If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
I. "Seek things that be above." This is the business first of all of a man's understanding, of the understanding of a Christian who is risen with Christ. Seek those things that be above, seek the conversation of the wise and the instructed. Study if you will the masterpieces, the highest masterpieces of literature: make the most of whatever enlarges and ennobles your conceptions of nature and of human life; in all the higher and purer regions of thought you are nearer Christ even though His name be not uttered. But as you think let your cry be ever "Excelsior." Rest not in the highest regions of earthly excellence, do not be satisfied until you have struggled upwards beyond literature, beyond science, beyond nature into that world which human thought may enter under the guidance of revelation; into that kingdom of heaven which, since the Redeemer died and rose, has indeed been opened to all believers.
II. Yes, seek those things that be above, for it is the business not merely of the understanding, but of the affections. The affections are a particular form or department of desire, and desire is the strongest motive power in the heart of man. St. Augustine said, "Quocunque feror, amore feror." If I am borne upwards, it is by the love of the highest good; if I am being carried downwards, it is by corrupt or perverted desire, by desire which has attached itself to false or unworthy objects, but which, nevertheless, has the control of my movement as a spiritual being, and in this sense St. James says that desire, when it is finished, bringeth forth sin: sin is the act by which perverted desire attains its object. Seek then, as with your understandings, so with your affections, things above.
III. Here is, lastly, an effort for the sovereign faculty, for the will. "O will of man," the Apostle seems to say, "seek those things that be above." Grant that the will is weakened by the inheritance of moral disease, this weakness has been corrected at least in those who are risen in Christ. Natural disposition may make things easy or difficult. It cannot either prompt or arrest the onward, upward movement of a free, because regenerate will. We have been made masters of ourselves by Christ. We cannot shift the responsibility which attaches to us by putting it upon the very circumstances which are placed within our control. "Seek those things that are above."
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 225.
I. First, I would have you notice the basis upon which St. Paul puts forward his view of the life of the Christian, as a life of advance. The basis is this: he maintains, and maintains earnestly, to those to whom he wrote, that their life had passed through a crisis. He warns them that there has been a special time marked by a special external witness, when that life had advanced out of one sphere of being into another, when they had stepped off one platform of thought on to another; and therefore, because upon the fact of this momentous charge he based his view of their life, the exhortation of the text had real force. Christianity is not a mere matter of feeling and emotion. Christianity has indeed in its keeping forces capable of drawing forth the warmest emotions, and kindling the most glowing feelings of the human heart. But Christianity in its very essence is something deeper than that; and as Christian life, on its subjective side—on the side of the soul—is something more than feeling, so that on which it rests objectively is something more than mere idea. The basis of it all is fundamental fact.
II. If you have turned to God, have listened to His call, if you have taken Him at His word and submitted to Jesus, the platform of your life is changed, the sphere of your activity is altered, and you start not merely to a life of labour, but to something higher, better, greater, than labour—an advance upward and onward on a new and glorious course. There are minds which are apt to look upon the Christian life as a life of mere stagnation. On the contrary, we must remember that there remains before us the advancing life.
III. Christianity in urging us to that advance is falling in with the fundamental fact and experience of our nature. It does not need regenerating grace, it does not need a converting call, to tell us men that there is within us a yearning and a longing for higher things. Ye are "risen with Christ," and therefore do not merely have yearnings, and indefinite longings, but "seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." (1) Those who do "seek the things which are above," as a matter of fact, become elevated in tone and temper. (2) It is not only true that the tone of life is changed by "seeking" them, but also that the sphere of thought is enlarged. (3) "Seeking those things which are above" helps us not only to reach towards, but gradually and steadily to attain to virtues purely Christian. To grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is a possibility to every soul young and old.
W. J. Knox Little, Characteristics of the Christian Life, p.,26.
I. It is on the great fact that Christ is risen that the whole attention of faith is concentrated. When we have grasped this, then all the other truths which are emphatically doctrines of faith, the Atonement, the Incarnation, the Pre-existent Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ, unfold themselves in their right order. For we come to know Him in the very power of His resurrection, and so we are able to rest on His Word when He tells us, "I came to give My life a ransom for the many."
