Colossians 3:1
If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
III.

(1-4) As the partaking of the death of Christ taught the negative lesson of death to the Law, so the partaking of His resurrection teaches the positive lesson of the spiritual life. We observe that this celebrated passage occupies a place at the close of the doctrinal portion of the Epistle, exactly corresponding to the even greater passage on the unity of the Church in God in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:1-16). It is unlike that passage, because, summing up the main teaching of this Epistle, it dwells simply on the close personal relation of all souls to God in Jesus Christ, who is at once “the image of God,” and the one Mediator between God and man. It is like it (and like other passages of the Epistles of the Captivity) because it passes on from Christ risen to Christ in heaven: it takes for granted our being risen with Christ, and bids us in heart to ascend to heaven now, and look forward to the bliss of heaven in the hereafter.

(1) If ye then be risen (rather, ye rose) with Christ.—In these words is marked the beginning of the spiritual life, referred evidently to baptism. (See Colossians 2:12.) It is a “resurrection with Christ” and in Christ; as such it is dwelt upon in detail in Romans 6:1-14. We may note that this phrase, implying a sudden passing from death unto life, accords more exactly with the idea of adult baptism, accepted in conscious faith, and leading at once to a new life; while the later phrase, “regeneration” (Titus 3:5), which speaks of the soul as passing, indeed, at once into a new condition, but as having only the undeveloped germ of the new life, corresponds more closely with the idea of the infant baptism, which gradually superseded the other. Here this spiritual resurrection is taken for granted, and the Apostle goes on at once to the next stage of the spiritual life.

Christ.—The name, four times repeated, has in all cases the article prefixed to it. Evidently it used emphatically to refer to our Lord, as our Mediator—our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Seek those things which are above . . . set your affection on things above.—Here we have the spiritual life in its continuance. It is described, (1) first, as “seeking the things above”—that is, looking, and so growing, to perfection. This characteristic is dwelt upon with great fulness and beauty in Philippians 3:12-16. (2) Next, in a still higher strain, as “setting our affection on the things above,” or, more properly, catching the spirit of the things above, being “heavenly-minded” already—anticipating heaven, not only in hope, but in tone and temper, seeing things as God sees them, and seeing all in relation to Him. On this we may again compare the great passage in Philippians 3:20-21, on our “citizenship of heaven.” Of such heavenly-mindedness we have, perhaps, the most perfect specimen in the calm and loving certainty of St. John’s Epistles. (3) These two graces must be united In the one is the secret of growth, in the other the present earnest of perfection. Moreover, the higher grace must follow from the former; “for, where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.”

Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.—The allusion is emphatic. Heaven is to us, in itself, a vague expression of unknown bliss. It is made definite to the Christian by the thought of Christ. in His glorified humanity, there enthroned in majesty, “preparing a place for us,” and drawing us to be with Him. (Note a similar emphatic reference in Philippians 3:21; and comp. Ephesians 2:6, “He raised us up, and made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”)

This glorious idea of Christ in heaven, and heaven in Christ, runs through the whole book of the Revelation of St. John, from the opening Epistles to the last vision of glory.

Colossians

RISEN WITH CHRIST

Colossians 3:1-2.

There are three aspects in which the New Testament treats the Resurrection, and these three seem to have successively come into the consciousness of the Church. First, as is natural, it was considered mainly in its bearing on the person and work of our Lord. We may point for illustration to the way in which the Resurrection is treated in the earliest of the apostolic discourses, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Then it came, with further reflection and experience, to be discerned that it had a bearing on the hope of the immortality of man. And last of all, as the Christian life deepened, it came to be discerned that the Resurrection was the pattern of the life of the Christian disciples. It was regarded first as a witness, then as a prophecy, then as a symbol. Three fragments of Scripture express these three phases: for the first, ‘Declared to be the Son of God with power by the Resurrection from the dead’; for the second, ‘Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept’; for the third, ‘God hath raised us up together with Him, and made us sit together in the heavenly places.’ I have considered incidentally the two former aspects in the course of previous sermons; I wish to turn at present to that final third one.

One more observation I must make by way of introduction, and that is, that the way in which the Apostle here glides from ‘being risen with Christ’ to where ‘Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,’ confirms what I have pointed out in former discourses, that the Ascension of Jesus Christ is always considered in Scripture as being nothing more than the necessary outcome and issue of the process which began in the Resurrection. They are not separate facts, but they are two ends of one process. And so with these thoughts, that Resurrection develops into Ascension, and that in both Jesus Christ is the pattern for His followers, let us turn to the words before us.

Then we have here

I. The Christian life considered as a risen life.

Now, we are all familiar with the great evangelical point of view from which the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are usually contemplated. To many of us Christ’s sacrifice is nothing more or less than the means by which the world is reconciled to God, and Christ’s Resurrection nothing more than the seal which was set by Divinity upon that work. ‘Crucified for our offences, and raised again for our justification,’ as Paul has it--that is the point of view from which most evangelical or orthodox Christian people are contented to regard the solemn fact of the Death and the radiant fact of the Resurrection. You cannot be too emphatic about these truths, but you may be too exclusive in your contemplation of them. You do well when you say that they are the Gospel; you do not well when you say, as some of you do, that they are the whole Gospel. For there is another stream of teaching in the New Testament, of which my text is an example, and a multitude of other passages that I cannot refer to now are equally conspicuous instances, in which that death and that Resurrection are regarded, not so much in respect to the power which they exercise in the reconciliation of the world to God, as in their aspect as the type of all noble and true Christian life. You remember how, when our Lord Himself touched upon the fruitful issues of His death, and said: ‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit,’ He at once went on to say that a man that loved his life would lose it; and that a man that lost his life would find it, and proceeded to point, even then, and in that connection, to His Cross as our pattern, declaring: ‘If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be.’

