Colossians 3:5a

Mortify Your Members


The Basis of the Command: Therefore

1. Thus far, Paul has been speaking of our glorious heavenly position with Christ. (Risen with Christ; seated with Him; affections above; our life hidden with Him above).

2. In vs. 4 Paul emphasized the day of manifestation for the sons of God!

a. This is a day when we will finally be manifested before men and angels for what we really ARE! Sons of God!

b. The world does not recognize who we are today. Presently our real life is hidden away in heaven with Christ… unseen and unknown by the world.

c. But a day is coming when Christ shall return in POWER and GREAT GLORY! And we shall share in that glorious return… and we shall share in the day of REVELATION… of who HE is and who WE are!

d. Today the world hates us, tramples over us, ridicules and persecutes believers… because they do not know and do not appreciate the glorious, privileged position we hold.

e. Today we are scoffed at for following Christ… considered fools…

f. In that day, at the Second Coming, the entire world will be forced to recognize what a GLORIOUS thing it is to be a son of God and so closely associated with Christ… and His glorified state… and His reign!

g. We will return with Christ in the day of REVELATION.
• Christ returns not as the weak Carpenter of Galilee, but as the King of Kings!
• We too return with him… not in our present vile bodies, but in bodies fashioned like unto His glorious body! We shall be LIKE HIM in that we too will be glorified.

h. Even TODAY, it is an AWESOME thing to be a son of God, but nobody in the world knows it. In that day, everyone will know and be forced to acknowledge the glory that is ours.

i. But, WE should know it! That is what Colossians has been about so far: Christ and His glory as Creator, Savior, Reconciler of the world… and the glory of our new life in Him… and our heavenly position with Him.

j. KNOWING this truth and BELIEVING it will transform our earthly lives. It will MOTIVATE us to want to be LIKE HIM now… not just when we get to heaven!

k. It is our privilege to be in the process of being transformed into His glorious image today! (II Cor. 3:18)

l. KNOWING our glorious position as blood bought sons of God, part of the New Creation, partakers of the heavenly calling, sons of God soon to manifested with Christ in His glory… will continually remind us that it is only FITTING for us to live in such a way that is appropriate for one in such a position!

m. Certain behavior, attitudes, language, and deportment might be expected from a street urchin or a gang member, but NOT from a member of a royal family… not from the son of the King of kings!

3. THEREFORE a son of God, one who is raised up with Christ in heavenly places and possesses all spiritual blessings in Christ should behave differently from those who only know the natural, earthly realm.

a. We are DEAD to the world and its ways (Col. 3:3).

b. Therefore, don’t behave like those who are alive to the world and its ways.

c. The behavior, language, and lifestyle of a citizen of heaven ought to be DIFFERENT from the unsaved men of this world, whom John refers to in Revelation as earth dwellers.

d. THEREFORE: because of the GLORY of our position as sons of God, we should mortify our earthly members.

e. Therefore means BECAUSE we possess such an exalted position in Christ, there OUGHT to be a correspondence between our heavenly position and our earthly condition.

f. They are not to be considered totally separated and unrelated. Position affects condition. (The reverse however, is not true.)

g. The objective truth relating to our position in Christ brings with it (as all truth does) subjective responsibilities. All truth (when understood) makes us responsible and accountable!

4. The gracious Pauline style of exhortation:

a. Eph. 4:1 – Therefore… (because of your heavenly calling in Christ described in ch.1-3)… walk worthy (their walk should be consistent with the position)

b. Rom. 12:1 – Therefore… (because of the mercies of God you have already received)… present your body

c. Col. 3:1 – Therefore… (because you died to the world and were raised up with Christ)… mortify your members upon the earth…
• The “therefore” tells us that Paul’s command to mortify your members is based upon the position of the believer in Christ.
• Paul spent two chapters dealing with Christ’s Person and work as Redeemer, Reconciler, and Savior… as well as the believer’s position in Him… indwelt… victorious… free from bondage to the law… forgiven… risen and seated in heavenly places with Christ.
• Therefore — because of what Christ has already accomplished for us and in us… it is only fitting that we put to death the gross sins of the flesh.
• So as we go through the remainder of the exhortations in this book… keep in mind the BASIS for all of those exhortations is our calling! This is the case as Paul addresses children, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, masters, servants, and members of the Body of Christ.

