“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. “
If then.. .!
O, indeed, not so must the apostle be understood, as if he held in question the fact that the church was risen with Christ. Such a question never entered his mind. The matter is not problematical, but absolutely sure. It is objective reality — the church has died with Christ, the church has been raised with Christ, the church has ascended with Christ, and is in principle with Christ as He now sits at the right hand of God.
The term “then” denotes conclusion!
Seeing it is true that you are risen with Christ and are with Christ in heaven, therefore it must follow that you must seek those things which are above where Christ is.
Seeking the things above! But what are those things which are above? And what does it mean that we are to seek them?
The term “above” designates especially two things. In the first place, it has reference to locality. It stands in contrast to the earth. In the verse that follows our text the apostle continues: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” So that what is above must be heaven in distinction from the earth. It is the place to which Christ ascended forty days after His resurrection. With His resurrected and glorified body He could not abide on the earth, but He must ascend to that place where His glorified human nature could receive all the glory He merited, even at the right hand of God, where He is crowned with glory, honor, and power. But, in the second place, the term “above” suggests the nature of the things we are to seek. They are heavenly in character. They are the things which belong to a better country, a heavenly fatherland, to the new Jerusalem, the house with its many mansions.
If you would inquire more particularly concerning the things above, they relate undoubtedly to all the heavenly blessings which are in Christ Jesus. They are those things which He merited for His people through His mediatorial work. They are the spiritual blessings of grace, which Christ gathers as a spoil after His battle with the powers of darkness, and which He freely distributes to us as the Captain of our salvation. Still more particularly, they are the victory over sin and death, life and peace, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and plentious redemption. They are glory, honor, immortality, which come with eternal life.
To seek these things means to set your heart on them, to desire them above all else, to covet them because of their excellent worth. Moreover, to seek the things which are above means that you lend every faculty you possess to attain to the object of your desire. By implication it means that you cannot be satisfied until you are in possession of them. One who truly seeks the things above cannot be satisfied only to look for them, desire them, without ever obtaining them. On the contrary, one who seeks the things above in the truest sense of the word cannot rest until he comes into the enjoyment of them.
It is most imperative that we heed this exhortation!
Are we not still on the earth? Though it is true that in principle we are with Christ in heaven, nevertheless we very really still exist here below. Strikingly the standpoint of the apostle is also on the earth, and he points heavenward as he gives us the imperative to seek the things above. This standpoint we also must assume. We are still only strangers and pilgrims in the earth.
Besides, is it not also true that we are to a very large extent carnal? Indeed, we are still of the earth earthy. We dwell in a body of flesh and blood which cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And in that body we are adapted only to things earthly. We still need earthly bread to eat, and earthly water to drink. We need earthly clothing, and earthly houses to shelter us from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. And to our shame, we still set our affection on these earthly things. We often find ourselves spending most of our time and energy seeking this world’s wealth. Like the children of this world, we catch ourselves digging our foundations deep. And like the fool who imagines his house shall stand for aye, we, too, lay up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt and destroy. Especially is this true in times of affluence, and material prosperity. We forget that we live in a tent, and as the builders of the tower of Babel, we refuse to move.
O, how we need to hear the exhortation, seek the things which are above! But how is it possible to seek the things above?
The answer to this question resides in the fact that Christ is risen and we are raised with Him!
Christ is risen from the dead!
Though it appeared that He was swallowed up by the power of darkness, He was taken by wicked hands and nailed to the accursed tree. There after hours of agonizing suffering, He yielded up the ghost. And He was buried in a tomb that had been sealed by the powers of the world. Yet He is raised by the power of God. Death could not hold its prey. He broke the bands of death as slender threads, and emerged on the other side of Hades triumphant over all the powers of darkness.
