Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #293b MP3 Audio File

Kill Sin!

Colossians 3:5a


Paul has taught us, in chapter 1 of Colossians, who Christ is: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, by him were all things made, and all things are sustained by him. And He is the head of the body, the church; and just as He is the firstborn over all creation, so also He is the firstborn from the dead. Therefore, Christ is supreme over all things. In chapters 1-2, Paul also sets forth what Christ has done: He has reconciled you to the Father through His death so that you might be presented pure and blameless in Him. He has spiritually circumcised and baptized you, granting you new life and forgiveness of sins. He has blotted out the Old Covenant law that was against you. He has utterly defeated all of the enemies which held you captive. Sin, death, and the devil are all defeated foes.

So we have seen who Christ is, and what He has done. We have seen that as believers we share in all that Christ is and has done. Since this is true, Paul declares that you are no longer to live in the way you used to. The imperatives of the Christian life -the command to "put to death your members which are on the earth," for instance, are rooted in the new reality of who we are in Christ. Union with Christ is the heart and soul of Paul's gospel. You can find it in every letter he writes. Since you have been united to Christ, live like it! Or to put it simply: Be who you are in Christ!

Beginning with verse 5 Paul moves now from the positional to the practical:

Colossians 3:5-7 (NASB) Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

"Therefore" - on the basis of your position in Christ (1:1-3:4), "put to death your members which are on the earth." I just switched to the NASB, because I believe it is the best translation, but here it obscures the meaning of this phrase. The Greek text says to kill the members of your earthly body (not just to consider them as dead). Does it surprise you to read that living the Christian life involves putting sin to death? Didn't Paul just say that that had already been done?

Colossians 2:20 (NASB) If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,

"If you have died with Christ" - we can translate the word "if" as "since." The Greek indicates that it is a reality that we are dead with Christ. This would be better translated: "you died" (the aorist tense indicating a definite event). It is not a potential; it is a fact. All the sins of the elect were poured out upon Christ. At the moment we believe, God finally and forever forgives our sins by Christ's death; our position before God is perfect forever. The death Christ died He died to sin:

Romans 6:10 (NASB) For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

You died with Christ; therefore, you died to sin as well. Sin has no more power over you than it has over Christ! So why, then, does Paul tell believers to put sin to death? Because our positional reality must be worked out in our practical living.

Listen carefully: Paul has just spent two chapters telling believers who they are in Christ, talking about the permanent, perfect position they posses in Christ. Now he tells those same believers to "put to death your members which are on the earth." My point here is that, as believers, we are responsible to deal with sin. We are responsible to put it to death.

One commentator wrote this: "Conversion means death. If you don't die with Christ, you don't believe on Christ. That is the meaning of becoming a Christian. It is a profound spiritual event that involves death to sin. Short of that, we are playing religious games." What he is saying is true in a positional sense, but he is talking practically. He is saying that if we don't put sin to death, we are not Christians. Which makes no sense, because Paul is telling believers to "put sin to death." Unbelievers could not be told to put sin to death, they have no ability or desire to do so.

"Kill the members of your earthly body" - the word "members" is the Greek word melos, which means: "a limb or part of the body." It is used of the literal parts of a body:

Matthew 5:29-30 (NASB) "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts [melos] of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts [melos] of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

We see here that melos is used of the eyes and hands - parts of the body.

People have often misinterpreted Jesus' words here in much the same way as they do Paul's words in Colossians 3:5. Taking those passages literally, many have physically injured themselves. According to tradition, Origen, one of the great theologians of the early church, was voluntarily castrated based on his misinterpretation of Matthew 19:12. A common sight in European cities during the Middle Ages was a group known as the Flagellants. Marching through the streets in solemn processions, they scourged themselves in penance for their sins.

