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This Chapter opens with very glorious and precious Views of the Church's Safety in Christ. And it is closed with suitable Exhortations arising therefrom.
(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.
The Apostle begins with calling upon the Church, as the risen members of Christ's mystical body, to a suitable and corresponding frame. The Reader will do well to connect what Paul hath here said of being risen with Christ, with what he had before said of the Church' being complete in Christ, being quickened together with Christ, and having had forgiven to them all trespasses. See Colossians 2:13; Colossians 2:13 . As such he now calls upon the members of Christ's body, who were once dead in their sins, but now brought forth into a new and spiritual life in Christ, their glorious Head, to manifest the reality of this new life, by living to Christ, and upon Christ, and causing their whole affections to center in Christ, as the members of the body live by the head. Let the Reader mark this; and he will then learn here, as in the other Epistles, that it is the Church to whom Paul writes, and not to the unawakened, ungodly, and carnal world. All exhortations of this kind are addressed to the living Church in Christ. And, indeed, common sense might plainly shew it, if men did but attend properly to the subject. For, until Christ be received, how can he be lived upon? What communion can an unawakened, unregerated sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, have with a living Savior? The object must be known before we can set our affections upon him. And, hence, when God quickens the sinner, then, and not before, those effects follow, 2 Corinthians 4:6 ; Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:14 .
I hardly know where to begin in my observations on what the Apostle hath said of a life hid with Christ in God. Such deep mysteries are contained in the subject. And as to ending a Commentary upon the doctrine, this is impossible. I can only allow myself to glance at some few of the more prominent features, which appear here and there, in the contemplation of those deep things of God, and beg of the Almighty Author of his holy word, to guide both my heart and pen to offer no observations but what are in perfect conformity to his divine truth.
The Apostle begins with stating the situation of the Church, recovered from the Adam-fall of nature, For ye are dead. Not dead in sin, but dead to sin. Neither dead in body. For, as Adam in his transgression died, not in body, but in spirit, when he fell under the sentence of death, at the original transgression; so all his seed, while dead in trespasses and sins, are not dead in body, but in spirit. In neither sense, therefore, did Paul, in this place, mean the Church was dead. But the death here intended to be understood, is what Paul had before shewn. Dead with Christ in his death, having been crucified with him as the members of his body; buried with him by baptism into death; risen with him through the faith of the operation of God; and by means of which, having redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of all their sins, according to the riches of his grace.
And your life is hid with Christ in God. Here is a depth of subject which angels cannot explore. The life that is here said to be hid, cannot mean a natural life, for this, though derived at first from Christ, kept up and maintained in Christ, is not hidden. And the carnal and sinful life is too visible, from day to day, in the workings and breakings out of it, to be called hidden. But the life bid with Christ is spiritual. And blessedly so it is. For all, and every part of it is in, and from, Christ, from the first moment of regeneration, when a soul is quickened in Christ, until brought home to glory, all the communications are from Jesus. He is the life and breath, and food, and sustenance, and strength, and support; yea, the fountain of all life; All my springs, said one of old, are in thee, Psalms 87:7 . These things are plain to be understood, though not describable in all their operations. But when the Apostle adds, that this life is not only hid with Christ, but with Christ in God; here we have a bottom of mystery unfathomable! Our Lord hath said the same in those memorable words of his prayer: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also maybe one with us, John 17:21 . But this, though confirming the precious truth, doth not further explain it. Indeed to faculties merely created, it should seem it is impossible to convey adequate apprehension. All we can do, in subjects of this mysterious nature, (which are given to us for the acceptation of our faith, and not for our investigation,) is to follow the command, compare spiritual things with spiritual,
1 Corinthians 2:13 . In this before us, where our life is said to be in Christ, we are told that this life is hid with Christ in God. In that, by the same writer, where our reconciliation is made with God by Christ, the words are, God was in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:19 . And what do we learn, from both viewed together, but that every blessing relating to the Church, is in Christ, and from our union with him, we are interested in all, and that Christ, as Christ, gives an everlasting security to all our blessings, because Christ is in God, and God in Christ. Here, if we rest, is enough to form the firmest assurance of faith. And what can any child of God want more, when he calls to remembrance, that all the three heavenly witnesses join in testimony to this precious record; that God hath given to us eternal life, and this lift is in his Son, 1 John 5:7-11 .
