Today I want to talk about the manifestation of the spirit man, as spelt out in Colossians 3:1-17. Paul the Apostle is believed to have written this letter primarily to address issues of doctrinal error and deception in the church.
What I personally find quite striking about this letter is its relevance to the church today, and how the truths that Paul shared can build our own faith and help us understand that we are called to walk after the spirit and not the flesh.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
Many believers struggle to understand the distinction between walking in the spirit and walking in the flesh. In Colossians 3:1, Paul says one of the characteristics of believers who walk after the spirit is seeking “those things which are above”. Then in the second verse he says, “Set your mind on things above [where Christ is], not on things on the earth.”
I’ve observed that a lot of times we put our faith, calling, ministry etc. at the back of our minds throughout the week — during which time we are busy chasing the elusive dollar, cutting deals and concentrating on our jobs. We will be busy minding the things on earth. Then when Saturday or Sunday comes, we put on our “spiritual jackets” and head for church where we mind the things above for a few hours!
A Christian who knows who he is and walks in the spirit will not wait for Sunday to share the gospel and pray for the sick. They do these things every day. Sometimes we fight for a few precious moments of glory on the pastor’s pulpit on Sunday. We fail to realise that there are so many pulpits out there in the streets, our communities, work places and business circles that have no preachers behind them but are calling out to those that walk in the spirit to stand behind them and do the real, gruelling work of ministry away from the cheering congregations.
Here you can have your 24 hours of “glory” because even if you’re employed or in business, this is full-time ministry. The dead have no opportunity to shine here, and verse 3 says “For you died…” Those who walk in the spirit are “dead” to the praise of men and the popularity that comes when we demonstrate the power of God and see miracles happen.
Man is made up of three components: spirit (the real you), soul (mind) and body (physical outer casing). Salvation recreates the spirit and you become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God saves our spirit, we must renew our minds/soul (Rom 12:1-2) and discipline our body to submit to the recreated spirit and renewed soul. For the spirit, it is permanent, but every day we must keep our soul and body in check.
A lot of believers struggle in this area so their spirit man is subdued by the soul and the body. What happens in the end is the situation described in Colossians 3:5 where born-again, spirit-filled and tongue-talking Christians manifest the vices of “fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” in the CHURCH. I emphasised “church” because this letter was not written to the entertainment industry in Colosse. It was not written to the politicians. It was not written to nightclubs or casinos. It was written “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse” (Colossians 1:2).
Sometimes the misreading of scripture leads us into error. Many believers love Romans 8:1, which they quote: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus…” And that is where they end. So, it’s like they are saying salvation has given them a licence to do whatever they want because they are saved.
But hold your horses and allow me to mess up your religion for just a while. Let’s look at what the second part of Romans 8:1 says. It goes like this, “… [those] who do not walk after the flesh but after the spirit…” So, the implication here is that salvation or the grace of God is not a licence to live anyhow, telling ourselves that God will forgive us because we are not condemned.
Paul explains that an unwanton lifestyle will attract the condemnation of God: “Because of these things (fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness) the WRATH of God is COMING upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). So if unbelievers are sons of disobedience because they do these things, if you as a believer also do the same things, what does that make you? Whose son are you? You can do your homework.
Paul paints a picture of what God expects of us, of those born by the spirit and who are expected to walk in the spirit. He explains that you received power to stop walking in the flesh… “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language… Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds…” (Colossians 3:8-9).
Take this old man we have just described and put him next to you. How far do you compare? I know you speak in tongues, yes, you are born again. But be honest. Check your language. Is it always clean? Are you easily angered? How many times do you tell those little “white” lies every day? If this is your character, then know that you’re walking in the flesh!
But the good news is you can put off the old man and his deeds and begin to walk in the newness of life. The power has been deposited in your spirit. Paul then says “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another; EVEN AS CHRIST FORGAVE YOU, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:12-13).
When you put all these things into practice, then you’re a mature, spiritual person. Sometimes you move one step at a time until they become leaps. May God give you the grace to exercise these things and see them produce fruit in your life.