New King James Version 1. If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
The Resultant Version 1. If then you are raised together with the Christ, that which is above be seeking, where Christ is, sitting on the rights of God.
In verse 20 of chapter 2, Paul told us something that is true if we died together with Christ. Here, he tells us something that is true if we are raised together with Him. As I said in chapter 2, we both died with Christ and were raised with Him if we have believed in Him. When we believe the message God gives of His Son, then we are identified with Him. That message is that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the One chosen and marked out by God to be the Savior of the world; and that Jesus is the Son of God, God in human form. John 20:31. The message also tells us of His work on our behalf: that He died for our sins on the cross in harmony with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose from the dead the third day, as the Scriptures tell us. I Corinthians 15:3-4. If we believe these things, then God identifies us with Christ. When He died, we died, and the penalty for our sins is once and forever paid. When He rose, we rose, and we will someday live together with Him. When He was exalted, we were exalted, and someday we will enjoy an exalted position with Him. These truths are based on the fact that we believed, and when we believed we were identified with Him, both in His death and in His resurrection.
So if we are believers and therefore are raised together with the Messiah, then we should be seeking that which is above. What exactly is “that which is above”? For we must know what it is before we can be seeking it. This ultimately is difficult to say. We know very little about that which is above. Galatians 4:26 speaks of “Jerusalem above,” but other than this, the Bible does not really tell us what things are above. Some jump right in with their religion and traditions and claim that this is telling us to seek a home in heaven where we are going to go when we die. Yet this is never stated in the Bible, and is the merest fancy. We must seek to be Biblical, not fanciful, in attempting to discover what is above.
The fact is that what is above is that which is where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. I believe, then, that the things which are above that Paul is referring to are the things that come from Jesus Christ as their source. What kinds of things are these? This is not always easy to say. Yet I do know one thing: that every time I open my Bible and try to discover what a verse, phrase, or passage means, then I am seeking a truth that came from Christ and therefore has its source in that which is above. Therefore, I am seeking an above thing.
The word for “above” here, the Greek word ano, can, in some contexts, have to do with the future as well. Therefore, it could be telling us to seek the things which are yet future and are going to be on the earth in the future, not the things which are currently on the earth now. In other words, we should seek the things of the kingdom of God to come. We should attempt to live more like people will live in the kingdom, not as so many live now who are ungodly and who have not God in all their thoughts. We should seek to please God as people will seek to please God then, not halfheartedly, but with all our might. We should seek these future things.
New King James Version 2. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
The Resultant Version 2. Be disposed of those things which are above, not those things on the earth.
This verse tells us on what we should set our minds, or, as the Resultant Version puts it, we should be disposed. This is a translation of the Greek word phroneo. As Otis Sellers put it in his study on Philippians, “The Greek phroneo…occurs often in Philippians. This Greek word, among all the Greek words that have to do with thinking and minding, takes on the character of disposition. The disposition is the predominating bent or the constitutional habit of one’s mind or spirit. What the apostle Paul was dealing with here was not so much character or personality, but disposition.” So we are commanded here to be disposed towards those things which are above, not those things which are on the earth.
Now this is a statement that is very characteristic of this dispensation of grace, and would not have been characteristic of the Acts period. In Acts, there were many things of God on the earth. God’s kingdom had started in its early, blade stage after the resurrection of Christ, as is evidenced by the pouring out of God’s governmental power on certain men on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. These men then became God’s representatives and God’s apostles, and it would have been right to set your minds on them. There were powerful miracles that accompanied their work upon which one could set his mind. There were many God-given leaders speaking God-inspired words and imposing God-approved rules and regulations on the people who submitted to them through faith in Christ. All these things one could have rightfully set his mind on then, and he would have been setting his mind on the things of God. These were the things believers were supposed to be disposed toward, and if they had not been disposed toward them, they would not have been doing the will of God.
Yet at the great dispensational dividing line of Acts 28:28, these things changed. The kingdom, which had been on earth and growing towards its full manifestation was suddenly interrupted and postponed. The things of God that had been manifesting themselves more and more on earth all started to come to an end. By the time Paul put down his pen from writing II Timothy, all God-given inspiration, leadership, guidance, miraculous gifts, and so forth had been withdrawn from the earth altogether. Since that time, these things exist above with God, but no longer are present on earth.