Made like Him, like Him we rise; Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

So, then, a risen life is the type of all noble life, and before there can be a risen life there must have been a death. True, we may say that the spiritual facts in a man’s experience, which are represented by these two great symbols of a death and a rising, are but like the segment of a circle which, seen from the one side is convex and from the other is concave. But however loosely we may feel that the metaphors represent the facts, this is plain, that unless a man dies to flesh, to self-will, to the world, he never will live a life that is worth calling life. The condition of all nobleness and all growth upwards is that we shall die daily, and live a life that has sprung victorious from the death of self. All lofty ethics teach that; and Christianity teaches it, with redoubled emphasis, because it says to us, that the Cross and the Resurrection are not merely imaginative emblems of the noble and the Christian life, but are a great deal more than that. For, brethren, do not forget--if you do, you will be hopelessly at sea as to large tracts of blessed Christian truth--that by faith in Jesus Christ we are brought into such a true deep union with Him as that, in no mere metaphorical or analogous sense, but in most blessed reality, there comes into the believing heart a spark of the life that is Christ’s own, so that with Him we do live, and from Him we do live a life cognate with His, who, having risen from the dead, dieth no more, and over whom death hath no dominion. So it is not a metaphor only, but a spiritual truth, when we speak of being risen with Christ, seeing that our faith, in the measure of its genuineness, its depth and its operative power upon our characters, will be the gate through which there shall pass into our deadness the life that truly is, the life that has nought to do with death or sin. And this unity with Jesus, brought about by faith, brings about that the depths of the Christian life are hid with Christ in God, and that we, risen with Him, do even now sit ‘at the right hand in heavenly places,’ whilst our feet, dusty and sometimes blood-stained, are journeying along the paths of life. This is the great teaching of my text, and of a multitude of other places; and this is the teaching which modern Christianity, in its exclusive, or all but exclusive, contemplation of the Cross as the sacrifice for sin, has far too much forgotten. ‘Ye are risen with Christ.’

Let me remind you that this veritable death and rising again, which marks the Christian life, is set forth before us in the initial rite of the Christian Church. Some of you do not agree with me in my view, either of what is the mode or of who are the subjects of that ordinance, but if you know anything about the question, you know that everybody that has a right to give a judgment agrees with us Baptists in saying--although they may not think that it carries anything obligatory upon the practice of to-day--that the primitive Church baptized by immersion. Now, the meaning of baptism is to symbolise these two inseparable moments, dying to sin, to self, to the world, to the old past, and rising again to newness of life. Our sacramentarian friends say that, in my text, it was in baptism that these Colossian Christians rose again with Christ. I, for my part, do not believe that, but that baptism was the speaking sign of what lies at the gate of a true Christian life I have no manner of doubt.

So the first thought of our text is not only taught us in words, but it stands manifest in the ritual of the Church as it was from the beginning. We die, and we rise again, through faith and by union through faith, with Christ ‘that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God.’

Let me turn, secondly, to

II. The consequent aims of the Christian life.

‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.’ ‘To seek’ implies the direction of the external life toward certain objects. It is not to seek as if perhaps we might not find; it is not even to seek in the sense of searching for, but it is to seek in the sense of aiming at. And now do you not think that if we had burning in our hearts, and conscious to our experiences, the sense of union with Jesus Christ the risen Saviour, that would shape the direction and dictate the aims of our earthly life? As surely as the elevation of the rocket tube determines the flight of the projectile that comes from it, so surely would the inward consciousness, if it were vivid as it ought to be in all Christian people, of that risen life throbbing within the heart, shape all the external conduct. It would give us wings and make us soar. It would make us buoyant, and lift us above the creeping aims that constitute the objects of life for so many men.

But you say, ‘Things above: that is an indefinite phrase. What do you mean by it?’ I will tell you what the Bible means by it. It means Jesus Christ. All the nebulous splendours of that firmament are gathered together into one blazing sun. It is a vague direction to tell a man to shoot up, into an empty heaven. It is not a vague direction to tell him to seek the ‘things above’; for they are all gathered into a person. ‘Where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,’--that is the meaning of ‘things above,’ which are to be the continual aim of the man who is conscious of a risen life. And of course they will be, for if we feel, as we ought to feel habitually, though with varying clearness, that we do carry within us a spark, if I might use that phrase, of the very life of Jesus Christ, so surely as fire will spring upwards, so surely as water will rise to the height of its source, so surely will our outward lives be directed towards Him, who is the life of our inward lives, and the goal therefore of our outward actions?

