Colossians 3:1-4 (Week 7)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.“
This passage is awesome, and it really gets to the heart of how the rubber meets the road. Don’t forget that we are still talking about what it means to walk in Christ as our Lord. In the last section, we looked at the negative aspect (don’t let others judge you or disqualify you). Now, we are moving towards the positive aspects (seek and set your mind). Paul will continue on this same train of thought throughout the rest of this chapter and into the next.
During this section, Paul will refer back to other things that he has already addressed and will continue to expound on them. He will continue to talk about the contrast of the flesh and spirit, the earthly and heavenly, and what it means to have full assurance.
Depending on what translation you are using, you may or may not realize that this section starts off with another “therefore.” The ESV, for instance, says “then” instead of “therefore.” But, the point is still clear, these are commands from God based on the fact that you died to the world and have been raised with Christ.
This particular section is built around two more of our imperatives: “seek” (verse 1) and “set your mind” (verse 2). As Paul addressed in the last section, you can’t just set up a list of rules to govern your behavior and hope that will lead to real transformation. Change must go deeper. What we think affects our actions. As we think through how we are to take part in our sanctification, we need to intentionally apply our new identity in Christ. If we see ourselves as sinners trying not to sin, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. However, if we see ourselves from the vantage point of our union with Christ, then we can preach these Gospel truths to ourselves daily and ask God to transform the way we think to coincide with the mind of Christ.
WHAT IS THE TEXT SAYING?
YOU WERE RAISED WITH CHRIST.
In the ESV, this verse starts with the word “if.” For most of us, that carries with it an idea of uncertainty, but that is not the case here. He is combining “if” and “therefore” together to provide certainty and application. As believers, we need to think of it as if he is saying, “since, therefore, you were raised with Christ.” Translating it this way will keep the connection to what has been previously said and reinforce the fact that Christians have both died and been raised with Jesus. Remember, Paul has already mentioned earlier in this letter that we have been raised with Christ (2:12).
This is a very unique word in the original language and is only used three times in the whole NT, these two times in Colossians plus Ephesians 2:6 (and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus). All three of these uses help us to understand our union with Christ. What an amazing thought! If you are in Christ, you have died with Christ and were raised with Him in His victory over sin, death, and hell. This should affect the way that we live.
SO SEEK THE ABOVE KIND OF THINGS
This is another imperative, a command. Based on the fact that we were raised with Christ, we should now be living the type of life characterized by our union with Jesus. This is exactly what we see all throughout Paul’s writings.
Galatians 2: 20
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
This must start with how we think.
It has been said that “ideas have consequence,” and that is so true. The way we think and feel on the inside will affect the way we act. This is why it is so important for us to submit our inner thoughts and desires to the Lord. Not only that, but we need to stop and really think about what those thoughts are valuing and ask ourselves if this is something that the Lord values.
Look at the words of Jesus:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Jesus is contrasting the things of the world and the things of God, which is the same type of context that we are in with the Colossians. We don’t need to worry about our physical provision because Jesus will take care of us. And we don’t need to value the things of this world any higher than they deserve. They are temporary, Christ is eternal. They perish as they are used. Christ endures forever.
WHERE CHRIST IS SEATED
We need to be thinking about these heavenly realities instead of cheap, earthly substitutes. Remember, all of these earthly things are just signposts pointing towards Jesus. And now we know that Jesus has ascended into heaven and is seated in glory at the right side of God the Father.
There are two things we need to point out about this. First, Jesus is God in a place of honor in heaven. Paul is continuing with this very high Christology. Second, notice that Jesus is sitting down. This is important since the earthly priest would never sit down on the job. He couldn’t because his job was never over. Yet, the writer of Hebrews tells us that this is not the case with Jesus. “And every priest stands daily at his service, repeatedly offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12). Wow, Jesus finished the work of the high priest, on our behalf!
SET YOUR MIND
Paul gives us another command with a slightly different word. This word carries with it the idea of giving careful attention considering something; to be intent on; to set your mind on. Not only are we to seek out these heavenly realities, but we need to intentionally change our way of thinking into a heavenly, Christ-centered way of thinking. This will not happen on accident. We must do this on purpose, intentionally.
This is just like what we see Paul saying to the Philippians: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (2:5). The word translated “have this mind” is the exact same form as we have in our text for “set your mind.” The crazy thing to try and grasp is that Scripture will say both that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and that we must intentionally have the mind of Christ. This is because we have been made perfect and complete because of our union with Him, yet we still need to play it out in our lives. This is again a call to take an active part in our sanctification towards Christlikeness.
Paul has already said this in the letter (Colossians 2:20). We must now internalize these heavy spiritual realities. We have died to our earthly flesh and raised into Christ’s life.
YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN HIDDEN
This is huge. All throughout this letter, Paul has been assuring the Colossians of the confidence they should have in Christ (remember 1:5 regarding the hope that has been reserved exclusively for us in heaven). Now he takes it a step farther. This is in a past perfect tense that carries with it the concept that our life is 100% secure with Christ in God.
CHRIST IS YOUR LIFE
Now everything is different. Everything. We have a new identity. We are no longer subject to sin. We are in Christ. Simply put, He is our life. That means that we need to think that way. Which also means that if there are other things in our life that are characteristic of our former lives in the world, they no longer have a place in our new life with Christ and must be forsaken.
WHEN CHRIST IS REVEALED, SO WILL WE
Here we get to a really cool idea regarding the future. What we are seeing here is what theologians call a “realized eschatology.” Let me explain. “Eschatology” is a fancy word for talking about the study of the end times. And “realized” means that we are already seeing some of the end times playing out right now. An easier way of describing this is to talk about the “already, but not yet” tension. And it’s cool because Paul uses a little bit of a play on words when He talks about Jesus being revealed. I say this because this is the same word that he used to talk about the mystery of the OT being revealed in Jesus (1:26). So Jesus has already been revealed, and He is still to be revealed in the future when He returns.
That promise helps us understand more about Jesus, but it also helps us understand ourselves. Right now, because of our union with Christ, He is our life, we are hidden with Him in the heavens, but we are also stumbling through life on earth (not resembling glory at all). We are already made perfect in Christ. His righteousness has already been credited to us, but when He comes back, He will make us like Himself. His glory, combined with our union with Him, assures us of our future glory.
What Does that Mean for Me?
- What am I seeking? What am I living for? What am I giving value to? What does that tell me about where I am finding my identity? Am I paying attention to my internal motivations? Am I submitting my desires to the Lord?
- What do these reveal about where I am finding my identity? Do I really believe that I have died to the world? Does the world have a hold on my heart, or does the Lord?
- Do I really see Jesus as exalted in glory in heaven? Why not?
- What am I setting my mind on? What is occupying my thoughts? Are they temporal or eternal?
- Are you intentionally cultivating a Christlike mindset? Or are you just floating along? Yes, sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, but you are called to be actively involved in it. You need to intentionally apply God’s Word to the way that you think.
- Do you trust that if you are in Christ, then you are His for eternity? Do you doubt that He will hold you? Your life is hidden with Christ, and you are united with Him in God.
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