God’s Word for You
Colossians 3:5-6 sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and coveting
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, June 15, 2019
5 Therefore, put to death your earthly parts: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and coveting (which is idolatry). 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming down on those who are disobedient.
“Therefore” in verse 5 has confused some readers. It points back to what was just said, that “You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Why, a reader might think, does anybody who has died need to put anything (in himself) to death? The answer lies in the interval between Adam’s sin and Adam’s death; the same interval in which we live. We were conceived as sinful infants, born as sinful people, and live a life contaminated by sin. We are justified by Jesus’ blood, yet we continue to live stained by sin and committing sins. Therefore, God wants us to ask for his help in turning away from sins. The specific sins Paul lists are those that are in man’s desire.
The objects of man’s desire are not the things that are at fault. It is his desire itself. It is the desire that needs to be put to death. But a thief should not mutilate his fingers. A lustful man should not castrate himself. A covetous man should not put out his eyes. The eyes do not covet; they merely see. God has uses for our eyes that have nothing to do with coveting and which are part of his plan for us. God also has uses for our sexual organs that have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, or coveting, and so a man should not mutilate his sexual organs because he thinks that they lead him into sin. It is man’s desire that is corrupt. It is man’s desire that needs to change. A man who desires sex should marry. But a man who cannot marry should pray for God’s help, for God’s forgiveness for his lust, for God’s guidance when desire begins to well up inside him.
The same is true of a man who cannot bring himself to trust in God. This is equally true of the rich man as well as the poor man. A man who has few possessions but who has faith has a great blessing. He can be content, trusting that God will take care of his needs. A man who has too many possessions may never learn to be content, but will probably always be wanting more, unless he has faith. If he has faith, he can learn to be content with what he has, and even to use what he has in the service of the church.
Even then, some men have proven to be a burden to the church, because they expect that they know best how their gifts should be used, and they put conditions on what they give. A “gift” given with conditions (use it only the way I say so) is not really a gift at all.
But Paul is talking about those who are ruled by their evil desires. Solomon warned: “The unfaithful are trapped by evil desires” (Proverbs 11:6). In similar words to those he uses here, Paul told the Romans: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness” (Romans 6:11-13). Paul shows consistently that a life of sin is idolatry. A life of sin has given up on God’s love and protection, and it has embraced the false idol of the Self, so that the desires of the Self, the will of the Self, and the impulses of the Self are the only commandments to be obeyed. But such a person falls under the judgment of Enoch before the Flood, who preached: “The Lord is coming to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done” (Jude 14-15).
How can we escape from this? How can a weak human like me resist the overwhelming power of temptation, impulses, and evil desires? Peter comforts us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). This knowledge comes only in the Bible, but it is the message that every Christian child should know. It is the forgiveness we have in Jesus’ blood. Thank God for his forgiveness, and live in that forgiveness.
A man who is hounded by lust must re-direct his thinking: These women I think I desire; they fall into two categories. Some of them are my sisters in Christ, and I must treat them with the dignity and respect I owe my own sister or mother. They are not objects of lust, but they are forgiven daughters of Christ. I must not do anything at all to damage their faith, and that begins by doing nothing to damage their bodies or sully their self-esteem. All other women in the world, all those who are not sisters in Christ, are souls who need to hear about Christ. I must treat them with the delicacy of a shipwrecked woman in the water, fighting for her life, on the verge of drowning and being lost forever. This is a soul that needs to be rescued, and if I am not the rescuer with my hand out, I can at least be the man at the tiller. I can curb my personal desires so that she is not destroyed by my actions, but so that someday, some Christian can share their faith with her to rescue her from eternal destruction. These thoughts are the only true curb to lust and other evil desires. We must consider the world in its unseen form, a world of souls which are saved or souls still to be saved, and do nothing, at the very least, to damage, wound, or bruise any of them. If I cannot preach like Paul, if I cannot be like faithful Aaron, at least I can make a choice not to get in the way of the gospel.
Pray that God would use you in the work of his kingdom. But while you wait, at the very least, do not wreck the kingdom you wish to serve.
Pastor Timothy Smith