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Our Glory and Our Power in Jesus Christ (Col. 3:4-6)

Our Glory Bound to Christ’s (v. 4)

Our Glory Hidden until He Appears

These lines open the portion of this letter that set forth our duties as Christians. We should not isolate these directives from the plain statement that our glory is hidden. Godly living is part of our inheritance in Christ, a fruit of our union and communion with him. We are definitively holy by his obedience applied to us and his blood cleansing us from our guilt and pollution. By the Spirit applying Christ’s death and resurrection to us, we are made progressively holy – with this caveat. Our glory yet lies hidden in Christ. We are the children of our heavenly Father, but we are not yet perfected children. There will be much sin in us, and this sin will be manifested in our domestic relationships, attitudes about work and life, and the way we treat each other. This is not to excuse sin, but sin is a reality that must make us humble and contrite before the Lord and one another. We shall often face our inability to do the godly things we know we should do (Rom. 7:15-19). Faith responds to hidden glory by “patient continuance in well doing” (Rom. 2:7), meekness before the Lord for our many failings, and mutual support in the body of Christ. None has arrived at perfection. We are all waiting for the hidden glory to be revealed. Older believers – help the younger. Parents – help and teach your children. All of us – be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud. Pride expects a perfection of self and others that is utterly impossible in this life.

Our Glory When Christ Appears

So that hidden glory does not become an excuse for careless views of sin and laziness respecting holiness, faith longs for the appearing of Christ. The hidden glory will give away to the revealed – when Christ appears. This is a plain statement that the ascended and reigning Jesus Christ will return in the same manner the disciples saw him ascend to his Father’s right hand. We shall see him, and then we will appear with him in glory. The rags of our present experience of grace will be replaced with our heavenly robes, our tears with everlasting joy upon our heads, and our weakness with power to obey God fully and only, with pleasing him as our chief pleasure. When Christ appears in our glory, he will raise our collapsed and decayed earthly tents; our physical bodies will become immortal and incorruptible. Our physical and spiritual beauty will be perfected by the appearing of Jesus Christ. This is because he is our Head and Savior, and our glory is bound to us. It does not appear what we shall be until we see him who is the great archetype of our glory. And thus, while we freely confess our many sins and imperfections, we look forward to our perfect glory coming – that Christ our life is coming. Until then, we labor and hope, love and forgive, keep our affections fixed upon him. Our life is coming for us soon.

From Glory to Killing (v. 5)

Dead in Christ, We Can and Must Kill Sin

There is an immediate transition from glory to kill. If we are dead with Christ and live in him, why do we need to kill our sinful members? Why are they not immediately perfected so that there is no more sin to kill? Our death to sin in the death of Christ is definitive, but he renews us progressively by his word and Spirit. By progressively renewing us, we learn personally and sometimes painfully the reality of the power of his death and resurrection. By the battle, we are drawn to seek him with much greater urgency and humility than we otherwise would. It is because we are dead to sin in Christ that we are able put to death our sinful members. Because we are alive in him by union with him in his resurrection, we can put on godliness. If we are seeking him and setting our affections upon him, the first two imperatives in this broader section, sin will be distasteful to us. Holiness compels and attracts the Christ-seeker, and therefore sin must be killed! This is not because of something we generate in ourselves but because the great Physician and mighty Captain have come into our lives. Growth in personal, family, and congregational holiness is the fruit of union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. Where there is a real and saving union with him, his power is at work enabling us to kill our sinful members.

 By our members the Spirit does not mean that our bodies are the source of our sin. The body, however, is the vehicle in which we carry out the sinful desires of the mind and heart. It is called “the body of this death,” the body in which the principle of death is operating (Rom. 7:24).  But now in Christ, we also serve him in the body (Phil. 1:20; Col. 1:22). Therefore, we must be putting our sins to death so that instead of yielding our bodies as instruments to sin, we yield them to serve God (Rom. 6:19). We can do this because of our union with Christ, and we must do it, for he is our life and has conquered sin. Therefore, love for him constrains us to wage continual war against the sins that nailed him to the tree, for which he shed his precious blood to cleanse and release us, and that so offend a holy God. Hidden life in Christ is verified in us by desire and ability to kill the sinfulness and sins that remain in us. I say sinful, for the corruption of the fall still inheres in the holiness of believers, and sins, for we continue to break God’s holy law and stand in constant need of his mercy.

