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WHAT ARE THE “THINGS ABOVE” AND HOW DO WE GO ABOUT SEEKING THEM?
by Philip Owen

            In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul exhorts us believers to “seek those things which are above” and to “set . . . [our] affections [mind] on things above” (3:1, 2).  A casual reading of the passage might leave the reader with two seemingly unanswered questions:  What exactly are the “things above”? and “What is the process by which we seek and set our minds on them?  If we read carefully, we will discover that the passage provides sufficient information to answer both questions.

 

            What are the “things above” that we believers are exhorted to seek?  Paul does not intend to give us a definitive answer to this question in this brief passage (such an answer would require an examination of the entire Word of God).  But he does provide us with the crux of the matter if we will note the emphasis in the first four verses of the chapter:  (1)  “if ye then be risen with Christ”; (2)  “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God”; (3)  “your life is hid with Christ in God”; (4) “Christ, who is our life”; (5)  “ye shall appear with him [Christ] in glory.”  The evidence points overwhelmingly in one direction.  The “things above” that we as believers are to seek and to set our minds on are not pearly gates and golden streets; they are not the marvels of our glorified bodies and supernatural power; they are not the saints we have longed to see.  All of these things are real and commended to our attention elsewhere is Scripture, and they are good and proper to consider and anticipate.  But these are not the things to which we are to be devoted, or to give great time and attention.  They represent a sure and blessed prospect, but in and of themselves they are not to be our focus on earth, nor are the thoughts of these things able properly to energize us to serve the Lord faithfully here. 

 

            On the other hand, Christ is a different matter.  We are never to forget that our new life came about because our sins were placed on Christ, that we died vicariously in Him at the cross, and that we have been raised to newness of life through His resurrection.  We have an entirely new life hidden with Christ in God, hidden because God sees only His Beloved Son when He looks upon believers.  And once redeemed, Christ alone is our life.  So it is Christ who is to fill the thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and desires of believers.   There is neither life nor genuine living apart from Him.  He should fill our imaginations, form our motivations, and direct our activities.  Anything and everything else is, at best, secondary.

 

            How do we go about properly seeking those things?  Paul provides us with a three-part answer in this chapter.  First, in vv. 5-9 he gives us a list of sins to “mortify” (consider as dead), such as fornication and covetousness, and of things to “put off” (cast aside), such as anger, malice, and lying.  Second, in vv. 10-17 he gives us a list of virtues to “put on”, such as kindness, meekness, peace, charity, and thankfulness.  In other words, we are to consider the character of Christ and through faith in Christ and submission to His Word allow Christ to manifest His character in us by the maturing of the fruit of His Spirit.  And third, in vv. 3:18-4:6 he gives us practical examples of how these things are to work in our domestic lives as wives, husbands, children, and fathers, and in our business lives, whether employees (“servants”) or employers (“masters”).  In other words, seeking things above and setting our minds there is not some nebulous, mystical, or theoretical proposition.  It is concrete and practical.  Christ is real; His approbation and fellowship are to be our desire and the manifestation of His character our ambition. Paul lays out a demonstrable means to that end.  We are to love our Savior and focus on Him; what that means and how to go about that this passage explains.  Are we giving heed?

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