Paul, however, is not advocating the very asceticism he condemned in chapter 2. Rather, he uses a figure of speech known as "metonymy." A metonymy is a figure of speech in which something named is used to represent another thing which it is part of or associated with. When we say, "I was reading Calvin last night," we mean that we were reading a book written by him. The name of the author is used to represent the work he has written. When Paul speaks of killing bodily parts or members, Paul is actually referring to the sins associated with those members. We are not to put to death our hands and eyes and tongue. Notice what he says:

Colossians 3:5 (NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

The members they are to put to death are fornication and other sins.

"Put to death" means: "to cease completely from activity, with the implication of extreme measures taken to guarantee such a cessation - to stop completely." The Greek tense suggests decisive and urgent action. Kill them, as you would weeds or vermin which spread and destroy, or as you would kill an enemy who fights against you seeking to destroy you. This is a call for practical holiness. God's purpose for our lives is that we live holy:

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NASB) but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

We are to be holy in our daily conduct:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 (NASB) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

This is God's will for our lives: practical sanctification, holiness.

Oriental, Greek, and Roman religions said little or nothing about personal holiness. A person could bring sacrifices, say prayers, and go away from the altar to commit terrible sins, and nobody would think he or she was inconsistent. Not so with Christianity! The new life within demands a new life without. Since we have died with Christ, we should put sin to death.

Paul's call for believers to "...put to death your members which are on the earth"is a call for practical sanctification, practical holiness. How do we do this? How do we put to death sin in our lives? These are questions that we must be able to answer if we are going to obey these commands. How do we make our position part of our experience?

Your practical holiness will become a reality through three basic steps. Those steps are laid out for us in a parallel passage in Romans 6. They are: knowing, considering, and yielding. We looked at Romans 6 when we were studying Colossians 2. Just as we got insight into Paul's meaning of Colossians 2:11-12 from Romans 6:1-10, we get insight into what Paul means by "putting to death the members of the body by looking at Romans 6:1-13. In this text we see three steps to dealing with sin:

1. Knowing - this is the theme of the first 10 verses in Romans 6. The thing we are to know is the doctrine of our union with Christ. We are identified with Him, we share all He is and has.

Romans 6:6-7 (NASB) knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

"Knowing this" - how do we know this? We only know it because the Scripture teaches it. The "old self" is the man that I used to be in Adam. The word "crucified" is a compound verb meaning: "was crucified with" - Christ. That man that was joined to Adam was crucified together with Christ. Because of our union with Christ in his crucifixion, we are dead to sin; we have been set free from sin. We are no longer slaves of sin. We must know this!

2. Consider - consider means: "to regard something as true." We must keep on counting as true that we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are "in Christ," and because of this, we share his righteousness.

Romans 6:11 (NASB) Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In 1982 an unusual thing happened on the island of Guam. A Japanese soldier came out of the jungle. He had been living in the jungle for 37 years after the end of world war II. Why? Because when the news came at the end of the war, he couldn't believe that Japan had surrendered, and the war was over. So for 37 years, he lived in the jungle.

Let me ask you a question: During those 37 years, was he free? Sure. At any time, from 1945 until 1982, he was completely free to come out of the jungle. It's not like General MacArthur was looking for him. He was free. He could come out in 1950 or 1955 or 1969. He was completely free, on a theoretical basis. But because he didn't believe it -because he didn't consider the fact of his freedom to be true -he lived in self-imposed bondage in the jungle for 37 years. Was he free? Yes. Did he experience his freedom? No, because he chose to stay in bondage, in hiding, in fear in the jungle.

Many Christians are still living in the jungle of sin. The war is over, Christ has won, but they refuse to believe it. They live in self-imposed bondage to sin. They are still in the jungle spiritually, because they refuse to believe that Christ has set them free.

3. Yielding - this is the third principle in putting sin to death. Know deals with understanding the truth, consider deals with believing it, and yield deals with the will - acting on what we know and believe.

Verse 12 of Romans 6 brings us to the practical application of the doctrine Paul has been expounding in the first 11 verses of chapter 6, just like verse 5 of Colossians 3 does.

