Summary: Sermon 12 in a study in Colossians
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Today will be an extension of last week’s lesson of necessity for two reasons. One is that Paul as the writer is continuing his line of thought; the second is that I finished last week touching on the doctrine taught here and today we are coming back to it once more.
These first four verses of chapter 3 mark the end of the primarily doctrinal portion of this letter and then Paul will apply what he has taught to Christian character and lifestyle.
But let’s not be too anxious to move on. These are some of the most wonderful verses in the Bible and we cannot help but benefit each time we stop to consider these marvelous truths that define us and encourage us concerning our eternal position.
First then, let’s look at this very first phrase, and work our way step by step through these four verses together.
“If then you have been raised up with Christ…”
Now, my NASB was printed in 1977 and in 1995 the translation was updated to smooth out the language for easier reading. So the new NASB begins verse 1 this way, “Therefore if you have been raised…”
The NIV says “Since then…” and that may express the thought a little clearer in that it omits the word ‘if’. Paul wasn’t calling into question the salvation of the Colossian Christians. I also do not think he was making a distinction purposely between the saved and the unsaved.
He is simply saying that in relation to the things he has said before, concerning the false doctrines and the legalism and the man-made traditions that were fretting them, that they should freshly consider their new life in Christ and leave those things behind.
“You are raised up with Christ”. Now it is clear that Paul is referring to resurrection, and in the physical sense we have not yet been resurrected, because in the physical sense we have not yet died, if you are still hearing my voice today. But there is a sort of death we have died, and it is a death in Christ, therefore our spiritual raising up is also in Him – He rose from the dead and brought up from spiritual death all His chosen ones.
In the words of a minister of a past generation:
“When our Forerunner triumphed, He bore up with Him into safety the spiritual life of all His people.” E.K. Simpson, The Pastoral Epistles, (London, 1954)
Think now about what that means, ‘raised up with Christ’.
Where is He now? Well, let’s look at a couple of scripture passages, and then make sure we’re understanding the theological truth behind them and not imagining something that is really a faulty understanding and cheapens the concept.
First there is Acts 1:9-11
“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
We’re familiar with the account of the ascension of Christ from the Mount of Olives, just take special note today that verse 11 says that these men, who we understand to be angels, specifically told the Apostles that Jesus had been taken up “into heaven” and that He would come back in just the same way; in other words, that He would come down out of heaven.
Next, listen to 1 Corinthians 15:23-25 as Paul writes to them about the resurrection:
“But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”
“But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?