Mortify your members (1)
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
A1.1 Crucify the flesh
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections (=passions) and lusts If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit.
Mortify your members which are upon the earth is the same idea as in the quote from Galatians above.
This statement in Galatians comes towards the end of that epistle after Paul has taken pains to explain where the Galatians had gone wrong and why. Summarising the Galatian epistle we have the apostle rebuking the Galatians for beginning in the Spirit but then going on in the flesh, Gal.3:3. He then explains how that Christ has made us free, and warns us not to go back into bondage, Gal. 5:1. Further, Paul says that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, Gal.5:16. Paul then says that if we are Christ’s we have crucified the flesh with its affections.
We recall that the cross is the power of God, I Cor. 1:18. It is God’s way of dealing with what is not of Himself. On new birth we are baptised into Christ and into His death and resurrection. Our old man was crucified with Him and now we are free from sin’s dominion, Rom.6:3-7. Being baptised into Christ is God’s responsibility, by doing so He brings us into all the benefits of the Lord’s redeeming work. We have the responsibility to see it worked out in our lives.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
And this I say, lest any man should beguile [=deceive by false reasoning] you with enticing words.
Beware lest any man spoil [to lead away from the truth to one’s sway] you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
The common theme in theses verses is that we are not to let anyone or anything beguile us from the true path. God has placed us on the narrow way and we are exhorted to stay on it, and not to deviate at all from it. We are to resist the By-Path meadow that Bunyan writes of in Pilgrim’s progress, lest we end up in Doubting Castle with a Giant Despair looking over us.
The flesh always seeks to be in control of our lives in one way or another, and this is contrary to the things of the Spirit. Instead we are to mortify the flesh and walk as we began, in the Spirit. As we received Christ so walk in Him.
A1.3 An Unholy list
The specific things Paul tells us to mortify are Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness. We shall only deal with the first four now and leave the fifth one for the next article. Just in passing, a note to mention that the ‘members’ we put to death is a similar turn of phrase that Paul uses in Rom.8:13 : “ the deeds of the body”.
These four deeds of the body are all to do essentially with sexual sins, the fifth deed being the source as it were of these evils, which we shall leave for the next article.
Fornication is basically any illicit sexual activity. There is no need to make mention of them except to say that the only permitted sexual activity by God is within the marriage bond of one man and one woman, I Cor.7:2; Heb.13:4. This makes it plain as to what is not permissible.
Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts to dishonour their bodies between themselves.
For God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness
These verses lead to the conclusion that uncleanness is to dishonour our bodies, which we are told is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I Cor.6:18. The context would suggest in the realm of moral purity. And is seen to be the antithesis of Holiness.
Inordinate affection – The word affection just means desires, whether good or bad. However since Paul uses it with the word inordinate, and from the context of the subject matter, it means those lustful desires that leads to fornication, uncleanness etc.
The word denotes lust from the passive side of experience, uncontrollable desire, to which the man is a slave.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Commentary
Evil concupiscence or evil desires. Whilst this may seem just to be repeating the above Lightfoot suggests that the former phrase is form its passive side (eg Rom.1:26) and the later from its active side (eg Rom.1:24).
The four qualities covers both the heart state and the actual action. For it is the former that leads to the actions, see Matt.5:27-30.
We are then exhorted to crucify, mortify, put to death, whichever phrase you like, the flesh. We are not to set our desires on the earthly things but in heaven where Christ sits.