Romans 6:12 (NASB) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts,

The word "reign" is from the Greek verb basileuo, which means: "to exercise kingly power, or to exercise uncontrolled authority." The word "reign" is simply the word for "king" in a verbal form. The verb is present imperative with the negative me. This construction forbids the continuance of an action already going on. A literal translation would be: "Stop allowing sin to reign as king in your mortal body."

I know that most of you are aware of the Hermeneutical principle of audience relevance. So, let me ask you a question: "Who is Paul speaking to when he writes, 'Stop allowing sin to reign'?" He is addressing Christians. It would be pointless to tell this to unbelievers. What does this tell us? It tells us that sin can reign in the life of a believer if permitted to. Sin wants to reign in your mortal body. As long as we live in the physical realm, we will battle with sin.

Paul goes on to say, "That you should obey its lusts." Greek grammar refers "its" back to the body, since the pronoun is neuter, the word "sin" is feminine, and the word "body" is neuter. The pronoun in Greek agrees with its antecedent in gender.

It is through the desires of the body that sin wants to take control. The desires of the body are conceived as demanding obedience.

Practical sanctification is a process, we will never be rid of sin, while we are in these physical bodies. The Christian life is a constant battle, while we are in the physical body. We, as believers, are not to permit sin to reign in our bodies through its desires.

Why are we not to let sin reign? The word "therefore" at the beginning of verse 12 answers that question. The prohibition in verse 12 is based upon all that Paul has been saying from Romans 5:12 - 6:11 that deals with our position in Christ. So, Paul is saying, "Because of your position in Christ, do not let sin reign as king in your body."

Our position in Christ is that we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are to consider this as true, because it is true. Contrary to our experience, we are dead to sin. Now on the basis of our position, we are not to allow sin to reign in our body.

How do we stop sin from reigning? Verse 13 moves from the general to the particular and gives us some help in answering that question.

Romans 6:13 (NASB) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

The word "presenting" is the Greek word paristemi, which means:"to put at one's disposal." Again, the verb is present imperative with the negative me meaning: "stop presenting."

Practical holiness becomes a reality through the three steps of: knowing, considering, and yielding. We must know the truth about ourselves, then we must believe it. Once we know it and believe it, we are to act upon it. This command to yield deals with our will.

The Nature of the Human Will

The will is the faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action. You think about something, and then you do it. In every act of the will there is a preference; the desiring of one thing rather than another. To will is to choose, and to choose is to decide between two or more alternatives. But there is something which influences the choice. The will is not causative, because something causes it to choose, therefore, that something must be the causative agent.

What is it that determines the will? If the will is not causative, then what is it that causes you to make a choice? Let's say that your boss comes to you and says, "You're going to California." You don't have a choice, he's telling you. But he says, "Would you like to drive or fly?" He is giving you a choice. What determines which option you choose? What determines your choice is the strongest motive power which is brought to bear upon it. With one, it may be the logic of reason - if I drive, it will take me five days, and if I fly, it will only take me about five hours. I choose to fly. With another, the impulse of emotion - there are a lot of plane crashes and I'm not ready to die, so I'll drive. What you think, causes you to will. Whichever of these presents the strongest motive power and exerts the greatest influence upon us is that which impels the will to act. When you woke up this morning, you had to make a choice: will I sleep in our will I get up and go to church? This choice was made by what exerted the greatest influence upon you - your desire to worship or sleep.

In other words, the action of the will is determined by the mind. The will is not free but is in bondage to the heart. The Word of God teaches that the heart is the dominating center of our being:

Proverbs 4:23 (NASB) Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

Our choices are determined by our desires . When we have conflicting desires, whichever desire is greater at the time of decision is the desire I will choose.

Example: What causes a teenager to take drugs? Remember, your thinking will determine your choice. The Bible tells us that Daniel "purposed" in his heart not to defile himself with the King's meat. Daniel had made a conscientious decision beforehand not to eat the king's meat.

