Excerpt from Christ For Us: Sermons of Hugh Martin, (BOT, 1998), 181–191

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”
(Colossians 3:1)

Brethren, we have now shown forth the Lord’s death. Death at all times and in all forms is a solemnising thing. How especially so is the Lord’s death. It is the death of Him who is the Life, who remained the Life even in dying, and who by death became to us the Resurrection. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33). The Life becomes by death the Resurrection. This death we have been showing forth. Is it not worthy of our highest efforts to show it forth well, and now to show forth in ourselves its sanctifying power? For if we have intelligently shown it forth for what it really is, the death of Him who is the Life, and who has by death become the Resurrection, then surely that animating call of an Apostle is to the point, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”

The Apostle does not mean by the word “if” to cast any doubt on whether those who believe on Christ now are risen with Him. He has, in the former chapter, absolutely asserted, “Ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (2:12). This is the value and the power of His resurrection, even that it is the resurrection also of His believing people, according to His own word, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). While this is the sure fruit of faith, it indicates one very solemn ground of our obligation to believe, to be always believing, on His name. For otherwise we incur the fault of doing what in us lies to make His resurrection fruitless. By union with Christ through faith the power of His resurrection enters into us and quickens us to newness of life. The privilege of His resurrection also becomes ours, and we stand before God related to Him now even as the risen Saviour does. Mark well what that privilege is—the fundamental privilege of Christ Himself in His risen life. For what right Jesus asserted and made good, claimed and had the claim thereof acknowledged in His resurrection, that most surely and first of all must be ours if we are risen with Him.

Consider, then, that in rising from the dead, Jesus divested Himself of the covenant of works, purged His relation to the Father from every element of obligation, and claimed His Father’s love and promises as all most fully earned. He had nothing more to suffer now in order to the covenant assurance being fulfilled unto Himself, “He shall see of the travail of his soul” (Isa 53:11); or the covenant assurance being fulfilled to His people: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts… and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:10, 12). He had nothing now to suffer and nothing now to do in order to obtain the ends of His covenant with the Father. All the stipulated service, the obedience unto death, had been rendered; all the legal element removed by the law’s being wholly satisfied. It remains now for the Father to be ever fulfilling unto Him the now sealed promise, to divide Him a portion with the great, and that He should divide the spoil with the strong (Isa 53:12). He enters on the Father’s unclouded favour and unconditional love.

And so also do ye if ye are risen with Him. Like Him and in Him you divest yourselves of the covenant of works. You take the promise “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” as being free to you without money and without price, without condition or works on your part, as much so as the risen Christ at God’s right hand is free from obligation to suffer any further penalty or pay any further price for the glory in which He dwells with the Father. You too, like Christ, with Christ, in Christ cast out the element of legality. You enter unconditionally into absolute and free favour with God. You enter freely on a covenant with Him ordered in all things and sure.

And you do so because you rightly understand, appreciate and personally embrace Christ as the Resurrection. You feel that by not believing on Him so as to rise with Him, you make His resurrection void. You reduce it to an empty pageant. You make it powerless and profitless to you. For this and this alone can be its profit and its power, namely that, in virtue of it, you cast off that covenant of works which makes you guilty and cast out that legality which straitens you with the spirit of bondage. You are no more now a servant, a slave or a criminal but a child, accepted and adopted of the Father, declared to be, not a servant who trembles at a hard taskmaster’s tasks, but a son of God with power according to this resurrection. For the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has begotten you again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and fadeth not away (1 Pet 1:4). And if so, how powerful is the call to seek those things which are above!

Those things which are above are now yours. This is the privilege of the risen life. It is a life in which a right to the things above has been made yours. It is not a life which is spent in seeking to make good a title to the things above, but a life to be spent in seeking them and enjoying them as your own.

Do not think that your having to seek them is inconsistent with the truth that in Christ they are yours. They are Christ’s by purchase, a purchase most complete, ratified by His resurrection, yet He seeks them: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter” (Jn 14:16). And listen to the oracle that assigns to Jesus the very course that is assigned to you, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps 2:8). No, your seeking the things which are above is not inconsistent with the privilege of claiming them as yours. It is in prosecution of that privilege, it is in actual acceptation of it that you seek.

What shall you seek above as yours?

