The Promise Of Glory In Christ

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 28 Oct 2011

 

1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).

Colosse was a significant city in Asia Minor in what is today modern Turkey. It is located near Ephesus; and in fact, the church there was probably founded by Epaphras, a pastor from Ephesus rather than by Paul directly. But that did not diminish Paul’s love for them.

Paul heard about some doctrinal problems in the church, perhaps from Epaphras, and decided to write to them. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote to warn them of the errors of the superstitious Judaisers who insisted that believers must observe the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and even to worship angels. He wrote also to fortify the Colossians against erroneous ways of thinking that would arise from mixing Gentile philosophy with Christian principles.

These warnings are most clearly expressed in chapter 2 of this letter.  But in chapter 3, Paul, having warned against the errors of the day, now seeks to turn his readers to the Christian way.

He begins immediately by telling us that we do not belong to this world. Though we were born in this world and we lived in this world, we belong to heaven, not to this world! Therefore we should set our affection on things above rather than things on earth.

There is, however, a difficulty to this exhortation. The problem is that we are in fact pretty much alive in this world are we not? Not only do we need the things of this present world, we find that we actually derive pleasure from many of the things of this world, and we find that we generally also derive much of our significance from the things of this world.

Think about your wealth and status in life. Think about your position in society. If you are regarded as a successful man, what are the things that make you so-called successful? Are they heavenly or earthly? If you are regarded as influential, what are the things that make you influential? Are they likely to be heavenly or earthly? If you are significant and respected in this world? What is it that makes you significant and respected?

I think we all know that our successes, significance and status come generally from the things of this world. And success, significance and status are some basic craving of our nature. How then can we not set our affection on the things of this present world? How can we set our affection on things in heaven?

Paul’s answer is very simple: First of all, we are dead (v. 3). Secondly, our life is hid in Christ. Thirdly, our life will be revealed in Christ.

Now, it is the third point that we want to pay special attention to in this study as part of our series on the great and precious promises of God. But this promise cannot be understood without considering first what it means to be dead and to have our life hid in Christ. So let’s look at the three things briefly.

First, what does it mean to be dead?


1. We are Dead

3 For ye are dead… says Paul.

What does Paul mean by saying that we are dead? Obviously, Paul does not mean to say that we are physically dead. So in what sense are we dead?

Well, no doubt that Paul means to say that we are dead to sin and to the world. He says in Romans 6:2—“God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein.” Likewise he says: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal 6:14).

What does it mean to be crucified to the world? To be crucified to the world is to cease to be enchanted by the world. It is to cease to derive our significance and joy from the world. It is to have nothing but the Cross of Christ in our trophy room.

What does it mean to be dead to sin? To be dead to sin is to be unaffected by sin. How may we be affected by sin? We may be affected by sin in a number of ways. For example, we can be affected by its guilt. As believers we are dead to its guilt for Christ paid our penalty. And we can be affected by its power or lure.

A living fish will be attracted to the bait on a hook, but not a dead fish. A man who is alive to sin will be attracted by the temptation to sin, but the man who is dead to sin, should not be attracted by it. A man who is alive to the world will be lured by the glitters of this world, but the man who is crucified to the world cares not for its glory.

Now, we all know that we have a remnant of corruption. So we will still sin and be drawn to the world. However, we must remember that as believers we are born again. Paul says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Cor 5:17). For this reason when he talks about his struggle against sin, Paul says: “it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:20). For this same reason John says: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1Jn 2:15).

What the apostles are essentially saying is that the believer must be dead to sin and to the world. He no longer finds delight in sin. He is not attracted to sin. He hates it when he falls into its lure and temptation. He no longer places his trust or his hope on the things of this world.

This is the first reason why we should not lay up treasures upon the earth, and set our affections here. The fact is: because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we actually have a change of attitude towards sin and the world. We have begun, in our heart of hearts to hate sin and the world. And if we think about it rationally and quietly, we will find ourselves delight more in the things of God than in the flesh and of the world. Indeed, the more we seek first God’s kingdom, the more we die unto sin and the world, and the more we will find our hearts drawn to Christ and more and more, we will find little delight in the things of this world, especially such as are contrary to righteousness. “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” says Paul (2 Tim 2:11).

Our old man died, that our new man might live with Christ. As Matthew Henry puts it:

And if we are dead to the earth, and have renounced it as our happiness, it is absurd for us to set our affections upon it, and seek it. We should be like a dead thing to it, unmoved and unaffected towards it.

