If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
If then ye were raised together with Christ. At this point the apostle leaves the polemical and begins the practical. Doctrine again forms the foundation for exhortation. As in combating asceticism he proceeded upon the fact that we were sharers with Christ in his death, so in presenting a substitute for asceticism, he proceeds upon the fact that we were sharers with him in his resurrection. Our being baptized with him extended, not only to our dying with him, but also to our rising with him.
I. ITS HEAVENWARD DIRECTION.
1. In its connection with Christ. "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God." It was when we were raised with Christ that we were introduced to the things that are above. There, henceforth, we found our proper sphere. Our being must now ever, and increasingly, tend thitherward. The things that are above we are to seek supremely. They are the only things which are worthy of being sought in the fullest sense. Of the heavenly sphere Christ is the blessed and glorious Centre. He is, in a word, the things that are above. He is here mentioned with a local reference. The time was when he was on earth and mingled with men. He was seen by the eleven disciples going up into heaven. He was seen by the dying Stephen standing on the right hand of God. And we are to think of him as still stationed ("seated," it is here, and according to the usual conception) on the right hand of God. To him, then, must our being now and ever tend. He has gone into heaven to draw our desires and affections after him and up toward him. We are to turn to him with our whole desire. We are to turn to him for all that we neon. Our spiritual life cannot be maintained without the things that are above in the shape of heavenly blessing,'s descending on us, and we must turn to him for their bestowal (in regal manner, seeing that he occupies the seat of rule). We must turn to him with the whole affection of our being. For he is a Person (the Manifester of God, and Author of our salvation), and is pronounced "the altogether lovely." And to be powerfully drawn toward him is the only way to be delivered from that in regard to which asceticism is pronounced ineffective, viz. the temptations of the flesh. Drawn toward him, we are drawn away from all that should be below us, and we are drawn up to the things which are high. We have thus, though on earth, a great elevation for our being. And, in accordance with it, we should look high, even up to him who is seated on the right hand of God.
2. In its contrast with an earthward direction. "Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth." There is a word employed here with a slightly different meaning from "seek." The idea is that we are to be so drawn to the things that are above as that they are to occupy our thoughts. There is not only the sphere of the things that are above, but there is the sphere of the things that are upon the earth, to which also we are related. We are not to think of the latter with a sinful association. The things upon the earth have been made by God, and are, therefore, good in themselves. But they are evidently placed in a certain subordination. They are things upon the earth, in contrast with the things that are above. It is implied that they are not to be sought supremely, but (if they would be sought truly according to their nature and purpose) with a due subordination and subservience to the things that are above. We are not to allow them to occupy our thoughts. And the reason is obvious. They cannot so fill up our being as to bring about our perfection and happiness. De Quincey thus concludes his apostrophe to opium: "Thou only givest these gifts to men; and thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty opium!" But the opium-eater's Paradise easily changes into its opposite. There is a fluctuation connected with all things that are upon the earth. And we know that soon our whole earthly prospect will dissolve. That is intended to teach us this lesson, that we are not to set our mind on earthly things. We are not to feel toward them as though they were essential to our being. But, feeling them to be limited in quality and duration, we are to set our mind on that which is unlimited in quality and duration.
II. ITS HIDDEN NATURE.
1. We are dead to the outwardness of the worldly life. "For ye died." There is a hiddenness connected with the worldly life which is not to be spoken of. "My soul, come not thou into their secret." But the worldly life is characteristically a life in the outward. It is a life within the sphere of the five senses. It is a life of communion and commerce with earthly things. It is a life which has its roots in the world. It is a life the highest ambition of which is to appear well to the world, and to continue to appear well. Now, as Christians, we are dead, so far as going after the outward is concerned. We occupy a different standpoint altogether. We are dead where men of the world are alive. And the course we have to take, in obedience to Christ, may even bring us into collision with the world.
2. It is a life hidden with Christ in God. "And your life is hid with Christ in God."
(1) It is hidden from the world. We are in a position to comprehend the worldly life from our experience of what sin is. But the Christian life is beyond the comprehension of men of the world, for they have had no experience of it. They have no affinities to it, and, therefore, it is an enigma to them, as nature and art are to those who have no appreciation of the beautiful. They see the manifestations of the Christian life, but they cannot appreciate the motives by which we are actuated, the principles by which we are guided.
(2) It is partly hidden from ourselves. There is a mystery in all life. We cut into a plant to find what life is, but it eludes the finest perception. Christians, then, cannot be expected to understand the mystery of the life of God in the soul. And, apart from that, we can only imperfectly understand our experiences. Our life goes forward according to the thought and working of One unseen.
(3) It is a life of hidden fellowship with Christ. It commenced in that region of the soul which is penetrated only by our own eye and by the eye of God. There with Christ we dedicated ourselves to him. There we have fellowship with Christ, in our joys, even in our earthly joys. There we have fellowship with Christ in our sorrows, even our sorrows of repentance and painful struggles after virtue. And there he is with us to encourage us in all the efforts we put forth for the advancement of his cause.
(4) It is hidden in God. The worldly life has its roots in the world. The life which consists in fellowship with Christ is hidden because it is lived in God. He is essentially hidden - the invisible God; he is called in this Epistle, elsewhere, a God that hideth himself. Our life, then, has its roots hidden in him, in his eternal purpose and inexhaustible goodness.
III. ITS FUTURE MANIFESTATION. "When Christ, who is our Life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." The Christian life is to be manifested to men. We are to make our light so shine before men that others, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven. But the manifestation referred to here is that to which we are to look forward as the crown of our being.
1. It results frown our relation to Christ. Our life is not only with him, but he is our Life. He is the life of our life. The essential thing in the relation here is that, thus living within us, he gives type and form to our life.
2. It results from his manifestation. There is a manifestation yet before him. "When Christ... shall be manifested." It is implied that at present he is in a condition of concealment. He is concealed from the world. Many think that he and his cause are under a cloud. He is, to a certain extent, manifested in heaven; but he is not manifested in the full meaning of his work, in his full glory as Saviour. His manifestation will be our manifestation. We shall he completely vindicated before men. It will be made completely manifest that we are sons of God and friends of Christ. Christ within us will work out till we are made glorious in body and in soul with his glory. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.