The Command: Mortify Your Members

A. Mortify

1. Defined: to put to death; to make dead; to slay.

a. It speaks of personal responsibility.

b. It speaks of decisive action.

c. It speaks of finality of intent.

2. Tense and mood: aorist imperative. (To be done with decisiveness.)

a. Paul uses a second command which has a similar meaning in vs. 8 – put off… like dirty garments, get rid of them!

b. It is a command, and one to be conducted with decisive action.

c. The aorist does NOT mean “once for all.” It speaks of action that could be illustrated by a dot rather than a line.

d. Paul is simply saying, “DO IT!” Mortify!

e. IN fact, elsewhere (Rom. 8:13) Paul says we are to CONTINUALLY mortify the deeds of the flesh. This is an ongoing battle… continuing conflict…

f. Don’t ever assume because you SLAYED the sin of fornication yesterday that it won’t crop back up tomorrow!

g. The soldier of Christ is to be continually on guard against his enemy… especially the enemy within! The fleshly SELF life!

3. We are to seek things above and set our affections on things above. But we are not to forget about the real life battles down here!

4. To some, all this talk about resting in Christ and our identification with Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension might sound too nebulous, lofty, ethereal, and not much earthly good!

a. To those folks Paul would reply, “You couldn’t be further from the truth!

b. That talk of our heavenly position is the BASIS or the foundation for the exhortations to godly living that follow!

c. The wonderful truths concerning our position are not just doctrinal creeds to be filed away somewhere, and dusted off once a year, but are to be put into practice in daily living.

5. After having laid the heavenly foundation of our faith, Paul now gets right down to the nitty gritty battles of daily living on earth in a body of flesh!

a. Paul commands the Colossians to put to death the sins of the flesh.

b. This is a command to DEAL with sin… to say NO to sin… not to tolerate sin in our lives… to slay it… extinguish it…
c. In one sense, Colossians and Romans are similar.
• They both deal with the issue of sanctification… mentioning the old man and the new man…
• They both base the exhortations of our glorious position in Christ.

d. But, in another sense, Colossians is quite different from Romans:
• Romans spends three full chapters dealing with the whole process of sanctification. Colossians spends only a few verses.
• Romans deals with the “how to’s” of sanctification… the spiritual mechanics of how it all works. Colossians deals with none of that. Colossians just says, slay those sins… put them off…
• Romans emphasizes sin (fallen human nature) while Colossians emphasizes sins (evil deeds). Romans with deals the root… Colossians with the fruit.
• Romans 7 tells us the wrong way to be sanctified.
• Romans 8 tells of the power of the Spirit available to walk in newness of life: the Spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus!
• Romans dedicates 3 chapters to that which Colossians only dedicates a portion of one small chapter.

e. There is also a comparison to be made between Colossians and Ephesians when it comes to the subject of dealing with sin.
• In one sense they are similar: they both deal with the same subject, base the exhortations on our heavenly position, they both mention the old and new man, and discuss putting off certain sins and putting on the deeds consistent with a heavenly life.
• However, there is one huge contrast too:
» Ephesians dwells upon the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. It speaks of being filled with the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, access to the Father through the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, the Spirit’s role in working in each member of the Body, the Sword of the Spirit, the unity of the Spirit, supplication in the Spirit, the possibility of grieving the Spirit, etc.
» In Colossians, the Holy Spirit is mentioned only once in the introduction, and never mentioned again.

