Chapter 3

If ye then be risen with Christ.” The word “if” does not imply doubt; it means, “Since ye then were raised.” It is the common portion of all saints, and we are to regulate and correct our walk according to our standing. “Ye are risen”—that is a fact. God has accomplished this for us; it is His work. He it was who raised up Christ (Rom 6:7), and us together with Him (Eph. 2:6). Faith believes God; it feeds upon His Word. “Risen with Christ”—three little words easily uttered, but O, how full of meaning! The allusion is to chap. 2:11-13, where we are said to be dead, buried, and risen with Him. Already we are there with Him in our spirits, and very soon our bodies shall be where our spirits are. “Seek those things which are above.” In Ephesians, saints are said to be already “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”—here they are to “seek” them. Both are true. Already they are ours in Christ, and God would have us enter into the present possession and enjoyment of them by faith. “Seek those things.” They are quite within our reach, the proper element in which we are to live and move and have our being. They are our own; things below are not. The Lord says, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:12). Heavenly things, “those things which are above,” are our own; the things of this world are not our own, they are only entrusted to us as stewards, and we should use them in service to Him. God would have us swayed by “things above”; drawn more and more towards them, as our only real abiding treasures; and, truly, where the treasure is, there the heart will be also. Thus it was with the patriarchs of whom we read in Heb. 11. They had their hearts set with desire upon “a better country, that is an heavenly” (verse 16), therefore, they were content to be strangers and pilgrims here, dwelling in tents. And so should we, knowing that God will not disappoint us, but give all that He has promised.

Verse 2.—“Set your affection”—margin, “your mind”: judge them according to their proper value. A man would be unwise if he valued copper as much as gold.

Faith brings future things into the present, and puts present things into the past: faith beholds unseen things, and lives on them. It values the favour of God above everything, and sees all the world’s false glory in God’s own light. “Mind these things” —to look at things in the light of God’s throne, and to get His judgment about things here, is heavenly-mindedness. The apostle then gives a beautiful clue why our affection should tend heavenward. “Where Christ sitteth.” Is He not our Treasure, our Portion, the Lover of our souls? He it is “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). He loved us then; He loves us still, and He will love His own who are in the world unto the end. Would it not be strange if such a Lover did not want His people’s love back again? “Set your affection” where Christ is. It is such a powerful appeal to our hearts. Surely, if Christ uplifted on the Cross has drawn our hearts to Him (John 12:32), how much more should the living, loving Christ on the throne? How we ought to be humbled, that we are so little drawn and moved by that love of His. Oh! just to think that we need to have His love pressed on our hearts by the Holy Ghost, in order to produce any response at all. Some flowers open more quickly to the sun than others, and so do some hearts to the love of Christ. He compares His people to a garden enclosed, and says: “I have come into my garden,” there to gather His pleasant fruits. (Song 5:1). Oh! may He not be disappointed in finding them gone. He values our love, and delights to gather the fruits of that love in us.

“Not on things on the earth.” This is to guard us against those things that would obstruct us in our seeking after things above, that would be a hindrance and a dead weight weighing us downward. The more we allow our affection to be set on earthly things, the more do they become dead to things above. “Who mind earthly things,” (Phil. 3:19.) was a condition that caused Paul to weep for others. Here the command is found twice. In verse 1 “seek,” in verse 2, “mind” things above; and the negative “not on things on earth,” is to encourage us to let our souls be drawn heavenwards. If these appeals do not move us, we must be in a very unspiritual state. Oh! let us study Christ on the throne, with unveiled face beholding Him there for us, until our hearts go out and up to Him there in response to His love for us. “Where Christ sitteth.” This is an important word. He speaks to God. “Who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:34.) This is something beyond His sitting down. He is interceding for us. His work as sin-bearer is finished, and He is seated (Heb. 1:3), but His intercessory work goes on, until we are bodily where He is.

Verse 3.—“For ye have died.” This dogmatic assertion on the part of God is very grand. It is true of all who believe. The actual moment you believed in Christ, you were reckoned by God as dead, buried, and alive in Him. “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” Mean, time Christ is hid. Wonderful statement! As He went up, He was “seen of angels” (1 Tim. 3:16), but He is not yet worshipped by angelic beings as we see He will be in Rev. 5:11. He is at present “hid in God”—the hidden manna (Rev. 3:17), but one day, God will bring Him forth, first to receive us to Himself, and to be made like Him (John 14:3, 1 John 3:2), then to be worshipped by angels (Heb. 1:6). Meanwhile, He is hidden from sight, but by faith we can say: “We see Jesus” (Heb. 2:10). “Your life is hid”—it is safe in God’s keeping. No man can pluck you out of Christ’s hand, or out of the Father’s hand. (See John 10:28, 29.) We are doubly secure. What a mercy! Sometimes the life in us may get a chill, but it can never perish—it can never be put out. Verse 4.— “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear.” He is coming again, but not alone. Next time the world sees Him, His saints will be with Him. When He appears, they appear; all together, and with Him. He never will be seen alone again. Alone He died (John 12:24), but now in resurrection, God has given Him a body and many members. He is the First-born of many brethren (Rom. 8:17), and when He appears again, they will all appear with Him. What a joy to the heart in a world of sorrow and sin as this is! And see how the Holy Ghost delights in squeezing in, as it were, to this grand statement, such a volume of precious truth. He might have said simply: “When Christ shall appear,” but that does not satisfy Him. He says: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear.” Here He is speaking of the source of life; it is in God’s Son up there, and from Him it is constantly flowing down to us: flowing out from Him, and flowing in to us. John tells us: “He showed me a river of water of life” (Rev. 22:1) proceeding out from God and the Lamb. What fulness of life is there! Until that river is dried up, the life will never be exhausted. When He comes, the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we shall be changed and caught up (1 Thess. 4:14-17). Before God can look at our works, He will look at Christ’s, and in virtue of that work, all who have trusted it, will be lifted up to Heaven and set down in His presence, one as much as another. Associated with Christ now, we stand on the same footing as He does; “accepted in the Beloved.” We are risen with Him now; we shall appear with Him then. “In glory.” Glory is not yet manifested: it is only known to faith. Grace has already appeared (Titus 2:10), and we are looking for the appearing of the glory (Titus 2:12). What a sight that will be! I used to wonder if there was anything in Scripture about the risen saints excelling in strength, as we read the angels do. (See Psalm 104:20). Now I see that glory and power are combined: “Strengthened with all might according to the power of the glory” (Col. 1:11). “Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). Oh! how different we shall be then, to what we are now! Is it not enough to uplift and cheer our hearts, and make them sing:

“We expect a bright to-morrow,
All shall be well.”

God has called us to His “eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:9), and although we may have to wait for it a little, and learn patience, yet it is just as sure, as God has promised it.

Verses 5-7.—“Mortify therefore your members.” One use of the glory is to teach us to deny the flesh, to give it no place, not to give way to its lusts. As we get glimpses of that glory to which we are going, they nerve us to be in arms against all that is of the flesh. And see what a lot there is to deal with. That long black list in verse 5, does not exhaust them all; there is another in verse 8; and we are to use the glory against both. We are to live so in the beams of that glory, that we will not give way to these things. In the days of our former life they were natural to us, but now that we have Christ’s life flowing into us, and the glory before us, they are to be stripped off.

Verse 8.—Each of these words has a definite meaning. “Anger,” refers to temper. “Wrath,” to temporary bursts of passion. “Malice “is worse, it is malignity. “Blasphemy,” is injuring the good name of another, from blas—burst; pheme—fame; it comes very near to our word “slander.” God would have us give the whole of them a thorough turn out. If the glory gets into us, and fills us, it will soon turn them all out. To be filled with the anticipations of glory will influence our lives. Stephen looked up and saw the glory, and it led him to pray: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” and doubtless the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, was the answer to that prayer.

Verses 9, 10.—The argument here is, “you have put off the old man with his deeds,” now put on the new man which is being renewed in one sense, by beholding the Lord Jesus, in another sense by practice. Nothing tends to make us more gracious than practising grace, more Christlike, than walking as He walked.

Verse 11.—“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew.” There is a distinct thought in each of these couplets, “Greek nor Jew.” Civil distinction is lost; both are one in Christ (Eph. 2:15). “Circumcision or uncircumcision”—religious distinction is lost. (Eph. 2:11). “Barbarian, Scythian”—national distinction is gone. “Bond or free”—social distinction is blotted out. And the grand reason given is, “Christ is all, and in all.” How soon these barriers and distinctions are gone, when “Christ is all.” How quickly love springs up when Christ is seen “in all.” Christ is in all these renewed men, whatever their national, religious or social distinctions may have been before, and our wisdom is, to seek to discern Christ in every one of them. Walking in the Spirit, it is not so difficult to know who is a Christian. In one who has only a spark of grace, and a great deal of the flesh, it requires grace to see it, and tests the measure of grace we have, for it is easy to see grace in a mellow Christian. These exhortations rebuke us, and they ought to put down our pride and self-esteem. That Christ alone may be “all, and in all.”

