So Put to Death
Having been born again of the Spirit, having died and risen with Christ in that regenerating event, Paul now implores the Colossian Christians to be what they are, to live the life that is theirs in Christ Jesus. This should be the natural fruit of the new nature the believer has received through that new birth. The Apostle uses the language of “putting off” and “putting on” regarding sin and virtue, not as if this were as easy as changing clothes, but that sinful habits must be “put to death” and Christian virtues improved. And this is not an option; indeed, the lack of such a change in a person’s behavior and character is reason to doubt the integrity of his claim to regeneration.
And just so there is no mistake about what sins the Christian can no longer abide, Paul lists a few. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but in that it is a representative list of the sins of the ancient world, and in that it is similarly a representative list of sins for our own day, well then it would seem that this list is comprehensive enough of all humanity and indicative of the sins which so easily beset everyone. Sexual immorality includes any and all sexual behavior outside husband and wife within the covenant of marriage. Impurity is a broader term referring to the misuse of sex as with self-abuse. Passion and evil desire can have more comprehensive applications than sex but given the context seem again to refer to the boiling over of lust leading to at least thoughts of, if not the very acts of, licentiousness. And all such illicit sexual desire is rooted in covetousness which is to set one’s mind on earthly things in direct contradiction to what a believer is supposed to do. Ultimately, it is idolatry as one’s affections are set on something else other than the One who should be our hearts’ desire. And though we are quick to grant ourselves grace for these “mistakes,” Paul is clear that he is not wasting ink, for “on account of these things the wrath of God is coming.”
In the several “sin lists” which the Apostle makes when writing to the churches, sexual sin generally tops the register. Of course there are others, and he includes these in his next list: anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying—those that seem to be “not quite as bad,” though we know very well they are just as destructive. Still, sexual sin usually heads the catalog. I suppose the reason is that in every generation, sexual sin is so pervasive. And as Paul says elsewhere there is something unique in the way that sexual sin defiles one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). So put these sins to death, lest they put you to death.