II. The Resurrection of Christ is not a dead fact of the past; it is a living fact, which looks on to the future; it is the type and earnest of our own rising again. He is the firstfruits of the great harvest, which shall be reaped at the Judgment Day, gathered safe into the garner of God. Wherever we go, the shadow of death falls upon this life. That shadow has already swallowed those whom we honour, reverence, love; it is so near ourselves, that it must at times cast, in thought and anticipation, some shadows on our own path. We must have light upon it, if we are really to live as true men, and if we are to know anything of a living God. It is the knowledge of the great truth of Easter, which alone lights it up.
III. But it is not on the Resurrection as a fact in the past St. Paul dwells; this is now accepted by all as one of the first elements of Christian truth. It is not even on the future hope of our resurrection through it, for that also is taken almost for granted now. It is on the eternal life in and through Christ, actually given us in the present. The regeneration in Christ and those who are made His, is spoken of as a present resurrection in us—a resurrection of the spiritual life, from the bondage of the flesh, and from the death of sin: it is not, therefore, that we shall rise, but that we are risen in Christ. Faith is not content even with the saying, "I am the Resurrection"; it goes on to the still deeper utterance of the Lord, "I am the Life"; he that liveth and believeth on Me shall never die.
A. Barry, First Words in Australia, p. 145.
References: Colossians 3:1.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 269; Ibid., vol. vi., p. 216; Scott, University Sermons, p. 42; J. Vaughan, Sermons, nth series, p. 189; Plain Sermons, vol. iii., p. 61; Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. ii., p. 37; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 88; A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 203; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 201; H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 217; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 362; E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 342. Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1530; Plain Sermons, vol. x., p. 133. Colossians 1:1-3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 202; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., pp. 87, 224; W. Wilkinson, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 109. Colossians 3:1-4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 129.
Colossians 3:2I. What does the Apostle mean by the words Set your affections? Our affections are that part of our nature by which we go out in sentiments of interest, complacency or delight. What the Apostle requires of us is to let our minds go out upon these "things above," and rest in quiet contemptation of them. He would have us take them as settled and indubitable facts, clearly revealed to us, and make them the object of our deep, continuous and interested study. He calls us not to pry into things hidden and recondite, but to ponder things manifest and revealed. It is not to a process of research, but to a process of reflection that he urges us.
II. There is, I trust, little need to enlarge upon the importance of cultivating and cherishing such a habit as the Apostle here inculcates. (1) When the affections are habitually set on things above, the surest evidence of regeneration, and of being in a state of grace, is afforded. (2) The setting of the affections on things above is supremely conducive to the right discharge of the duties, and the right endurance of the trials, of the Christian course. (3) As this habit of spiritual affection and thought fits for a useful and happy life on earth, so it alone prepares us for the higher life in heaven. Blessed is that man whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find ready, his eye turned from the fading joys of earth, and resting on the glories of opening heaven.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Sermons, p. 309.
References: Colossians 3:2.—T. de Witt Talmage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 129; Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 28; Homilist, vol. iv., p. 413; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 306; W. Arthur, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 130; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 355.
Colossians 3:3The Hidden Life.
If we are true Christians, we have passed through a death of some kind, and our life, if we have one, is a hidden life, a life not seen by men, a life safe in the company and the custody of Christ.
I. Now, doubtless, there was a more visible and palpable contrast in the days of St. Paul, between the life of one who was and one who was not a Christian, than there can ever be in a country like our own. But though the contrast is more vivid in a heathen country than among the members of a Christian body, yet it is indeed not more real. In the hearts of professing Christians, Christ must either succeed or fail in introducing a new life, of which death must be the precursor.
II. Do you know anything of gradual dying to sin? You might have called the struggle by some other name. But you have struggled with a cruel darling sin, and you feel the intense truthfulness of that description which represents the struggles and deed of dying, and the victory as a fact of death. And certainly, if this be so, you will already have overcome the great difficulty which blinds so many to the existence of the hidden life with Christ. The pure in heart are those who have the vision of God. And purity of heart is only granted to those who have conquered, or have died to all duplicity and all defilement.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 344.
What St. Paul here urges is, indeed, the highest perfection of Christianity, and therefore of human nature; but it is not an impossible perfection, and St. Paul's own life and character are our warrant that it is nothing sickly or foolish or fanatical.
I. It is most certain that Christ requires us to be dead only to what is evil. But the essence of spiritual mindedness consists in this, that it is assumed that with earth and all things earthly, evil and imperfection are closely mixed; so that it is not possible to set our affections keenly upon, or to abandon ourselves to the enjoyment of, any earthly thing without the danger of the affections and their enjoyment becoming evil. In other words, there is that in the state of things within and around us, which renders it needful to be ever watchful; and watchfulness is inconsistent with an intensity of delight and enjoyment.
