“Put to death therefore . . .” (Colossians 3:5a)
“Put to death” – a simple, succinct imperative. It is a command. But think about it. Reflect upon what the Apostle is demanding. Contemplate the course of action God has obligated you to!
The word it not complicated. Its meaning is not nuanced, graded or hinted at. It means simply “put to death” or “kill.”
May I ask: Have you ever killed anything? Have you ever put anything to death?
Understand: the command is not to subdue something. You are not ordered to corral something. You are not asked to corner, suppress, restrain or control something. You are ordered, by God, to KILL something. You must end its existence.
Again I ask: Have you ever done this with anything before? Is there any precedent in your experience for this kind of ruthless, steely-eyed, calculated, cold-blooded course of action?
Can you do it? Do you have it in you? Can you look it full-faced, in the eye and watch the life drain from its features, death envelop its being, and all hope vanish from its eyes as you keep your hands locked in a vice-grip around its throat?
What Paul asks of you builds logically (“therefore) upon what he has said in verses 1-4. In view of what he is obligating you to, perhaps it would be well to go back and read those verses once again. Check how much you believe what Paul has said. Do you believe it enough to act upon it—in this fashion and to this extent?
What Paul tells us there is that the believer has been placed in union with Christ in His death (v.3; cf. 2:12, 20), resurrection (v.1), and ascension (vv.1b, 3), “Therefore” he should take the action prescribed here. That action is to “Put to death.” This clearly builds on Paul’s previous statement: “you have died” (v.3a).
The verb the Apostle employs here is used only two other times in the New Testament, both of which describe Abraham’s body “as good as dead” when God fulfilled His promise to give him a son (Rom. 4:19; Heb. 11:12). It means simply “put to death” or “kill” (cf. esv, kjv, niv, nrsv). The aorist imperative demands that our action be decisive, immediate, and without delay. The nasb uniquely makes this a mental exercise (“consider . . . as dead,” emphasis added). May I say: The command does not demand less than that, but it certainly is more than a simple trick of the mind. That being said, the Apostle probably has something in mind very similar to “consider yourselves to be dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11). Romans 6 states the matter as a fact: “our old self was crucified with Him” (v.6, emphasis added). In Galatians it is phrased similarly: “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24, emphasis added). This states the matter as a fact to be believed and reckoned on. Yet Paul also makes this a matter of our action, for we must “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13, emphasis added). And it is “by the Spirit [that] you are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
Paul is demanding that we become in experience what He has already declared us to be in fact. God has ruthlessly, thoroughly, absolutely put our old self to death in union with His Son on the cross. Now we—like God—must be as thoroughly ruthless in making certain that we make true in our experience what He has made true in our stead in Christ.
Next time we will look more specifically at just what it is we are to “Put to death.” But for now, may I ask: Are you up to it?