“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:5-10).
Time and time again in the New Testament the Christian is exhorted to cast aside the old self. This is one example. I would like to get a bit technical and take a look at the Greek for the words “put to death.” The Greek word is nekrosate, from nekrosis, which means putting to death. The form word is in is the aorist active imperative second person plural. The imperative mood means it is a command. The aorist tense connotates an action that hasn’t started yet. In this verse we are commanded to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature, with the connotation that we have not yet begun to do this, but we must (hence the command).
God’s commands must be taken seriously. We cannot read a passage like this and shrug off the fact that we are expected to do something here. The Christian has a responsibility to put off these things of the sinful earthly nature. It is something we can only do in Christ because of his blood, death, resurrection and ascension, the finished work of Christ, but nonetheless it is something we do. To risk sounding redundant, it is an active action.
Again we find the exhortation to “rid yourselves of all such things as these” (v. 8). The Greek word is apothesthe, from apothesis, which means to put off or lay aside, “a euphemism for death” (Mounce). It is in the aorist middle imperative second person plural. Again we find the imperative mood of command, and the aorist tense of something not yet started. The middle voice means there is an emphasis on self, translatable as “you rid yourselves.” Again, we cannot ignore the command of God here. We have a responsibility to do something in our walk. This passage as a whole gives the details of what we are expected to do.
There are many more instances of this kind of command: Romans 6:11-14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16; And there are similar passages that talk about the difference between one who is walking in the old nature versus the Christian walking in the new, such as Galatians 5:19-25, Hebrews 10:26-31 and 1 John 3:6. Let us now carefully weigh out these passages and not neglect them.
Mounce, William D., The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993.
The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition. United Bible Societies, U.S.A., 2001.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.
Summers, Ray, Essential of New Testament Greek, Revised. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1995.