Jesus Christ is the summing up of ‘the things that are above’; therefore there stands out clear this one great truth, that the only aim for a Christian soul, consistent with the facts of its Christian life, is to be like Christ, to be with Christ, to please Christ.

Now, how does that aim--’whether present or absent we labour that we may be well pleasing to Him’--how does that aim bear upon the multitude of inferior and nearer aims which men pursue, and which Christians have to pursue along with other men? How does it bear upon them?--Why thus--as the culminating peak of a mountain-chain bears on the lower hills that for miles and miles buttress it, and hold it up, and aspire towards it, and find their perfection in its calm summit that touches the skies. The more we have in view, as our aim in life, Christ who is ‘at the right hand of God,’ and assimilation, communion with Him, approbation from Him, the more will all immediate aims be ennobled and delivered from the evils that else cleave to them. They are more when they are second than when they are first. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God,’ and all your other aims--as students, as thinkers, as scientists, as men of business, as parents, as lovers, or anything else--will be greatened by being subordinated to the conscious aim of pleasing Him. That aim should persist, like a strain of melody, one long, holden-down, diapason note, through all our lives. Perfume can be diffused into the air, and dislodge no atom of that which it makes fragrant. This supreme aim can be pursued through, and by means of, all nearer ones, and is inconsistent with nothing but sin. ‘Seek the things that are above.’

Lastly, we have here--

III. The discipline which is needed to secure the right direction of the life.

The Apostle does not content himself with pointing out the aims. He adds practical advice as to how these aims can be made dominant in our individual cases, when he says, ‘Set your affections on things above.’ Now, many of you will know that ‘affections’ is not the full sense of the word that is here employed, and that the Revised Version gives a more adequate rendering when it says, ‘Set your minds on the things that are above.’ A man cannot do with his love according to his will. He cannot say: ‘ Resolved , that I love So-and-So’; and then set himself to do it. But though you cannot act on the emotions directly by the will, you can act directly on your understandings, on your thoughts, and your thoughts will act on your affections. If a man wants to love Jesus Christ he must think about Him. That is plain English. It is vain for a man to try to coerce his wandering affections by any other course than by concentrating his thoughts. Set your minds on the things that are above, and that will consolidate and direct the emotions; and the thoughts and the emotions together will shape the outward efforts. Seeking the things that are above will come, and will only come, when mind and heart and inward life are occupied with Him. There is no other way by which the externals can be made right than by setting a watch on the door of our hearts and minds, and this inward discipline must be put in force before there will be any continuity or sureness in the outward aim. We want, for that direction of the life of which I have been speaking, a clear perception and a concentrated purpose, and we shall not get either of these unless we fall back, by thought and meditation, upon the truths which will provide them both.

Brethren, there is another aspect of the connection between these two parts of our text, which I can only touch. Not only is the setting of our thoughts on the things above, the way by which we can make these the aim of our lives. They are not only aims to be reached at some future stage of our progress, but they are possessions to be enjoyed at the present. We may have a present Christ and a present Heaven. The Christian life is not all aspiration; it is fruition as well. We have to seek, but even whilst we seek, we should be conscious that we possess what we are seeking, even whilst we seek it. Do you know anything of that double experience of having the things that are above, here and now, as well as reaching out towards them?

I am afraid that the Christian life of this generation suffers at a thousand points, because it is more concerned with the ordering of the outward life, and the manifold activities which this busy generation has struck out for itself, than it is with the quiet setting of the mind, in silent sunken depths of contemplation, on the things that are above. Oh, if we would think more about them we should aim more at them; and if we were sure that we possessed them to-day we should be more eager for a larger possession to-morrow.