II. Consider, for instance, that lively sense of the beauty of all nature, that indescribable feeling of delight which arises out of consciousness of health and strength and power. Suppose we abandon ourselves to such impressions without restraint, and is it not manifest that they are the extreme of godless pride and selfishness? For do we not know that in this world, and close to us wherever we are, there is, along with all the beauty and enjoyment which we witness, a large proportion also of evil and suffering? The soldier has something else to do than to gaze like a child on the splendour of his uniform, or the brightness of his sword: those faculties which we find as it were burning within us, have their work before them, a work far above their strength, though multiplied a thousand fold; the call to them to be busy is never silent; there is an infinite voice in the infinite sins and sufferings of millions which proclaims that the contest is raging around us; every idle moment is treason; now is the time for unceasing efforts, and not till the victory is gained may Christ's soldiers throw aside their arms, and resign themselves to enjoyment and to rest.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 39.
Death and Life with Christ.
It is the Christian state that is here described; the state of the real Christian. And it is described in a twofold aspect, as a state of death and a state of life. The paradox is not peculiar to this passage.
I. "Ye are dead." This is strong language addressed to true believers. But it is very gracious language. In conversion the sinner does indeed die with Christ, being buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. It would thus appear that there are three stages of the death of believers. (1) In their original state of unconcern and unbelief, they are dead. (2) In their effectual calling by the Holy Ghost, they die. (3) And ever after, as long as they remain on earth, they are to reckon themselves dead indeed.
II. As it is said of those who live in pleasure, that they are dead while they live, so it may be said of you who believe in Jesus, that you live while you are dead. And your life is hid with Christ in God. Follow Christ now, from earth to heaven; from the scene of His agony here below, to the scene of His blessed joy in the presence of the Father above. (1) Your life is with Christ. It is, in fact, identified with Him. He is your life, and He is so in two respects. (a) You live with Christ as partakers of His right to live. (b) You live with Christ in respect of the new spirit of your life. (2) Further, this life, being with Christ, must be where He is. It must therefore be in God. He is your life. And where He is, there is your life. But He is in the bosom of the Father. Your life with Christ, therefore, is in God. For in His favour is life, and His lovingkindness is better than life. (3) Finally, this life with Christ in God is hid. It must needs be so, since it enters in within the veil. This suggests the touching ideas of security and spirituality, of privacy and of seclusion. Your life is not to be always hidden. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 67.
The purpose of the Apostle is evidently to exhort the Colossians to live the highest possible life, the life of the resurrection, the life of heaven even on earth. To do that is here described in two words: "Seek the things that are above," "Set your mind, or affection, on the things that are above." Seek them in order to find and possess them. Seek them as goodly pearls, for they can be found; they have an existence. They are realities outside us, not mere thoughts and feelings and methods, but objective things which can be sought and can be found. The other word is, "Set your mind"—think the things—"that are above." For though they are realities outside us they have the power of being transmuted into thoughts and feelings. We have the faculty of changing them from outward realities into governing principles of character. We can think them, we can make thoughts out of them. They are the material out of which great ideas and great characters are formed. Then the Apostle mentions two reasons why we should do this, why we should seek these, and why we should think them. The one reason is, "that ye are risen with Christ." The other is, "that ye are dead with Christ*" Evidently "with Christ" ought to be supplied in thought in the third verse, for "if we die with Christ," he says in the twentieth verse of the first chapter. If we died with Christ—not in ourselves, but in Christ—we are risen with Christ, and we have died with Christ. And the things must come in that order—resurrection first with Christ, death after with Christ. The other is the natural order. Men die first, and they lie in the world for centuries, but the resurrection comes at last, afterwards. The supernatural order is the reverse. We rise first from the natural into the supernatural, and then in that supernatural resurrection we die unto the natural life which we lived before. We rise first, we die afterwards. Every life must have these two aspects. It must appear, it must hide itself. It is so with every life, even the lowest. If it is a life it must hide itself. The rose tree in the garden lives and appears in leaf and flower, but it does so because its life is hid in the roots. And if it had no roots, unseen, hiding themselves under the surface, you would never see a leaf or a rose in sight. It is so with men. No man will ever appear great, will ever show signs of greatness of character, unless he has a hidden life. There is more hidden than appears. It is so with religion. A religion that is always on the surface is not a living one. A religion that is real will have a glorious manifestation in proportion as it has an equally glorious hiding.
