In the overall context of Colossians 3, Paul lays side by side some things we must put on and some things we must put off. Twice in our text, Paul states that we are to “put off” things that have to do with the old man of sin. The phrase “put off” is from “ἀποτίθημι,” meaning to “lay aside, or to take off.” From this, we can fully understand that Paul is saying that these things are things we must take off as if we were changing clothes and moving away from them. That is, we are to “put off” the filthy garments of the flesh and “put on” the new clothes of the Spirit. We must completely divest ourselves of these before we can grow toward the mature man of faith.
Paul earlier wrote about the believer putting away the uncleanness of the past. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). Now that we have put away the old man of sin, we also need to take off his garments. If the Spirit is leading us, then we need to take off the works of the flesh and put on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:18-26).
The things which we are to “put off” are
- Anger – a feeling of intense anger that does not subside, often on an epic scale.
- Wrath – a feeling of intense anger, sometimes translated as “rage.” We often think of these two words in the same way, but there are some differences. “Anger” refers to an abiding, or habitual, anger that includes revenge. “Wrath” is similar to anger but especially refers to a sudden, violent outburst of anger.” (The All-Sufficient Christ – Theodore H. Epp, p. 130). One of the ways that we grieve the Holy Spirit is by having anger and wrath within us (Eph. 4:30-31). Instead of having anger toward each other, we are to be “….kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
- Malice – wickedness, evil – the perverting of virtue and moral principles from their purposes to evil ends. When one has malice in their heart, they want to pay back what others have done to them. This goes against the golden rule. Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Instead of getting back at someone, we are to go the extra mile. Jesus said,
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Matt. 5:38-42).
- Blasphemy – slander – abusive words falsely spoken that damage a person’s reputation. Gossip falls into this category, and it is a sin. It would seem that some would rather speak words that tear others down than use words that build others up. As Christians, we should refrain from speaking evil about others and practice speaking words of encouragement. Many of the seven things God hates have to do with blasphemy. “These six things doth the LORD hate: Yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, Feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren” (Pro. 6:16-19).
- Filthy communication out of your mouth – abusive language – lewd or obscene talk. The dirty jokes and foul language one might have used before putting on the new man must end. The Christian cannot be involved in using language, whether in the form of dirty jokes or foul language, not becoming of holiness. Peter wrote, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
- Lie not one to another – the child of God is to refrain from lying to each other. Satan is the father of all lies, John 8:44 therefore, when one lies, they become the child of the devil. Paul wrote, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).
Because we have “put off the old man with his deeds” (v. 9), we should take off the clothes he wears so as not to be identified with him any longer. Once we have put off the clothes, then move away from them lest, we try and put them back on. The consequences of putting back on those old clothes can be very destructive to one’s soul. Peter wrote,
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Pet. 2:21–22).
May God help us keep the old man of sin far from us.