; the other places where the Greek (pathos) occurs in N. T. The word denotes lust from the passive side of experience, uncontrollable desire, to which the man is a slave. All the more significant is the implied statement that even this form of sin is to be, and can be, “done to death” in Christ.

evil concupiscence] Concupiscentiam malam, Latin Versions; and so all the English Versions, except Wyclif, “yvel coveitise,” and R. V., evil desire.—“Passion” and “desire” (or, in older English, “lust”) are combined, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, and collocated, Galatians 5:24. “The same vice may be viewed as a [passion] from its passive and a [desire] from its active side … The epithet (“evil”) is added because [“desire”] is capable of a good sense.” (Lightfoot).

covetousness … idolatry] “Avarice, whiche is servyce of mawmetis”[84] (Wyclif).—See Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5 for a close parallel. Lightfoot here sees a reference to covetousness in its ordinary sense; “the covetous man sets up another object of worship besides God.” And he shews clearly that the Greek word never, of itself, denotes sensual lust. But cp. this passage with Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; and it will appear that it at least lends itself to a connexion with sensual ideas, just as our word “greed” lends itself to a connexion with avarice. If so, the “idolatry” of the matter lies in its sensuous and unwholesome admiration, developing into acts of evil.

[84] i.e. idols. Strangely enough, the word is a corruption of Mahomet, the name of the great Iconoclast.

Which is:—more precisely, seeing that it is.

Colossians 3:5. Νεκρώσατε, Mortify[21]) [not knowing to spare.[22]—V. g.]—τὰ αέλη, your members) of which united the body of sin consists, ch. Colossians 2:11. [Here all impurity, without exception, is repelled and excluded.—V. g.]—ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) where they find their support. These things are presently enumerated.—πορνείαν, κ.τ.λ., fornication, etc.) Ephesians 5:3-4.—πάθος, passion [inordinate affection]) the disorder of lust within.—ἐπιθυμίαν, concupiscence) the disorder of the external senses.—τὴν πλεονεξίαν, covetousness) The article has the effect of Epitasis [an emphatic addition], and includes the whole genus of vice, which is different from the genus of the species just now enumerated. Avarice most of all makes men cling to the earth.

[21] Lit. Punish with every kind of death.

[22] Strangers to all tender-heartedness, such as would lead you to spare the flesh.—ED.

Verse 5. - Make dead, therefore, the (or, your) members that are upon the earth (Colossians 2:11; Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:21, 22; Philippians 3:19; Romans 6:6; Romans 8:13; Romans 13:14). "Your" is omitted by most textual critics, but English idiom requires it in translation. In its absence a stronger emphasis falls on the defining clause, "that are upon the earth." As these things may no longer be pursued or studied (vers. 1, 2), the organs devoted to them must be put to death. These members are indeed those of the actual body (Romans 6:13, 19; Romans 7:5, 23; Romans 8:13); but these in so far as ruled hitherto by sinful impulse and habit, constituting the body of "the old man" (ver. 9; Ephesians 4:22; Romans 6:6), "of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11), "of sin," and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24), with "sinful passions working in its members, bearing fruit unto death" (Romans 7:5): setup, note, Colossians 2:11. That body is "made dead" by destruction of the evil passions that animated it. The body of "the new man" is physically identical with it, but different in moral habit and diathesis - a difference that manifests itself even in bodily expression and manner (2 Corinthians 5:17). Νεκρόω occurs besides in the New Testament only in Romans 4:19 and Hebrews 11:12 (in Romans 8:13, a still stronger word is used of "the practices" of the body): as the aged Abraham had been made dead in respect of the natural possibility of fatherhood, so the body of the Christian is to be dead for purposes of sin. If there were any doubt as to the writer's meaning, the next clause removes it. His language has approached that of the philosophical ascetics (see Colossians 2:23, note and quotations); hence the abrupt explanatory apposition that follows: fornication, uncleanness, (sensual) passion, evil desire, and covetousness, the which is idolatry (Ephesians 5:3-5; Philippians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Romans 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:17; Matthew 6:24, 31, 32; Luke 12:21; Psalm 49:6; Psalm 52:7). To these vices the Colossian Gentiles (some of them at least) had been to such a degree devoted that their members had become virtually identified therewith. The first two sins are related as particular and general. The second pair, πάθος and ἐπιθυμία, are combined in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 in contrast to "(bodily) sanctification and honour" (comp. Colossians 2:23, and "passions of dishonour," Romans 1:26). The former denotes a morbid, inflamed condition of the sensual appetite; the latter, craving for some particular gratification of it (see Trench's 'Synonyms'). Neither of these words is etymologically, or invariably, evil in sense. The degradation of such terms in all languages is a sad evidence of the corruption of our nature. Πλεονεξία is both wider and more intense in meaning than our "covetousness." It denotes radically the disposition to "have more," "grasping greed," "selfishness grown to a passion." Hence it applies to sins of impurity, greediness for sensual pleasure (1 Thessalonians 4:6; Ephesians 4:19); but by the emphatic use of the article ("the covetousness"), and by the words that follow, it is marked out as a distinct type of sin; so in Ephesians 5:3, 5, where "uncleanness" and "greed" are stigmatized as vile forms of sin. This word, often used by St. Paul, is peculiar to him in the New Testament. "The which" (ἥτις: setup. α{τινα, Colossians 2:23) gives a reason while it states a fact ("inasmuch as it is idolatry"). For the thought, setup. Ephesians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 6:17, also Matthew 6:24; it is a commonplace of religion, and appears in Philo and Jewish rabbis (see Lightfoot). Lightfoot places a colon after "upon the earth," and supposes "fornication," etc., to be "proleptic accusatives," looking forward to some verb unexpressed, such as "put off" (ver. 8). But this is needless (see Winer, p. 666), and the command, "make dead your members," requires this qualifying explanation. The grammatical awkwardness of the apposition is not without rhetorical effect. Colossians 3:5Mortify (νεκρώσατε)

Only here, Romans 4:19; Hebrews 11:12. Mortify is used in its literal sense of put to death. So Erasmus: "Christ was mortified and killed." And Shakespeare:

" - his wildness mortified in him,

Seemed to die too."

"1 Henry V., 1, 26"

Members (μέλη)

See on Romans 6:13. The physical members, so far as they are employed in the service of sin. The word falls in with the allusions to bodily austerities in ch. 2.

Which are upon the earth

Compare Colossians 3:2. The organs of the earthly and sensuous life.

Fornication, etc.

In apposition with members, denoting the modes in which the members sinfully exert themselves.

Inordinate affection, evil concupiscence (πάθος, ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν).

See on Romans 1:26.

And covetousness (καὶ πλεονεξίαν)


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