I. Christ and the Christian are hid in the mystery of God's providence. In the development of the Church, in the progress of Christ's religion, in the persecutions, in the prosperity or adversity, in all the changing circumstances of the ages, Christ is there hiding Himself. Now, as Jesus, so we. We are hid. A Christian man is a hidden man. The world has never understood him. The natural man knoweth not the things that are of the Spirit of God. We must be spiritual men before we can understand a spiritual fact and before we can understand a spiritual person. Though it be a poor ignorant man that is dying calmly because he trusts the Saviour, there is a mystery in that death that the philosophers of this world do not understand. We are hid.
II. In the second place, Christ is hid in the sanctuary of heaven. He is gone far from us, into the secret pavilion into which only the High Priest can enter, into the presence of God. And when the high priest under the law entered into the holiest place, the ordinary priests had to leave the holy place in order that the high priest might be alone in awful solitariness, entering into the presence of Jehovah. Jesus Christ went straight from the cross to heaven through the rent veil, that is to say, His flesh. He went into the holiest place, and there He is. He has been there for nearly two thousand years. When He shall appear, we shall appear also, we shall be revealed also.
T. C. Edwards, from Sermon preached at Mansfield College.
Nature means that without learning, powers and feelings grow and act. We see by nature. The power of sight is born with us. The eye as a matter of course is born, and as a matter of course sees light, and as a matter of course sees whatever light prints on it. When an eye does not see light, it has ceased to be an eye, though it often looks like an eye still. The eye that does not see light is, as an eye, dead. The image of God in man was once nature; and God's image, or nature, as a matter of course, saw and felt God's presence, for the nature of God in man naturally received that which was natural to it, and when this natural power perished, this eye was put out, it was dead; and man, as far as the true life went, was dead.
II. On that day death ends, when the life of God becomes incarnate in man, and man, born of God, is willing to lead a life in God's image. This is Christianity; nothing else is. Life, life victorious; life able to see God in this world; life able, as it were, to feel the presence of God in all things; life, that changes pain into glory, and bodily shame and death to a very present sense of heaven and God. The moment self is really cast aside, man's spirit acknowledges at once that a higher power is come, and tastes the joy of truth and strength, for Christ's sake; able to choose pain and know its good; and can see Christ the Sanctifier of pain, the Interpreter and Glorifier of sorrow and weakness, the Destroyer of the idolatry of the body, and all that belongs to it; pride of head, or pride of hand, or the lusts of the flesh; able to see Him the Lord of life, as higher motives come into sight, and base things please no more. So heaven is to the living no far-off dream, but a very present sense of life begun; and bodily death is no king of terrors, but a slight and vanishing trouble in the path, scarcely seen and never obscuring the beyond.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 278.
The World Within.
I. There will be found in all mankind a ceaseless effort to put what we do, and its effect, and what is thought of it, and what others do, and its effect, and what is thought of it, in the place of life, and to give it the name of our life, and their life. But the moment we think of it we see at once that what we and others call our lives, that is, the outcome that is seen, is as nothing compared with the infinite unceasing goings on in our own inward being, which are not seen. For one action or one word, that comes out, a thousand castles in the air, a thousand dreams or projects, a thousand reasonings and decisions, mental struggles, victories, defeats, backward and forward movements, take place within, that are not seen; and these are not the life, they are only part of that spirit, which is working itself out into a more perfect growth and habit of good or evil. Hence it comes to pass, what I am sure is true, that not infrequently the estimate formed of a man shall be one thing, and the effect of his life another. So different is life from actions, and still more from the judgment men form of the actions.
II. As if to put away from our hearts the idea of much work, and to make us value life itself apart from the long day's labour, Christ Himself spent thirty years of quiet preparation in a cottage home, and only three in public. Nor can we tell which was the more important; we can only say with certainty, each was perfect, each the half of the perfect whole, each incomplete without the other. But it is clear from this that the fierce pressure of consuming work is not the ideal set before man in the life of Christ, any more than it is in Christ's parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The silent thirty years are full of the glories of holy silence, and it is on the cross that the Redeemer draws all men unto Him. Learn to make the life within true and powerful. Measure yourselves, not by what you do, but by what you are. So shall you be like Christ.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. i., p. 277.
