1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
The key for the Christian to grow and enjoy the fullness of life in Christ is to keep seeking the things of God and the things of heaven. It has nothing to do with setting boundaries on how much of the world is acceptable to indulge upon. It has to do with a mind that is not of the world (though in it) and set upon following God as He leads us to our true home. It is a radical perspective change that sets its hope completely upon the grace to come. It sees the world in an entirely different light, viewing it as a sort of mirage to the spiritual battles that are going on constantly around us. We are not to be thinking of things that fade away and setting our hearts upon them. Again, the issue is not deciding which chunk of the world can be justifiable to enjoy and indulge and which should I put a boundary next to so that I can grow in Christ. It is not about boundaries and thinking as one in the world. It is about living in our new identity as those who are already seated with Christ in heaven next to the throne of God. It is living this life in light of the next, as one who is merely passing through. We need to have spiritual eyes to see the world as God sees it. It is not a playground, but a warzone. It is not a place to make our heaven, but a place to which we are to bring heaven. These are radically different.
3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
We are to remember that our old selves which loved the world are dead. Our lives are not about this world at all, for they are hidden with Christ in God. Literally, we are now operating as instruments of God to bring light to this dark world. We are to advance the kingdom of God against the kingdom of darkness. Ultimately, this will take Christ to set up, but in the meantime He will build His church. The world will go to hell in a handbag as the saying goes, but the church will grow despite the persecution and suffering. When we start living as those who actually believe that their entire lives revolve around being Christ to this world and in this world, we will be persecuted. We will get strange looks, even looks of hatred and letters of animosity, simply for carrying a Bible around and sharing the gospel. Yet we shake it off, simply filling up the suffering of Christ. When we as Christ’s body go through this world as His life manifested through us, we will suffer and fulfill the suffering which is lacking in His body. Christ is our very life, and we are his very body. Thus, when we suffer, He suffers. He doesn’t complete His allotted amount of suffering until we are done suffering. In God’s mysterious way, this suffering jointly with Christ, not merely for Christ, is part of true fellowship and intimacy with God. This is so far out there, but it is sound theology. It is so amazing, but the fact is that we are deluded by philosophies of men if we do not understand that our life is hidden with Christ in God. We are wrapped up in the Son of God as He gives us His direction, His desires, and His enabling. We can do nothing apart from Him, and if He calls us to do something, He will enable us to do it. When He is revealed at the last time as the Judge of the universe, then we too will be there with Him as His body.
5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
Since we are in Christ and since He is our very life, we ought to believe that our earthly bodies are dead to every kind of evil and impurity. Those things which characterize the flesh ought not to be the things which characterize our lives. We certainly have the capacity to follow evil passions, greed, and make idols of just about anything. But since we are in Christ, we don’t have to do this. We must remember that we are His and in Him, and we must hold to the fact that He can give us the ability to reign in life. Though we still have flesh and are able to indulge fleshly desires, we are to view our body as dead to those things as we yield to the power of Christ in us.
6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,
7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who are not His sons but are sons of disobedience and of the devil. All that is of evil passion and impurity they will be judged for. Since such things characterize the unsaved, they ought not to characterize the saved. We are not those who are storing up wrath for ourselves, for we have been set free. We do not have to continue in sin. Before we were Christ’s, we were sons of disobedience, walking in all sorts of evil. Yet now we are children of God, and so we are to by faith walk accordingly.
8But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
9Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
10and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—
We who are children of God can put all such evil and garbage aside including all that comes as a result of selfish desire and not trusting in Christ for fulfillment and pleasure. Conflicts arise when we try to meet our needs on our own apart from God. We then scheme and lie to get what we want. This is not how it is to be for the church, since the church has (past tense) laid aside the old self and all of the evil practices that grow out of having a corrupted self and heart. Since the church has (past tense) put on the new self, we ought also to walk as such. This new self is a work in progress, undergoing refinement and sanctification. Christians still stumble and fall, but they are able to immediately repent and walk in Christ victoriously. They cannot use manmade religious works and self-abasement to beat themselves to regain God’s favor. They must just simply repent and believe that they are forgiven and that their conditional guilt is taken away. This new self is being renewed (continuous, ongoing) to a true knowledge so that we can see Christ as He truly is and be made to fully reflect that image.
