Colossians 3:1–11 (NKJV)

While the Bible is not specifically a book of dos and don’ts, there are spaces of teaching where good behavior is lauded, and bad behavior condemned. In this passage, the first few verses affirm positive behavior and the latter part of the passage gives laundry lists of unacceptable behaviors.

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Paul begins by reminding them of the blessing of salvation. He couches it in an ambivalent statement, “If then you were raised with Christ,” harkening back to the discussions previously offered about the image of baptism and being buried with Christ and resurrected again to life in Christ. If the affirmative is the true, then the response is clear: seek things above! He goes on to describe the above as the abode of Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Do not just seek those things, but set your mind on them and do not concentrate on the things of earth. That (earthly) part of your life is dead, and your new life is now wrapped up in and protected by Christ. Therefore, when He appears, you will appear with Him. Your eternal hope and destiny can only be found in Christ. Embrace Him fully and never let go. Do seek the things above, do set your mind on the heavenly, do leave the old life behind, then do appear with Christ when He comes.

5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:5-11

In this part of the passage, Paul instructs his disciples to put to death the evil actions and affections. The strength of this statement is found in the death analogy. Death is final for the flesh, but not for the spirit. Putting to death the works of the flesh is to intend to not bring them back into the normal complement of behaviors in your daily life. This finality brings hope to the Christian that we can have power, authority, nee victory, over sinful behavior. Grace not only forgives and makes holy, but also gives strength to overcome fleshly responses to temptation.

The first list of don’ts is a bit shorter than the next: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. These sins are similar in their focus on relationships and sexual desire. The obvious things–like fornication, passion, and evil desire–lean to the sexual side, but may also speak to desires for things someone else possesses or claims. Uncleanness and covetousness are relational and have double-meaning as well. The second list includes anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language and lying, some additional sins that deal with relationships. Anger and wrath are sinful ways to deal with other people. Malice is a vengeful attitude toward others. Blasphemy is an action toward God harming your relationship with Him. Filthy language and Lying harms those with whom you are in relationship.

Paul then reminds them that they have crucified the sinful old man that gravitates toward these sinful life choices, and calls them upward to the new life they have begun to enjoy in Christ. They are being formed into the image of the one Who created them, saved them, and they are renewed in their minds with a pure knowledge, holy and drawn to the Holy One. In the post-Pentecost era in which the church now thrives and grows, there is no distinction in the kingdom among races, nationalities, or socio-economic status or geopolitical conditions. We are in Christ and He is in us, and that relationship affects all our other relationships. Salvation and Christianity are ultimately about relationship, not dos and don’ts, rules and regulations. If one would be saved, he or she must enter in covenantal relationship with God and man. That is the distilled, pure nature of salvation. Know God, love God, love one another.

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