Dear brethren, we may all have the risen life for ours, if we will knit ourselves, in humble dependence and utter self-surrender, to the Christ who died for us that we might be dead to sin, and rose again that we might rise to righteousness. And if we have Him, in any deep and real sense, as the life of our lives, then we shall be blessed, amid all the divergent and sometimes conflicting nearer aims, which we have to pursue, by seeing clear above them that to which they all may tend, the one aim which corresponds to a man’s nature, which meets his condition, which satisfies his needs, which can always be attained if it is followed, and which, when secured, never disappoints. God help us all to say, ‘This one thing I do, and all else I count but dung, that I may know Him, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death, if by any means I may attain unto the Resurrection from the dead!’ Colossians 3:1-2. If ye then be risen with Christ — From spiritual death to spiritual life, as spoken of Colossians 2:12-13. See also notes on Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:6. If ye be not only engaged to become new creatures, but really are such: or, which seems to be also implied, If Christ’s resurrection draw after it, and ensure, the resurrection of all men, and especially of all his true disciples, and if, therefore, you be begotten again to a lively hope of rising with him, even as to your bodies, to glory and immortality; seek the things which are above — Which relate to heaven and eternal felicity; as Christ, being raised, went immediately to heaven; where he sitteth at the right hand of God — As your forerunner, having taken possession of the incorruptible inheritance for you. Seek — That is, desire and pursue them in the way which God hath appointed; namely, 1st, By the exercise of that faith which is the evidence of things not seen, (Hebrews 11:1,) having a deep conviction and lively sense of their reality and importance. For a mere idea or opinion of them, however correct, will not suffice. Who would set sail in search of new islands or continents, and encounter the storms and perils of the ocean, with his life, and property, and all embarked, if he did not believe the real existence of the objects of his search? It is necessary to be persuaded also of the excellence and attainableness of these things. 2d, By an anticipating and joyful hope of them, grounded on your being children of God, and heirs of these heavenly joys and glories. 3d, By shunning whatever you know would grieve the Spirit of God, and so prevent your attaining the objects of your pursuit, and by conscientiously using all those means which are calculated to promote and ensure your attainment of them. And especially, 4th, Set your affection on these things; for without this you will seek them in vain. Greek, φρονειτε, discern, mind, regard, esteem, covet, delight in, things above — Things spiritual and eternal. And not on things on the earth — Things visible and temporal, things relating to this present, short, and uncertain life; things unsatisfying and transitory, which pass from you, and you from them. For remember, you cannot set your affection on things above and on things beneath also; cannot go two ways at once, nor be at the same time spiritually and carnally minded: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 1 John 2:15.3:1-4 As Christians are freed from the ceremonial law, they must walk the more closely with God in gospel obedience. As heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, both cannot be followed together; and affection to the one will weaken and abate affection to the other. Those that are born again are dead to sin, because its dominion is broken, its power gradually subdued by the operation of grace, and it shall at length be extinguished by the perfection of glory. To be dead, then, means this, that those who have the Holy Spirit, mortifying within them the lusts of the flesh, are able to despise earthly things, and to desire those that are heavenly. Christ is, at present, one whom we have not seen; but our comfort is, that our life is safe with him. The streams of this living water flow into the soul by the influences of the Holy Spirit, through faith. Christ lives in the believer by his Spirit, and the believer lives to him in all he does. At the second coming of Christ, there will be a general assembling of all the redeemed; and those whose life is now hid with Christ, shall then appear with him in his glory. Do we look for such happiness, and should we not set our affections upon that world, and live above this?If ye then be risen with Christ - The apostle in this place evidently founds the argument on what he had said in Colossians 2:12; see the notes at that passage. The argument is, that there was such an union between Christ and his people, that in virtue of his death they become dead to sin; that in virtue of his resurrection they rise to spiritual life, and that, therefore, as Christ now lives in heaven, they should live for heaven, and fix their affections there.

Seek those things which are above - That is, seek them as the objects of pursuit and affection; strive to secure them.

Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God - Notes, Mark 16:19. The argument here is, that since Christ is there, and since he is the object of our supreme attachment, we should fix our affections on heavenly things, and seek to be prepared to dwell with him.

CHAPTER 3

Col 3:1-25. Exhortations to Heavenly Aims, as Opposed to Earthly, on the Ground of Union to the Risen Saviour; to Mortify and Put Off the Old Man, and to Put on the New; in Charity, Humility, Words of Edification, Thankfulness; Relative Duties.

1. If … then—The connection with Col 2:18, 23, is, he had condemned the "fleshly mind" and the "satiating to the full the flesh"; in contrast to this he now says, "If then ye have been once for all raised up (Greek, aorist tense) together with Christ" (namely, at your conversion and baptism, Ro 6:4).

seek those things … above—(Mt 6:33; Php 3:20).

sitteth—rather, as Greek, "Where Christ is, sitting on the right of God" (Eph 1:20). The Head being quickened, the members are also quickened with Him. Where the Head is, there the members must be. The contrast is between the believer's former state, alive to the world but dead to God, and his present state, dead to the world but alive to God; and between the earthly abode of the unbeliever and the heavenly abode of the believer (1Co 15:47, 48). We are already seated there in Him as our Head; and hereafter shall be seated by Him, as the Bestower of our bliss. As Elisha (2Ki 2:2) said to Elijah when about to ascend, "As the Lord liveth … I will not leave thee"; so we must follow the ascended Saviour with the wings of our meditations and the chariots of our affections. We should trample upon and subdue our lusts that our conversation may correspond to our Saviour's condition; that where the eyes of apostles were forced to leave Him, thither our thoughts may follow Him (Mt 6:21; Joh 12:32) [Pearson]. Of ourselves we can no more ascend than a bar of iron lift itself up' from the earth. But the love of Christ is a powerful magnet to draw us up (Eph 2:5, 6). The design of the Gospel is not merely to give rules, but mainly to supply motives to holiness.Colossians 3:1-4 The apostle exhorteth to be heavenly-minded,

Colossians 3:5-11 to mortify carnal lusts, and to put away all malice

and ill dealing in respect of one another, as

becometh Christians.

Colossians 3:12-17 He recommendeth brotherly kindness, charity, and other

general duties,

Colossians 3:18 the relative duties of wives,

Colossians 3:19 and husbands,

Colossians 3:20 of children,

Colossians 3:21 and parents,

Colossians 3:22-25 and of servants towards their masters.

If ye then be risen with Christ: having refuted superstitious observances placed in things earthly and perishing, and called them off from shadows to mind the substance; he doth, upon supposition of what he had asserted before, Colossians 2:12,13, here infer that, since they were risen again with Christ, it did behove them to set about the duties required of those in that state: not of the proper resurrection of the body, which, while here below, can only be in our Head by virtue of the mystical union, as in regard of right the members of Christ are said to sit with him in heavenly places, Ephesians 2:6, signified and sealed by baptism: but the metaphorical and spiritual resurrection from spiritual death, which is regeneration, Romans 6:4 Titus 3:5, wrought by the same Spirit which raised Christ, and whereby renewed Christians live in certain hope of that proper resurrection of their bodies, which Christ hath procured.

