Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
If Ye Then Be Risen With Christ
First, Paul says “if”. Does the “if” mean that it’s a big question as to whether we’ve been risen with Christ? No, of course not.
What we have in vs. 1 is an if/then sentence. He’s essentially telling us “if everything I shared with you in the previous chapters are true, and you know they are, then it means that you ARE risen with Christ, so THEN seek those things that are above AND set your affections on things that are above.”
How can we be risen with Christ if we haven’t died yet? It’s a little doctrine called “Identification with Christ,” and you all know all too well that this is my favorite doctrine in all of Paul’s writings, second only to the gospel.
Romans 6:3-4: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
There is not one drop of water in these verses. How can these verses be anything other than our spiritual washing whereby we’re baptized into Christ, baptized into His death, buried with Him in baptism and “risen with Him” (Col. 2:12) by the glory of the Father?
These verses speak of our spiritual transformation as much as all the other passages about the baptism of the Spirit. We’re so thoroughly identified with Christ the moment we believe that His crucifixion becomes our new spiritual reality. God saw fit to allow us to be transformed spiritually as Christ was transformed literally after His resurrection. The moment we believed we were identified with Christ in that our souls were united with Christ in His work on the cross. Col. 2:12 tells us that “ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Paul’s saying that since we’re spiritually identified with His death, then we’d naturally also be spiritually identified with His resurrection as well “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” Thus, we died spiritually “in the likeness of His death” and we’re risen spiritually “in the likeness of His resurrection,” which means that His death became our death. His burial became our burial. His resurrection became our resurrection. The newness of His life after His resurrection became our “newness of life.”
As a result of our spiritual death, burial, and resurrection with Christ through the one baptism of the Spirit, we are now and forever victorious over sin and death as much as Christ Himself is forever victorious. God loved us so much as to make us so intimately identified with His Son that when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we spiritually die with Him.
Our old man, which is our old selves, is crucified with Him on that cross. Then, we are spiritually buried with Him. Our old man and all our sins, including our bondage to sin, are buried with Him. Praise the Lord forever, the old man is dead, dead, dead!
And finally, we are spiritually risen from the grave with Him, “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” Our resurrection with Christ nullified the sting of death and the power of sin over us. We are made victorious with Him in our spiritual resurrection freed from the bondage of sin and death just as Christ Himself was freed after He rose again, and we are now living His resurrected life, an eternal newness of life.
Calvary became the meeting place between Christ and the sinner. We come to Calvary acknowledging by faith that “This is not His death He is dying but He is dying my death for my sins and He rose again so I may by His grace live a new life of victory forever reconciled to God.” Grace in no way overlooks sin. Grace pays for our sins and then offers salvation as a gift by faith alone. It was God’s own incomparable grace that made Christ to be sin for us so we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. As our sins were imputed to Him, so too, His death, burial, and resurrection have been imputed to us. As He was baptized into our death by grace, so we are baptized into His death by faith. As He, by grace, became one with us in our death, so we, by faith, became one with Him in His death, “crucified with Him” (Gal. 2:20), “buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:4), and “risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).
In that moment of salvation, we are joined in an eternal union to Christ in Heaven and the all-sufficiency of His work on the cross. Christ’s life becomes our life. Christ’s victory becomes our victory. Christ’s riches become our riches. Christ’s glory becomes our glory. When we place our faith in Him, we are brought into the perfection of His work on the cross. We are brought into the perfection of His victory. We are brought into the very perfection of Christ Himself. When we place our faith in Him, we are forever identified with His work on the cross, spiritually transformed as Christ was literally transformed, and we’re made to be risen with Him by the same power found within the glory of God the Father, which raised Christ from the dead. We enter a new state. We became new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15) with God’s righteousness imputed to us (Rom. 4:23-25). We’re made alive unto God (Rom. 6:11), complete in Him (Col. 2:10), accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:3), blessed with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13), seated in the Heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), forgiven all trespasses (Col. 2:13), so much more, and we’re now living His resurrection life until our bodies are redeemed (Eph. 2:4-6).
Our identification with Christ is why we are able to have all those many spiritual blessings the moment we believed. What Christ accomplished for us by our spiritual identification with His death, burial, and resurrection is to guarantee that our salvation is eternal, to make that eternal life a reality the moment we believed, and our spiritual transformation makes it possible for us to receive all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places, and it empowers us beyond all that we ask or think to have victory over sin, victory over temptations, and victory through all the sufferings of this present time.
What Christ accomplished for us – He conquered sin and death for us at Calvary. He condemned sin in the flesh. He took back, on our behalf, power over sin in our corrupt bodies, and by virtue of our spiritual identification with His work on the cross, we’ve been transformed into new creatures (1 Cor. 5:17), freed from sin’s dominion over us (Rom. 6:2,7,10-20,23) by the Holy Spirit who has freed us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and we now have the power to bring our sin-corrupted bodies into subjection to our regenerated souls (1 Cor. 9:27). Thus, sin now becomes a choice in our lives. We’re free to choose to yield to the flesh or yield to the Spirit.
