DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS
Victory in Union with Christ in All Its Simplicity
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Colossians 3:1-4 (KJV)
There is no interruption in Paul's argument clearly set forth in Colossians 2; in fact, he is building his argument and sets the stage for his theological climax and application in Colossians 3:1-4. Paul is careful to lay out the ground rules that will buttress his urgent application that follows
Paul's Careful Review of the Believer's New Identity Colossians 2: 11-23
Paul assures the Colossians that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and they are complete in Him, a staggering statement, to say the least, (Colossians 2:10, 11). Their spiritual fullness in union with Christ was forged in a "circumcision" or a cutting off of the former life, now identified as a baptism, a symbol of death. In His bodily resurrection they were raised to walk in newness of life (vv.11, 12).
Their new identity and condition is unique in that all their sins were forgiven; that handwriting of impossible requirements of the law was canceled (vv13,14). They stand accepted and free in Christ, free from all pseudo religious constraints. In addition, they share in Christ's disarming of principalities and demonic powers. They stand at the Cross far above all evil forces (v.15). These are breathtaking riches of a heavenly nature.
Paul exhorts the believers to stand in this freedom and reject all claims of food and drink, festivals, new moons, sabbaths and even worse, Gnostic theories, angelic worship and false humility. On the contrary, they should hold fast to the Head and grow in grace and spiritual stature (vv.16-19).
For the second time Paul returns to the reality of their death to sin. He asks the rhetorical question that once again needs no answer: "Therefore, if (since) you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations" (v.20). He proceeds to show the utter worthlessness of such man-made righteousness: rules, prohibitions and ascetic self denial. These futile efforts can only lead to further deep frustration. Paul placed himself under the law, and it culminated in: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).
The Ultimate Statement of the Believer's Victory Colossians 3: 1-4
Now in Colossians 3 Paul will address the real «how» of practical victory in everyday life. Paul has affirmed 1) our fullness in Christ, 2) our circumcision, 3) our total pardon from sin and the law's condemnation and 4) our sharing His victory over principalities and powers.
These four direct assertions are followed by the personal application of Colossians 3:1: "If (since) you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God." The command to seek is squarely based on a given divine reality--"since you were raised"--implying a real death and now our response to it in faith and never by the dint of our effort and determination. How many more times (five already) does Paul have to state the obvious?
This is the new point of departure for the believer, not self effort, but trust, committal and dependence. This command now obeyed will set the standards and provide the grace for the believer's Christ-like conduct in every relationship of life. This is Paul's practical "how" of victory.
The Exclusive Role of Saving Faith
Paul here re states his thesis of Romans 6:1-14, the theological "how" of victory. "Likewise you also reckon [count] yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11). The exclusive role of faith affirms divine facts-- our death to sin's power and affirms our newness of life–now alive to Christ.
But it is the active receiving and full acceptance of our co crucifixion, God's just judgment on our sins or "virtues." He has once for all judged my pride, my "ego." In real life this may come through a humbling experience or personal defeat recognized for what it is. The essence of a co crucifixion is synonymous with some pain caused by our spiritual failure. I grasped this fact in a humbling experience when God dealt publicly with my "spiritual pride." It proved to be a pivotal moment that has served me well for 62 years of ministry
The command is in the present imperative mood "keep on seeking." The believer does not fold his arms in passivity, but neither does the victory depend on his own feelings and doings.
Again it is the active receiving of the truth of our co crucifixion with Christ that provides the new dynamic. Where faith and our receiving with thanksgiving co exist, the faithful Spirit of Christ is already doing his unique work in us. We don't need, like a beggar, to keep asking for the Spirit's help. Our active daily seeking is for the spiritual things where Christ is, seated in the full array of His glory (v.1).
A Commonly Heard Counsel of Doubtful Value
In my extensive travels on two continents (1968-2006) and on two occasions to Russia, I have been asked so often this troubling question: "Why don't we hear this Message of the Cross and personal victory?
I have found that we are completely orthodox in our personal evangelism "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . ." (Acts 16:31). We hold the line there. "For by grace you have been saved [justification and sanctification] though faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, least anyone should boast."
However, if a defeated Christian asks: "How can I find victory? We all too often hear: "Seek the Lord. Confess your sins, (1 John 1:9). Get into the word daily, faithfully have your devotions, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He will give you the victory. Find Christian fellowship." We are saved by faith; it is inferred that we must "do our part!"
If simple saving faith in Christ's death introduced me to my initial salvation without any works at all, why should not simple saving faith in my co crucifixion and resurrection life in Christ, as biblically defined, just as truly introduce me to a victorious Savior? Can you answer that spiritual logic? It is the same death, mine in His!
There is none of those "deeds" that are so often suggested as our "doing our part." They just don't appear in any of the biblical texts that deal in full context with the believer's victory: Romans 6-8; Ephesians 2-5; Colossians 2, 3; Philippians 2-3. Victory is founded only in what God did in Christ at the cross, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3).
A Repeat and More Explicit Application Colossians 3:2
In his second injunction: "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth," he leaves no stone unturned. He has said it positively twice, and then states it negatively so we cannot be confused. Our "mind" conveys the idea of a world view, our thought life, how we see the world, through God's eyes and not our culture's lenses.
Paul will return for the sixth time to the fact of Cross, but it is to that aspect of our having been co crucified with Christ, an aspect so long forgotten and silenced in our churches: "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (v.3). Can there be any clearer affirmation of a more far reaching truth? It was an aorist (final) death to sin and self at the Cross two thousand years ago accomplished in the mind and will of God.
This is precisely the believer's point of departure. "Knowing this, that our old man was
co crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with (annulled, cancelled) that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). Without grasping these truths, we will never be able to respond in Christ-likeness to the down-to-earth demands of marriage, family and personal relationships that God prescribes and what Paul will shortly introduce.
The True Security of the Believer Colossians 3:3
The believer now has the double security of being hidden in Christ who in turn is hidden in God. I often picture the following: In my left hand, a clenched fist guards a priceless treasure with my right hand firmly covering my left fist. With what difficulty could that treasure be snatched away! Now multiply by the Divine Hand. To change the image: the Christ-like life is like an artesian well, springing up from a boundless source of life and holiness. Can you imagine anything more wonderful?
All that is lacking in this life is about to be revealed shortly. "When Christ, our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (v.4). It's only a matter of time for this hidden life to be revealed in all its fullness -- in glory. To seek the things now "where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God" will issue then in our glorious future unveiling.
Paul will develop exactly what those spiritual values are in the following section (3:5-17) and then will apply it to wives, husbands, children, fathers and slaves and masters (3:18-4:1). The multiple injunctions addressed in the rest of the chapter are not our best self effort but rather His working in us of His "good pleasure." We are, after all, "His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:12). Now we know to whom our good works belong!
Paul states precisely the Biblical balance: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12, 13).
John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress pictures the muckraker, who absorbed in his earthly labors, was raking straw in the dirt with head bowed, while Christ stood just above him holding a crown ready to place it on his head. If only he had stood erect and looked up!
Can there be any greater motivation to leave earth's low life to find Heaven's high life? Let all eyes be turned to the Cross!
Our Solemn Vow Confirmed
"Lord, You know my heart. You heard my earlier vow. I take my place right now with You on the Cross, rejecting my best self efforts and simply trusting, simply taking Your Word at its face value. I count myself dead to sin and alive in Christ. I open my heart to the work of the Holy Spirit for Him to do in me what You did for me 2000 years ago. I give You thanks and will walk by faith and obedience in the light of the Cross. Amen."
How many times in Colossians does Paul state our death to sin and self? ……………?