If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
The apostle now proceeds to the application of the grand truths he has been expounding. Note in what a lofty strain he begins. As in the previous section he refutes practical errors by reminding of the sublimest doctrines, so here, before giving exhortations on special sins and duties, he seeks to lift the Colossians to the heights of that new spiritual, heavenly life it is their privilege to live. (Like a commander encouraging his troops in the field to maintain the strictest discipline by motives suggested by the purest patriotism and the dignity of their trust.)
I. THE CHRISTIANS PRESENT PRIVILEGES.
1. "Ye died." This figurative expression describes the complete change which takes place in those who are truly regenerated. It is most strikingly illustrated in the conversion of an idolatrous or a profligate man. But every true convert dies to his former self, i.e. is separated from it as by a death and burial. (Illustrate from Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.) As a Christian martyr, worn down by the sickness and pain of a long persecution, obtains a blessed release and separation from this present evil world by death, so is the Christian, by union with Christ, set free, as by a death and burial, from two of his most formidable foes - the Law and sin.
(1) We died to the Law (Romans 7:4, 6; Galatians 2:19). We renounced all dependence on works of Law and trusted for justification alone to the work of Christ.
(2) We died to sin. We were set free from the love of sin and are being set free from its power. Crucifixion, though fatal, was not immediately so. So our "old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away (καταργηθῇ), that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Romans 6:6, 15).
"It was the sight of thy dear cross
First weaned my soul from earthly things," etc.
2. "Ye were raised together with Christ." (Ephesians 2:4-6; Galatians 1:4.) In the world, not of it. "We dwell in the flesh, but do not live in the flesh" (Luther). The true sphere of our life is "heavenly places." Does this seem mystical when spoken of tradesmen, engine drivers, or kitchen maids? But if they are Christ's they have a life which is "hid with Christ in God." It is a still and secret life, hidden from the world. The Christian has a different spirit (John 14:17) and aim (1 Corinthians 10:31) and strength (Philippians 4:13). He is like a palm tree in the desert, verdant and fruitful, because far beneath the sand the fibres of its roots are enjoying a hidden life of moisture which keeps the tree alive in spite of arid sand and cloudless sky.
3. Ye may "seek" and "set your mind on the things that are above." Is not this a privilege as well as a duty? Reflect on the honour of being allowed to fix our best thoughts and our purest affections on persons and objects not at all affected by the change and disappointment and transitoriness of this world. (Like a sailor amid the hardships of a long winter voyage, whose thoughts and emotions are constantly turning to wife and children in his distant home. He does not need to be told, "You ought to think of them; you must love them.") What are "the things that are upon the earth"? Find the answer in 1 John 2:16, 17. They belong to a state from which we profess to have been conclusively delivered. Shall Lazarus take pleasure in his grave clothes or the healed demoniac in his fetters? Shall those who profess to be living a resurrection life with Christ "mind earthly things"? Riches? (Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 23:5; 1 Timothy 6:7). Worldly power or fame? (Psalm 73:18-20; Isaiah 40:6-8; James 1:10, 11). Shall we cling to a sinking vessel when our home is in sight? If we find it hard to enjoy our privileges, let us take the following hints.
(1) Give more thought to "the things that are above" - to the great themes of God, Christ, heaven, eternity; and in the light of these, look down on the transitory trifles of this world.
(2) Do more for Christ, who, "seated on the right hand of God," is doing so much for us (Matthew 6:33). (Illustrate Christ's manifold activities for his people in that heavenly world.) Recognize that you have a citizenship in the heavenly places, and therefore civic duties among them.
(3) Make sacrifices for Christ and eternity. Treasure there as large a proportion as your conscience will justify of money, time, and every talent you possess (Matthew 6:19-21).
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S FUTURE GLORY. (Ver. 4.) This follows from ver. 3. Concealment with Christ ensures safety. Our future is wrapped up with his (John 14:19). Our life is, as it were, deposited with Christ's life in the very sanctuary of the Godhead. God will not forget that trust (2 Timothy 1:12). Christ himself liveth in us and is our life. What is awaiting Christ? A glorious manifestation (Titus 2:13; cf. Acts 3:21 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10). That manifestation will, by reason of the identity of Christ and his servants, be the manifestation in glory of Christians also, "the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). (Illustrate from contrasts suggested by Isaiah 60:14; Matthew 13:43; John 17:24.) Christ is now concealed, and it is our winter; his revelation will bring summer to our souls (2 Thessalonians 1:10). The glory in which we shall be revealed was said by the schoolmen to consist of the robe of the soul and the robe of the body.
1. There will be glory for the soul. No more sin (1 John 3:2), or sorrow (Romans 7:17), or divided affections, or darkness (1 Corinthians 13:12; cf. Romans 22:3, 4; perfect service, perfect satisfaction, perfect security).
2. In that glory the body shall share (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53; Philippians 3:21). "The resurrection of the dead is the confidence of Christians" (Tertullian; 1 Peter 1:13). That "grace to be brought unto us" will brighten into glory. It will be his glory; that is enough for us. - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.