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In many places, the scriptures set forth dynamic duos side-by-side, sacred twins, that are inseparable. Together they represent either attributes of God or ingredients believers need to traverse this present world on their sojourn toward heaven. Noteworthy among them are goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6), grace and truth (John 1:17), forgetting and reaching forth (Philippians 3:13), forgiving and forbearing (Colossians 3:13). We find yet another dynamic duo in Colossians 3:1-3 as part of an admonition Paul issued to the church at Colosse:
In the first two chapters of Colossians, the apostle Paul lays out one of the great theological masterpieces in the NT. The essence of his dissertation is the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ for the believer. In Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; the believer is therefore complete in him (2:9-10). The fulness of Jesus Christ is all the fulness a believer needs! But it goes beyond the NEED FOR his fulness. The believer is in POSSESSION OF his fulness. One of the greatest truths a believer can master early on in his Christian walk is the unfathomable and incomprehensible riches that are now his by virtue of his relationship with Christ.
Having laid the theological foundation for the Christian faith in Chapters 1-2, Paul embarks upon Chapter 3 with this condition: “If ye then be risen with Christ.” Two observations are in order. First, the Greek (the condition ει with the indicative) makes this a first class condition where the condition is assumed to be true. The force of the condition is: “SINCE you have been risen with Christ.” Paul often uses this device in his writings to assure readers he's not doubting them. Secondly, the verb is passive. A believer is the recipient of resurrection power. He cannot raise himself unto spiritual life. God the Father imparts the life of his Son TO the believer in response to his faith IN him. But there are religious cults that teach a form of will worship, wherein adherents, by sheer determination, can bring about spiritual life.
Enter the dynamic duo. Paul admonishes those who have experienced the resurrection life of Christ to SEEK the things which are above and SET their affections upon them. The verb seek (zēteō, “to seek in order to find, to crave”) has a built-in expectation. It means to go after its object with ZEAL. Jesus used seek to describe the zeal with which HE pursues the lost and the zeal WE should exhibit for the kingdom of God as the first priority of life (Luke 19:10; Matthew 6:33). The verb set affections is phroneō, “to exercise or direct the mind toward a particular object.” It is used often in contexts that stress like-mindedness. The object of SEEK and SET is “things above.” It goes without saying the things Paul has in mind are the things of Christ laid out in Chapters 1-2. Christ is to have preeminence in ALL things (1:18) with the goal that EVERY thought is brought into obedience to him (2 Corinthians 10:5). Both of these dynamic-duo verbs are in the imperative. They are not suggestions, but absolute MUSTS for Christian living.
The protocols for earthly things and things above work in reverse. On this earth, death is the FINAL event that spells the END of physical life. In the spiritual realm, however, death is the FIRST event that marks the BEGINNING of spiritual life. Paul writes: “For ye are dead” (3:3). The Greek is aorist tense, active voice. The literal translation is: “For you died.” The use of the active voice is not intended to convey the cause of death as if the believer had anything to do with it. He's stating a present reality established in time past—the moment they believed on Jesus. Before the believer ever comes to live IN Christ, he dies WITH Christ. The believer cannot crucify himself. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said: “For I am crucified with Christ.” The verb is a perfect passive participle. A literal translation: “I am one having been crucified with Christ with the result I remain dead.” Before Paul ever lived in Christ, he died with Christ. The cause of death is the cross of Christ. The Father does the crucifying of the believer, and signs the death certificate!
The importance of this truth cannot be overstated. In Romans 7:4, the scripture says: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become DEAD TO THE LAW by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” In the context, Paul teaches us that God the Father, in order to wed the believer to his Son, had to dissolve the marriage between the believer and the Law by facilitating one of their deaths. In salvation's plan, the Father kept the Law alive and made the believer a participant in the death of his Son. The believer, being dead to the Law, is free to marry Christ. In Paul's analogy, the Law is the surviving spouse. Therefore bringing forth fruit unto God cannot mean obedience to the Law, but rather exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit as he grows in Christ-likeness.
If one did not understand this fundamental dynamic, he might get the impression from the average Baptist church that God saved us so we'd have the power to follow the Law. There are tens of thousands of churches across America that unwittingly give this impression because their pastors, illiterate in the gospel of grace, properly teach their people that justification is by grace through faith, then erroneously equate sanctification (discipleship) to behavior modification. The 'disciple' is taught to develop wholesome habits, attend church, improve his dress code, stop drinking, smoking and cursing, begin tithing and live life by the Ten Commandments. There is nothing inherently wrong with these standards, but they are not necessarily expressive of the life of Christ. A lost man can do all these things without Christ. But he cannot bear fruit apart from the Vine. When a man is filled with the Spirit and bearing fruit, he will live life on a loftier level, grow in Christ-likeness and exceed the righteousness of the Law by default (see Romans 8:1-4).
The believer DIES before he LIVES, and is both DEAD and ALIVE as he sojourns! Paul adds: “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” The verb is hid is κρύπτω (kryptō), “to conceal (by covering).” Our English words crypt, cryptography and encryption comes from this root. The verb is perfect passive tense. A literal translation: “Your life has been hidden (concealed) with Christ in God with the result it remains covered.” There are other texts that affirm the security of the believer. But there are NONE that express it in more affirmative terms.
We're living in an age where hackers have mastered the art of breaking encryption on protected databases and stealing information. As a defensive measure, information technologists are developing and implementing 'layers' of encryption to make databases less vulnerable if not hack proof. But no power in heaven or earth is able to break the encryption God has placed on the spiritual lives of his children. In fact, God has had his own 'layers' of encryption for two thousand years—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That pretty much makes the life of the believer unhackable!
How much more motivation do we as believers need to SEEK those things above and SET OUR AFFECTIONS upon them? SEEK and SET are a dynamic duo for the one who is DEAD to the Law and ALIVE unto God! They are eminently doable and ultimately determinative of the degree to which the believer achieves Christ-likeness in this life. If you're a believer who has strayed, whose heart has grown lukewarm, it's never too late for a RESET!