The Duty of Mortifying the Old Man
Colossians 3:5-7
Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence…

The apostle proceeds to deduce the practical consequences of our "death in Christ" in the mortifying of tendencies to impurity, covetousness, malice, and falsehood. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."


1. Its nature. It is to resist the solicitations of sin, to suppress its first motions, to weaken its power.

(1) It is a gradual process - it is "to crucify the flesh," implying a lingering process; it is a destruction that goes on daily, for the remains of the old life still abide, though not in power, in the believer.

(2) The word "mortify" implies that sin is not to be allowed to die out of itself; we must kill it.

(3) It is a painful process.

2. The duty of mortification.

(1) It is commanded. We are to show no more mercy to the "old man" than to the "right eye" or the "right hand" that offends us (Matthew 5:29).

(2) It is done in the power of the Spirit. "For if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). Therefore it becomes not only possible, but actual. Thus "our instruments of unrighteousness" are turned into "instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13).

(3) It is the true consequence of our "death in Christ;" for the apostle says, "Mortify therefore your members," in allusion to this death (Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3). We must carry out this principle of death to sin, to the flesh, to the world.

II. THE SPHERE OF THIS MORTIFICATION, "Your members which are upon the earth." He refers:

1. To the instruments of sinfulness. They are called members in allusion to the apostle's figure of sin, as a body of sin (Colossians 2:11), and in allusion to the necessity of the bodily organization to their action. They are "upon the earth," because they belong to our body or our earthly condition, or tend to mere earthly gratification. But they are to be turned into "instruments of righteousness unto God."

2. To the various manifestations of this sinfulness.

(1) Sins affecting our personal life.

(a) Sins of impurity.


) Fornication.

(i.) It is God's will we should abstain from it (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4).

(ii.) It is one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19).

(iii.) It ought not once to be named among Christians (Ephesians 5:12).

(iv.) It takes away the heart (Hosea 4:11).

(v.) It brings dishonour and shipwreck of character (Proverbs 6:27-29; Proverbs 23:28).

(vi.) The body was made, not for a harlot, but for the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:15, 16). It is a sin against our own bodies.

(vii.) The promises of the gospel ought to engage us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).


) Uncleanness. This is a generic product, as fornication is a specific product, of "the earthly members." The observations in the one apply to the other. Those who commit such sins are "alienated from the life of God through their ignorance and hardness of heart" (Ephesians 4:17), and are "delivered up to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:24, 26).


) Lustfulness and evil desire. These point to" the lust of concupiscence" (1 Thessalonians 4:5), which is of the devil (John 8:44), which wars against the soul (1 Peter 2:11), which drowns men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9), and keeps men from "coming to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). These various sins of impurity are to be mortified: how?


) We can only cleanse our hearts by taking heed to the Word (Psalm 119:9).


) By prayer, as the apostle did with the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).


) By watchfulness (Proverbs 23:26, 27). We ought to guard against idleness (Ezekiel 46:49), fulness of bread, evil company (Proverbs 1:20).


) We must not "fulfil the lusts of the flesh," but "put on Christ" (Romans 13:14).

(b) The sin of covetousness. The apostle here introduces a new type of sin by the use of the definite article, as if he thus exhausted the full catalogue of sin in the world. It is curious to find it linked with sins of impurity. Yet it is so elsewhere (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; 2 Peter 2:14). There is a likeness between these two classes of sins. They both imply an unlawful direction of desires not in themselves unlawful, and they both grow by indulgence. Covetousness:


) Issues, as a defiling thing, "out of the heart of man" (Mark 7:22).


) It implies a greedy and distracting care (Luke 12:15).


) It exposes to many a piercing sorrow (1 Timothy 6:10).


) It is a trouble to a man's own house (Proverbs 15:27).


) It argues little dependence or faith in the Lord (Luke 12:30). Therefore "let us have our conversation without covetousness and be content with such things as we have" (Hebrews 13:5).


) Its heinousness - "seeing it is idolatry." It sets up another object of worship besides God. We cannot "serve both God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). Covetousness is base, because it sets up self in the heart, it is odious to God (Psalm 10:3), turns our hearts away from him (1 John 2:15), and grudges the time spent in God's worship (Amos 8:5). Sins of impurity are the sins of youth as the sin of covetousness is the sin of old age.

III. ARGUMENTS TO ENCOURAGE US TO THIS DUTY OF MORTIFICATION. "For which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience: in the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things."

1. The consideration of the wrath of God.

(1) There is wrath in God against all sin. It is the displeasure of a personal God, the moral Governor, against sin, and the moving cause of the punishment he inflicts. It is not identical with the punishment, which is only the effect of it. It is a first principle in natural theology (Romans 1:32); it has its root in the moral excellence of God; and is inseparable from the attitude of God toward moral evil (Hebrews 3:11; Romans 9:22).

(2) It is an enduring fact of God's moral government - "the wrath of God doth come." Nothing has occurred to break the connection between sin and God's anger, except in the case of those whom Christ has "delivered from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

(3) It is directed against the sons of disobedience, who disregard alike the principles of Law and gospel.

2. A consideration of the former state of the Colossians. "In the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things." It is good to be reminded of our past sin,

(1) because it recalls the misery and guilt of our former state and makes us shrink from the thought of a return to it;

(2) because it humbles us under a sense of our personal unworthiness;

(3) because it quickens our sense of God's mercy that drew us out of it. - T. C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

WEB: Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;

The Children of Disobedience
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