Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence…
Paul, an example to faithful preachers, is not satisfied with general exhortations; he is pointed and personal in his allusion to special sins. The great motive power is in the preceding truths (vers. 1-4, "Mortify therefore," etc.). What neither Jewish ceremonialism nor Gnostic teaching could secure (Colossians 2:23), Christ "our Life," our "Hope of glory," could effect. Note the use of similar lofty motives in Romans 6:1, 2; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19, 20. The term "members" is used, not physically but figuratively, as is "old man" in ver. 9, including those bodily and mental faculties which may be the occasion of sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. We find first a list of various -
I. SINS OF THE FLESH. (Ver. 5.) Contrast freedom of the apostolic speech on such subjects and the reserve of the present day, which may be excessive, seeing that sins of intemperance and unchastity are the most frequent causes of Church discipline. The conscience must be instructed as well as aroused. Hints as to safeguards to be thrown around the young by Christians; their duties to their own sons and daughters, their apprentices, and domestic servants; social customs, such as "statute fairs" for hiring servants, "treating," crowded homes, etc.; bad laws (young girls insufficiently protected; state recognition of vice; licensing laws, etc.). The censure and treatment of offenders of both sexes should be far more impartial, and profligate men be branded by the indignation of Christians as one faint image of "the wrath of God" (ver. 6). While seeking to put away these sins from our midst, we must also put to death the very roots of these prolific evils in our own hearts (Matthew 5:27, 28). Govern the thoughts. (Distinguish between a thought injected into the mind as a temptation, and indulged as a sin, Hebrews 4:15.) Guard all the avenues of temptation (cf. Job 31:1; Psalm 17:3; Ephesians 5:4): bad books; dangerous company; amusements that excite the passions; intoxicants (Matthew 5:29, 80; Romans 8:12, 13; Galatians 5:24). Let the body and the brain and the mind be kept in healthy exercise; this will aid us to "keep under the body" (1 Corinthians 9:27). God knoweth our frame;" Christ "our Life has passed through our temptations. Elevation of spirit (vers. 1 and 2), unlike pride (Proverbs 16:18), may guard us from debasing ourselves: "Ye were raised with Christ; mortify therefore," etc.
II. THE SIN OF COVETOUSNESS. Covetousness (πλευνεξία) has been described as "the fierce and ever fiercer longing of the creature which has turned from God to fill itself with the inferior objects of sense." It is a wider term than "the love of money," though that "root of all evil" is the most glaring form of it and the one we take as our illustration. It is significant that here and in Ephesians 5:5 St. Paul couples covetousness with the most loathsome sins. A covetous man is an idolater because he loves, trusts, and serves money more than God. This sin is:
1. Multiform. It is Proteus-like in its shapes: the avarice of the miser, the ostentation of the nouveau fiche, or "that loudest laugh of hell, the pride of dying rich." One of its most common and yet scandalous forms is withholding "more than is meet," robbing God of "the first fruits of all our increase," which God claims under the gospel, though not in the form of Jewish tithe (cf. Proverbs 3:9, 10; Proverbs 11:24; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 8:12; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7). This form of covetousness among Christians may need to be mortified by repeated acts of giving, though painful at first, till duty becomes privilege and the lesson is learned, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
2. It is specious. It is a subtle spirit, needing great discernment for its detection and great grace for its expulsion. It transforms itself into an angel of light, and calls itself "prudence" and other deceptive names. It is said that St. Francis de Sales received at the confessional a greater number of persons than were ever known to visit one confessor besides, but that he did not remember a single instance in which covetousness had been confessed. No wonder, then, that Church censure for covetousness is exceedingly rare (1 Corinthians 5:9).
3. It is odious to God. (Ver. 6.)
4. It is ruinous to the soul. (Galatians 6:7, 8; Ephesians 5:5, 6; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10.)
5. It needs ceaseless vigilance and all the powers of the heavenly life to mortify this "member," which is so peculiarly tenacious of life. Christ's love and power alone can avail (Titus 2:14). - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: