Our Life in Christ
September 29th, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-29-57 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Our New Life, Our Resurrection Life, in Christ. This morning we begin with the third chapter of Colossians, and the sermon is the first and second verses of the third chapter of the Book of Colossians. The text is this:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
In Solomon’s Temple, there were two tremendous and beautiful pillars that were built out in front [1 Kings 7:15-22]. One was called Boaz, and the other pillar was named Jachin.
There are two great pillars of the Christian faith. One is the death of Christ, His cross. He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The other great pillar is the resurrection of Christ [1 Corinthians 15:4]. He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:24-25]. We could not emphasize the superlative and tremendous importance of either one of those great pillars of the Christian faith. Our text this morning speaks of the second one, the resurrection of Christ: "If ye be risen with Christ" [Colossians 3:1].
Our Lord, because of the importance of His resurrection, His life beyond up out of the grave, He showed Himself to be raised, to be resurrected, by many infallible proofs [Acts 1:1-3]. He showed Himself openly, alive, to His disciples, nor once, nor twice, but many, many times [1 Corinthians 15:3-8]. He ate with them [Luke 24:41-43]. He drank with them. He invited them to handle Him and see that He was flesh and bone, that He was the living Lord Himself [Luke 24:36-40]. He invited them to thrust their fingers into the scars of His hands and to put their hand into the scar in His side [John 20:27]; their own Lord Jesus.
He showed Himself to His disciples, sometimes to one at a time, as to Mary Magdalene [John 20:14-18], as to Cephas [1 Corinthians 15:5], Simon Peter, as to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], his own half brother. Sometimes He would reveal Himself to two at a time, as to the two on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-32]. He revealed Himself to ten at a time, Thomas absent [John 20:19-24]. He revealed Himself to eleven at a time when Thomas and all of the disciples were present [John 20:26-28]. He revealed Himself to seven at a time, as the seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee [John 21:1-2]. He revealed Himself to more than five hundred at a time, of whom the greater part of them were still alive when Paul wrote of it in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians [1 Corinthians 15:6].
The resurrection of our Savior is one of the great credible facts of recorded history. We observe, and celebrate, and commemorate that resurrection upon many and frequent and different occasions. Every time we have a baptismal service – and God be thanked and praised, in this church, we have a baptismal service every Sunday night. When we have a baptismal service, we are commemorating, celebrating, the resurrection of our Lord: buried with our Lord, raised with our Lord [Romans 6:3-4].
Every time we get up on the Lord’s Day morning, Sunday morning, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Wake up any Lord’s Day morning, in the depth of the winter or in the warmth of the summer, and you can say in your heart, "Today, our Savior was raised from the dead."
The celebration of one Sunday, an Easter Sunday, is a man’s invention. Coming just once a year, a man thought it up and men observe it. But the celebration of the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week is of divine institution. The Lord Jesus met His disciples on the first day of the week [John 20:1, 9], and the disciples gathered with their converts on the first day of the week [Acts 20:7]. This vital and tremendously, superlatively important pillar of the Christian faith is the one referred to in my text: "If then ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" [Colossians 3:1].
Now, Paul writes this text, basing what he says upon a doctrine that is, could I say, peculiar to the apostle Paul. His appeal here is based upon the Pauline doctrine of the federal headship of Christ. He says that Adam was the federal head of the race; the natural man. When Adam sinned, all of us fell [Romans 5:18]. All of us sinned in Adam. We were in his loins, as it were [Hebrews 7:9-10]. And the children have partaken of the decision of the father. Adam is the federal head of the earthly man.
Now, there is a second part of that Pauline doctrine of the federal headship of the race, and the second part is this. Jesus Christ is the federal head of the new and redeemed people of God. As in Adam all die, so by faith, they who look to Jesus, all are made alive in Christ [1 Corinthians 15:22]. That is, God’s people are identified with their Savior. They are one with Him: of His bone, of His body, of His flesh [Ephesians 5:30], and no bone of Him can be broken [John 19:36].
We share in all of the glory, and merit, and worth of our Savior. Paul would say it like this: "We were buried with Christ [Romans 6:4]. We were crucified with Christ [Romans 6:6]. We were raised with Christ [Colossians 2:12]. We live with Christ. And if our Head is in glory, His members shall be in glory also" [Ephesians 2:6].