Seek those things which are above: hereupon he urgeth them, (in the same sense our Saviour doth command to seek his kingdom, Matthew 6:33), with diligence to pursue heaven and happiness as the end, and holiness as the means to the attaining of it; to have their conversation in heaven, Philippians 3:20.

Where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God: while the apostle speaks of God after the manner of men, we must take heed of the gross error of the Anthropomorphites, who did imagine God to sit in heaven in the shape of a man. Some indeed, who abhor such a gross imagination, yet conceive that because more generally the heaven is God’s throne, and shall be so for ever, Jeremiah 17:12 Lamentations 5:19 Matthew 5:34, that he hath a particular throne in heaven, whereon he doth show himself specially present, as in his temple, 1 Kings 22:19 Psalm 11:4; and so, though Christ is set properly on the right hand of this throne, Hebrews 1:3 8:1 12:2 Revelation 3:21; but because the conception of such a particular material throne, with extension of parts and proper dimensions, may (besides other inconveniences) misguide our apprehensions, and occasion adoration to the creature, which should be terminated on God alone, who is a pure Spirit; and whereas sitting is not taken properly, since Stephen saw Christ standing, Acts 7:55, and is opposed to the ministration of angels, which have no bodies or bodily parts, Hebrews 1:13; by most it is taken metaphorically, importing that Christ hath all real power and dominion put into his hands, connoting his authority and security from his enemies, who are put under his feet, Matthew 28:18 1 Corinthians 15:25, is crowned with majesty, glory, and honour, Hebrews 1:3 2:9, enjoying all blessedness in a most transcendent way, Psalm 16:11 110:1 Acts 2:33,36; having the human nature filled with abilities to execute all when he entered into glory, Isaiah 16:5 Luke 22:29,30 24:26 1 Corinthians 15:43 Revelation 19:6; where he resides possessed of all in safety, Acts 3:21 Revelation 3:21. It was above whither Christ ascended by a local motion from a certain where here below into a certain where above; so that whatever the Lutherans argue from Christ’s glorious ascension and session, to prove Christ’s body a ubiquitary, or every where present, is inconsequent, since it is in heaven where he wills that believers should be to behold the glory that his Father hath given him, John 17:24: wherefore,

If ye then be risen with Christ,.... The apostle having observed in the former chapter, that the believing Colossians were dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, were buried with him in baptism, and were risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, argues from hence how much it became them to regard a new and spiritual life, and to seek after superior and heavenly things, and treat with neglect and contempt carnal and earthly ones. For he does not here call in question their being risen with Christ, but takes it for granted that they were, and makes use of it as an argument for his present purpose. They were risen with Christ as their head, and as members in union with him representatively, when he rose from the dead; and emblematically in their baptism, when having gone down into the water, and being baptized, they emersed from it; and spiritually in conversion, when they were raised from a death of sin, to a life of grace, by Christ, as the resurrection and the life, the efficient cause of it, and in virtue of his resurrection from the dead: wherefore being thus raised again in every sense, it highly became them to

seek those things which are above; the better and heavenly country, the continuing city, which is above the heavens, whose builder and maker is God; Christ, who is in heaven, and salvation alone by him without the works of the law; all spiritual blessings, such as pardon, peace, righteousness, life, and glory, which are in heavenly places in him; doctrines and ordinances, which come from heaven, and are the means of supporting a spiritual and heavenly life; especially that bread of life which came down from heaven, and gives life unto the world, and of which if a man eats, he shall never die, but live for ever; and particularly glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life, the crown of righteousness laid up above, the kingdom of God, and the righteousness of it; which are to be sought for in the first place with all affection, earnest desire, care, and diligence, not by or for works of righteousness, but in Christ, and as the gifts of God's grace through him.

Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God: which contains other reasons and arguments to engage believers to look upwards, and seek after heavenly things; that as Christ, when he died and rose again from the dead, did not stay long on earth, nor minded the things of the world, but ascended up to heaven, where he now is, and will remain until his second coming; so they, being dead and risen with him, should, in their thoughts, desires, and affections, in the exercise of the graces of faith, hope, and love, ascend heavenwards, like pillars of smoke perfumed with frankincense; and the more should their hearts be where he is, and intent on things above there, from the consideration of that great honour and dignity in which he is. He is "on the right hand of God"; in human nature, an honour which none of the angels were ever admitted to: here he "sitteth", as having done the work of redemption, and entered into his rest, beholding the travail of his soul with satisfaction, though he continues to be an advocate, and to make intercession for his people; which is another reason enforcing this exhortation.

If {1} ye then {2} be {a} risen with Christ, {3} seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

(1) Another part of this epistle, in which he takes occasion by reason of those vain exercises, to show the duty of a Christian life: which is an ordinary thing with him, after he has once set down the doctrine itself.

(2) Our renewing or new birth, which is accomplished in us by being partakers of the resurrection of Christ, is the source of all holiness, out of which various streams or rivers afterwards flow.

