Notes on Colossians 3:1-4

[3:1] If then you have been raised with Christ,
Paul sets this in the form of a question to force the listener/reader to answer in the affirmative. The ει ουν (if therefore) sends us down a new road from the worldly rules that the false teachers were trying to force the Colossian believers to travel (2:20-21). Our being raised with Christ means we no longer are under the rules of the world, that is trying to gain peace with God, rather we are raised with Christ already (c.f., 2:12-13). Our old man, the flesh, our sin nature, has died. It's power and the sure and just penalty of eternal death and separation from God is now gone (2:15), so we are free and commanded to seek after God and his kingdom.

 seek the things that are above, 
Literal translation: Seek the above [things].

Far from just dealing with our thought-life, this passage puts us on a whole-person trajectory. Ζητεω (seek) is used in Matt 6:33 where we are called to seek first the kingdom of God. Paul uses it in 1 Cor 1:22 where he states that the Greeks search for wisdom, and the later in 7:27 that a man already engaged should not seek to be released. To seek the things that are above is no passive endeavor. This is a whole person passion that leads us to not only strive after the above things but also seek out spiritual and intellectual resources that would enable us to be more fruitful. Commentator Douglas Moo says, "Believers "seek the things above" by deliberately and daily committing ourselves to the values of the heavenly kingdom and living out of those values."1

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Paul draws the logic out here for us. If our lives are found with Christ, if we have died to sin and now live life anew in the Spirit's power, then all anything of the world takes on a new and lesser value. We have seen behind the curtain, and now understand that this world is passing away (2:22).

Christ sitting at the right hand of God is a reference back to Ps 110:1. Moo argues that Paul is only referring to a place of honor and probably not thinking of all of the context and meaning of Psalm 110. Beale, on the other hand, argues that Paul is showing how God is making all of Christ's enemies a footstool under his feet.Beale interprets the drive of the passage this way: "The 'seeking' is a desire to have one's thinking and lifestyle oriented around Christ's kingship over all things."2 Our job is not a negative one, to pull away from the world, but rather a positive one, to extend Christ's kingship throughout all of our lives.

[2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
The first half of v.2 is a restatement of v.1, with the change from a generic "seek" to "think" or "set your minds." Again, Moo: "'Things above,' Paul is making clear, are tied to Christ, enthroned above, and must reflect the values of the kingdom that he has inaugurated. Anything else, or less, is no more than 'worldly' thinking."3

[3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The "for" tells us that what follows is the "ground" for what has come before. Vv.1-2 can and should be obeyed because vv.3-4 are true. This theology is the foundation that allows us to seek and set.

Again, our death, previously assumed in the "raising" of v.1, is a death to the sinful nature. Our ability to partake of the kingdom is based in eschatological truths found not only in our union with Christ, but also our part in the expansion of his kingdom. This death is in the aorist tense. It's an event that happened, and nothing more is being said about it.

Because we are dead to the world, we are alive with Christ, and our lives are hidden with Christ. "Hidden" is in the perfect, which can have a breadth of different meanings, but here it is focusing not on the time or place in which our lives were hidden (purchased at the cross, and hidden upon our new birth), but that our lives are still hidden with Christ. Paul is focusing on the continued effects of that hiding. Hidden here probably has more to do with safety than an obscuring of the location. Because we died, nothing else in this world can touch us, and we are safe with Christ, where he is, in heaven (above), seated at the Father's right hand, where he is bringing all things into submission to Christ. That's where your life is. Feel safe yet?

[4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The believer no longer has a life that can be in any way separated from Christ. We died with him, were raised with him, and now we live in him. His appearing is in the end, when he returns, and at that time, his kingship will be finalized, where we will be like him for we shall see him as he is. The path of our life is small, stumbling steps towards what will take place. There is no question or doubt. One day, Christ will be fully formed in us, and we will appear with him in glory, our sinful nature and desires completely eradicated.

1 Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008, 246.

2 Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007, 865.

3 Moo, Colossians, 248.

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