By His Power Alone: Union and Obedience

Therefore, the following duties, including the present command to put our sinfulness members to death, are grounded in our union with Christ – that we have died with him and are raised with him. Christian morality must never be allowed to degenerate into a basic morality, or a common grace morality. Union with Christ adds motives and gives strength that nothing in nature can give or teach. It is in the power of Christ that we can obey his command to put sin to death. Our age teaches us to make peace with our sins, to deny that personal desire could be sinful, for they are an expression of our true selves, and therefore good. This is Satanism turned into virtue.

The Christian gospel sounds a different tune and a hopeful one. In union with Jesus Christ, by his indwelling Spirit, we can fight against our sins and work toward putting them to death. We can obey the Lord in this. It is an act of obedience, brothers and sisters, to kill our sins – not to nurture them, wish we could indulge them, and daydream about them. This is keeping our sinful members on life support – and then we are surprised when they suddenly get up off the table and slap us in the face. No, with respect to sin, and especially the sexual sins immediately mentioned, we must suffocate them, flee every thought that imagines them and desire that inflames them.

But remember that Jesus Christ is the only sin slayer. We do not take the battle as far as we can, and then in eleventh hour desperation call upon him when it is too late. We look to him constantly as our Savior. This is so not only with sexual sins but with anger, worry, doubt, laziness, and fear of man. We must live in constant dependence upon his power and grace. We must place ourselves solidly in his fellowship, in his word, and form habits of habitual prayer that is a believing calling upon him for help. It is his office to save us from our sins, but many simply will not go down this path of faith. No, something else is needed besides union with Christ and living in his fellowship and call upon him, day and night nonstop as needed. But faith looks to nothing but Jesus Christ. Many make their peace with sin and run away from the convicting word. Others try to rest in the externals of religion and give up trying to keep the heart with all diligence. It is impossible and frustrating to kill sin in our own strength. To fight against our sins requires that we go to Jesus Christ and ask him to apply his death and resurrection to the very root of our sins. Unless we do this, we cannot kill sin, but sin will make progress against us little by little. Even in children of light, sins will weaken and make us miserable and fill us with despair.

Including Sexual Sins

This is especially true of sexual sins. Since body and soul we are the Lord’s, our bodies are not for fornication but for cleanness (1 Cor. 6:13,18). Purity is God’s will for our lives (1 Thess. 4:3). Impurity of every description was rampant in the first century world. Wherever the gospel went, it called and delivered men from sexual impurity. This is because Jesus Christ is stronger than sinful sexual desires and his power in us can subdue and properly direct legitimate sexual desires. We must not give them more strength and power than our Savior possesses! But, they can become entrenched and overwhelm us. The desire for sexual gratification, while created, is also fallen and quickly masters sinners. Hence, all sexual sins – from the broad fornication, which includes any sexual activity outside of marriage, unclean thinking and living, depraved passions, such perversions as are celebrated today as sexual freedom, and the longing of forbidden lust – must be put to death.

The Holy Spirit’s main directive about all these sins is to flee them (2 Tim. 2:22) – do not make deals with them, make occasions for the flesh, or leave open doors and windows for indulgence. Flee and kill these desires within the soul. And along with flight, there must be replacement (Col. 3:10). Replace them with pure desires for Christ, diligent work, wise use of free time, separation from every occasion to indulge the flesh, and being filled with Christ’s word. These sins and itching after them cannot be killed without a pointed, persistent, prayerful application of Christ’s death and resurrection. He will not have these sins replaced with other idols. He will have all idols killed, all demands to have one desires gratified. And, he will do it in us. We must use the sword of the Spirit which is God’s word. It must be the shield that feeds our faith and protects us from Satan’s wiles and the flesh’s cravings.