That is the doctrine of the federal headship of Christ, and that is the doctrine that he refers to in this text: "If then ye be risen with Christ" [Colossians 3:1]. We’ve been crucified with Christ [Romans 6:6]. We’ve been buried with Christ [Colossians 2:12]. Now, if then we be risen with Christ [Colossians 3:1] – and there are two ways that Paul will refer to our being raised with Jesus.
First, representatively: we are raised with Christ representatively. Christ died unto sin [Romans 6:10]. He paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, death hath no longer a control over Him or a possession of Him [Acts 2:24]. He is liberated from the prison house of the grave. In that He died, He died unto sin once [1 Peter 3:18]. Therefore, death hath no more dominion over Him, and in that He liveth, He liveth unto God" [from Romans 6:10].
Now, Paul would say, He was our hostage. He was our representative. He was our substitute [2 Corinthians 5:21], and when Christ died, we died [Colossians 2:20]. When He died unto sin, we died unto sin. When He was liberated from the prison house of death, we were liberated from the prison house of death. And in that He liveth unto God. We also are resurrected and are alive unto God [Romans 6:10-11].
Now, the blessings of the resurrection are not consummated and perfected as of the now, but they shall be by and by. That is, our whole body shall be redeemed. Christ did not redeem just a piece of us, or a part of us, or the soul of us, or the spirit of us, or the mind of us, or the heart of us, but Christ redeemed and sanctified the whole and entire man. We shall be resurrected mentally, spiritually, and physically. All of us shall live in His sight, and that consummation shall be when the Lord Himself appears, and we shall be immortalized, transfigured, in the likeness of His own glorious body [Philippians 3:20-21]. Now, that’s one thing that Paul means by his word, "We are risen with Christ" [from Colossians 2:12]. We are risen representatively, and this body some day shall speak and know of the same glorious immortality that our Lord knew when He was raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:50-54].
Now, the second way that Paul will use that doctrine of the federal headship of Christ and our resurrection in Him lies in the realm of the spirit, and that spiritual resurrection is now [Ephesians 2:1]. When a man is led by faith to believe in Jesus, he receives a spiritual resurrection [Colossians 2:13]. He is raised with Christ, and that is the resurrection that he speaks of in the text: "If ye then be risen with Christ" [Colossians 3:1].
Now, may I pause here for a lesson in grammar? When you read that in English, you have a supposition there: "If then ye be risen with Christ." It looks as though Paul is supposing a thing. Maybe he questions it. Maybe he doubts its reality. No, because in English, you say it that way. If you were to write that thing out in Greek, it’s all together in a different kind. Ei oun sunēgerthēte is an indicative mood, not a subjunctive – not a supposition. It is the declaration of a fact.
Could I illustrate it again where you have a same kind of an English translation? In the Book of Matthew, the story is, in our English, that Satan came to Jesus and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command these stones to be bread . . . If You are the Son of God, cast Thyself down from the pinnacle" [from Matthew 4:3, 6]. Now, in English that sounds as though Satan were doubting whether He were the Son of God. Oh, no! Satan knew who He was. Satan knew who He was in glory. Satan knew who He was when the promise was made in the Garden that some day He would crush his head [Genesis 3:15]. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem incarnate, Satan knew who He was [Luke 2:4-14]. And when Jesus was baptized and the Spirit came and God said, "This is My beloved Son," Satan knew who He was [Matthew 3:16-17].
And that thing’s written just like that in the Greek. It’s an indicative mood, not a subjunctive. And the best way to translate it, I think, would be this: "Since you are the Son of God, it’d be nothing to You to change stones into bread." We haven’t time for why of those temptations.
That’s the same thing here. "Since then, since then" – a fact Paul states for every Christian believer – "Since then ye be risen with Christ" [Colossians 3:1]. In the previous chapter and in a previous message, we preached on that word: "And you, being dead in trespasses and in sins, hath He quickened with Christ" [Colossians 2:13].
