Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence…
Paul, having spoken of our death to earthly things and of our heavenly life, speaks next of mortification as succeeding death. It seems at first sight strange, yet, when analyzed, it is seen to convey most important truth. To quote from Coder's 'Etudes Bibliques:' "When this apostle [Paul] wishes to teach us how one may attempt to die to sin and to live to God, see how he expresses himself: 'Reckon that you are dead to sin and living unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord' (Romans 6:11). This language is but little conformed to that of reason. Human wisdom says, 'Disengage yourself little by little from the bonds of sin; learn gradually to love God and live for him.' But in such a way we should never break radically with sin and we should never give ourselves completely unto God. We dwell in the dark and troubled atmosphere of our own nature and we cannot contemplate the full blaze of the Divine holiness. Faith, on the contrary, raises us, in some sort by a bond, to the royal position which Jesus Christ now occupies and which in him is already ours. From that position we see sin under our feet; there we relish (savourons) the life of God as our true essence in Jesus Christ. Reason says, 'Become holy by being so.' Faith says, ' Thou art so; become it, then. Thou art so in Christ; become it in thine own person.' Or, as St. Paul says to the Colossians 3:3, 5, 'Ye are dead; mortify, then, your terrestrial members.'" Accordingly we have here -
I. THE IDEAL DEATH TO SIN. The only one in this world who was really dead to sin was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His real experience is only our ideal. Of course, we get the benefit of his deadness to sin. It encircles as with a halo all believers. But for this very reason we make it the ideal of our heart and aim after it. To be as dead to the allurements of earth as Jesus was upon the cross, as the body of Jesus was when in Joseph's tomb, - this is the goal of our spiritual ambition. Faith bounds across the chasm which separates the real and ideal, and reckons it as already ours. Faith is thus victorious anticipation that the ideal shall be real one day.
II. THE REALITY OF MORTIFYING OUR MEMBERS. (Vers. 5-9.) The Colossians seem to have been chained by habits of gross sin. It was no simple matter to break the chain and assert their spiritual freedom. Before death sets in, when mortification of the physical kind is approaching, the suffering is intense. But once the part is deadened, pain has ceased. This has its spiritual counterpart. The process of mortification is painful in the extreme. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the mind and heart, cannot be mortified by magic. It is a slow undermining of the sinful nature, like the crucifixion of the body. But we must be prepared for it, and manfully must we sit, like executioners, beside our darling sins and nail them to Christ's cross.
III. THE DIVINE WRATH AGAINST SIN HELPS US IN OUR MORTIFICATION. (Ver. 6.) When we realize God's attitude towards our darling sins, that they are abominable in his sight, and that towards those who cherish them his wrath must be manifested, then we are determined to prosecute our mortification work with the utmost zeal. Those who throw doubts upon the Divine anger have failed to appreciate what a mighty moral strength lies within it.
IV. THE GLORIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS ALSO COMES THAT CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL. (Ver. 11.) The old man, or old nature, being mortified, the new man, or new nature, which is in the Divine image, takes its place. But in addition Christ is realized as dwelling within and reinforcing our "better self." By his indwelling all the old distinctions of Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free, are felt to be of no account; for, if Christ dwells within each, he secures the unity of all. It is this glorious consummation which the apostle contemplated. He rejoiced in the thought of unification through the indwelling Christ. "Our mind," it has been said, "must become Christ's, as Christ is God's. Our very self consciousness, crucified with him, must cease to be our own. Only then can our work, as being of God that worketh in us, work out the true salvation, the deliverance from self-seeking self." We may also refer to a sermon of Tholuck, in which from this eleventh verse he treats of "Christ before us as our Pattern; Christ in us as our Life; and Christ for us as our Righteousness." - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: