How many of you would like your life to be characterized by peace, joy, and contentment? If you really want these things, I can tell you how to get them. Are you interested? Think about it for a moment; if you have peace, joy, and contentment, does anything else really matter? People work so hard for these things, because they are of great value.
Paul had all these things, his life was constantly characterized by peace, joy, and contentment. If you know anything about Paul, you know that he didn't have good circumstances in his life, but yet he was at peace. Why? The answer is found in:
Philippians 1:21 (NASB) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul said that life to him was Christ. Paul lived only to serve Christ, commune with Christ, love Christ. He has no concept of life other than Christ. He is his reason for living. To Paul, Christ was life. Paul lived this out practically, because he knew that it was true positionally:
Colossians 3:4 (NASB) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Paul says to believers, "Christ is our life." He is the source of our life. Of course this is true of physical life, but he is talking here about spiritual life, everlasting life. Because this is true, Christ should be the goal of our life, the purpose and fulfillment of our life. Is this something that you would say about yourself? Let's ask the question this way: What would the people who know you best say is your life? If we asked someone who knows you well to fill in the blank, what would he put? For (put your name here) to live is _____________. Money? Prestige? Fame? Knowledge? Power? Work? Possessions? Self-pleasure? Sports? Friends? Would those who know you best say that life to you was Christ? Why or why not?
When we can come to the point in our lives that we can say, "Christ is my life," then we'll also be able to say, "Life is good!" Believer, please remember this each time that you are unsatisfied with life - you are unsatisfied because something other than Christ is the focus of your life. Christ will never disappoint us!
Paul has taught us, in chapter 1 of Colossians, who Christ is: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, by Him were all things made, and all things are sustained by Him. He is the head of the body, the church. And just as He is the firstborn over all creation, so also He is the firstborn from the dead; therefore, Christ is supreme over all things.
In chapters 1-2, Paul also sets forth what Christ has done; He has reconciled you to the Father through His death, so that you might be presented pure and blameless in Him. He has spiritually circumcised and baptized you, granting you new life and forgiveness of sins. He has blotted out the Old Covenant law that was against you. He has utterly defeated all of the enemies which held you captive; sin, death, and the devil are all defeated foes.
So we have seen who Christ is, and what he has done. We have seen that as believers we share in all that Christ is and has done. Since this is true, Paul declares that you are no longer to live in the way you used to. The imperatives of the Christian life -the command to "seek those things which are above", for instance, are rooted in the new reality of who we are in Christ. Union with Christ is the heart and soul of Paul's gospel. You can find it in every letter he writes. Since you have been united to Christ, live like it! Or to put it simply: Be who you are in Christ!
These first four verses of Colossians 3 are a hinge passage; they summarize the first two chapters of the letter (which concern doctrine: the truths of the Christian faith. And they launch us into the second two chapters of the letter, which concern ethics; how to live the Christian life. Let's examine these four verses:
Colossians 3:1 (NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
The word "if" is a first class condition in the Greek, it assumes reality; we can translate it by the word "since." "Since" (in view of the fact) you were raised with Christ. That God has already raised us with Christ, is an assumed fact:
Ephesians 2:5-6 (NASB) even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,
It is a fact that God has raised us with Christ. It is something already done. There is no doubt in the "if" in the Greek here in Colossians 3:1.
Paul says they have been, "Raised up with Christ." The Greek word used here for "raised up with" is sunegeiro. The verb actually means: "to be co-resurrected." We must understand that sun prefix on the word, sunegeiro, shows not an exact likeness to the nature of Christ, but an association with Christ's nature.
We also see this positional association in Romans 6 (co-buried, co-crucified, co-resurrected with Christ); Ephesians 2 (co-quickened, co-raised, co-seated in heaven with Christ); and Colossians 2 (co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened). These all utilize the sun or co- prefix and all demand a positional stance of the believer with the reality of Christ. Christ was buried, raised, quickened, and is seated in heaven. The believer is co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened, and co-seated in heaven. In Christ is the reality, in the believers is the association with that reality. Believers spiritually are entered into Christ's death and resurrection at the moment of their salvation. It is an accomplished fact.
God sees things differently than we do. God's viewpoint here is positional truth. God views us as already dead (2:20), buried (2:12) and raised in Christ. God sees better than we do but He expects us to see what He has done in Christ with the eye of faith. This has nothing to do with our feelings. We cannot taste, feel, or smell positional truth. Our position in Christ is infallible, unalterable, eternal, and exalted. God said it, and by faith we believe it.
Since we have been raised up with Christ, we are commanded to "keep seeking the things above". In order to obey this command, we need to understand two things: what the "things above" are, and what it means to "seek" them?
What are the "things above"? The Greek word translated "above" is ano. It is only used 7 times in the New Testament. If we look at a couple of its uses, it gives us a good idea as to what "things above" are:
John 8:22-24 (NASB) Therefore the Jews were saying, "Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23 And He was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above [ano]; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins."
Here Jesus says that the unbelieving Jews are from below, and that He is from above. The contrast here is between the natural and the spiritual. This is also seen in the use of ano in:
Galatians 4:22-26 (NASB) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above [ano] is free; she is our mother.
Here the contrast is between two covenants; one is fleshly (natural), and the other is spiritual. So "things above" are spiritual things, supernatural things.
Earlier in this book Paul said that the false teachers were "inflated without cause by his fleshly mind." Their minds were centered on the flesh; as believers our minds are to be focused on "things above." "Things above" are spiritual things, such as positional truth. We are to be seeking spiritual things, our focus is not to be on the physical but on the spiritual.
In his book, What Americans Believe, George Barna states, "One of the most penetrating and inescapable questions that confronts Americans is: 'Why am I alive?'"
The answer he found was most surprising. "Most adults conclude that we exist to gratify the flesh. Sixty-three percent concur that the purpose in life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment." They are not seeking the "things above."
We don't need faith when we deal in material things. We taste, feel, see, and touch material things, but faith takes us into another arena. Faith takes us into a spiritual stratosphere. There we can see things we could not see with a material viewpoint. Faith is the spiritual telescope that brings the things of God near to our heart. We can, therefore, see things we could not otherwise see. Faith puts reality on intangible things. Eternal things are real, but they are only real to those who have faith to see them. It was written of Moses:
Hebrews 11:27 (NASB) By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
Moses was focused on the things above. Moses' strength came from seeing Him who is invisible - that's an oxymoron, how can you see the invisible? Moses practiced the presence of God, Moses' focus was on the things above not on the physical. His eyes were on the King of Kings and not on the king of Egypt.
So, now that we understand that the "things above" are spiritual things, as opposed to the physical or fleshly, we need to ask: "What does it mean to 'seek' them?"
The word "seek" is an imperative, it is a command. This is the Greek word zeteo, and it is in the present tense, which indicates continuous action - "keep seeking the things above." We see this same word used in:
Matthew 6:33 (NASB) "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
The word "seek" here is also the Greek word zeteo, which means: "to seek, to desire to worship." It is a hungering, desiring, seeking; it is not laboring in a sweating way. It is a matter of a hungering, desiring, worshiping spirit; it is to seek with a desire to worship. So we are to seek with a desire to worship the things which are above. We are to be hungering, desiring, seeking the things above.
There's a very real sense in which the believer must be concerned with natural provision so that he continues to function properly. But the problem with being on the earth is that too often those things that we take for granted as being necessary elements of survival move to the center of our lives, so that we give more time to their construction than we do to the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So the believer is being exhorted to leave behind the concerns which he has over earthly matters and to fix his attention solely on the matters which are heavenly. What this seems to mean for Paul, time and time again in his letters, is that any observance of a written code - whether the Mosaic Law, regulations which have been drawn from it or rules which are simply based upon the product of a man's mind - should be forsaken, for it only promotes a manifestation of the sinful nature.
Paul tells us at the end of verse 1 that "above" is "where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." This seems to be a response to those who were seeking to diminish Christ's role as mediator, inasmuch as the right hand of God is a metaphor for the place of supreme privilege and divine authority. We can determine what this statement means by referring to other Scriptures, where the meaning appears to be clear.
In Genesis 48:8-20 we find Jacob (Israel) being brought Joseph's two sons, laying his hands upon them shortly before his death and blessing them both. In verse 17, we see Joseph trying to remove his father's hands from off his children and swapping them over so that his right hand rested on the firstborn son, Manasseh, for it was the firstborn who had special rights concerning inheritance.
But Jacob prophetically saw that Ephraim would be greater than his elder brother, Manasseh, and so had deliberately laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim.
Genesis 48:19 (NASB) But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations."
The right hand is, therefore, a position of superiority over and above others and of greater blessing than being positioned at the left hand. Notice that in Genesis 48:19 Jacob says clearly that Ephraim "shall be greater." The right hand is a place of honor above all else and all others.
Psalms 16:11 (NASB) Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
This psalm speaks of the great blessing and provision that there is at God's right hand for all His saints.
Psalms 110:1 (NASB) (A Psalm of David.) The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand, Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet."
When David speaks of the Messiah as being seated at the right hand of the Lord, he's saying that the Christ is to be given a position of great power and authority, a place of unequaled honor and blessing.
These concepts are at the heart of the New Testament usage of the saying that Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father in Heaven. He's been elevated into a position that can be neither equaled nor bettered. He is the supreme Head over all things - something which Paul has already stated in different words in Colossians 1:15-20. There's no other position that can possibly exist that's more elevated than the one that Jesus now occupies.
Colossians 3:2 (NASB) Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
"Set your mind" is from phroneo and could simply be translated: "think," or more thoroughly, "have this inner disposition." Once again, the present tense indicates continuous action - be continually setting your mind on the things above.
Have you ever noticed how earthly minded we are? Most of the time our attention is centered on things right around us, And this shouldn't be surprising. After all, we are earth dwellers. We live on this planet at a certain time and in a certain place. We are physical beings in a physical world. It's natural for us to think about our jobs, our material possessions, our finances, our health, and the people who are important to us. We live in the dimensions of time and space, and we must function in this natural world by the physical principles that define it.
But there is a certain sense in which we can become trapped in this dimension. If we are not careful, even as Christians, we will lose our ability to see beyond the natural into the spiritual. And make no mistake about it, as Christians, we have been given the ability to see into the spiritual realm.
Remember how Jacob's eyes were opened, and he saw a flight of stairs between earth and heaven, with spiritual beings ascending and descending:
Genesis 28:12 (NASB) And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
He became aware of the spiritual realm.
I don't know about you, but I want to be more aware of that spiritual realm. Do you remember the story in 2 Kings 6 of Elisha and his servant? Hostile forces were surrounding them, and the servant was terrified. All he saw were the forces that the King of Aram sent out. Elisha saw the forces as well, but he also saw far more. He saw not only the natural but the supernatural as well. And he prayed for his servant, that God would give him eyes to see the supernatural reality of the situation.
2 Kings 6:17 (NASB) Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
He is not talking about his physical eyes here but his spiritual eyes. There is a spiritual reality that most people are totally blind to. I want to see that reality. I want to be more aware of God's working in that invisible, unseen realm of the spirit. Like Elisha's servant, I often need to have my eyes opened so that I can see beyond the physical.
This is one of the fundamental problems with the current condition of Christianity. Even though we have been placed into a spiritual realm, we still see through natural eyes most of the time. We are either not taught, or do not discover on our own, how to see into that spiritual realm and behold the power of God. So, many Christians live their entire lives without ever understanding who they are in Christ and what the provision is that Christ has made for them.
Paul is reminding us of who we are in Christ and of how important it is to see ourselves from that perspective. He's showing us that how we live our lives on earth depends on our having a heavenly perspective.
In the first two verses Paul says it twice: "Keep seeking the things above... Set your mind on the things above". In other words, concentrate your attention on eternal realities. Don't simply look at what's happening around you. If you do, you will miss the big picture. You have a new focus. Concentrate on that which does not pass away.
Paul is going to spend the rest of the chapter talking about how to relate to one another in the church, at home, and at work. Therefore, he is not telling us to ignore everyday life. So what does it mean to "set your minds on things above"? It means that in the midst of your daily routine, your heart and mind are constantly focused on Christ. It means that you find your identity and purpose in Christ, and not in the rat-race of life. It means that when your kids are driving you nuts, you find rest in Christ; when your husband is acting like a jerk, you understand that God's grace is sufficient for you; when your co-workers are sniping at you behind your back, your heart finds contentment in Christ's promises.
Obviously, the spiritual thoughts that are to fill the believer's mind must come from Scripture. The Bible is the only reliable source of knowledge about the character of God and the values of heaven. The Bible is the mind of God reduced to writing. We have what we need for the Christian life in writing. We have the Holy Spirit to help us understand it.
I have discovered an amazing secret of success: People who keep their priorities in order, keep their lives in order. People who have happy marriages are happily married, because they have made their marriage a priority. People who are in good physical shape are that way, because they have made their health a priority. If you keep your priorities in order, you can keep your life in order. Paul says, "Set your mind on the things above."
Paul reminds the Colossians that the reason for them setting their minds on the things above is:
Colossians 3:3 (NASB) For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Paul emphatically states, "For you have died." The Greek aorist tense implies: "For ye have died once for all". In what sense can it be true that those of us who are Christians have died? Look what Paul said in:
Romans 6:2 (NKJV) Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
He says that we "died" (aorist tense) to sin. He is describing something that happened to us as a fact. We died to sin. In what sense have believers died to sin? The answer is found in:
Romans 5:21 (NKJV) so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We have died to the rule and reign of sin. Sin's reign came in Adam and was broken by the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is talking here about our position before God. Positionally, we have died to the reign of sin under Adam.
We were in a state of death which was brought to an end by death. But not our death the death of Jesus. We died, because another died in our place so that we might live; that we might pass out of the state of death into a state of life.
So many Christians do not understand exactly who they are in Christ. Our understanding, obviously, must come from the Bible. In other words, we are who God says we are, and we have what God says we have. His word is the determining factor, not our feelings, or what someone else has said about us. The beginning point of understanding our new identity is the infallible word of God. It tells us the truth about us.
We learn from the Bible that we have a new identity in Christ. Our text tells us that two important things have happened to us - we died and we rose from the dead. The exciting truth here is that we have been united with Christ. We are identified with Him and He with us. As Christians, we should never see ourselves apart from Christ. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We are thoroughly identified with Christ. He is our life. We are one with Him. We dwell with Him. We're not simply earth dwellers. We are heaven dwellers.
"Dead reckoning" is a nautical term. When a captain cannot make astronomical calculations because of cloud covering, he must use "dead reckoning" to properly find his place in the ocean. "Dead reckoning" gauges the ship's location from the records of its progress made in the log book.
The Christian's log book is the Bible. There we find our position in Christ from what God has gone on record to say. We don't need to consult our feelings. We do not evaluate circumstances. We just calculate what God did for us in Christ.
Paul goes on in Colossians 3:3 to say, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God."
There are a lot of different opinions as to exactly what this means. I won't go into them here. The Greek tense of the verb "is hidden" means in this context that our life was hidden at a point in the past with the results going on forever. At the point we received Christ, eternal life began and goes on forever. Jesus put it this way:
John 10:28-29 (NASB) and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
The idea of being "hidden"has the implication that what's there is concealed and covered to protect it. "Hidden with Christ" is a statement of our eternal security in Christ. This does not mean that it is hidden from us, but that it is hidden for us. Jesus lays away our life in His. Our great high priest "is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
For the false teachers, the treasures of wisdom were hidden in their secret books (apokryphoi), but for believers, Christ is the treasury of wisdom, and our life is hidden (krupto, kroop'-to) in Him .
