Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Col. 3:1-11 Life Between Christ's Glorification and His Return In Glory
Col. 3:1-11 is the first part of Paul's theological introduction to the practical guidelines section of his letter to the Colossians (3:18-4:9). The second part is in 3:12-17. That these sections dwell on the life of the baptized between the time of Christ's glorification and his coming again in glory is suggested in the lines "you have been raised with Christ"(v. 1)... and "you also will appear with him in glory" (v. 4). Taking these two moments as reference points for the Christian life, how is the Christian to live?
(1b)Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at
the right hand of God
(2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Note the parallelism in these lines. To seek the things that are above (ano), is to set ones mind on things that are above (ano) . Paul is here actually drawing a conclusion from an idea that should be obvious to his readers: the Christian has become -- through baptism -- so united with Christ that he is even now joined with Christ at the right hand of God. The Christian, in other words, is already among heavenly things! Hence, he has to fix his gaze and his hopes on those things which are proper to his new nature.
It is normal for people to think that in terms of "below-above" when we think of the spiritual life: I am "below" and God is "above". Hence, in order to be near Him, I should "go up." Isn't it that the whole idea of "ascesis" is "to ascend" as implied in the words "ascetic" and "asceticism"? Paul knew this "ascetic mentality" and talks about it in Col. 2:23, and he dismisses it as "having an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigour of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh." Rather he points to an asceticism that is more real and more in accord with the present situation of the Christian, an asceticism that is possible because rooted in the recreation of the human being.
Paul writes that the Christian's life is "hid with Christ in God" (v.3) and that the Christian -- in baptism -- "has put off the old nature with its practices and has put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (v. 10). The Christian has been created anew in Christ. The new nature that Paul refers to is the new humanity created by God in Christ and to which the Christian shares in by virtue of his baptism. Christ is "the image of the invisible God" writes Paul in Col. 1:15 and it is in this image that the new humanity is renewed in knowledge (3:10). The Christian, may look as human as anybody else outwardly; but this is only because his life is hid. As Christ when walking among us looked just like us and talked like us, so too, the Christian is by all appearances human. Only God can see who he truly is. In the end, Paul writes, when Christ appears in glory, so the Christian will also be revealed as God knows and sees him, to all (cf. Romans 7:19).
The new status of the Christian apud Deum has consequences for his daily life (3:5-17). Since he is no longer an "earth-bound-and-death-bound" being, he now has a life that is Christ-like and Spirit-filled. It is this life which Paul describes as "living IN Christ" (cf. 2:6-11)