Seek Those Things Above
Next, Paul says, “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Notice that he exhorts us to do two different things in those first two verses: we’re to seek those things that are above AND we’re to set our affections on things that are above. Before I get into that, notice that…
There are 3 aspects about Christ in Vs. 1.
First, we see that Christ is above. Paul’s revelation was given to him from the ascended Christ in glory in Heaven, which illustrates again that our relationship with God is on an entirely different basis than the Israelites, and what Paul teaches us today is an entirely different program. Our relationship to God, our reconciliation to God, our peace with God, is not based upon what Christ taught during His earthly ministry but based upon the finished work accomplished on the cross as a risen savior. 2Cor. 5:16 “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” This is a different program. Our relationship with God is founded upon the cross and made perfect by His resurrection, which was revealed from Christ in Heaven to Paul for the church today.
Second, we see that Christ is seated. He’s resting in Heaven in His finished, perfect work on the cross, and He would have us rest in His perfect work on the cross, as well, resting in His perfect means of an eternal reconciliation with God, in His perfect transformation of us, and in our perfectly secure position that we have in Him. Heaven has been thrown open to the world offering eternal life to all mankind, including the worst of us, as a free gift on the basis of our faith in Him and His grace to us. God is not punishing people today but preaching peace. God is not now judging sin on the Earth but mediating reconciliation. God is not angry with us but full of love and grace. The Lord’s presence seated on His throne exalted above all things in Heaven at the right hand of the Father has changed His throne of judgment in time past into a throne of grace today. God is now longsuffering about our sins hoping that more and more souls will embrace His gospel of grace by faith.
Third, we see that He’s at the right hand of the Father, which speaks of His power and authority, especially as the head of the body, the church.
Why should we seek and set our affections on things above?
Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Col 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
I love that Paul doesn’t talk about a future time in which we WILL BE dead and we WILL BE risen. The fundamental grace truth here is that we AREdead. Vs 1- We ARE risen. We ARE already blessed with all spiritual blessings. We ARE accepted in the beloved. We ARE sealed by the Spirit. We ARE standing in the glory of the holy righteousness of Christ Himself. We ARE living the resurrection life by virtue of the cross of Christ. It’s not just that we’ve been identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but that our identification with Him transformed us into perfect new creatures dead to sin and alive unto God blessed with all spiritual blessing through His unfathomable grace and love.
Did you notice that Paul makes a connection here between our identification with His death and resurrection and our motivations as believers? The principle that we should seek those things above and set our affections on those things above is bracketed by the truth that we are dead in vs 3 and we are risen in vs 1. First comes the understanding, the reckoning as true right now the magnitude of our identification with Christ, and then comes what should be our motivation to seek those things which are above, to set our affections on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. So what are the things that are above? The things above are Christ, His glory, His victory, and our eternal life with Him. The things on earth include all the deceptions mentioned in the previous chapters, the rudiments of the world, the philosophy, the vain deceit, the legalism, ritualism, ordinances, as well as worldly ambitions, and pleasures. The appeal of those things will inevitably fade away when the believer’s heart is occupied with Christ who fills His throne with glory. This is the true and only way of sanctification – our heart’s constant occupation with the risen Christ. The more a believer enters into these blessed truths, making them his own by reckoning himself dead, buried, and risen with Christ, the more the things of the earth will lose their charm and Christ above becomes our all, our life, our everything.
I loved how brilliantly Colossians shows that what a Christian needs isn’t philosophy or anything but an increasing realization of who he is in Christ, and then he can be energized by the Spirit through His Word when he seeks those things that are above. When the eyes of the heart seek the risen and glorified Christ and by faith lays hold on our identification with Him, then we’re motivated to know Christ, to love Christ, to walk like Christ, and less like the world.
You may notice, too, that God doesn’t want your mind partly on things above and partly on things on the earth but He wants all of your mind and all of your heart set entirely on Christ. How can we live a life with divided affections? As our Lord Himself said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Divided affections is a moral impossibility. In Php. 3:19 Paul talks about those who “mind earthly things,” that their “end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame…” And such is the state of Christendom today—carnal, minding earthly things; filled with the love of the world, ignorant of scriptures, and dead to spiritual matters. Our affections cannot be divided. The distinction between the earthly realm vs. the heavenly realm is as stark a contrast as law vs. grace, the devil vs. Christ, or defeat vs. victory in His grace. In all stages of our lives, in all circumstances, we look up to Him for His victory in our lives founded upon the immense grace that has us now raised up with a risen Christ. Christ alone and the consciousness of the grace in which we stand in Him is enough to raise us above ourselves, above our failures, and above the deceptions of the world.