Christ Above All
What are you thinking about, today? What most do you think about on any given day? For where your mind is, there will your heart be also. If your mind is on getting rich, you and your heart will be down at the corner market buying lottery tickets. If your mind is on sexual immorality, you and your eyes, the portal to the heart, will be watching pornography. If your mind is on food, you will be storing images of your next meal. If your mind has been given over to alcohol, you will be strategically planning your next venture to your favorite groggery. Together, your heart and mind will speak many things, today. Will things spoken by you be blessings or cursings? The old self, who is the natural man, is tempted to diverse kinds of lust. Sinful people with fleshly minds are gearing up for their next foray with sin. Is there an alternative?
The essence of abundant Christian life (Jn 10:10), that is, the new life in Christ and with His indwelling Spirit in you (Rom 8:9, 11), is to rise above the carnal vices of this present evil age. Without Christ people never elevate to heavenly things. They may want to better people, but they will attempt to raise themselves up with their own ideas and power. They will employ pharaonic philosophies and religions to self-exalt themselves, but of course, this is the tomfoolery of pride, often masquerading as humility, “I am going to make myself into a better person, to achieve all that I can be, and I will speak humbly of what should be obvious to everyone around me…that I am better than you.”
After Paul explained to the Colossians what Christ was to them (Col 1–2), he then shifted his focus to what Christ does for them (Col 3–4). Our position in Christ means Christ is manifesting the Christian life in us. This should be evident to other people in our lives. Our thoughts are peculiar. Our words come from a heavenly language that causes us to speak with tongues of angels, always praising God with His Words given to us. Our actions manifest what is in our minds and align with the words we speak to others in the world. We walk the talk of heaven as our journey’s end. Can you hear heaven in my words? Do you see me turning my back on the things of this world? If you do, it is because my mind is somewhere else.
Paul wrote, “If then, you have been raised up with Christ…” (Col 3:1a). The first thing we notice with this is the nature of the statement. It is conditional, “If…” This means there is at least one alternate position. Some have been raised up with Christ, and some have not. Does this mean we have already been resurrected from the dead? Yes, in part. No, in part.
Clearly, we who are still alive in these mortal bodies have not yet died in these bodies. We are waiting for both death and then resurrection bodies (Jn 5:28–29; 1 Cor 15). However, we have died with Christ in our souls, and the resurrection of our souls has already occurred (Rom 6:1–14). This is the doctrine of regeneration (Jn 3:1–8). It is the idea that God has caused us to be born again (1 Pet 1:3). We have been made new, made alive spiritually (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13).
Paul explained to the Ephesians that we have been raised up with Christ (regeneration by the Spirit) and have been seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). Jesus Christ received a crown of thorns from the world, but He received a crown of glory at His ascension and enthronement in heaven. He sat down at the center of the throne of God (Rev 7:17), at the right hand of majesty (Heb 1:3; 8:1), the right hand of God (Col 3:1c). This means all authority in heaven and earth have been given to Him (Mt 28:18), and He reigns over all creation (Rev 19:6).
Christ is in heaven, and we are in Him in the Spirit. He is seated, and we are seated with Him in the Spirit. Because the Christian life consists of mutual indwelling, the reverse is also true. Christ is in us, by His indwelling Holy Spirit. These are the crucial elements of what makes a Christian different from his neighbor. “Christ in me” means I have the hope of glory (Col 1:27; 1 Tim 1:1), my inheritance reserved for me in heaven by the power of God (1 Pet 1:4–5). “Christ in me” means I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).
The action Paul is commending to the Colossians is twofold. First, “keep seeking the things above (Col 3:1b).” Heavenly things are holy things. Peter encouraged the churches of northern Asia minor to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:16). How does one become holy, like God, godly? She does it by seeking Christ, the Holy one of God, who is above all (Jn 3:31).
Paul’s second commendation was for the Colossians to, “Set your mind on the things above (Col 3:2a).” The daily walk of the Christian begins with her mind. We must take every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Whereas the natural man is captive to philosophies, traditions of men, and empty deceit (Col 2:8), Christ has set His people free (Gal 5:1), by causing us to know the truth (Jn 8:32), by giving us the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17; 16:13), who teaches us the Word of truth (Jas 1:18; 2 Tim 2:15), that gave the Colossians, and us, the hope of heaven (Col 1:5).
Paul set in contradistinction, “things of heaven” with “things on earth” (Col 3:2). The mind is set on one or the other. One’s life is derived from one’s mind. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he (Prv 23:7). The Christ life is derived from the mind of Christ, and the mind of Christ is the mind of the Spirit (Rom 8:27). We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2), and our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit washing them with the Word of God (Eph 5:26). Paul wrote, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5).”
