Colossians 3:1 …. seek those things which are above. What does that mean? What are “things above”?
Paul’s epistles begin with an exposition of doctrine, some revelation of truth, and then show the practical implications of that doctrine. Romans and Ephesians are good examples of this pattern. Romans chapters 1-11 develop various lines of truth. Chapters 12 through the end clearly show a practical emphasis. In Ephesians, chapters 1 through chapter 4 verse 16 similarly develop lines of truth and 4:17 to the end of the epistle develop practical consequences. The verse we are looking at (Col. 3:1) begins the practical consequences from the previously developed doctrine. So, this verse is especially important.
But, to really see the importance of this verse we need to remember what I wrote in a previous post. The central truth is given in the previous chapter: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (v. 9, NASB). I don’t think it is possible to overemphasize the importance or significance of this truth. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me to be an eternal truth from which all other truth derives. Colossians puts this before us as the source and power for a walk in a world which is opposed to Christ and to us. Our degree of worldliness is just the degree to which we fail to appreciate this truth (Jas. 4:4). Here we look at the practical consequence given in terms of the object of our hearts.
The Consequence of This
For what follows to have its proper force, we must begin where the apostle begins: “If then you have been raised with Christ.” This is both positional and practical. We have been raised positionally. In Ephesians, the same apostle says, “[God] has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” This is our proper present possession. The question is, how well do we live according to those blessings?” It is the challenge here of recognizing that our occupation is with Christ in glory. This necessarily takes us out of the world. How well do we answer in our lives to this fact? Some have said about Christians that they are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, but the fact is that we are no earthly good because we are not heavenly minded!
God invites us, in this way, to have our hearts aligned with His heart. Christ, the One accepted of God is the One rejected of man. It is not a question simply a matter of what is evil or what is not. Christ has passed out of the whole earthly scene. He is in heaven, and the heart drawn there is God’s method of sanctification for the soul. The result is that if a true life for God is lived here upon the earth, it will have a character formed by its source and object. It is a life hidden from the world, hidden in God, even as Christ is hidden.
As a consequence, to be understood by the world, to be commended and honored by it, would be contrary to that association with Christ which God has given us. The day is coming when Christ will be manifested. Then that for which the Christian has lived will become apparent to all. Then we will appear (Col. 3:4) with Him in glory. But for this, faith must be content to wait through all the present time. We find in Him present joy and satisfaction, but as strangers here. This is the principle which underlies the whole moral condition for us.1
The Things Above
So, what things are we to be occupied with? To begin, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is “above.” He must be the object of our hearts. But, the verse says “things.” So, what things should occupy our hearts and if we have everything in Christ why does the verse draw our attention to “things?” The answer to this last question is in the practical part of the epistle. God is considerate of our dullness so He would stimulate us in this way to search to find out what these things are and by that search to make them more significant and precious to us (Prov. 25:2).
I will suggest a short list of things to help you get started and encourage you in your own search for hidden treasure.
The Christ who is risen. (Matt. 28:9; etc.).
The Christ who is coming again (Jn. 14:3).
Christ: the Man in the glory2 (Acts 7:55; 9:3-5; etc.).
Our Great High Priest and Medator (Heb. 4:14,15; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Our Inheritance (Matt. 6:19; Eph. 1:11,14; 1 Pet. 1:4; etc.).
Our Home (the Father’s house: Jn. 14:3).
Our City (the New Jerusalem: Rev. 21:2).
I will close this post with simply a quotation from 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
1. Adapted from F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible: Acts to II Corinthians, (Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1932), 371.
2. Cutting, George. “The Man In The Glory”. Accessed July 30, 2020. https://www.mybrethren.org/poetry/framman.htm.