f. We have to conclude from this that each epistle speaks of the exact same doctrine of sanctification, but from a slightly different angle… as the gospels all speak of the earthly ministry of Christ, but from different perspectives.
• Each of these epistles introduces the subject of sanctification in the same way: by instructing us on our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
• The different angles highlight different aspects of an exceedingly complicated working…between a sovereign God who works IN us… and the responsibility of us as His creatures and sons.
• The different aspects highlighted in the various epistles should not be considered contradictory, but complementary. (As the sovereignty of God and the will of man.)
• An OVER emphasis on one aspect of this truth will create a false picture… a distortion of the truth… a caricature of the truth… even doctrinal error!
• Romans explains all the characters involved and the spiritual mechanics of how it all works. Paul presents a rational, logical treatise for the doctrine of justification by faith AND the same for the doctrine of sanctification by faith.
• Ephesians emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit who fills us and enables us to walk worthy of our high calling.
• Colossians is beautiful in its own right. And its beauty lies in its simplicity. Put it to death! Colossians highlights human responsibility.
• Colossians emphasizes Christ, who is our LIFE which is hidden away in heaven as the source of living on earth.
• That’s what we are going to highlight as we look at this subject from the vantage point taken in this epistle: Christ our life and human responsibility in sanctification.

6. After speaking about our glorious POSITION for two chapters, now Paul turns to our earthly CONDITION and gives us some rather blunt commands.

a. The condition of our daily lives needs to be consistent with the position we have in Christ.

b. This is a growth process. It is also a spiritual battle.

c. It is like armed conflict, in which we are to be ACTIVELY engaged in the battle of putting to death these sins of the flesh.

7. There is a wonderful BALANCE in the Christian life.

a. Balance ought to characterize the one in whom Christ lives… and who knows His Word.

b. Even good truths can be taken to the extreme…

c. Our position in Christ and all related truths are glorious… but ONLY when accompanied by appropriate practice.
• Doctrine demands deeds. Creed determines conduct.
• Truths should be translated into daily living.
• Faith should be followed by works.

d. Learning more about our heavenly position in Christ ought to have a transforming effect on our earthly condition.
• If it doesn’t have an effect on the way we live, then it is nothing but head knowledge… and theory…
• If it doesn’t have an effect on the way we live, then we can’t really say that we KNOW that truth… at least we don’t know it experientially.

e. What a glorious contrast we have among these epistles!
• Romans has the mechanics of how it all works, and there is enough in chapters 6-8 to keep the most astute theologians busy studying and digging!
• Colossians, which is written by the same author (Holy Spirit under Paul’s pen) outlines the very same plan as Romans… only the simplified version!
• Colossians simple command can be understood by a born again second grader! And, at any given moment, obeyed perfectly… because that born again second grader is COMPLETE in Christ.
• It is helpful but not necessary to understand all the revealed mechanics of how sanctification works. Ultimately, it is supernatural and there are elements we could NEVER fathom (how God can transform the likes of me into the image of His glorious Son!)
• But even if those chapters are not understood, a new born babe in Christ is ABLE to have victory over sin… by believing God and acting accordingly… trust and obey for there’s no other way!
• God is gracious to His children. He KNOWS when the heart is right… and when the heart truly desires to glorify God… and to that heart, God enables and the result is victory!
• It is sanctification by FAITH… faith resting on God’s Word…

B. Members Defined

1. Members defined in the context of Col. 3:5.

a. Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, etc. may well stand in apposition to members.
• It indicates that the term “members” here is used as a synonym for sins listed.

b. Bullinger provides an alternate grammatical rule to account for Paul’s language.
• He lists this as an example of a figure of speech called a catachresis, which is defined as “one word changed for another only remotely connected with it.
• If so, then the sins of the flesh listed are summarized and described the term “members” in that the physical members of our bodies are used to commit those sins.

c. Which ever rule of grammar one uses to describe Paul’s terminology, the meaning is exactly the same.
• The term members = the sins listed.
• There is such a close connection between the members of our bodies and the sins they are used to commit, that Paul speaks of them both as if they really WERE the same!
• Jas. 4:1 – members and the lusts which war in those members are closely related.