The Hidden Life.
Life is a mystery, however we regard it. The life of our natural body is a mystery. The inner life of every man is a mystery. The life of the Christian soul is a mystery. The Apostle tells us it is hid with Christ in God.
I. The immortal soul is dwelling as a guest in a material body. It is the very life of that body. What is the body without the soul? It is the soul which gives expression to the face. It is the soul which bids the tongue utter speech. But the soul which makes its presence felt in so wondrous a way at all the outposts of the body has inmost depths which a stranger's eye cannot penetrate. They are revealed to no eye but the Lord's. He has searched them out and known them. No inward thought is hid from Him.
And it is the inmost depths of the Christian soul of which the Apostle speaks. They are hid with Christ in God. A Christian soul scarcely needs even an Apostle's words to tell this. The same Divine spirit which illumined St. Paul's soul, and unveiled to him this deep suggestive truth, has access to the souls of all lovers of Jesus. They know that St. Paul speaks what is divinely true. Their own experience has taught them so. Each individual soul knows that its history is a sealed book to all but Christ. We can never thoroughly disclose ourselves to one another. There is an innermost shrine which cannot be entered by the closest human friend, an innermost shrine in which we hold communion with the Lord—a communion which, indeed, constitutes the hidden life of the soul.
II. The truth of the life of the Christian soul consisting in its union with the Lord should be very precious to us. It is a truth of which men have different and varied experiences. For, as it is possible for men to grow in grace and in knowledge of their Lord and Saviour, so it is possible for some to enter into a closer union with the Lord than has been vouchsafed to others. It is possible that some in their religious life have not been as yet so richly blessed as others; but all who have the faintest yearnings in their hearts towards Christ may feel assured that the yearning is not so faint as to pass unrecognised by the Lord. He knows of the work begun in their souls. He knows that they are drawing nigh unto Himself. He will aid them to draw into nearer union still.
H. N. Grimley, Tremadoc Sermons, p. 1.
References: Colossians 3:3.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 165; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 333; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 111; Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 245. Colossians 3:3, Colossians 3:4.—A. Barry, Sermons for Passiontide and Easter, p. 121. Colossians 3:4.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 399; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., pp. 160, 179; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 223; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xi., No. 617.
Colossians 3:5However startling this phraseology may appear at first, it is perfectly easy to point out, by instancing a few particulars in analysis, the plain reason for such an application of terms. Gold seems in many respects very like a god; not the only living and true God, but some human conception of the deity, resembling those of the savage or unchristianised regions of the world.
I. No matter where we begin. Take the attributes it possesses, if you will, for examination. (1) Omniscience, for example. Wealth seems to know everything on the instant that it occurs. Gold has a million eyes; it sees in the dark; it infringes patents, pre-empts islands, places itself over hidden mines. It knows everything by instinct, it pushes forward almost as if it were an all-seeing deity. (2) Of course, omnipresence follows. "Mammon worms its way where scruples might despair." (3) Omnipotence likewise. Gold rules the world, gold owns the land, inhabits the palaces, buys up the offices of the nation, sways the mighty sceptre of social influence, and becomes the master of men.
II. Wealth assumes to be a god, and oftentimes really appears to be one, because of the worship it attracts.
III. Wealth seems very like a god in the favours it bestows.
IV. Wealth seems very like a god because of the scourges it inflicts. See then (1) The reason why God is so violent in striking at this sin. It is the most direct offence that can be given to Him. (2) See, too, how covetousness destroys personal piety. He is covetous whose piety is chilled by gold; he is covetous for whom Christ is not a sufficiency when gold fails. (3) See how covetousness ruins all one's future. It leaves him with his chosen god. "Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone."
C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 143.
References: Colossians 3:10.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 207.
Colossians 3:11Christ All, and in all.
I. Christ is the substance or fulness of "all" things—that which really goes to make the being of everything. Let us pause a little, and help ourselves to begin this year with worthy views of the dignity of Christ in the whole physical and spiritual universe. Everything that is was first a thought in the mind of Christ. There it lay from all eternity, till, by His will and power, that thought became matter. That was creation. Therefore every created thing is a development of the mind of Christ. "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." Therefore Christ is all things. Christ is "all" in every believer. "Without Me ye can do nothing."
II. Christ is the one characterising feature, the determining test of everything. This is the precise meaning of the verse. All characteristics merge, all distinctions are done away in Christ. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all."
