If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
Our text gives us a magnificent picture of the higher life of man, indicating the means of its beginning, the signs of its progress, and the hope of its perpetuity.
I. THE EXPERIENCES OF THE BEGINNING OF THE HIGHER LIFE. These initial experiences are spoken of under the three allied figures of death, the hiding as of burial and resurrection. There is an experience:
1. As of death. "Ye have died." The soul as it becomes Christian passes through a death with Christ -
(1) a death to sin,
(2) a death to the bondage of outwardness.
Dead, yet alive! - the paradox that finds its counterpart in the gardener's insertion of the vine shoot, that was cut off and so dead to its old stock, under the bark of the living vine.
2. As of hiding away in burial. "Hid." That may mean
(1) what is concealed now will be revealed by and by; or
(2) it may denote a life of much blessed solitude, and so of sacred seclusion; or
(3) it may mean a life of fellowship with the hidden Christ; or
(4) it may tell of a life whose purposes and inspirations are hid in God.
3. As of resurrection. "Risen." That must indicate
(1) a living life, such a life as Ezekiel portrays, "I will open your graves, and give you a new heart, a heart of flesh;" and
(2) an elevated life. No more of the earth - earthy, no more grave clothes, sepulchre, and earthworms, but such beauty and activity and blessedness as belong to the scenes of Christ's forty days' risen life.
II. THE DUTY OF THE HIGHER LIFE. The duty is twofold, and the way of obeying is twofold also.
1. The twofold duty of the higher life.
(1) The withdrawal of chief concern from inferior things. "Set not your affections," etc. Does not this mean, cease to entwine your affections round the things of time, cease to concentrate your energies on the things of this world? So far we have only the negative aspect of duty; but there is:
(2) The fixing of chief interest on superior things. They are twice spoken of here as "things above;" and may they not denote what is above socially, intellectually, spiritually?
2. The twofold method of attaining the performance of this duty.
(1) "Seek the things that are above." Let the higher things be the object of pursuit. What higher things? Plato would have said, "The true, the beautiful, the good." Most modern Christians, meaning the same, would have said, "Heaven." And Paul, meaning the same, would have said, "Christ." For surely Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ. Well, therefore, does Bishop Pearson urge, "Rise to Christ with the wings of your meditation and in the chariot of your affections."
(2) "Set your affections on things that are above." Not only seek heaven, but think heaven; not only think heaven, but love heaven. Our life cannot rise into a higher realm of itself any more than a bar of iron can lift itself. Both have capacity of response. Christ is the magnet to uplift our natures. Love him, and the love of him lifts up.
III. THE DESTINY OF THE HIGHER LIFE. In the fourth verse we have the onward aspect of the higher life.
1. There is to be a complete manifestation of this higher life. Paul has said now it is "hid," then it will be unveiled; now it is buried, then it will be "risen." Because of misunderstandings, and misconceptions, and harsh judgments of others, the "higher life" is now often hid; then all will be explained, interpreted, rectified. Because now that life is so often in itself distorted, confused, it is partially "hid;" then in ease and naturalness and grace it will gloriously "appear."
2. The perfect revelation of this life will be in perfect union with Christ.
(1) How? Because he is the Origin and Sustenance, the Life of man's own inner higher life.
(2) When? No calendar can fix the date. It will be the time of his appearing; and that will be to the ages as his incarnation was "the fulness of the times."
(3) What? The glory we shall have will be his glory. That is the glory of purity, simplicity, victory, sacrifice, love. The paragraph we have thus considered names Christ four times. Our model is Christ's death; our strength is Christ's risen life; our heaven is Christ's glory; our hope is Christ's coming.
"Yea, thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning,
He shall suffice me, for he hath sufficed:
Christ is the End, for Christ was the Beginning;
Christ the Beginning, for the End is Christ." U.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.