(1) First of all the Father, at whose right hand Jesus sits. It is true that the Apostle’s phraseology, when translated into our language literally, does not seem to include persons at all. It speaks of the things that are above. But the usage of the original makes it quite admissible to include persons, for in John 8:23 Jesus, speaking of His own divine origin and heavenly home, says, “I am from above.” This is literally, “I am of the things above.” Let this then be your habitual course. Be it yours to seek the Father who is above; our Father which is in heaven. Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face evermore. Seek the Father’s love, the love that gave the Son and with Him the Spirit, yea, and with Him freely all things. Seek filial fellowship with the Father, and do so in the constant faith that Christ sits at His right hand as your advocate, maintaining the permanence of your adoption and the perpetuity of your peace with God, that you may enjoy with Him a truly risen life. This is a life of filial confidence and filial security, even such life and fellowship as you may anticipate with One who has begotten you to a lively hope by the resurrection of His Son from the dead, who rejoices over you with singing, saying, “This my son was dead and is alive again” (Lk 15:24) and who has declared you to be His with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Seek the Father in the faith of the resurrected Christ who is the Resurrection. In spirit may it be yours to say with the risen forerunner, “I ascend to His Father and my Father, to His God and my God” (cf. Jn 20:17). In so ascending you shall share in Christ’s ascension even as you share in His resurrection. For He ascended on high carrying captivity captive, receiving gifts for men. Your ascension in spirit to the Father shall burst the bonds of all your captivity, secure for you enlargement and liberty in the Spirit of adoption and communicate the very gifts which Jesus has received for you.

(2) Seek the Lord Jesus Himself. It is His own express assertion, “I am of the things above.” Seek ye the Lord Jesus; seek and ye shall find. Being risen with Him, living the same life with Him, living in the same world or sphere in which He lives, your seeking Him surely will be a successful seeking, for Jesus fills that sphere or kingdom with Himself. He ascended far above all heavens that He might fill all things with Himself. Every where, in the sphere of risen life, you meet with Him, Jesus Christ, the all in all. Surely your seeking must be followed with finding. To others indeed, to those who believe not on His name, it cannot be so. “Ye shall seek me,” He said to the unbelieving Jews, “and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (Jn 7:34). Their unbelief put a fatal gulf between Him and them. Unbelief is from beneath; Jesus is from above and faith is from above. It is of that new birth which is from above. Hence to them that are of faith Jesus says, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (Jn 14:4). The way was by the manger, the cross and the empty grave, and the path of life which, at that empty grave, He saw stretching out before Him, on even to the Father’s presence where there is fullness of joy, where He now sits above at the right hand of God. By this way your faith seeks and finds, seeking by no deceitful light but by the light of the Word and Spirit of the Lord. And your hope thus enters within the veil, whither Jesus has already entered as forerunner. Your faith and hope enter there and you find Jesus. “I found him whom my soul loveth… and would not let him go” (Song 3:4), and even as anew you find Him, you will find something more in Him. You will find Him something more to you than you ever found before. For out of His fullness have we all received and grace for grace.

(3) Seek the Spirit. If ye be risen with Christ, seek the Spirit who is from above. It is a risen Saviour who has received the promise of the Father, the promised Spirit, and who sheds abroad the life of the Spirit on the Church. As risen with Christ you specially share with Him the promise of the Father. Declared to be the son of God, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead, you have a personal and acknowledged interest in the outpouring of the Spirit. He is the seal of your adoption, the earnest of your inheritance (cf. Eph 1:13–14), the first fruits of your glory.

(4) Seek the wisdom which is from above, for “wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (Prov 4:7). In one view, wisdom embraces the entire Christian character. It is the embodiment of all Christian graces. Study that wisdom that is spoken of and so highly and variously commended in the book of Proverbs and seek to be able to manifest in growing measure its various excellencies. It is the wisdom which comes from above. It is the wisdom which Christ is made by God to them that believe (1 Cor 1:30). Oh! if being risen with Christ you seek the things that are above, give a first place to that wisdom which comes from above and which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (Jas 3:17). Well may you seek that wisdom if you are risen with Christ. If you are risen with Christ you need wisdom. You need to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Col 4:5), those that are not risen, wisely remembering that they may yet rise with Christ, and wisely seeking that their intercourse with you and your bearing towards them may contribute to their being led to count all things but loss that they may win Christ, the Resurrection and the Life. If you are risen with Christ, you need manifold wisdom to walk worthy of your high calling from above, which is of God. Your being risen with Christ renders this wisdom in a thousand lights absolutely indispensable. Your being risen with Christ brings it within your reach, places it at your full disposal by faith.