III. Christ is the bond that unites "all." For so we have it,—"Christ is all, and in all." The same Christ in many makes many one. That is God's unity, the only unity God recognises. Here lie the deep mysteries of our religion, and here is the power of the sacraments. There are two things which take place in every regenerate man. You pass into Christ, and Christ passes into you.
IV. Christ is the sufficiency and the satisfaction of life. Ask the years that are gone! Take council of the past! What is satisfaction? Where has desire rested? When has ambition had enough? It has pleased God to treasure up all that man really wants in one treasury, the Lord Jesus Christ. And, excepting there, no man, since the foundation of this world, ever found it. He fills all things. He must fill your hearts. You will date your peace, your first true peace, to that day when you could say of Christ, "He is all, and in all to me."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 268.
References: Colossians 3:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1006; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 249. Colossians 3:12.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 501; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 29. Colossians 3:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1841.
Colossians 3:15I. The region: where the ruling power touches and takes effect. "Your hearts." The heart, as it is called by a metaphor common to Scripture and the language of ordinary life, is the regulator of the whole man. It means the will and the affections, as distinguished from the intellect. It is the choosing faculty, as distinguished from the knowing faculty. It is that in man which fastens impetuously on an object loved, without waiting in all cases for a decision of the judgment whether the object be worthy. It is by the heart that the attitude is determined, the path traced out, and the impulse given. When the heart is drawn in one direction, the whole man follows. The rush of an evil heart's affections, like other swollen streams, will not yield to reason. When God by His Word and Spirit comes to save, He saves by arresting the heart and making it new.
II. The reign: the manner in which the heart is possessed and controlled. "Rule." The word translated "rule" in the text occurs nowhere else in the Scripture. It is borrowed from the practice of the Greeks at their great national games; and relates to the prize for which the athletes contended in the stadium. The prize giver exercised over the runners or wrestlers a kind of rule. By the display of the prize he held, he led, he impelled them. They felt the impulse, and gave their whole being over to its sway. The word which designated the power and office of the president is the "rule" of our text. This is the kind of rule which Man's maker applies to man's heart.
III. The ruler: the power that sways a human heart, and so saves and sanctifies the man. "The peace of God." (1) It is God and no idol that should rule in the human heart. (2) God's peace holds a heart from sin, and rules it in holiness.
W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits, p. 415.
Colossians 3:15The Peace of God and the Peace of the Devil.
The word "peace" is that which is most frequently employed in the Scriptures to set forth the blessedness of the righteous. Peace suggests the idea of what is calm, deep, tranquil, unruffled, something that may be in its nature divine and in its character permanent.
I. Religious peace may be denominated the peace of God, because, in one sense, or in some of its higher elements, it is that for which God made and constituted man at first. It is an approach towards the realisation of God's original idea of the happiness of humanity, for it springs from intercourse with God.
II. Religious blessedness, as now experienced by humanity, is the peace of God, because it is the result of His merciful interposition for man, as well as the realisation of His original idea respecting him. This blessedness is referred thus directly to God, because it is by God's grace that it is possible; because it is by the gift of His Son that it is procured; and because it is through the application of His truth that it is produced. It consists in the hope of forgiveness of sin and the exercise of filial trust and confidence, through the restoration and re-establishment of those ruptured relations which sin had broken.
III. The blessedness of the spiritual life in man is the peace of God, because in addition to its including something of that for which God Originally designed him, it is that which is immediately imparted or produced by God's Holy Spirit, and is thus in some degree of the nature of a divine donation.
IV. Religious peace is "the peace of God" because it is sustained, nourished, and enlarged by those acts and exercises, private and public, which bring the soul into contact with God.
V. There is, however, the peace of the devil, of the world, of sin, of the flesh. It is quite possible humanity may go to sleep in death under the peace of the devil, apparently as quietly and calmly as those who fall asleep in Jesus. The peace of the devil consists in the destruction of all that is noblest and finest and greatest in man. Just such a contrast is there in the heart of man, between the peace of the devil and the peace of God.
T. Binney, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 605.
References: Colossians 3:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1693: F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 19; W. Page, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 171; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 130; J. H. Wilson, The Gospel and its Fruits, p. 259.
