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The New Man in Christ (Col. 3:6-10

The Old Man Killed and Stripped Away (vv. 6-9)


By Dying and Rising with Christ


The Son of God is living and powerful. When his gospel came with the Spirit’s power to the Gentile world, it raised dead sinners to new life and delivered them from sin’s dominion. The believers were delivered from sexual sins of every perverse description and the governing idolatry of the nations. God’s wrath had fallen upon the world of unbelief, but his grace to the vessels of mercy chosen in Christ was active and powerful. He did not save his elect because they were better than the rest. These believers once walked in the same filthy ways as everyone else. But Jesus Christ delivered them from sin’s slavery by his death and raised them to new life by the power of his resurrection. The believers are now urged to live in the power of Christ by putting off their sins. This putting off is only possible in union with Christ, by seeking him and setting our lives upon the foundation of his person and work. We make progress in Christian living by a lively trust in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot strip away the old clothes of sin and put on the new clothes of holiness by our own strength. Every hour we need to hear and believe his gospel – Christ our life is all in all. We are strong only in him. It is his once-for-all death on the cross that delivers us from sin’s tyranny. It is his resurrection that empowers new life of righteousness.


By Fleeing to Christ from the Wrath to Come


The warning of God’s wrath was not an afterthought in the apostolic preaching of the cross. Its proclamation urged all men to flee to Jesus Christ from coming wrath. For believers, God’s wrath against sin was and remains a strong motivation unto holiness. The church has grown embarrassed by God’s wrath and hell – can you see the resulting lack of passion about holiness, compromise with the world, and fear of offending men more than offending the holy God? Polite Christians living in a consumerist society cringe when these truths are mentioned in sermons. We are so trained to evaluate truth by our emotional response to it that we bow at the altar of feeling rather than before the holy God. In some churches, one could easily believe that God is angry at no sin and no sinner, that we can take our sins to heaven with us, or at least that God winks at them and simply wants us to do our best. If this is all he wants, the cross of Jesus Christ is worthless and meaningless. Without the background of God’s holiness and justice, the humility of the Son of God and his obedience unto death are the worst kind of farce.

Look upon the suffering Savior bleeding upon the cross, the holy One bearing our curse. The believing sight of him cures squeamishness about God’s wrath. Jesus Christ endured the crushing weight of it for us – and it was the wrath that we deserved! He alone delivers us from the wrath to come. The apostles preached this wherever they went (1 Thess. 1:10; Acts 17:31). It is the Spirit’s work to convict of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:9-11). Our consciences know that every sin will bring judgment upon us (Rom. 1:32). This drives us to Jesus Christ, to his death and resurrection, for he alone delivers us from the just wrath and curse of God. And, having been delivered, we are bound to Christ and must learn not to play fast and loose with the sin that nailed him to the tree. Hearing of God’s wrath also highlights that we have salvation only in Jesus Christ. What does salvation mean? (1) Salvation is not to have the life we want on earth, with all its conveniences and pleasures. (2) Salvation is deliverance from God’s wrath that is coming to each one of us for our sins. (3) Salvation is deliverance unto holiness. We are saved only through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let us believe upon his name, forsake any delusion that we can save ourselves, and commit ourselves wholly to him as our Savior. If we forget that Jesus Christ saves us from the wrath of God, we will have very shallow and self-centered views of salvation, rather than God-centered, sin-loathing, and Christ-exalting views.


By Putting Off the Sins of the Old Man


The Spirit has already said that “the body of the sins of the flesh” is put off in baptism (2:11) – not that water has any power to do this. Baptism is a sign and seal of Christ’s cleansing blood, and therefore he strips away the guilt of our sins. The Holy Spirit applies the cleansing virtue of Christ’s blood to us. In union with Christ in his resurrection, he continues to strip off the old grave clothes of sin. His power is such that he delivers us from the impurity of the heart and misuse and abuse of the body (v. 5; 1 Cor. 6:18-20). Now, he turns to other sins that beset us. He begins with anger, wrath, and malice. God’s anger is righteous; ours not so much. Have nothing to do with an angry man, Scripture says (Prov. 22:24). Angry men stir up strife (Prov. 15:18), and therefore since we are in the body of Christ and must love and serve one another, we must also be stripped of our angry attitudes and words. Wrath is the inner, boiling passions that feed outward expressions of anger and consume us with all kinds of evils: resentment, bitterness, disdain, and vengefulness. We must put these to death, for they are evil – rebellion and resistance to God’s providential government of the world, as well as vengefulness toward others when they do not measure up to our standards or injure us in some way. Union with Christ and seeking him empowers a calm and gentle spirit, by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). We must learn not to blame a bad temper on our circumstances or others – it is due to the wrath within us, trying to play God in our circumstances, and rebellion against his Lordship of our lives.

