Though Colossians 3:1-4 serves as the major transitional passage in the book, Paul already used 2:6-7 as a “mini” transition. Here Paul exhorted us to live our lives with the same “Christ Jesus the Lord” that we initially put our faith in. That is, this One, Jesus, who is Creator & Sustainer of the universe (1:16-17), who has priority & preeminence over all creation (1:15, 17), who reconciled sinful mankind to Himself & resides as Head of the church (1:22, 18) and in whom all God’s fullness dwells & all wisdom & knowledge hides (1:19; 2:3) – this One must consume our lives; we must live in Him!
Following this brief transitional command to “walk in” Jesus, Paul delays in explaining what this means & how this is done. Instead, in 2:8-23 he warns about the false teachers who seek to mislead them (see 2:8, 16-19, 20-23), while at the same time he elevates what Jesus has done and accomplished for and in us (see 2:9-15, 19). Only then does Paul describe for us how to walk in Jesus; this he does in 3:1-2.
Paul begins this “how to” portion by tying his words to what preceded: “If then you have been raised with Christ” (1). His “if then” assumes the truthfulness of Paul’s statement, namely, “since it is true that you were raised with Christ, then do these activities.” In this opening thought of having been raised with Christ, Paul summarizes Christ’s accomplishments on our behalf as expressed in 2:11-15. For example, we were buried with Jesus in His death as well as raised with Him in His resurrection (12); though spiritually dead God made us alive with Jesus since in His death He forgave our sins (13); and now He is the source of our ongoing life with God (19). Since this union with Jesus is genuine (note the three times “with Him [Jesus]” is used in verses 12-13), Paul gives us the two parallel responses to our new life “with Jesus.”
Responding to our New Life
The first of two commands deals with what we pursue most earnestly in life: “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (3:1). Every time the terms “seek” is used in the NT it always has an object; that is, seeking always has a goal in mind, something we determine as valuable or necessary enough to pursue. For example, the religious leaders were seeking a way to destroy Jesus (Mark 11:18); or, in a positive vein, Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33).
So when Paul says to pursue “things above” he quickly explains why this must be – because we find Jesus “above”! This makes perfect sense to those raised with Christ; we are the beneficiaries of what this Christ has done! Since Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand in lieu of His victory over sin, death & the devil (see 2:12-15), and since our union with Him includes Him as our life (see 3:4 for the wonderful declaration, “Christ who is your life”) – make the goal & drive of your life to go after Him!
The second command well complements the first: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (2). Both “seek” & “set your minds on” are commands & both have the same object (“things that are above”). But what does it mean to “set your minds on things that are above”? It means to ponder & dwell on the details, meaning, benefits, usefulness & functions of Christ as our life. Indeed, Paul soon will tell us that all of life as Jesus’ followers depends upon such absorption with the thing above where Jesus (our life!) sits enthroned by the Father. Various ways exist for us to think reflectively on Christ who is above.
Here are a few examples to practice: first, we can memorize key verses that specifically speak of our life with the Savior. The verses mentioned earlier about His accomplishments for us provide a place to begin. See 1:15-19, 22; 2:3. These will remind you of the treasures you possess because of Jesus.
Second, try jotting down ideas about Jesus, His cross, resurrection, and benefits from these passages. Ask for the Holy Spirit to “open your eyes” to grasp these marvelous truths.
Third, select one idea about Christ and the things above to share with another believer. Make it simple and short, it must be important to you. You may be surprised how this will encourage your friend-and you!
Finally, this second verse adds a warning (“not on things that are on earth”). The contrast between “the things above” & “things that are on earth” is not between the spiritual versus material things, but rather, a life that does not take the true Jesus into account. In other words, our efforts to make Jesus Christ the center of our lives will face opposition. The world in which we live fights against our pursuit and thoughtfulness related to Jesus. “On earth” we must deal with the imposter gods who compete for our allegiance. This reality makes even more important our efforts to SEEK and PUT OUR MINDS ON THE THINGS ABOVE!
(Questions to provoke thought & use)
1. Read the first paragraph above. Now read the verses mentioned in this paragraph & complete the following.
a. Which three portrayals of Jesus most impress you?
b. Please explain why.
2. Explain the two primary purposes Paul had in writing 2:8-23.
a. Which two warnings are most important to you?
b. List two of Jesus’ accomplishments from this section that mean the most to you. Why are these important to you?
3. The following relates to Colossians 3:1.
Col. 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
a. How does the opening phrase, “If then you have been raised with Christ” relate to what Paul previously said? In what way does it link what Paul has said to what he is going to say?
b. In a simple sentence, explain the meaning of “seek.”
c. What are some things or people you have sought in your life? What caused you to seek them? What did you do in order to seek them?
d. Paul says the object of his seeking is “the things that are above, where Christ is.” Give some specifics that would make this idea more concrete. What are they in light of chapters 1-2 of this book?
4. The following relates to Colossians 3:2.
Col. 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
a. Gives two synonyms for the words “set your mind on.”
b. How does this idea of pondering related to “seek” in verse 1?
c. How would you go about setting your mind on things above? Give three possible ways you could do this?
d. What are some examples of “things that are on earth” that could keep you from focusing on things that are above? Be specific.
Author: Gary Darnell, teaching pastor & elder