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye appear with him in glory. Here we come in to open day-light. And this sums up all, we need to know. One with Christ, and a life hid with Christ, and with Christ in God; assured of these great and glorious truths, we ground all that is blessed in the exercise of hope, for all we need in a life of faith, and grace, here below. But, when the testimony of these divine things closeth with an assurance, that when He who is now our life shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory; what can the utmost desire of the redeemed child of God figure to himself more blessed, to keep his expectation alive, and to have his affection always above, in the assured hope, of a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I pray the Reader not to dismiss this precious portion of God's word, before that he hath taken with him some of the many very blessed things contained in it.
First. Let him pause, and consider the blessedness of a life in Christ. It is, to all intents, and purposes, being made a partaker of the divine nature. So the Holy Ghost, by his servant the Apostle, declares it. According (saith he) as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. And he adds, being made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4 . Yea, the Lord Jesus, calls it eternal life. That 1 should give eternal life, to as many as thou hast given me, . John 17:2 . And how should it be otherwise, when Christ declares, that there is an union between himself and people. I in them, and thou in me, John 17:23 . Reader! ponder the thought well, for it is most blessed.
Secondly. Consider the security of this life. It is in Christ, and with Christ, in God. And what then shall ever arise, to make it liable to loss, or interruption? Paul saith it is hidden. Hence, it is not discoverable by any enemies; and if it be not within their knowledge to discover, how shall it be within their reach to take away? How sweetly Jesus speaks to this point. My sheep hear my voice: and I know them: and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are One, John 10:27-30 . And elsewhere Jesus saith: because I live, ye shall live also, John 14:19 .
Thirdly. It's being hidden with Christ, which secures it from the ravages of the world; secures it no less, from their notice, and observation. It is blessed, yea, very blessed, to eat of that bread in secret, which Jesus himself hands to his people; and which none knoweth, saving, him that receiveth it. And who shall number up the many visits, and love-tokens of Jesus, to his people? See some of his promises, John 14:23 ; Revelation 3:20-21 . And even when at any time we lose sight of him, Jesus never loseth sight of us. Hidden as our spiritual life in Christ may be, to our view; there is no remission or interruption with him. The Church thought her Lord had withdrawn, when she said: the Lord hath forsaken me 9 and my Lord hath forgotten me! But was it so? Read, and behold the reverse: Isaiah 49:14-17 . Reader! if the Lord hath in mercy awakened you from the death of sin, to a life hidden with Christ in God; ponder over these unspeakable mercies. Life, and union with Christ; hidden, and secure; eternal, and everlasting. Neither is it a small sweetener of those mercies which are unspeakable and full of glory, that the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not, 1 John 3:1 .
(5) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (6) For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: (7) In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. (8) But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (9) Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; (10) And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (11) Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
I pray the Reader to observe with me, the particular expression of the Apostle, when he saith: mortify, therefore, your members which are upon earth. The word therefore is an inference from what went before; of a life hidden with Christ in God: meaning, as plain as words can render it, that from Christ, grace must be obtained, to subdue all the corrupt affections of our members, which are earthly; and which he enumerates. And this corresponds to what the Holy Ghost by Paul taught elsewhere. It is by the SPIRIT; believers mortify the deeds of the body, and live, Romans 8:13 . And here, as in all other parts of the sacred writings, the Holy Ghost teacheth the Church, to consider the spirit, when quickened from the death of trespasses and sins, to be brought forth into a new, and spiritual life; and as such, to be perfectly holy in Christ, being made a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, 2 Peter 1:4 . Whereas, the body remains the same, unregenerated, unrenewed, and as Paul himself found it to the last, and groaned under it accordingly; a body of sin and death, Romans 7:24 . To mortify, therefore, this body by the spirit; is what is here commanded, and enjoined. These members are properly said to be upon the earth, meaning wholly earthly. And for the sins of which, in the unregenerate, or as is called here the children of disobedience, God' s judgment follows them. And these different characters are strikingly set forth, under the similitudes of the old man, and the new. But these things, are so plain, and self-evident, that I think it unnecessary to enlarge on them in this place.