(5) If you are risen with Christ seek the good of Jerusalem—that Jerusalem which is from above and which is free, which it the mother of us all, named the Church of Christ, the Kingdom of Christ, the city of the great king, of which glorious things are spoken (Ps 87:3), the one family in heaven and on earth. Seek the good of that portion of it which our prayers or services may profit. Specially as risen in Christ may we do so. For being risen with Christ we must naturally and inevitably feel a world like this to be a foreign shore, a land wholly uninhabited save for what of the Jerusalem which is from above is in it, and feel the hope of being at last translated from it to Jerusalem above. A world of sense and sin and sorrow and separation surely cannot be a home to one risen with Christ. “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” but, saith Jesus, “In me ye shall have peace” (Jn 16:33). By sense you dwell in the world, there is tribulation there. By faith you dwell in Me, the Resurrection, in Me and in your new home, the home of your risen spirit, in Jerusalem to which, risen with Me, you ascend and have peace. For there is no cause for sorrow in the kingdom of Christ. All sorrow is from that outer sphere from which you are not yet wholly disentangled and emancipated. In the kingdom of Christ there is no adversity, no evil, no death, no bereavement, no separation. In Jerusalem there are included all the faithful of every age, the whole family in heaven and on earth, an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, and God the Judge of all, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel; and all who by that new and living way have found boldness, though tabernacling still on the earth, to enter into the holiest. In this church of the Resurrection and the Life, there are no real deaths, no real separations, no real bereavements and no real losses. There are transpositions, transferences and translations. But bereavements, strictly speaking, and in the language of faith, which is the language of the kingdom and the Word of the Lord, there are none. “He shall not return to me,” said David, therefore his heart was heavy. “But I shall go to Him,” therefore his glory rejoices and his flesh shall rest in hope.

Oh, if you are risen with Christ seek first the kingdom of God, seek the good of Jerusalem, bind in your heart the church of the Resurrection and the Life. You will get nothing there to wound your heart. Jerusalem is the mother of us all, full of consolation, even as one whom his mother comforteth.

Brethren, we are led to draw upon consolatory reflections such as these at a time when it has pleased God to deal solemnly with us as a congregation. The Lord, who giveth not account of any of His matters, has been pleased very suddenly to take away from among us one whose position among us was very prominent, his character very exemplary, his services very valuable and his desire for the welfare of his congregation very great. We mourn not on his account, because we mourn not as those that have no hope, for we know Him that has said, “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thes 4:14), and we know that our departed friend was a man of faith and prayer. On his account we mourn not, not even because of the swiftness of the last messenger’s flight to him, nor the haste with which the earthly house of this tabernacle was taken down. Why mourn for the righteous being swiftly rapt away into their Saviour’s rest? Shall we complain because their journey through the valley was abbreviated and they found a joyful surprise in crossing Jordan at a step?

But while we mourn not on his account we may rightly mourn on our own, for surely this solemn dispensation carries somewhat of chastisement in it towards us. The less cause we have to mourn on his account, the more have we on our own. The more the Lord hurried the last messenger and cut his work short in righteousness and love to His servant, the more startling is the voice of the swift rod to us. Brethren, let us try to lay it solemnly to heart when we are deprived so unexpectedly of one who went out and in among us in all the confirmed appearances of fullest health and vigour; of one so valuable to his own home circle, now grievously bereaved and yet so greatly sustained and comforted; of one so valuable to us in this congregation and also to this great community in which on all sides and with such depth and unanimity we hear his removal deplored. Surely in all this a lesson is read to us of the utterly uncertain tenure by which we hold this present perishable life and how solemnly it behoves us, if we would not perish in very folly, to see to it first of all that we be found in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. For when we see that in the midst of life we are in death, what possible comfort can we have unless we are seeking to be able to add the glorious counterpart and counteractive, “In the midst of death we are in the Resurrection and the Life”? Secondly, how impressively are we warned, in the words of our Lord, “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt 24:44; Lk 12:40). “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecc 9:10). We have reason to be grateful that not the departure only of our friend but his life and example also enforce this solemn exhortation.

This is not the place for eulogy. We are showing forth this day the Master’s death, not His servant’s. But in the Master’s death, in which the Life became the Resurrection, we see the bond by which the Master’s brethren, whether in earth or heaven, are beyond the power of death to separate them from Him. We have shown forth the Lord’s death until He come (1 Cor 11:26). His coming will be the coming of His saints also. Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. That forms part of our high anticipation concerning that blessed hope and that glorious appearing of the Lord. Oh! brethren, if we share in Christ, in His death (and we have been professing communion therein), if we share in Christ, in His resurrection, let us share with Him in His ascension. “If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” Let our conversation be in heaven. Forget the things that are behind, reach forth to those that are before. Press toward the mark for the prize of the calling which is from above (Phil 3:13–14). Purge away from your souls the wisdom that is from beneath. Keep yourselves unspotted from the world. Be not of it. Live above it. And having fellowship in Christ, in His death, in His resurrection, in His ascension, ye shall have fellowship with Him in His appearance: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also,” and all your brethren in Jesus, “appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4).