There was a time when we were dead – dead in sins, dead in trespasses, dead and under the judgment and warrant of death; eyes couldn’t see the Lord, ears didn’t hear the Lord, heart didn’t love the Lord, a withered hand that couldn’t reach out and touch the Lord [1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1]. Then the Holy Spirit of God quickened us, as Paul says, "made us alive" [Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13], and by faith, we could see the Lord Jesus [Romans 15:21]. By faith, we could hear His voice [John 10:27]. By faith, our hearts were warmed to the Gospel message [Luke 24:32]. And by faith, we could stretch out a withered hand and touch the hem of His garment [Matthew 9:20-22].
Now, that’s what Paul is saying here. Then he says: "If then ye be risen with Christ" [Colossians 3:1], these things of the tomb, these things of the sepulcher, these things of the world, these things of the shroud and the cerement, these things of the mausoleum and the tomb, these things are no longer for the man who has been quickened into life by the power of the Spirit of God.
Now, for a dead man – the narrow grave, if he’s poor; the beautiful mosaic of the marble and the mausoleum if he’s rich – for a dead man, that is a beautiful, and fine, and acceptable dwelling. It’s his bed chamber. He lies here in this grave, or he lies here beneath this beautiful pile of marble, and it is an acceptable dwelling place for the dead man. But for the man who is alive, how constricted and narrow is that terrible grave. And even that beautiful pile of mosaic and marble and porphyry and stone is a loathsome charnel. It is an unwelcome dungeon. It is a horrible pit.
That’s what Paul means when he says, "To the natural man [1 Corinthians 2:14] who is dead, this world, this cemetery, is a place of contempt for him." And formal, ritualistic religion suits his fancy – a dead religion for a dead soul. And the beautiful furniture, and appointments, and embellishments are just like so much beautiful furniture to embellish his tomb, his bed chamber, his grave. But when a man is alive, when a man is quickened, when he’s raised from the dead, those rights, and rituals, and dead ceremonies are like a shroud to his heart. He seeks, he pants after the bread of God, after the water of life, after the quickening Spirit of Jesus Almighty – no dead man ever content in the shroud, in the coffin, in the grave, in the tomb. They are a horror to the man who lives! But to the man who has been raised from the dead, he seeketh other garments. He seeketh other life, he seeketh other places; he flees away from the cemetery and from the dead, and he cries, "Life, life, bread, water!" He has become a quickened and living soul.
Now, on the basis of that appeal, Paul says, "If then ye be risen with Christ," alive now, quickened, sensitive, hungry in your heart, thirsting in your soul, living unto God. "If then ye be risen with Christ," raised with our Lord, "then seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set not your affection on the things of the grave, on the cemetery, of the tomb, but set your heart on the things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" [from Colossians 3:1-2]. Now that appeal: if we can follow the picture he uses of the one holy and perfect example of our Lord. When we are raised, when we are made alive, immediately, immediately we are to seek another place. We are to flee the sepulcher and the tomb. No longer does it appeal to us, does it content us, but it’s a place of death, and we seek life, and we are alive.
Am I blasphemous when I make this observation about our Savior? He arose early, early in the morning [Matthew 28:1-6]. Just as soon as our Master could flee away from the bonds of the grave and of death, just as soon as to be commensurate with the Holy Scriptures, He could fulfill them – just that minute, our Savior left the tomb, and He left the grave: no tarrying in it, no loving it or liking it, no longing or loading up on it. But as soon as our Savior could, He left it and fled away from it, out of it. Could I say it like this? Not all theologians are agreed on this, but to the great mass of Christian people, our Savior was crucified on Friday afternoon. Then He spent in that grave the barest fragments of those three days. A piece of Friday, Saturday, and a little piece of Sunday, then He was about, and up, and out, and away! The grave is no place for the Christian. The tomb is no home for the child of God. Death is presented in the Bible as an enemy of God, as an enemy of Christ, and Christ came to destroy him, once for all, and forever [2 Timothy 1:10]. And the Christian is not to live in the grave, in the tomb, but he flees from it. No longer does he like it.
With the fear of using a crass illustration for the sublimest Christian conception you’ll find in the apostle Paul, with your forgiveness, could I try to say that in a poor, and mundane, and terrestrial, and natural sort of way? One summer, we were driving through the Pacific Northwest and on a Lord’s Day were in a beautiful camp by the River Rouge in Oregon – pouring out of those beautiful northwestern mountains, one of the most beautiful streams in this world, and the salmon leaping up, leaping up all night long. Listen to them leaping up. Listen to that river flowing by that cabin. Those beautiful, beautiful, gorgeous mountains, the spruce and the fir and the pine. It looked like heaven to me. Oh, the work of God!
Just down the way was a building. I wanted to see if there was any place we could go to church on that Lord’s Day. I made my way down to the building. It was a tavern. I went inside. It was filled with people. The stench of it was indescribable to me: the smoke was thick and hazy so that everything looked foggy; the beer spilled on the table, spilled on the floor, offered at the bar, drunk by the people; closed in because the weather was cool, closed in and shut. I made my way up to the bar. I asked about a Lord’s house. Not in that country. Nobody ever thought for it. Nobody ever inquired about it.
I looked around for the moment. Then when I stepped outside, I stepped once again into the glories of God’s world: those beautiful, piled up blue mountains; those indescribably glorious trees, pointing up to God; that beautiful, crystal clear River Rouge, running down to God’s sea, and the clear, crisp air, singing through the pines. And I took a deep breath, and I marveled at men that would find themselves closed in a stench, in a fog, in a shop like that, and shut out the glories, and the beauty, and the wonder of God.
And I thought as I stood there and looked at the mountains lifting their crest to the sky and the joint with its people, I thought, "How like God and a fallen humanity. Love the stench, and the dirt, and the filth, and close their eyes to the glory of God all around them" – the difference between the raised and the resurrected man, the difference between the child of God and the natural man. "If then ye be risen with Christ," raised with Christ, not in the grave or the tomb or the sepulcher, but alive now, living, "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above," where He is, "not on the things of the grave" [from Colossians 3:1-2]. Set our affections "where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
Our Savior is up there. Our heart is up there. Our affections are up there. Our inheritance is up there. Our loved ones are up there. Our friends are up there. Our hope is up there. Our heaven is up there. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" [Matthew 6:21]. To the man whose heart is in the world, this is his inevitable hope: the grave, the tomb, the sepulcher, the cemetery. But we have been raised with Christ, and our life is hid with God in the heavens [Colossians 3:1-4].
We have come unto the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven [from Hebrews 12:23]. Do you see that? The church triumphant and the church militant are one and the same, in the same Book whose names are written in heaven. Set your affection on things above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God [from Colossians 3:1-2].
We sing our song. Somebody to give his heart to the Lord; somebody to put his life in the church; that somebody, is it you? Is it you? Would you come and stand by me? A family you to put your life with us in the church, one somebody you to come in answer to the appeal of our Lord, "I have felt His quickening in my heart, and here I come. I give you my hand, Pastor. I give my heart to God." Down these stairwells, at the front, at the back, from side to side, into these aisles and down here to the pastor, "This day, this day, I take Jesus as my Savior. I look in faith to Him," or, "This day, we place our lives in this blessed and precious church." Will you make it now while we stand and while we sing?
A. Two pillars of
Lord showed Himself to be raised by many infallible proofs
He showed Himself to the disciples many times
observe and commemorate His resurrection upon many occasions
II. Paul’s doctrine of the federal
headship of Christ
A. Adam the federal
head of the race, the earthly man
1. Jesus Christ
the federal head of the new and redeemed people of God
in Adam all died, so in Christ all are made alive (1
B. We are risen with
Representatively(Romans 6:3-5, 8-10)
blessing to be perfected by and by
resurrection when a man is led by faith to believe in Jesus
III. Our spiritual resurrection
A. The statement of
1. Not "if", but
"since"(Colossians 2:13, 3:1, Matthew 4:3, 6)
were dead in trespasses and in sins(Ephesians
B. The consequence
1. The things of
the world become a cemetery to the called out Christian
2. Tomb seems a
pleasant place to the natural man
IV. The appeal of the apostle
A. Our lives, hearts,
affections out of the tomb, up to God’s heaven
B. The example of Jesus
1. When we are
raised, immediately we are to seek another place
2. No lingering,
longing after the world, clinging to its vanities
a. Beautiful camp in
Oregon – looking for a church