Commentary on Colossians, 3:5-7 (Characterization of True Faith)

Colossians 3:5-7

“5 Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

“Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth”

This is a command. This is something that God requires of us. This is both a one time decision we make, and is something we do on a daily basis. As followers of Christ, we’re to make a decision to live counter to the things that Paul mentions in this verse. As Christians, we’re all required to make a decision to turn away from  the things that are “upon the earth.” Here Paul is contrasting those things, with the things “that are above” (Col 3:1-2). It’s a turning away from the things of this world, and a turning to the things that are heavenly. 

This turning away from, and turning to, is called repentance, and is something we must do  at the point of salvation. It’s a turning away from sin, in order to live for Christ as our Lord and King. While this is a one time decision, it’s also a decision we make continuously throughout our lives. We have short memories, so each and every day, we must realize who we are in Christ, and resolve to live in obedience to Him, for His glory. 

This world is not our home (Phil 3:20). We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness and of this world, to the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13). Thus we’re to live according to our true citizenship. Like any other citizenship, there is a Ruler to follow and laws to obey. We must not get so wrapped up in the things of this world, that we lose focus of our obligations as servants of King Jesus. It’s when we lose sight of our heavenly citizenship and of who we are in Christ, that we begin to drift back into the world.

Our joy and fulfillment does not come from the pleasures of this world, but from an intimate walk with Christ. However, if we don’t remain focused on that relationship, we will begin to drift and become deceived into thinking that the longings of our heart can be fulfilled by the things of our old life. So many professing Christians live as though they really believe that this world has more to offer than the Lord of the universe. That’s deception. It’s a trap. It leads to regrets and sorrows that plague us for the rest of our lives. Blessed is the Christian who dies with the joy of knowing that they lived their lives in sincere love for the Lord.

“members”  (Gr. melos – 3196)

Literally a limb or member of the body. Refers to the seat of evil desires.

It’s through the various members of our body that we carry out the sinful desires of our old nature. Sin begins in the mind, and is carried out through the functions of the body. 

“sexual immorality”  (Gr. porneia – 4202)

Please read my commentary regarding sexual immorality in the links below:

Commentary on Ephesians, 5:3 (1 of 2)

Commentary on Ephesians, 5:3 (2 of 2)

“uncleanness”  (Gr. akatharsia – 167)

This no doubt includes sexual immorality, but probably has the thought-life primarily in view, which results in other areas of shameful conduct that is contrary to who we are in Christ, such as: impure thoughts, pornography, watching sex-oriented movies and tv shows, dirty jokes, wild living, indecent acts… general, a filthy mind-set that reveals itself in the way we live and speak.

“passion”  (Gr. pathos – 3806)

Vile affections.


Pathos describes an inward emotion aroused by some external object; in this case by an impure object prompting unchastity. It is a desire that does not rest until it is satisfied. There is a kind of person who is the slave of his or her passions and who is driven by his or her desires (epithumia) for the wrong things. The passions of the old nature  (see flesh) rise up and say “give me, give me, give me” but believers don’t have to give in to them. Believers can now say “no”. Is this abstinence a reflection of self-denial apart from Christ? No. This is operating, not in our strength but based on the truth that believers have died and our life is hidden with Christ. Therefore we have the inherent power to put aside any sexual activity that is not God permitted and God glorifying.”

“evil desire”

This is the opposite of holy desire. It’s a desire for those things that are contrary the holiness of Christ, and to the will of God. Our desire should be for the things that are holy and pure and righteous. Our desire should only be for the things that God delights in. Our will should be in harmony with the will of God. Our desire should not be for the things of this world, but for the things that belong to the Kingdom of Christ. Our desire should be for the Word of God, through which the Holy Spirit uses to purify our lives and to conform our character to the character of Christ. Our one desire should be to know God more and more, and to please Him in every area of our lives. 

“covetousness”  (Gr. pleonexia – 4124)


Covetousness is the greedy desire for more and more, and always pertains to the pleasures and values of this world. It’s always in opposition to the things of God. 

“which is idolatry” 

Whatever takes the place of our desire for God and for the things that please Him, is idolatry. Whatever steals away our affections from the Lord, is idolatry. Whatever occupies our attention and time, whatever things we pursue and dominates our life, in place of God, is idolatry. Our one passion should be for God. Our one focus should be on serving Christ and advancing His Kingdom. 


“It is remarkable that the apostle always ranks covetousness with these base and detestable passions. The meaning here is:

(1) that it is a low and debasing passion, like those which he had specified; and,

(2) that it secures the affections which properly belong to God, and is, therefore, idolatry. Of all base passions, this is the one that most dethrones God from the soul.”

“6 Because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience,”

“sons of disobedience”

Some manuscripts do not have this phrase. However, Paul makes this full statement in Eph 5:6.

“Sons of disobedience” refers to those who do not know Christ. Those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior, will live lives that are characterized by obedience to God. Those who profess Christ, but live as unbelievers do, are deceiving themselves if they believe that all is well with their soul (Tit 1:16). Those who are truly saved, will live lives that reflect true faith. It’s a false faith that professes Christ, but lives a self-centered life. We are not saved by works or by obedience, but true salvation will be evidenced by such a life.

“Because of these things comes the wrath of God”

It’s because of all the types of things that Paul named in verse 5, that God’s wrath will come, and it will come upon those who practice them. Those whose lives are defined by such things, will suffer the judgment of God, which is condemnation to the lake of fire, where they will suffer forever and ever. These things that Paul names in verse 5, are representative of a general disobedience to the will of God by those who are driven by self-will.

Everyone who begins their new life in Christ does so in submission to His will, for repentance of sin and submission to the Lordship of Christ is necessary for salvation. However, a believer can drift in their faith and begin to be drawn back to the the things of the world. When that occurs, it’s clear evidence that there is something very wrong with their faith. Saving faith is characterized by a changed life, and this type of faith must endure, for saving faith is an enduring faith

If a believer falls back into their old life, pursuing again the pleasures of their own heart, and refuses to turn away from those things, they forfeit their salvation. Reason being, is that whatever got us saved, must keep us saved. The composition of saving faith cannot be changed. The faith that saves is a faith of submission to the authority of Christ. It’s a recognition of Christ both as Savior and as Lord and King. It’s a turning away from a self-centered life, to a Christ-centered life. Therefore, if one turns away from that, and is again pursuing their former life, then they literally have returned to where they were prior to meeting Christ. An unrepentant life is clear evidence of a faith that has gone astray. 

However, unless one has completely and finally turned away from Christ, in total unbelief and rebellion, then there is always the opportunity to repent and get things right with the Lord. It’s just a matter of confession of sin and of a lack of faith, and a renewed surrender to following Jesus.  

“7 in which also you once walked, when you lived in these things.”

“once walked”

Paul is making it clear that a life of self-will and sin is something that characterizes our old life before we received Christ. New life in Christ does not continue in those things (2 Cor 5:17). If a professing Christian is identified by those things, then they were either never born-again, or they have drifted away from the faith that keeps us saved. 

For a more detailed treatment of this text, and of Conditional Security, click on the link below:

Commentary on Ephesians, 5:5-7 (2 of 2)