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and compel us with the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14), to seek Him, who rewards the diligent (Heb 11:6). Who seeks God? Paul argued from Scripture that “no one seeks after God, not even one (Rom 3:11; Ps 14:1–3; 53:1–3).” Because of this we understand the primacy of regeneration in the order of salvation. When God moves, we move.
Things of the earth are noted in various vice lists found throughout the New Testament (Gal 5:19–21; Col 3:5–9; Rev 22:15; et al). Natural man lusts after these things with his body and soul. These are the things Christians “put off” as we “put on” Christ (Rom 13:14). We take off our dirty, filthy rag-like clothing, and dress ourselves in white robes of purity (Rev 6:11; 7:9, 13–14). When we do, we put on the armor of light (Rom 13:12) in the war against darkness. We put on the imperishable, in Spirit, and in anticipation of our imperishable bodies at the resurrection from the dead (1 Cor 15:53–54). Why do these new things? Paul continued, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).”
Christ died for us (Rom 5:8), and we died with Him by entering His death through baptism (Rom 6:1–14). We were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), but Christ died to sin (Rom 6:10). With death, sin no longer operates. Death is the end of sin. The dead man does not continue sinning against God.
The account of sins accumulated against God is now closed. His rap sheet is complete, and it is appointed once for a man to die, and then comes the judgment of God issued against the sinner (Heb 9:27). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, however (Rom 8:1). Sin and death have been swallowed up in His victory at the Cross. He triumphed over rulers and authorities (Col 2:15), and over him who had the power over death (Heb 2:14).
Death causes men to fear the righteous punishment and wrath of God. The sting of death is sin (1 Cor 15:56a), which has been exposed by God’s Law. We are condemned by a righteous Judge in light of a holy Law (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). Christ fulfilled the Law (Mt 5:19), stopped sin through His death, and then defeated death by being raised from the dead. If then we have been raised with Him, we have new life. It is abundant and eternal (Jn 10:10; 17:2). There is no fear of the second death (Rev 20:6). The unbeliever is bodily alive but spiritually dead. When he dies in the body (first death), he will be resurrected in the body for judgment by God (Jn 5:29), and body and soul will suffer eternal death in eternal hell and the lake of fire (second death).
Christians do not come into judgment, for we have passed out of death and into life (Jn 5:24). Remember, no condemnation for us who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). A Christian’s life is hidden with Christ already in heaven in God (Col 3:3). We are in Christ, and Christ is in the Father (Jn 17:21). We are alive together with Him (Col 2:13), and whether we are living or dead at His coming again (1 Thess 4:13–5:11), we will live together with Him, forever (1 Thess 5:10). Nothing can separate us from our loving union with Christ (Rom 8:39).
Like the bride on her wedding day is revealed in all of her glory, dressed in a gorgeous gown of white, pure and spotless, so is the Christian presented holy and blameless (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22), when you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Col 3:4). In love, Christ made all of this a reality for His bride, the church (Eph 5:25). Christ has no girl friend on the side (Universalism), and He is not wooing anyone else that He has not chosen to be His bride (Arminianism).
Christians are the betrothed of Christ. We are preparing for our wedding day (Mt 25), the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:7–10). Paul was telling the Colossians, “Get ready, people.” Put on your dress. Fix your hair. Save the date. Focus on the impending issue. Forget your old boyfriend. He was a devil, anyway. Make the main thing, the main thing of your life. Live out what you are, the redeemed people of God, a royal priesthood and holy nation (1 Pet 2:9). Live as children of light.
Our lives are but a vapor (Jas 4:4), and the present suffering in preparation for glory is not to be compared to the glory already breaking in us like the dawn of the morning sun (Rom 8:18). Glory is here in our souls, and it is soon coming to our glorified bodies (Rom 8:30). Christ is our life (Col 3:4), now, in increasing abundance, and forever, as glorious eternal life.
Christian, keep seeking the things above. Christian, set your mind on the things above. The glorified Christ, King Jesus, is all and in all of His people (Col 3:11). Remove the cheap and petty distractions preventing you from enjoying the abundant spiritual life. Keep your eyes focused on Him, who is authoring and finishing His work of faith in you (Heb 12:2). If you fail at this task, and you surely will fail in your own power, then pray. Those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, asking for more of the treasured riches of Christ will surely receive them. Seek Him and you find more of Him. Knock on the One who is called, “The Door of the sheep (Jn 10:7),” and He will open Himself all the more to you. The reason? His motive? He loves you, wants the very best for you, and His very best for you is Him…above all.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 21, 2021