God’s Word for You
Colossians 3:7-8 rid yourselves of all such things
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, June 22, 2019
7 Once you walked in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now, you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Is Paul talking to Christians? Of course he is. Let’s look at the two verb tenses that appear in these verses, especially in verse 7 compared with “but now” in verse 8, and examine what they mean for our lives and our repentance.
First, the historical past tense (aorist) “you walked (in these ways).” This was how you and I lived before our conversion to faith. For most of us today, this was in our baptisms, but not for all. And even if you were converted at baptism, you still entered from unbelief to faith through the sacrament—that is its purpose, as Paul said before: “You were buried with him in baptism, and also raised with him through faith by the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). But even original sin is not totally eradicated by baptism (although the Roman Catholic Church teaches this). Jesus Christ has freed us from the guilt and punishment of sin, but the infection of sin remains within us. This is what Paul speaks of in Romans: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15), and “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21).
From this moment in the past, Paul shows us how we lived and how we revealed our unbelief to God. Paul uses the imperfect tense when he says, “the life you once lived / were living.” The imperfect tense occurs here “for custom (customary action) or repetition” (A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament p. 971). Once we were sinners, and we stood condemned for those sins and for that guilt. But now something new has happened; something outside of ourselves. God has turned us to faith through the gospel.
This brings us to Paul’s “But now.” The difference between the sinners that we were and the sinners that we are is Christ. The sinners that we were had no faith in Christ, were not washed by Christ’s baptism; were not redeemed by Christ’s blood. But now? Now we are. Paul switches to an imperative here (“all imperatives are future in idea,” Robertson, Shorter Grammar p. 165) to urge us to make a change in our lives that reflects the change in our status before God. We sinners now have the status of being forgiven and being righteous in God’s sight. Paul says: “Through the obedience of the one man (Christ) the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Also, “We, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law” (Galatians 2:16).
Now, you forgiven child of God, live under God’s forgiveness, and set aside, rid yourself of, abolish, things like anger, rage, and malice. There is such a thing as godly anger over sin (John 2:15-16), but how often don’t we wink at sin but become angry at opinions that are simply different than our own?
“‘Rage’ (thymos, θυμός) is ‘wrath’ or ‘an outburst of passion.’ This term refers to something caused by a violent impulse. The Greeks use it to describe a kind of pounding around the heart involving many blood vessels wherein the emotion of anger is strongly felt, and when blood bursts out of the lips” (Martin Chemnitz, Loci p. 406; see Esther 5:9)
Malice (kakian, κακίαν) is the mind or will going out of its way to plan evil toward someone out of a sense of revenge, spite, or prejudice (Proverbs 26:24). Malice is the emotion Satan harbors toward you, Christian. Do not adopt his ways for yourself.
Slander here is the Greek word blasphemy (βλασϕημία). This is either speaking against God, or speaking against another human being. In the latter case, such as we have here in Colossians, we would describe it as slander, or any other form of violating the Eighth Commandment with lies, libel, or other sinful words.
Finally, filthy or obscene language (αἰσχρολογία) is any speech or word which does not give glory to God, but especially if it mocks God’s creation. Obscenity takes those things which are less honorable or that should be “treated with special modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:23) and uncovers them, putting them on display in the bright light of day. This is not what should come from a Christian’s lips. The one dishonorable thing we should proclaim is the cross. Let the loathsome and ordinary things in man’s existence, including the things done in the privacy of the bathroom or the bedroom, remain private and be treated with modesty and public silence. Let the most loathsome and extraordinary thing in human history, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, never be kept quiet, never be treated with anything but praise to God, and be the glory of all Christians for all eternity. Let it be what motivates us for Christian living today, and praise to Jesus forever in heaven.
Pastor Timothy Smith