Colossians 3:16I. Christ's Word is simple. It is all plain to him that understandeth. There have been many books which professed great things; some that promised to work wonders for man, and some that even professed to come from God, but they were abstruse and enigmatical. They showed how insecure they were by the mystery in which they veiled their meaning. But the Saviour, in His kindness and sincerity, has made His Word an easy and simple book, so plain that it need perplex no one, so self-evident that it is ready for everybody's use.
II. And yet though so simple there is no book so significant. Like Christ Himself in Christ's Word are hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and those who dig into this hidden treasure may rest assured that as the word of an infinite Being there is an infinite fulness in it.
III. The Word of Christ is saving. There is a company whom no man can number before the throne; but ere they went to heaven they were all brought to God. It is Christ's Word received into the soul, and abiding there, which is the source and securing of its immortality.
IV. Christ's Word is sanctifying. If you get to love and revere it so as to exalt it into a companion and counsellor, it will tell on all your conduct. Like a lamp it will reveal what is wrong in your character and motives, and be the great help to self-examination; but, better than a lamp, like a wise and loving friend it will show the excellence of holiness, and set you on the way to attaining it.
V. And sustaining. Daily work needs daily bread, and it is in the Bible magazine that the bread of life is stored. And just as the man who wishes strength for labour would deem it false economy to save his time and take no food, so theirs is foolish haste who think to struggle on from day to day without the Spirit's bread.
VI. It is suited to all. If Luther adored the fulness of Scripture, we have as much reason to bless God for its variety and all-fittingness.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 17.
The Word of Christ: Its Truths and Transformation.
J. It is of infinite moment that the Bible truths should dwell in us. To have clear conceptions and secure possession of them is faith, and he is a believer whose mind these truths occupy and inhabit. But I fear the best that can be said for many Gospel hearers is that they get a view of the Word on a visit. It is not a guest nor an inmate. Just as you may sit at the window and see passengers in the street or the public road, and make remarks on them; but none of them is any friend of yours, so you do not detain them, you do not run down and open the door and invite them in. So many see a truth pass by and they pronounce a verdict on it, but they do not take it home. Never rest till Christ's Word dwells in you. Like Abraham in the tent-door, look out for it. Enthrone it in your highest heart, and bid all your being wait on it and obey it.
II. But it is not enough that Christ's truths inhabit your convictions. In order to be strictly Biblical, you must not only ascertain the truth, but you must catch the tone; and in those only does Christ's Word dwell richly in whom Christ's Spirit dwells as well as Christ's sayings. It is perfectly possible, and for some purposes eminently important, to cull out from the Bible and arrange and classify its several truths. But the soundest doctrine is no more the Bible than carbon is the diamond, and the noblest system of theology is no more the Word of Christ than a vast museum is the smiling world which its Creator greeted "very good."
III. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Let its lifesome energy inspire your character. Exhibit the Saviour's truth in its transforming power. Then, indeed, will Christ's Word dwell in you richly, when it not only fills up your soul with sincerity and spiritual-mindedness, but exhibits itself in a radiant efflorescence over all your conduct. To have the Word dwelling in you so richly is to be Scripturalised—to have Christ's Word so dwelling is to be Christianised.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 46.
The Word of Christ: Its Truths and Its Tone.
I. Let the truths and realities of the Word inhabit your convictions; and, in order that they may inhabit, let them enter. Many turn towards the firmament of Scripture a telescope with the lid still on, and then see nothing wonderful. Many plunge into the scriptural fountain a bottle with the cork still in, and marvel that, however long they leave it, they still bring it empty up. And many pray, "O send forth Thy light and Thy truth," but keep their minds so closed by worldliness and carelessness, or by some obstinate prepossession, or some besetting sin, that the light and truth cannot enter. Turn towards the Word of God an open eye and an honest heart. Be desirous to find something; seek and you shall find. Should there be branches in the tree of knowledge above your present reach, gather such fruit as is more accessible; and when refreshed and strengthened by those truths which you do attain, you will be able to reach those which grow more loftily.
II. Let its tone be infused into your temper. When a person speaks, there is not only the thing he says, but the tone in which he says it. There is a dry and flippant tone which withers the sincerity out of the kindest words, and there is a full-hearted tone, which will fill the most common words with a melting magic. There is not only Bible truth, but a Bible tone; not only Christ's Word, but Christ's way of speaking it. The keynote of Scripture is love, and the truth of Jesus is all spoken in a divinely gracious tone. There is something more than doctrine in the Word of Christ. A chemist may analyse the wine of Lebanon, and he may tell you that it contains so many salts and alkalies; and you may combine all these, you may mix them in the just proportions; but chemistry will never create what the vintage yielded. To make the wine of Lebanon needs Lebanon itself,—the mountain with its gushing heart and aromatic springs. A theologian may analyse the Christian doctrine; he may tell you how many truths and tenets this Bible contains, and you may combine them all; but it needs Christ's own mind, His loving heart and benignant spirit, to reproduce the truth as it is in Jesus.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 32.