Therefore, what is the believer of today to do? Is he to set his mind on some human organization, like the church, as a substitute for the kingdom of God? Is he to set his mind on pastors and priests, on denominations and sects, on the rules and regulations of such groups, or on the ministries and organizations of Christianity? Should he look to them for guidance and light? No, this is not what he should do. Instead, he should set his mind on Christ above, and on all the glorious riches He possesses. These riches may not be given to the believer until the next life, the resurrection, the kingdom to come, and yet these are the things worth contemplating. These are the things worth being disposed toward. These are the things worth bending all your mind, thought, and effort toward. These are the things that will last, after all the churches and denominations, the missions and charitable organizations, the so-called pastors and priests, and the rules and regulations of men have passed away.
New King James Version 3. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The Resultant Version 3. For you are dead, and your life has been hid together with Christ in God.
Now God gives us two reasons why we should be disposed towards the things above, and not towards the things on the earth. The first reason is that we are dead. This goes back to what was said in verse 20 of chapter 2: that we died with Christ from the elemental principles of this world. We must realize that the kingdom Christ started and which was growing during the Acts period was a new world, a new system, a new order or arrangement of things. It was not a part of this world, though it existed at the same time and in competition with it. It had different leaders, a different government, different rules, and different principles on which it operated. Yet that government withdrew from the earth back to Christ, and it exists here no longer.
Since this is true, the only world left on earth is that wicked world caused by Satan’s temptation and the fall of Adam into sin and away from God. That world has elementary principles which are completely contrary to those of Christ. These principles include its religious principles. When we believed in Christ and were identified with Him, we died to that world and became a part of the world above, a world which has no manifestation on the earth. We are dead to this world, then, even though we are living in it. Though we might be caught along in its flow at times, we are really no longer a part of it. That is why we are dead as far as this world and its principles are concerned.
Now the reality is that we are alive, far more alive than the people around us. And yet this is not at all obvious. A photograph of one who is alive in Christ taken in the same location will not appear any different from a photograph of one who is not alive in Christ. Our life may appear to other believers because they recognize the same work of Christ in us as is taking place in them, but to the world this life is totally hidden. The world may find us odd. It will not understand us. It certainly will not recognize the life that characterizes us in God’s sight. And we can do nothing to prove that life to the world. In the Acts period, the manifest miracles that followed them that believed were the most positive proof that those who believed were part of a different order of things than everyone else. Yet no such signs prove that we have life in Christ today. The governments we live in count us as citizens as much as anyone else, and we can prove nothing about our life in Christ.
So the fact that we are alive together with Christ is hidden from this world. Yet we are alive, and the difference between us and those around us is huge in God’s sight. This life that we enjoy is hidden with Christ, hidden from the world. And the reality is that we are not the only ones who are hidden from them. Who and what Christ is are facts also hidden from the world. They may view Him as the originator of the Christian religion, like Mohammad or Joseph Smith or the Buddha or any other author of religions. They may view Christ as a good man, or a miracle worker, or a great teacher. They may view Him as any number of other things. But they do not view Him as God views Him. They do not view Him as Jehovah Himself. They do not view Him as the Creator of all, the Sustainer of all, the Truth, the Life, the reason for everything to exist. They do not view Him as the Greatest Being there is or ever has been. They do not view Him as God. And yet that is Who He is. And for the most part, this truth is completely hidden from the world.
So the fact that the world does not know who and what the believer in Christ is matches with the fact that Christ Himself, the One in Whom we rest, is also hidden. The world can understand being “in a church.” They can understand being someone in the church, like a pastor, a priest, an elder, or even a Sunday school teacher. Yet they cannot understand just being a believer who is “in Christ.” This makes no sense to them. They cannot imagine being anything apart from some organization or religion of men. They do not understand finding everything you are in Christ. Yet their lack of understanding of the believer matches their lack of understanding of Christ. The reality of both is hidden from them. The believer “in Christ” is hidden in Christ, just as He is hidden in secrecy in this dispensation of the secret.
New King James Version 4. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
The Resultant Version 4. When the Christ, Who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall you also be manifested together with Him in glory.
Christ is not always to be hidden, however. Someday, the very Christ Who now is hidden will be manifested. This word does not mean “appears.” The word is phaneroo in Greek, pronounced “fah-neh-RO’-oh.” It means to shine forth or to make clear or plain. It is the same word used in Colossians 1:26, which tells us that the mystery or secret has now been made plain to the set-apart ones. This verse in Colossians 3 reveals to us another great truth: that someday Christ is going to shine forth and be made plain to the same world from which He is hidden now. This is a great hope for the world: that someday, God shall make Christ plain to them.