But secondly, we should seek things above because…


2. Our Life is Hid in Christ

3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

What does it mean to have our life hid with Christ? Now, there are a number of interpretations, but perhaps the best way of looking at it is that our life is hid in Christ not only in terms of secrecy, but also in terms of security.

When we hide something precious, we will usually do so for two reasons. First, we will do so perhaps because we want to keep it a secret. But secondly, we will do so because we want to keep it safe.

Now, our life is, in a sense, hid in Christ in that it is not seen and understood by the world today. But our life is also hid in Christ because it is secured in Christ.

In Christ we are assured of eternal life. The Lord himself says: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (Jn 14:19). Thus Paul says in verse 4, that Christ is our life. Christ is a believer’s life. “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me” says Paul in Galatians 2:20.

Or to put it in another way: He was raised for our justification. And so we have been raised from spiritual death and soon we will be completely restored. We have certain hope that this is and will be the case because He rose from the dead. Christ lived, suffered and died, not only to free us from the corruption and power of sin, but from the guilt of sin and wrath of God due to us for our guilt.

Our life is hid in him in terms of security and protection from the wrath of God because Christ was punished on our behalf. Christ our Lord suffered God’s wrath on our behalf. On the cross of Calvary, his body was broken and his blood was shed on our behalf, and he experienced the torments of hell. Each time we come to the Lord’s Table, we are commemorating his suffering for us, and receiving from him the strength that is needed to enjoy for our eternal life.

Because of what He has done and is doing for us, our life is secure in Christ despite our failures and sin. It is protected from the world. It is protected from the devil. It is protected from the destructive power of evil for all things work together for the good of them that love God. And most of all, it is protected from the wrath of God. Were it not for Christ, God would be just if he were to punish us for our sin; but thank God that our life is hid in Christ so that we need never call upon the mountains and the rocks to hide us from God’s wrath.

This is the second reason why we should live with heaven in view. We can have the confidence that despite our failures and shortfalls, our life in Christ is secured. We do not need to pursue after the things of this world which are neither permanent, nor ultimately satisfying.

But finally, the third reason why we should live the Christian rather than the worldly life is that…


3. Our Life will be Revealed in Christ

Not only is our life hid in terms of secrecy and security. Our life is also hid with Christ in that it shall be revealed. It shall be revealed in the fullness of time.

4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Like our hidden life, Christ is now hidden. As Peter reminds us in Acts 3:21, “the heaven must receive [Him] until the times of restitution of all things.” But in that day of the restitution of all things, He will appear again in great glory with the holy angels (Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26) as well as with his saints made perfect (2 Th 1:10).

4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

The apostle John is saying essentially the same thing in 1 John 3:2—

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2)

Our life is today hidden from the world. But the day is coming when Christ who is our life will appear. In that day, we will be glorified and the fullness of our life will be displayed for all the world to see. That day will be the perfection of our happiness if we live the life hidden with Christ today. We “shall also appear with him in glory” says Paul.

What a glorious day that will be! What a day to look forward to! What thrill and hope it gives us when we think of that day! That day is coming! All who live that hidden life today, will be vindicated. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom 8:13)

Therefore, beloved brethren and children, do not give up living the life hid in Christ. Do not allow Satan to entice you into thinking that you should rather live like the rest of the world, in a way that the world understands. Live rather like the wise virgins, setting your affections on things above, putting your hope not in this world, but on Christ who is coming again for you.


Conclusion

What is your life? Do you sometimes feel a sense of loss and dissatisfaction or even frustration? Do you feel that things are not going as well as you wish them to be?

Well, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that it is probably not going to get better soon. If anything, it is likely to get worse! This is life in this world.

But the good news is: if you are in Christ, it will get better. In fact, there will be complete transformation. What is hidden now will be revealed in clear!

That day is coming! I don’t know when it will be. I often wish it would be sooner than later. But we must abide by the Lord’s timing. In the fullness of time, what is hidden shall be revealed.

If you think about it carefully, you will realise that you are already enjoying something of the life in Christ today because of the earnest of your inheritance, even the Holy Spirit. It is because of the work of the Holy Spirit that today you have a yearning for heaven, and a decreasing interest in the things of this world, especially where they are sinful. But one day, and the day is coming, when the fulness of the glory of the life in Christ that is your will be revealed in full. What a blessed day that will be!

Oh may the Lord grant you the strength to persevere on and patience to wait upon Him. Amen.