Verse 12.—“Put on therefore as the elect of God.” This is a passage for the heart. It should make us glow with love to one another. What a beautiful life it will make, if carried out. There is a great deal here to practice. A beautiful way of reading the word, is to think over it and then pray about it, until the Word gets into us. The expression “Put on,” refers to the putting on of a new garment. At first, it does not seem to fit very well, but as we use it, it fits better. So these things enumerated here, are unnatural to us as “in the flesh.” Just think of living such a life as these verses speak of before we were renewed! But now we are “elect of God, holy and beloved.” What wonderful names are these! As those whom God has chosen, loved, sanctified, love one another. If you are prone to act towards a brother in anger, wrath, or malice, let these words “elect of God, holy and beloved,” glitter on his brow as you look at him. Christ is in him. Who would want to lie to Christ? Even if you could deceive Him, you would not surely like to do so to the One who loves you so much, and is doing so much for you. As we put on these things, the new nature in us is “renewed,” the new life is developed and strengthened. Practice these things, and as you practice, it becomes habit, and habit makes it easy. “Bowels of mercies”—such a full word. The same is used of the Lord Jesus. He was “moved with compassion.” Kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering.” God esteems these things, and He would have us practice them. Put them on is said to all saints. God does not think any of us are so kind or so meek as we ought to be, or might be, so He bids us put them on, Verse 13.—“Forbearing one another.” The Lord has a deal to bear with our naughtiness. We should seek ever to remember this; it will help us to forbear with one another. “Forgiving one another.” “Forbearing” is a passive word; “forgiving,” an active one. “Forbearing,” looks at patient endurance in one’s own soul; “forgiving,” looks at the grace shown to others. “Forgiving yourselves,” as it may be rendered. When a saint is not kind and gentle to other saints, he is like a man who hits himself. “If any man have a quarrel against any.” Two Christians of different temperaments may quarrel, but they should not nurse wrath, else it will grow into malice. Forgive, “as Christ forgave.” What a pattern of forbearance and forgiveness is Christ!

Verse 14.—“Above all these things put on charity— love.” Here is a spiritual “overall” for saints to wear. You may have to show forbearance and to exercise forgiveness, to show humbleness of mind and other graces, but always let the “overall” of love be seen. Love, “the bond of perfectness,” or that which binds together and completes all the rest. The figure of the dress is dropped, and the chain is suggested, drawing saints together. The tip-top of perfection is love. It is the chief part of our outfit, and it well becomes us as the children of God to be habited in love, and different from the world. Children in the gutters, are not dressed like children in the palace. As the children of God, “holy and beloved,” we are to put on these things, and to walk about with them on us daily.

Verses 15, 16.—These verses have special reference to the saints as gathered together. “Let the peace of God,” or rather “the peace of Christ” (r.v.): that peace in which He ever walked while here below. “My peace,” as in John 16:27. “Let the peace of Christ rule”—that is arbitrate—“in your hearts, to the which also ye were called.” Instead of jarring, contending, striving to be uppermost, hear the voice of the Lord saying: “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13.) “In one body:” put together by God, not to live isolated, monastic lives, but in true living fellowship as members of Christ, and members one of another.

Verse 16.—“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” It is still the thought of the one body, not the saints in isolation, but together. Verse 14, is 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, epitomised, showing the supremacy of love, and its uppermost place among the saints. Then verse 15, is like 1 Corinthians 12, telling of the body of Christ in its unity, and the one Spirit pervading the whole. Verse 16, is an epitome of 1 Corinthians 14, each having that Divine sympathy for the other, and then comes the ministering one to another. Oh! it is so beautiful when the saints of God are thus filled with the love, the peace, and the Word of Christ, all loving and sympathizing with, and ministering to each other.

Verse 17.—“Whatsoever ye do in word or deed.” Words and deeds alike may edify. What a calling! A kind act, or a word of rebuke, both are alike to be “in the Name of the Lord Jesus.” If you cannot do it in that Name, then you should not do it at all. You should be able to look up from your service, “giving thanks unto the Father by Him” everywhere and always. What a calling! What lives ours as the children of God and the servants of Christ, ought to be. Then follows some particular directions to us as the saints of God in our earthly relationships. These are not beneath His notice.