When shall this great shining forth of Christ take place? Certainly it cannot take place as long as this current dispensation lasts, for the rule today is that Christ is hidden from the world, as we saw in verse 3; God only works in secret, as we see in Ephesians 3:9; and God’s riches to the world are unsearchable, as we see in Ephesians 3:8. Yet someday God’s current work will be finished, and one of the first things He will do then is announce Himself to the world, making them know Who and what Jesus Christ is in His sight. This is what the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 22:27, when he writes:
27. All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You.
The word for “remember” here means to have something impressed upon your mind that was not there before. I believe this thing will be the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and this will cause all to turn toward the LORD and pay attention to what He is doing. This will be done through the Holy Spirit, as the Lord Jesus Himself reveals in John 16:7-11.
7. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Surely the Holy Spirit has never before worked to convict the world of such sweeping things as these. But when Jesus Christ is manifested to the world, the Spirit will at the same time work to convict the world of these great truths. When will this great work of the Spirit in revealing the truth regarding Christ to the world take place? We learn the answer to this question in II Timothy 4:1.
1. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
The word “appearing” here is a translation of the Greek word epiphaneia. Phaneia is the noun form of the verb phaino, which is just a simpler form of phaneroo. The “epi” in front is an accelerative contribution, making it from a “shining forth” to a “super shining forth” or a “blazing forth.” This word was used by the Greeks for a favorable intervention of the gods, and this will indeed be a favorable intervention by God. For we learn that God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, will judge (or determine what is right and then set things right) both the living and the dead at His blazing forth in a divine intervention. For God to set things right is indeed what this world needs most! And we learn here when this will take place: at His kingdom. When He takes control of the world and its governments, then He will set all things right in this world, not just for the living, but also for the dead.
Now the word epiphaneia, though it has the accelerative “epi” in front, nevertheless speaks of the same event as the phaneroo of Jesus Christ at His kingdom. Surely, when Christ is manifested to the world and the believer in Christ today is manifested along with Him, this could not be a less than a favorable intervention for the world, even though the word is not accelerated in Colossians 3:4. Moreover, I firmly believe that this is the next event on God’s calendar, the very event we look forward to today. Paul expresses this as our hope in places like Titus 2:13 and II Timothy 4:8.
Titus 2:13. looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Here, the glorious epiphaneia of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ is set forth as the “blessed hope” that believers today are to look for.
II Timothy 4:8. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Here, Paul expects to receive a reward of a crown of righteousness. However, this is not his alone, he reveals, but also belongs to all who have loved his epiphaneia. Who are those who love this? Surely anyone who looks at this dark world and all the many people in it who do not know or understand the truth about their Savior Jesus Christ, and who likewise long for everyone to know and understand Who and what He is in the sight of God, is longing for His appearing. Though many have no idea that the Bible sets forth that someday these truths will be revealed to the world, yet they have in their hearts a longing for such a thing, and would love this day if they knew enough of the Bible to know that it is coming. Yet for those of us who do know it is coming, let us love that day, for it is a great day indeed. What a blessing it will be for this dark world when the light regarding Jesus Christ is finally turned on for all time!
However, Colossians 3:4 does not just set forth that Jesus Christ will someday be revealed to the world. It also sets forth that we whose lives are hidden with Christ in God, we who today are believers “in Christ,” will also shine forth or be made plain to the world at the same time. God will not just reveal to all mankind Who Christ is. He will also reveal to them the esteem in which He holds those who have, without seeing, believed the record He gave of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word. As John 20:29 puts it, we are blessed, or “spoken-well-of.” Ephesians 1-3 sets forth all the glorious things God declares of us who are “in Christ.” The world does not perceive this, but when Christ is manifested to them, then those “in Christ” will be manifested as well. This will result in great glorification for all who are in Christ. Suddenly, all will start to hold us in esteem, much as God does. This will ultimately be not just to glorify us, though it will, but will be to glorify Jesus Christ, with Whom we then will be identified in the eyes of all. What a great day that will be!
New King James Version 5. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
The Resultant Version 5. Put to death then your members which are on the earth: sexual vice, uncleanness, sensual passion, evil desire, and greed that is idolatry.
In light of the fact that we will someday be manifested with Jesus Christ resulting in our glorification, Paul now urges us to put to death our members which are on the earth. Of course, we do not really have members anywhere else, so our members certainly are on the earth. Yet Paul says this to emphasize the fact that our members are still on the earth, even though the things we seek are above, where Christ sits on the rights of God.
The word “members” here is the Greek word melos. It can have to do with the literal limbs of a person, but also can speak of parts or participants. Here, our members have to do then with the sins that can flow out of the fallen and corrupt nature of our bodies and their desires.