Since “all her victims have been mighty men” (Prov. 7:26), we must not underestimate the intensity of this battle. For many men and some women, the battle to kill sexual lust is lifelong and extremely intense. This is undoubtedly why there are so many warnings in Scripture against indulging our passions. It is also the reason that this list of sexual sins, along with covetousness, which is an idolatrous longing after what the Lord has not seen fit to give to us, follows on the heels of “seeking those things which are above.” Why bring these sins forward so soon after mentioning the glory of Christ and our glory with him? Because few things are more opposed to our eternal glory than presently indulging the flesh and giving in to these desires. For this reason, our life in Christ commits us to fighting against them, denying oneself, which is the ultimate Christian maturity in this area, and running quickly away from all opportunities to indulge the eyes and the desires of the heart. But, having said all this, only in union with Jesus Christ, only sharing in his death and resurrection, can we put to death these sinful members and see purity reign among us. To overcome these fleshly desires we must go to Christ and live in our Savior’s fellowship. He is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand for us. It is ultimately the lack of living in Christ, living for Jesus Christ, and living in fellowship with Jesus Christ that renders us so weak against sexual temptation. It is his strength and love that delivers us from impurity so that we may present our bodies to him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).

A Needed Warning (v. 6)

God’s Wrath against Impurity

God’s wrath is his holy indignation against the children of disobedience. It is particularly directed at those who give themselves to sexual impurity and covetousness. These kinds of sins are related. They want what God has forbidden or withheld and will not rest contented in his will and his love. God’s settled opposition to all that opposes him results in various judgments. His wrath is not like ours – out of control, blustering, so consuming that in our fits of anger we forget almost everything else. His wrath is holy and righteous, good and controlled by his character and his purposes. And it is real. If we compare the sexual abandonment judgment described in Romans 1 to our nation, we see many parallels. Some of the Lord’s worst wrath is his giving men over to their desires, giving them the sins they want so that they practice them energetically with but a faint restrain of conscience, if at all. When men laud perversity as the new virtue, you can be sure that the Lord’s wrath has fallen upon them. But the warning of wrath is given to the church. We need this warning, for the cravings of the flesh are stubborn and destructive. The flesh is also fighting against the new man, and we need as Christians to have a healthy fear of the Lord so that we dread offending him. Dread – not the dread of hell as much as the dread of offending against the love that has saved us and the blood that has purchased us and the grace that renewed us.

Whose Children Are We?

All these blessings come from our heavenly Father. They are undeserved, beyond our capacity to understand the wonder of his favor to us. When his grace comes to us, it teaches us reverence and godly fear – for him, for his love, for his holiness, for his truth (Tit. 2:12; Heb. 12:28-29). Seeking Christ, living in union with him, and killing sin are the fruit of his reverence – that we would be forgiven and separate from all that has offended the Lord. If we are the children of our heavenly Father, we are not disobedient, but obedient. This is a good test for us, and a simple one. Are we obedient children? Do we reverence our loving Father? Do we want to obey him? Are our hearts broken when the Spirit convicts us of our waywardness? Are our tears and our fears prompted more by what others think about us or by what the Lord thinks of us? He is near to us and loves us. He has given his Son to save us from our sins and to restore us to his fellowship. If we love him, let us obey him and kill our sinful members.

Wrath Coming, Now and Later

Because the flesh wars against the Spirit and the new life we have in him, we need these guardrails of reverence for the Lord. His wrath is falling around us, and his wrath is coming in full. Indulgence of the flesh is actually playing with his wrath, testing him, provoking him, and this must not be in the Lord’s children. We are not stronger than he is (1 Cor. 10:22). His wrath may not fall upon us as his children, but his displeasure can, and his chastening will, if we go back to our former lusts. Instead, let us seek our Savior and his strength. In his fellowship, let us kill the sin in our members. Instead of yielding our bodies to uncleanness, let us yield them to him as living sacrifices. He is our refuge from the storms of his wrath now falling upon the children of disobedience. In him, we shall stand fast.

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