Guest Post: The Dead You
Wilson Murigi has been a friend since campus days. As you may notice from his pieces, he is passionate about truth and is keen on people believing and practicing sound doctrine. He is a recurrent writer on this blog. His previous articles are Adoption – Made Sons and The Sufficiency of Scripture. Today he returns with a piece explaining our death and union in Christ. We hope that the article will build up your faith.
For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in GodColossians 3:3
Introduction to Colossians
The church in Colossae was the only one that Paul wrote letters to, although he did not plant it. Epaphras, a disciple and a co-laborer of Paul, planted the church (Colossians 1:6). Colossae was also the smallest among the cities that received a letter from Paul. Colossians is part of the prison epistles. It is a collection of four epistles, including Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon, that Paul wrote almost simultaneously, from a Roman prison.
The Colossian Heresy
Paul wrote this letter to counter some wrong teachings that had crept-in in that church and were a threat to the Gospel. The false teachers were adding to the work of Christ, and these people had been drawn back to some religious traditions that were not in line with the Gospel.
Reading the context reveals the condition of the church and the things that Paul was writing against.
Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increasing with the increase of God. If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh. – Colossians 2:16-23
The church had been drawn into worship of angels, following festivals and worshipping the moon, obsession with dreams and visions, puffed up with knowledge and a sensuous mind, among others.
The person of Christ
These things being propagated as Christianity were never from Christ. Verse 19 says, “Not holding fast to the Head.” Here, Paul capitalized Head, referencing Jesus Christ. Paul’s concern was that this church was being carried away by human imaginations and forgetting Jesus. He wrote to remind them that Jesus is the center and that he is all in all.
The person of Christ is a major theme of this letter. Verse 15 to 19 of Chapter 1 gives probably one of the mightiest expressions in scripture on Christology.
“who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him, all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell” – Colossians 1:15-19
The sinful conduct of the Colossians was due to the wrong doctrines that they held onto. As always, wrong doctrines begets wrong practices. As AW Tozer said, “At the heart of every sinful action, is a wrong notion (doctrine) of who God is.” Paul always admonished his audience in his epistles to live moral lives; obedience to parents, shunning sexual and lustful lives, not lying, and many more.
However, you will notice that in all his epistles, he does not begin with telling people what to do and what not to do. Paul always begins with doctrine. He tells these people who they are and as a result, how they should live. He, for instance, will tell people not to tell lies. But his basis for not lying is not because lying is bad, but because it is contrary to who they are in Christ. The verse which is the subject of this article lies in the doctrinal portion of Colossians.
The uniqueness of this statement
Notice firstly, the uniqueness of this statement. “You have died and your life is hidden with God in Christ”. It is statements like these in the bible that give testimony to its divine authorship. For no human literal ingenuity or philosophical prowess could come up with such a statement. Search all over the expanse and the great memorabilia of literature. Search the literature gurus of the past and the present. You will never find such a statement. For indeed to the world, this is an embodiment of foolishness, for to the carnal man, the statement makes no sense. For think about it;
- You died – how can one be speaking to a person who is already dead?
- Your life is hidden – how can the life of a dead person be hidden
- In Christ with God – how can you hide the life of a person in another with another?
But this is the inerrant word of God. There is no error or contradiction in it. Our edification comes from the illumination of the truth hidden thereof.
You have died
Consider the first phrase; “for you have died.” We find the meaning of the text in the text itself and interpret it by scripture. For scripture interprets scripture. The question that we must answer is this; What did Paul mean by saying, “You have died?” There are many such statements in scripture that could assist us in understanding this particular one. Paul earlier used similar wording but with further exposition.
In 2:20 he says, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do not submit to regulations.”
Union with Christ
Here, Paul is talking about fundamental teaching in the New Testament – the mystical union of a believer with Christ. We may have very many definitions of who a Christian is, but according to the New Testament, a Christian is one who is in Christ. When one becomes a Christian, what happens is that they are joined with Christ, and it is indeed he is in Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if you and I would fully grasp this doctrine, our understanding of Christianity would be greatly transformed. Paul makes so much of his own union with Christ, and in another place, he says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. But the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” – (Galatians 2:20). Again he says later, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – ( Galatians 6:14).
Union with Christ hinges on the beautiful exchange that climaxed on the cross. He lived a perfect life, and he credited that to us. He died the death we deserved for our sin. So in him, we are both alive and dead. We are dead to the things of the world and alive to the things of God – things above (Col 3:2).
Notice, and I emphasize, he is not saying that you need to die to these things so that you may be in Christ. No, he says that you have already died and you are already in Christ, and you should live like so. Verse 5 goes on to say, “put to death what is earthly.” Someone would wonder why says to put to death something already dead. Isn’t that a contradiction? Well, not really. It is the very same way you could tell an adult, “Stop being a child!” You are not saying that he is a child, but rather, he is behaving like one. Therefore, it is in a sense telling them to be who they are. A Christian is not a sinner. But if they are sinning, we tell them to be who they are. You have died to the things of the world, so put to death things of the world – stop doing sin.
So, brothers and sisters, we should die to the things of this world, for we are already in Christ. Many elementary teachings of the world have an appearance of wisdom, but they are self-made religions. As Paul calls the Colossians to die to them, he also calls us to do alike. He calls us to refocus onto the Head, Christ, with whom we have died to sinfulness. This call also extends to those toying with sin. “You have died!”
For they that have not come to Christ in faith, they are yet to die. They are still alive to the elementary things of this world; the life of sinfulness and the bondage thereof. They are still alive to the wrath of God, and their life is in danger of dying eternally if they do not die now. The words of Christ stand eternally true, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mathew 16:25.