The first thing we are to put to death is sexual vice. The word is the Greek porneia, from which we get our English word “pornography.” It is kind of a catch-all term for any sexually deviant behavior, ranging from sex outside of wedlock to much more perverse forms of sexual corruption. Some would attempt to limit it to prostitution, but really it cannot be so limited. The fact is that many people do prostitute themselves when they sin sexually, but not just for money. For many, they sell their bodies for a feeling of closeness or belonging, or for emotional satisfaction, or simply for physical pleasure. Yet this is in itself a kind of prostitution, for you are selling your body for what you hope to get out of it. This is contrasted with sex within the context of marriage as God intended it. In this case, you do not sell yourself, but give yourself into an equal and committed partnership, wherein sex is an expression of your love for and devotion to each other. Only in this case is sex really as God intended, and not selling yourself for whatever you hope to get out of it. So this word porneia must be applied to any sexual behavior outside of wedlock, not just prostitution for money.
Next, we are warned against uncleanness. This is the word akatharsia, and often occurs after fornication or porneia in the Bible. It is never clearly used of what we would call “ceremonial uncleanness” according to the law, but rather of unclean, sensual, or self-indulgent living.
Then we are warned of sensual passion. The word is the Greek pathos, and is a word we have brought straight over into English to mean something that has the power (like music or literature) to invoke feelings of pity or compassion. The Greeks used the word, however, for any strong feeling or passion one might experience, both in a good and bad sense. The Bible uses the word only three times, and always in a bad sense. We can certainly understand the concept of improper passion, though there also can be passion regarding good things. The translation of “sensual passion” from The Resultant Version is a good one.
The fourth thing related to our members on the earth that we are to put to death is evil desire. The word “evil” is kakos in Greek, and means simply “bad.” The word for “desire” is epithumia. As we can see from the “epi” in front, this is an accelerated word. It speaks of a strong desire or a craving. It is used in both a positive and a negative sense in the Scriptures, and even Christ says He “craved” to eat His last Passover with His disciples before His death in Luke 22:15. However, with the word kakos, this clearly speaks of bad cravings which arise out of the sinful desires of our members.
The final warning is against covetousness. This in the Old Testament is defined as a desire for something that belongs to someone else that you have no right to have, like his house, his servant, or his animals. However, this word in the New Testament is not clearly connected with that Old Testament word, and seems to have more to do with greedy desire for more than you already have. It is the Greek word pleonexia, related to the words for “having” and “more.” In our materialistic society, this is certainly a common fault that we all can fall into. Yet God here urges us to put greed to death, for He actually equates such greed with idolatry. He probably means that greed leads to a devotion to the acquiring of material things, a devotion which should instead be reserved for God alone. Therefore, though the things one is greedy for one does not worship as a god, yet still, since these things take on a devotion that should belong to God, this is in reality a form of idolatry or putting something else first before God. This is a very bad thing, then, and we must all be careful to put to death the greed that arises out of our members.
New King James Version 6. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
The Resultant Version 6. It is on account of these very things that God’s own indignation is coming on the sons of stubbornness,
In urging us to put to death our members that are related to these things, the Lord reminds us that it is on account of these very things that God’s own indignation is coming on the sons of stubbornness. Of course, we are in Christ, and therefore are delivered from the wrath to come. And yet, if these are the very things that will cause God’s indignation to come on the sons of stubbornness, then why should we who are in Christ indulge in these things? Is it appropriate for us who are in Christ to act in ways that, in others, would actually bring the indignation of God upon them? Is it right for us who have died to these things to act like those in stubborn rebellion against God? Of course not! These then become a negative example to us. We should be ashamed to be found acting like those who for these very same actions will someday be condemned by God. This should motivate us to put to death all such things in our lives.
The idea of “sons” here is clearly of those who show the character of stubbornness. The Hebrew idea of a “son” was of one who represented his father. This could be in various ways, including in his character. Therefore, this word “sons” is often used in Scripture of those who show forth the character of a thing. In this case, it speaks of those who show forth the character of stubbornness against God.
New King James Version 7. in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
The Resultant Version 7. Among whom you also walked at one time when you lived in these things.
At one time, Paul reminds the Colossians, they too had walked among the sons of stubbornness. This refers back to the time before they believed the good message of God and came to be “in Christ.” The word “walked” here has to do with how they lived. In our lives, we walk everywhere. Yes, we do drive many places, but we have to walk to get to our cars, and walk from our cars to where we are going. We walk when we get out of bed in the morning, we walk out of the house, we walk to our place of work and around our place of work, we walk from room to room, and in just about everything we do in life we are walking. Therefore, the word “walk” takes on the meaning of living our everyday lives, or our lifestyle. What Paul means here is that at one time before we believed we lived the same lifestyle that those who are still sons of stubbornness are currently living. We lived in these things, and they defined us. Now that we are in Christ however, praise God, we no longer walk this way.