Summary: Sermon 13 in a study in Colossians
“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
I don’t know what the seminary homiletics professors would have to say about choosing a phrase from a different passage of scripture for a title to the passage on which one is preaching.
I also don’t know what those same professors would say about the construction of that last sentence.
The nice thing is that once you’ve passed their classes and graduated with your degree in hand you may then begin breaking all the rules and finding clever ways to get your point across without fear of someone marking your sermon all up with red ink.
My title, “The Body of This Death”, you may recognize from the final verses of Romans chapter 7.
There, Paul has been recounting the believer’s ongoing struggle with the flesh. If you’ve studied it you know that is where Paul laments that the things he knows he should do he finds himself not doing, and the things he knows he should not do, and even hates, he finds in himself the tendency to do.
Then he goes on to explain:
“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”
Now I want to be careful not to get too much into a teaching of Romans 7 here, since we are studying the third chapter of Colossians. But some things that are contained in this chapter, if they are made clear, will benefit us a great deal in the study of Colossians 3:5-11.
We’ve all heard the term, ‘carnal Christian’, haven’t we? It is usually employed by people in the church referring to someone else. No one wants to think of themselves as a carnal Christian. Actually, if you think about it, by virtue of their gossiping the ones who are labeling the others are quite possibly more carnal in their thinking than the ones being accused.
Personally, I am not certain any such thing exists. What is a carnal Christian, anyway?
Well, ‘carnal’ comes from the word ‘carne’. It means flesh or fleshly. Now since being a Christian is a spiritual thing, I don’t know how someone could be a fleshly Christian. That’s sort of like saying ‘a concrete sponge’. That doesn’t mean a Christian cannot act according to the flesh; in fact, that’s the problem in Romans 7.
But if a person is a true, Spirit-filled believer in Christ, he can not be a fleshly Christian. He can only be a Christian in whom the flesh occasionally manifests its evil desires and tendencies.
That is when the Holy Spirit convicts and the believer repents and confesses and God is faithful and righteous to forgive and continue the ongoing work of sanctification.
The only way a person can be a carnal Christian is if they are only a Christian in the religious sense; that is, in name only as they go about attending church and doing religious things but there is no spiritual birth. In that case they really are carnal. They are still of the flesh and remain spiritually dead, so they are members of a Christian organization but they are carnal.
Now there have been debates in the past and I suppose they continue in places, as to whether Paul was describing a Christian in Romans 7 or a non-Christian. Is he, they ask, describing himself as a believer; or before he was a believer?
Well there need be no debate, the question is put to rest in the very text. This is absolutely a true Christian Paul is describing, because an unsaved person who does not have the Spirit of Christ in them would not have a struggle. They would not mind sinning and they would have no power over sin even if they did mind. They would not be concerned about doing the will of God or pleasing Him, and they would not feel the burden of the struggle that Paul describes.