Summary: There is a negative aspect of holiness/sanctification – putting off. There is a positive aspect of sanctification – putting on.
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Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There are two ditches, one on either side of the road when you’re walking with Jesus:
One is LEGALISM. – this says: “You can earn God’s favor. You can be good enough.”
One is LICENSE. – this says: “It doesn’t matter how you live. God loves you and doesn’t really care.”
How can Paul say this all this? Isn’t he being legalistic?
He’s just been saying, Jesus is enough, the false teachers are wrong… Legalism won’t work, it doesn’t change your heart, don’t worry so much about what to do or not to do on Sabbaths, Christ has taken the certificate of our debt to the law, and has cancelled it, don’t listen to these teachers who tell you “don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”
Then he turns around and says, “put to death these things” “do not do this” “rid yourselves of these things.”
Isn’t that legalistic?
What’s the difference between legalism and the Christian ethic, real sanctification, real holiness? So here’s the answer as I understand it:
• Legalism focuses outward, sanctification focuses inward.
There will always be observable outward differences, but that’s not the focus.
Look at these 11 sins Paul lists. Which of them is fixable by a rule? By setting guidelines, by arranging barriers? Ultimately, NONE. There are perhaps wise things that you could do to prevent the temptation to sexual immorality (and I try to do those!).
• Legalism is sin management, sanctification is sin death.
Legalism is an effort to manage sin without real sanctification.
In other words, I might know there are some things in my heart not right, but I can make some rules and take care of that. I can put a bunch of guards in place to keep me from needing to die to myself, and I can make sure that everyone around me has exactly the same set of safeguards, and if people don’t have them, I can unChristianize them.
It’s an attempt to regulate sin, without a real death to self, and putting to death the hidden sins of the heart.
You have died, now put to death. You have died, and are dying.
Things you must put to death:
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry…
8 rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
• Sexual immorality
This is a junk drawer term for all kinds of sexual perversion. If it’s not one man, one woman, in marriage, it fits in this category.