Albert Barns has this to say:
The language here is taken probably from treasure which is "hid" or concealed in a place of security; and the idea is, that eternal life is an invaluable jewel or treasure, which is laid up with Christ in heaven where God is. There it is safely deposited. It has this security, that it is with the Redeemer, and that he is in the presence of God; and thus nothing can reach it or take it away. It is not left with us, or intrusted to our keeping--for then it might be lost as we might lose an invaluable jewel; or it might be wrested from us; or we might be defrauded of it; but it is now laid up far out of our sight, and far from the reach of all our enemies, and with one who can 'keep that which we have committed to him against that day;'
When Caesar threatened to take the life of Chysostom unless he renounced Christ, he said, "You cannot, your majesty, for my life is hid with Christ in God."
The eternal security of the believer is a matter of our position in Christ before God. This is something that Christ did for us. It has nothing to do with what we do. We cannot secure this position by the kind of life we live. The security rests in the death we died in Christ. Our eternal security before God is a matter of grace. Grace is what God gives, not what we do.
Colossians 3:4 (NASB) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
"Christ, who is our life" -Christ is the author of spiritual life, the fountain from which it springs, the object on which the saints live, their very life itself; it is not so much they that live, as Christ that lives in them He is their eternal life; it is in Him, and given forth by him. Christ does not merely give life; He is life.
Galatians 2:20 (NASB) "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
Paul told the Corinthians that the life of Jesus was manifested in his body (2 Cor. 4:10). When facing possible martyrdom, he could say, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).
We need to let this interconnectedness define us. We have come into union with Jesus Christ. We identify with Him and He identifies with us. Our text says, "Christ... is our life." Having that identity has the potential to change how we see everything.
Colossians 3:4 (NASB) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
This verse is eschatological. The futurist looks at this verse and says, "When the Lord returns some day in the future, we will be revealed with Him in glory." The problem with this is that the Lord has already returned, and what ever this is talking about has already happened! Whatever this verse is talking about happened in A.D. 70, when the Lord returned in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Both of the words translated "revealed" are the Greek word phaneroo, which means: "to render apparent (lit. or fig.): -appear, manifestly declare, (make) manifest." The idea is that, if the believer is securely concealed within Jesus, then, when He appears in glory, so must they. We see these same Greek words used in:
1 John 3:2 (NKJV) Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is.
When Christ returned, all believers were made like Him. To be like Him is to have His righteousness. Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first century believers; it was their hope, they looked forward to its soon arrival.
What is the glory in which we have been revealed? To answer this question look with me at:
Hebrews 2:10 (NASB) For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
God's purpose in redemption involved "bringing many sons to glory," and that job was given to the Son.
What glory is He talking about? It's the same glory promised in Psalm 8 and in Hebrews 2:7, "You have crowned him with glory and honor." This is the glory we have fallen from in our sin and rebellion against God. But now God has provided a "great salvation." He sent His Son to taste death for us, deliver us from the futility and defeat, and misery and condemnation of sin and death, and lead us to glory.
Believers, we have been glorified! Glorification is nothing more than dwelling in God's presence:
1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB) And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NASB) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 (NASB) so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
To be in glory is nothing more than dwelling in God's presence And dwelling in God's presence became a reality for all believers at A.D. 70.
Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul did. Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant age. Those "last days" began with the birth of Christ and ended at A.D. 70, when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come," which is the New Covenant age. The forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "already but not yet." In this forty year period, the church was moving from infancy to adulthood, from immaturity to perfection. The ongoing tension of this transition period from the Old to the New Covenant is what much of the New Testament talks about.
During the transition period, the Old Covenant was passing away, it was "becoming obsolete", it was ready to "vanish away."
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
"But we all" is referring to believers in contrast to unbelievers. Believers during the transition period were "being transformed" into the image of God.
Believers, Christ is our life. He is in the presence of God, and, therefore, we are in the presence of God - in glory. Since this is true of us, it should have an effect on how we live. Since Christ is our life, He should be the focus of our life.
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