11a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
This renewal and refinement will occur for all believers, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, employment, status, or any earthly classification. Nobody has any advantage because sanctification is a work of Christ as He gives us faith. We are all helpless except for Him. This renewal is a spiritual issue, something which Christ will complete.
12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Paul wants believers to live in their new identity, according to the new self. It is already put on, but we must “put it on” again in the sense of reckoning it to be true that it was put on when we came to Christ initially. We must realize by faith that we do not have to be enslaved to sin because we have a new self and a new heart. As such, we are to live out conditionally what we are positionally in Christ. God sees us in the robe of righteousness that is found in Christ. We are declared holy and righteous in Him. Yet sometimes the holy and righteous don’t live like it. We ought to however, as those beloved of God and chosen by Him. In light of this identity and in light of God’s great love, we are to live out of the reality that we are new creations in Christ, which is what Paul means when he says “put on a heart.” When we do this we live out of who we really are by the power of Christ within us, enabling us to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are able to bear with one another and forgive one another as our Savior has forgiven us. We live not as those who gloss over sin and live in a “continue in sin so that grace may abound” mentality. But we live as those transformed who actually and genuinely seek the welfare of others above our own. Rather than scheming and lying to advance ourselves at the expense of others, we try to do what we can to make others succeed and grow in Christ. This is a radically different mindset than that of the old self and that of the world. Rather than thinking each man for himself, the new heart manifests kindness and does good for people even when they don’t deserve it and when there is no way that they can ever pay us back.
14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
The crowning virtue of the Christian is that we love one another. Love that puts others ahead of ourselves and loves those in the world like God did (even being willing to give up His own Son) is that which binds Christians in a community and family in a way unknown and misunderstood by the world. True unity is something that the world can never achieve. Thus, when we are one as God and Christ are one, the world will know that the Father sent the Son (John 17:21). What is true unity? True unity is a growing in common knowledge of God through His Word and in learning to love one another according to truth, not in spite of it. Christians are forgiving, not tolerant. They seek a person to be reconciled to God, not believing that it is in their best interests to continue in sin. True unity is not manmade uniformity, legalistic standards, or common outward behaviors. It is hearts knit together because they are all pursuing the honor and glory of Christ, allowing Him to live out His life in and through them as the body of Christ. Such is the work of faith. It is already the case, but we must believe it and live in light of that reality. We are to live and love in such a way that the spiritual unity that we have becomes a visible, tangible reality. The world is not impressed by those who can all dress the same or who all refuse to go to the movie theatre. The world is moved only when they see what they cannot have or accomplish and that is true selfless love.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Christ already lives and rules in our hearts. The issue is that we at times grieve the Holy Spirit and refuse to let Him rule. Oh, He is still sovereign, but we fight Him for who knows best. When we defy God, we lose our peace and become ungrateful. We are to let His peace rule in our hearts as we follow His voice and leading. When we do so, we will see His wisdom and have much to be thankful for.
16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Some people sit under preaching and teaching of the Word multiple times a week, and yet they never let it change them. They analyze it, evaluate it, critique it, and even tell others about what they learned and how they should change, but it never changes them. They refuse to yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in faith because they are too proud to let God’s Word rule in them. Christ dwells in all believers as does His Word, for through it they have been born again. Yet the word of Christ does not dwell richly and abundantly in them. Their head may be filled with Bible facts and knowledge, but their desires and affections and ambitions are unchanged in light of what they know in their head. Christ’s word dwells in us richly when we learn to love it and yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. When what is inside of us is overflowing with the word of Christ, it will then flow out of us unto effective and effectual ministry that bears spiritual fruit. We will know what to say so that we can speak the wisdom of God and not fleshly wisdom that is just nice ideas that have no spiritual fruit. Those who let God’s Word impact their lives completely because they believe it by faith and let it impact every aspect of their being are those who can then speak wisdom to others and teach them truth. They can see errors and are able to admonish other believers in love who are straying off course. Their lives are so energized by the truth of God’s Word that they can’t help but sing or quote a psalm or early church hymn. They are so grateful for the Word and how it is transforming their lives and continuing to free them from sin patterns of old. Victory brings with it great joy and thanksgiving, even making us burst out in song at times. The wonderful part about the songs written is that they were full of Biblical wisdom and doctrinal truth to the extent that they could be used to challenge one another and build them up in the faith.
17Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
The summation then is, seeing that we are new creations in Christ and have put on the new self, that we do all things whether in spoken word or physical action in a way that is honoring to God. Rather than set up legalistic manmade boundaries, God calls us to pure motives from the heart. We are to do everything in a way that brings glory and draws attention to the name of Jesus. We are to give thanks to the Father through Him as He enables us to live conformed to His image. Our sanctification, like our salvation, is ultimately something we must thank God for because He started the good work.
18Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
20Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
21Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
Paul immediately shows practically how we can do things in a way honoring to God by drawing attention to family issues. How one lives with his own family will largely impact and dictate how he will live with the family of God. As such, how one handles his family is indicative of spiritual maturity and trustworthiness to lead the people of God. Wives are to do their part in being submissive to their own husbands (not to men in general) by showing them respect and empowering them to lead the home. Husbands are to do their part by not acting as if they are sick and tired of their wives, being bitter toward God and toward them. Rather, they are to manifest and showcase the love of Christ toward them, leading them toward further spiritual growth. If they continue to be bitter toward their wives, they can be assured of not having their prayers answered and largely being rendered ineffective in terms of the kingdom of God. Children are to do their part in obeying their parents as they learn what it means to submit to a godly authority. They are to obey their parents in all things, even if they disagree about some things. They do not have to go against the commands of God, however. Obedience is pleasing to the heart of God, and a child who learns to obey is one who is pliable and able to be taught the things of God. Finally, Paul gives a direct admonition to the fathers that they do not exasperate their children. How a father treats his children will impact how his children view their Father in heaven. If they demean them, hurt them, abuse them, talk down to them, or trick them, they will have trouble trusting God. Paul says that they will lose heart. They will doubt their worth, identity, meaning, and the truth of the Bible. A father’s love and approval go a long way in a child’s life and in their relationship with God as they grow older. It is absolutely important that fathers show unconditional love, involve their children in their lives, and speak words of encouragement and affirmation.
22Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Slaves, too, were to obey their masters on earth with a sincere attitude and motivation. It is easy to give lip-service to a boss or employer but how prevalent is it that people complain, mock, and malign behind the back of the authority. Paul is saying to respect the authority because God honors that. God has put the slaves in that position, and they are to honor their masters out of fear for the Lord. Masters are not to treat their slaves brutally or unfairly, but even if they do (and this is not assuming a mobile society) they are to submit willingly. It is never right to enslave a man against his will. In some cultures and in some times, however, it is acceptable and even advisable to become a servant of a master. It is not slavery as in the sense of treating a person as a lesser human being but it is more like an employee-employer relationship. In such cases, and even in unfair cases, servants need to show honor to their masters.
23Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Paul repeats his exhortation to do all things as to the Lord and in a way that honors God. All that we do, even if it seems like it has no eternal value, does have eternal value if we do it as an act of worship to the Lord. There is nothing that is too trivial that it cannot be considered worthy of doing as to the Lord. We get ourselves in trouble when we categorize certain activities as worldly or secular and others as sacred. All things are before the eyes of God, and all things can be an act of love or an act of rebellion. God wants to see hearts that love Him and serve Him out of love and admiration. Another road to failure involves doing things to get the approval of men. It is the nature of man to constantly want to have approval from his neighbor or to outdo his neighbor. There is an unfriendly subtle competition that goes on. Yet God says that we are not to do things to look good before men at the expense of violating the commands of God. When we seek to honor God, God will exalt us in due time. That may mean people will like us; it may mean we will get persecuted. Either way, it will bring us honor in the kingdom. All things are to be done as a stewardship for God because it is from Him that we will receive our reward. Our earthly masters cannot give us eternal rewards. Which is more important, the paycheck now or the eternal rewards later? Both are important, but the eternal rewards are the longer lasting and more enjoyable. Thus, we ought to keep an eternal mindset, remembering from Whom comes our true inheritance. We serve ultimately not man, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christians are servants of Jesus, not people who merely profess knowing Him and continue practicing sin. We need a perspective with Jesus as our Lord and Master.
25For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
Those who honor God will be rewarded accordingly. In the same way, those who sow after the flesh will reap after the flesh and receive the consequences of doing wrong. For the Christian, this means a loss of rewards. For the unbeliever, this means the wrath of God in hell. There are consequences for how we live and for the choices we make. Thus we are to conduct our time on earth in fear before the One Who sees all and Who will render to each according to his due. There will be no exceptions and all will get what they deserve.