Some Comments On Colossians 3:1-4
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. Since, therefore, you folks were awakened and are raised up together in the Christ (or: If, then, you are aroused and raised with the Anointed One), be constantly seeking and trying to find the upward things (or: the things being above), where the Christ is (exists being), continuously sitting within the right [side] (or: at the right [hand]; = at the place of receiving, and in the place of honor and the power) of God.
The verb "raised" is in the aorist tense, so could either be a simple past tense in English, or a simple present. – thus the two options. Either way, we are aroused and raised. When? When Christ was raised. It was "together with Him." We have been a part of the first resurrection (the Corporate Christ, the Firstfruit from among dead folks). Therefore we are seated with Him in the heavenlies (realms having authority upon the heavens, or the realm of spirit) – Eph. 2:6 – and we should seek out and try to find the "upward things," or the things being above, as opposed to the things below. Our focus and attentions should be on Christ and His position of reigning at God's right "hand." We are participating in the reign, or kingdom, of the heavens.
Lightfoot gives an insightful paraphrase here: "If this be so; if ye were raised with Christ, if ye were translated into heaven, what follows?" (ibid, p. 206). The "therefore" of this verse begins a transition, in the first four verses of this chapter, to the hortatory expositions which follow, on through 4:6.
2. Be constantly minding (thinking about; setting your disposition and sentiments toward; paying regard to) the upward things (or: the things above), not the things upon the earth,
3. for you folks died, and your life has been hidden so that it is now concealed together with the Christ, within the midst of God (or: in union with God).
Vs. 2 is a restatement of the admonition in vs. 1, expanding it, then vs. 3 restates the fact of the Christ event given in vs. 1, from the perspective of the past event of our dying "together with the Christ," as well as referring back to 2:12 – "buried together in Him (jointly entombed with Him)," and 2:20, "you folks died together." Then he explains that our life has now been hidden – concealed – together with the Christ. So Christ is also concealed. Where? Within His body, His house, which is at the same time both within the heavenlies and upon the earth. And all of this is "within the midst of God, and in union with God!" And so Paul tells those at Athens "within the midst of and in union with Him we continuously live..." (Acts. 17:28).
Lightfoot reads, "All your thoughts must abide in heaven.... you died once for all to the world: you are living another life," and further on says, "You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven" (ibid, p. 206-7). Note the perfect tense of the verb in the second clause of vs. 3. It is a completed work.
The "upward things (or: the things above)" refer first to the realm "in the Christ" into which we were "raised" (vs. 1), but then to our life in "the Jerusalem above" (Gal. 4:26), which is a figure of the covenant community, and the "invitation to an above place (or: an upward call)" that Paul refers to in Phil. 3:14. The "atmosphere, or heaven," is what is above, and this is a metaphor for the realm of God and the realm of spirit, as contrasted to the earth, which is a figure to living in the natural realm: either realm can be lived in within this physical body, here on literal earth. Our "expectation (or: hope)" – ch. 1:5 – comes from living in and by these "upward things."
This is equivalent to 2 Cor. 3:18, "continuously observing the Lord's glory" so that we are "progressively transformed into the very same image" of Christ. It calls to mind Paul's words in Rom. 12:1, where we are called "to stand [our] bodies alongside [the] Well-pleasing, Set-apart, Living Sacrifice by God." Our identification with Christ in His death is our "sacred service." As Lohse says, "What was once, no longer applies. The old life has been put aside forever through the death which they died together with Christ" (ibid., p. 133). Now consider that this all happened before they had even heard of Christ.
4. Whenever the Christ, our life [other MSS: your life], may be brought to light (or: should be manifested), you folks also will be brought to light (will be manifested), together with Him, within the midst of glory (or: in union with a manifestation which calls forth praise; or: in a good reputation; or: = in His manifest presence). (or: When Christ, the Anointing, can be manifested, then your life – even you yourself, together with Him – will be manifested in His manifest presence).
So the entire Christ (Jesus and His body) have been hidden and concealed, but vs. 4 speaks of both Him and us being brought to light, manifested together. This manifestation comes within the midst of glory – i.e., in union with a manifestation which calls forth praise and establishes a good reputation. Note that Paul says, "Whenever..." This can be interpreted as saying, "At any time where Christ may be brought to light, we also will be brought to light together with Him." This happens during the proclamation of the good news. The light is a figure of knowledge, of understanding. He is the Light of the ordered system (John 8:12); we are the light of the ordered system (Matt. 5:14) – we are now light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8), being "living epistles." His glory is manifested when He is manifested, for His presence is the glory. When we manifest Him, bring Him to light, we bring Him glory and manifest His glory, or, His good reputation.
This transition has reminded the Colossians of what was then (and is now) the new reality of the new creation, while beginning the admonitions of where their thinking should be. The covenant community is a manifestation (the bringing to light) of Christ, and brings glory to the Father.
Note: the first draft of an upcoming book on Col. and other epistles can be found in the commentaries section on this web page
Return To Jonathan Mitchell's Page