(a) For if we are partakers of Christ, we are carried as it were into another life, where we will need neither meat nor drink, for we will be similar to the angels.

(3) The end and mark which all the duties of Christian life aim at is to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and to give ourselves to those things which lead us there, that is, to true godliness, and not to those outward and physical things.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 3:1 f. Εἰ] does not make the relation problematical any more than in Colossians 2:20, but sets it forth as an undoubted fact (Colossians 2:12), from which the subsequent duty results, in syllogistic form, as is frequently the case in Paul’s writings (see Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 325), and also in the classics (Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 259 f.; Kühner and Herbst, ad Xen. Mem. i. 5. 1). The being risen with Christ, namely, is not meant in the sense of the regenerate moral life (see on Colossians 2:12), but as the relation of real participation in the resurrection of Christ, which involves as its ethical correlate the obligation τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖν. To be risen with Christ and not τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖν, would be a contradiction.

οὖν] therefore, points back to Colossians 3:20, and with logical propriety, since fellowship in the resurrection of Christ is the necessary consequence[138] of fellowship in His death,—a fact which Paul had in view also in Colossians 3:21, in writing ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ. The ΟὖΝ is not intended to be resumptive, namely, of what was said in Colossians 2:12 (Hofmann); otherwise what comes after that verse down to the present one must have had the nature of a parenthesis, or a digression.

τὰ ἄνω] the opposite to ΤᾺ ἘΠῚ Τῆς Γῆς: that which is in heaven (comp. John 8:23; Galatians 4:26; Php 3:14), by which is indicated the Messianic salvation which, with its future blessings (Colossians 2:17), is preserved in heaven to be manifested and communicated at the Parousia (Colossians 3:3-4). Comp. Matthew 6:33, and the conceptions of the treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20), of the heavenly βραβεῖον (Colossians 2:18; Php 3:14), ΠΟΛΊΤΕΥΜΑ (Php 3:20), Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26). It is substantially the same as ΔΌΞΑΝ Κ. ΤΙΜῊΝ Κ. ἈΦΘΑΡΣΊΑΝ ΖΗΤΕῖΝ in Romans 2:7. As a philosophical analogy, comp. especially the ἌΝΩ ὉΔΌς in the beautiful close of Plato’s Republic, and the farewell of Socrates in the Phaedo. A liturgical colouring, which such expressions as τὰ ἄνω (also ΤᾺ ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΟὐΡΑΝΟῖς Κ. Τ. Λ. in Colossians 1:16; Colossians 1:20) are alleged to have (Holtzmann), is arbitrarily assumed as a criterion of a later age.

ΟὟ Ὁ Χ. ἘΣΤΙΝ Κ. Τ. Λ.] furnishing a motive encouraging them to perfect the fellowship. “Par est enim illuc tendere studia curasque membrorum, ubi jam versatur caput,” Erasmus. The event of the bodily ascension (but not a definite form of the process) is here, as in every case where the exalted Christ is the subject of discourse, presupposed. Comp. especially Php 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:48. Notwithstanding the local οὗ, Hofmann thinks that Paul has conceived the supramundane existence of Christ not at all locally. Comp., however, on Ephesians 1:20 and Mark 16:19; and see the frequent and significant ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω and ὍΠΟΥ ΕἸΜῚ ἘΓΏ from the lips of Jesus in John.

Colossians 3:2. ΤᾺ ἌΝΩ] repeated with emphasis, and then still further strengthened by the negative contrast. The ΦΡΟΝΕῖΤΕ is more comprehensive than ζητεῖτε, expressing not only the striving (comp. Romans 2:7), but the whole practical bent of thought and disposition (comp. Beck, bibl. Seelenl. p. 62), the moral meditari, Php 2:5.

τὰ ἐπὶ τ. γῆς] e.g. money and estate, honours, comforts, etc. Comp. Php 3:19 : οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες, also 1 John 2:15, et al. Neither the contrast nor the subsequent text warrants us in finding here a further reference to the requirements of the false teachers. So Theophylact: τὰ περὶ βρωμάτων κ. ἡμέρων; Calvin: “adhuc persequitur suam disputationem de ceremoniis, quae similes tricis facit, quae nos humi repere cogant;” comp. Beza, Michaelis, and others. The hortatory portion of the Epistle proceeds no longer at all in the form of statements opposed to the false teachers, but in that of general moral exhortations.

We have to observe, further, that the earthly is not of itself placed under the point of view of the sinful, which would be quite un-Pauline (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:23), but is so as the contents of the striving which is opposed to the τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖν. Comp. the idea in Matthew 6:21.

