“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
“A blessed life they have whilst they are here, dead to the world, and as dead in the world,—a life that will issue in eternal glory!”
As we are winding down another year, we are reminded of the rollercoaster ride that life dishes out so often. Perhaps the recent World Series captured for us the reality of the vast kaleidoscope of colorful emotions that can pass through a moment of time. Disappointment and pathological euphoria seem to stand on the edge of every moment. Yet, as suddenly and unexpectedly as these types of emotions erupt, so suddenly do they often fizzle out. This is to but touch on the great catalogue emotions, experiences, trials and tragedies that do bombard normal life.
So, we might ask; Is there a way of corral or rein in the extremes of life? The Greek stoics taught it was a virtue to command and control the plethora of human emotions. But even they struggled to remain stolid in everything life brought their way. And it robbed them of the experiences and expressions of passion, loyalty, gratitude and etc. In essence, it seems to rob them of being alive.
Now this stoic philosophy might seem to agree with the statement Paul makes in Colossians 3:3 where he states the Christian has died. Are we to take from this an extreme form of stoicism or is it to suggest that the Christian life is a morbid state of unconscious existence?
For Paul, the idea of having died as a Christian had to do with some very specific element involved in the human life. Central to Paul’s teaching is his figurative use of the concept of death to describe the insensitiveness a Saint is to exercise against the appeals of evil. In particular, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life are standard stratagems of Satan to re-ignite activity in moral practices that are contrary to the Law of God. Paul sees the saint’s involvement in sin as a spiritual impossibility if we have truly died in Christ. Therefore, he asks the rhetorical question; “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2) Key here is that Paul is specific; “live in it” indicating that a saint does not make his/her lifestyle conform to the lifestyle of the world.
The world lives in sin because it practices lawlessness. This is the principle of the Apostle John’s teaching; “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4)
So that, the saint that has died is one who is not practicing sin, or as Paul states, we are no longer slaves to sin; “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:6,7) This therefore, defines for us Paul’s meaning in Col. 3:3 saying “you have died.”
If Paul had left us there as dead it would have easily been mistaken for stoicism, but he continues to add to the concept of spiritual dying, the concept of being hidden with Christ. This brings to bear the figurativeness of dying spiritually to the world that Paul speaks of by establishing our position, not as some stagnate existence as the stoics, but as he described in Gal. 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” The hidden life in Christ is then that my natural desires and lusts of the things of the world are murdered so that the life that is seen is Christ and not me. The Christian life is not merely a mortification of the sin that is pervasive in my human nature, but me, my existence, my meaning for life, myself is obscured, even blotted out by the overwhelming presence of Jesus Christ’s existence, meaning for life. In the phrase; “is hidden with Christ” Paul has placed the verb in the perfect tense, which gives the sense, “remains concealed.” The simple reality here is that for everyone who is truly dead in Christ, the only living individual that will be seen, is Christ. If anything else is visible, I haven’t died yet.
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.