Summary: Four imperatives for Christian living
LIVING THE LIFE OF CHRIST
The doctrinal basis for the imperatives of this section is found in the fact that the ‘saints and faithful brethren’ (Colossians 1:2) have been “raised” with Christ. This connects with the symbols of baptism and new life in the previous chapter (Colossians 2:12-13). If we have been made alive in Christ Jesus, then let us live our lives accordingly (Colossians 2:6).
1. Since we have been “risen with Christ”, then we must “SEEK THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE ABOVE, where Christ is…” (Colossians 3:1). We are to focus our lives on the One at “the right hand of God”. The posture mentioned is important: He is “seated”, His work completed (see Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:12).
The Lord Jesus Himself teaches us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33); ‘and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Our earthly benefits are wrapped up in the heavenly realities. And ‘When ye pray, say… Thy kingdom come… as in heaven, so in earth’ (Luke 11:2).
2. Paul next calls for a little mind-renewal (Romans 12:1-2): “SET YOUR AFFECTION ON THINGS ABOVE” (Colossians 3:2). This is not to walk around with our eyes-to-the-sky bumping into things - but to fix our spiritual gaze upon those things which are spiritual and eternal, rather than on the passing things which are of the earth. Such things are but a shadow of the ultimate reality (Colossians 2:16-17), but we are to live our lives here according to the pattern of the substance (compare Hebrews 8:4-6; Hebrews 9:23-24; Hebrews 9:28).
This is possible because of our union with Christ (Colossians 3:3). If the hidden things of Jesus are to be manifested to our generation, it will be through His believing people. Such people are “dead” to the things of the world - Christianity allows no compromise. The world may mock at this, but don’t let it be because we are not living up to our calling!
There will come a day when our lives, which are presently (by faith) bound up in Christ, will be manifested for what they are (Colossians 3:4). Jesus has already prayed that we might be with Him where He is, and behold His glory (John 17:24). This is a process which has already begun (2 Corinthians 3:18), and which awaits its ultimate manifestation (1 John 3:2).
3. “Therefore” (Colossians 3:5) is an important word. Since you are dead to the world, and yet alive in Christ (Colossians 3:2-3), “therefore MORTIFY WHAT IS ‘EARTHLY’ IN YOU” (Colossians 3:5). Put it to death! [The little phrase which is literally translated “upon the earth” (Colossians 3:2), is sometimes translated as “earthly” (Colossians 3:5).] There follows a list of sins, all of which might be associated with pagan religion.
Everything in this list might have ‘religious’ overtones. We well know what dens of iniquity pagan temples once were - and, in certain parts of the world, still are. In fact, it would be true to say that covetousness is the root of ALL evil, for it causes some to err from the true faith (1 Timothy 6:10) - which itself constitutes idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23).
“For such things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). However, if we are the true recipients of the promise of Colossians 3:4, then what business do we have with the vices of Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:8? To be involved with them would mar our relationship with the One in whom we have life with God (Colossians 3:3).
4. You ONCE walked in these things, when you lived in sin (Colossians 3:7), BUT NOW it should no longer be so with you (Colossians 3:8). Since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man (Colossians 3:9-10), “PUT OFF ALL THESE” (Colossians 3:8). These lists are not necessarily comprehensive, but representative - but in this second group (Colossians 3:8-9) we find what are mainly sins of the mouth. It is what proceeds out of the mouth that shows who we really are - or where we are really at (Matthew 15:18-20).
This is not, however just about individual ethics: it is the common clothing of the community (Colossians 3:9-11). The putting off and putting on (past tense) (Colossians 3:9-10), and the “going on being renewed into the knowledge of the One who created us” (Colossians 3:10), all have an impact upon the new society of which we are a part. If Christ is all to me and I am right with Him, and Christ is all to you and you are right with Him - then Christ is “all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Personal piety is not just about our individual relationship with God. The little phrase “one another” is introduced in Colossians 3:9, and re-occurs in Colossians 3:13 (twice) and in Colossians 3:16. Our knowledge of God empowers us for reconciliation on the horizontal plain as well (Colossians 3:11).