Deaden, then, your members that are on the earth: prostitution, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and greed, which is idolatry…
Colossians 3:5 (CLV)
In the preceding verses, Paul had encouraged believers to seek (3:2) and to focus on (3:2) the things that are above, where Christ is. How else could this be done, than by studying the Scriptures, since they testify of Him? Anyway, the call in verse 5, to "deaden your members that are upon the earth", does come across, in this perspective, as something rather strange. For whoever is centered on Christ and on the riches in Him (Col.2:3), does not have to fight against the senseless things that Paul enumerates, beginning in verse 5, is it? Did Paul not, elsewhere, explain that we are to reckon ourselves" dead to sin and alive to God, in Christ Jesus" (Rom.6:11)? Why then to "'kill' the members who are on earth"?
The Greek word Paul uses for "deaden" in the sentence, "deaden the members …" (Strong's #3499) is used 3x in the "New Testament". The two other times, it concerns the impotent Abraham, who is identified "as dead" (Rom.4:19 and Hebrews 11:12). Of course, Abraham was not killed but (in sexual terms) he was dead. Dead, in that sense, that life had gone out like a candle that had been extinguished.
"Starving to death" is generally defined as: "having died as a result of not administering fluids and food." That is exactly what Paul had in mind in Colossians 3:5! Not, "'kill' the members who are on earth", but "'starve' the members that are upon the earth". By denying them ‘food' (read: attention) they die off, inevitably. It is not actively fight it or even kill it to which Paul calls us, but just to ignore it. By seeking and focusing on the things that are above, we deaden (starve to death) the members that are on the earth. Hence, the view, "deaden than …" is misleading and can easily confuse the reader into a wrong direction.
Translation: Peter Feddema