He did not return in the likeness of sinful flesh, but He arose in His human nature the glorious Lord of heaven and earth. Clothed was He with new, celestial, eternal life and majesty! Presently, after He had given sufficient evidences that He was raised from the dead, He ascended into the highest heavens, to the very throne of God, and was clothed with power and glory at His right hand. This latter is certainly implied in the truth that Christ is risen, because the apostle informs us that He is sitting on the right hand of God.
What makes this fact so significant is the truth that Christ was not a mere man who was risen and so highly exalted. A mere man could avail us nothing. Enoch and Elijah, who also ascended to heaven, were mere men. You may indeed marvel at the wonder of their translation. Yet, after you have finished with the consideration of this wonder, you and I would still find ourselves in the midst of the earth; and as far as we are concerned, nothing is changed.
But that it is Christ that is raised, carries with it all the significance! For He is anointed Servant of God Who was appointed and qualified to deliver God’s people from the power of sin and death, and by Whose power we are raised also to the highest heavens. He is the Head of all the elect of God Who is so highly exalted!
Because He is the Head of His people, we are inseparably united with Him. This the testimony of all Scripture. He is the vine, we are the branches. He is the Head, we are the members of His body. He is the Bridegroom, we are His bride. By a mystical and spiritual union we are inseparably one with Him: a union which was an eternal reality in the counsel and purpose of God when He chose us in Him, and a union which is reality also in time. So true is this that the Scriptures inform us that when Christ was crucified, we were crucified with Him; when Christ died, we died with Him; when Christ arose, we arose with Him; when Christ ascended into heaven, we ascended with Him.
Undoubtedly, it is to this the apostle refers when he says in the text: Seeing that you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. No more than it is possible for the body of our flesh to live when it is severed from the head, no more can the body of Christ live were it severed from the Head, Christ Jesus. But the latter can never happen. By the bond of election, and by the bond of living faith, we are connected to the Head in Whom is all our life and well-being. In Him are all the blessings of salvation, and with Him we must seek them.
Though it is true that as far as our physical being is concerned we are still on the earth and often overwhelmed with care and anxiety over the earthly things, in principle and spiritually this is no longer true. We are in heaven with the risen and exalted Christ. And only because of this, is it possible to seek the things above.
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God!
The apostle adds this to the exhortation as motive for seeking the things above.
Not only does this mean that Christ is merely exalted to the pinnacle of glory and honor, though this is surely implied. He has been clothed with glory and majesty. Because He so deeply humbled Himself, God has glorified Him and given Him a name which is above every name. He is crowned with authority and power, and in God’s Name reigns over all things. Such is surely the significance of sitting at God’s right hand. That hand, as a figure of speech, holds the scepter, symbol of dominion and power to rule. This glory we must understand, is given to Christ in His human nature. According to His divine nature He cannot be exalted. Accordingly He has all glory and power. But it is in His human nature, our human nature, which He assumed, that He is so highly honored.
But, understand well, the purpose of, His exaltation is not only that He might ascend to heaven and God’s right hand to have honors conferred upon Him. Also in His exaltation He is the Mediator of His people, representing them, and receiving for them all power, not only to reign over all things, but to disperse to His people all the blessings of salvation which the merited for them. He must serve at God’s right hand also in His office as Mediator, to intercede for them with the Father, and to apply unto them all His saving grace. There He received the Spirit without measure which He pours out upon His church in heaven and on earth. There, at Father’s throne, He draws His saints to Him and dispenses to them all the graces of salvation. From God the Father, through the Spirit, He must receive these graces, which He in turn gives unto them.
Do you see then, beloved, that He is with the Father to obtain these graces for us, and that we must seek these things above where He is? You can obtain them nowhere else. Then also the exhortation which Christ Himself expressed while in the flesh upon the earth obtains: Seek and ye shall find! You profess that He is your Saviour, and that in Him is all your salvation? Well, then, seek those things which are above, where He is, and you shall surely find them! Set no longer your affection on the things below, on the earth. There is nothing here that can satisfy your soul’s need. All that you need is in Him. Therefore, set your, heart on the things above! And you shall never be brought to shame!