Putting Deeds to Death, not Ourselves - The Warrior's Journey®

Putting Deeds to Death, not Ourselves

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“Put to death, therefore, the things which belong (lit. “members”) upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, (deeds of) passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of which the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Colossians 3:5-6) 

I have provided for you the most literal translation to the Greek text possible. And nowhere in these verses does Paul command us to mortify ourselves or our bodies. We are never commanded to “crucify ourselves.” That is something only the Spirit of God can do to our inner man when we believe in Jesus (Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 2:28-29). “Our old self was co-crucified with Christ” (Note the passive voice, Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ” (Note the passive voice again, Galatians 2:20). No. Biblical Christianity does not require us to beat our bodies down with fasting or self-inflicted punishment. Paul tells us such harsh treatment of the body does nothing to combat sinful desires (Colossians 2:23). It is the Spirit of God who renews our inner person day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16) and who works in our hearts to make us desire to do God’s will and gives us the power to do it (Philippians 2:13). 

But isn’t Paul commanding us to put something to death? Yes, he commands us to put sinful deeds to death. We kill sinful deeds by denying the lusts of our sin-corrupted bodies. And we can only do this by the Spirit’s power. “For if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Therefore, by the Holy Spirit’s power, we must say “No!” to the cravings of our sin-damaged bodies. And by denying the body’s sinful cravings we put to death its sinful deeds. Thus, it is deeds we “put to death,” not the body or our inner man, which has been reborn (1 Peter 1:3, 23).   

This has been a point of misunderstanding for Christians over many centuries. It’s driven people to inflict severe harm to their bodies and minds.  But Jesus assures us that what we do to our bodies most certainly does not affect our souls. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).  “It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). “It is not what goes into a man that defiles him (i.e. certain foods), but what comes out of him (sinful thoughts and deeds) is what defiles him (Mark 7:14-23). Faith in Christ is what connects us to God and saves us, not outward ceremonies or fasting or any self-inflicted punishment. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why … do you submit yourself to decrees such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’” (Colossians 2:20-21). “The Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).   


  • Is your faith focused on what you are doing for God or on what Christ has already done for you? Are you focused on extracting sin from your life, or on filling your life with Christ? If Jesus fills your life, will He not also push sin out of it? 

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