I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:
The beginning of the study
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
I’ve been studying through the section of Colossians in which Paul exhorts his readers to trust Christ and not human wisdom, philosophy, traditions, etc. (Colossians 2:6-3:4) This is the last part of this section. (As a reminder, this section is part of a larger exhortation/paraenesis (teaching) section that runs from Colossians 2:6 through Colossians 4:6.)
Here is the final passage in this section:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
Once again, Paul returns to the baptism imagery (which points to the actual death and resurrection of Christ) to remind his readers of their position in Christ. He expects that a reminder of their relationship to God through Christ will help them stay away from human wisdom, philosophy, traditions, rules and regulations, etc.
Paul begins by reminding them that they were raised when Christ was raised (resurrected) (“Therefore, since you were raised together with Christ…”) (Colossians 3:1). While the English translation “if” above suggests that “raised together” may not have happened, a better translation of “since” puts Paul’s later exhortation in the proper perspective. Paul has already recognized their relationship with God through Christ, so he is not calling that into question now. Instead, he is using that relationship (which does exist) to punctuate and highlight what follows.
Since the Colossians were raised together with Christ, Paul exhorts them to both seek and to think about “the things that are above.” He explains that “the things that are above” are the things of Christ who is presently positioned at “the right hand of God,” which is a indication of power and authority, not necessarily of location (since Paul has already stated that Christ is present with the Colossians).
“The things that are above” – that is, the things related to Christ – are contrasted to “the things of the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) In this section, it seems that Paul specifically has in mind the philosophies, traditions, logic, and rationalization (way of thinking) related to the world and its systems and rulers. Using “the mind of Christ” (as Paul would say to other readers) could appear contradictory and irrational and even unwise when viewed from a human perspective. But, Paul says, the Colossians are not supposed to view things from a human perspective, but from Christ’s perspective.
Paul again reminds the Colossians that they died together with Christ and are raised to new life – a new life that is “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) (Even if there was some question as to whether Colossians 3:1 should be translated, “If you were raised,” or “Since you were raised,” this sentence makes it clear that Paul believes the Colossians both died with Christ and now live in him.) But, to whom or to what have the lives of the Colossians been hidden? Obviously, their lives have not been hidden from Christ or from God, since they are hidden with Christ in God. In context, their life (or perhaps “way of life”) has been hidden from those who continue to use human wisdom and who attempt to “capture” them using human philosophies, logic, traditions, rules and regulations, etc.
This will certainly lead to conflict with the Colossians who walk with Christ and others who walk in human wisdom. This conflict may also lead to pain and suffering on the part of the Colossian believers. What is the solution? When Christ is finally revealed as Lord, the Colossian Christians will also be revealed in his glory. (Colossians 3:4) At the time, the truth will be obvious: Christ was life (and way of life) for the Colossians.
In this last statement, Paul goes beyond the baptism imagery that we’ve seen previously. Before, Paul pointed back to their baptism as a reminder of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, in this last sentence, he includes the Colossians in the second coming of Christ. When Christ is revealed (appears), they will also be revealed (appear) together with him.
As a reminder, in this section of Colossians (Colossians 2:6-3:4) Paul has alternated between exhorting the Colossians to trust only Christ and warning them against being tricked into living according to human wisdom and traditions. He began with a reminder that they received Christ and must therefore live as Christ would live, being completely dependent on him (Colossians 2:6). He also ends by reminding the Colossians that they died with Christ and now live in Christ, and that they should continue in the way of Christ until both Jesus and they are revealed in truth and glory.
What would you add to my study of this section of Colossians?