Colossians 3:1, 2
If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
Paul has been warning his Colossian converts against the superstitious interest in ceremonies which the false teachers tried to foster; and now he passes to the higher things and thoughts which should occupy the soul. He speaks of their resurrection with Christ if they are real converts, and of the consequent duty of living a heavenly life, which consists in setting one's heart upon heavenly things in contrast to the things which are upon the earth. He further shows that this heavenly life is to end in a glorious manifestation at the second advent of Christ. The line of thought here is consequently of the highest character.
I. THE DEATH TO EARTHLY THINGS. (Ver. 3.) The apostle here affirms that the Colossian Christians "died" (Revised Version). Now, this represents a distinct element in Christian experience; it means that the soul passes through a death to earthly things - to sin and the allurements of the flesh, just as our Lord died upon the tree. The Crucifixion must have its counterpart within us. We die to the attractions of the world. "The dead," says Augustus Hare, in a sermon on this passage, "know not nor care for anything in this world. Their love and hatred and envy are clean wiped out. A dead man is as cold and motionless as a stone, to all that the living make the greatest stir about. How perfectly, then, how entirely, ought we to be free from sin, in order to be dead to it! It is not enough to keep from outward acts of sin, if the heart cherishes any secret liking for it. This is not dying to it. Before we can attain to that perfect sinlessness, our hearts must be as completely closed against the tempter as if we were nailed down in our coffins; our ears must be deaf to his voice; our eyes must be blind to his charms. We must not only give up every evil practice; we must also stifle every evil desire. Nothing less can deserve the name of being dead to sin. This, then, is the perfection of innocency which we are to strive after." Now, every true Christian has experienced in larger or smaller measure this deadening to things earthly which has its perfect ideal in absolute death. The world has not the attractions for our deadened hearts that it once had.
II. THE RESURRECTION TO NEWNESS OF LIFE. (Ver. 1.) Simultaneously with the death to things earthly comes the resurrection to newness of life. We are regarded as rising along with Christ out of our grave in trespasses and in sins (Ephesians 2:2-5) and entering into a new lifo unto God. Our Lord's life after his resurrection is thus the type of our new life. As our Lord entered by resurrection into an immortal life such as he had not before he suffered, according to his words, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore;" so believers enter by resurrection into a new life essentially different from the old. We have passed by faith "from death unto life." "A resurrection," says Liddon, "is a transfer from one state to another. It is a passage from the darkness of the tomb to the sunshine of the upper air. It is an exchange of the coldness, stillness, corruption of death, for the warmth and movement and undecayed energies of life." We have in resurrection attained to "life eternal."
III. THE ASCENSION INTO HEAVENLY RELATIONS. (Vers. 1, 2.) Not only does Paul regard believers as "raised together with Christ," but also as bound to ascend in spirit into heavenly relations. "The things which are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God," are to concern us. Our mind is to be set upon these things instead of upon the things that are upon the earth, Having so risen with Christ, we are bound to show the reality of our resurrection by leading a new life and seeking the things that are above. "As Christ did not break loose from the grave," says Hare, "to tarry on earth, but, having risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, so, instead of lingering among the things of earth, we too should ascend into heaven in heart and mind, and dwell there with him continually." Now, suppose we ascended into heaven and sat down with Christ upon his throne (Ephesians 2:6), what should we realize about our relations to heavenly things?
1. We should realize that Christ is our Life. The heavenly world depends consciously upon Jesus for its glorious existence. He is the Life of each and of all. As the source of life, he is there beyond the reach of change, an exhaustless Fountain.
2. We should realize that Christ is the Object of supreme affection. The celestial world not only traces all its life to Jesus, but centres all its love in him. To love him with all the soul, heart, mind, and strength is deemed, not the duty merely, but the constant privilege of all. He is the Beloved One who is loved beyond all conception.
3. We should realize that Christ's kingdom and reign are the supreme concern of the whole heavenly world. Angels and redeemed ones alike bend in rapturous interest over the progress of Christ's kingdom and inquire doubtless in what ways they can promote it. The heavenly life is thus a life of hope for the triumph of that sacred cause which centres in the Son of God.
4. We should realize that Christ's second advent in glory is to be the date of our glorification with him. The heavenly world not only awaits Christ's triumph, but also his manifestation as the glorified Saviour. And in that manifestation of the Son the other sons of God are to share. So that the second advent of Christ into this world is a distinct matter of hope to the celestial inhabitants. Now, in all these ways we can in this life realize heavenly relations. We can regard Christ as our Life, hidden, doubtless, from the eye of sense, but palpable to faith, and rejoice in him as our Divine and exhaustless Source of life. We can set our heart's supreme affections on him, loving him and all he loves for his own dear sake. We can make his kingdom and reign our supreme concern, every other thought being subsidiary and tributary to this. We can, lastly, hope for and love his appearing as the time for the manifestation of the sons of God. Thus shall we live the heavenly life on earth. Thus shall we show that we are more citizens of the other world than of this, and that we are contemplating the time of our emigration with satisfaction. We have acquainted ourselves with the nature of the country we are going to; we have studied the guide book and consulted the faithful and true Witness about heavenly things; the soil and climate of the better land are not altogether unknown. Its holy and fragrant air, its religious and happy spirit, its bountiful conditions, we have tried to realize, and when we are transferred to it we feel persuaded we shall be at home. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.