If a teenager desires to honor and obey God and his parents, and if he believes that drugs are wrong, he will say, "No" to drugs. But if he is really undecided if drugs are wrong, and he wants to please his friends, he'll say, "Yes." This is why we are to train up our children, and this is why we are to guard our thinking - the condition of our hearts will determine our choices. J. Edwards defined the will as: "The mind choosing."

This is why practical sanctification starts in the mind - know who you are. If you believe that it is normal for a Christian to sin all the time, how are you ever going to stop sin from reigning in your life? We must know and believe that we are dead to sin.

How do we stop sin from reigning in our bodies?

Romans 6:13 (NASB) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

We are told in this verse to "stop presenting our members to sin." The "members" are part of your mortal body. They are the various parts of the body- the eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue, mind, and emotions. This is the same Greek word melos that Paul used in Colossians 3:5. These members become instruments of unrighteousness when we put them at the disposal of sin.

The word "instruments" is the Greek word hoplon. This word is only used six times in the New Testament; twice in this verse and four other times. In the other four uses it is translated "armor" or "weapons."

John 18:3 (NASB) Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came^ there with lanterns and torches and weapons (hoplon).

In classical Greek, the word hoplon referred to the weapons of the Greek soldier.

Listen to me, believers, your bodily members are weapons. Are you putting them at the disposal of righteousness or sin? Your tongue can be used to speak the truth of God, or sing praises to Him, or to build up another believer. But it can also be used to back-bite, gossip, slander, and cause division and strife. The tongue is a weapon that is often used to beat our spouses or children and attack others. Look at how Peter used his tongue:

Matthew 16:16 (NASB) And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Here Peter is using his tongue to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then a few moments later, when Jesus begins to talk about his death, Peter uses his tongue to rebuke the Lord:

Matthew 16:21-23 (NASB) From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

When we put our members at the disposal of sin, they become weapons of unrighteousness; and as they become weapons of unrighteousness, sin moves in to rule and reign as king in our body.

Paul is telling the Roman Christians and us to, "Stop presenting your members to be used for unrighteousness." The basis for me not presenting my members to sin is my position in Christ, my identity, who I am.

It is not that we don't like sin, because we do. But we understand and believe our position in Christ, and on the basis of who I am, I don't present my members to sin. Let me try to illustrate this: Suppose a Russian immigrates to the United States, and he becomes an American citizen. He is a scientist, and in a few years he works his way to a high position in the U.S. government's field of science. Then it happens an undercover agent of the Russian government approaches him and asks him to function as a spy for Russia. Now here is a man who is compelled to make a choice. Let's suppose he decides not to let his former government rule over him, and he won't put his talents and abilities at the disposal of Russia. Why should he not allow the Russian government to rule over him? Some might say because he loves America, but the fact may be that he loves Russia more than America. He was raised there, his family is there, and he has many fond memories of Russia. If his love determines his decision, he might become a spy. But his basis for not letting Russia rule over him is his position. He is a citizen of the United States of America, and he will not put his talents and abilities at the disposal of Russia.

This is the situation of the believer. We once lived in the kingdom of darkness, and sin ruled over us, it was our master. But we were translated into the kingdom of God. Now sin still wants to rule in your body, you know that. But we are not to permit it to reign or to let it use our members. Why not? It's not because we don't like sin. The basis for our negative presentation is our position in Christ, our identity. As we understand our position in Christ, we will by God's grace say, "NO" to sin.

In verse 13, he first gives us the negative and then the positive:

Romans 6:13 (NASB) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

"But" here is the positive side: we are to present ourselves and our members as instruments of righteousness.

The word "present", translated "yield" in some translations, is the Greek word paristemi, and this time it is in the aorist tense, which is a once and for all action; a completed action. A one time presentation. Therefore, verse 13a it says, "Do not continue to present." And 13b is saying, "Present once and for all." This would be as a husband does when he takes his marriage vows.