2. It is best to understand the term “members” here as the members of our body when yielded to our sinful nature.

a. Members could NOT refer to:
• Our old man. He is already put to death! (Rom. 6:6)
• Sin, the fallen human nature. That will not be put to death until this life is over. We can’t put our sin nature to death in this life. If any man says he has no sin (nature) he is a liar according to John.

b. They are our members which are upon the earth.
• Members = members of our bodies: our hands, feet, ears, tongue, body, mind, etc…
• This stands in contrast to our LIFE which is in heaven…
• In context, it would refer to members of our body which are being used for sinful practices.
• It is clear that the term is used in a negative sense, for we are told to put them to death!

c. This is not a command to literally cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes.
• But it IS a command to deal with the issue of sins in our lives.

d. We mortify those members when we deprive them of power… render them inoperative.
• Our members are used for evil purposes when empowered by the indwelling sin nature.
• The sin nature can do NOTHING if it has no member through which to express itself.

e. The real ROOT of the problem is indwelling sin.
• And that sin nature will be with us till we die!
• There is no avoiding that fact.
• It cannot be eradicated, extinguished, or killed once and for all. It’s here for good.
• The way we deprive our members of sinful power and practices is to get to the ROOT of the problem.
» The problem of lust is not an eye problem, but a SIN problem.
» Stealing is not a problem with the hand… but indwelling sin.
» Lying is not a problem of the tongue, but of the sinful heart… depraved, fallen human nature.
• We put to death our members… and render the sin nature inoperative by FAITH… (Rom. 6:11).
• THEN comes the battle of yielding (Rom. 6:13).
• Rom. 12:1 – We mortify the members of our body when we present (same word as yield in 6:13) them as a living sacrifice… when placed on the altar. There, they are put to death as a slain sacrifice… put to death with respect to sinful practices….

f. Yet those hands and tongues are ALIVE unto God for His use and service. A living sacrifice… dead, but alive.

3. Putting those members to death

a. This command is not given to the indwelling Christ or the indwelling Spirit. It is addressed to US!

b. In Colossians God sees us as risen ones who have LIFE… and it is WE who are to put to death these sins… to slay them… to mortify these earthly members.

c. Romans 6 gives us the spiritual mechanics of how this all works.

d. Ephesians 5 would tell us about the role of the Spirit of God.

e. But in Colossians, Paul does not give us the mechanics here, nor does he mention the role of the Holy Spirit. He simply gives us the command to DO IT!

An Old Testament Illustration

1. Josh. 1:3 – God promised them victory; and victory was assured IF they would simply march forward, following His commands!

a. God promises us ultimate victory too! Sin shall NOT have dominion over you! No condemnation! Walk in the Spirit and ye shall NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

b. Victory was promised over the Canaanites, even though the Canaanites had been dwelling in cities, with every possible advantage over the Jews: armies; weapons; fortified cities; chariots; etc.

c. But the Israelites had a HIDDEN secret weapon: Jehovah God! Omnipotence was on their side.

d. Even if their enemies were more powerful, better equipped, trained, etc… they were no match for the Living God on Israel’s side.

e. Even if you are experiencing a struggle in the flesh that is bigger than you are… more powerful than your weak flesh… just remember, God promised us VICTORY! And victory is ours, if we will just take God at His word and proceed on that basis.

2. They had to proceed by faith.

a. Faith must stand behind EVERY victory that comes from the Lord.

b. They were given a promise, and had to ACT on that promise. Their actions… heading off into the battle was based upon faith in God’s promise.

c. Our victory over sin and every enemy we face is based upon faith in God’s promises too.

d. God said our old man is dead and that we died to sin and thus we are no longer enslaved to sin. We can now say NO to sin… and act accordingly!

e. That is walking by faith… fighting the good fight BY means of faith.

f. It is folly and presumption to attempt such a conflict WITHOUT a promise of God to rest in… but we as Christians DO have a promise we can trust in… have faith in… even rest in….

g. And yes, by faith, we can REST in the midst of a battle!

3. BUT, they had to enter the land, face their foe, take out their sword, engage in the battle, and SLAY the enemy!

a. God didn’t send fire from heaven to kill the enemies FOR them. God didn’t open up the earth to swallow up their enemies. THEY had to do it.

b. That is NORMALLY the way God works: through us, not for us or instead of us.

c. Dr. Whitcomb: economy of miracles (raising of Lazarus) man had to roll away the stone; unwrap Lazarus, God did the supernatural work.)

d. And at the same time, they were to do so REALIZING that it was GOD working in them and through them that would bring about ultimate victory.