[138] It is therefore with all the less reason that Hitzig, p. 23 ff., would have vv. 1, 2 regarded as “a portion of the reviser’s work,” at the same time denying the integrity of the text in Colossians 2:22-23, declaring Colossians 2:19 to be an interpolation, and very arbitrarily remodelling Colossians 2:17-18. He thinks that the interpolation of Colossians 3:1 f. betrays times subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, when earthly grounds of hope had vanished, but not extending beyond the period of Trajan,—which is assumed to result from Colossians 4:17. Combinations such as these are beyond the reach of criticism. According to Holtzmann, vv. 2, 3 presuppose the destruction of all hopes connected with the continuance of the theocracy, and directly allude to Hebrews 12:22; even the “sitting at the right hand” (as in Ephesians 1:20) is withal, notwithstanding Romans 8:34, assailed. Of the entire chapter, Holtzmann only leaves vv. 3, 12, 13, 17 to stand as original.Colossians 3:1-17. RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST MUST BE COMPLETED BY PARTICIPATION IN HIS HEAVENLY LIFE, WHICH THOUGH AT PRESENT CONCEALED, WILL NOT ALWAYS REMAIN SO. THIS LIFE WITH CHRIST IN HEAVEN DEMANDS THE DEATH OF THE MEMBERS ON THE EARTH, THE HEATHEN VICES OF IMPURITY AND COVETOUSNESS, WHICH BRING DOWN THE WRATH OF GOD. ALL SINS OF MALICE, ANGER AND ABUSE AND ALL LYING MUST BE GIVEN UP, FOR THESE BELONG TO THE OLD NATURE, AND ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE NEW, WITH ITS EVER-GROWING CONFORMITY TO THE DIVINE IMAGE, AND THE CANCELLING OF ALL THOSE DISTINCTIONS WHICH MAKE MEN ALIENS TO EACH OTHER.—With Colossians 3:1 Paul passes to the hortatory portion of the Epistle, the attack on the false teachers ending with Colossians 2:23, and there is no break between Colossians 3:1-4 and Colossians 3:5. The ethical exhortation has its basis in the dogmatic exposition already given, and is therefore connected with it by οὖν.Ch. Colossians 3:1-4.The subject continued; life in union with the Risen One

1. If] The “if” not of conjecture but of assumption, as in Colossians 2:20. He takes them all for granted, as really united to Christ by a living faith, sealed by holy Baptism.

then] The thought goes back to all the previous statements of the Christian’s glorious position and privilege in Christ. In view of these Divine facts, the poor expedients of a mechanical religious routine are seen to be as needless as they are futile. The secret of moral victory is opened, and it consists in using the powers conveyed to the believer through federal and vital oneness with his Head.

ye … be risen] Lit. and far better, ye did rise, or were raised. The time-reference is, ideally, to the hour of Christ’s Resurrection; biographically, to their own union with Him by faith. Of that faith their baptism, with its immersion and emersion, was symbol, seal, and monument. See above on Colossians 2:12.

In Christ the Crucified they had “died to” the guilt, and so to the despotic claim, of sin. In Christ the Risen they had “risen to” a life of full acceptance, and also to life-power, and life-endowments, derived from His “indissoluble life” (Hebrews 7:16); in fact, to the possession of the indwelling Spirit which He, as Risen, “shed forth” (Acts 2:33), and which gives to the limb the strength and holiness of the Head, to be used and realized. See above on Colossians 2:12.

with Christ] The holy Union appears in every word.

seek those things which are above] As the exile seeks home (Hebrews 11:14), or as a thing gravitating seeks its centre. The precept bears full on the problem last in view, how to meet “the indulgence of the flesh.” It is best met by the looking-away of the soul, heavenward, Christ ward, in the recollection of its new and eternal life in Him. The “things above” are thus “sought” both as the goal of hope and the antidote to temptation.—For the phrase the “things above” (here and Colossians 3:2), cp. John 8:23 : “I am from the things above.”

where] The “things above” are just so far localized as they have to do with the glorified Body of the incarnate and ascended Lord.

Christ sitteth] Better, Christ is, seated. (So R.V.) Vulgate, Christus est … sedens.—First, His presence “there,” in general, is in view; then, His session.

Seated:—cp. Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 3:21. See Psalm 110:1, with the quotations Matthew 22:44 (and parallels); Zechariah 6:13; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13 (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:24-27).—The imagery denotes the repose and empire of the ascended Christ, who has for ever done the work of sacrificial offering, and now “sits” to dispense the blessings He has wrought. Two exceptions only appear; Acts 7:56, where He “stands” to aid and welcome the martyr; Revelation 5:6, where the mystic Lamb, new ascended, “stands” close by the throne, not on it, but about to approach and (Revelation 22:3) claim it.

on the right hand] I.e., on the throne, at the Father’s “right hand.”—The words not only state a fact, but have here a special significance. To “seek the things above” is to go out in spirit towards a Christ triumphant and reigning, and therefore all-competent to save and bless.Colossians 3:1. τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, seek the things that are above) Christ, after the resurrection, immediately directed His eager thoughts towards heaven, John 20:17, note.[20] So also believers, Ephesians 2:6.