Verse 18.—“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” When dealing in grace, the Lord always begins with the least. He addresses wives before husbands, children before parents, servants before masters. Authority and subordination are both to be recognised as His way. When this is ignored or set aside, then there is confusion. When wives rule over their husbands, and children lead their parents, all is upside down, there is no rule, no subjection, such as is here enjoined. It is like the great image of Daniel, chapter 2, whose feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, a true picture of the democracy of these last days. God’s plain commandments set aside, and everybody doing what they will, and what pleases themselves. May it be characteristic of us to love all these His precepts, and to do all that He here tells us. There is nothing more pleasing to God than obedience, even in such matters as these. Has He not told us in His own Word, that Jesus went down to Nazareth, and was subject to His earthly parents there (Luke 2:51), just to show us, how pleasing to Him such subjection is. There are three injunctions given to heads of households: as husbands, fathers, and masters.

Verse 19.—“Husbands love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Love, according to the love of Christ for His Church (Eph. 5:25), is to be rendered, and no bitterness. Not only is the positive, but also the negative side given.

Verse 21.—“Fathers provoke not your children.” They are not only to love, to care for and guide, but also to take care not to grieve them unnecessarily. It is thus that God as a Father deals with His children, and He would have earthly fathers to do as He does. How kind of the Lord to put in a word like that. It shows that nothing escapes His notice. An earthly father may expect too much from his child, and this is to guard against provoking till he is discouraged. If that is done, the Lord will let him hear of it at His judgment-seat. See how frequently the title “Lord” occurs in these verses! So surely as there is a Lord over us, shall we have each to give an account to Him at His judgment-seat of how we obeyed these precepts.

Verses 22-25.—How remarkable are these four verses addressed to servants! The Holy Ghost seems to enlarge the word so as to include all the saints as being the servants of Christ, and ends with a solemn word in anticipation of the judgment-seat of Christ.

Verse 23.—“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.” How good of Him to accept such service. However menial its character, if done as unto Him, He will reward it. What a word of cheer this is to those who are serving hard and unreasonable masters. In serving them well in the fear of God, with singleness of heart, He accepts it as done unto Him. How this lifts up the meanest drudgery to the highest service. “Ye serve the Lord Christ.” Could you have a better Master? The Holy Ghost thus brings the highest motives to sway us in the smallest matters of everyday life. What a real thing it makes life to be, to learn that He takes notice of the commonest details of it, and reckons them up as service done to Him. Truly, the Word of God is like no other book; it takes note of what men would pass over, and leaves out as unworthy of record, things that we would make a deal of.

Verse 24.—“Ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance.” It is “an inheritance,” yet a “reward.” These feeble attempts to serve the Lord Jesus will receive a reward, yet out of all proportion. Just think of your little bits of service receiving from the Lord the “reward of the inheritance.” What a grand thing to live for and serve such a Master. Surely life is worth living to a man who knows he is saved, who knows he is a child of God, who knows he has a home in heaven, and that for all true service rendered to the Lord here, he shall receive hereafter “the reward of the inheritance.” When we sing about the coming of the Lord, let us not be impatient, but go on working and warring “till He come.”

“So now to watch, to work, to war,
And then to rest for ever.”

It sheds a halo of glory on everyday life to know that God is taking so much account of it.

Verse 25.—“But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong.” Undoubtedly there will be such a thing as suffering loss at the judgment-seat of Christ. Any unfaithfulness in these relationships, any failure as the servants of Christ, will have a corresponding loss of reward. It is no question of salvation, or of being in heaven. These are secured by grace alone, but wrongdoing in regard to these commandments of the Lord, which He has given for our obedience while here as servants in His kingdom, will bring loss to us at the manifestation of our works. Everything will come up for review at His judgment-seat, and some will have a less reward than others. The word “Colosse” means “clipped,” and in this Epistle the saints are reminded that unfaithfulness to Christ will “clip” the reward hereafter. Oh! to hear and heed that solemn warning word of His—“Let no man beguile you of your reward” (chap. 2:18). It will give the Lord great joy to give His “well done” and a full reward to all His faithful servants. Do not “clip” yourselves of it, or deprive Him of that joy.

The placing of this solemn word at the close of the section dealing especially with social relationships and matters of daily life, shews that obedience to the Lord in these will gain His reward. Reward is too often connected with great success in some public sphere, but it is not so in the Word of God. “Well done, good and faithful servant” —not great and successful. “Thou hast been faithful over a few things,” such as are mentioned in this chapter as part of the commandments of our Lord. Oh, to be ever on the alert to obey Him, to render service to Him even in the very humblest and most commonplace matters of life.