A Study of Colossians 3:1–4
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
The website brainyquote.com credits Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. with saying “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Whatever it is that Mr. Holmes may have meant by that, it certainly was not the perspective that the Apostle Paul had and communicated by inspiration of God.
Paul has taken us in this epistle from the heights of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and His unfathomable and infinite greatness, and left us on the plateau with all that we who have believed on the Lord Jesus and received His gift of salvation have, because we are complete in Him. As on that plateau, or I should really say mountain peak, we ought to enjoy our stay, and never seek a return to lesser things, the things of poverty. Remember how Paul told the Galatians:
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:8-11)
These were idolaters who served false gods, but they turned from idols to the true God, just like the apostle says of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:9). But now these believers are turning to the weak and beggarly elements, the things of poverty, rather than enjoying the unsearchable riches of Christ. Now we should be sure to understand this well, that to be heavenly minded does not mean to be consumed with religion and religious practices and observances. It should now be perfectly clear that the things of religion are the earthly things that the apostle is telling believers to turn their affections away from. If that is not clear, re-read chapter 2 until this is well understood. Mystic practices (“intruding into those things which he hath not seen”, 2:18) and religious self-denial (asceticism, see 2:20–23) will never create in the Christian a heavenly mindset. The so-called “spiritual disciplines” usually lead in this direction as well. Using the flesh to get control of the flesh is not the key to victory. It is minding earthly things.
Now to set our affections on things above, we must first realize that this earth is not our “home country”. While we were at one time “earth-dwellers” when we were dead in trespasses and sins, we are now quickened (“made alive”) in Christ. As such, we learn that though we were citizens of earth, we are now citizens of Heaven. As far as God is concerned, we are already seated there in Christ.
But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
For our conversation [πολίτευμα—”políteuma”—”citizenship”] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
We can set our affections there because that is our home. That is where we belong. We SHOULD feel like we do not belong here, because we DO NOT BELONG HERE. Everything that we are is because we are in Christ. In verse 20 of chapter 2, Paul states as a corrective “if-then” question, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why…”. The rudiments of the world did nothing for us when we were dead in trespasses and sins. They continue to do nothing for us when we died with Christ. This is not a figurative word picture. Our Lord did not figuratively die. He literally died. He was literally despised and rejected of men. He literally came unto His own, and His own rejected Him. He literally was scourged and beaten. He literally carried His cross until He humanly collapsed under its weight. He literally was nailed to that cross and the soldiers literally placed a crown of literal thorns on His head. He literally hung on that cross until He was offered Him literal vinegar mingled with gall. He literally cried out to the Father, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He literally gave up the ghost after literally saying “It is finished”. He literally took upon Himself the punishment that is due to us, and God has baptized us into His death. He died our death, and now as far as God is concerned, we literally died with Him. So Paul can say that literally we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God.
We can also be certain that as Christ rose from the dead literally and physically, because we are baptized into His death, we are also literally risen from the dead with Him. That is why God through Paul can challenge us to seek the things that are above that belong to us, because we are risen with Christ.
As having died with Christ and now being risen with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenlies, we have a life that should be far different than the life before that we were identified with Him. Paul writes to Titus of how the grace of God teaches us to live:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
We should live soberly—with a proper attitude and apprehension of what we are in Christ. We should live righteously—we should act rightly toward God and others as those risen to righteousness from death in trespasses and sins. We should live godly—as a proper representation of one who is called by the Name of the Lord. We should live looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ! This is no “escapist eschatology”. This is what God wants for us. When Christ our life shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. We have life that is hid with Christ in God. It is our expectation and our hope. Our affection should be “up there” because our home is “up there”.
While we are down here, called by His Name, we are His ambassadors. We represent down here the Lord Who owns us and is seated “up there”. He is acting in grace toward this world because of all that He accomplished while down here, and we are calling all sinners to be reconciled to God because our Lord Jesus Christ was made sin for us, that is on our behalf, and instead of us (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). He died for us and we died with Him. Those who are called by His Name—baptized into Jesus Christ—are also risen with Him. When we come to God in the way that God has said, everything that He accomplished is complete. God has called and is calling all sinners to Himself by the way of the cross. We can apprehend the accomplishments of Calvary simply by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ Who accomplished them. This is not “easy believism”. God does not wish to make our salvation difficult. It was difficult for the Son of God to bear the curse for us, so that we could be saved. For us, however, what came at a great cost to Him is given freely to us by His grace (Romans 3:24). He has made it by faith, because believing on Another who is infinitely more able than himself is the only thing that man can do. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), and the Word of God says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
If you have not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God, why not? He died for you because He wants to save you. He desires all men to be saved (2 Timothy 2:4), so do place your faith in Him for your salvation.