THE PRACTICE OF THE BELIEVER <3:5—4:6>
(a). Put Off the Old Man <3:5-11>
Here Paul instructs us as believers in Christ to “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” <3:5 (NIV); cf Rom.6:1-2>; what does he mean by “put to death”? It is obvious that when something or someone dies any influence or control is no longer experienced from that source, so he says that any influence or control from our past sinful life should be considered as “dead” so that desires that plagued the early believers, and definitely current believers such as, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” <3:5 (NIV); cf Eph.4:22> do not control our lives any longer. Christ’s death and resurrection put an end to sin and the effect of sin in us <see 2:13-15>, and now we are alive in Him <3:1>, so we are able to “put to death” all that belongs to our earthly nature. Paul continues to express God’s warning to us and the entire world who continue in these practices: “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” <3:6 (NIV); cf Zech.1:2-6>: and although the believer in Christ will escape the wrath of God, we will still have to give an account to Him as to the way we conduct ourselves while we follow Christ in this life <see Rom.14:10b-12; Matt.12:36-37; 1 Pet.4:5>; and Paul reminds us that we all “used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” <3:7 (NIV)>.
So then, as believers in Christ we “must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” <3:8 (NIV)>; neither should we lie to each other to hide the sinful things that we continue to practice, for our “old selves and practices” <3:9b> have been replaced, through our belief in Christ, by the “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” <3:10 (NIV)>. We are being renewed in our nature <2 Cor.5:17>, knowledge <1:10; 2:2-3> and the image of God daily <see Gen.1:26>; and we are continually being “made holy” by God while we wait for the day of our final redemption <cf Ex.31:13b; Heb.10:10; 12:14; 1 Pet.1:15-16; 1 Jn.3:2-3>.
Paul closes this section by pointing out the fact that because of our belief in Christ and our conversion, we can recognize all other believers in Christ as our counterpart, resulting in no rift in the Body of Christ because “Christ is all, and is in all.” <3:11 (NIV); cf 1:18-19>, and in Christ there is no disunity, disagreements or distinction, for He transcends all barriers.
(b). Put On the New Man <3:12-17>
As we are instructed to “take off” that which represented our old nature <3:9b>, we are now instructed to “put on” that which represents our new nature <cf 2 Cor.5:17>; since it is necessary that the “old” must be replaced by the “new” <cf Matt.12:38-45>.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” <3:12 (NIV)>, for if “Christ is all, and in all” <3:11>, we must reflect the virtues that were evident in His life. As God’s chosen people; a reference to the Jewish Nation <see Deut.10:15; Rom.9:25>, and also a reference to the members of His Body – The Church <see 1 Pet.2:9>; we are called to be representatives of Christ in all of our ways exhibiting compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience in all our interaction with our fellow believers and those who are not believers, for this was the Character of Christ when He walked on this earth. Since each believer has received eternal salvation by the grace of God, each and every believer must now provide evidence by endeavouring to live a godly life.
Paul urges us to be like Christ <see Eph.4:1b-2> and shows us one way of doing so: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” <3:13 (NIV)>, for it is not easy to engage with each other in our daily routine since we are all different and have different needs, but we should be mindful of the fact that God has forgiven us individually of all our sins and unusual, strange, or unconventional viewpoints and actions, so we must make every attempt to tolerate each other and forgive as we have been forgiven <cf Lk.11:4>.
One approach to do this is to show the love of Christ in all our words and actions as we interact with each other; “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” <3:14 (NIV)>, and the other is to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” <3:15 (NIV); Eph.4:3> since as members of His Body we are to make every effort to be peaceful and this should be the rule in all our relationships.
Finally, the most important thing for every believer in Christ; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” <3:16 (NIV)> or as it is stated “Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts” (J.B. Phillips) which makes us rich in true wisdom for all our interpersonal interactions, and gives us the ability for whatever we do or say to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” <3:17 (NIV)>
It is extremely important to understand Paul’s teaching here, and to put it into practice.