(12) Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (13) Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. (14) And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (15) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (17) And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
I beg the Reader, at the entrance on this paragraph, as at the former, particularly to notice, to whom God the Holy Ghost is speaking. It is to the elect of God. And that elect, the regenerated. Let the Reader never lose sight of these things, while going over those blessed Epistles and he will then discover, that these exhortations are to the Church, when brought into a state of grace. Paul considers the Church, to whom he is writing, as savingly, and effectually called. They are said to be circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: having all their trespasses forgiven them, buried with Christ in baptism, and risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, Colossians 2:10-15 . It is to such, as elect of God, the Holy Ghost, by his servant the Apostle, calls, to put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved bowels of mercies, and the like. But how shall any but of this description, put on such things? And, if they are to put these things on, as the elect of God; how absurd must it be in others to call on men that are not elect to put them on?
The Reader might be at a loss to conceive, what would appear to him in theory to be impossible, that there were persons who could be found, to call upon any but the elect of God, to put them on. But the fact is, that there are not only such who do; but who are angry with those who do not. Men, unacquainted with the plague of their own hearts, and who fancy, that every man is possessed of free will to do all that is right, continually complain, that the ungodly are not called upon to faith, and repentance, which they conceive to be in every man's power to exercise. But such men woefully err, because they know not the Scripture, neither the power of God. The Holy Ghost hath uniformly set forth in the Scriptures, the total inability of man, to think, much less to do, anything as of himself; and it is fully shewn, that all his sufficiency is of God, 2 Corinthians 3:5 . Nothing, indeed, can be more decisive in point, than the striking passage before us: Put on as the elect of God. None but the elect of God can put on these things. Neither can the peace of God rule in any other hearts, or the word of Christ dwell in them richly in all wisdom.
(18) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (19) Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (20) Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (21) Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (22) Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: (23) And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (24) Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ. (25) But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons.
I do not think it necessary to swell our pages, with enlarging on what is so evidently plain in these verses. Paul having spoken to the Church in a general way; now addresseth himself personally to the individual members, in their relative situations. Wives, and Husbands, and Children, and Fathers, and Servants; are each called upon, to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, in all things. And the elect of God, who are truly, and savingly called, are and must be, living instances of such things, wherever they are found. Look round every neighborhood, in every house, and family, and see if there be any, who are regenerated by the Holy Ghost; (and it is of such only Paul speaks, and to such as elect of God, he enjoins those things;) and sure I am, they are, and must be, eminent examples of believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12 . And the Apostle in the close of this chapter, gives the reason, or foundation of it: because whatsoever is done, in word, or deed, is done heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men. It is done, not from labors without, but grace within. Not in man's strength, but the Lord's. Oh! the blessedness of that sure, unerring principle, when God worketh in his elect, to whom he enjoins bowels of mercies, and in whom he new creates them; both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure. Then the child of God can say, and none but the child of God can ever say, I can do nothing by myself, but I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me, Philippians 4:13 .
Oh! thou risen, and exalted Lord Jesus! send down thine ascension-gifts, and raise all my spiritual affections after thee, that I may no longer grovel here below, but seek thee, who art above! Didst thou not promise this, thou dear Lord, before thy departure; that when thou wert lifted up, thou wouldest draw all thy people unto thee? Oh! then, draw me, that I may run after thee, for thou art the Lord my God! Precious, yea, exceedingly precious, is that assurance to my soul, that the life of all thy Church is hid with Christ in God. And sure I am, that when Jesus shall appear, then will all thy redeemed appear with thee in glory.
And, oh! thou Almighty Lord the Spirit! do thou, by thy sweet influences, enable me to mortify all my earthly part. Grant, gracious God, that the flesh may be subdued by the spirit; and that by thy strength, I may mortify the deeds of the body and live. And, as the elect of God, may I find grace, to put on bowels of mercy, to the whole household of faith, while doing good to all men; yea, may the peace of God rule in my heart, always having in remembrance, how Christ hath forgiven me; may my compassions go forth, to all around, Oh! what are all the little quarrels of this dying world, to those who are conscious, of that deadly breach being made up, in the blood of Christ, which sin, and Satan, had made, between God and his people. May all the relations of life, in Wives, and Husbands, and Children, and Parents, and Servants, and Masters, be everlastingly looking to Jesus; that, while beholding him, all their minds may be influenced into love and tenderness: and all their conduct regulated by his example. Precious Lord Jesus! be thou my God, my guide, and my portion forever!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Colossians 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent