To correctly understand the meaning of these scriptures it is important to note the context within which Paul wrote the text. This letter was addressed to the church in Colosse which is a town in Asia Minor east of Ephesus. This particular church was under Paul’s jurisdiction even though he is not the one who had established it.
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Paul wrote this letter after learning that there existed various false teachers in this church who insisted that to have a complete understanding and knowledge of God, and subsequently have full salvation, Christians must also worship certain ‘spiritual rulers and authorities’. Additionally the teachers were insisting that people were supposed to submit to various special rites and adhere to the strict set rules regarding circumcision, type of foods and other matters.
Paul therefore writes this letter to oppose the false teachers with the true Christian message and his reply is comprised of the assurance that Jesus Christ is able to give full salvation and the other teachings, traditions rituals and practises actually lead people away from him. Therefore the letter goes towards assuring the Christians that God created the world through Jesus Christ and through him he is bringing it back to himself. It is only through the union with Christ that the world has hope of salvation.
It is upon this context therefore that Paul further writes to the Christians in this church where he emphatically tells them to “put off the flesh and put on Christ”1. This is clearly written in the NIV version where Paul tells them to “put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature”2
In essence what Paul is trying to help them see is that it is important for them to realize that by getting saved they are now new and should discard their old selfish ways that characterised their previous lives. This means that they should avoid and not live according to their sinful nature which used to reign in their mortal bodies. Such acts as “sexual immorality, lust, impurity greed and evil”3 are detestable before God and are considered sinful thus should be avoided at all costs.
By nature human beings are inclined to Sin which is espoused more in Romans 7:10 where Paul talks about the struggle with sin, according to him “ what I want to do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do- this I keep doing”4. The wages of sin according to the bible is death and because all have sinned and have fallen short of Gods expectations are destined for hell. God through his Grace foresaw the challenges that would befall mankind; the sole reason Jesus had to come and die on the cross so that “whoever believes in him will be saved”.
Salvation therefore is attained at the point when a person realizes that his/her sin caused the death of Jesus and upon this decides to discard his/her old ways in pursuit of righteous and holy living. This is what is termed as repentance where there is a complete turn around in a person’s way of life.
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It is indicative to learn that the various sins man is engaged in are by nature geared towards satisfying the flesh. For example sexual immorality which is engaging in sex with someone one is not married to takes place because the man or woman are not able to control themselves and are not patient to wait until marriage. Greed also is exhibited when one wants everything for his/her own selfish satisfaction. This are some of the few sins Paul is mentioning that go along way to indicate the nature of the flesh. Human beings can do much to satisfy their flesh, including killing. Thus the desires of the flesh dictate how or what one does; simply put, this is idolatry5. There’s no much one can do to free themselves fro this firm hold, and the only way out is to making Jesus the Lord of their lives; one needs to get saved to have the capacity to overcome this.
To make Jesus the lord of ones life means that Jesus becomes the number one priority above everything else and he directs every step or decision one makes. It means that one will now shift from idolizing the flesh and shift that allegiance to Jesus. This is what is meant by ‘putting on Jesus’; Jesus fills every aspect of ones life. Thus most of the sins one used to engage in are now taking control any more and what Paul is advising is to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness and most importantly love” 6.
Paul also goes further to advice that the only way to clothe ourselves with Christ is to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”7. This can be achieved by “letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly”8.
Accordingly the only way one can put of the flesh and put on Christ is o dig deeply into the word and not only reading it but putting it into practise and that’s the only way to win the battle over the flesh.
Scriptures lifted from the Holy Bible, NIV version.
- Colossians 3:5-12.
- Colossians 3:5.
- Colossians 3:5.
- Romans 7:19.
- Colossians 3:5.
- Colossians 3:12-14.
- Colossians 3:15.
- Colossians 3: 16.