4. There were some skirmishes the Israelites lost…

a. They lost the battle at Ai when they should have had an easy victory, because they were trusting in their own strength.
• Josh. 7:4-5 – they faced the foe, but lost!
• Why? Because they did not follow God’s plan… there was sin in the camp.
• When sin is tolerated in the camp, the camp cannot expect God’s power on their side!
• The Jews were defeated at Ai because of some OTHER sin…
• Perhaps you and I could be defeated in one area of life because we refuse to clean up another area… or because we coddle sin and learn to put up with it!

b. Haven’t we all lost some battles in the Christian life that surprised us how EASILY we fell into sin and were defeated!

c. Those defeats are actually GOOD for us… for they are graphic, painful reminders of the frailty of the flesh and the futility of trusting in self.

d. And every defeat is a reminder of how much we are DEPENDENT upon the Lord… and dependency upon God IS our strength!

e. So after losing a skirmish, the Israelites kept on marching throughout the land… and they continued to engage themselves in the battle.

f. After we lose a battle here and there, God expects us to get back up, brush off the dust, and keep on fighting! Don’t sit around and sulk and lick your wounds. Get back up and keep on marching!

g. Prov. 24:16 – For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

h. When we fail, we are not to stay down in the dirt… assuming that all is lost… that God will never use me again. No! We are to get back up… because we are ALIVE unto God… our LIFE is hidden away in heaven…

i. NOTHING on this earth can permanently keep us down: neither tribulation, distress, persecution, or famine, nakedness, or peril, or sword!

j. No defeat in any of these earthly skirmishes need keep us down….

k. The door of repentance is ALWAYS open… I John 1:9 is always available… and the throne of grace is always accessible in time of need.

l. We will sin and fail, and even fall flat on our faces… but God doesn’t ever cast us out.

m. When we repent of our sins and come to Him, He picks us up, restores our souls, and equips for victory in the next skirmish…

5. Josh. 1:7 – they were to be strong and courageous, and not turn to the right or the left… but march straight ahead… and God would prosper their efforts.

a. They were not to allow fears and worries to dominate. This was a COMMAND.

b. Their strength and courage were to come from the Lord!

6. Josh. 1:8—they were to meditate on the word day and night as they followed the Lord’s leading.

a. Then they were assured of good success.

b. Assurance would give them boldness in facing the foe in the next conflict!

c. What folly on our part to attempt to live the Christian life and fight the Christian battles apart from spending time each day in God’s word!

d. The Word of God is our bread… our necessary food for the soul.

e. No soldier can expect to do well in a battle if he doesn’t eat! Imagine facing an enemy that is bigger and more powerful than you… having to face a Goliath… and you haven’t eaten in five days!

f. Imagine trying to face a serious temptation and you haven’t read God’s Word all week?!

7. Josh. 1:9 – they were cognizant of God’s presence. (Christ in you, the hope of glory!)

a. And isn’t this thought highlighted in Colossians!

b. We have a chapter dealing with who Christ is… His person and His work!

c. We have Paul’s revelation of the mystery: Christ in you!

d. We are reminded that Christ is our LIFE… and we are hidden with Christ in God!

e. Wherever we go and whatever we do on earth, it is to be done IN LIGHT OF those facts. That’s Paul’s point in this chapter!

f. Illustration: A father gives his 10 year old son a command: Don’t play soccer in the back lawn. I just planted grass there.
• In which circumstance do you think this boy is most likely to obey his father’s command?
• When his father is sitting in a lawn chair in the back yard.
• When dad flies out to Texas for a week on a business trip?
• If he thinks his father is DISTANT, the temptation to disobey becomes greater… perhaps overpowering!
• When he is out of sight and out of mind… the heart sets itself to do evil.
• Being CONSCIOUS of His presence will have an effect on obedience. That’s life.
• Christ in you isn’t just a dusty old doctrine that is to be learned and stored away. It ought to STAY WITH US every moment of every day!
• The indwelling presence of Christ in our lives will have a transforming effect on the way we live!
• No wonder we are to dwell above where He is! Heaven is our home and where our mind and heart ought to be living daily and it will radically transform our lives down here on earth!