Malice is the general word for wickedness, ill-will, the desire to injure others. The connection between anger (outward manifestations), wrath (passionate temper), and malice is horribly clear. If we allow tumultuous passions to rule our spirit, these will manifest themselves in angry outbursts and malignity toward others that seek to injure them. There is a kind of malice that is not happy at the successes and graces of others, is jealous and envious of them, and then, sometimes even under a pretense of virtue, tries to tear down their reputation and injure them in some way. We are to put these off, strip them away, like moldy, diseased clothes. And this includes the attitudes, thoughts, words that keep the pot of anger, wrath, and malice stirred.

Blasphemy can be God-directed – to insult his person and works – but it can more generally mean slander and vicious talking about others. There is a sense in which we can blaspheme men and even other believers by tearing down their reputations, speaking evil of them, casting doubt upon their integrity, and not yielding “honor to whom honor” is due. We are image-bearers of God, and therefore to use coarse and foul language about one another, or to lie to one another, attacks God’s image and is therefore a form of blasphemy or language that reproaches others. We are people of the truth, God’s truth in Christ, and therefore must learn to speak the truth to one other. This is not only true or accurate recording of facts and words, but also relating to one another as truth-tellers, meekly giving and receiving rebukes when necessary, and believing, enduring, and bearing all things, even personal injuries. Few things are more precious among us than “maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Love is his rule, his presence, and all that attacks love is an assault upon Him.

The putting off the old man’s angry spirit, expressions, and words presses hard upon this obscene age. One hears professing Christians defend the use of strong, crude language, slang words that denigrate other ethnic groups, and profanity. This is against the plain statement of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s holiness. All our words are to be edifying. He purifies our tongue. It is true that the “tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” and “no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). But Jesus Christ tames the tongue, by his death and resurrection. Remember his warning that judgment comes for every idle word (Matt. 12:36). He went to the cross for our profane language – which insults the Spirit of grace – our blasphemies against God and slanders against men. The list of our idle, worthless, lazy words is long – the cross drips with his gore because of them. And he does not want us using injurious language against others but answering their curses with blessings (Matt. 5:44). This is his will. It is also his power in us by the Holy Spirit. Our filthy tongues must be purified by his stripes on the cross, stripped away by his sanctifying Spirit, and replaced with love, kindness, and gentleness.

We forget that swearing was common and justified by Jews and certainly by the Gentiles. Speech is the most distinguishing feature between children of God and the children of disobedience. Our mouths are filled with God’s praise; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. We hear today that strong language is needed to get one’s point across, and that “real men cuss,” or similar drivel. We do need strong language, but not the profane and obscene, vulgar and low-class swearing by men who are ignorant and cannot express themselves except by demonic roaring. “Speaking the truth in love” is about the strongest language imaginable – to look men in the eye with sincere love, speak truth to them calmly and plainly when they are boiling at us. Sadly, we would often rather join the anger parade than seek communion with our Lord so that our spirits are controlled, our hearts purified, and our words edifying.  But these are the words that verify we are children of our heavenly Father and not children of the world. There are few greater and more compelling witnesses a Christian can give to the reality of God’s grace than that he does not talk like everyone else, depend upon profane and angry words to get his point across, but instead has a mouth filled with God’s praise and his Savior’s honor.

There is an important parallel in Ephesians 4:30-32. First, notice that 4:30-32 is part of the larger putting off-putting on teaching that Paul also gave to the Ephesians. Second, he has been giving specific instances of putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Speech, the way we talk to and about one another is an important part of our union with Christ (4:29). In the power of Jesus Christ, our words are to “minister grace to the hearers.” This means to “give them grace,” show them God’s grace, build up in kindness, truth, and love. So important is this duty, thirdly, that immediately the truth is proclaimed that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit. We are not to throw shade upon his work of grace, uniting us to Christ; we are not to make him “sad” or to afflict him by our unholy words. Christians often forget this, especially men, that the Holy Spirit does not make allowances or wink at our unholy words because we are men and must speak manly. Manliness is not filthiness. Our unholy words grieve him no less than our unholy thoughts. Thus, we are to “put away” all bitter words, words that are like vinegar in the eyes and throat. There must be no wrath and anger and shouting among us. Slander or blasphemy must not be heard, and where we transgress, we must repent. Words and deeds of kindness, compassion, and mercy must rule us. God has forgiven us, and for Christ’s sake and in him, we must forgive one another.

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