[20] Comp. note, Luke 9:51. Jesus ever kept His eye fixed on the goal to which He was hastening. So, in John 20:17, He says, as if a present thing, I ascend, not, I will ascend: He hastened in feeling over the intermediate forty days to His actual entering heaven.—ED.Verses 1-17. - SECTION VII. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The apostle, having delivered his attack on the system of error inculcated at Colossae, now passes from the controversial to the more practical purport of his letter. There is no break, however, in the current of his thought; for throughout this chapter he urges the pursuit of a practical Christian life in a sense and in a manner silently opposed to the tendencies of Gnosticizing error. How much more congenial was the task to which he now addresses himself we may judge, perhaps, from the ease and simplicity which mark the language of this chapter, as compared with the abrupt and seemingly embarrassed style of the last section. We may analyze the hortatory section of the Epistle (Colossians 3:1-4:6) as follows:

(a) Colossians 3:1-4, urging the Colossians to maintain a lofty spiritual life;

(b) vers. 5-8, to put off their old vices, impurity, malice, falsehood;

(c) vers. 9-14, to put on the new Christian virtues, especially gentleness, forgivingness, love;

(d) vers. 15-17, to let the sovereign influence of Christ sway their whole life - inward, social, secular;

(e) ver. 18 - Colossians 4:1, enjoining the Christian discharge of their relative duties, as wives and husbands, children and fathers, servants and masters, under the sense of their allegiance to the Lord Christ;

(f) Colossians 4:2-4, exhorting to constant prayer, and especially for the apostle himself at the present juncture; and

(g) vers. 5, 6, to wise conduct and edifying speech toward them that are without. It will be seen how much more comprehensive and systematic is the view thus presented of Christian duty than that furnished by earlier Epistles; and how the ideas of the supremacy of Christ, the unity of the Christian brotherhood, and the sacredness of the natural constitution of human life, which were threatened by the rise of Gnosticism in Colossae, underlie the apostle's exposition of Christian ethics. Paragraphs (a) to (d) in the above analysis we have grouped together under the title given to this section; (e) demands a separate treatment; and (f) and (g) will finally be bracketed together. Verses 1, 2. - If, therefore, ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at God's right hand; mind the things above, not the things upon the earth (Colossians 2:11-13, 20; Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 3:20; Matthew 6:19, 20; Luke 12:13-40). The apostle has already shown that when his readers, entering the gate of baptism, became Christians through faith in Christ, they died with him (Colossians 2:20), were buried, then raised and made alive together with him (Colossians 2:11-13): comp. Romans 6:1-11. So they were restored to peace and favour with God (Colossians 1:21-23; Colossians 2:13, 14), severed from their old life of sin (Colossians 2:11), and set in the path of holiness (Colossians 1:22). At the same time, they left behind all childish, tentative forms and notions ("rudiments") of religion, whether Jewish or non-Jewish (Colossians 2:8, 11, 18, 20-23). They became dead both from sin and from human modes of salvation. Both are included in "the things upon the earth," to which belong at once the grosser sensual forms of sin (ver. 5) with its "surfeiting of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23), and that vaunted philosophy, which is after all earth born and earthward tending (Colossians 2:8, 20), bringing the soul again into bondage to material things. The apostle lifts his readers into a new, heavenly sphere. He bids them make "the things above," i.e. "the things of Christ," the one object of their thought and endeavour. So they will master the flesh by rising above it, instead of fighting it on its own ground by ceremonial rite and ascetic regimen. "The things above" are no abstract, transcendental conception, as in the theology of St. Paul's opponents, for they are "where Christ is." The things "in the heavens" as well as those "upon the earth" were created "in him, through him, unto him" (Colossians 1:16); there he is Lord, even as here (Colossians 1:17; Colossians 2:10; Matthew 28:18). His presence gives distinctness and positiveness to the Christian's view of heaven, and concentrates his interests and affections there (comp. Philippians 1:23; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6; Matthew 6:19, 20; John 12:26; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; Acts 7:56). "Seated" is placed with emphasis at the end of its clause, indicating the completeness of the Saviour's work and the dignity of his position (comp. Ephesians 1:20-22; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:12, 13; Revelation 3:21; and see Pearson on the Creed, art. 6.). (For "the things above," see vers. 3, 4; also Colossians 1:5 and Colossians 2:18 compared with Philippians 3:11-14, 20, 21; Romans 2:7; Romans 8:17-23; 1 Corinthians 15:42-49; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8; John 17:24.) To "seek" these things is to strive that they may be ours in the future; to "mind" them is to occupy our thoughts with them in the present. (For the word "mind" (φρονέω), comp. Philippians 3:19 and Romans 8:5-7 (φρόνημα, minding); in Romans 14:6 it is rendered by "regard.") Be risen (συνηγέρθητε)

Rev., correctly, were raised. See Colossians 2:12. In their baptism in which they died (Colossians 2:20). Compare Romans 6:2 sqq.

Sitteth (ἐστιν καθήμενος)

According to the A.V. the literal rendering would be is sitting. Is, however, must be taken separately; where Christ is, seated. Seated is a secondary predicate, as hidden in Colossians 2:3. Compare Ephesians 2:4-6; Revelation 3:21.

Links
Colossians 3:1 Interlinear
Colossians 3:1 Parallel Texts


Colossians 3:1 NIV
Colossians 3:1 NLT
Colossians 3:1 ESV
Colossians 3:1 NASB
Colossians 3:1 KJV

Colossians 3:1 Bible Apps
Colossians 3:1 Parallel
Colossians 3:1 Biblia Paralela
Colossians 3:1 Chinese Bible
Colossians 3:1 French Bible
Colossians 3:1 German Bible

Bible Hub
Colossians 2:23
Top of Page
Top of Page