The apostle, having described our privileges by Christ in the former part of the epistle, and our discharge from the yoke of the ceremonial law, comes here to press upon us our duty as inferred thence. Though we are made free from the obligation of the ceremonial law, it does not therefore follow that we may live as we list. We must walk the more closely with God in all the instances of evangelical obedience. He begins with exhorting them to set their hearts on heaven, and take them off from this world: If you then have risen with Christ. It is our privilege that we have risen with Christ; that is, have benefit by the resurrection of Christ, and by virtue of our union and communion with him are justified and sanctified, and shall be glorified. Hence he infers that we must seek those things which are above. We must mind the concerns of another world more than the concerns of this. We must make heaven our scope and aim, seek the favour of God above, keep up our communion with the upper world by faith, and hope, and holy love, and make it our constant care and business to secure our title to and qualifications for the heavenly bliss. And the reason is because Christ sits at the right hand of God. He who is our best friend and our head is advanced to the highest dignity and honour in heaven, and has gone before to secure to us the heavenly happiness; and therefore we should seek and secure what he has purchased at so vast an expense, and is taking so much care about. We must live such a life as Christ lived here on earth and lives now in heaven, according to our capacities.
I. He explains this duty (Col. 3:2): Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Observe, To seek heavenly things is to set our affections upon them, to love them and let our desires be towards them. Upon the wings of affection the heart soars upwards, and is carried forth towards spiritual and divine objects. We must acquaint ourselves with them, esteem them above all other things, and lay out ourselves in preparation for the enjoyment of them. David gave this proof of his loving the house of God, that he diligently sought after it, and prepared for it, Ps. 27:4. This is to be spiritually minded (Rom. 8:6), and to seek and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly, Heb. 11:14, 16. Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionably weaken and abate our affection to the other.
II. He assigns three reasons for this, Col. 3:3, 4.
1. That we are dead; that is, to present things, and as our portion. We are so in profession and obligation; for we are buried with Christ, and planted into the likeness of his death. Every Christian is crucified unto the world, and the world is crucified unto him, Gal. 6:14. 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.
2. Our true life lies in the other world: You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God, Col. 3:3. The new man has its livelihood thence. It is born and nourished from above; and the perfection of its life is reserved for that state. It is hid with Christ; not hid from us only, in point of secrecy, but hid for us, denoting security. The life of a Christian is hid with Christ. Because I live you shall live also, John 14:19. Christ is at present a hidden Christ, or one whom we have not seen; but this is our comfort, that our life is hid with him, and laid up safely with him. As we have reason to love him whom we have not seen (1 Pet. 1:8), so we may take the comfort of a happiness out of sight, and reserved in heaven for us.
3. Because at the second coming of Christ we hope for the perfection of our happiness. If we live a life of Christian purity and devotion now, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall also appear with him in glory, Col. 3:4. Observe, (1.) Christ is a believer’s life. I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, Gal. 2:20. He is the principle and end of the Christian’s life. He lives in us by his Spirit, and we live to him in all we do. To me to live is Christ, Phil. 1:21. (2.) Christ will appear again. He is now hid; and the heavens must contain him; but he will appear in all the pomp of the upper world, with his holy angels, and in his own glory and his Father’s glory, Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26. (3.) We shall then appear with him in glory. It will be his glory to have his redeemed with him; he will come to be glorified in his saints (2 Thess. 1:10); and it will be their glory to come with him, and be with him for ever. At the second coming of Christ there will be a general meeting of all the saints; and those whose life is now hid with Christ shall then appear with Christ in that glory which he himself enjoys, John 17:24. Do we look for such a happiness, and should we not set our affections upon that world, and live above this? What is there here to make us fond of it? What is there not there to draw our hearts to it? Our head is there, our home is there, our treasure is there, and we hope to be there for ever.