References: Colossians 3:16.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 33; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 270; vol. iv., p. 185; vol. vii., p. 378; R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 188; Homilist, vol. v., p. 14; Ibid., 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 270; A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 273; J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, vol. ii., p. 1; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 302.
Colossians 3:17I. Observe the extent of this saying, an extent of which it is impossible to divest it. Either it is a mere empty exaggeration, or it goes to the extent of applying to all the acts of man's life, important or unimportant. And it is plain, that for such to be the case it must propose to us some motive, and some rule, which shall touch that daily life at every point. No sight is more common than to find a man actuated by a powerful motive which rules and directs his whole life. Reality is the essence and necessary condition of all such springs of life and action. It is impossible that a man should give up his heart and life to pursuit of that which he does not believe. The hypocrite is no exception; he only makes use of something which he does not believe as an instrument towards the attainment of something which he does believe. Observe how such motives act on man.
(1) Their influence is a constraining power, of which he is unconscious, rather than a stimulus carried on by conscious effort.
(2) They are very seldom indeed loudly professed by the persons on whom they act. Here, as in nature, the deepest is the stillest. But, on the other hand, by its very stillness, all who are observant know its depth.
II. Note the motive implied in the words, "In the name of the Lord Jesus." Let Christ's love to me become to me not only an acknowledged fact, but the acknowledged fact of my life; then it will become a constraining motive; then it will not be contented with influencing some of my faculties, with employing some of my time, with claiming some of my affections; but from the very nature of things it must and will have all, will absorb me into His service, and take possession of my heart and motives, and my life, day by day; will be the sun that lights me to my unborn life; so that whatsoever I do, in word or deed, I shall do under the influence of this constraining motive.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 67.
References: Colossians 3:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 12; vol. v., p. 31; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 90; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 913; Homilist, vol. iv., p, 415; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv.,p. 289; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit, 10th series, p. 391.
Colossians 3:21The Christian Training of Children.
I. Man has enemies enough within; corruption of many kinds is deeply rooted in the human heart, and, sooner or later, springs up and manifests itself in various forms, according to different natural dispositions. And it is a comparatively rare thing that sinful tendencies show themselves for the first time in mature life. All the evil tendencies in a child's nature will have shown themselves very unmistakably before he has exchanged his father's house for the great stage of the world. If dispositions like our own have been found in our children, it was the effect of our hurtful example; the sin of the old called forth that of the young. Or, if they have opposite faults from ours, it is generally resistance of the wrong with which our faults threaten them that rouses theirs to activity. It is not unusual with us parents, when we grow weary of the struggle, to give up all godly training, and leave the children to their own way. If we only guard our children against being distrustful of us, everything is put right, but if we have got into that unhappy condition, it involves ruin and loss in our whole relations with them.
II. Consider what, according to God's appointment, the young are to be to us. It is only the children, joyous and free from care, who can diffuse around us the atmosphere of oblivion of the world that is so needful for us. It is they who, when we come back to the home circle, see in our faces nothing but our joy in being there again, and themselves feel only that they have been missing us, and now have us back once more. This happiness is, of course, lost for him in whose home the young hearts have been embittered; for he finds awaiting him at home only more painful difficulties than those he has left behind. When we provoke and estrange our children, both they and we lose the best of our life together. And as they, on their side, can best guard against any growing bitterness by respectful obedience, according to the first commandment with promise, let us, on our part, be unremitting in that self-denying love to them, which seeks not our own pleasure and advantage, but theirs, and which has its direct reward in the brightness and peace which the companionship of the young so naturally brings when there are no jars and misunderstandings.
F. Schleiermacher, Selected Sermons, p. 146.
References: Colossians 3:23, Colossians 3:24.—G. Salmon, Gnosticism and Agnosticism, p. 243. Colossians 3:24.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 348; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1205. Colossians 4:1.—W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 140. Colossians 4:2.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 2; Ibid., Sermons, vol. vii., No. 354.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
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.
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.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.