The believer is to put himself and all that he is at the disposal of God. Why? Again, it is because of our position. This is emphasized in the phrase, "as being alive from the dead." This is our position, and based upon our position, we are to present ourselves to God. Before you can follow the exhortation of verses 12 and 13, you must understand verses 1-11. You must understand your identity before you can yield.

The word "present" means: "to put at the disposal of God your members to be used for righteousness sake. This includes your tongue, eyes, ears, mind, hands, and feet. We don't do this in our own strength but in dependence upon God, as Paul put it in:

Romans 8:13 (NASB) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

It is "by the Spirit" that we are to put to death the deeds of the body. This means that we do it in dependence upon the Lord.

In Daniel chapter 3, we have the story of how king Nebuchadnezzar tried to get the Hebrew children to present their bodies in the worship of an idol. When they refused, he threatens their lives. Look how they responded:

Daniel 3:16-18 (NASB) Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

Notice that they call God, "Our God." That is identity - they knew who they belonged to, and they knew that their purpose in life was to worship Him, so they were willing to be burned alive rather than dishonor their God. So Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the furnace, but the fire didn't hurt them. Notice Nebuchadnezzar's response:

Daniel 3:28 (NASB) Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

Notice carefully what he says, "They trusted in Him," and because of that, they "yielded their bodies." They would not allow their bodies to be used as weapons of unrighteousness. They presented their bodies to be used of God even if it meant their death.

David yielded his body to be used as a weapon of righteousness when he went out to fight Goliath. Then later in his life, he yielded his body as a weapon of unrighteousness when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband, Uriah. We do this same thing, don't we? At times, we are using our members as weapons of righteousness, and at others, we are using them as weapons of unrighteousness.

Let me give you another illustration: A ship with a very rich cargo sets sail from Norfolk. While the ship is at sea, the owners of that ship discover that the captain is a crook, and he has plans of embezzling the cargo. The owners wire the ship saying that the captain is to be removed, and the first mate is to be put in charge.

Now, say you were a crew member, you have two options: you can submit to the captain or the first mate. What will influence your decision? Will it be your like or dislike of the captain or first mate? Or their position? The crew is employed by the owners of the ship, they are paid by the owners. Their position is that they are employees of the owners.

As the crew reflects upon their position, they must refuse the captain any right of rule over them, and they will do that by refusing to put at his disposal their strengths and abilities. On the other hand, they shall acknowledge the right of the first mate, and put at his disposal all of their time and talents and abilities. They will do that on the basis of their position. On the basis of their position, they will make a negative and positive presentation.

When God makes your position in Christ clear to you and gives you the faith to believe it, you will present yourself to God and not present your members to sin.

Believer, do you know who you are? You are: a saint; a son of God; as righteous as Jesus Christ, because you are in Christ. All Christ is and has, you are and have. You are dead to sin and alive to God.

Because this is true of you, you, in dependence on God, are to put to death your members which are on the earth.

Practical sanctification comes as we stop yielding to sin and start yielding to God. As we do this, we put to death our earthly members. Let's talk about your eyes: Have you been looking at things this week that you shouldn't be looking at? Let's talk about your ears: Have you been listening to gossip, slander, filthy talk and coarse humor? Let's talk about your lips: Have you used your lips this week for swearing, for anger, slander for bitterness? Are your lips yielded to God? What about your hands? Are your hands yielded to God, or do you use your hands to grasp more of this world's goods? What about your feet? Are your feet yielded to God, or are they constantly taking you where you shouldn't go? Are all your members yielded to God, or are you using them for sin?

The only way we will be able to put to death our members is to:

1. Know your position in Christ.
2. Believe what God says about you.
3. Do not present your members to be used for unrighteousness, but present them to be used for righteousness.

Next week we'll look at some specific sins that we are to put to death.

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322