8. But the Jews had to pick up their sword and actually FIGHT the battle!

a. God didn’t do it for them. It was their personal responsibility…

b. OR they would suffer the consequences: defeat!

c. Cf. Josh. 10:20,30,32,35,37,39 Cf. Josh. 11:10,11,12,14

d. The sword of the Jews is mentioned OFTEN! Because they had to put their enemies to death.

e. Joshua commanded his armies to face the enemies and FIGHT the battles.

f. We are told to FIGHT the good FIGHT of faith!

g. We are told to mortify our members on earth, namely, the SINS manifested through those members… and in particular SEXUAL sins.

9. And lest we begin to take glory to ourselves and TRUST in our own strength, there must be an acknowledgement that any victory is the result of GOD working in us!

a. Ps. 44:2 – WHO drove out the Canaanites? I thought in Joshua it said that the JEWS took out their swords and killed them, defeated their cities and drove them out? But it was the Lord working IN and THROUGH them as they took Him at His word!

b. Ps. 44:3 – it was NOT the Jews military might or strength that brought victory.

c. Hence, WE don’t need to be STRONG ourselves to defeat sin and impurity in our daily lives. But we DO need the power of God working in us… and that is exactly what we have!

d. God isn’t impressed with how strong our personal will power is. He doesn’t need any strength in producing a victory.

e. God can give victory to the WEAKEST believer when he is yielded to an omnipotent God! So you can’t use personal weakness as an excuse any more.

f. It isn’t MY strength PLUS God to fill in the gaps and shortfalls. Rather, it is HIS strength working in and through my yielded members!

g. Psa. 44:3 – It was THROUGH God they advanced to victory… a perfect mingling together of the will of man wedded to the will of God and the sovereignty of God!

h. Psa. 18:29-34 – For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall… He teaches my hands to war… He is a shield… my strength… girds me with strength… makes my feet like hinds feet… He keeps my feet from slipping… He keeps me from falling!

i. Rom. 8:13 says that WE mortify through the Spirit the deeds of the flesh!

j. The lesson they learned: use your sword, but don’t trust in it!
• BOTH the sword AND God are needed!
• The battle won’t be won if we simply pray and trust God but refuse to pick up the sword and fight!
• Nor will the battle be won if we pick up the sword and leave God out!
• Both are needed for victory.
• God doesn’t fight FOR us (instead of us) and we would be fools to fight without Him!

k. The lesson for us: face our foes and temptations and exert as much will power in the effort that you can… but be COGNIZANT of the fact that the victory has nothing to do with our will power, but with Christ in you!

l. Be aware of God’s presence.
• He is not only with us, Christ dwells IN us! Everywhere we go!
• Every battle we face! Every temptation we face!
• Through God we can leap over a wall. Through God we can mortify the deeds of the flesh.
• DO you believe that?
• If so, and you ACT upon that… whether you are new believer or a mature believer, you ARE walking in newness of life.

m. This is the same plan of sanctification as recorded elsewhere in Scripture!
• This IS the pattern in Romans six: sanctification by faith!
• This is the pattern in Ephesians five: the filling of the Holy Spirit!
• This is the principle in Romans seven: refusing to trust in our own strength.
• This is the principle found in Romans 8: the spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus enabling the yielded believer to walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit…
• This is the same principle in Galatians five: walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
• Just as we can look at the plan of salvation from all different angles… so too we can look at the plan of sanctification from different angles; every angle sheds light.
• So dig into God’s Word. Fill your mind and heart with it… and learn to experience GOD’S victory in your mortal flesh! Life a resurrected life!


· Walking with God must be preceded with receiving LIFE!
· Dead men can’t walk.
· The Bible says apart from being BORN again, you are still dead in your sins.
· But Christ died for you… and offers you LIFE… through faith.
· This is the necessary FIRST STEP of a worthy walk. It must begin with the new birth.
· Come to Christ and He will give you eternal life.

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